CBS's Byron Pitts Narrates Fawning Profile of John Kerry --7/29/2004
2. CBS Again Avoids Sharpton Rant, But NBC's Couric Presses Him
3. Reporters Help Kerry Campaign Lower
Expectations for Speech
4. Katie Couric Touts Maureen Dowd as "Witty" and "Insightful"
5. Stephanopoulos Also Likes Fact that the Edwardses Go to Wendy's
6. NPR Fails to Label as Liberal Some Far-Left People and Groups
7. Alec Baldwin: GOP "Hijacked by These Fundamentalist Wackos"
8. Two Pro-Kerry Celebrities Featured on ABC This Morning
On Thursday's Early Show, CBS's Byron Pitts narrated a profile of John Kerry that could easily pass for a Democratic campaign commercial. The more than three-minute story included quotes only from Kerry, his wife, laudatory soundbites from liberal Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant, and Pitts' fawning narration: "Tonight's acceptance of the Democratic nomination is more than merely a day, it's his destiny."
Pitts showed Kerry as an anti-Vietnam war protester in 1971 dramatically asking Senators, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake," but he gave no hint how Kerry alienated a great many Vietnam veterans by making unfounded charges of war crimes. CBS's entirely positive review of Kerry's life ended with some of the Kerry campaign's preferred "Band of Brothers" imagery:
"The day before his speech, Kerry crossed Boston Harbor with some of his crew mates from Vietnam. His band of brothers. They have one battle left. But tonight the loner will stand alone here in his hometown one more time and look to do what John F. Kerry has nearly always done -- find a way to win."
MRC's Brian Boyd discovered the gushing profile, which aired near the end of Thursday morning's Early Show. Pitts began by casting Kerry in dramatic and heroic terms: "For Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, tonight's acceptance of the Democratic nomination is more than merely a day, it's his destiny. Best understood from the beginning, back not simply to when John Forbes Kerry was born in 1943 to a Catholic couple from the privileged class, but to that time when America embraced Camelot. Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant has covered Kerry's career from the start."
In a soundbite, Oliphant cast Kerry's career as selfless public service: "I'm absolutely convinced that this all started out of a very sincere belief in President Kennedy's words." CBS then faded into a clip of John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address: "Ask not what your country can do for you...."
Pitts continued his tribute: "A gifted athlete and captain of the debate team at Yale, Kerry followed his idol's lead and enlisted in the Navy in 1966. In Vietnam, Lieutenant John F. Kerry rescued a comrade in combat, killed an enemy soldier, won three Purple Hearts and one Bronze Star. He returned home both angry and ambitious."
Pitts showed Kerry in 1971, then noted his failed 1972 attempt to win a congressional seat in Massachusetts. Oliphant spun that as a positive: "I've always thought the trick to understanding Kerry is what came after he got punched in the stomach the first time he tried for Congress."
Pitts: "He would never lose again. Once, Michael Dukakis's Lieutenant Governor and now a four term US Senator, he has two adult daughters from his first marriage. His wife Teresa Heinz Kerry has three sons by her late husband."
Pitts then ran though more recent history, his narration of the 2004 Democratic primaries interspersed with clips of Kerry saying, "Iowa, I love you," and "Bring it on."
When Pitts got to Kerry's personality, he allowed that "John Kerry's friends and foes alike describe him as both ambitious and aloof." He then showed Kerry on CBS last week, after Dan Rather asked him to pick a few words to describe himself. Kerry's chosen words: "Incredibly loyal, a fighter, passionate, caring."
Pitts termed Kerry: "Six feet four inches of confidence and contradictions."
After a quote from Oliphant saying Kerry manifested "a certain apartness" that made him "a little odd," Pitts went to Kerry's wife, Teresa: "People who meet John on the campaign trail don't think he's aloof."
Pitts concluded his pro-Kerry commercial: "The day before his speech, Kerry crossed Boston Harbor with some of his crew mates from Vietnam. His band of brothers. They have one battle left. But tonight the loner will stand alone here in his hometown one more time and look to do what John F. Kerry has nearly always done -- find a way to win."
Let's see if in five weeks, when George W. Bush prepares to accept his re-nomination, if CBS decides to summarize his career without mentioning a single negative or controversial aspect of any part of his career.
As CBS did during their Wednesday night convention coverage, CBS's Early Show failed to mention Al Sharpton's harsh attacks on President Bush that Al Sharpton, but NBC's Today show included some of Sharpton's rant in their news round-up on last night's speeches, and Katie Couric asked Sharpton about his tone during an 9am EDT interview.
Couric read back to Sharpton one of his nastiest barbs: "In your speech you said, 'I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the Court in '54 Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school'" But she seemed to buy Sharpton's explanation that he was only talking about affirmative action, not the policy of public school segregation that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1954.
Last night, while cable news channels CNN, FNC and MSNBC all showed parts of Sharpton's speech and noted it's confrontational tone (MSNBC's Chris Matthews suggested the speech "probably scared the hell out of a lot of people), CBS ignored it, while NBC and ABC ran short clips at the top of their 10pm EDT live coverage. ABC anchor Peter Jennings found only positive things to say about Sharpton's rant: "So far, this convention hall tonight has been energized in many ways, but in no more effective way than the old-fashioned Democratic way by a truly turned-on preacher. In this case, it was the Reverend Al Sharpton talking about Republicans and Democrats."
Then, after playing a clip of Sharpton insisting that blacks switched from supporting Republicans after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to Democrats during the Great Depression because the government never made good on its "commitment to give 40 acres and a mule," Jennings relayed the Democratic delegates' enthusiastic response: "Well, you can imagine the crowd absolutely loved it!"
For more on Wednesday night's coverage of Sharpton's convention appearance, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
Two hours later, Couric introduced Sharpton as someone who "raised a few eyebrows" with his speech. MRC's Megan McCormack transcribed the interview, beginning with Couric's introduction: "The Reverend Al Sharpton was one of nine Democrats this past spring who staged a campaign to become his party's nominee. On Wednesday night he addressed the party faithful in a speech that raised a few eyebrows."
NBC then showed a clip of Sharpton engaging in some long-distance yelling at Bush: "This vote is sacred to us! This vote can't be bargained away! This vote can't be given away! In all due respect Mr. President, read my lips, our vote is not for sale!"
Couric told Sharpton he was "on fire" but off his script: "Reverend Al Sharpton, good morning, nice to see you. You were on fire last night at this convention, and you went off your scripted remarks, just a bit. What happened, tell me what you were feeling up there that prompted you to do that."
Sharpton said he felt provoked by Bush's argument before the National Urban League that Democrats take black voters for granted. Couric interjected: "Let me, just to clarify, in that speech, to the National Urban League, President Bush asked if Democrats were taking the black vote for granted and if blacks might be better off by aligning themselves with Republicans."
Sharpton said he talked with the Kerry people about updating his speech, and said he thought the campaign was "pleased" with what he did, citing as evidence that he sat afterwards with DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Couric wondered, "So you're not worried that your rhetoric was over the top in any way, shape, or form?" She then challenged his premise: "The black vote is not monolithic is it? I mean, isn't there room in the black community for the Republican Party to be appealing to some members of that community?"
Couric then confronted Sharpton with his harshest line: "In fact, in your speech you said, 'I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the Court in '54 Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school'"
Despite his reference to 1954, the year of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregated schools, Sharpton insisted he was only talking about affirmative action, a policy he said had helped Thomas get into law school. Sharpton insisted: "And this Court only maintained affirmative action 5-4. I'm afraid that if Bush gets two more selections, which is very possible in the next four years if he's re-elected, that those things that helped a Clarence Thomas get where he is would not be available to this generation."
Couric did not follow up on Sharpton's retreat, instead asking about a New York Times article that noted Sharpton had gotten a better speaking time than former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. "Are you an insider now?" Couric inquired.
"I'm inside the studios talking to you. That's big news," Sharpton told Couric. She giggled.
Other than CBS reporter Cynthia Bowers talking up a "fever pitch" atmosphere in Boston "against the so-called tyranny of the Bush administration," the networks helped the Kerry camp's effort to lower expectations for tonight's acceptance speech. "His aides are worried he spent too much time writing, not enough rehearsing," said ABC's Claire Shipman. NBC's Campbell Brown concluded "Kerry himself is even saying that the speech tonight may not be as important as the debates with President Bush in the fall."
On ABC's Good Morning America, MRC's Jessica Anderson noted, Claire Shipman predicted tonight's outcome in a discussion on the convention floor with co-host Charles Gibson and This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Shipman anticipated: "I think you're going to hear a lot about Vietnam tonight, at least that's what they're hoping, but we picked up some interesting details about how Kerry has been preparing, how's he's been writing the speech. He's a night owl, writing and rewriting his drafts long after his evening campaign events. He writes in long hand, usually on a yellow pad....The final draft is never final; much like Bill Clinton, he will tinker until the end. To relax, which is never easy for Kerry, exercise, kite surfing helped in Nantucket as he wrote parts of his speech, and later today he may ride his bike to calm his nerves....He does not have a reputation as a charismatic speaker and in his Boston home, he and a small group of aides, one a speech coach, rehearsed the speech last night with a teleprompter and will again today."
A worried Gibson asked: "Claire, did he just start rehearsing last night?"
On NBC's Today, Campbell Brown explained: "Senator Kerry spent the day sticking to the choreographed pageantry of his campaign, arriving home in dramatic style, on a boat surrounded by former Vietnam crewmates. And at the end of the night, the key swing state of Ohio, making if official, formally nominating John Kerry. And, Kerry will be introduced tonight, Katie, by Senator Max Cleland, a Vietnam vet who has lost, or who lost three limbs in the war. His two daughters will also speak tonight, but interestingly, and perhaps trying to lower expectations, Kerry himself is even saying that the speech tonight may not be as important as the debates with President Bush in the fall."
Tim Russert told Katie Couric: "Katie, we've heard all week long how being with his crew mates, and being with Teresa, and being with children softens him, makes him feel comfortable. Tonight, he is all alone." Poor John.
Only CBS's Early Show seemed pumped up this morning, with reporter Cynthia Bowers in cheerleader mode: "It was his running mate, of course, who wowed the crowd last night and even though his speech felt a bit rushed at times, when John Edwards spoke of help being on the way for America it was obvious, it didn't matter whether he hit a home run or not, he scored."
Bowers grew even more energetic: It's been an ongoing theme here in Boston, likening Democrats of today to the original patriots. Rebelling, now, against the so-called tyranny of the Bush administration and making the case that decorated soldier John Kerry is the best man to lead the charge. To reinforce that message a parade of retired generals lined up in support, including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Bowers concluded: "Every day at this convention you can feel the excitement and the anticipation and indeed the festive nature of the convention grow exponentially. You can bet, Hannah, it will be at fever pitch tonight when John Kerry takes to the stage."
MRC's Brian Boyd noted how CBS's Bob Schieffer helped lower the bar for Kerry. "I think the first thing he has to do is not wind up fourth in the speech making contest here at this own convention," after Clinton, Edwards, and Barack Obama, who made, he said, "one of the truly memorable speeches that I can recall in all the time I've been covering these things."
Schieffer was very positive about the Edwards speech, telling co-host Harry Smith: "One of the things, for example, that struck me last night, instead of saying we have to remember our wounded coming back from Iraq, he talked about how there are people there that can no longer tie their own shoes. The inference being, of course, that they no longer have hands. He talked about people who can't comb their own hair. This is the way a good lawyer puts it to a jury when he is explaining why his client should be rewarded. And you saw that last night. I thought it was a fine speech."
Schieffer thought Edwards had made a brilliant decision not to attack the Republicans: "I think it is also interesting that the Democrats have made, Harry, a very calculated decision to go positive. People, you know, it's all in vogue now to be negative, to really tear the other guy apart. They are putting, and this is a calculated decision, to go positive. They seem to think it worked in the primaries. We'll have to see as we get into this campaign how long they stick to that and, in fact, if it works. I, frankly, think it is a good way to go because it is so different from the politics we're so used to these days."
NBC's Today brought on "witty and insightful" (read: liberal) New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on Thursday morning to assess the convention's decorations and other deep topics. She dismissed Teresa's "shove it" moment: "I don't think that anyone has ever gotten in trouble for telling a columnist to shove it." But she also relayed reports that Bill Clinton says voters still have doubts about Kerry. Couric did not ask about Dowd's column saying Cheney was "as offensive as ever" for "mocking the unfortunate picture of Mr. Kerry in his embryonic spacesuit."
MRC analyst Megan McCormack took down the interview, which began with Couric and Dowd psycho-babbling about how conventions are about overcompensating for perceived weaknesses, meaning the Boston convention has been about Kerry showing he's a macho man, down to using "men's club" decorations at the convention.
But Dowd also relayed that "Bill Clinton was overheard in his hotel bar the other night by a National Journal reporter talking about how delegates still fear that though Kerry is very smart, he may not have the brass to win over Bush. And so he's got to prove why Bush should be fired from that job, and what he would do better."
Dowd then turned to a little mockery: "And he's got to bring some passion to it, and he can't rely for warmth on just ruffling John Edwards' hair, because I swear, if he does that tonight, John Edwards will get a restraining order against him, I mean it's gotten so bad."
Couric added: "In fact, you call John Edwards John Kerry's new pup."
From there, Couric brought up Teresa Heinz Kerry and the "shove it" episode. Dowd responded: "I haven't met her yet but I have to say, you know, as a journalist, I love her. And I don't think that anyone has ever gotten in trouble for telling a columnist to shove it. I'm certain that that's not going to get her in trouble."
Couric did not ask about the line in Dowd's column Thursday about while Edwards was hopeful on the stump, "Dick Cheney, meanwhile, was as offensive as ever, mocking the unfortunate picture of Mr. Kerry in his embryonic spacesuit."
Not very "witty" or "insightful." But if you wish, you can read the full Dowd column at: www.nytimes.com
To see who didn't get invited to chat with Katie, see New York Times columnist William Safire ripping on Kerry Wednesday morning as a flip-flopper, "The Great Straddler," at: www.nytimes.com
Another network star thinks it's wonderful that John and Elizabeth Edwards celebrate their wedding anniversary at Wendy's. Two weeks ago, NBC's Katie Couric cooed about that tidbit, asking Edwards, "What do you say, 'One Frosty, two straws?'" This morning, ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared the Wendy's factoid, which Mrs. Edwards mentioned in her speech last night, to be a huge plus for the Democrats: "I think that made a connection with a lot of people."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed how Stephanopoulos made his assertion on Thursday's Good Morning America as he applauded Edwards' speech the night before. Co-host Charles Gibson asked, "John Edwards, did he, in your mind, justify John Kerry's choice as his vice presidential nominee?"
Stephanopoulos thought Edwards was fantastic: "Oh, cleared the bar with ease, I think. He did a lot of good for John Kerry last night. First of all, he did what all the speakers were doing, he validated him as a Vietnam War hero, but more important than that, he started to put out the plan that John Kerry and John Edwards want to sell to this country on the economy, on education, on health care, as he said, with specifics. And we know from our polls that over half of the voters don't know what that plan is."
Then he argued that the homely details in both John and Elizabeth Edwards' speeches would be popular with voters. Stephanopoulos said he was anxious to see what the public thought about both speeches, but especially "I want to know what the reaction is to Elizabeth Edwards. I actually think she was the most effective speaker."
Gibson suggested: "When she said for their anniversary they're going to Wendy's, talked about him as a Little League coach."
Stephanopoulos: "Novelists always say that the key to a great novel is in the details. That single detail, that they celebrate every anniversary at Wendy's, I think that made a connection with a lot of people."
That matches Katie Couric's reaction to the Wendy's story on the July 15 Today show, which was documented in the July 16 CyberAlert: "Katie Couric turned completely personal and soft for part three of her interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards aired on Thursday's Today. Couric highlighted how their "romantic ritual" to celebrate their anniversary is to go to Wendy's. Couric giggled: "What do you say, 'One Frosty, two straws?'"
For more on that, go to: www.mrc.org
NPR has managed to use the term "liberal" in its coverage of the Democratic convention this week, but sometimes the network seemed to be going out of its way to avoid it. John Edwards is a "Southern populist," Barack Obama is a "centrist," and the Democrats have a "middle-of-the-road platform." NPR reporters skipped labeling even persons and organizations (Dennis Kucinich, International ANSWER) on the outer fringes of the left.
MRC analyst Tom Johnson reviewed NPR's recent coverage for the CyberAlert:
On Monday's Morning Edition, NPR pundit Cokie Roberts called Barry Goldwater "conservative," fairly enough, but one of Congress's most left-wing members was simply "Dennis Kucinich, the congressman from Ohio." Worse, on the same broadcast, reporter David Welna referred to the far-left protest outfit Act Now to Stop War and Racism (ANSWER) only as a "national group," a term applicable to anything from the Boy Scouts to the Flat Earth Society. (CyberAlert readers will have no problem deciding which of those groups ANSWER more closely resembles.)
On Monday night's All Things Considered, Melissa Block, normally a co-anchor but working as a reporter this week, found only Democratic moderation: "If you look at the platform, it's a pretty straightforward, run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-road platform. Keeping middle-class tax cuts; saying that people of good will can disagree about the war in Iraq; supporting the USA Patriot Act but with revisions. That sort of moderate tone is what they're...trying to portray here."
Tuesday's Morning Edition featured labeling of a different sort, in special correspondent Susan Stamberg's friendly chat with Teresa Heinz Kerry. Stamberg described Heinz Kerry as "very thoughtful, also smart and rich," and mentioned her "pale aqua pantsuit and sexy pointed heels," but no labels.
"Progressive" was a favorite synonym. Melissa Block found a left wing on Tuesday night's All Things Considered, noting Jerry Brown was "a legend among some progressives." Co-host Robert Siegel remarked that Howard Dean's Democracy for America "promote[s] progressive causes."
On Wednesday's Morning Edition, co-host Steve Inskeep found "passionate" to be an especially imaginative euphemism for liberal: "Last night's Democratic convention showcased one of the challenges to John Kerry. Sen. Edward Kennedy and former presidential candidate Howard Dean spoke to the delegates, and they fired up the convention with passionate rhetoric. But the Kerry campaign wants to present a different image to moderate voters."
True, the speeches were "passionate" for conservative voters in the sense that if they heard them, they suffered.
In the ensuing story, however, correspondent Juan Williams was less oblique, setting up a Jesse Jackson soundbite by stating that Jackson "does not believe in hiding the liberal heart of the party." Williams also noted that the delegates in Boston are to the left of Democrats as a whole on abortion, taxes, and gay marriage, and soundbited Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to the effect that Democrats are more liberal than they're letting on this week.
Wednesday's Morning Edition saw another case of partial liberal-avoidance when reporter Mara Liasson called Sen. Kennedy a "liberal lion" but proceeded to describe the convention's keynote speaker, Illinois state senator Barack Obama, as a "rising young centrist" whose speech "was firmly in the Clinton tradition." Reporter Adam Hochberg described John Edwards a "Southern populist."
At a DNC-sponsored panel discussion on Wednesday, actor Alec Baldwin mourned "the real great tragedy of the last 25 years" is how the Republican Party has been "hijacked by these fundamentalist wackos." CNSNews.com reporter Marc Morano wrote "The audience, which included Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, greeted Baldwin's comment with sustained applause." Actor Esai Morales said most actors are liberals because "most actors are intimately concerned with the human condition."
Morano reported Baldwin was speaking at DNC-sponsored event called "Funny But True: Important Issues in 2004." Baldwin said: "To me, the Republican Party is the real great tragedy of the last 25 years because there are lot of good and decent people and a lot of good political points [that have] come from the Republican Party in the post-war period, but it has been hijacked by these fundamentalist wackos."
Morano also noted: "There are a lot of decent Republicans out there who feel they have to profess this loyalty to these people," Baldwin added after the applause faded.
Actor Esai Morales (most recently of TV's "NYPD Blue") agreed that "I think we have to appeal to the good Republicans out there, there are people who joined that party for good reason. They have been taken over by the body-snatchers....I think the difference in the Democrats and the Republicans is very simple. The Democrats believe in investing in humanity, investing in people, not just the technology that is going to blow people off the earth," Morales said.
"Most actors are intimately concerned with the human condition," he said as part of an effort to explain why many actors are liberals.
For the full Morano story, see www.cnsnews.com
Two of Kerry's Hollywood boosters showed up on ABC this morning. Reporter Kate Snow profiled actor Ben Affleck, while actress Natalie Portman, who is promoting her new movie Garden State, showed up for her interview sporting a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with John Kerry's name and picture. Portman declared: "I love John Kerry. I just think he has the perfect combination of compassion and intelligence and composure under pressure, and I'm just a huge fan."
The pro-Kerry shirt was pointed out by Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer who, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, jokingly told Portman: "If I'm going to talk to you, you have to hold flowers here in front of the John Kerry." Natalie Portman: "Why?" Sawyer: "We can't just have John Kerry the whole time here. We have to bring in -- who do we bring in for equal time?" Portman, laughing: "To even it out?" She argued: "Come on! You've got, like, 'The O'Reilly Factor.' That's on television. That evens it out." Both Portman and Sawyer were in GMA's Times Square studio in New York City, which prompted Sawyer to inquire: "So you're not in Boston. Did you want to go up for the convention?" Portman responded by enthusiastically promoting her candidate: "I was there. I went up for the kickoff party Sunday night, and I'm just, I love John Kerry. I just think he has the perfect combination of compassion and intelligence and composure under pressure, and I'm just a huge fan." Sawyer, laughing: "You're going to make your speech, aren't you?" Portman: "No speech. No speech."
To see a picture of Portman, who is best known for playing Queen Amidala in the latest installments of the Star Wars series, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, you can go to: www.imdb.com
To see a picture of Portman on Thursday's GMA in her John Kerry shirt, check the posted version of this item on the MRC Web site a little later this afternoon: www.mediaresearch.org
Affleck told Snow his inspiration is liberal Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Affleck gushed about how wonderful it was to rub shoulders with Kennedy: "Here you have a great man, a leader, who's incredibly well known and an accomplished legislator. Yeah, I'm here with a guy who I have admired and looked up to for many years."
To see a picture of Affleck and a review of his movie career, which included the 2003 box office disaster Gigli, in which Affleck co-starred with his then-fiancee Jennifer Lopez, go to: www.imdb.com
-- Tim Graham and Rich Noyes, with the MRC day shift of analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd and Megan McCormack, with some extra help from MRC interns Jennifer Shwarz and Mary Fisher.