CBS's Pelley: Ahmadinejad 'Friendly,' 'Incorruptible,' 'Modest' --9/25/2007
2. ABC's Cuomo Lobs Softballs to Columbia Prez; Omits Osama Query
3. Roberts Corners Columbia Dean on Ahmadinejad, Minutemen Project
4. FNC's Alan Colmes: Ahmadinejad Really a 'Conservative'
5. NBC's Meredith Vieira Tells Karzai U.S. Defeated in Afghanistan
6. Ex-60 Minutes Boss: I Asked Rather If He'd Whack Kerry Like Bush
7. ABC's Boston Legal Ridiculed Idea Doctor Could Be a Terrorist
Scott Pelley conducted a very tough interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which aired on Sunday's 60 Minutes, but on Monday's Early Show Pelley was very generous in his personal assessment of the man. Host Harry Smith and Pelley agreed that Ahmadinejad is "crazy like a fox" while Pelley also hailed Ahmadinejad as "incorruptible" and "modest." Pelley contended the dictator, who denies the Holocaust, wants Israel destroyed and is causing the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, is a lot smarter than Westerners believe and is even a "friendly" guy: "The important thing, I think, Harry, to understand, he's described in the West as a madman, crazy, that's not the case. I found him to be as many politicians are, very engaging, very friendly, he's clearly not mad, he's sane. In fact, he's very wily I would tell you."
In perhaps the clearest attempt to soften the ruthless image of the Iranian leader, Pelley was awed by Ahmadinejad's down-to-earth nature: "He is genuinely religious, genuinely humble, there are no fancy clothes, fancy cars, he lives with his wife and his three children. They live in an apartment in Tehran. He is a very modest man and said to be absolutely incorruptible as well, he's a fascinating character."
Clearly a model of virtue.
When asked by Smith at the end of the segment whether Ahmadinejad was "dangerous," Pelley could not bring himself to make such a judgement but simply stated that: "The policies of Iran are dangerous and I think he's capable of pursuing those policies."
[This item is adapted from a Monday posting, by Kyle Drennen, the MRC's newest analyst, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Below is the transcript of the entire September 24 Early Show segment with Pelley:
HARRY SMITH: We now turn to Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" Scott is with us, just back from Iran. What day last week did you interview?
PELLEY, ON 60 MINUTES: Mr. President, can you tell me that you are not sending weapons to Iraq? Very simple, very directly?
SMITH, BACK ON THE EARLY SHOW: How do you walk -- do you -- what was the answer? From, what was the answer that you understood him to make?
AHMADINEJAD, ON 60 MINUTES: What are you driving at?
SMITH, BACK ON THE EARLY SHOW: No, he thought you were a CIA agent. What are we to take away from this? Because this country is so close to Iraq, it has so much influence over so much of the Iraqi government, as we know it right now. We look at this interview, what are we to take away from -- what are we to understand who this man is?
On Monday's Good Morning America, co-anchor Chris Cuomo conducted a mostly softball interview with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger about his decision to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the prestigious school. Rather than grill the university president about the unpopular decision, Cuomo offered friendly questions, such as when he wondered: "What value do you think Ahmadinejad's comments will add to the debate in this country?"
The ABC host also appeared to have left an actually compelling question on the cutting room floor. At the end of what was apparently a pre-taped piece, Cuomo observed to co-host Diane Sawyer that Bollinger would consider inviting Osama bin Laden: "Even when we brought up Osama bin Laden for an invitation, it wasn't dismissed. No one was dismissed." And yet, that query isn't actually in the segment. Wouldn't such a shocking answer be big news? At the very least, one would assume, that quote would be included in the interview. It should also be noted that Sawyer responded defensively to Cuomo even referencing the missing bin Laden question. She quickly added, "Yes, but [Bollinger] says the invitation has not gone to Osama bin Laden."
The ABC host also focused on how the critics were responding to the decision to invite Ahmadinejad to speak. Cuomo asked an extremely flowery question about dealing with the controversy: "You know, this country stands on the First Amendment, like a pedestal to greatness. It's what makes us great. How do you judge all of this reaction, this backlash?"
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The interview did feature a few tough questions. Cuomo challenged Bollinger as to whether he thought Iran's president wants to kill Americans. He then followed up by wondering if that mattered to the university president and if that would effect the invitation. However, the GMA anchor did not press Bollinger over his constant sermonizing to free speech. At one point, Columbia's president condescendingly asserted, "It's very difficult for people to embrace a full and robust principle of free speech. I understand that." This might have been a good time to mention the physical and verbal attacks that Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist endured during a 2006 speech at Columbia. A 2007 appearance has since been scrapped and other speaking invitations by conservatives have received similar disdain at the campus. (See item #3 below) Cuomo, of course, never brought up the issue.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:04am on September 24:
Chris Cuomo: "I'm sure. I'm sure. Dan, thank you for that. The big question is what is the thinking that went into this decision? Well, the man to answer that question is Colombia University's president, Lee Bollinger. Thank you for joining us this morning, Mr. Bollinger. Well, so far, the reaction has been mostly negative. You must have seen this coming. So, let me ask you, why court controversy in extending an invitation to the Iranian president?"
Bollinger: "I think the values of making sure that academic institutions can do that, are many. One is, it's extremely important to know who the leaders are of countries who that are your adversaries, to watch them, to see how they think, to see how they reason or do not reason. To see whether they're fanatical or to see whether they're sly. These are, these are the issues that are right at the core of the world today. It's possible, given what many people say, that this country may be going to war at some point with Iran."
Cuomo: "You know, the real issue here isn't the legalities or the First Amendment. It's the choices that are made. Even when we brought up Osama bin Laden for an invitation, it wasn't dismissed. No one was dismissed. Everyone is case by case."
While ABC's Chris Cuomo played softball with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger on the upcoming speech of Iranian President Ahmadinejad (see item #2 above), CNN's John Roberts directed tough questions to John Coatsworth, Dean for Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Roberts opened the interview with a question which summarized Ahmadinejad's record: "Here's a leader who's advocated the destruction of Israel, denied the Holocaust, and is accused by our government, the United States government, of supplying both fighters and equipment to insurgents in Iraq, to kill U.S. troops. Why would you ever want him on your campus?"
Coatsworth appeared during the 7am hour of Monday's American Morning. Besides the opening question, Roberts brought up two of the condemnations that were issued in response to the upcoming speech, one from Newt Gingrich, and the other from Senator Chuck Schumer. Roberts also asked Coatsworth to clarify his recent comments regarding what would happen if Hitler wanted to speak at Columbia.
The last part of the interview concerned a lecture at Columbia by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist in 2006 that was disrupted by a large contingent that included Columbia students. "Why didn't you allow Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist, that same opportunity to be challenged? I know that he spoke there last year, and his speech was interrupted by students who stormed the stage, but he had a speaking engagement coming up October 6th that was canceled. Why do you allow Ahmadinejad there and not the founder of the Minuteman Project?" After Coatsworth assured that Gilchrist would be allowed to speak at Columbia, Roberts followed up by asking, "Would you be willing to sponsor him? Does he have any value to you?" Coatsworth's answer: "He doesn't have a value to the School of International and Public Affairs. He had value to the Young Republicans at Columbia, and if they wish to invite again, he will certainly be permitted to speak."
[This item, by Matthew Balan, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The full transcript of the interview on the September 24 American Morning on CNN:
JOHN ROBERTS: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won't necessarily be getting the red carpet treatment when he speaks at Columbia University later on today, but he will be allowed to speak, regardless of the tough questions he'll face. Some say that he shouldn't be heard from, period.
DOV HIKIND, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: I call on New Yorkers to make the life of Ahmedinejad, as he is in New York, miserable. Make his life miserable.
According to Alan Colmes, since evil dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not a liberal, but instead a "conservative," then conservatives in America should not be offended because the Iranian leader received better treatment on a college campus than America's conservative political figures, some of whom have been met with attacks with pies or other violence. Such was the absurd argument suggested by the liberal FNC host during a discussion on Monday's Hannity and Colmes. Colmes commented to conservative guest/author David Horowitz: "Ahmadinejad's not a liberal. He's a conservative. He's very right wing. He was welcome at Columbia University. You shouldn't be complaining. Phil Donohue, Hillary Clinton, they've been all booed off stages. You don't talk about that."
Before asking his first question to Horowitz, conservative co-host Sean Hannity began the segment by recounting the violent protest against Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrest when he tried to speak at Columbia University in October 2006. Hannity also recounted the stories of other conservatives who have met with violent experiences. He then turned to liberal guest/journalist Robert Dreyfuss and, recounting a number of the strikes against Ahmadinejad, asked why the dictator should be allowed to speak at an American university: "He denies the Holocaust, he's providing weaponry killing American troops, here's a guy that, you know, why would you provide a prestigious forum for such a maniacal, evil dictator, and a guy that wants to wipe Israel off the map?"
[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The far-left Dreyfuss, a Columbia University graduate who has supported left-wing presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche and has written for liberal publications like The Nation, suggested a moral equivalency between Iran's support of violence and the wishes of some Americans to invade Iran. After Hannity demanded, "He's killing American soldiers, what part of that don't you get?" Dreyfuss responded, "Exactly, and there are people in the United States who are advocating a preemptive war against Iran just like the preemptive war that we waged in Iraq."
When Colmes got his turn to join the debate, he ridiculously suggested that since Ahmadinejad is "conservative" that American conservatives should not be offended by his treatment by Columbia University. Horowitz repeatedly exclaimed: "He's a radical!"
ALAN COLMES: David Horowitz, Ahmadinejad's not a liberal. He's a conservative. He's very right wing.
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the discussion from the Monday, September 24 Hannity and Colmes on FNC:
SEAN HANNITY: You know, David, we've discussed this at length here. You see how Jim Gilchrest was treated, you have Pat Buchanan, he's hit with a pie, Ann Coulter's hit with a pie, the attacks against Clarence Thomas, yourself, Bill Bennett. How do you gauge the reaction of the applause that the students gave Ahmadinejad today?
ROBERT DREYFUSS, Author/Journalist: If he had been hit with a pie, would that make it equal because some conservative was hit with a pie? The fact, the issue here-
ALAN COLMES: David Horowitz, Ahmadinejad's not a liberal. He's a conservative. He's very right wing.
It's not enough that the media are waving the white flag of defeat in Iraq, but now they're declaring yet another war lost. Today co-host Meredith Vieira seemed so convinced that the U.S. had lost the war in Afghanistan she was perplexed when Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, didn't share her assessment of failure. On the Monday Today show, in a taped interview, a bewildered Vieira responded to Karzai's statement of victory: "What have you won?" After Karzai explained how he was referring to "the war against terrorism. The liberation of Afghanistan. These guys, the al Qaeda, Osama and their associates were running Afghanistan. Today you're talking to President Karzai, elected by the Afghan people," Vieira countered: "There's also killings everyday. So how do you reconcile that with this notion we've won?"
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Monday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange occurred in the 7am half-hour of the September 24 Today show on NBC:
Meredith Vieira: "And now to what's being called 'The Forgotten War,' the conflict in Afghanistan. It is a country that lies at the crossroads of the U.S.-led war on terror. Six years after Operation Enduring Freedom began about 15,000 U.S. troops remain in a country that is still gripped by violence. This year, alone, there have been more than 100 suicide bombings, kidnappings are increasingly more common, as well. In total an estimated 450 U.S. soldiers have been killed in a war that has cost U.S. taxpayers $127 billion. In 2004 Hamid Karzai became the democratically-elected president of Afghanistan. On Sunday I caught up with him for an exclusive interview. We talked about the resurgence of the Taliban."
Vieira to Karzai: "A lot of Americans, here, are confused by this, what's going on [in] Afghanistan. They say, 'Wait a minute, I thought we won that war, already and now the Taliban is back? What went wrong?' So I'm asking you sir-"
In a Friday afternoon Newsweek Web exclusive, reporter Johnnie Roberts talked to CBS insiders about Dan Rather's lawsuit against his long-time employer. Don Hewitt, the founder and long-lasting Executive Producer of 60 Minutes, told the magazine he asked Rather the big bias question: "If this had been John Kerry, wouldn't you have been more careful about the story?" (It's certainly true that 60 Minutes went easy on Kerry on 2004, with a soft-soap Ed Bradley interview in January, and a syrupy and supportive Lesley Stahl interview in July.) Another anonymous CBS insider told Newsweek that Rather looks "pathetic...the musing of an older man who can't let go."
[This item is expanded from a Sunday night posting, by Tim Graham, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Roberts reported that while the network wouldn't comment beyond saying it was old news, others were more forthcoming:
Take, for example, Don Hewitt, the legendary producer of 60 Minutes. "Any news organization, print or broadcast, has the right to protect its reputation by divesting itself of a reporter, irrespective of who he or she is, who it feels reported as fact something that reflected his or her biases more than the facts bear," he said in a NEWSWEEK interview. "And if the reporter's defense is that he or she had been 'had,' isn't he or she someone a news organization worth its salt can no longer trust not to be 'had' again."
Hewitt says he had questioned whether the reporting was biased at a CBS meeting convened to discuss the controversy that began to swell after the story aired. "Let me ask one question," he recalls addressing the gathering. "If this had been John Kerry, wouldn't you have been more careful about the story?" A senior CBS News insider said Rather is further damaging his reputation by suing. "I think it looks pathetic," this executive told NEWSWEEK on condition of not being identified. "It looks like the musing of an older man who can't let go. This will have no winners. But the biggest loser will be Dan."
And another former colleague questioned Rather's motives, declaring that the former anchor is seeking to raise his profile in his post-CBS career at HDNet, a cable channel controlled by billionaire Mark Cuban. "Had he been a big success in his new life" at HDNet, this person speculated, "I don't believe this would have happened. How do I get myself back into the news? Sue CBS, of course. All of a sudden, people are now talking about Dan Rather again."
END of Excerpt
For the September 21 Newsweek posting: www.msnbc.msn.com
Hewitt was no Bush fan in 2004. The May 18, 2004 CyberAlert, "60 Minutes Chief Don Hewitt Says He'll 'Probably Vote for Kerry,'" recounted:
Tonight (Tuesday) CBS will air a tribute to Don Hewitt, the Executive Producer of 60 Minutes since its inception, whom CBS brass are forcing out as they try to make the news magazine with declining ratings more appealing to younger viewers. In an interview a few weeks ago, Hewitt told Jon Friedman of CBS MarketWatch.com that "I would bet I'll probably vote for Kerry" since "I know why I don't want to vote for George Bush" but, he conceded, "I don't know why I want to vote for Kerry. I don't know who he is."
Friedman related, in his April 23 column for the Web site partially-owned by CBS, how "Hewitt laments the outbreaks of terrorist attacks that have occurred since the U.S. invaded Iraq 13 months ago. 'If I should hold anything against George Bush,' Hewitt said, it was that the invasion 'created more terrorists.' Hewitt was careful to stress that he had no Democratic or liberal political leanings. 'I don't vote parties,' he said. 'I'm an Eisenhower-Reagan Republican and a Roosevelt-Kennedy Democrat.'"
For the CyberAlert in full: www.mediaresearch.org
Here's how the MRC summarized the two Kerry interviews in 2004, not tough investigative pieces, but clearly favorable publicity exercises:
# January 25. In a soft Kerry interview, Ed Bradley touted Kerry's medals and brushed over Kerry's wild and unsubstantiated 1971 Senate testimony by noting: "It's still emotional after all these years. Vietnam is something that just doesn't leave you." Kerry said: "It's young people dying young for the wrong reasons, because leaders don't do the things that they should do to protect them." Bradley replied: "Do you see a parallel with Iraq?"
# July 11. Interviewing the Democratic ticket and their wives, CBS's Lesley Stahl giggled about how well everyone was getting along: "How do you think the honeymoon is going?" Stahl asked Kerry about Edwards: "You're looser. Do you think that his energy is rubbing off on you?"
For more, see the MRC's September 8, 2004 Media Reality Check: www.mrc.org
Nearly eight weeks before six medical doctors were arrested for their involvement in the late June terrorist attempted car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, ABC's Boston Legal drama -- which has its 90-minute season premiere tonight (Tuesday) -- aired an episode which ridiculed the idea a doctor could be a terrorist. In the May 8 episode, titled "Guantanamo by the Bay," attorney "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, takes up the case of British citizen "Benyam Kallah" suing the government, oddly in state court, over Kallah's torture at the Guantanamo Bay facility after he was picked up in Afghanistan where he claims he was doing "humanitarian" work. On the witness stand, Kallah describes the torture and how a friend detained with him couldn't take the torture any longer and so committed suicide. Concluding the scene meant to show the silliness and incompetence of the military for detaining such obviously innocent men, Shore asked: "Was your friend a terrorist?" Kallah replied: "No, he was a doctor."
Pressed by the Massachusetts state court judge about jurisdictional questions, Shore launched into a political diatribe: "Okay. I realize the jurisdictional barriers are prohibitive but, your honor, we don't let the little things like the law stand in our way in this great country. The law, for example, recognizes the Geneva Convention but we say, 'the Hell with it.' The law has very strict regulations on domestic wiretapping and we say, 'the Hell with it.' The law says if you shoot somebody with a shotgun mistaking him for a quail you really should call the police."
Shore is victorious as the case is heard and the judge rejects the government's motion to dismiss the case.
At the very end of the show, "Denny Crane," a pompous and misinformed lawyer who is Hollywood's idea of a prejudiced and chauvinistic conservative, contends: "We would never be in Guantanamo if it weren't for Hillary Clinton." The reasoning of Crane, played by William Shatner: "Bill Clinton would never have lied in the deposition. He wouldn't have risked impeachment. So what if the sexual indiscretion [indecipherable] the public would have forgiven him. But Hillary! The reason he lied is because he was afraid Hillary would find out. That's why he was impeached. That's why Al Gore didn't win. And after all that impeachment scandal crap, the public would have elected any fool other than a Democrat."
On the attempted terrorist attacks in Britain in late June in which car bombs were discovered in London and a car exploded at the Glasgow airport, the Washington Post reported on July 8: "The eight suspects detained by police are highly educated and have overlapping family, work and school links. Six are foreign doctors or trainee doctors working in British hospitals; two of the doctors inquired about continuing their medical training in the United States." See: www.washingtonpost.com
Previous CyberAlert items on liberal politics in the ABC drama:
# The January 18 MRC CyberAlert item (with video), "ABC's 'Boston Legal' Takes Cheap Shots at GOP and Dick Cheney," recounted:
Tuesday's Boston Legal prime time drama on ABC was packed full of political jabs at congressional Republicans and Vice President Cheney. Buffoonish conservative lawyer "Denny Crane" (played by William Shatner) was placed on the "No Fly List" and when liberal lawyer "Alan Shore" (played by James Spader) asked if Crane had called for help, he responded: "Well, I can't get anybody. I called Tom DeLay, his number's disconnected. Foley has got his hands full, Frist said, "Don't take it personally." I called Clarence Thomas; his office said he was indisposed." Shore then asked, "Have you tried going right to the top?" Crane replied: "Cheney?" Shore also linked being "red, white and blue" with not reading newspapers and got in a slap at Cheney in a quip about avoiding "the rich friend who will take you to his quail ranch and let you shoot him."
# The March 21, 2006 CyberAlert article (with two video clips), "ABC's Boston Legal Airs Anti-Bush Tirade that Raises McCarthy Era," reported:
Another episode of ABC's prime time drama Boston Legal will air tonight (Tuesday). Last week's episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman, "Melissa Hughes," cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today."
She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts." In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't."
Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."
For the March 21, 2006 CyberAlert, with two video clips: www.mrc.org
After a tip from a fiend of mine, I asked since-departed MRC intern Michael Lanza to watch the May 8 episode and take down some of the dialog:
"BENYAM KALLAH," PLAYED BY T.J. RAMINI: I was tortured by agents of the United States. I should get to sue the United States.
"JUDGE MARIANNA FOLGER," PLAYED BY BERNADETTE PETERS: Thirty seconds as to why I should entertain this lawsuit.
CRANE: Don't like you representing a Commie terrorist.
SHORE: Mr. Kallah, you've stated that you were tortured. Can you give us an example?
We're in a war! We need to make sacrifices! And we should start with the little things, like human rights. I agree that the executive branch has a particular expertise. In fact, I think they've been brilliant. Calling the prisoners "enemy combatants" instead of prisoners so we can end run the Geneva Convention and torture them? Brilliant. Basing the camp in Cuba so the Constitution won't really get in our way? Brilliant. And under the Pentagon's new draft guidelines, this is my favorite, I'm sure it will be yours, we'll have little tribunals in Guantanamo that'll allow suspects to be jailed for life. Or even executed on evidence that would never be admissible in civilian or military court. Imagine being able to execute somebody on triple hearsay, or on a totally coerced confession. Brilliant!
(The judge denies government's motion to dismiss.)
We would never be in Guantanamo if it weren't for Hillary Clinton....Bill Clinton would never have lied in the deposition. He wouldn't have risked impeachment. So what if the sexual indiscretion [indecipherable] the public would have forgiven him. But Hillary! The reason he lied is because he was afraid Hillary would find out. That's why he was impeached. That's why Al Gore didn't win. And after all that impeachment scandal crap, the public would have elected any fool other than a Democrat. Cut to:
ABC's Web page for Boston Legal: abc.go.com
-- Brent Baker