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CBS's Pitts Paints Breitweiser as Random Voter Swayed by Kerry --10/22/2004


1. CBS's Pitts Paints Breitweiser as Random Voter Swayed by Kerry
Kristen Breitweiser has been an active, publicity-seeking Bush-bashing 9/11 widow who has spent time on the campaign trail for Kerry-Edwards and is featured in a new Kerry-Edwards TV ad in which she declared that since "I want to look in my daughter's eyes and know that she is safe...I am voting for John Kerry." But on Thursday's Early Show, CBS News reporter Byron Pitts mentioned none of that as he portrayed her as some sort of random Bush voter who was so impressed by a Kerry speech line making fun of President Bush that she now plans to vote for Kerry. Pitts played a clip of Kerry, during an Ohio campaign appearance: "A President of the United States has to do more than one thing at the same time and I believe that this President has failed, failed to make our country as safe and secure as we ought to be." Pitts asserted: "That struck a chord with supporters here, especially one." Breitweiser proclaimed: "My favorite part of the speech is when he said that we should expect our President to do more than one thing at a time." Pitts then painted her as a randomly persuaded voter: "Kristen Breitweiser lost her husband on 9/11. One of the leading advocates for the 9/11 commission, she voted for President Bush four years ago, not this time."

2. NBC Picks Up on Guantanamo Detainees' Return to Terrorism
The NBC Nightly News on Thursday picked up on how a detainee released from Guantanamo Bay has returned to a life of terrorism in Pakistan. And in a front page story on Friday, the Washington Post reported that "at least 10 detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay prison after U.S. officials concluded they posed little threat have been recaptured or killed fighting U.S. or coalition forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon officials." Will either story convince ABC's Peter Jennings to balance the several stories he's featured this year fretting about the plight of detainees at Guantanamo Bay with how many of those released have gone back into terrorism? So far he hasn't, despite earlier Newsweek and New York Times stories about how several of those released have returned to a life of terrorism.

3. Koppel Hits Edwards on Liberalism, Desirability of Outsourcing
A contrarian approach from ABC's Ted Koppel, at least contrarian for how most mainstream journalists treat the Democratic ticket. For Wednesday's Nightline, Koppel spent a day on the campaign trail in Ohio with vice presidential candidate John Edwards. As the two talked on a bus, Koppel asked if he's a liberal and when Edwards denied it, Koppel noted how "people run from that label as though there were something dirty about it." He wondered: "You think admitting to any liberal tendencies whatsoever would be harmful?" Koppel also challenged the Kerry-Edwards mantra about outsourcing, proposing to Edwards that he knows "damn well" that even if he and Kerry win, "there will continue to be a huge amount of outsourcing. You can't live without it these days."


CBS's Pitts Paints Breitweiser as Random
Voter Swayed by Kerry

9/11 Widow Kristen Breitweiser Kristen Breitweiser has been an active, publicity-seeking Bush-bashing 9/11 widow who has spent time on the campaign trail for Kerry-Edwards and is featured in a new Kerry-Edwards TV ad in which she denounced Bush for opposing the 9/11 Commission and then declared that "during the Commission hearings we learned the truth, we are no safer today" and since "I want to look in my daughter's eyes and know that she is safe...I am voting for John Kerry." But on Thursday's Early Show, CBS News reporter Byron Pitts mentioned none of that as he portrayed her as some sort of random Bush voter who was so impressed by a Kerry speech line making fun of President Bush that she now plans to vote for Kerry.

Kristen Breitweiser & Byron Pitts On the October 21 Early Show, Pitts played a clip of Kerry, during an Ohio campaign appearance: "A President of the United States has to do more than one thing at the same time and I believe that this President has failed, failed to make our country as safe and secure as we ought to be." Over video of himself walking next to Breitweiser down a sidewalk, Pitts asserted: "That struck a chord with supporters here, especially one."

"Here?" Pitts was checking in from Girhard, Ohio and so viewers unfamiliar with Breitweiser may have assumed she was just a local Ohioan when, in fact, she resides in the New York City area.

Breitweiser, identified on screen as a "9/11 widow," proclaimed: "My favorite part of the speech is when he said that we should expect our President to do more than one thing at a time." Pitts then painted her as a randomly persuaded voter: "Kristen Breitweiser lost her husband on 9/11. One of the leading advocates for the 9/11 commission, she voted for President Bush four years ago, not this time." Breitweiser declared to Pitts: "I know Senator Kerry will make us safer as our President, I know that. And I'm voting for him for myself and for my daughter."

(Immediately after the Pitts piece, CBS went to Bill Plante for a rundown of Bush's activities the day before. But unlike Pitts who showcased a supporter praising the candidate, Plante highlighted how "the President ran into some unexpected trouble yesterday from of a staunch ally. The Reverend Pat Robertson told CNN that he told the President before the invasion of Iraq that he had deep misgivings about the war." Robertson claimed in a clip from CNN's Paula Zahn Now: "And I was trying to say 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties.' 'Oh no, we're not going to have any casualties.' I said 'Well, it's the way it's going to be.' And so, it was messy." Plante noted: "Presidential advisor Karen Hughes told reporters that Robertson's recollection was not accurate, insisting it was not the kind of thing the President would say.")

On Breitweiser, it isn't as if Early Show producers were unaware of her active participation in the Kerry campaign. Back on the September 28 Early Show, CBS reporter Jim Axelrod announced, over video of John Edwards on stage handing a microphone over to Breitweiser: "Mr. Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, was joined on the campaign trail by 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser." CBS played a clip of her, identified on screen only a "9/11 widow," talking to the crowd: "I'm a little nervous so bear with me. And I got a little teary-eyed, so. I know, forgive me for voting for President Bush."

Kristen Breitweiser on stage with John Edwards Wednesday's World News Tonight, but not CBS Evening News, featured a clip of her new ad for Kerry. ABC's Bob Woodruff explained, over a brief shot of Breitweiser on stage with Edwards at a campaign event, how "yesterday the Kerry campaign released its own 9/11 ad" in which "widow Kristen Breitweiser accuses George Bush of opposing the 9/11 Commission and resisting reform." ABC then played a bit of Breitweiser in the ad: "And during the Commission hearings, we learned the truth. We are no safer today. I want to look in my daughter's eyes and know that she is safe, and that is why I am voting for John Kerry."

Kristen Breitweiser in Kerry advertisement The full ad script, as posted by the Kerry-Edwards campaign:
"My husband, Ron, was killed on September 11th. I've spent the last three years trying to find out what happened to make sure it never happens again. I fought for the 9/11 Commission, something George W. Bush, the man my husband Ron and I voted for, didn't think was necessary. And during the Commission hearings we learned the truth, we are no safer today. I want to look in my daughter's eyes and know that she is safe, and that is why I am voting for John Kerry."

To view video of the TV spot: www.johnkerry.com

Nothing about her campaigning for the Democratic ticket or cutting a TV ad for them made it into the piece filed by Pitts for the October 21 Early Show which the MRC's Brian Boyd brought to my attention.

From Los Angeles, Julie Chen introduced it a bit past 7am EDT: "Now to the election. With just 12 days to go the war on terrorism remains a primary focus. This morning Senator John Kerry is taking aim at the President's policies in Ohio. CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts is with the Kerry campaign. Good morning, Byron."

From Girhard, Ohio, Pitts began: "Good morning, Julie. Well first off this morning John Kerry is going geese hunting, an effort in part to show voters here he's a regular guy. But on the stump his main target remains President Bush."
John Kerry at campaign event: "In Iraq every week brings fresh evidence that President Bush just doesn't see what's happening and he isn't leveling with the American people about why we went to war, how the war is going and he has no idea how to put our policy back on track."
Pitts: "The Kerry campaign concedes it's a risky but necessary strategy: attack President Bush on what the polls still show is one of his greatest strengths, the President's leadership in the war on terror. Thus, it's the war in Iraq and the mounting casualties there where Kerry sees an opening."
Kerry: "If the President can not recognize the problems in Iraq, he will not fix them. I do recognize them and I will fix them."
Pitts: "And there's something else Kerry says he already recognizes, a link between the problems in Iraq and problems at home."
Kerry: "A President of the United States has to do more than one thing at the same time and I believe that this President has failed, failed to make our country as safe and secure as we ought to be."
Pitts, over video of himself walking beside Breitweiser: "That struck a chord with supporters here, especially one."
Kristen Breitweiser, identified on screen as a "9/11 widow," standing outdoors: "My favorite part of the speech is when he said that we should expect our president to do more than one thing at a time. Al Qaeda is doing a thousand things at a time, they're trying to kill us."
Pitts: "Kristen Breitweiser lost her husband on 9/11. One of the leading advocates for the 9/11 Commission, she voted for President Bush four years ago, not this time."
Breitweiser to Pitts: "I know Senator Kerry will make us safer as our President, I know that. And I'm voting for him for myself and for my daughter."
Pitts concluded: "Another widow will campaign with Kerry today. Dana Reeve, wife of the late actor Christopher Reeve. Kerry's topic -- stem cell research."

NBC Picks Up on Guantanamo Detainees'
Return to Terrorism

The NBC Nightly News on Thursday picked up on how a detainee released from Guantanamo Bay has returned to a life of terrorism in Pakistan. And in a front page story on Friday, the Washington Post reported that "at least 10 detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay prison after U.S. officials concluded they posed little threat have been recaptured or killed fighting U.S. or coalition forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon officials."

Will either story convince ABC's Peter Jennings to balance the several stories he's featured this year fretting about the plight of detainees at Guantanamo Bay with how many of those released have gone back into terrorism? So far he hasn't, despite earlier Newsweek and New York Times stories about how several of those released have returned to a life of terrorism.

In her October 21 NBC Nightly News piece, Lisa Myers reported how Abdullah Mehsud is wanted for kidnappings in Pakistans. She asserted that "the Mehsud story is more than a bit embarrassing for the United States. Until last March, Mehsud was in prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, having been captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, a Pentagon review board decided to release him, ruling Mehsud was not a security threat."

Myers pointed out how "some villagers now consider Mehsud a hero because he seems to have outwitted the Americans, tricked them into releasing him." Myers, however, also suggested the U.S. may have driven the man into terrorism by holding him at Guantanamo: "Experts say it's possible Mehsud was always a hardcore militant and deceived his captors. Or:" She then ran this suggestion from Brian Jenkins, a RAND Corporation terrorism expert: "The other possibility is that the two years in captivity was itself a radicalizing experience."

Anchor Tom Brokaw teased up top: "Most wanted: The intense manhunt for a Taliban fighter in American custody for two years. Why did the U.S. set him free?"

Brokaw introduced the subsequent story, the MSNBC.com-posted transcript of which was checked against the tape by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Along the rugged border with Afghanistan tonight, the Pakistani Army is trying to capture an anti-American militant who was released from prison just seven months ago by the United States. What's happened here? NBC's senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has more tonight."

Lisa Myers began: "In the tribal area of Waziristan, Pakistani helicopter gunships and commandos hunt one of the country's most wanted militants. This man, Abdullah Mehsud, a feared Taliban commander allegedly tied to al-Qaeda. Mehsud's men recently took Pakistani soldiers and two Chinese engineers hostage. This video given to NBC News by a contact in the region shows Mehsud at a hideout last week playing to the camera. He urges fellow militants by radio to prepare for a suicide mission."
Abdullah Mehsud, released Taliban member, standing outdoors [through translator]: "Once you tie the bombs tightly to your bodies, then you should be ready for suicide. Once I give you the order, go and act."
Myers: "Later, in a confrontation with Pakistani troops, one hostage and five of Mehsud's men are killed. The Mehsud story is more than a bit embarrassing for the United States. Until last March, Mehsud was in prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, having been captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, a Pentagon review board decided to release him, ruling Mehsud was not a security threat. A Pakistani General leading the manhunt:"
Major General Niaz Khattak, Pakistani Army [through translator]: "It is obvious now you can say they made a mistake."
Myers: "In fact, some villagers now consider Mehsud a hero because he seems to have outwitted the Americans, tricked them into releasing him. Experts say it's possible Mehsud was always a hardcore militant and deceived his captors. Or:"
Brian Jenkins, RAND Corporation terrorism expert: "The other possibility is that the two years in captivity was itself a radicalizing experience."
Myers: "A defiant Mehsud now claims he's avenging cruelty against Muslims. He vows to fight to the death against Americans and against Pakistanis under American influence."
Mehsud [through translator]: "This is a cancer not in Waziristan nor Pakistan only, but also in the rest of the Muslim world."
Myers concluded: "The Pentagon says 156 Gitmo detainees have been released after signing pledges to renounce violence. Mehsud is one of ten who returned to terrorism. A spokesman admits the decision process is, quote, 'imperfect.' Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington."

For a picture of Mehsud and video of the Myers story: www.msnbc.msn.com

An excerpt from, "Released Detainees Rejoining the Fight," an October 22 front page Washington Post story by John Mintz:

At least 10 detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay prison after U.S. officials concluded they posed little threat have been recaptured or killed fighting U.S. or coalition forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon officials.

One of the repatriated prisoners is still at large after taking leadership of a militant faction in Pakistan and aligning himself with al Qaeda, Pakistani officials said. In telephone calls to Pakistani reporters, he has bragged that he tricked his U.S. interrogators into believing he was someone else.

Another returned captive is an Afghan teenager who had spent two years at a special compound for young detainees at the military prison in Cuba, where he learned English, played sports and watched videos, informed sources said. U.S. officials believed they had persuaded him to abandon his life with the Taliban, but recently the young man, now 18, was recaptured with other Taliban fighters near Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to the sources, who asked for anonymity because they were discussing sensitive military information.

The cases demonstrate the difficulty Washington faces in deciding when alleged al Qaeda and Taliban detainees should be freed, amid pressure from foreign governments and human rights groups that have denounced U.S. officials for detaining the Guantanamo Bay captives for years without due-process rights, military officials said.

"Reports that former detainees have rejoined al Qaeda and the Taliban are evidence that these individuals are fanatical and particularly deceptive," said a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico. "From the beginning, we have recognized that there are inherent risks in determining when an individual detainee no longer had to be held at Guantanamo Bay."

The latest case emerged two weeks ago when two Chinese engineers working on a dam project in Pakistan's lawless Waziristan region were kidnapped. The commander of a tribal militant group, Abdullah Mehsud, 29, told reporters by satellite phone that his followers were responsible for the abductions....

Mark Jacobson, a former special assistant for detainee policy in the Defense Department who now teaches at Ohio State University, estimated that as many as 25 former detainees have taken up arms again. "You can't trust them when they say they're not terrorists," he said....

Another former Guantanamo Bay prisoner was killed in southern Afghanistan last month after a shootout with Afghan forces. Maulvi Ghafar was a senior Taliban commander when he was captured in late 2001. No information has emerged about what he told interrogators in Guantanamo Bay, but in several cases U.S. officials have released detainees they knew to have served with the Taliban if they swore off violence in written agreements....

A third released Taliban commander died in an ambush this summer. Mullah Shahzada, who apparently convinced U.S. officials that he had sworn off violence, rejoined the Taliban as soon as he was freed in mid-2003, sources with knowledge of his situation said....

END of Excerpt

For the Washington Post article in full: www.washingtonpost.com

# Past CyberAlert items from this year on Guantanamo Bay coverage by Peter Jennings and how CBS covered a New York Times story on the return to terrorism by detainees:

-- April 21: All the networks on Tuesday ran full stories about the Supreme Court hearing a case asking them to rule that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay should have access to U.S. federal courts, but only ABC's Peter Jennings considered it the most important news of the day as he traveled to Washington, DC to cover the hearing, framed his lead story around how "the lawyers for more than a dozen prisoners say the President is violating the American commitment to the rule of law" and followed up, with a story he narrated himself, about the anti-Bush protesters outside the court, which prompted him to raise the mistreatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Jennings gave three soundbites to the protesters, with none on the other side, as he relayed how "these petitioners believe that holding nearly 600 men from 42 countries without even charging them violates the International Geneva Conventions for prisoners." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- April 23: Peter Jennings remains obsessed with the plight of those detained at Guantanamo Bay. The day after he led World News Tonight with a sympathetic look at an appeal to the Supreme Court on their behalf, he took a night off from his anchoring duties so he could travel to Guantanamo Bay for a first hand look and on Thursday night checked in with his findings. Over video of the facilities, Jennings fretted about how "at any time of the day or night, the detainees may be interrogated, a subject of enormous controversy in itself." He lamented: "There is no thought here of rehabilitation. Some of these men may be here for years, and as of now, they have no appeal." Back on camera in the studio, Jennings seemed to be speaking for himself as he maintained: "Hard place to photograph. Harder place for many people to understand." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- June 22: Picking up on a massive 5,800 word New York Times story, "U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guant'namo Detainees," on Monday's CBS Evening News, David Martin noted that only about 60 of the detainees "have been identified as likely to face trial by military tribunal. More than twice that many, 134 to be exact, have been determined not to pose a threat and sent home. Those numbers would seem to undercut a statement made by Vice President Cheney early in the war on terror that the prisoners being sent to Guantanamo were 'the worst of a very bad lot.'" Only in his last sentence did Martin acknowledge that two "convinced their interrogators they were innocent and were released, only to show up again on the battlefield in Afghanistan." Indeed, as Michael Isikoff recounted in the May 3 Newsweek, "some of the more than 100 Gitmo prisoners who have been released have since turned up back in Afghanistan -- fighting with Taliban forces against the U.S. military." See: www.mediaresearch.org

Koppel Hits Edwards on Liberalism, Desirability of Outsourcing

A contrarian approach from ABC's Ted Koppel, at least contrarian for how most mainstream journalists treat the Democratic ticket. For Wednesday's Nightline, Koppel spent a day on the campaign trail in Ohio with vice presidential candidate John Edwards. As the two talked on a bus, Koppel asked if he's a liberal and when Edwards denied it, Koppel noted how "people run from that label as though there were something dirty about it." He wondered: "You think admitting to any liberal tendencies whatsoever would be harmful?" Koppel also challenged the Kerry-Edwards mantra about outsourcing, proposing to Edwards that he knows "damn well" that even if he and Kerry win, "there will continue to be a huge amount of outsourcing. You can't live without it these days."

The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught the exchanges on the October 20 Nightline.

-- Koppel: "And then, it's back onto the campaign bus and as we head to Steubenville, the Senator and I sit down for a longer conversation.
Koppel: "Are you a liberal?"
Edwards: "No. I don't believe in labels. First of all, I don't think they mean anything. I think John Kerry and I are mainstream America."
Koppel: "Whatever to happened to liberals? I mean, 20, 25 years ago in this country, you had a hard time finding anyone who'd admit to being a conservative, and now people run from that label as though there were something dirty about it."
Edwards: "I just think that most people have gotten away from believing these labels mean anything. You know, George Bush says that he's conservative, but he took a $5 trillion surplus and turned it into a $3 trillion deficit. He's got more tax cuts and spending on the horizon he doesn't have any way of paying for. I mean, to me that's not conservative, that's not the kind of thing that I grew up believing was conservative."
Koppel: "But you think admitting to any liberal tendencies whatsoever would be harmful in a campaign like this?"
Edwards: "I think talking about labels is not helpful. I don't think it's helpful, honestly, for either side."

-- Koppel: "We reduce everything to simplicities in this campaign....Let's talk in reducing things to simplicity. Outsourcing, bad, it's bad."
Edwards: "Yeah, it is bad."
Koppel: "You know damn well that if you ever get to be Vice President of the United States and John Kerry gets to be President of the United States, there will continue to be a huge amount of outsourcing. You can't live without it these days."
Edwards: "But the choices you make matter. What we have right now is a President who has, his administration has actually said in their economic report that outsourcing is good for the economy; I don't believe that's right. They've also promoted policies that facilitate outsourcing....We just think that's fundamentally wrong and we think there are some things we can do, like getting rid of those tax cuts and giving tax cuts to companies staying here that will help."
Koppel: "You can reduce it, you can't do away with it."
Edwards: "I don't disagree with that, that's true."
Koppel: "And even if you could, you probably wouldn't because, inevitably, some things are going to have to go to countries that have lower wage scales and that also induces us, in this country, to produce new jobs that are higher-paying jobs. Don't you buy that?"

-- Brent Baker