2. MSNBC Chief Goes from Scorning Patriotic Coverage to Hyping It
3. Eason Jordan: "Nonsense" that CNN Kowtowed to Hussein
4. Late Show Taping Almost Makes Brokaw Late for
ABC News on Wednesday night raised the specter of McCarthyism and blacklists in condemning how some have dared to criticize the anti-war views of celebrities, as if celebrities must be accorded the right to pontificate without anyone having the right to say anything adverse about those views.
In the world envisioned by ABC News, America must reflect the reverence of celebrities awarded by Entertainment Tonight.
World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings previewed the story by claiming celebrities are being "punished" somehow: "When we come back this evening, being against the war and in show business. And the people who want to punish you for that."
Reporter Jim Wooten soon highlighted how actor Tim Robbins "criticized the political climate in which his right to express his views has come under attack." Having cited only the decision of some radio stations to not play Dixie Chick songs, the United Way uninviting Susan Sarandon to an event and the baseball hall of fame deciding to disinvite Sarandon and Robbins from a movie anniversary event, Wooten then ludicrously suggested "blacklists" were on the rebound: "All this has reminded some of the McCarthy era's blacklists that barred those even accused of communist sympathies for working in films or on television."
If there are blacklists, then how is it that Sarandon is the star of a new TV movie set to air this weekend on CBS?
The Wednesday night ABC story fulfilled the promise Jennings made the night before that ABC would examine the supposed threat from "the well organized and aggressive efforts to make life very difficult for celebrities who speak out against the war."
But neither Jennings nor Wooten, in smearing those critical of anti-war views of celebrities as McCarthyites, provide a single example of any "well-organized" effort or of any actor losing any job over their views and, in the case of the Dixie Chicks, Wooten failed to explain what they had done which upset so many of their fans and led those fans to not want to hear their music -- the lead singer, in a foreign nation in a time war, said she was embarrassed to be from the same state as the President of the United States.
Wooten asserted that Martin Sheen, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon "have been labeled unpatriotic, un-American," as if the descriptions were indisputably inaccurate. But the record of what they've said, in ascribing venal "blood for oil" motives, decrying an American "Taliban," and claiming the U.S. government has unleashed "repression" on the world is evidence much of the anti-war celebrity left is arguably more anti-American than anti-war.
At the top of the April 16 World News Tonight, Jennings teased: "And here at home, the well-organized effort to get at entertainment stars who thought the war was a bad idea."
At the first ad break, Jennings plugged the upcoming story: "And at the end of the broadcast tonight, the dangers of being anti-war -- if you work in Hollywood."
Promoting the story before a later ad break, Jennings intoned: "When we come back this evening, being against the war and in show business. And the people who want to punish you for that."
Jennings introduced the eventual piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Finally this evening, what it sometimes costs to be in the minority and say what you think publicly. There is nothing like a war to create tension between some of those who most fervently support it and those who do not. And as we've seen in the case of this war, when those who are opposed happen to be in show business, well, some other people want to make them pay. And for both sides, it is always billed as a matter of free speech. To bring us up to date on this, ABC's Jim Wooten."
Wooten began, over video of protests: "Most Americans who've opposed the war are anonymous faces in the crowd, and their protests haven't cost them all that much. But for famous faces, like Martin Sheen, freedom of speech could be costly to his career. And he says it ought to be."
Wooten continued: "A Florida appearance for Sarandon was cancelled as well as a celebration of her and her partner Robbins' film, Bull Durham, at the Baseball Hall of Fame, because the President, who worked in the Reagan White House, decided their views might endanger American troops. He did not explain how."
Naturally, ABC found this liberal agenda concern about a "chill wind" more newsworthy than reviewing the inaccuracy of the hyperbolic Bush-hating rhetoric spewed by the more extreme anti-war celebrities or providing ABC viewers with a flavor of their angry invective.
A few past CyberAlerts provided such a service in quoting Sarandon and Robbins:
-- A bunch of left-wing celebrities, including Ed Asner, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei, helped pay for a full page New York Times ad denouncing President Bush's war on terrorism. The ad screeched: "We call on all Americans to RESIST the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate."
The signers also equated 9/11 with the terror inflicted by the U.S. military in Baghdad, Panama City and Vietnam.
-- President Bush will attack Iraq just because he wants to "change the subject from Cheney and Halliburton and the crumbling confidence in the stock market," actor Tim Robbins told the Washington Post. Robbins claimed he resents Bush putting "American soldiers in harm's way and to do everything to change the subject so that Republicans can keep control of the House."
-- Actress Susan Sarandon was in full rant on Saturday at an anti-Bush/Iraq war rally organized by a bunch or far-left groups. She equated al-Qaeda with U.S. businesses: "Cloaked in patriotism and our doctrine of spreading democracy throughout the world, our fundamentalism is business." She claimed the war is "distracting American attention from Enron and Haliburton" and that Bush's "oil men" are "more interested in a financial bottom line than a moral bottom line."
Read the MRC's "Celebrities on Politics and War" collection of quotes.
An April 16 story on the MRC's CNSNews.com recounted some of the whining expressed by Robbins about being repressed, complaints he made during a forum he was awarded at the National Press Club on Tuesday, in addition to his rants against Bush policy. An excerpt from the story by Jeff Johnson:
....Robbins told an audience at the National Press Club that the Bush administration has taken advantage of the American people and squandered the good will the world had recently developed toward the U.S.
"In the 19 months since 9/11, we have seen our democracy compromised by fear and hatred," he claimed. "Basic inalienable rights, due process, the sanctity of the home have been quickly compromised in a climate of fear.
"A unified American public has grown bitterly divided," Robbins continued, "and a world population that had profound sympathy and support for us has grown contemptuous and distrustful, viewing us as we once viewed the Soviet Union, as a rogue state."
The actor-activist accused the Bush administration and other supporters of the war of a campaign of intimidation to silence those who disagree with them.
"A message is being sent through the White House and its allies in talk radio...[that] if you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications," Robbins claimed. "Every day, the airwaves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent."
Robbins also accused the American media of colluding with the U.S. government to conceal the consequences of the war against Saddam Hussein.
"Unlike the rest of the world, our news coverage of this war remains sanitized, without a glimpse of the blood and gore inflicted upon our soldiers or the women and children in Iraq," Robbins charged. "We are told it would be pornographic. We want no part of reality in real life."...
Robbins called on those who agree or disagree with his anti-war stance to rise up against what he deems false patriotism.
"In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as it lives in fear of its own freedom...when people all over the country fear reprisal if they use their right to free speech, it is time to get angry. It is time to get fierce," he continued. "Any instance of intimidation to free speech should be battled against. Any acquiescence to intimidation at this point will only lead to more intimidation."...
END of Excerpt
Read the story in full as posted on www.cnsnews.com.
In a remarkable transformation, upon figuring out that appearing patriotic helps in the ratings, MSNBC chief Erik Sorenson has gone from disdaining pro-American patriotic programming to championing it.
In November of 2001, Sorenson grumbled that if you make "any misstep...you can get into trouble with these guys and have the Patriotism Police hunt you down." In a New York Times story he ridiculed those concerned about the tone of post-9/11 coverage: "These are hard jobs. Just getting the facts straight is monumentally difficult. We don't want to have to wonder if we are saluting properly. Was I supposed to use the three-fingered salute today?"
Excerpts of the two New York Times stories:
-- November 7, 2001 story on coverage of the war on terrorism:
....Much of the criticism comes from a group of conservative media voices and outlets, including Rush Limbaugh's radio talk show, The New York Post's editorial page, The Drudge Report and some commentators on the Fox News Channel. Much of the information for their critiques has been assembled by a conservative media watchdog organization called the Media Research Center, which hires full-time monitors to watch the network newscasts.
These outlets have kept tabs on the media for some time and were on the opposite side of the White House for the Clinton presidency.
How their criticism will affect coverage of the war is an open question. But news executives at CNN, ABC and MSNBC said they were conscious of the criticism while making their day-to-day decisions about coverage.
"Any misstep and you can get into trouble with these guys and have the Patriotism Police hunt you down," said Erik Sorenson, president of MSNBC. "These are hard jobs. Just getting the facts straight is monumentally difficult. We don't want to have to wonder if we are saluting properly. Was I supposed to use the three-fingered salute today?"...
-- April 16, 2003, "Cable's War Coverage Suggests a New 'Fox Effect' on Television," by Jim Rutenberg:
....MSNBC has patriotic flourishes throughout the day. Along with the regular screen presence of an American flag, Mr. Bush's portrait is featured on MSNBC's main set and an "America's Bravest" studio wall shows snapshots of men and women serving in Iraq.
Neal Shapiro, the NBC News president, said MSNBC hired Mr. Scarborough and Mr. Savage to add political equilibrium to its lineup of hosts. Before the war, Mr. Shapiro said, all of them -- Chris Matthews, Phil Donahue, Bill Press and Pat Buchanan -- opposed the war. Mr. Donahue's program was canceled in February.
"If you have a range of opinion that leaves out a whole part of the country," Mr. Shapiro said, "you're unintentionally sending a message that 'you are not welcome here.' "
Erik Sorenson, MSNBC's president, said it was trying to differentiate its report from what he called a mainstream style of automatic questioning of the government.
"After Sept. 11 the country wants more optimism and benefit of the doubt," Mr. Sorenson said. "It's about being positive as opposed to being negative. If it ends up negative, so be it. But a big criticism of the mainstream press is that the beginning point is negative: 'On Day 2, we're in a quagmire.' "
MSNBC's programming moves were welcomed by L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center, a conservative media analysis group. "What Fox is doing, and frankly what MSNBC is also declaring by its product, is that one can be unabashedly patriotic and be a good news journalist at the same
END of Excerpt
That story is online at www.nytimes.com.
Eason Jordan defends himself. On the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday night, C-SPAN on Wednesday morning and in an op-ed in Wednesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN's chief news executive laid out the same basic arguments as he made in a memo to CNN staff which was reported in the April 15 Washington Post, a story cited in that day's CyberAlert.
In the new op-ed, Jordan noted that "some critics complain" that his New York Times "op-ed piece proves CNN withheld vital information from the public and kowtowed to the Saddam Hussein regime to maintain a reporting presence in Iraq." Jordan insisted: "That is nonsense."
An excerpt from Jordan's op-ed in the April 16 Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Charges of kowtowing to Saddam unfounded," to which the MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me:
Because my op-ed piece in the New York Times Friday stirred a controversy, I want to share my thoughts with you about it. In the op-ed, I described how the Iraqi regime intimidated, tortured and killed people who helped CNN over the years. It was a tough piece to write. But I felt strongly the stories needed to be told as soon as telling them would not automatically result in the killing of innocent colleagues, friends and acquaintances -- most of them Iraqis.
Some critics complain that the op-ed piece proves CNN withheld vital information from the public and kowtowed to the Saddam Hussein regime to maintain a reporting presence in Iraq. That is nonsense.
No news organization in the world had a more contentious relationship with the Iraqi regime than CNN. The Iraqi leadership was so displeased with CNN's Iraq reporting that CNN was expelled from Iraq six times -- five in previous years and one more on day three of this Iraq war....
CNN's Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, was banned after reporting on an unprecedented public protest demanding to know what happened to Iraqis who vanished years earlier after being abducted by secret police. Christiane Amanpour, Wolf Blitzer, Aaron Brown, Brent Sadler, Nic Robertson, Rym Brahimi, Sheila MacVicar, Ben Wedeman, and Richard Roth were among the other CNN correspondents and anchors banned from Iraq.
If CNN were trying to kowtow and maintain its Baghdad presence at any cost, would CNN's reporting have produced a contentious relationship, expulsions and bannings? No. CNN kept pushing for access, while never compromising its journalistic standards. Withholding information that would get innocent people killed was the right thing to do, not a journalistic sin.
Did CNN report on the brutality of the regime? Yes, as best we could, mostly from outside Iraq, where people in the know could speak more freely....
When an Iraqi official, Abbas al-Janabi, defected after his teeth were yanked out with pliers by Uday Hussein's henchmen, I worked to ensure the defector gave his first TV interview to CNN. He did.
Some critics say if I had told my Iraq horror stories sooner, I would have saved thousands of lives. How they concluded that, I don't know.
Iraq's human rights record and the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime were well known before I wrote my op-ed piece....
A number of people have told me CNN should have closed its Baghdad bureau, helped everyone who told me the horror stories flee Iraq, with me thereafter telling those stories publicly long before now. While that is a noble thought, doing so was not a viable option. Iraqis (and their families) who told me those stories in some cases could not, and in other cases would not, leave their country simply for the sake of CNN being able to share their stories with the world....
Knowing the personal stories I knew about the brutality of the regime, I had three options:
1. Never repeat such horror stories. 2. Tell the stories sooner and, as a result, see innocent people killed. 3. Tell the stories after the downfall of the Saddam Hussein regime.
I chose option three and could never imagine doing anything else....
END of Excerpt
Read the op-ed in its entirety as posted on www.accessatlanta.com.
For Tuesday's PBS NewsHour, Terence Smith provided a story about the controversy and interviewed both Jordan and Franklin Foer, the author of a New Republic story last October which detailed the groveling by many media outlets in Baghdad, including CNN. Read a transcript of the April 15 NewsHour segment.
Previous CyberAlert items on the Jordan matter:
-- Brit Hume's FNC panel denounced CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for withholding knowledge he had of Saddam Hussein's brutality. Morton Kondracke recalled that last year Jordan had insisted "that CNN never made journalistic compromises to gain access," but that "is a flat lie." Columnist Charles Krauthammer observed: "It's a classic example of selling your soul for the story. He clearly gave up truth for access."
-- The Fox News Sunday panel, from left to right, castigated CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for his confession on Friday that he had covered up knowledge he had about Saddam Hussein's brutality. NPR's Juan Williams called Jordan's decision an "outrage," Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristal described Jordan's behavior as "just craven" and even NPR correspondent Mara Liasson was troubled: "I think that raises some crucial questions about how media organizations behave in totalitarian governments." Read the April 14, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- More Eason Jordan material: In a memo to CNN's staff, Jordan defended his withholding of knowledge he had about Saddam Hussein's brutality, Franklin Foer penned an op-ed updating his story on how media outlets traded truth for access in Baghdad, on FNC Fred Barnes, Brit Hume and Jeffrey Birnbaum all chided Jordan, and OpinionJournal.com revealed that four years ago Jordan complained about how the U.S. government was an impediment to CNN establishing a permanent Baghdad bureau. Plus, on the very day of Jordan's confession, a newspaper story noted that CNN, claiming it's "independent," refused to mar itself by letting its news be part of a new U.S. government TV channel in Iraq. See the April 15, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- CNN's Eason Jordan on Tuesday earned the condemnation of another major mainstream journalistic guidepost, a Washington Post editorial, which held CNN culpable for not informing its viewers of Saddam Hussein's true nature. The paper's editorial writers worried that "if CNN did not fully disclose what it knew about the Baathist regime, and if CNN deliberately kept its coverage bland and inoffensive, that would help explain why the regime was not perceived to be as ruthless as it in fact was." Read the April 16, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- The interest in access over truth goes beyond Eason Jordan at CNN. Former CNN Baghdad reporter Peter Collins disclosed in a Tuesday op-ed for the Washington Times that in 1993 he observed then-CNN President Tom Johnson "groveling" for an interview with Saddam Hussein. Collins recalled how Johnson demanded that he read on the air some talking points provided by the Ministry of Information, but then Johnson complained about his "flat" delivery. Collins recalled: "I was astonished. The President of CNN was telling me I seemed less-than-enthusiastic reading Saddam Hussein's propaganda." See the April 16, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- Tom Brokaw scolded CNN's Eason Jordan, suggesting he should have kept his knowledge secret since the revelation now casts doubt on anything CNN reports. On Tuesday's Late Show, Brokaw told David Letterman that CNN "should have worked harder at conveying" what Jordan knew, but that if you "decide to keep that as a secret for yourself to protect those people and to protect the interests of your company, then you probably ought to keep it secret for a long time because it opens them up now, wherever they go, wherever they're stationed, 'well what are they not telling us now?'" Read the April 16, 2003 CyberAlert item.
While Brokaw may not have kept secret relevant information about the Hussein regime, he did his share of bowing and scraping before Saddam, too, Rich reminded me. From Franklin Foer's October 18, 2002 New Republic article:
Read an excerpt of the most interesting portions of the very illuminating 3,500 word article in the October 28, 2002 edition of the New Republic by Foer, refer to the October 18, 2002 CyberAlert.
Read the entire original Foer piece as posted on www.tnr.com.
For a fresh Foer piece penned for Monday's Wall Street Journal op-ed page, "CNN's Access of Evil," see the April 15 CyberAlert for an excerpt, or for it in full, go to www.opinionjournal.com.
Tom Brokaw almost didn't make it to the NBC News studio in time for Tuesday's NBC Nightly News after taping the Late Show minutes before his show began, a Late Show Web report revealed.
The recounting of how close Brokaw came, to not getting back in time to Rockefeller Plaza six blocks away from the Ed Sullivan Theater, provides what I think some may find an interesting insider look at how a program aired hours later can conflict with a live one you watched hours earlier.
From the "Wahoo Gazette," which presents a daily re-cap of the Late Show with David Letterman, an excerpt from the rundown on the April 15 show as provided by Michael Z. McIntee:
....It was a long segment and many of us were keeping an eye on the clock. We tape from 5:30-6:30. It was about 6:07 PM at the end of Tom's first segment. Of course, Tom has to do his NBC Nightly News at 6:30. We are at 53rd and Broadway. NBC is around 51st and 6th. Tom always walks back to work after doing our show. He walks two blocks south to 51st, then turns east from Broadway to 7th then 6th. If he does another segment, Brokaw will be cutting it close.
Back for his second segment, Tom discusses the situation revealed by the head of CNN who admitted to making a "deal" with Iraq, withholding certain information, in order to remain at their Iraqi location these past few years. He then talks about Syria and George W. Bush. Somewhere in the middle of that, you can see Tom checking the clock off stage and making eye-contact with one of our producers. He knew it was getting late. Tom never lost his cool, though, and didn't shorten his answers. I think I was more nervous than he. Man, that's cool under pressure.
During Tom Russell and Nanci Griffith's performance, I quickly switched to NBC to see if Tom made it back in time. I'm happy to report he made it....
END of Wahoo Gazette excerpt
The Wahoo Gazette is online at www.cbs.com.
That name is inspired by the imaginary "home office" for the Top Ten list, but there really is a Wahoo, Nebraska.
If it was 6:07pm at the end of his first segment, I'd guestimate his second segment ended at about 6:14pm, giving him barely 15 minutes to walk six blocks and go up an elevator to the Nightly News studio.
Dan Rather has had some close calls too when taping Letterman less than 30 minutes before the CBS Evening News begins. But I bet that Rather doesn't walk through the streets of Manhattan like Brokaw and instead gets a ride in nice car with tinted windows.
Don't want another "Kenneth, what's the frequency?" incident.
-- Brent Baker