2. NY Times Buries Memo on Effectiveness of 'Torture' Methods
3. CBS's Smith: Bush Interrogation Methods Caused Abu Ghraib?
4. CNN Headline News Anchor Defends Perez Hilton's Vulgar Comments
5. MSNBC's O'Donnell: Tea Parties Not 'Organic...Not from Ground Up'
6. Begala: Tea Partiers 'Whiny, Weasels Who Don't Love Their Country'
NBC's Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday night mentioned how the "Obama administration's own Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, wrote his employees last week" about how, what NBC described as "harsh" interrogation techniques, "produced 'high-value information,'" a view from an Obama insider left out of stories on ABC and CBS. But Mitchell described Blair's assessment as conveying "controversial comments." Not controversial to Mitchell? The hook for her story, liberal Democratic Senator Carl Levin's charge that "there were very strong warnings against the use of these techniques and...they attempted to destroy the warning."
Mitchell began her piece, without any hint of a political motive by Levin, by summarizing the report the Michigan Democrat decided to declassify: "According to the Senate report, the harsh techniques used at Guantanamo and other prisons were ordered by top Bush cabinet-level officials and launched months before they were approved by lawyers. Today's Armed Services Committee report also says abuses at the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison, including 'stress positions, removal of clothing, use of phobias such as fear of dogs,' were systematic, not just the work of a few rogue soldiers, as the Pentagon claimed at the time."
Leading into a soundbite from Levin, Mitchell ominously intoned that "when military and State Department lawyers tried to stop the practices, they were silenced." She added: "One warning the White House destroyed, a legal document from State Department counselor Philip Zelikow, against the interrogations." Levin's Senate floor statement: levin.senate.gov
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Mitchell also noted how "Hillary Clinton was asked today about Dick Cheney's argument that the interrogations worked," as she highlighted the Secretary of State's insult of Cheney in a slam that failed to address his request to have memos released which show the interrogations uncovered useful information: "It won't surprise you that I don't consider him a particularly reliable source of information."
The NBC correspondent concluded with Blair: "The Obama administration's own Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, wrote his employees last week that the interrogations produced 'high-value information.' And he said he did not fault those who made the decisions at the time. But Blair left those controversial comments out of public statements he issued at the same time. Tonight, a senior official told NBC News Blair does not back away from his private comments, even though they appear to differ from the President's rejection of the Bush policies."
An AP dispatch related on Wednesday: "National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, Obama's top intelligence adviser, told intelligence personnel in an April 16 letter -- the same day the Justice Department memos were released -- that 'high-value information came from interrogation in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaida organization that was attacking the country.'" See: www.cnsnews.com
ABC's World News ran a short item, read by anchor Charles Gibson, on Levin's allegations while the CBS Evening News carried a full story from David Martin.
Transcript of the story on the Wednesday, April 22 NBC Nightly News, provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, who corrected the closed-captioning against the video:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: The subject of debate in Washington this week has been torture and what constitutes torture, and what was allowed during the Bush years that's now been called out and outlawed during the Obama administration. Now there's the question of what to do about the officials who allowed those interrogation tactics in the first place. We get the latest tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell.
ANDREA MITCHELL: According to the Senate report, the harsh techniques used at Guantanamo and other prisons were ordered by top Bush cabinet-level officials and launched months before they were approved by lawyers. Today's Armed Services Committee report also says abuses at the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison, including "stress positions, removal of clothing, use of phobias such as fear of dogs," were systematic, not just the work of a few rogue soldiers, as the Pentagon claimed at the time.
Did the New York Times bury reporter Peter Baker's story on a memo, written by Obama's own national intelligence director, suggesting that harsh interrogation methods had proved effective in understanding Al Qaeda? Washington Examiner journalist Byron York has his suspicions since the paper relegated its hit Tuesday nytimes.com story, relaying the views of Dennis Blair, to five paragraphs of a separate story in Wednesday's print edition.
From Baker's 850-word online story, "Banned Techniques Yielded 'High Value Information,' Memo Says," which rocketed across the Drudge Report and the conservative web since it was posted at nytimes.com Tuesday:
President Obama's national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.
"High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country," Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.
Baker caught an intriguing bit of redaction by the Obama administration:
Admiral Blair's assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past," he wrote, "but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given."
END of Excerpt
Baker's online story: www.nytimes.com
But Examiner journalist Byron York noticed that, although the story rocketed across the internet since being posted, it didn't even make the print edition of Wednesday's Times. Most of the information unearthed by Baker was there, but relegated to paragraphs 9-13 of a larger story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, which was itself relegated to page 17 of the New York Late Edition. The money quote about the "high-value information" derived from the interrogations is preserved in Stolberg, but the headline doesn't provide any hint of any information about the Blair memo: "Obama Won't Bar Inquiry, or Penalty, on Interrogations."
Times editors insisted to York there was no bias afoot:
I asked Richard Stevenson, who is the Times' deputy Washington bureau chief, what was going on. He told me Baker got the Blair information late in the day Tuesday, and there just wasn't room for it in the paper. "We already had three stories on this subject," Stevenson explained, "and it was late, there was no more space to do this separately...We just didn't have the space to put it in the print newspaper."
One reason Baker's story has attracted so much attention is that it provided some balance to a number of interrogation stories we have seen in the Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. There is a legitimate argument to be made by the defenders of the Bush administration's interrogation program, and to see it echoed by Barack Obama's national intelligence director is striking. My guess is that, even given the attention Baker's story has gotten on the Web, it would have had even more impact were it the paper, as well.
Stevenson denied that there was any bias in the Times' decision not to run the story in the paper edition. "If your implication was there was some sort of ideological or value judgment made about the subject matter, that's preposterous," he told me. "It was 8:30 at night, we had a lot of stories going, a limited amount of space, and the ability to get that news into a different story."
END of Excerpt from York
But the Times' reaction -- dissolving the story into another one without even leaving a byline (Baker got a credit at the bottom) -- certainly gives no incentive to any ambitious reporter to go against the paper's predominant liberal instincts.
Oh well. At least leaving out Baker's memo story left room on the same page for another vital story by the same reporter: "Obama Signs Volunteer Bill With Nod to Kennedy Era," which ate up 425 words, plus photo.
For the latest examples of liberal bias in the New York Times, check in daily with TimesWatch: www.timeswatch.org
On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith resurrected the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, connecting in to the current debate over interrogation methods used toward terror suspects under the Bush administration: "Torture on trial. In a major shift, President Obama now says he is open to investigating Bush administration officials for crimes related to torture...We'll talk to the former general in charge of Abu Ghraib. Were the soldiers there made to be scapegoats?" Smith interviewed former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was demoted following Abu Ghraib, and suggested a link between aggressive interrogation tactics and the prisoner abuse: "...a Senate Armed Services Committee report...suggests that the roots of torture, the roots of the idea of torture were being circulated in the Pentagon and the CIA as early as 2002...Is there a line? Do you see that there is a lining run -- that goes from 2002 to Abu Ghraib to the hundreds of times waterboards were used in these cases of these few CIA cases?"
Karpinski replied: "Absolutely. The line is very clear that it was cloudy for years, obviously, seven years, if 2002 were the initial discussions. But the line is clear. It went from Washington, D.C., from the very top of the administration with the legal opinions, through Bagram, to Guantanamo Bay, and then to Iraq via the commander from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And the contractors who were hired to do those things."
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Earlier in the interview, Smith exclaimed: "Because part of your sense is that this was pervasive in certain parts of the military culture. That the people who did the tortures in Abu Ghraib didn't act alone. They didn't act -- this didn't grow organically out of a cell or some place."
In his final question to Karpinski, Smith wondered: "And in the -- in the end, end, you feel like, for instance, the people who were prosecuted for these crimes who were under your command, and even yourself, you believe were scapegoated?" That gave Karpinski the opportunity to declare: "Absolutely. I mean, scapegoat is the perfect word and it's an understatement. Right now, with the hard, fast, facts in those memos, the black and white proof, the administration is suggesting that those operatives should be immune from any investigations or persecution. But what about the soldiers who were categorized as seven bad apples back in 2004?"
Here is the full transcript of the segment:
The panel discussed the controversy between Prejean and Hilton, and besides Bloom and Velez-Mitchell, included CNN correspondents Erica Hill and Jessica Yellin, and anchor Roland Martin. Despite her criticism of Hilton, the TruTV anchor twice expressed her support for gay marriage. Velez-Mitchell herself is not an uninterested party on the wider issue of same-sex "marriage," as she is an open lesbian who defended anti-Proposition 8 protesters during her Headline News program in November 2008: "I believe that gay marriage should be a right for all Americans. In other words, this should be ok across the country."
[This item, by Matthew Balan, was posted Wednesday afternoon, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For more on Velez-Mitchell's background, including her sexual orientation, see the March 3 New York Times article by Brian Stelter, "A Fill-In on Cable News Is Thrust Into Host's Chair," at: www.nytimes.com
For video of Velez-Mitchell's November 2008 remarks in favor of "gay marriage" on her Headline News program, see "CNN Headline News: Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell - Prop. 8 Passion," at: www.youtube.com
The Headline News anchor came right out of the gate against Prejean at the beginning of the segment, after Martin asked, "If she had said she supported same-sex marriage, would there be a debate?" She replied, "Yeah. There would be people who are not in favor of same-sex marriage who would have been upset. I think the reason why she didn't win is her answer was dumb. She referred to heterosexual marriage as opposite marriage, which is funny if it wasn't so pathetic."
Bloom then expressed her displeasure with Hilton: "I think Perez Hilton is the one who's got egg on his face in this controversy after the misogynous language he used referring to her, the 'B' word and the 'C' word, that rhymes with 'rich and runt' ....I mean, he's got a lot of nerve. I think he's the one who should be apologizing. And by the way, I agree with him on gay marriage." Velez-Mitchell answered back, "Why is it that people should be very polite when they're told that they're second-class citizens? Why should people sit there and be oh so very polite? If someone said to you, Roland, I don't think you should have the right to get married, wouldn't you be ticked off?"
Martin hinted that he agreed with Bloom: "Here's the deal though. He makes this comment about her -- 'C' word, the 'B' word. What if she uses the 'F' word to him? Then what happens?...I mean, he's been very rude with his comments." He would later say Hilton's use of the two crude terms was "not a smart move" and criticized the fact that he asked the question in the first place: "If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question."
Though she didn't defend Hilton directly, Yellin twice snarked against Prejean during the segment. Responding to the beauty queen's remark on the Today Show that she was trying to be "biblically-correct" with her answer, the correspondent replied, "How can she be talking about biblically correct when she is prancing around in a teeny-weeny bikini?" Yellin also later criticized her answer to the marriage question: "She wants to be a spokesmodel, she should know enough not to make news, to avoid the sticky issue."
Velez-Mitchell took criticism of the Prejean's answer to another level. Earlier in the program, when Martin and Bloom seemed to brush aside the seriousness of an "intelligence component" to beauty pageants, the Headline News anchor bluntly replied, "I don't think it's just -- oh, it's her opinion. What if she expressed a racist opinion or an anti-Semitic opinion or a sexist opinion? That would be okay? No. Your opinion isn't always okay, especially when you want to be the winner of this kind of pageant."
Near the end of the segment, Erica Hill took up Bloom's argument against Hilton's remark and added to it: "As we're talking about Perez Hilton, one of the things that has come up, especially today, was his treatment of her afterwards. And the fact that if he is, in fact, trying to advance his cause and to gain support...for same-sex marriage, and to get people to understand hey, I'm just like you -- that going out and calling her a 'B' and a 'C,' and saying I take my apology back, may not be the best way to go about it." Velez-Mitchell shot back, "The war to end slavery -- women didn't get the right to vote by being polite. They got shamed. They were arrested, they were suffragettes. Getting polite doesn't get you anywhere."
MSNBC host Norah O'Donnell on Wednesday dismissed the tea party rallies that took place across the country last week as "top down" and not organic, prompting a complaint from a Republican strategist over the network's coverage. The discussion arose during an interview with GOP strategist Karen Hanretty and a Democratic operative over the leadership of the Republican Party.
After Hanretty asserted that the tea parties were an example of grass roots conservative leadership, O'Donnell retorted: "Karen, what was organic about the tea party protest? Those were not from the ground up." She went on to label the nationwide events "top down," which prompted Hanretty to quip, "No. I know MSNBC likes to promote that those were top down, but that's not the case at all." (MSNBC hosts were relentless in their attacks on the the parties. Most famously, "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann on April 16 talked to actress Janeane Garofalo, who deemed the demonstrations racist. See an April 20 CyberAlert posting: www.mrc.org )
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Following Hanretty's critique on MSNBC, O'Donnell turned to Democratic strategist Rich Masters to take over the attack. "Rich, you want to challenge her on that," she implored. Speaking of the tea parties, the host tossed this softball to Masters: "Rich, grassroots or Astroturf?" Now, when is the last time MSNBC worried about the authenticity of liberal protests? The cable network certainly wasn't so concerned about who was agitating and protesting against the Iraq war.
A transcript of the April 22 segment, which aired at 10:43am EDT, follows:
NORAH O'DONNELL: Now, to politics. This time it's a Kansas congressman, who last week called Limbaugh just an entertainer. Well, now, Republican Todd Tiahrt, who is also running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, is backtracking on his initial comments, saying Rush is a great leader. Karen Hanretty is a Republican strategist and Rich Masters is a Democratic strategist. All right. Welcome to both of you. Let me first read the statement from Teahrt's spokesman. He says this, quote, "the Congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America, not a party leader responsible for election losses. Nothing the congressman said diminishes the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement." Rich, what's with these Republicans offering these statements after they call Rush Limbaugh an entertainer?
On Friday's Hannity show on FNC, host Sean Hannity played an audio clip of liberal CNN contributor Paul Begala as he was interviewed on the April 15 Imus in the Morning radio show, in which Begala engaged in name-calling against Tax Day Tea Party participants: "Why are they out there whining with this Tea Party thing? Just a bunch of wimpy, whiny, weasels who don't love their country and don't want to support -- there are guys at Walter Reed who gave their legs for my country, and they're whining because they have to write a check?" He went on to single out FNC's Hannity and Neil Cavuto before Imus stepped in to defend them. Begala: "Mr. Cavuto, Mr. Hannity, all the rest of those guys, they have representation, they just lost an election -- that's not tyranny, that's democracy." After Imus defended Cavuto and Hannity, and called Hannity a patriot, Begala shot back: "Then tell him to pay his taxes and support our country and stop whining about it."
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
After playing the clip, Hannity held a discussion with FNC's Kimberly Guilfoyle and conservative columnist S.E. Cupp. Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, April 17, Hannity show on FNC:
SEAN HANNITY: And tonight in "Your America," now, for many Americans, the anti-tax Tea Parties, earlier this week, represented a great moment for our country in which people came together to have their voices heard, but the idea of uniting for a common cause, well, it doesn't seem to be sitting well with liberals like the CNN reporter who berated that man just for attending the Chicago tea party, or this guy, former Clinton hack, Paul Begala. He was on Imus. Listen to this.
PAUL BEGALA: Why are they out there whining with this Tea Party thing?
HANNITY: Oh, okay, we're not paying enough. Sorry we have First Amendment rights here, Paul. And here with reaction to all of this, is Fox News's Kimberly Guilfoyle and columnist S.E. Cupp. All right, "wimpy, whining, weasels." We don't -- he said we don't love this country.
-- Brent Baker