CNN and ABC Aghast Over Purple Heart Band-Aids Mocking Kerry --8/31/2004
2. MSNBC: Military "Really Happy" with Hillary, "Effective Night"
NewsNight Scolds GOP Agenda, Raises "Voter Intimidation"
4. Kondracke Predicts Media Will Tag McCain & Giuliani as Negative
5. CBS and NBC Fret GOP Disguising Its True Conservative Agenda
6. For Media Hostility to Swifties, Mag Cites "Indefatigable" MRC
CNN reporters, and George Stephanopoulos on the limited distribution ABC News Now network, acted aghast Monday night over how some delegates wore band-aids displaying a heart shape in the color purple, meant to make light of John Kerry earning purple hearts in Vietnam for superficial wounds. Just before 9pm EDT, CNN's Candy Crowley confronted one woman: "This is a man who went and served his country. Do you feel as though you're making fun of him?" She reminded the delegate of those serving in Iraq and asked: "Is this defaming of them?" A couple of hours later, Dan Lothian identified the culprit who created the band-aids, Virginian Morton Blackwell who, he emphasized, "is not a veteran." In between, Stephanopoulos lectured a veteran about how John McCain has called the attacks on Kerry "'dishonest and dishonorable.' Why do you think it's okay to wear a bandage like that?" Stephanopoulos couldn't believe anyone would doubt Kerry: "Do you really believe he didn't earn his medals or his purple hearts?" Peter Jennings turned to Newt Gingrich: "Did you squirm a little when you saw the guy wearing the purple heart?" Gingrich: "No. I think it's funny."
-- CNN. Back from an ad break at 8:55pm EDT, Wolf Blitzer went right to Candy Crowley on the floor with delegate. As she held up the woman's arm to show the purple heart on a band-aid, Crowley explained: "This is Donna Cain, she's a delegate from Oregon wearing a, as you can see, a band-aid with a purple heart on it which begs the question, we know this is about John Kerry. Any hesitation about putting this on?"
Cain said "none at all," leading Crowley to demand: "And where did you get it?" Cain simply said they were being handed out. Crowley wondered: "Well, what are they symbolic of to you? I mean is this, this is a man who went and served his country. Do you feel as though you're making fun of him." Cain rejected the idea, noting how Kerry made the Vietnam war more important than his own record.
Crowley next asked: "One of the things that the criticism of this is, that there are, you know, kids over in Iraq right now, some of them getting purple hearts. Is this defaming of them?"
Blitzer went to John King, asking: "Is this something you sense is authorized by the Bush-Cheney campaign?" King explained that Bush-Cheney campaign officials deny they had anything to do with it.
Jeff Greenfield soon observed that Republicans will contend the gimmick was just "lighthearted," but Greenfield warned: "I'm wondering whether the Bush campaign would just assume that these things disappear because they raise the specter of are you making fun of somebody who went to Vietnam and at some point was involved in some kind of very serious combat."
Several hours later, during an 11:30pm EDT half hour NewsNight, Dan Lothian checked in: "This is the band-aid, it was put out by Morton Blackwell who is a member of the Virginia delegation. He is not a veteran but he said he distributed some 300 band-aids with a purple heart in the middle to make a point against Senator Kerry. It was very controversial, denounced by the Democratic Party and also Republican officials. Ed Gillespie tonight, we are getting word now, has had a conversation with him, has told him that he should stop distributing these Band-Aids. He's agreed to stop distributing the band-aids and even has removed the one that he was wearing."
-- ABC News Now, the all news service from ABC News available via the Internet or through cable systems which carry the secondary channel from the HDTV frequency assignment for many ABC affiliates.
Around 9:50pm EDT, Peter Jennings set up Stephanopoulos, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "There's something going on about purple hearts. You want to explain that to people and talk about it a little bit?"
Stephanopoulos sensed a scandal: "Now, we've seen a few of them out on this floor. Where did you get them?" Watkins said he got them from another Virginia delegate, leading Stephanopoulos to seek assurance of no wider distribution: "So it's all in Virginia? It's not being brought in from the central party or anything like that?"
Stephanopoulos kept quizzing Watkins: "So what is it about John Kerry? He's got a lot of his boatmates who support him, but he's obviously angered a lot of other Vietnam veterans. Explain it in your own words." Stephanopoulos wrapped up: "One quick final question: Do you really believe he didn't earn his medals or his Purple Heart?"
Back in the booth, Jennings repeated McCain's admonition and then relayed: "I have to tell you that Terry McAuliffe, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has heard about the purple hearts this evening, and both parties are very quick to get out statements. Mr. McAuliffe says in terms of the purple hearts you've just seen, 'It is inexcusable to mock service and sacrifice. Our servicemen and women put their lives on the line every day. If they are wounded in the line of fighting, it is because they are fighting on the front line for freedom.'"
Jennings turned to Newt Gingrich: "Did you squirm a little when you saw the guy wearing the purple heart." Gingrich wasn't so appalled: "No. I think it's funny..."
During MSNBC's Monday night coverage, Chris Matthews conceded Bush supporters are "right about the New York Times" being against them "and they maybe right about all of us" and he pointed out how the Republicans at least "seem to be avoiding" the "more screeching conservatism." Andrea Mitchell effused that "the rank-and-file military are really happy" with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Following Rudy Giuliani's speech, Tom Brokaw reminded viewers that "it's still a dangerous place out there. The war on terrorism has not been successful yet and the war in Iraq is not going well." Nonetheless, Tim Russert concluded that "it was a very powerful and effective political night for the Republicans."
A rundown of highlights from MSNBC's coverage, broadcast from an outside set up in Herald Square, as tracked by the MRC's Geoff Dickens:
-- 8:33pm EDT. Chris Matthews: "But Iraq was a popular cause when he first started it. It wasn't like Churchill speaking against the Nazis."
-- A bit past 9pm EDT, during a discussion about why the GOP is perceived as tougher on national security. Andrea Mitchell: "In fact that's, that's why they thought, thought the Democrats thought this year and it still may prove true that by having a Vietnam veteran who had good credentials on foreign policy as their nominee that they would innoculate against that. Look that's why Hillary Clinton, who has presidential ambitions obviously as a Senator from New York, is the first Senator from New York to seek a position on the Armed Services Committee. She's trying to punch that ticket as well."
-- A bit before 9pm EDT. Matthews: "One of the, one of the mistakes, I guess you could argue that George Bush Senior made was back in the '92 convention when, in order to appease the right wing of the party, the opposite ambition of this convention, they brought in Pat Buchanan to give his 'cross-dressing,' speech. And of course Matalin or Marilyn Quayle gave a very tough speech in defense of women who don't work outside the home, basically. They seem to be avoiding that kind of more screeching conservatism in this convention."
-- Just before 11:3opm EDT, Brokaw and Russert checked in from NBC's booth inside Madison Square Garden. Asked if McCain and Giuliani hit "home runs," Brokaw agreed: "Oh I think that'd you have to say that. They are both very powerful symbols of national security and, and Senator McCain obviously and Rudy Giuliani who's so symbolized this country and those evocative comments about the day of 9/11 that came from the widows and the survivors of the people who lost their lives that day, did conjure up the memories of what an awful time that was. And also how this country came together. But of course that has to be contrasted against the reality that we face now in the world. It's still a dangerous place out there. The war on terrorism has not been successful yet and the war in Iraq is not going well. So the purpose of this convention was to make everyone understand that this President is still committed to that war without going into a great detail about the great challenges that are still ahead. Many of them unexpected, many of them based on what the President called his own miscalculations, Tim."
Russert chimed in: "Tom, exactly right. You know the President talked about taking the offense on the war on terror. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain took the offense on the campaign tonight. What they're doing is putting John Kerry on the defense, trying to say to Mr. Kerry, 'You explain where you stand on global terrorism.' There's no discussion of the difficulties in Iraq, no discussion of Iran or North Korea. None of those kind of specific challenges facing us. This is the generic form. 'We are united in the war on terror, behind our Commander-in-Chief George Bush. Enthusiastic response. Will it play with the country? Absolutely, of course. John Kerry has a very difficult job trying to neutralize or counter that because it's a more complicated argument by saying, you have to do it in a more discrete, or as he would say, 'sensitive way.' I think it was a very powerful and effective political night for the Republicans."
In a shortened NewsNight following Rudy Giuliani's speech, CNN's Aaron Brown scolded the GOP as he contended it can't "go an entire week without mentioning the economy, without mentioning health care, without mentioning the range of social issues." Time's Joe Klein complained that with President Bush having an "uncompromising, stubborn, and in many cases unwise stand in the war on terrorism," Republicans have decided to defend him by being "as strong and as uncompromising as he's been." Klein rued how "you never heard the word Fallujah mentioned tonight." Brown later brought aboard New York Times columnist Bob Herbert who, Brown highlighted, has "been writing a lot about voter intimidation lately in Florida."
Some noteworthy remarks from CNN as observed by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd, all in sequence from a shortened NewsNight aired from just before 11:30pm EDT to midnight:
-- Brown, to WashingtonPost.com reporter Terry Neal: "Terry, I don't think the Republican Party can go an entire week without mentioning the economy, without mentioning health care, without mentioning the range of social issues. But they managed to get through the entire night tonight without talking about any of them."
-- Klein: "The President has taken a very strong, uncompromising, stubborn, and in many cases unwise stand in the war on terrorism and they, the Republicans feel that the only way to defend that stand is to be as strong and as uncompromising as he's been. So I think that they're, they are, there was a major show of strength tonight, but not much nuance and not much detail, and you never heard the word Fallujah mentioned tonight."
-- Brown to Herbert, a former NBC News reporter: "You've been writing a lot about voter intimidation lately in Florida. Do you believe that there is an active plot to suppress the, particularly the black vote in the state of Florida."
Did Morton Kondracke's prediction come true? On FNC Monday night, analyst Kondracke anticipated that the Tuesday morning take in the news media would be that Monday night speakers John McCain and Rudy Giuliani went negative: "I'd be willing to bet that the negative is the lead in most news stories...that the Republican convention opened with attacks on John Kerry's foreign policy leadership." Brit Hume summed up: "So you sense there'll be sort of a sniffy disapproving tone to some of this coverage?"
Minutes later, Time's Joe Klein provided an initial confirmation of Kondracke's prediction as he maintained on CNN that "you never heard the kind of directed, passionate attack on George W. Bush at the Democratic Convention as you heard Rudy Giuliani make at this convention. It seems that these guys are playing much tougher, much harder than the Democrats."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed that, at about 11:25pm EDT, Hume wondered: "Let's talk a little bit about the potential impact of a speech like this. It obviously played in prime time on the cable news channels for the benefit of those who regularly watch that and perhaps an enlarged audience because of the importance of this event. It didn't play on the broadcast networks and therefore was not in any sense force-fed to a national audience, so a lot will depend on how this plays in the morning news shows, late night, evening news shows. Can anyone imagine what the soundbite is, what's the main soundbite out of this?"
Kondracke soon added: "I'd be willing to bet that the negative is the lead in most news stories...that the Republican convention opened with attacks on John Kerry's foreign policy leadership."
As if on cue, minutes later on CNN, at about 11:45pm EDT, Aaron Brown asked Time magazine's Joe Klein: "Did anything surprise you about what either Senator McCain or Giuliani had to say tonight?" Klein replied, the MRC's Ken Shepherd observed, replied: "Well, once again, it was another contrast. You never heard the kind of directed, passionate attack on George W. Bush at the Democratic Convention as you heard Rudy Giuliani make at this convention. It seems that these guys are playing much tougher, much harder than the Democrats."
The broadcast networks didn't offer any prime time coverage of the GOP convention, but in their evening newscasts CBS and NBC fretted about how the Republicans were trying to disguise their very conservative views. Dan Rather teased the CBS Evening News by noting how the evening's speakers would "showcase the party's quote, 'moderate side.'" He then asked: "Will voters buy it?" Rather soon hit Rudy Giuliani with the suggestion that Bush and Cheney are "compassionate moderates," but "that's not what the party really is. The party is to the right of that." NBC's David Gregory stressed how the party's "moderate stars," Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, "all sharply disagree with the party's platform on issues like abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. Democratic critics say the President is using these moderates to pull a fast one on middle-of-the-road voters."
Gregory soon added: "Polls show most of this year's delegates are far more conservative than the moderate face the party is putting on."
From inside Madison Square Garden, Rather teased the August 30 CBS Evening News: "Tonight, inside a post-9/11 security fortress, the Republican Convention opens in New York to re-nominate George W. Bush and showcase the party's, quote, 'moderate side.' Will voters buy it? We'll talk one-on-one with tonight's featured speaker, Rudy Giuliani."
John Roberts previewed the convention, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Republicans are performing another balancing act this week, offering their base a conservative platform while at the podium pivoting to the center, rolling out big-name moderates like McCain, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, with a message aimed at a small but crucial slice of voters."
Rather introduced the next story: "As John mentioned, one of the Republican voices of quote, 'moderation,' being heard from the podium here tonight belongs to Rudy Giuliani. The views of the former Mayor of New York don't always coincide with President Bush's, but Giuliani is campaigning at the President's side here and elsewhere around the country. Riding a wave of popularity that started in the days after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is front and center now in the presidential campaign. [Giuliani] He's a powerful addition in a close contest, but not one who always sees eye to eye with the candidate."
Rather pressed him on his differences with the GOP platform:
-- "You have, by any reasonable analysis, at least a somewhat different position on gay rights, abortion, gun control, than President Bush. Fair to say?"
-- "There will be plenty of people who say, 'Listen, this is a week in which George Bush and the Bush/Cheney campaign will come across as compassionate moderates -- Rudolph Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger. If that's not what the party really is. The party is to the right of that. To that, you say what?"
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw opened his broadcast: "Good evening from Madison Square Garden where the first night of the 2004 Republican National Convention gets under way with speeches by New York's former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and Senator John McCain, two Republicans with more moderate views on many issues than these delegates, but two Republicans with big credentials when it comes to the major theme here this week: leadership in the war in terror. As polls in several key states show an uptick for President Bush this week, he will be portrayed as the man best equipped to lead the country during dangerous times. Will it sell? We begin with today's convention news from NBC's Brian Williams at the convention podium."
Following the story from Williams, Brokaw, from the NBC News sky box, set up a whole piece devoted just two the GOP's ideological obfuscation: "As Brian mentioned, this convention is designed to appeal to swing voters who are much more moderate than most of these delegates here in New York. NBC's David Gregory has more on the men the Republicans are deploying to do just that."
Gregory: "Live from Madison Square Garden tonight, the softer side of George W. Bush's Republican Party. In prime time this week, what one GOP insider calls its moderate stars -- McCain, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger. All have huge public approval ratings, but all sharply disagree with the party's platform on issues like abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. Democratic critics say the President is using these moderates to pull a fast one on middle-of-the-road voters."
Earlier, on CNN's Inside Politics, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed, Judy Woodruff pressed Bush/Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman: "Let me ask you about the platform here. A lot of discussion about whether the faces first of all that you're putting on at this convention, the speakers match up with the real philosophy of the delegates and the party. But specifically, today you've got the Log Cabin Republicans, Republicans who believe in gay rights. They are now running ads against your party saying this has become a vicious party. They're going after the language in the platform on gay marriage. They are saying the radical right has hijacked the party. Let me just put the question to you this way -- what is the party's message to a gay individual whether it's the daughter of the vice president or anyone else who wants to have a loving relationship with another gay individual? What is the message of the Republican party to that person?"
"The Not-So-Swift Mainstream Media: And how they were forced to cover a story they hated," an article by Jonathan Last in the latest Weekly Standard magazine, documented how the "new media" -- of bloggers, talk radio and the Fox News Channel -- forced the resistant mainstream media into covering the swift boat charges, even if to only concentrate on John McCain's criticism and to push Republicans to condemn the ads. The article cited the "indefatigable Media Research Center" in the midst of passing along a bunch of quotes, documented by the MRC or our TimesWatch.org site, illustrating the media's hostility to the subject.
An excerpt from the piece by Last, the Weekly Standard's Online Editor, in the September 6 hard copy edition of the magazine, starting with quotes from a Boston Globe columnist which Last found without the MRC's help:
During the August 19 edition of PBS's NewsHour, Tom Oliphant unspooled. "The standard of clear and convincing evidence--and it's easy when you leave out the exculpatory stuff -- is what keeps this story in the tabloids," the Boston Globe columnist sputtered, "because it does not meet basic standards." "This story" (shades of "that woman") is the story of the Swift boat veterans who have raised a number of troubling allegations against John Kerry. Sitting across from John O'Neill, coauthor of Unfit for Command and John Kerry's successor as commander of PCF-94 in Vietnam, Oliphant did a fair imitation of Al Gore -- sighing, harumphing, and exhaling loudly -- whenever O'Neill spoke....
Two days later, Adam Nagourney paused in the middle of a news story in the New York Times to worry about how campaigns should deal with attacks "in this era when so much unsubstantiated or even false information can reach the public through so many different forums, be it blogs or talk-show radio." In an article in Editor & Publisher, Alison Mitchell, the deputy national editor at the Times, admitted, "I'm not sure that in an era of no-cable television we would even have looked into [the Swift boat story]."...
There are many reasons why the mainstream media don't like the Swift boat story, but chief among them is that they've been strong-armed into covering it by the "new" media: talk-radio, cable television, and Internet blogs.
The Swift boat story first surfaced on May 4, when an op-ed by John O'Neill ran in the Wall Street Journal, in print and online, and the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, to which O'Neill belongs, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event received scant notice by traditional media. CBS News mentioned it briefly and tried to tie the group to Bush. The Washington Post and New York Times had short items about it, as did the Boston Globe. The most in-depth coverage came from the Fox News Channel. On the May 4 edition of Special Report, Carl Cameron reported on the press conference, aired some of the Swifties' allegations, and then reported that certain of these veterans -- Grant Hibbard and George Elliott -- had previously supported John Kerry, immediately casting doubt on them....
The next big break for the Swifties came on August 4, with the release of their first TV ad. Fox News covered the ad closely. The next night Hannity & Colmes featured members of the Swift boat group as well as veterans who supported Kerry.
That same day some print media outlets covered the ad buy, but not the substance of the ad's allegations. On television, only one broadcast network mentioned the spot: CBS spent two sentences on the "harsh" ad, in order to air John McCain's denunciation of it.
On August 6, NBC also reported on the "harsh" ad, but only as a way of segueing into a segment on "527 groups," independent political organizations funded with soft money. On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann mentioned O'Neill's forthcoming Unfit for Command. Since it's published by the conservative house Regnery, Olbermann reported, "you now bring in the whole mystical right-wing conspiracy jazz." The night before, Olbermann had repeatedly referred to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as "Swift Boat Veterans for Bush."
But the big news on August 6 was that Regnery allowed people to download the "Christmas in Cambodia" section of O'Neill's book. While Olbermann and others were worrying about mystical jazz, the new media swung into action. Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds, Powerline, and other bloggers immediately began investigating the book's allegations. The blog JustOneMinute was the first to find the 1986 "seared -- seared" speech in which Kerry described his memory of being in Cambodia in December 1968. On August 8, Reynolds took his digital camera to the University of Tennessee law library and photographed the section of the Congressional Record with the Kerry speech, further verifying the chapter's central claim. That same weekend, Al Hunt talked about the Swift boat ad on CNN's Capital Gang, calling it "some of the sleaziest lies I've ever seen in politics."
Over the next 11 days, an interesting dynamic took hold: Talk-radio and the blog world covered the Cambodia story obsessively. They reported on border crossings during Vietnam and the differences between Swift boats and PBRs. They also found two other instances of Kerry's talking about his Christmas in Cambodia. Spurred on by the blogs, Fox led the August 9 Special Report with a Carl Cameron story on Kerry's Cambodia discrepancy.
All the while, traditional print and broadcast media tried hard to ignore the story -- even as Kerry officially changed his position on his presence in Cambodia. Then on August 19, Kerry went public with his counter assault against Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and suddenly the story was news. The numbers are fairly striking: Before August 19, the New York Times and Washington Post had each mentioned Swift Boat Veterans for Truth just 8 times; the Los Angeles Times 7 times; the Boston Globe 4 times. The broadcast networks did far less. According to the indefatigable Media Research Center, before Kerry went public, ABC, CBS, and NBC together had done a total of 9 stories on the Swifties. For comparison, as of August 19 these networks had done 75 stories on the accusation that Bush had been AWOL from the National Guard.
After Kerry, the deluge. On August 24, the Washington Post ran three op-eds and an editorial on the Swifties; other papers expanded their coverage as well. But, curiously, they didn't try to play catch-up with the new media in ascertaining the veracity of the Swifties' claims. Instead, they pursued (or rather, repeated) the charge Kerry made: that Bush was behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. It was a touch surreal--as it would have been if Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe's criticism of Bush's National Guard record had prompted the media to investigate Terry McAuliffe....
As last week wore on, the coverage continued to ignore the specifics of the allegations against Kerry and began to concentrate on the dangers of the new media. In the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley warned that in the seedy world of cable news, "facts, half-truths and passionately tendentious opinions get tumbled together on screen like laundry in an industrial dryer -- without the softeners of fact-checking or reflection." It is perhaps impolite to note that it took the Times nearly four months to catch up with the reporting Carl Cameron did in the beginning of May.
Still, the baying of the Times and the rest of the old media is a sign of capitulation. Against their will, the best-funded and most prestigious journalists in America have been forced to cover a story they want no part of--or at the very least, they've been compelled to explain why they aren't covering it. How did this happen? Analyzing how the Swift boat veterans had injected their story into the mainstream media, Adam Nagourney blamed summer. The Swift boat ad buys, he wrote, had "become the subject of television news shows...because the advertisements and [Unfit for Command] were released in August, a slow month when news outlets are hungry for any kind of news."
But Nagourney has it exactly backwards: Even though it was August, network television and most cable news shows stayed away from the Swift boat story for as long as they possibly could....
END of Excerpt
For Last's piece in full: www.weeklystandard.com
# New York Times coverage of the Republican convention: Check the MRC's site dedicated to documenting the latest bias in the left-wing newspaper. The MRC's Clay Waters drafted ten articles for the site on Monday and he'll soon assess the Tuesday paper. Go to: www.timeswatch.org
-- Brent Baker, with the overnight team of Geoff Dickens, Brad Wilmouth and Ken Shepherd, plus Mez Djouadi handling the early morning posting duty