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CNN and ABC Vets Join Obama's Team, So Revolving Door Up to Ten --5/6/2009


1. CNN and ABC Vets Join Obama's Team, So Revolving Door Up to Ten
Following the path of CNN Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman and producer Kate Albright-Hanna, who both jumped aboard the Obama campaign last year, senior political producer Sasha Johnson this week announced she's leaving the network's Washington bureau to take the Press Secretary slot at the Department of Transportation. She won't be the only media vet in that shop. As The Politico's Michael Calderone noted Monday night in reporting Johnson's move, former Chicago Tribune Washington correspondent Jill Zuckman "already headed to Transportation in February, becoming Director of Public Affairs and assistant to Secretary Ray LaHood." Plus, in the past month or so, two other DC journalists accepted administration positions. ABC's long-time Justice Department correspondent, Beverley Lumpkin, in April joined the very department she covered for so many years, prompting a Washington Post blogger to quip on Tuesday that she's "turning sources into colleagues." Speaking of the Washington Post, its former science reporter, Rick Weiss, is now advancing Obama policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology. So far, by my count, at least ten mainstream media journalists have revolved into positions toiling for the Obama campaign, transition or administration.

2. ABC Labels Potential Activist Obama Court Pick a 'Centrist'
New video has surfaced of possible Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor remarking that the courts are the place "where policy is made." Sotomayor, who is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was giving a speech at Duke University in 2005 when the footage was shot. She quickly added, "And I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law. I know." As the audience laughed, the judge, who is rumored to be a replacement for retiring justice David Souter, qualified: "I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it." More snickering from the crowd followed. This is the same person who ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos touted on last Friday's Good Morning America. The This Week host spun: "She would be not only a woman, but the first Hispanic on the court. She's built up a strong centrist record on the court."

3. Williams Recommends Liberal Reading List on Souter and Successor
NBC anchor Brian Williams' Web surfing centers on liberal sites, as at least evidenced by the reading list he recommended in his Monday afternoon entry on The Daily Nightly blog consisting of four articles, all from left-leaning sites: Slate, The New Republic and The Daily Beast. "Because of my Souter departure obsession," he explained, "today I want to share with you some interesting writing I found over the weekend."

4. CBS Uses Kids' Letters to Promote 'Hope' of Obama
At the end of Monday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Bill Whitaker gave a fawning report on a book being complied of children's letters to President Obama: "Eight-year-old Lucy O'Brien loves to draw, ask her dad, a fine antiques dealer...She also knows times are hard at dad's business...So when her mother told her about a 'Dear Mr. President' contest, lucky winners' art and letters presented to President Obama, she poured her heart into it." The young girl explained to Whitaker: "I had added like, confetti, and stuff like that, and then I added 'hope' on the top to show for the future that there's hope for maybe the economy or something." Whitaker spoke with the book's creator and CEO of the Web site kidthing.com, Larry Hitchcock, who described some of the other letters: "We had to extend the deadline because so many were coming in...A 6-year-old who just wants the President to 'make it rain candy'...'Poor people should have food.'" A clip was played of one girl asking the President: "Please take care of the environment." Later, Hitchcock declared: "There's a theme through all of it of hope and kind of belief that tomorrow's going to be a better day."


CNN and ABC Vets Join Obama's Team, So
Revolving Door Up to Ten

Following the path of CNN Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman and producer Kate Albright-Hanna, who both jumped aboard the Obama campaign last year, senior political producer Sasha Johnson this week announced she's leaving the network's Washington bureau to take the Press Secretary slot at the Department of Transportation. She won't be the only media vet in that shop. As The Politico's Michael Calderone noted Monday night in reporting Johnson's move, former Chicago Tribune Washington correspondent Jill Zuckman "already headed to Transportation in February, becoming Director of Public Affairs and assistant to Secretary Ray LaHood."

Plus, in the past month or so, two other DC journalists accepted administration positions. ABC's long-time Justice Department correspondent, Beverley Lumpkin, who mostly handled radio news, in April joined the very department she covered for so many years, prompting a Washington Post blogger to quip on Tuesday that she's "turning sources into colleagues." Speaking of the Washington Post, its former science reporter, Rick Weiss, is now advancing Obama policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology.

So far, by my count, at least ten mainstream media journalists have revolved into positions toiling for the Obama campaign, transition or administration. And that doesn't count CNN's Sanjay Gupta, whom the administration courted for Surgeon General; nor long-time NBC News anchor and reporter Jane Pauley who campaigned for Obama last fall in her native Indiana.

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

In a Tuesday "Federal Eye" blog post spurred by Johnson's job change, "The Ex-Journalists Now Working for Obama," the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe provided a list "of the reporters who've traded notebooks and recorders for policy and podiums," including:

# Rick Weiss: Former Washington Post science reporter left for the Center for American Progress and now serves as communications director and senior policy strategist for the White House Office of Science and Technology.

# Beverley Lumpkin: A former Justice Department reporter/producer for ABC and CBS, she left journalism, worked for the Project on Government Oversight and joined DOJ last month as press secretary, turning sources into colleagues.

The May 5 post: voices.washingtonpost.com

A "public affairs specialist" at DOJ, Lumpkin worked for ABC News, mostly on the radio but with some television time (screen shot, to be added in the posted version of this CyberAlert, is from the December 1, 1999 World News Now), until sliding over to CBS News as its Justice Department producer through 2006.

Calderone passed along how Johnson, who, while not producing political news stories, appeared on CNN on many Saturday mornings (see screen shot from March), will begin her new job on May 19, "according to an e-mail she sent to friends and colleagues. 'After 10 1/2 years at CNN, which included three presidential campaigns, I am ready for a new challenge and ready to fulfill another career goal -- the opportunity to work in public policy,' Johnson wrote." See: www.politico.com

Preceding Johnson in going from CNN into the Obama orbit (is that much of an adjustment?): international/Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman and producer Kate Albright-Hanna, who was so eager to put her skills to work for Obama that while still working for CNN she pitched to the campaign "a proposal on video strategy," the Washington Post reported.

Raman left the network in June to "try something different" and MediaBistro's FishbowlDC discovered in September that by "different" he meant working for Barack Obama's messaging shop sending out e-mails for the campaign. (I'm not sure where he is now.)

September 25 CyberAlert post on Raman's move: www.mrc.org

Hanna ran the new media operation, meaning online video production and distribution, for the Obama campaign. She then served as "content lead" for the Obama transition Web site (also don't know what she's up to now). The August 21 CyberAlert item, "CNN Producer Pitched 'Video Strategy' to Obama Campaign, Got Job," recounted:

Kate Albright-Hanna, who runs the Obama campaign's online video operations, got the job after she pitched the campaign "a proposal on video strategy" -- while she was still a CNN producer. A Wednesday Washington Post "Style" section feature on the key members of the "Triple O: Obama's online operation," recounted the how and when of her pitch to Joe Rospars, a Howard Dean campaign veteran in charge of the so-called Triple O:

"An Emmy winner, she joined CNN's political unit in 1999 and met Rospars while filming a documentary on Dean. When she heard that Rospars was working for Obama, Albright-Hanna called and said she wanted to produce a doc on Obama. The campaign planned to develop its own video content, Rospars said. Intrigued, Albright-Hanna sent him a proposal on video strategy. Weeks later, she left CNN and moved with her husband and 3-year-old son to Chicago."

The key phrase: "weeks later, she left CNN..." So while working at CNN she was simultaneously developing a plan for Obama which, given their decision to hire her, they liked and she's implementing.

Before CNN, she was an intern in the Clinton White House and, in a Dateline NBC story days after the Monica Lewinsky story broke, she was featured by reporter Dawn Fratangelo as one of a group of former interns who "simply don't find it plausible the President of the United States could have an affair with an intern." In a soundbite (see slightly snowy screen shot from the MRC's archive), Albright-Hanna asserted: "I can't imagine how that would happen."

Fore more: www.mrc.org

More journalists who have spun through the Revolving Door from the news media to Obama's team (or to work for John Kerry, so not in my list of ten):

# A February 17 NewsBusters item by Tim Graham, "Liberal Newspaper Reporters Revolve Into Jobs With Kerry, Obama," relayed:

From the Revolving Door file: more liberal newspaper reporters are leaving their D.C. bureaus behind for jobs in Democratic politics. Scott Shepard of Cox Newspapers is joining the office of Sen. John Kerry as a speechwriter, while Chicago Tribune reporter Jill Zuckman is joining the Obama administration as a public-affairs officer for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Shepard is the second newspaper reporter to accept a job with the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee in recent months. Former Los Angeles Times and New York Times reporter Douglas Frantz is now chief investigator on Kerry's staff at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

See: newsbusters.org


# Jake Tapper added two other names in a February 16 "Political Punch" post: "Former Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Gosselin who is now a speechwriter for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and former Washington Post deputy editor [of the Outlook section] Warren Bass who is an adviser to United Nations Ambassador Dr. Susan Rice."

Tapper's post: blogs.abcnews.com


# "Time Magazine's Jay Carney Joins VP Joe Biden's Staff," a December 16 MRC CyberAlert item recounted:

After 20 years with Time magazine, where he's served since 2005 as Washington Bureau Chief, Jay Carney announced Monday he's going through the revolving door to join incoming Vice President Joe Biden's staff where he'll oversee press operations for the Democrat. Officially, Politico reported Monday, he'll hold the title of "assistant to the vice president and director of communications." Carney is married to ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman, a regular on Good Morning America, and the two used to appear regularly together on ABC's This Week.

For that December CyberAlert item: www.mrc.org


# Linda Douglass, who will lead the administration's health care PR push as Assistant Secretary of HHS for public affairs, was a long-time CBS News and then ABC News Washington bureau reporter before signing aboard the Obama campaign last May as a "senior strategist and senior campaign spokesperson on the road." After the election, Douglass put in a stint as the chief spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Much more on her career and slanted reporting in the May 22, 2008 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

ABC Labels Potential Activist Obama Court
Pick a 'Centrist'

New video has surfaced of possible Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor remarking that the courts are the place "where policy is made." Sotomayor, who is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was giving a speech at Duke University in 2005 when the footage was shot. She quickly added, "And I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law. I know." As the audience laughed, the judge, who is rumored to be a replacement for retiring justice David Souter, qualified: "I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it." More snickering from the crowd followed.

This is the same person who ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos touted on last Friday's Good Morning America. The This Week host spun: "She would be not only a woman, but the first Hispanic on the court. She's built up a strong centrist record on the court." Noting that Sotomayor was nominated by President George H.W. Bush (who, it should be pointed out, also picked the liberal Souter), Stephanopoulos asserted: "So, she has got some bipartisan credentials."

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The 2005 video of Sotomayor ran on Monday night's Hannity on FNC and has been given a surprising amount of play on MSNBC on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see, should Sotomayor be picked by President Obama, if other journalists and networks highlight the clip. Certainly, many reports have referred to Sotomayor as a centrist, but this tape should prompt more investigation.

A transcript of Sotomayor's 2005 comments at Duke University: "All of the legal defense funds out there, um, they're looking for people with court of appeals experience. Because it is- Court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know- And I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law. I know. [Laughter from the crowd.] Okay. I know. I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it. [More laughter.] I'm, you know- Okay. [Sotomayor laughs.]"

See YouTube for video: www.youtube.com

A transcript of the May 1 GMA segment, which aired at 7:04am, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: And now, for the bottom line, we turn to chief Washington correspondent and host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. Thanks for being in here.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning.
ROBERTS: President Obama in his press conference was talking about how his plate is already full. You add this to it now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome to the White House. Every President gets this, usually pretty early in the term. And we're going to see President Obama have to deal with it pretty quickly. The White House don't want to get ahead of Justice Souter, who has not made a formal announcement yet. But, they have been thinking about this already. You would expect them to have someone in place before the court's next term begins in October.
ROBERTS: We heard in Jan's piece, it's widely expected that the selection will be a woman. Any top contenders you have been thinking about?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Almost certain that it's going to be a woman. President Obama has said he wants to add another woman to the court. Justice Ginsburg is the only woman right now. I would say the leading candidate, if there is one, is Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She's on the federal appeals court, Second U.S. Court of Appeals. She would be not only a woman, but the first Hispanic on the court. She's built up a strong centrist record on the court. She also has a great story. Worked her way up from the housing projects in the South Bronx, through Princeton and Yale. And she was first appointed to the bench by the first President Bush. So, she has got some bipartisan credentials.
ROBERTS: And people like that. The bipartisan-
STEPHANOPOULOS: Easier to confirm.
ROBERTS: And other names you can think of?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some other possibilities, Elena Kagan. She's been President Obama's choice for solicitor general, his top lawyer before the Supreme Court. Also, the former dean of Harvard Law School. Judge Diane Wood, another appeals courts judge, out of Chicago. Has a record as a brilliant jurist there. And one possible long shot, Leah Ward Sears. She's the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, also the first African-American woman to be a top judge in the state of Georgia.
ROBERTS: As we know, over the years, sometimes this nomination has tripped up a few presidents. So, is this another test for the Obama administration?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It definitely is a test for the Obama administration, for the President. It will reveal a lot about his feelings, his ideology, where he wants to take the court, where he wants to take the country. You can expect them to do this in their normal, disciplined, buttoned-down way. Greg Craig, the White House counsel, will likely take the lead. But also expect Vice President Joe Biden to play a heavy role in this process. Because, remember, he used to be the head of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee. He actually presided over the confirmation hearings of six different Supreme Court justices. So, he'll play a heavy role, as well. And, you know, I would expect the President to be deliberate about this. But as I said earlier, he's not going to want to get ahead of Justice Souter. They're going to want him to have his day to make his decision.
ROBERTS: Because, of course, he want to wait until the summer, until after the session is over.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then, it will be a very crowded agenda.
ROBERTS: Right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Look at what else the President wants to do this summer. He wants to get health care through. He wants to get energy through. He could face the possibility of having to come back and do more on the economy, either with a second stimulus or more money for the financial institutions. So, it is a backed schedule. And that's before you can get to foreign policy.

Williams Recommends Liberal Reading List
on Souter and Successor

NBC anchor Brian Williams' Web surfing centers on liberal sites, as at least evidenced by the reading list he recommended in his Monday afternoon entry on The Daily Nightly blog consisting of four articles, all from left-leaning sites: Slate, The New Republic and The Daily Beast. "Because of my Souter departure obsession," he explained, "today I want to share with you some interesting writing I found over the weekend."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The suggested reading started "with a former Souter clerk (a familiar name from American history)." That would be "Justice Cincinnatus: David Souter -- a dying breed, the Yankee Republican," by Kermit Roosevelt on Slate who maintained: "I think Souter is indeed in many ways a Republican; it's just that his sort of Republican no longer really exists." Translation: liberal. Roosevelt hailed Souter's resistance to overturning Roe v Wade: "The charge fell short in the end, turned back by just a few people, Souter crucially among them, who found themselves in the right place at the right time." Roosevelt's piece: www.slate.com

Second, Williams highlighted "a great essay by a journalist who covers the court." That's "Justice Heartbreaker: David Souter leaves the court that left him behind," also on Slate, by Dahlia Lithwick. She quoted President Obama's wish for a justice who has "that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes." Lithwick then concluded: "He could have been describing Justice Souter, a man who may have looked on the surface like he preferred books to people, but in reality, and perhaps unbeknownst even to himself, always put people first." Lithwick's article: www.slate.com

Third, Williams shared how "my favorite (provocative) essay is on the subject of who should NOT be appointed to the court (sorry, Harvard and Yale)." The least liberal item on the Williams list, that linked to a Daily Beast post by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos: "More rare than a lesbian or Latino on the bench: a justice who didn't go to Harvard or Yale. While others speculate on the race and gender of Justice Souter's replacement, Paul Campos explains that the Supreme Court's real diversity problem is career path and class. It wasn't always this way." See: www.thedailybeast.com

Fourth and last, Williams cited "a very tough examination of a current favorite for the court." That sent readers to Jeffrey Rosen's "The Case Against Sotomayor" in the New Republic magazine. Rosen's essay fretted that federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor, considered a leading candidate to replace Souter, lacks the heft "to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative." Rosen asserted:

Over the past few weeks, I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

END of Excerpt

For Rosen's take in full: www.tnr.com

On Friday's NBC Nightly News, Williams saw the court pick as another burden for Obama: "So President Obama, who plainly has enough going on right about now, now gets handed a big decision. Short of sending troops into battle, appointing a justice for life on the court is one of those presidential decisions that has the most influence on American life."

The May 4 The Daily Nightly post by Williams from 4:31 PM EDT:

It's all about the bench

Because of my Souter departure obsession, today I want to share with you some interesting writing I found over the weekend...starting with a former Souter clerk (a familiar name from American history) and a great essay by a journalist who covers the court. My favorite (provocative) essay is on the subject of who should NOT be appointed to the court (sorry, Harvard and Yale) and there is a very tough examination of a current favorite for the court.

We're back with our Monday night broadcast tonight, and we hope you can join us.

That post online: dailynightly.msnbc.msn.com

CBS Uses Kids' Letters to Promote 'Hope'
of Obama

At the end of Monday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Bill Whitaker gave a fawning report on a book being complied of children's letters to President Obama: "Eight-year-old Lucy O'Brien loves to draw, ask her dad, a fine antiques dealer...She also knows times are hard at dad's business...So when her mother told her about a 'Dear Mr. President' contest, lucky winners' art and letters presented to President Obama, she poured her heart into it." The young girl explained to Whitaker: "I had added like, confetti, and stuff like that, and then I added 'hope' on the top to show for the future that there's hope for maybe the economy or something."

Whitaker spoke with the book's creator and CEO of the Web site kidthing.com, Larry Hitchcock, who described some of the other letters: "We had to extend the deadline because so many were coming in...A 6-year-old who just wants the President to 'make it rain candy'...'Poor people should have food.'" A clip was played of one girl asking the President: "Please take care of the environment." Later, Hitchcock declared: "There's a theme through all of it of hope and kind of belief that tomorrow's going to be a better day."

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Earlier in the program, fill-in anchor Jeff Glor teased Whitaker's report: "Coming up next here, a young boy battling cancer has a birthday wish, one only the President can make come true." Whitaker talked to that boy: "Eight-year-old Carlo Santiago feels good these days. He's fighting a rare form of cancer. His message to the President?" A clip was played of Santiago: "When I'm done with all my treatment, I want to go see you in the White House on my birthday. Love, Carlo." Whitaker later concluded the report by describing the book as: "A book full of young hopes and dreams."

Here is the full transcript of the May 4 segment:

JEFF GLOR: Coming up next here, a young boy battling cancer has a birthday wish, one only the President can make come true.

JEFF GLOR: Finally tonight, President Obama gets thousands of letters everyday. Aides select ten of them for him to read personally, so the odds of getting a letter into the President's hands are pretty slim. But Bill Whitaker tells us tonight some kids have found a way to beat those odds.
LUCY O'BRIEN: My favorite color is pink.
BILL WHITAKER: Eight-year-old Lucy O'Brien loves to draw, ask her dad, a fine antiques dealer.
MR. O'BRIEN: Lucy is a drawer, that's what she loves to do.
WHITAKER: Her mom.
MRS. O'BRIEN: This is the large-headed girl series.
LUCY O'BRIEN: I'm not bragging about it, but I think I'm good at drawing.
WHITAKER: She also knows times are hard at dad's business.
O'BRIEN: My mom and dad talk about it usually and I'm sort of nosy when I listen to them talking about it.
WHITAKER: So when her mother told her about a 'Dear Mr. President' contest, lucky winners' art and letters presented to President Obama, she poured her heart into it.
O'BRIEN: I had added like, confetti, and stuff like that, and then I added 'hope' on the top to show for the future that there's hope for maybe the economy or something.
WHITAKER: And sent it off to Larry Hitchcock's web site kidthing.
LARRY HITCHCOCK: We had to extend the deadline because so many were coming in.
WHITAKER: From kids age 5 to 12 all over the country. Kid stuff:
HITCHCOCK: A 6-year-old who just wants the President to 'make it rain candy.'
WHITAKER: Serious stuff:
HITCHCOCK: 'Poor people should have food.'
WHITAKER: From almost 5,000 kids.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Dear Mr. President-
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Please take care of the environment.
CARLO SANTIAGO: Dear President Obama, on Inauguration Day I was at the hospital here in L.A.-
WHITAKER: Eight-year-old Carlo Santiago feels good these days. He's fighting a rare form of cancer. His message to the President?
SANTIAGO: When I'm done with all my treatment, I want to go see you in the White House on my birthday. Love, Carlo.
WHITAKER: The best 150 entries put in this book to be hand delivered to President Obama.
HITCHCOCK: There's a theme through all of it of hope and kind of belief that tomorrow's going to be a better day.
WHITAKER: Carlo's letter made it. Out of 5,000 kids-
SANTIAGO: Yeah.
WHITAKER: That's pretty good.
SANTIAGO: I felt pretty lucky.
WHITAKER: Lucy's too.
O'BRIEN: And I was jumping up and down. And I was screaming and I ran into to my brother's room and I was, like, 'I made it into the book!' And he was like 'oh, good for you.'
WHITAKER: A book full of young hopes and dreams. Bill Whitaker, CBS News, Los Angeles.

-- Brent Baker