CNN's Whitfield Hails as 'Courageous' Obama's Notre Dame Speech --5/18/2009
2. CBS on Pelosi: 'Is This Over?'; ABC Hails Obama's 'Masterstroke'
3. CBS and NBC Spike Panetta's Rejection of Pelosi's Smear of CIA
4. After Three Weeks, Pelosi's Anti-CIA Rant Pushes Nets to Action?
5. Excuse Pelosi; Hope 'Moderate' Will Save GOP from Rush Limbaugh
6. CNN's Chetry Uses Left's Spin on Rush Limbaugh and Wanda Sykes
7. CBS's Harry Smith 'Regrets' Not Speaking Out Against Iraq War
Just under an hour before President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon, CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield applauded Obama's anticipated comments, addressing the controversy of the Catholic institution awarding an honorary degree to a politician who does not uphold pro-life policies, as "very courageous." She then fretted over if Obama had "a lot of angst" before the speech given the controversy, specifically "whether there was angst on his part about whether he wanted to make his commencement speech one that would use the words abortion, that would use the words embryonic stem cell research?"
Whitfield's assessment and worry came after Suzanne Malveaux, from Sound Bend, previewed Obama's embargoed speech by reporting the prepared text revealed "he will address this controversy, that he is not going to shy away from it. That he will talk about the need for people to be open minded, to be fair minded in the way that they approach the debate over abortion and stem cell research." To which, an impressed Whitfield, at the anchor desk in Atlanta, enthused:
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Sunday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
From CNN, at 2 PM EDT on May 17:
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, IN SOUTH BEND: We have gotten an advanced copy, Fred, of the text, the speech. It's obviously embargoed until he delivers it. But broadly speaking, we can say that he will address this controversy, that he is not going to shy away from it. That he will talk about the need for people to be open minded, to be fair minded in the way that they approach the debate over abortion and stem cell research, that he will talk about an example of perhaps a gay activist as well as a priest. Both of them feeling that they want to combat and tackle HIV/AIDS but have a different way of looking at that point of view, whether it's expanding stem cell research or if it is opposing that. He'll also take on the issue of abortion. Talking about -- that, in some ways, there's a need to emphasize the commonality of both sides, but that in some ways these two camps are irreconcilable when it comes to ultimately what they think about a woman's right to choose. So this is something, Fred, that he is going to tackle as part of the commencement speech and he'll obviously talk about the challenges that these students have at this preeminent Catholic university.
A night after the CBS Evening News ignored CIA Director Leon Panetta's rebuke of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Saturday's newscast continued the blackout as anchor Jeff Glor only mentioned Pelosi in setting up a question by explaining she "put herself in a very awkward position" when "she said the CIA lied to her or misled her about water-boarding," before he asked Time magazine veteran John Dickerson: "Is this something that's over for the Speaker now or does this continue?" Though the whole topic is apparently already over for CBS News, Dickerson maintained "it's not over for the Speaker" as he proceeded to empathize with her plight by suggesting she's "got to hope another issue...blows her off the front pages" and that "when Congress goes home for their recesses that somehow she gets out of the news cycle because she's still in a fix." But not one that interests CBS News.
Nor NBC, which like ABC on Saturday night, didn't utter Pelosi's name -- possibly because all three evening newscasts were so exited about what they made their lead stories: President Obama naming Utah's Republican Governor, Jon Huntsman, ambassador to China. "A political masterstroke" declared ABC's George Stephanopoulos on World News in repeating the same phrase applied moments earlier by reporter Jonathan Karl. Stephanopoulos even managed to get in a dig at conservatives as he hailed the pick as "one more sign that this is a party [Republican] where the reformers -- the moderates -- are looking for an exit."
Back to CBS, Kimberly Dozier touted Obama's wisdom, "Pundits on the left and the right are calling it a savvy move: the White House gets the right man for job while politically neutralizing a potential rival."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Saturday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For details on the disinterest in Pelosi shown by the broadcast network newscasts, check items # 3 and 4 below: "CBS and NBC Spike Panetta's Rejection of Pelosi's Smear of the CIA" and "After Three Weeks, Pelosi's Anti-CIA Rant Pushes Nets to Action."
From the Saturday, May 16 CBS Evening News:
JEFF GLOR: Next to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, who put herself in a very awkward position this week, as you know, when she said the CIA lied to her or misled her about water-boarding. Is this something that's over for the Speaker now or does this continue?
After ignoring for three weeks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's denial she was briefed by the CIA about how water-boarding was being used, only to decide it was news on Thursday when Pelosi at a press conference accused the CIA of "lying" and of "misleading" the Congress (see #4 below), on Friday the CBS and NBC evening newscasts fell silent again despite the backlash from CIA Director Leon Panetta, a former Democratic Congressman. He issued an emphatic statement about how "it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress" and declaring: "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, describing the 'enhanced techniques that had been employed.'"
That was enough of a news hook for ABC's World News to make it the Friday night lead, as fill-in anchor George Stephanopoulos teased his top story: "Tonight, firing back: The CIA Director toe-to-toe with the Speaker. He says Congress was told the truth about interrogations." Reporter Jonathan Karl recounted how Panetta is "pushing back hard against the Speaker of the House" and that Republicans are raising her hypocrisy in advocating punishment for those who authorized a technique of which she was aware.
He concluded by undermining her latest spin of claiming she was misled by Bush administration political operatives. "Speaker Pelosi is now doing some damage control," Karl reported, reading her assertion: "My criticism of the manner of which the Bush administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe." But, Karl noted: "It is important to point out that those who briefed Speaker Pelosi at that September  briefing were career intelligence officers, these were not political operatives from the Bush administration."
Yet not even that mendacious blame-shifting prompted a syllable from CBS or NBC. It's a pretty sad state of affairs when the newscast anchored by a former Democratic political operative is the one willing to highlight news deleterious to a top liberal Democrat.
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
With Jeff Glor in the anchor seat on Thursday, CBS, like ABC and NBC, aired full stories on Pelosi's accusations against the CIA. (For a rundown of Thursday night and Friday morning Pelosi coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC, check item #4 below: "After Three Weeks, Pelosi's Anti-CIA Rant Pushes Nets to Action.")
Katie Couric was back in the anchor chair on Friday, however, and the newscast skipped Pelosi's evolving explanations about what she knew when and Panetta's rejoinder. The CBS Evening News led with GM's dealer closings and devoted nearly four minutes to Couric previewing/plugging her upcoming Sunday 60 Minutes segment with Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and spent two minutes on how the favorite in Saturday's Preakness is a female -- and that was all before the closing story on the proper pronunciation and spelling of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Webster, Massachusetts.
The Lester Holt-anchored NBC Nightly News, which had transmission problems in its 7 PM EDT feed so 10-20 second chunks of it did not air in Washington, DC (but I saw no hint of anything about Pelosi), did run an unusual story on the plight of Christians in Iraq, but also allocated two minutes to plugging a prime time documentary on the dying Farrah Fawcett and, like CBS, featured a full piece on the Preakness. Also, matching CBS, NBC began with GM.
After three weeks of virtual silence, all three broadcast networks provided full reports Thursday night about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's shifting story about what she knew about the interrogation methods used against al Qaeda terrorists, methods that liberals have decried as criminal torture. Friday morning, NBC and CBS also provided full reports, but ABC's Good Morning America weirdly relegated Pelosi's rant that the CIA "misleads us all the time" to a brief, 28-second report during the 8am ET hour.
That's about as much time as the newscast gave to the rescue of a kangaroo caught in deep water on an Australian beach: www.sbs.com.au
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
NBC's Today was by far the toughest on Pelosi this morning, with co-host Matt Lauer opening the show by demanding: "What did she know and when did she know it? The CIA claims in a 2002 briefing, they told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi they were using harsh interrogation techniques. She says that's a lie. So who's telling the truth?"
Lauer also brought on Missouri Senator Kit Bond, who criticized Pelosi's story that she was not told about waterboarding at a September 2002 briefing conducted after al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times. "I have looked at the underlying materials, not only the records they kept, but the cables they sent out to the field and from the, what was apparently contemporaneous documents," Bond declared, "It's clear that they did tell her."
On CBS's The Early Show, co-host Harry Smith also took a skeptical line against Pelosi, asking political analyst John Dickerson, "Nancy Pelosi seems to be digging herself into a hole. Is it a hole she can get out of?" Dickerson suggested Pelosi made a tactical mistake by adding the CIA to her list of evil bogeymen: "Usually, when you have one opponent, in this case the Republicans, you kind of stick to one. She's added a second, taking on the CIA. Now the CIA's job, in some ways, is protecting itself, and it's very good at this."
Thursday night, ABC, CBS and NBC all run fairly straight-forward reports on their evening newscasts, with only the CBS Evening News (with Jeff Glor filling in for Katie Couric) teasing the Pelosi story at the top: "Also tonight, Speaker Pelosi makes an explosive allegation....But what did the Speaker know about waterboarding, and when?"
It seems safe to say that the networks finally acknowledged the Pelosi story not because they felt her previous inconsistencies and potential hypocrisy were worth deeper investigation, but because the Speaker herself upped the ante with unsupported allegations that the CIA routinely lies or misleads Congress.
Here's a little more of how each of the broadcast networks approached the Pelosi story last night and this morning, starting with ABC's World News, which got to the story after items on the Chrysler dealerships closing and the shuttle's mission to fix the Hubble telescope:
CHARLES GIBSON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created something of a political firestorm today, accusing CIA officials of lying to Congress in 2002 about its interrogation methods. Did they lie? Here's Jonathan Karl....
# CBS Evening News, May 14:
REPORTER BOB ORR: In uncommonly strong language, Pelosi accused the CIA and the Bush administration of skirting the truth about the treatment of al qaeda terror suspects....But Republicans say Pelosi and other Democrats were fully in the loop. Between 2002 and 2007, CIA records show intelligence committee members from both parties received at least 28 classified briefings on harsh interrogations.
# NBC Nightly News, May 14:
REPORTER KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Brian. The Speaker has long been a strong opponent of waterboarding. And after new details came out that showed that she knew the technique was being used as early as several years ago, some of the her critics are wondering, what, if anything, did she try to do to stop it?
# ABC's Good Morning America, May 15, 8:03am ET news brief (complete item):
CHRIS CUOMO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is accusing the CIA of lying about its brutal interrogations of terror suspects during the Bush administration. Pelosi insists that in September 2002, the CIA told her point blank that waterboarding was not being used. By then, a key al Qaeda operative had been waterboarded 83 times. But, a CIA time line shows Pelosi had been told about its use of the controversial technique at that 2002 briefing.
# CBS's The Early Show, May 15:
After a full report by Bob Orr similar to the one from Thursday's Evening News, co-host Harry Smith interviewed CBS political analyst John Dickerson:
CO-HOST HARRY SMITH: Nancy Pelosi seems to be digging herself into a hole. Is it a hole she can get out of?
# NBC's Today, May 15. After the show opening quoted above, Matt Lauer interviewed GOP Senator Kit Bond, with the phrase "Pelosi Under Fire" as the headline:
MATT LAUER: Missouri Senator Kit Bond is the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence committee. Senator Bond, good morning to you.
Asked "why does it matter" what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "knew or did not know" about the "enhanced interrogation" of terror suspects, Newsweek's Evan Thomas and NPR's Nina Totenberg failed to address Pelosi's hypocrisy in now condemning others for what she knew about years go, as both dismissed the relevance of her evolving memory.
On Friday's Inside Washington, Thomas insisted "it doesn't" matter, maintaining "this is all noise, this is all noise." Totenberg declared "I don't think it matters, except that it is a diversion that is encouraged by former Bush people who don't want to have this conversation." On the facts, Totenberg came down on Pelosi's side as she charged the CIA "did mislead" the Speaker: "I think it's entirely plausible -- and maybe even probable -- that the CIA told the technical truth in a way that did mislead Nancy Pelosi."
Thomas, Editor at Large with Newsweek after stints as Assistant Managing Editor and Washington bureau chief, contended "Rush Limbaugh is good" for the Republican Party since he'll "take it down as low as it can go" so Republicans "make complete fools of themselves" and "then maybe," Thomas yearned, "a moderate can come in and rescue them."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Saturday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Commenting two weeks ago, on the same program, about Senator Arlen Specter's switch from the Republican to Democratic Party, Thomas declared Republicans are now "exactly like the Labor Party in England in the 1970s. They're letting their extremists take them straight down." As if that would upset Thomas and the Washington press corps. See: www.mrc.org
Inside Washington is a weekly show produced and aired over the weekend by Washington, DC's ABC affiliate, but first broadcast Friday night on the local PBS station.
From Inside Washington aired Friday night, May 15:
GORDON PETERSON, MODERATOR: Why does it matter what Nancy knew or did not know, Evan?
THOMAS: Rush Limbaugh is good for the party. Drive it all the way down, take it down as low as it can go, make complete fools of themselves, because it's always darkest before the dawn, and then maybe a moderate can come in and rescue them.
The CNN program began the "Wingnut of the Week" last week with Avlon, as a proposed regular segment on Fridays targeting, in his words, "the professional polarizers, the unhinged activists, the folks who are trying to always hijack our debates and divide us." His picks last week were Representative Michelle Bachmann, for her recent anti-Jimmy Carter remark, and former Representative Cynthia McKinney, for comparing herself to Rosa Parks and referring to Washington, DC as a "Zionist-occupied government."
[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
This week, at the end of the 6 am Eastern hour of American Morning, Chetry brought back Avlon, whom she introduced as an "independent analyst," as well as "a columnist for TheDailyBeast.com, and the author of 'Independent Nation,'" for his picks. Avlon who proclaims himself as a man of the center, took the easy route and picked Wanda Sykes as his "wingnut" on the left, and since Sykes attacked Limbaugh, he, of course, had to pick him as his "wingnut" on the right.
After the sound bite of Sykes's Limbaugh-bashing route, Chetry asked her "she's just a comedian" question. Avlon first hinted that there may have been a hint of truth in her outrageous joke, but continued by stating it was still appropriate:
AVLON: I think even with the generous discount for edu-comedy, Wanda Sykes went over the edge. It should always be too soon for a 9/11 joke, especially with the president an arm's length away. And when a roomful of folks -- the White House correspondents, folks who are supposed to add to the civility of our debate, are laughing out loud to jokes about somebody's kidneys failing or somebody -- somebody's drug addiction, I think it's a sign of the way that we start to dehumanize people who disagree with us in American politics.
Chetry then played a "sampling" from Limbaugh's program from earlier this week. When she asked her "new voice of the Republican Party," the "independent analyst" decided to not only bash the talk show host, but also get in a shot at Dick Cheney:
CHETRY: All right. There you have it. He's certainly really dominated the voice of the GOP for -- for the past several months, and, you know, the left has been saying he's the new voice of the Republican Party. Why did you pick him as the wingnut of the week?
Speaking of the "obsessive social litmus test," Avlon must be unaware of how the momentum on one social issue is shifting towards the typical Republican stance. Gallup released a poll on Friday which indicated that for the first time, "more Americans [are] "pro-life" than "pro-choice" on the issue of abortion. 51% of respondents considered themselves to be against abortion, while 42% considered themselves to be for "choice" on the issue. But that probably won't discourage Avlon, the former deputy policy director for notoriously "pro-choice" Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign (not to mention his work for Clinton's 1996 campaign), from continuing to press for the Republicans to become a "bigger tent." That must be why Kathleen Parker is such a big fan of this "independent analyst."
For Gallup's entire poll results, see their May 15, 2009 item, "More Americans 'Pro-Life' Than 'Pro-Choice' for First Time," see: www.gallup.com
For more on Avlon's past as a Clinton campaign operative and a Giuliani advisor, see Ben Smith's October 10, 2007 item for The Politico, "Giuliani aide likened boss to Bill Clinton," at: www.politico.com
For more on Kathleen Parker's praise of Avlon, see her April 20, 2005 column for the Oakland Tribune, "It's not easy seeking political balance in an either-or world," at: findarticles.com
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen read some viewer email, including a question from one woman who asked: "Would you be willing to jeopardize your job to report something your bosses or the government wanted to keep hidden?" Co-host Harry Smith used the question as an opportunity to voice his opposition to the Iraq war: "You know, I remember being in Iraq before the war started, we were there just a couple of -- a couple of weeks before the war started and it came, it was really, really clear to me on the ground that this didn't make any sense. And I remember coming back, but there was all this sort of preponderance of opinion that this -- this thing should go on. And I kept thinking to myself, 'this doesn't -- there's -- I'm not connecting the dots everybody else is connecting.' And if I have a regret in my reporting life that I didn't stand up then and say, 'this doesn't make any sense.'"
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
While Smith may not have expressed outright opposition to the Iraq war early on, but just days after the invasion in March of 2003, he was very sympathetic to then-Democratic Senator and war critic Tom Dashcle: "You were under a certain amount of criticism especially directly from the White House as the day before the war actually began you talked about the failure of diplomacy. Did you feel along the way, and especially in the hours after that, that some Republicans were actually questioning your patriotism?"
Read the MRC's March 31, 2003 Notable Quotables here: www.mediaresearch.org
Chen agreed with Smith's assessment and backed up his assertions, declaring: "Yeah, I remember, I was there, also, and I asked, I'm blanking on his name now, ooh, he was in command there at CENTCOM, and I said -- he said 'connect the dots, connect the dots,' I said 'connect them for me. I can't connect them.'" Smith replied: "Yeah...Well, that's sad."
Co-host Russ Mitchell also replied to the viewer email, explaining: "I think it's a little more complicated. The government, Yes. Well, your boss is a different -- because we have a system of checks and balances here. You have to have at least one champion before you can just put something on television." Apparently that's how stories like how to feng shui your home for pets get on the air.
-- Brent Baker