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Confused About Poll, ABC Skips How More Blame Locals Than Bush --9/13/2005


1. Confused About Poll, ABC Skips How More Blame Locals Than Bush
ABC News can't seem to figure out what percent of whites in their latest poll believe that the response to Katrina would have been faster "if the victims were wealthy and white," with World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas (20 percent), an on-screen graphic (21 percent) and ABCNews.com (24 percent) all offering a different percentage. And while Vargas highlighted Monday night how "dissatisfaction...with the government's response to the hurricane is growing and hurting President Bush's overall approval rating. It now stands at just 42 percent, the lowest it's ever been," in a WashingtonPost.com article posted at 5:30pm EDT, Richard Morin pointed out that "Bush isn't the biggest loser in the post-Katrina blame game." Indeed, though 45 percent said Bush deserved a "great deal" or "good amount" of blame for "problems" in the response, 57 percent said the same about state and local officials.

2. Mitchell Mea Culpa on Pre-War; Castro "Engaging" & Clinton "Fun"
Appearing Monday's Today to promote her book, Talking Back, NBC's Andrea Mitchell offered a mea culpa on pre-war reporting and, asked to recall her favorite interviews, called Fidel Castro "engaging" and Bill Clinton "fun." Back in 2001, Mitchell had a very amiable chat with Castro.


Confused About Poll, ABC Skips How More
Blame Locals Than Bush

ABC News can't seem to figure out what percent of whites in their latest poll believe that the response to Katrina would have been faster "if the victims were wealthy and white," with World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas (20 percent), an on-screen graphic (21 percent) and ABCNews.com (24 percent) all offering a different percentage. And while Vargas highlighted Monday night how "dissatisfaction...with the government's response to the hurricane is growing and hurting President Bush's overall approval rating. It now stands at just 42 percent, the lowest it's ever been," in a WashingtonPost.com article posted at 5:30pm EDT, Richard Morin pointed out that "Bush isn't the biggest loser in the post-Katrina blame game."

Indeed, though 45 percent said Bush deserved a "great deal" or "good amount" of blame for "problems" in the response, 57 percent said the same about state and local officials.

Like Vargas, ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer skipped those numbers as he focused his online posting on how "on Katrina, opinion has moved further away from Bush and his administration."

[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: Exposing and combating liberal media bias.]

Neither the WashingtonPost.com posting nor accompanying PDF of poll results provided a racial breakdown for the question from which ABC News reported the 20/21/24 percentages.

On the September 12 World News Tonight, anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced:
"Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that dissatisfaction, however, with the government's response to the hurricane is growing and hurting President Bush's overall approval rating. It now stands at just 42 percent, the lowest it's ever been. And one more finding that gets at the division in the country after the hurricane: An overwhelming number of African-Americans, more than 70 percent, say that the government would have responded more quickly to the disaster in New Orleans if more of the victims had been wealthy and white, rather than poor and black. Only 20 percent of whites agree with that."

On screen, viewers saw a graphic with a disheveled black man, hardly a positive image, with this wording of the question:
"Government would have responded faster if victims were wealthy and white: "Blacks: 76%
"Whites: 21%"

On ABCNews.com, polling analyst Gary Langer reported:

....KATRINA -- On Katrina, opinion has moved further away from Bush and his administration. Fifty-four percent now disapprove of his work on the hurricane, up seven points from an ABC News/Washington Post poll Sept. 2, four days after the storm hit the Gulf Coast. What had been essentially an even division on Bush's response is now disapproval by a 10-point margin.

More, 62 percent, rate the overall federal response negatively, up 11 points from initial public attitudes. Sixty-three percent say that two weeks after the hurricane hit, the administration still lacks a clear plan on how to handle it; rather than recovering its footing, the administration has lost eight points on this measure since Sept. 2. And three-quarters of Americans favor a 9/11 commission-style investigation of the hurricane response, apart from anything Congress might be planning.

There may be repercussions as well for administration policy on taxes: Nearly six in 10 Americans say consideration of tax cuts should be set aside for the time being.

RACE -- The survey also finds a profound division between black and white Americans in their perceptions of the disaster response. Blacks overwhelmingly say hurricane preparedness and response were shortchanged because of the race and poverty of many of those affected, and call it a sign of broader racial inequality in this country. Whites are far less likely to see it that way.

Seven in 10 blacks, for instance, believe New Orleans would have received better flood protection and emergency preparedness resources if it had been a wealthier, whiter city, rather than a largely poor, African-American one. Fewer than three in 10 whites agree.

Similarly, 76 percent of blacks think the federal government would have responded more quickly to rescue people trapped by floodwaters if more of them had been wealthy and white rather than poorer and black. Fewer than a quarter of whites share that view....

END of Excerpt

An accompanying table listed this question: "Did race and poverty affect speed of response?"

The results:
Whites yes: 24%
Blacks yes: 76%

For ABC's online posting: abcnews.go.com

In a WashingtonPost.com article, "Bush Approval Rating at All-Time Low," posted at 5:31pm EDT and which will likely appear in very similar form in Tuesday's Washington Post, Richard Morin reported:
"Bush isn't the biggest loser in the post-Katrina blame game. A majority -- 57 percent -- say state and local officials should be blamed for the problems, suggesting the White House has been at least partially successful in shifting fault away from Bush and the federal government. And half the public says the bigger problem is that people failed to take the storm warnings seriously, while nearly as many said the bigger problem was the failure of government to provide transportation to those in the path of the storm.
"But Americans were even more suspicious of Democrats' motives. Six in 10 said that Democrats critical of Bush for his handling of the hurricane were just trying to use the disaster for political advantage while a third said Democrats were genuinely interested in finding out what went wrong."

For the Post article: www.washingtonpost.com

An accompanying PDF provided the specific questions:

# "10. How much blame if any do you think Bush should get for problems in the federal response to the situation -- a great deal, a good amount, only some or none?"

"Great deal" or "good amount" totaled 45% ("some" or "none" totaled 54%)



# "13. How much blame if any do you think state and local officials should get for problems in the response to the situation -- a great deal, a good amount, only some or none?"

"Great deal" or "good amount" totaled 57% ("some" or "none" totaled 42%)

For the Post's PDF of the poll results: www.washingtonpost.com

As of 10:30pm EDT Monday, ABCNews.com's "Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results," did not work: abcnews.go.com


To comment on this item, go to the node for it on NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org

Mitchell Mea Culpa on Pre-War; Castro
"Engaging" & Clinton "Fun"

Appearing Monday's Today to promote her book, Talking Back, NBC's Andrea Mitchell offered a mea culpa on pre-war reporting and, asked to recall her favorite interviews, called Fidel Castro "engaging" and Bill Clinton "fun." Back in 2001, Mitchell had a very amiable chat with Castro.

[The MRC's Geoff Dickens posted this item Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: Exposing and combating liberal media bias.]

At 8:44am Katie Couric began the in-studio interview by asking Mitchell about her start in the business and how it has changed:

Couric: "Well you know obviously a lot has changed in the business since you started and you've been at NBC since 1978, right? Andrea how has, how has newsgathering changed? I guess the technology-"
Mitchell: "Oh it's, it's completely different and that's one of the reasons I wrote the book because we are now in this environment where everyone is being inundated by information. There's the internet and cable and broadcasting. When I started there were three broadcast networks. There was a 6:30 news or a 7:00 o'clock news. That was it. And now you have so many different choices and I think people are really, not only confused, but we've seen the polling. Our own credibility is, you know, has really gone down. So as journalists I think we have to be concerned about our profession and particularly after the war and the misjudgments that we and political, you know, leaders made. We have to ask ourselves so I wrote about that. I took a really hard look at myself, my colleagues and political people."
Couric: "You're talking about the lead up, the lead up to the Iraq-"
Mitchell: "The lead up to the Iraq war and now we've distinguished ourselves, I think as a profession all of our colleagues you and, and everyone else and Brian Williams and the wonderful teams from all the networks down in, in the Gulf zone."
Couric: "Getting back though, Andrea to the buildup before Iraq do you think reporters were remiss in not questioning the evidence of weapons of mass destruction in a, in a more stringent sort of, vital way?"
Mitchell: "Sure. I think we tried but it's one of the great fallacies that we can really cover intelligence. We're only as good as our sources and our information. And if the intelligence gatherers are wrong, sometimes because they are just not up to it, sometimes because they have bad sources themselves then we're gonna be wrong as well."
Couric: "Right."
Mitchell: "And I wanted to tell people, tell our viewers and our readers that we have issues, that we have to address."

And keeping with the morning's Today show theme Couric couldn't resist getting Mitchell's take on the administration's performance in the wake of Katrina:
Couric: "Meanwhile I know that the President has been facing a lot of criticism in recent days about the disaster along the Gulf Coast."

Mitchell: "Absolutely."
Couric: "You've covered a lot of different Presidents."
Mitchell: "Five Presidents!"
Couric: "Wow!"
Mitchell: "That's one of the reasons I wrote the book is thinking back about five White Houses and the way they compare and contrast."
Couric: "And what, what has struck you about the situation the Bush administration finds itself in at this point?"
Mitchell: "Well almost ironically because this President was so effective after 9/11 the contrast with that is hurting him now in that they didn't respond quickly, they didn't get it. It's almost like what their initial slow response to the tsunami was. They didn't interrupt vacations. August is always a critical period for presidents. I write about President Reagan and all the presidents. President Carter, Clinton who all had difficulties during August. It's a vacation month. Washington shuts down. I think that had something to do with it.
"Sending Dick Cheney has been a big plus he, at least, represents, you know competence for them. But we've seen also a real downgrading in FEMA, in emergency management and that is a profoundly important issue."

Back to plugging the book, Couric prompted Mitchell to discuss some of her biggest interviews:

Couric: "And meanwhile you've, you've interviewed obviously almost everybody on the planet. Who do you think was the toughest interview?"
Mitchell: "Probably Fidel Castro."
Couric: "We just happened to have some tape of that, Andrea."
Mitchell: "Oh do you? Great planning.
Couric: "I'm so surprised. Anyway I think we do Joe, at some point, anyway. There, there we go. Why was he so tough?"
Mitchell: "He's tough because he's, he's so isolated. He's still in his Cold War environment and because he's hard to get to but once you reach him and I've had a number of interviews with him, he's very engaging, and we debated and fought back and forth. Margaret Thatcher is probably a close second because she is the-"
Couric: "Really?"
Mitchell: "-really the Iron Lady."
Couric: "And one, one of the most fun I know you say is Bill Clinton?"
Mitchell: "Bill Clinton is always fun because he, he comes armed with a lot of information and also he's a great debater."
Near the end of the interview Couric offered the following reading recommendation:

Couric: "Well your book is a great read-"

Mitchell: "Thank you."
Couric: "-and it's really must reading for anybody who might want to get into this business who's interested, especially women. Right?"

Judging from Mitchell's career, this probably will be required reading for aspiring liberal reporters at journalism schools all across America.

To provide your comment, go to the node for this article on NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org


As for Mitchell's toughness with Castro, check out this Friday, June 29, 2001 CyberAlert article on how she portrayed him:

Andrea's All-Nighter with Fidel. Though the Committee to Protect Journalists in May named Fidel Castro one of the "Ten Worst Enemies of the Press" for 2001, NBC's Andrea Mitchell had an amiable chat with him Wednesday night which was featured on Thursday's Today and NBC Nightly News. Only in one sentence in her evening report did she mention the lack of political freedom in Cuba.

On Today Mitchell relayed how Castro insisted Juan Miguel and Elian were free to stay in the U.S. and how "he told me that the Cuban people last year were so determined to get Elian back that some extremists even wanted to send military commandos to the United States."

Later, on Nightly News, she showed Castro denouncing Bush: "He was not elected. He was appointed President of the United States." Sounds like Castro watches Geraldo. And who exactly "elected" Castro?

-- Today, June 28. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down her summary of her session with the dictator, though she never employed the term: "Well on this first anniversary of Elian Gonzalez's return home to Cuba the Fidel Castro government is not planning any big anniversary celebration. But during three hours of conversation with Fidel Castro that went into the early hours of this morning he told me that the Cuban people last year were so determined to get Elian back that some extremists even wanted to send military commandos to the United States. Castro met me at his offices where he typically works all night. [Clip of Mitchell shaking hands with Castro: "Thank you for seeing us."]
"During the Elian crisis that met orchestrating the campaign to get the child back. But Castro insists that the boy's father was free to stay in the United States if he had wanted to. He made the decisions about where to live and returning to Cuba."

-- NBC Nightly News. A few hours later NBC had time to put together a regular taped report with soundbites from Castro. As transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, Mitchell began by expressing her typical awe of Castro's hard work:
"It was already getting late when Castro greeted me at one of his many government offices. It is here that Castro spends most nights in meetings that usually last until dawn. This night we talked for three hours, brief by Castro's standards. About to turn 75 in August, who would replace him? Cuba's next comandante would likely be Castro's brother Raoul, head of Cuba's armed forces, but only five years younger than Fidel."
To Castro: "Have you thought, have you planned about having a younger generation of leaders to carry on your legacy?"

After some discussion about succession which Mitchell raised because of Castro's collapse at a rally over the weekend, Mitchell continued: "Castro has been in office so long, he's antagonized ten American Presidents. Now he's sizing up George W. Bush, especially because of Bush's close political and family ties to anti-Castro voters in Florida."
To Castro: "Do you see any chance of better relations? Would you see a potential crisis here?"
Castro, through interpreter: "He was not elected. He was appointed President of the United States. [some cross talk] It's not his fault he's ignorant."
Mitchell concluded: "Castro was combative when I asked why he won't hold free elections or release political prisoners as American Presidents have been demanding for 40 years. In fact, he says his revolution will outlive him. And the man I saw last night shows no signs of yielding power any time soon."

You'd think Mitchell might have wondered why Castro gave her such a free hand when he oppresses other journalists. Maybe it has something to do with how her stories don't require any censorship to comply with Castro's standards.

The MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me to how in May the Committee to Protect Journalists named Fidel Castro one of the "Ten Worst Enemies of the Press" for 2001. They asserted:
"Fidel Castro's government continues its scorched-earth assault on independent Cuban journalists by interrogating and detaining reporters, monitoring and interrupting their telephone calls, restricting their travel, and routinely putting them under house arrest to prevent coverage of certain events. A new tactic of intimidation involves arresting journalists and releasing them hundreds of miles from their homes. Meanwhile, foreign journalists who write critically of Cuba are routinely denied visas, and early this year Castro threatened some international news bureaus with expulsion from Cuba for '€˜transmitting insults and lies.' Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that currently holds a journalist in jail for his work. Bernardo Arévalo Padrón continues to serve a six year sentence for reporting critical of Castro and the Communist Party."

END Reprint of earlier CyberAlert item

-- Brent Baker