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CyberAlert -- 04/04/2002 -- Piling On Israel Bashing

Piling On Israel Bashing; Treat Palestinians Like the Taliban?; Give Osama a Platform; Comedian Tougher on Brock Than CNN & NBC -- Extra Edition

1) With the Vatican critical of Israel, ABC and CBS suddenly considered it a fount of wise counsel. ABC's Peter Jennings noted how the Vatican complained "about 'unjust conditions and humiliations' imposed on the Palestinians."

2) On CBS's 60 Minutes II on Wednesday night Scott Pelley posed a contrarian question to Colin Powell: "Why doesn't the United States move against Arafat and the terrorists in the Palestinian territories in the way that we moved against Mullah Omar and the Taliban?"

3) MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield is eager to give terrorist murder mastermind Osama bin Laden a forum from which to pontificate. "Personally, absolutely I would like to interview Osama bin Laden," she declared on her show late last week, since "I'd be fascinated by anything Osama bin Laden would have to say."

4) Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, posed tougher questions to conservative-basher David Brock than did Today co-host Matt Lauer or CNN's Aaron Brown. Stewart asked Brock: "Is the left-wing innocent in all this?" He wondered: "Don't they have their own team of guys trying to dig up dirt on the right?" When Brock disagreed, Stewart pointed out: "Hustler, Larry Flint, offered millions of dollars to people for sexual material on right-wingers, on Gingrich and those folks."

5) CNN Crossfire co-host Paul Begala again questioned Bush's legitimacy. After a clip Tuesday night of George W. Bush with the Super Bowl champion team, Begala scolded: "The Patriots scored more points. They won. You got fewer votes and you got in because of a rigged deal at the Supreme Court." Begala also asserted: "When the right-wing FBI spy, Robert Hanssen came up, the Clinton administration prosecuted him successfully by guaranteeing his rights." Not possible.

6) Former Crossfire co-host Bill Press insisted on FNC that the whole idea of a liberal media bias is "just a big myth" conservatives use to raise money and intimidate news producers.


1

Suddenly the media consider the Vatican to be a fount of wise counsel. The U.S. news media usually dismiss the Pope as out of step with the modern world, but not on Wednesday night when both ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan Rather cited as authoritative a Vatican statement critical of Israel.

On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings intoned: "The Vatican criticized terrorism again today, but when it called in the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors it was to complain about 'unjust conditions and humiliations' imposed on the Palestinians."

Over on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather asserted: "While the fighting raged the Vatican today charged Israel with quote, 'humiliating the Palestinians in Bethlehem,' and urged all sides to stop the violence."

2

A contrarian question to Colin Powell. In the midst of an interview dominated by the media's usual focus on how the U.S. must get more involved in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, how the U.S. is out of step with the world in its backing of Israel and what can be done to get Israeli troops out of Ramallah, on Wednesday's 60 Minutes II Scott Pelley pressed Secretary of State Colin Powell: "Why doesn't the United States move against Arafat and the terrorists in the Palestinian territories in the way that we moved against Mullah Omar and the Taliban?"

On the April 3 edition of 60 Minutes II, Pelley inquired: "The President said, famously, after September 11th, you are either with us or you're with the terrorists. Arafat doesn't seem to be siding with us. Why doesn't the United States move against Arafat and the terrorists in the Palestinian territories in the way that we moved against Mullah Omar and the Taliban?"

Powell evaded the question and only answered that the U.S. has identified Palestinian groups as terrorist.

Maybe Pelley's suggestion would be more viable if the networks stopped focusing more attention on suffering Palestinians than on Israelis who have been victims of never-ending Palestinian terrorism.

3

MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield is eager to give terrorist murder mastermind Osama bin Laden a forum from which to pontificate. "Personally, absolutely I would like to interview Osama bin Laden," she declared on her show late last week, since "I'd be fascinated by anything Osama bin Laden would have to say."Ashleigh Banfield

Media observers sometimes ruminate about if modern media technology had existed 60 years ago whether the networks would have given a forum to Hitler and other Nazi leaders to push their propaganda or, just after Pearl Harbor, would have featured Japanese leaders explaining how U.S. imperialism left them with no other option.

In Banfield's case we now have an answer as she boasted of having no journalistic discernment: "There's no one I would not want to interview."

MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth just came across her comments uttered on the March 28 edition of her 9pm EST show, Region in Conflict, which that night she hosted from Beirut. At the end of the show she read an e-mailed question: "If given the chance to interview Osama bin Laden, would you?" Her answer:
"Personally, absolutely I would like to interview Osama bin Laden. There's no one I would not want to interview. I always am interested in hearing points of view, conveying those points of view. I always find it sad that people think by being the messenger you're somehow branded as actually believing in the message yourself. It's not the case. I'd be fascinated by anything Osama bin Laden would have to say."

I guess figuring out how to make sure he faces American justice isn't of any interest to her. File this one under journalist first, American second.

[Web Update: Banfield is a Canadian citizen. As reported in the February 20 CyberAlert, on the Late Show she told David Letterman that when in Pakistan or Iran she's "very quick to point out" that she's not a U.S. citizen but is Canadian. With that known, "I tend to get a warmer reception."]

[2nd Web Update: The night before Banfield expressed her interest in interviewing Osama bin Laden she scolded an Arab journalist who told her he'd interview him: "There are millions of people in America who believe that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent people on September 11th, but you would not see this as a platform for a maniac?" See the April 9 CyberAlert.]

4

The host of a comedy show posed tougher questions to conservative-basher David Brock on Tuesday night than did Today co-host Matt Lauer or CNN's Aaron Brown back in mid-March.

On the April 2 Daily Show on the Comedy Central cable channel, a mock newscast, host Jon Stewart asked Brock: "Is the left-wing innocent in all this?" He wondered: "Don't they have their own team of guys trying to dig up dirt on the right? Isn't this a relatively balanced operation?" When Brock disagreed, Stewart pointed out: "Hustler, Larry Flint, offered millions of dollars to people for sexual material on right-wingers, on Gingrich and those folks. There is some balance to it."

Lauer set up a March 14 Today segment by treating Brock's claims as fully credible. Lauer even added a colorful dose of invective toward conservatives:
"His specialty was character assassination and throughout the 1990s he made a living as a right-wing hatchet man. But after years of lies and, some would say, malicious journalism, this Washington insider wants to clear his conscience. In his new book, Blinded by the Right, best-selling author and ex-conservative David Brock, exposes how he says the GOP tried to destroy the Clinton presidency through a series of well-plotted smear campaigns."

Lauer did not once question any of Brock's claims as he prompted him to elucidate on how wealthy conservatives who directed the anti-Clinton conspiracy allowed him to smear people.

That night, CNN NewsNight anchor Aaron Brown assumed David Brock's charges were beyond dispute. Brown set up the segment: "He helped trash Anita Hill, went looking for the illegitimate children of Bill Clinton, took money from conservative patrons, and made things up if it made Mr. Clinton look bad. And then he says he saw the light, the errors of his ways." Brown failed to challenge anything Brock charged as he outlined his claims about a conservative conspiracy against Clinton fueled by anger at Clinton's anti-segregation policies.

For more on the Lauer interview, as well as an overview of Brock's transformation from an American Spectator writer to a right-wing basher, plus what he now claims, refer back to the March 14 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2002/cyb20020314.asp#1

For more on the Brown interview, as well as how FNC's David Asman actually challenged David Brock's on his broad accusations and took on some of the specific allegations made in his book trashing conservatives, check the March 19 CyberAlert:
http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2002/cyb20020319.asp#1

Back to Tuesday's Daily Show on Comedy Central, like Lauer and Brown, Stewart bought into Brock's claims, but he at least suggested conservatives aren't the only ones who do the awful things alleged by Brock.

Stewart's first question, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "When Hillary Clinton went on the Today Show and went, 'there's a right wing conspiracy,' everyone said [makes dismissive noise], but there was."

Stewart jokingly asked: "But is it 'vast' or is it, is it relatively narrow? Actually, it's you and who else?"

Stewart pursued Brock's claims that his Paula Jones reporting and defense of Clarence Thomas were inaccurate stories funded by one rich conservative: "Let me ask you this though, how did it get such legs, what's frightening to me, is that, I'm assuming you're saying these allegations are not true, how does it get such legs? How does this small, like you say, paranoid sort of guy, conspiratorial, very rich, get such play in the mainstream world?"

Stewart soon got to a line of questioning never broached by CNN or NBC: "But let me ask you this, is the left-wing innocent in all this? Isn't, don't they have their own team of guys trying to dig up dirt on the right? Isn't this a relatively balanced operation?"
Brock: "Actually, no. I don't think this is politics as usual. I think this is something really different. I don't know of any liberal magazines with Texas projects trying to link George Bush to-"
Stewart jumped in: "Well, they had Hustler, I believe. No, I mean that seriously. Hustler, Larry Flint, offered millions of dollars to people for sexual material on right-wingers, on Gingrich and those folks. There is some balance to it."
Brock insisted: "There is no liberal movement that is funded the way this is, that is basically a, essentially a cult, that has lots of institutions all focused on a single message. Everyday you hear it on right-wing talk radio, they have their own TV network, they have their own subsidized magazines."
Stewart: "What's their TV network?"
Brock: "Fox."
Stewart, laughing: "That was one of those where I kind of knew the answer but I was just hanging around."

Liberals, of course, have six networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and, especially, PBS. Plus NPR.

Reverting to network news style, Stewart next pressed: "How dangerous do you find this and has it been exposed and has it been dismantled?"
Brock: "It certainly hasn't been dismantled. I'm trying to expose it, I don't think people really understood it, I think that they laughed off Hillary Clinton when she said that."
Stewart: "Is it ideological, what is their message?"
Brock: "It was abuse of the political system."
Stewart: "In what sense, what's the abuse of the political system?"
Brock: "Because the Paula Jones case was a fake case, they were just trying to set a perjury trap for Bill Clinton. And that -"
Stewart: "Beforehand, they said, 'we want to set a perjury trap.' How did they choose this, how did the troopers-"
Brock: "Well, because what they were doing was trolling for any piece of sexual information they could get. And it ended up being something that was consensual which really was immaterial to the case."
Stewart realized how Brock had dissembled in earlier implying Jones never had an encounter with Clinton: "Oh, you're saying, so there was a liaison between Paula Jones and Bill Clinton but it was consensual and not what?"

Stewart's last question: "The thing that I can't quite get my head around is why the reversal on your part. Why now, how do we believe you? After, you know, the Anita Hill stuff, after the Paula Jones stuff, where does your credibility lie now?"

CNN and NBC should be embarrassed that a comedian managed to conduct a more discerning interview than did their anchors.

5

For a second straight night, Paul Begala, the new co-host of CNN's Crossfire, questioned the legitimacy of the Bush presidency, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed. After a clip Tuesday night of George W. Bush with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Begala scolded: "The Patriots scored more points. They won. You got fewer votes and you got in because of a rigged deal at the Supreme Court."

On Monday night, Begala had whined: "When is the Congress going to stand up to these authoritarian acts from a right-wing unelected President?" For details:
http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2002/cyb20020403.asp#5

At another point on the show Begala also reverted to September 10 thinking: "Well, even George W. Bush, whose IQ hovers around room temperature even under global warming, acknowledges that there is global climate change."

Begala also criticized how the Bush administration's treatment of John Walker Lindh hurt the case against him, recalling: "When the right-wing FBI spy, Robert Hanssen came up, the Clinton administration prosecuted him successfully by guaranteeing his rights."

There's just one problem with that claim. See the end of this item for the answer.

But first, a bit more on Begala's questioning of whether Bush should be in the White House. Begala set up the April 2 video clip on Crossfire: "And now, our momentous event, the quote of the day it's from none other than the President of the United States. In a meeting today with the Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots."
George W. Bush: "I remember watching all the experts talk about the Super Bowl. No one thought they'd win. They learned what I learned, that in politics and sports, the experts are often wrong."
Begala lectured: "The experts can actually count, though, Mr. President. The Patriots scored more points. They won. You got fewer votes and you got in because of a rigged deal at the Supreme Court."
After the audience at George Washington University, where the show is produced, applauded, Tucker Carlson countered: "Oh, Paul. That is, I'd have to say, the cheapest applause line I've ever seen. But, you know, I hope he keeps saying that, spitting this ludicrous theory. You and your pals from the Flat Earth Society can keep talking about who really won the election of 2002 [sic] all the way through the election of 2004 when you get crushed like insects yet again. That is not a line that will get you anywhere at the ballot box."
Begala: "Do you know what? And New England-"
Carlson: "That's false."
Begala: "New England would have lost the Super Bowl if Thief Justice Rehnquist was a referee."
Carlson: "That is pathetic."

But maybe not the most pathetic thing Begala claimed. During a discussion about allegations by John Walker's lawyers about how he was "tortured" by the U.S. government, Begala spouted:
"I don't believe the reports, the allegations that he was tortured but we wouldn't even have to worry about it if the Bush administration had played by the rules, treated him like what he is, an American. When the right-wing FBI spy, Robert Hanssen came up, the Clinton administration prosecuted him successfully by guaranteeing his rights. Walker Lindh was not allowed to see his attorney."

Only problem with Begala's praise of Clinton's prosecution of Hanssen: The FBI agent may have spied during the Clinton years, but he wasn't prosecuted during them since he was arrested on Sunday February 18, 2001 -- a month after Clinton left office.

6

Speaking of Crossfire, Bill Press, who in retrospect looks downright reasonable compared to his replacement, Paul Begala, insisted on FNC that the whole idea of a liberal media bias is "just a big myth" conservatives use to raise money and intimidate news producers.

MRC analyst Patrick Gregory caught this exchange on the April 1 Hannity and Colmes:

Bill Press: "Where is the liberal media? You're looking at it. You and me are the liberal media. I think that the whole, the idea that the media is controlled by liberals is just Bernie Goldberg, with all due apologies, I think its just a big myth."
Alan Colmes: "So why is the reality so different from the perception?"
Press: "The reality about the media?"
Colmes: "Yeah."
Press: "You know why, because conservatives make a living almost of attacking the liberal media and keeping the myth alive for two reasons. Number one, to raise money, and honest [conservatives] like Bill Kristol will admit that, to raise money from their followers by attacking the liberal media. And the second reason is to keep producers and news directors on edge, because the more they accuse them of being liberal, the more caution they take to at least be right down the middle if not tilt to the right. It's all a great game."

I'm not sure what Kristol supposedly said, but I do know that Fred Barnes, the Executive Editor of the magazine at which Kristol holds the title of Editor, wrote a story last fall which assumed there is liberal bias. That's the December 3 Weekly Standard article in which Barnes dubbed me the "scourge of liberal bias." For an excerpt: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20011127.asp#4 -- Brent Baker


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