CyberAlert -- 05/28/2002 -- Rick "RATS Ad" Berke Promoted by New York Times
Rick "RATS Ad" Berke Promoted by New York Times; More on Rather's Insinuation that Ashcroft Selfishly Protected Himself; Miller & Walters Praised Regulation
1) Rick Berke, the New York Times reporter whose gullibility the Gore campaign exploited in 2000 to write a story about the supposedly subliminal word "RATS" in an anti-Gore TV ad, has been promoted to Washington editor. Berke conceded on PBS to how a Gore campaign operative had pointed out to him the "RATS" lettering.
2) More Dan Rather from Friday: "When the Attorney General heard a threat, it was decided that, immediately and expensively, he would be taken care of on a security front...What some people are asking...and some of the people include the relatives of victims of September 11th. What they're asking is that, okay, then when there came threats about the American flying public, there were threats bubbling up all over the place, the public was not told about that and, therefore, could not make their own decisions about their security."
3) ABC's John Miller contended that the Enron case shows the need "for tough government regulations of these corporations." Barbara Walters noted: "And the government helped to catch them." To which John Stossel retorted: "The private sector dropped the stock. That's what really caught them. When government loses money, they don't go to jail. They don't get hauled up and punished for it, they just get more money."
Rick Berke, the New York Times reporter whose gullibility the Gore campaign exploited in September of 2000 to write a story about the supposedly subliminal word "RATS" in an anti-Gore TV ad, has been promoted to Washington editor, the number two slot in the Washington bureau. He replaces John Broder who is taking over the Los Angeles bureau.
Just after his story ran Berke conceded on PBS to how a Gore campaign operative had pointed out to him the "RATS" lettering in the ad in which that letter sequence was visible on screen as the word "bureaucrats" went by.
Last year he described former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, at best a moderate, as "a pretty respected conservative" who told him "I'm worried that the party is becoming too narrow."
Back in 1992 he assured CNN's Larry King that the media are not biased in any way. On the October 16, 1992 Larry King Live he maintained: "I don't think there is [a bias] at all. I think anyone who accuses the press of bias is acting in desperation, I think. I think the press has been much more aggressive and fair, in being, in going after both sides, and looking, than ever before."
For the May 24 announcement in the New York Times about Berke's promotion: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/24/politics/24APPO.html
Berke's September 12, 2000 front page piece, headlined "Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad," set off a firestorm of network hyperventilation.
As recounted in the September 13, 2000 CyberAlert, the "RATS" complaint by Gore elevated to news status by the New York Times topped ABC, CNN and MSNBC that night and earned full pieces on CBS and NBC. ABC seriously claimed that Gore was "taken aback" by it. CNN declared it "an effort to deceive the voters." For details: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000913.asp#1
At the same time, FNC's Brit Hume pointed out that FNC had humorously freeze-framed the appearance of the word "rats" in the ad more than two weeks earlier, but the New York Times only decided to make it front page news when the Gore campaign called them. For details: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000913.asp#2
FNC's Tony Snow suggested: "Berke had no idea he had been fooled into touting a stale story about an ad scheduled to go off the air the day his piece appeared. Gore operatives thus transformed the Times into a purveyor of all the news that's fit to reprint." Details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000918.asp#2
Berke's September 12, 2000 piece is still online, with a picture of the frame in question: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/12/politics/12ELEC.html
A few days after it ran, as noted in the September 18, 2000 CyberAlert, Berke revealed how the Gore campaign had led him around by the nose. On PBS's Washington Week in Review of September 15 he conceded he was more than spoon-fed the story by the Gore team as he was so slow on the up take "it took me several viewings" of the ad played in slow motion by a Gore operative "to notice the RAT" frame of it. But, a female editor supposedly noticed it at regular speed.
Moderator Gwen Ifill asked Berke: "I have to ask you about your role in this Rick because you, you personally have come under attack from other news organizations, and certainly by the Republicans, as having been a tool of the Gore campaign in this."
In defending himself Berke indicted himself as to how much he relied on a Gore operative: "Well, let me tell you how it came about. The Gore people called me last week and they said we want you to view this tape of a commercial. We don't want to tell you anything more about it. Judge for yourself. So they showed it to me, I'm looking at it, I don't notice anything unusual about it. Then they slow it down and I still don't notice it [points finger at head]. It takes me a while sometimes, you know, go figure. It took me several viewings to notice the 'RAT.'
More about some other examples of liberal bias from Berke:
-- Helms the "extremist." In an August 2, 1997 New York Times story, Berke asserted: "When Republicans gained control of the Senate after the 1994 elections, sweeping him into the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Helms appeared determined to live up to his reputation, developed by years in the minority, as an extremist, an obstructionist, an isolationist."
-- Though John Danforth averaged only a 61 percent conservative rating and a 29 percent rating from a liberal group, Berke maintained in 2001: "Former Senator Jack Danforth, who's a pretty respected conservative, told me 'I'm worried that the party is becoming too narrow.'" Details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010611.asp#7
-- In January of this year the New York Times featured this headline over a top of the front page story by Berke on a poll which found 82 percent approval for the President: "Poll Finds Enron's Taint Clings More to G.O.P. Than Democrats."
In fact, as James Taranto noted in his "Best of the Web" column on OpinionJournal.com: "Only a 45% plurality think Enron executives 'had closer ties' with Republicans than with Democrats (10% said Democrats, 10% said 'both equal' and 34% had no opinion)." As Mickey Kaus pointed out in a Slate.com piece cited by Taranto: "It would also be significant if the poll showed that this closeness substantially tainted Republicans -- as in the headline the Times' crusading editors gave to the piece...But there's not much evidence to support the 'taint' headline either -- since...the Republican 'favorables' actually climbed more than the Democrats' numbers." Specifically, Kaus uncovered a finding not cited in the New York Times story by Berke and Janet Elder: A "large gain (46% to 58%) in the 'favorable' rating of the GOP, beating a smaller (53% to 58%) gain for the Democrats." Details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020130.asp#7
-- Earlier this year Berke raised the Vietnam analogy about Afghanistan. On PBS's Washington Week he asserted: "Not long ago, we were practically declaring victory. How did we suddenly end up with troops on the ground, and are we stuck there? Is this, dare I mention, Vietnam?" Details: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020311.asp#2
-- This past spring Berke eagerly highlighted how "Gray Davis is just salivating at the opportunity to paint" the "very conservative" California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon "as anti-abortion, anti-environment, anti-gun control, anti-everything, which just doesn't sit well with the California electorate." Details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020311.asp#3
As reported in Friday's CyberAlert, Dan Rather not only refused to apologize to Attorney General John Ashcroft for insinuating on Wednesday's Imus in the Morning that Ashcroft used private aircraft last year because he knew terrorists might hijack a commercial flight, he lashed out at Ashcroft for daring to question Rather's claim: "It probably would be better for him to spend a little less time trying to, you know, sully up my reputation in some way, cover his own backside, and a little more time in let's get this thing straight."
Rather smarmily blasted Ashcroft: "At the same time he's cutting back the anti-terrorism budget, he's arranging for a private plane to fly himself around. That doesn't look particularly good."
Wednesday on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning Rather passed along the vile claim that the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft was "inexplicably" using private aircraft last year proves he feared a terrorist hijacking. An hour later, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski informed Imus that Ashcroft's private plane use had nothing to do with terrorism and was prompted by personal threats on his life.
Rather had demanded: "There are important questions that need to be asked, but again, until recently, I would say, until the last week, nobody was asking 'em," Rather intoned. Rather asserted that "just before September 11th" Ashcroft "started inexplicably taking private aircraft to places where normally the Attorney General wouldn't take private aircraft, you know, government planes. Well, that would indicate that somebody somewhere was getting pretty worried, but if you're going to share that with the Attorney General, you know, why wasn't it shared with the public at large?"
After having clearly insinuated that Ashcroft had inside information about potential hijackings and acted to protect himself while showing no regard for others, on Friday morning Rather tried to re-write what he said as he made the very same suggestion all over again: "I never said that the Attorney General was warned specifically about 9/11 threats and, therefore, covered his own security. I did point out the following, that in the summer before September 11th, the Attorney General, for whatever reason, and I assume rightfully, decided that it wasn't safe for him to ride the airlines and, therefore, he laid on -- in an unprecedented thing to do, but let's assume that it was necessary -- private aircraft that fly him around wherever he went."
Rather repeated his charge: "Now, in other words, when the Attorney General heard a threat, it was decided that, immediately and expensively, he would be taken care of on a security front. Now, I'm okay with that. Now, what some people are asking, and this is what I reported on your program, and some of the people include the relatives of victims of September 11th. What they're asking is that, okay, then when there came threats about the American flying public, there were threats bubbling up all over the place, the public was not told about that and, therefore, could not make their own decisions about their security."
For a full rundown of what Rather said on May 22, check the May 23 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020523.asp#3
For What Imus said about Rather on May 23 and a preliminary rundown of Rather's second appearance of the week on May 24: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020524.asp#2
Friday's CyberAlert only relayed some of Rather's wackiness from Friday morning. Picking up from where my transcription left off, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down huge chunks of what Rather spewed by phone during the 8am half hour of the May 24 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC. This transcript includes material already quoted in the May 24 CyberAlert, but I've left it in so it's easier to follow along, to the extent it's possible to follow Rather's logic:
Imus: "Anyway, so what's the deal now with Ashcroft? What happened here?"
Imus: "Well, here's what I was told, and have been told, is that the, well, one Jim Miklaszewski at NBC News and then others, was that the reason that the Attorney General started taking private aircraft had nothing to do with him being, thinking that commercial airliners weren't safe for either him or the public, but because of apparently persistent death threats and other threats to him personally, and that it was recommended by his security people and others that he not travel on commercial airliners, that it had, that there was no, that he had no information that he could have passed along to either you, me, the pilots, the public or anybody else about commercial airliners being any more unsafe than they generally are, so I think that's where the issue is. It isn't, I don't think anybody is suggesting that, that you implied that he had some prior knowledge of September 11th."
Rather soon continued: "I'm somewhat surprised that if the Attorney General's people, you know, the Attorney General's people have been, you know, he's had some of his publicity agents call around newspapers trying to plant some negative stories and, you know, that goes with the territory I guess, but I really--"
Imus: "It sounds to me like the ball's in his court now, doesn't it?"
Which is why he doesn't need an irresponsible network news star hurling unsubstantiated allegations about him and then refusing to admit he went too far.
Some left-wing, anti-free enterprise rhetoric from John Miller and Barbara Walters at the end of Friday's 20/20, but it was countered by John Stossel.
After Stossel's "Give Me a Break!" segment about how six states, including Texas, allow those in bankruptcy to keep their homes, even the high-priced mansions owned by former Enron executives, this exchange occurred on the May 24 20/20:
Miller: "Well, when you look at these things -- like the Enron case, which is mentioned in your story -- you're always saying there should be totally free enterprise, limited regulation, doesn't a story like that cry out for tough government regulations of these corporations?"
Stossel may have won this battle, but those who see a need for less government regulation are losing the war on network news.
For a transcript of Stossel's piece, check his Web page: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/2020/ABCNEWSspecials/JohnStossel.html -- Brent Baker