CyberAlert -- 08/20/2002 -- Jennings Questions Bush Commitment to Beating al-Qaeda, Suggests Could be "Embarrassed" by Taliban Deaths
Jennings Questions Bush Commitment to Beating al-Qaeda, Suggests Could be "Embarrassed" by Taliban Deaths; NY Times's Embarrassing Correction on Cheney; McGovernite at CNBC; NBC: Tribute to American Taliban Over U.S. Soldiers
1) ABC's Peter Jennings on Monday night conveyed the kind of snide haughtiness toward Bush which has earned him the enmity of conservative viewers. He stressed how "President Bush has refused to approve a covert operation to go after a chemical weapons facility" run by al Qaeda, sneeringly noting: "The administration has said it will go after al Qaeda wherever and whenever. What's the story on this?" Next, after a story on "accusations that American allies are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers," Jennings proposed: "There is some potential for the administration to be embarrassed at least."
2) The New York Times on remarks made by Vice President Cheney: "He credited the administration's tax cuts with helping the country to 'climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,' although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continued its decline." A Times correction a week later: "Economists agree that the recession has ended, not continued. The Dow Jones industrial average rose the day of the speeches, by 182 points; it did not decline."
3) McGovernite business-sense at CNBC? The New York Post reported last week that "CNBC, looking to shake things up in the ratings war, has signed news consultant Jeff Gralnick to a three-month contract to help beef up the cable network's reporting staff." In 1971 Gralnick toiled for Senator George McGovern.
4) NBC's Today has yet to feature a segment with Toby Keith, singer of the #1 country hit, the pro-U.S. song Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue, but on Monday it showcased Steve Earle and his yet-to-be-released tribute, John Walker's Blues. How the New York Post described Earle's song: "The lyrics describe the United States as 'the land of the infidel'" and "the song says when Lindh dies, he will 'rise up to the sky like Jesus.'"
online: August 19 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. Most of the quote headings:
"Time's Hype About Clinton Plan...Promoted As Real News"; "Senate Inaction Could Kill Seniors"; "Shameful Thwarting of Big
Gov't"; "President George W. Hoover?"; "Pushing Bogus Cheney Charges"; "Continuing Anti-Tax Cut Crusade"; "'Warmongering' Tops the Charts" and "Liberal Bias Denied...And Admitted." To read all of the quotes:
ABC's Peter Jennings returned from vacation Monday night, just in time to convey the kind of snide haughtiness toward the Bush administration which has previously earned him the enmity of conservatives.
He opened the August 19 World News Tonight by stressing how "President Bush has refused to approve a covert operation to go after a chemical weapons facility" run by al-Qaeda in Northern Iraq. He then snidely noted: "The administration has said it will go after al Qaeda wherever and whenever. What's the story on this?"
(Imagine how more reasonable that first sentence would have sounded if Jennings had simply said Bush "had decided a covert operation is not worth the risk to U.S. operatives.")
Next, following a story on "accusations that American allies are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers," Jennings proposed: "So as this story unfolds, almost in stages, there is some potential for the administration to be embarrassed at least."
Jennings teased at the top of the broadcast: "On World News Tonight this Monday, an ABC News exclusive: Why did the President cancel a military operation in Northern Iraq where he believed al Qaeda was experimenting with poison gas. A mass grave in Afghanistan. Is it the sign of atrocity and did Americans know what their ally was doing?"
Jennings then opened the show with a brief look at the CNN video of al Qaeda killing the dog, video he noted was made before September 11th, which he contrasted with a newer piece of news on the anti-terrorism front:
McWethy explained how several weeks ago the CIA and Pentagon planned an operation to go after a "budding chemical weapons laboratory" run by a small group of al-Qaeda in Northern Iraq. They have used toxic gas and chemicals, mainly Ricin, to kill farm animals and one human. McWethy concluded: "As U.S. surveillance intensified officials concluded the operation was so small and crude that in the final analysis it was not worth risking Americans lives to go after it and definitely not worth the outcry that might follow any U.S. operation inside Iraq."
An outcry ABC surely would have fueled.
On Monday night, the ABCNews.com home page (abcnews.go.com/) also described the story in terms of Bush having "refused" to take action: "Too Risky. U.S. forces were so worried about a chemical weapons lab testing the ricin poison as a terror tool in Northern Iraq, they wanted to destroy the facility in a covert attack. President Bush refused." That linked to:
Back to World News Tonight, Jennings set up what he and ABC considered the second most newsworthy story of the day: "The Pentagon is investigating allegations of a massacre in Afghanistan. Newsweek magazine reports on accusations that America allies are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers."
John Miller outlined how Physicians for Responsibility, which he described as an "independent group," has charged that Taliban soldiers were left in shipping containers, with no air or water, so they would die. Miller cited a case of soldiers who had surrendered to Dostum (sp?), emphasizing how he was a U.S. ally, as if the U.S. had much choice in the situation. Following a clip of Dr. Jennifer Leaning of the group, Miller relayed the group's claim that Afghan President Karzai and the U.S. are "turning a blind eye" to the atrocity.
Miller, sitting at the anchor desk, told Jennings: "Today the United Nations refused to comment on a report that a confidential UN document recommended delaying a investigation into the deaths because of the quote 'political sensitivities' of the case. Of course, the sensitive question for the U.S. military Peter is going to be what did they know at the time this was happening, when did they know it and what did they do with that information?"
For a picture of Miller, who now co-hosts 20/20:
ABC's eagerness to link the U.S. to civilian deaths in Afghanistan isn't new. Last November, we titled an MRC Study, "ABC's War: U.S. Military vs. Afghan Civilians; World News Tonight Showed Afghan Civilian Deaths More Than CBS and NBC Combined." To read that Media Reality Check compiled by the MRC's Rich Noyes: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/20011105.asp
The New York Times is so hostile to the Bush administration that it inserts false facts into stories meant to discredit their assertions about the economy, though at least in one case its maneuver was so egregious that it ran a correction -- although not until a week later.
An August 8 story included this sentence about remarks made by Vice President Cheney: "He credited the administration's tax cuts with helping the country to 'climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,' although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continued its decline."
A week later, the Times acknowledged in an August 15 correction: "Economists agree that the recession has ended, not continued. The Dow Jones industrial average rose the day of the speeches, by 182 points; it did not decline."
In first highlighting the correction, Mickey Kaus noted in his "Kausfiles" page for Slate.com, the offensive clause was "one of those short snarky asides, now familiar to NYT readers, that are designed to put the Bushies in their place."
Kaus reasonably suggested, in his analysis I learned about from Greg Pierce's Washington Times "Inside Politics" column
(http://www.washtimes.com/national/inpolitics.htm), that though the story carried the bylines of reporters Evelyn Nieves and Elisabeth Bumiller, they probably did not write the inaccurate statement:
Kaus wondered: "If a NYT editor, or reporter, is so blinded by scorn of the Administration that he or she automatically believes these false things are true, what else do they automatically believe is true?"
Kausfiles is online at: http://slate.msn.com/default.aspx?id=2069339
Now, a fuller take on the original story and the correction. The August 8 story began:
Several paragraphs later, readers saw: "The vice president's speech, billed as a talk on the economy and national security, sounded at times like an address a chief executive might give to shareholders. On the economy, he said that it was now 'clear from the data' that 'the nation had slid into a full-blown recession' by the time he and President Bush took office, 'with the economy contracting throughout the first, second and third quarters of 2001.' He credited the administration's tax cuts with helping the country to 'climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,' although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continued its decline."
To read the entire story: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/08/politics/08CHEN.html
The "Corrections" section in the August 15 paper, a Thursday exactly a week later, stated:
For that and the other corrections for August 15: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/15/pageoneplus/corrections.html
CNBC goes to left to find a consultant to improve its ratings -- all the way left to a man who once toiled for George McGovern. The New York Post reported last week that "CNBC, looking to shake things up in the ratings war, has signed news consultant Jeff Gralnick to a three-month contract to help beef up the cable network's reporting staff."
New York Post reporter Dan Cox noted: "Gralnick, who was hired by interim executive producer David Friend, has helped supplement news staffs at CNNfn, ABC, CBS and NBC." Gralnick, who is now Chairman of E-splosion Consulting, "has been in broadcast news for more than 43 years," Cox observed, adding: "He spent 24 years at ABC News as an executive and ultimately executive producer. He oversaw development and launch of ABCNews.com."
But Gralnick, who ran ABC's election coverage from 1980 through 1992, served as Press Secretary in 1971 to South Dakota Senator George McGovern, a then-future Democratic presidential candidate.
A 1993 item in the MRC's MediaWatch newsletter about how Gralnick had jumped from ABC to become Executive Producer of NBC Nightly News, recounted his career. For 12 years before working for McGovern in 1971, "Gralnick was a producer and Vietnam reporter for CBS News. Following his McGovern stint, Gralnick joined ABC News, rising to Executive Producer of World News Tonight by 1979. In 1985, Gralnick became Vice President and Executive Produer for special events. He's overseen all ABC election coverage since 1980."
In 1996 Gralnick returned to ABC to start a new all news channel, an effort soon aborted, so he went on to oversee ABC's 1996 campaign coverage. When Lou Dobbs left CNN's Moneyline a few years ago, Gralnick came in to produce it for CNN.
For the sake of CNBC's viewers who are investors, let's hope Gralnick has a better understanding of their concerns than did his old boss when he hit the real world. In a March 1, 1990 Washington Post story about McGovern owning a hotel in Connecticut, his first-ever business venture, McGovern lamented:
McGovern figured that out about 18 years too late.
NBC's Today has yet to feature a segment with Toby Keith, singer of the #1 country hit, the pro-U.S. song "Courtesy of the Red White & Blue" which honors American soldiers, but on Monday it showcased Steve Earle and his yet-to-be-released tribute to the American Taliban, "John Walker's Blues." Matt Lauer interviewed him and allowed him to sing the song in its entirety.
Far from being embarrassed by the song, Today, after having ignored Keith's song, which he has been singing for months and which has been out for a month on a number 1 album, the show was proud of its "get," plastering "Today Exclusive" in the top corner of the screen.
Earle admitted he's not a big star: "I don't get played on that many mainstream radio stations any way and I haven't in a long time and I've made that choice. I get played more on public radio stations than I do anyplace else." He rationalized his pro-Lindh stance: "I felt like, that we needed a target because we couldn't get Osama Bin Laden and, and I saw a lot of that hate being directed at this kid."
Lauer was far from hostile to Earle, wondering if he was "surprised" by criticism of the song for being "anti-American" and asking softball questions like: "So why did you feel you wanted to write this song in the first place? What was it about the story of John Walker Lindh that captured your attention?" And, noting that "comparing" Lindh to Jesus "has gotten the attention of some people. What do you think about that?"
It isn't as if Today hasn't had an opportunity to showcase Keith, who had a natural news hook in his dispute with Peter Jennings over why he was cut from ABC's Independence Day special on which he planned to sing Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue. In late July he was in New York City to promote the album, "Unleashed," on which the song is featured.
On July 24 he appeared on FNC's Fox & Friends as well as on NBC's cable channel where he was featured at 6:30am EDT on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning. For more about those appearances: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020726.asp#9
The CyberAlert linked above also provides links to where you can hear an audio clip of Keith's song or an excerpt of the video for it. For all the background on the Jennings/Keith matter, the lyrics to the song which led Jennings to boot Keith from his show and a RealPlayer clip of Keith singing the song for CNN's Wolf Blitzer, refer back to the June 14 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020614.asp#3
(Neither ABC's Good Morning America, no surprise given how he has called Jennings a liar, nor CBS's Early Show have brought Keith aboard.)
Keith's album, "Unleashed," is holding at number 1 on Billboard's "Country Album" chart: http://www.billboard.com/billboard/charts/country.jsp
But on Monday, August 19, Today was more excited about a song that will not be released on CD until late-September.
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed how Today kept plugging the upcoming segment which aired in the relatively prominent 7:30am half hour. (Recall that Today didn't put Ann Coulter on until the lowest-rated half hour, 9:30am.)
Substitute co-host Campbell Brown announced at the top of the show: "And John Walker Lindh is back in the news but this time it's with a twist. The so-called American Taliban is the subject of a song called John Walker's Blues by country star Steve Earle and in it Earle imagines the world from Walker's point-of-view. And now some are calling Earle anti-American and even calling for a boycott of the album. In a Today exclusive Steve Earle will be here in our next half-hour to sing the song for the first time in public and respond to the criticism."
Later she noted: "Coming up in our next half-hour what was American Taliban John Walker Lindh thinking?"
Lauer at the top of the 7:30am half hour: "Coming up in this half-hour country singer Steve Earle has ignited a firestorm of criticism and controversy with a song called John Walker's Blues, which some charge seeks to justify even glorify the actions of American Taliban, John Walker Lindh. In a Today exclusive Earle is here to sing that song for us and respond to the criticism for the first time."
Lauer set up the actual segment: "Country music star and Grammy nominee Steve Earle has a new album coming out called Jerusalem and one song on it has kicked up a storm of controversy. John Walker's Blues, which has yet to be released, is written from American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh's point-of-view. Critics have called Earle anti-American and gone as far as to call for a ban of the album. Steve Earle good morning, nice to have you here."
Who is calling for a "ban"?
Earle: "Not really. I mean, this, this is one song on a record that's, that's, that's a pretty, admittedly a pretty political record. I mean my last record was a lot of chick songs. But the world's changed a lot since then and, and so I'm writing about things that, that are going on around me and I'm assuming characters and singing with their voices. And I've done that before. This is my 11th album and I've always done that."
Playing his guitar, Earle sang the song with these lyrics:
I'm just an American boy raised on MTV
If my daddy could see me now - chains around my feet
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
We came to fight the jihad and our hearts were pure and strong
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
Lauer picked up he interview: "Steve Earle. Let me read, if you will, some lyrics from the song, 'If my daddy could see me now -- chains around my feet, you don't understand that sometimes a man has to fight for what he believes and I believe God is great all praise due to him and if I should die I'll rise up in the sky, just like Jesus, peace be upon him.' Comparing or, or even mentioning Jesus in this song has gotten the attention of some people. What do you think about that?"
What are the chances that many Muslims really do that?
Lauer: "And when you say, 'Now they're dragging me back with my head in a sack to the land of the infidel,' what do you say to people who, who are going to hear that when it comes out in September and say, 'I don't, I don't want to hear this song I think it should be boycotted, it should be banned on radio stations?'"
Steve Earle's Web page: http://www.steveearle.com/
And Toby Keith's: http://www.tobykeith.com
Keith's lyrics probably embarrass the Today producers while they are proud to highlight something which draws attention to how Americans are intolerant haters. -- Brent Baker