ABC's This Week Finds New Way to Pose Liberal Question; "Afford" a War & "Bush Tax Cut?"; Reporters Whine About Tough Job Since 9/11; "Sock" Jeb Bush; Jennings Denies Bias; Shriver Hits Campaign Trail; Walters Tired of Ragging on Clinton
1) The new gimmick on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Having someone outside of Washington, DC pose a liberal question. On Sunday's inaugural broadcast that opportunity went to a Lexington, Kentucky newspaper editor who told Condoleezza Rice that "four ordinary" readers came to her office and asked: "How we can stop the President from forcing us into Iraq?" The editor wanted to know: "What should I tell them?" How about it's improper for a journalist to offer political strategy?
3) PBS's Washington Week made time on Friday night for reporters to whine about how tough their jobs have become since 9/11. Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly recalled the oppression of Ari Fleischer saying "if you're not with us, then you're with them." She and Rick Berke of the New York Times complained about being misperceived as "unpatriotic." The Post's Juliet Eilperin found the lack of dissent confounding: "I think it's difficult when there's less dissent in the country...."
4) "Democrats are right to sock him with it," NPR's Nina Totenberg proclaimed of Florida Governor Jeb Bush as she agreed with Democrats that he, and not the local Democratic officials who control the two counties with voting problems, are to blame for the mess.
5) Confronted by CNN's Larry King with the charge that he's biased and "pro-Arab" in his reporting, ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that's "silly" and proceeded to contend that he just believes that "Arabs are people." He added: "I'm anti-prejudice, I'm anti-bias."
6) Dan Rather got in some trouble for attending a political fundraiser for his daughter, but NBC News approved of Maria Shriver campaigning for her brother, a liberal Democratic congressional candidate. Shriver's appearances on NBC News prove she does not confine her political advocacy to the campaign trail.
7) Barbara Walters scolded a colleague on The View for daring to ask the audience on Friday whether they would let their daughters be an intern in Bill Clinton's office. "So unfair, that's so unfair," Walters chided, urging Joy Behar: "Let it go already."
The only thing really different about the new This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC: The gimmick of setting up satellite time so a newspaper editor outside of Washington, DC can pose a liberal question to a guest. Stephanopoulos boasted, as he introduced the single question, that this illustrated how his show would provide "fresh perspectives from beyond Washington."
On Sunday's inaugural broadcast that opportunity to pose a question went to Amanda Bennett, Editor of a newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky who told National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that "four ordinary middle-aged readers showed up unexpectedly in my office, sat down and their question to me was: 'How we can stop the President from forcing us into Iraq?'" Bennett wanted to know: "What should I tell them?'"
As a supposedly impartial editor of a newspaper chronicling the news in a fair and balanced manner, Bennett should have told the four to get out of her office, explaining that their question was an insult to her journalistic integrity since it is not the role of a journalist to advise people on how best to advance a particular political interest.
But maybe the four locals know something about the newspaper and Bennett that I don't and so saw it as a logical place to seek guidance on political strategy.
Nearing the end of the September 15 interview with Rice, Stephanopoulos set up the beyond the Beltway moment:
If four people can just walk into Bennett's office and force her into political activism, maybe the Lexington Herald-Leader should look into getting better security.
Tim Russert getting ahead of the Democratic spin or maybe suggesting a spin they should advance? On Sunday's Meet the Press, noting how war is shaping up in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russert pushed Senator Hillary Clinton to stand by her statement of a year earlier that the Bush tax cut should be rescinded.
Russert prompted Clinton on the September 15 program: "Can we afford a war in Afghanistan or in Iraq and the Bush tax cut? Back in 2001 on this program you said we should repeal the Bush tax cut. Do you believe that is now necessary in order to have the money to fight wars?"
You can probably count on this soon becoming a liberal talking point, but remember that you first heard it from the Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief of NBC News.
Naturally, Russert moved on to another subject and never suggested to Clinton that any spending cuts, or postponement of gargantuan spending boondoggles like prescription drug coverage, might be necessary to pay for a war in Iraq.
Russert's obsession with the tax cut is nothing new:
-- In a span of just over five minutes, eight times on the Labor Day weekend edition of Meet the Press Russert urged that the Bush tax cuts, most of which haven't even happened yet, be rescinded: "Would it be better to freeze, postpone, the Bush tax cut?....Why not freeze the tax cut rather than spend the Social Security surplus?....How did they squander it? With the tax cut?....As part of a budget summit, would you be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?....You did come to office with a $5.6 trillion surplus, and it's gone, and a third of that can be directly attributed to the tax cut." For details:
-- The MRC's Rich Noyes documented Russert's tilt in a Media Reality Check back on July 30. "A Bias Blind Spot for Meet the Press Host; One-Sided Questioning: Russert Pushed Both Friends and Foes of Bush Tax Cut to Suspend Its Benefits." To read it:
-- For more on the January 6 Meet the Press cited in the Media Reality Check, see the January 7 CyberAlert which recounted how Russert unrelentingly tried (14 times) to get Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to concede the tax cut must be rescinded. Russert recalled how after Reagan's tax cut led to deficits he "revisited the entire situation because he saw that record deficits were going to be created, and he had what was called a mid-course correction." Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020107.asp#1
-- For more about Russert's June 9 show, see the June 11 CyberAlert. It recounted how he blamed the tax cut for the growing deficit, while breezing over soaring spending unrelated to the war on terrorism, as he pressed both Democratic Senator Kent Conrad and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels to rescind part or all of it. Go to:
PBS's Washington Week made time on Friday night for some in the Washington press corps to whine about how tough their jobs have become since the terrorist attacks.
"It was a bit awkward for the media because we certainly did not want to seem unpatriotic," Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly assured viewers before ominously recalling how "there were times when people like the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer or Attorney General John Ashcroft absolutely said if you're not with us, then you're with them." How repressive. She's still haunted by one comment by Fleischer from nearly a year ago?
Rick Berke, Washington Editor of the New York Times, similarly insisted that though "we're sometimes accused of being unpatriotic, of leaking information," the "reality is we're trying to do our jobs."
Connolly's colleague at the Post, Juliet Eilperin, found the lack of dissent confounding: "I think it's difficult when there's less dissent in the country....at a period when politicians are unwilling to criticize the President or certain people, what's your role as a reporter? Do you seek out a tiny minority and court them and encourage them to speak out? Or do you simply reflect the fact that there's someone who will tell you off the record, 'I'm too scared to say anything because I know it might cost me my re-election'?"
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth took down the exchange which occurred at the end of the second half hour of the special hour-long September 13 edition of Washington Week, a half hour not carried by all PBS affiliates but shown by the one from which it originated, WETA-TV in Arlington, Virginia.
Moderator Gwen Ifill prompted the discussion: "How have our jobs changed in this past year? Has it become more complicated? Has is become more clear the way it has for the President, for instance?"
Those actually battling the terrorism have a job that's a bit harder than sitting around writing or talking about it.
Put NPR reporter Nina Totenberg on the side of Democrats who blame Governor Jeb Bush for the latest Florida election fiasco and not the local Democratic political officials in the two overwhelming Democratic counties -- Broward and Miami-Dade -- that as in 2000, are unable to count the ballots of their voters.
On Inside Washington over the weekend, she asserted:
Confronted by CNN's Larry King with the charge that he's biased and "pro-Arab" in his reporting, ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that's "silly" and proceeded to contend that he just believes that "Arabs are people." He added: "I'm anti-prejudice, I'm anti-bias in a very strong way."
King wondered: "How do you react, by the way before we take the next call, to some of the controversy that surrounds you. And I know Brent Bozell, a columnist, has criticized you as being, kind of, pro-Arab. And I've heard this for years."
Indeed, and often for good reason by the MRC.
For examples of Jennings' pro-Arab and anti-Israel bias, see a page about "Peter Jennings and the Palestinians" collated earlier this year by the MRC's Tim Jones, who wrote: "Peter Jennings has demonstrated a pro-Palestinian bias in Middle East coverage for years. How many years? The award-winning HBO documentary One Day in September focused on the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. The documentary included on-scene reports from Jennings, then an ABC correspondent. According to Tom Shales, The Washington Post's television critic, Jennings never used the word 'terrorist' in any of the clips, referring to the Palestinian gunmen as 'guerillas,' and on one occasion, 'commandos.'"
The Jennings page features links to CyberAlerts documenting Jennings' slant. Amongst the summaries of the linked articles:
-- April 22, 2002: ABC covered pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C. but Jennings ignored a pro-Israeli rally held six days earlier.
-- April 16, 2002: Jennings' pro-Palestinian stance illustrated by a one-day comparison of ABC, CBS and NBC coverage from Israel and the West Bank.
-- April 12, 2002: Jennings neglected to mention that a Saudi Arabian telethon was providing money for the families of homicide bombers, something widely reported by other media.
-- April 5, 2002: Examining some of the Palestinian connections from Jennings' years in the Middle East.
-- April 3, 2002: All of the previous day's dozen casualties were Palestinians, Jennings noted. Did not mention that one death was a homicide bomber -- the seventh in as many days -- who accidentally detonated his bomb and killed himself before he could murder Israeli civilians.
-- March 29, 2002: Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, Jennings interviewed the leader of Hezbollah, who denied that Hezbollah was a terrorist organization. Jennings noted that Hezbollah was an important political player in Lebanon and mentioned both the U.S. Marine barracks bombing and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Beirut in 1983 but did not point out that Hezbollah was responsible for the attacks.
-- December 5, 2001: Hamas is a terrorist group to every anchor but Jennings.
-- December 5, 2001: Jennings described retaliation to terror bombings as Israel being "on the attack again.
For direct links to all of these articles:
NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver helped raise money for a liberal Democratic congressional candidate and greeted voters last Tuesday at voting locations in order to urge them to vote for him. The candidate: Her brother, Mark Shriver, an ultimately unsuccessful candidate in Maryland's 8th congressional district.
He lost the very close September 10 Democratic primary in the district covering western Montgomery County and a smidgen of Prince George's County. The winner, Chris Van Hollen, now faces the incumbent, liberal Republican Connie Morella.
A September 12 Roll Call story, which I saw cited by Greg Pierce in his "Inside Politics" column for the Washington Times
An excerpt from Roll Call's "Heard on the Hill" column by Ed Henry:
Among the celebrities pressing the flesh on behalf of Mark Shriver (D) in the final days of his House campaign was none other than his sister, Maria Shriver, the NBC News correspondent.
While blood is thicker than water, Hill staffers were still a bit surprised to run into the journalist at a Metro station in the D.C. suburbs, getting involved in one of the most hotly contested Congressional races in the nation.
The Dateline NBC star was urging people to get out and vote for the candidate, who narrowly lost his battle with Chris Van Hollen (D) for the right to face Rep. Connie Morella '-Md.). Shriver, the niece of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), has also helped raise money for her brother.
After all, CBS News anchor Dan Rather caught a heap of criticism last year after speaking at a Democratic fundraiser that was hosted by his daughter, who was considering a run for local office in Texas.
Dateline spokeswoman Caryn Mautner told HOH that NBC News does indeed have rules against their journalists working on political campaigns, but Shriver got a waiver.
"This is a very special case, and we made an exception for a family member," said Mautner.
Mautner said the deal was based on the condition that Shriver could not cover the race for NBC in any way....
END of Excerpt
For the "Heard on the Hill" column in Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill which is published on Mondays and Thursdays:
Shriver hardly limits her political advocacy to the campaign trail:
-- Back during the 1992 Republican convention, for instance, she prompted AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser: "You place the responsibility for the death of your daughter squarely at the feet of the Reagan administration. Do you believe that they're responsible for that?"
-- Fast forward to 2000. Shriver to Republican platform committee chairman Tommy Thompson, during MSNBC's coverage of the GOP convention: "You said you ended up with a more conservative platform than you originally drafted. How disappointed are you?"
-- Filling-in as cohost of Today, Maria Shriver whined "we can't get anywhere" on gun control because "the NRA keeps stopping anything that would give us any progress." She blamed the NRA for preventing compromise, without which "people will continue to be killed." Details:
-- Maria Shriver cheered on the liberal crusade of Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, whom she dubbed "incredible." On Today Shriver eagerly relayed Edelman's statistics without any skepticism, urged Edelman to criticize Clinton from the left and prompted her to tell viewers how they can assist her crusade.
Plugging the March 24, 2000 appearance, Shriver gushed to co-host Matt Lauer:
-- Jumping back to a 1998 Today fill-in gig, Shriver gushed over Hillary Clinton's niceness as "a people person," and failed to pose a single question from the right as Shriver interviewed Clinton on a bus. Amongst Shriver's questions:
-- And a classic moment, from March of 2000, involving Shriver. Live on MSNBC an angry John McCain, on the way to deliver his concession speech, lashed out at her, responding to a shouted question by demanding: "Please get out of here." To view the incident via RealPlayer:
ABC's Barbara Walters scolded a colleague on The View, her daytime talk show, for daring to ask the audience on Friday whether they would let their daughters be an intern in Bill Clinton's office. "So unfair, that's so unfair," Walters chided, urging Joy Behar: "Let it go already."
(Back in May it was Behar who had complained when ABC bleeped her when she said "thank you Jesus." For details:
On the September 13 edition of the show starring Meredith Viera, Star Jones, Lisa Ling, Behar and, on some days, Walters, Viera observed: "It was reported in the Daily News that Bill Clinton has hired some helping hands himself, he's hired some interns. No problem. He scouted all these colleges. He found plenty of students eager to assume the position -- and they didn't mind doing a little work too."
After Jones repudiated Viera's joking "assume the position" line, Behar inquired: "I want to ask the audience: Clap if you would have your daughter be an in intern for Bill Clinton."
Behar, pointing to the audience which had applauded, soon noted: "You see, people, they wouldn't mind it."
I'll trust Behar's judgment on the latter. -- Brent Baker