CyberAlert -- 11/06/2001 -- Taliban Want Another Media Tour
Taliban Want Another Media Tour; Non-Fed Assumed Incompetent; Reuters' "Holy War"; Russert Cautioned Colleagues; Westin Coverage
1) ABC's Linda Douglass assumed federal bag screeners would be more competent than better-paid private screeners. After noting a proposed compromise which would have private companies perform screening at smaller airports, Douglass warned: "Many I've talked to here on Capitol Hill say then a terrorist could slip through that smaller airport, re-board at the big airport."
2) ABC's Dan Harris admitted that the Taliban-directed tour "posed some serious journalistic challenges," but they didn't impede him as he repeated the same stories he had told the week before about civilian deaths caused by the U.S. and how Taliban officials claim the bombing is making them stronger. "The Taliban were apparently satisfied with the results of their media tour." No wonder "there's already talk of more trips this week."
3) Reuters won't allow its staff to use the terms "terrorist" or "terrorism" to describe the September 11 incidents, but the wire service has no problem referring to how Pakistanis were joining the Taliban to "wage holy war against the United States."
4) "Don't trust anything you see on TV and be weary of some of the things you read," a New York Times photographer advised from Pakistan. He asserted: "We covered a pro-Taliban demonstration last week attended by maybe 5,000 protestors. CNN stated there were 50,000."
5) NBC's Tim Russert proclaim that while "we are journalists...we are also Americans." He advised his colleagues that "we must always reject any attempt to suggest a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the terrorists."
6) Geraldo Rivera explained that "I'm not the same guy I was before the maniacs tried to tear our hearts out." He's leaving CNBC for FNC so he can "report all aspects of America's do or die fight against terror."
7) The David Westin story, which the MRC put into play last week, continues to generate coverage. On Fox News Sunday Tony Snow highlighted Westin's quote and retraction. This week's just-published editions of The Weekly Standard and New Republic also cited Westin's comment with the Weekly Standard giving full credit to the MRC, as did the New York Post, DrudgeReport.com, Rush Limbaugh, AP, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun.
INS staffers hardly put in a stellar performance when they allowed the terrorist hijackers legal access to the U.S. and then did nothing to remove them when they violated their visas, but the media seem obsessed with the idea that federal bag checkers at airports will make flying safer and that the private handling of such duties is unworkable.
On Monday night, for instance, ABC's Linda Douglass mentioned a proposed compromise which would have bag screening handled by federal agents at large airports and have private companies perform the duty at smaller airports. But she quickly assumed the private system would be incompetent, insisting: "Many I've talked to here on Capitol Hill say then a terrorist could slip through that smaller airport, re-board at the big airport."
There's no doubt that the current system of rent a cops from overseas is untenable, but that does not mean, as much of the media seem to assume, that they could not be replaced by better-trained and higher-paid private security personnel accountable to a set standard and reviewed by a federal agency.
After a World News Tonight story on how
O'Hare airport security personnel let a man get through with knives,
anchor Peter Jennings turned to Douglass: "We want to go up to
Capitol Hill at the moment because, in fact, in the Congress nothing has
been done since the September 11th to improve aviation security. Linda
Douglass, tell us why not."
Back in Pakistan from his Taliban tour, ABC's Dan Harris admitted on Good Morning America that the Taliban-directed trip "posed some serious journalistic challenges" as "the 26 journalists on the tour knew exactly why we had been invited: The Taliban wanted us to tell the world about innocent people being killed by U.S. bombs."
But even has he conceded that "getting at the truth" was "exceedingly difficult," and even now that he was safely out of their territory, Harris proceeded to fulfill the Taliban goals as he repeated the same stories he had told the week before about civilian deaths caused by the U.S. and how Taliban officials claim the bombing is making them stronger.
Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson
set up the November 5 segment caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Foreign aid workers say U.S. carpet bombing has wounded up to 300
Taliban troops in the past week. The Taliban claims the number is much
smaller. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Taliban isn't even a
real government anymore, but it still controls most of the country. ABC's
Dan Harris was invited, as you may know, into Afghanistan last week as a
guest of the Taliban. It was really a dangerous journey, to some extent,
behind enemy lines and as a guest of the enemy, a tricky assignment for a
journalist to keep balance in all of that. Dan is joining us live this
morning from Quetta, Pakistan. Dan, good morning."
You'd think Harris might be concerned about why the enemy was so satisfied with his reporting.
Reuters won't allow its staff to use the terms "terrorist" or "terrorism," outside of a quotation, to describe the September 11 incidents, but as James Taranto highlighted in his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com, the wire service has no problem describing "the war against America as a 'holy' one."
Taranto quoted from a Reuters dispatch by
Sayed Salahuddin and Anton Ferreira, which carried a double byline of
"Kabul/Washington." The second paragraph of the November 5
To read the entire Reuters story, go to: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011105/ts/attack_dc_664.html
To refresh your memory on the Reuters refusal to use the word "terrorism," refer back to the September 25 CyberAlert which reported: There were no "terrorist attacks" on September 11, just "attacks" according to Reuters since the wire service decided that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Following this decree, one Reuters story gave life to inanimate objects as a reporter asserted that "two hijacked planes attacked the twin towers." On Monday night FNC's panel decried the values-neutral approach. Go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010925.asp#1
Don't trust the media, at least not CNN. Says who? A new York Times photographer in Pakistan. Catching up with an item caught last week by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/), on a Web page for sports photographers Vincent Laforet advised: "Don't trust anything you see on TV and be weary of some of the things you read." (Probably meant "wary.) The Times photographer revealed: "We covered a pro-Taliban demonstration last week attended by maybe 5,000 protestors. CNN stated there were 50,000."
In a lengthy recounting of his travails about
photographing in Pakistan, Laforet wrote:
To read his dispatch in full, illustrated by some of his photos, go to this address and scroll down to the second story: http://www.manginphotography.com/sptshtr36.html
Since he offered no date, it's hard to correlate his statement with what CNN actually reported that day.
In the wake of ABC News President David Westin's initial refusal to offer an opinion on whether the Pentagon was a "legitimate" terrorist target, it was reassuring to hear another network news executive, NBC's Tim Russert, proclaim that while "we are journalists...we are also Americans" and so "we must always reject any attempt to suggest a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the terrorists."
Russert's comments, quoted on November 1 by USA Today "Inside TV" columnist Peter Johnson, were made back on October 26, three days after Westin spoke at Columbia University, but the night before Westin's remarks were run by C-SPAN. In addition to serving as moderator of Meet the Press, Russert is Vice President of NBC News.
Johnson relayed Russert's advice to his
journalistic colleagues: "'In times of war, the media should lower
our voices, modulate our tone. Yes, we are journalists, but we are also
Americans,' Russert said in a speech Friday to the Congressional Medal
of Honor Society. Russert said that as the war on terrorism unfolds, the
media and the government 'will have serious disagreements over what is
fair, timely or relevant -- or even what should be defined as a threat to
national security. But we should not and will not report anything which
puts our troops at risk, and we must always reject any attempt to suggest
a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the
And Russert is handling them better than ABC's Westin.
Things have changed so much that now even Geraldo Rivera seems reasonable. The Fox News Web site has posted Rivera's explanation for why he decided to leave CNBC for FNC, as he outlined on last Thursday's Rivera Live on CNBC. To read this online, go to: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,37942,00.html
The transcript as posted (ellipses as they
appear in the transcript, I'm not cutting anything out):
The David Westin story, which the MRC put into play last week, continues to generate coverage. On Fox News Sunday Tony Snow highlighted Westin's quote and retraction. This week's just-published editions of The Weekly Standard and New Republic also cited Westin's remark with the Weekly Standard giving full credit to the MRC, as did the New York Post, DrudgeReport.com, Rush Limbaugh, AP, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun last week.
Plus, over the weekend, Westin's comment was raised on both FNC's Fox Newswatch and CNN's Reliable Sources.
For a full rundown of how David Westin proclaimed he had "no opinion" on whether the Pentagon was a "legitimate" target, a statement caught by the MRC and first reported in the October 29 CyberAlert, which then led to a big controversy when highlighted in an October 31 New York Post editorial that led to a DrudgeReport.com story and a discussion by Rush Limbaugh, all of which caused Westin to concede "I was wrong," go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011031_extra.asp
That CyberAlert Extra also features a RealPlayer excerpt of Westin's original remarks.
News coverage since the first day of controversy:
-- AP's David Bauder related in a piece distributed the afternoon of October 31: "The vice president of the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog organization, was watching C-SPAN Saturday and sent an e-mail to hundreds of contacts about Westin's remarks. 'This is an example to us of somebody at a very high level of the news media following a policy of journalist first, American second,' said Brent Baker, the Media Research Center official who saw Westin."
(Those "hundreds of contacts" would be the thousands of CyberAlert subscribers.)
For Bauder's dispatch in full, go to: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011031/en/attacks_abc_1.html
-- FNC's Brit Hume on the October 31 Special Report with Brit Hume: "ABC News President David Westin, facing criticism for saying that he had no opinion on whether the Pentagon was a legitimate target for a terrorist attack, has now reversed himself. Westin made the original comments in an answer to a question at Columbia Journalism School last week. In an e-mail to the Media Research Center, which first noted his remarks, he said, 'upon reflection, I realize that my answer did not address the specifics of September 11. Under any interpretation, the attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely without justification. I apologize for any harm that my misstatement may have caused.'"
-- In a November 1 New York Daily News story on the controversy, reporter Richard Huff noted the MRC's role: "Westin told the students it was fine to have an opinion on the issue in his private life, but that as a journalist, he felt strongly it was something he should not take a stand on. That led to the conservative Media Research Center, an organization that has focused on ABC's coverage since Sept. 11, slamming him for being a journalist first and an American second."
For the complete story, go to:
-- Baltimore Sun television reporter David Folkenflik relayed in a November 2 story: "Late Wednesday, ABC News President David Westin apologized for earlier saying that he had 'no position' on whether the Pentagon was an appropriate target for hijackers. He made his remarks last month to a group of Columbia University graduate students. His comments were broadcast on C-SPAN, picked up by Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, and then given broader play by the New York Post and the Drudge Report."
For this article in its entirety, go to:
-- Tony Snow announced on Fox News Sunday: "ABC News President David Westin argued this week that he couldn't say whether terrorists were within their legitimate rights to strike the Pentagon. Quote, 'The way I conceive my job, running a news organization, and the way I would like all the journalists at ABC News to perceive it, is that our job is to determine what is, not what ought to be.' Several days later he apologized and conceded that his journalistic standards do permit him to concede that mass murder is bad."
-- The November 12 New Republic features the Westin quote in its "Idiocy Watch" feature within its up front "Notebook" section.
-- The latest Weekly Standard has devoted its back page "Not a Parody" feature entirely to Westin with not one, but two, credit lines to the MRC. Under the headline "Media Leadership in Our Time," the November 12 edition of the magazine ran Westin's initial remarks in full followed by the complete text of his retraction. To view an image of this page, go to: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/455xizuu.asp
And speaking of the MRC in the news, as many of you may have seen, on Monday night's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC he reported the MRC's new study on how ABC's World News Tonight devoted more than twice as much time to civilian casualties in Afghanistan during October than did the CBS and NBC evening shows combined.
To read the study by the MRC's Rich Noyes, as published Monday in a Media Reality Check and distributed yesterday afternoon in a CyberAlert Special, go to the HTML version which also features matching RealPlayer video clips: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/Fax20011105.asp
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/pdf/fax1105.pdf
Remember, you read it all here first. -- Brent Baker