2. Stern Caller Fools Rather Who Concedes: "I'm an Idiot"
3. Prophetic Words from CNN's Miles O'Brien at 8am CST
4. Showcasing Mandela Blast at Bush; Downplaying European Support
5. President Bush Takes Some Jabs at Stephanopoulos & Clinton
Less than six hours after the Columbia disaster Dan Rather went political and raised how the Bush tax cut may be an impediment to improving NASA and launching new missions. At about 2:30pm EST on Saturday Rather wondered where the money is "going to come from with a nation that's fighting one war, on the brink of another war, going through a series of not tax increases but tax cuts?" Rather insisted "that's not a political statement, it's just laying out the facts," but his guest disagreed and called it "a political question."
Appearing live from the WBZ-TV studios in Boston, Dr. Ed Crawley, Chairman of MIT's Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, suggested the tragedy will be seen as a challenge and "traditionally such challenges have been met in Washington by rather than a withdrawing of funding, an increase in funding to meet the perceived needs."
Dan Rather: "I'm an idiot, but that's beside the point." Another instance of extended live CBS coverage of a breaking news event, another instance of CBS and Dan Rather falling for an obvious crank call from a jerk trying to impress Howard Stern. Just as occurred on a Saturday in July 1999 when Rather was on the air to cover the crash of John Kennedy Jr.'s plane, on this Saturday CBS and Rather were once again gullible enough to be fooled by an obvious Stern caller and, once again, Rather was so clueless that he had to be informed by a colleague it was a crank call.
Before the exchange ended, however, the crank caller got Rather to concede: "I'm an idiot."
At about 10:55am EST on Saturday, Rather announced: "We have, we think, somebody on the phone now who believes that he may have some, may, underscore the word, may have some debris from the shuttle in his back yard. Let's try to bring him up now. Sir, are you on the phone with us?"
Don't producers do any kind of call-screening? These Howard Stern callers make crank calls during every major news event and they continue to get through. Makes you wonder how careful the networks are about other things they put on the air as accurate.
For Rather's gullibility during the Kennedy plane search, refer back to the July 19, 1999
In these cases it's one part of the CBS family embarrassing another since both Rather and Stern work for the same company.
Words he probably wishes he could take back, but didn't at the moment realize were so prophetic. At just past 9am EST on CNN Saturday, co-anchor Miles O'Brien referred to how Space Shuttle Columbia was "about to hit Louisiana" and urged viewers in the area to "take a look out your window. You might see something very cool."
O'Brien's comments came as he was previewing CNN's planned upcoming coverage of Columbia's landing. Over a map of the flight route, which was a bit delayed in getting on screen, O'Brien reported: "As we said, Columbia coming back. It's been 16 days now since she left the Kennedy Space Center. This is the route which you see, perhaps, on your screen. Maybe not. There it is. And that's what it's supposed to do. Right now it's about to hit Louisiana, no not hot it, go over it. And take a look out your window. You might see something very cool."
During the next several minutes, before NASA at 9:15am EST revealed it had lost communication with Columbia, O'Brien interviewed left-wing actress/comedian Janeane Garofalo about her new anti-war TV ad sponsored by the National Council of Churches. In it she proclaims: "If we invade Iraq there's a United Nations estimate that says there will be up to half a million people killed or wounded. Do we have the right to do that to a country that's done nothing to us."
O'Brien had a very long day on Saturday, beginning his shift at 7am EST and staying on the air until about midnight.
On Thursday night Dan Rather offered only a sentence about how the leaders of eight European nations had come out in support of President Bush's Iraq policy, but the CBS Evening News delivered a full story how Nelson Mandela lashed out at Bush and charged that Bush "is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust." Rather intoned: "In South Africa today, a prominent new voice joined the international chorus of protest against President Bush's preparations for war against Iraq."
Mandela's most outrageous claim: "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care."
The NBC Nightly skipped the European statement, but the next night pivoted off of it for a look at, as anchor Brian Williams put it, "the theory held by a lot of Americans, that the real reason the U.S. is so interested in toppling Saddam is control of the oil that Iraq is sitting on."
The statement from the supportive Europeans ran, in the U.S., on the op-ed page of Thursday's Wall Street Journal and while ABC's World News Tonight gave time to it and the Mandela rant, Peter Jennings tried to undermine the importance of the European statement by asserting that it was "solicited" by the Wall Street Journal.
CNN's NewsNight also covered both, though a night apart, but anchor Anderson Cooper stressed how the eight supportive European leaders are "swimming against the tide of popular opinion in much of Europe."
-- CBS Evening News. Near the top of the January 30 show, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Dan Rather offered a few words about the European statement: "The leaders of eight European nations, led by Britain and Italy, declared support for U.S. military action to disarm Iraq."
A few minutes later, however, the CBS Evening News devoted a full story to Mandela, treating him as an authoritative figure. Rather announced: "In South Africa today, a prominent new voice joined the international chorus of protest against President Bush's preparations for war against Iraq. CBS's Tom Fenton reports former South African President Nelson Mandela delivered a fiery speech denouncing the United States and aiming harsh personal criticism at President Bush."
Fenton began: "Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the world's most respected elder statesmen, let the Bush administration have it right between the eyes."
And a voice CBS made sure was heard in the U.S.
-- NBC Nightly News ignored bother the Europeans and Mandela on Thursday, but on Friday, January 31, the show dedicated a piece to the theory that going to war with Iraq is only about getting more oil, a story which featured a Mandela soundbite. Anchor Brian Williams asserted: "Now to a sensitive accusation for this administration, the theory held by a lot of Americans, that the real reason the U.S. is so interested in toppling Saddam is control of the oil that Iraq is sitting on. Our report tonight from NBC News's chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell."
Mitchell began: "It is the accusation the administration cannot seem to shake, that George Bush's real motive for going after Saddam Hussein is to control his oil."
-- ABC's World News Tonight, Thursday, January 30. Peter Jennings noted: "A more practical piece of news for the President today, solicited first by The Wall Street Journal, is a letter from eight European members to Mr. Bush supporting him on Iraq. With these two pieces of news in mind, we go first to the White House and ABC's Terry Moran. Terry?"
Moran assumed people might see a nefarious White House orchestration of the statement: "Peter, White House officials say they had nothing to do with that letter from eight European leaders backing the tough U.S. line on Iraq. But it does serve the President's diplomatic strategy, now, pressuring France and other reluctant allies. And it sounds almost as if it could have been written here. Newspapers across the European continent carried the letter in their morning editions. It was signed by leaders of eight nations and echoed President Bush's arguments on Iraq. 'Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens and to the wider world.' In the Oval Office today, Mr. Bush publicly thanked Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, a close ally, for signing the letter."
Jennings soon read a short item about Mandela's comments: "The former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, accused President Bush today of undermining the United Nations in his campaign against Iraq, and suggested Mr. Bush was doing it only because the UN Secretary General was black. Mr. Mandela also described Mr. Bush as 'a President who cannot think properly and wants to plunge the world into holocaust.'"
-- CNN's NewsNight. On Wednesday night, January 29, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed, CNN beat the other networks to the European statement:
Rodgers explained: "This folksy image of the American President on his Texas ranch has little resonance in Europe. It just does not play well. Outside the United States, critics say George W. Bush has earned himself a reputation for arrogance that is hurting his country."
Rodgers proceeded to note how "others also say the President's perceived lack of intellectualism has earned him derision."
How much did Bill Clinton know about European opera?
But Rodgers also took on the European stance: "Many analysts say America's awesome ability to project military power almost anywhere privately embarrasses Europeans exposing Europe's relative military impotence. Some believe Mr. Bush has become a lightning rod for this European resentment."
Rodgers also highlighted how "there is a final aspect of this American President's character that seems to grate some: A perceived messianic vision that his critics find fault with."
Rodgers, however, concluded by pointing out how Europeans also had little respect for Ronald Reagan but history proved him right: "Except for the religiosity, however, Europeans used to say the precise same things about Ronald Reagan 20 years ago, and with at least as much venom. The difference, however, is that history appears to have vindicated Mr. Reagan, whereas the history of George W. Bush has yet to be written. Walter Rodgers, CNN, London."
The next evening, January 30, Cooper handled an item about Mandela: "South Africa's former President had some very harsh words today for President Bush and his policy on Iraq. Nelson Mandela has been a critic for quite some time, but today he seemed to take it to the next level. He said Mr. Bush wants war to control Iraq's oil. He also accused the President of snubbing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan because Mr. Annan is black. And that was just a warmup."
-- An excerpt from the January 30 Wall Street Journal's publication of the statement by Jose Mar'a Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain; Jose-Manuel Dur'o Barroso, Prime Minister of Portugal; Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy; Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Britain; Peter Medgyessy, Prime Minister of Hungary; Leszek Miller, Prime Minister of Poland; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark and Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic:
The real bond between the U.S. and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law. These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the United States of America. Today they are under greater threat than ever....
We in Europe have a relationship with the U.S. which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and communism....
The Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear threat to world security. This danger has been explicitly recognized by the U.N. All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously. We Europeans have since reiterated our backing for Resolution 1441, our wish to pursue the U.N. route, and our support for the Security Council at the Prague NATO Summit and the Copenhagen European Council.
In doing so, we sent a clear, firm and unequivocal message that we would rid the world of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We must remain united in insisting that his regime be disarmed. The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.
The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of incalculable consequences. It is one at which all of us should feel concerned. Resolution 1441 is Saddam Hussein's last chance to disarm using peaceful means. The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him. Sadly this week the U.N. weapons inspectors have confirmed that his long-established pattern of deception, denial and noncompliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions is continuing.
Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, they are the first victims of Iraq's current brutal regime. Our goal is to safeguard world peace and security by ensuring that this regime gives up its weapons of mass destruction. Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens and to the wider world.
The U.N. Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result. We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.
END of Excerpt
For the letter/statement in full: http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110002994
When George Stephanopoulos arrived at the White House last Tuesday for a pre-State of the Union lunch hosted by President Bush for the network anchors and hosts of the Sunday interview shows, Bush took advantage of the opportunity to take some light-hearted jabs at Stephanopoulos and his pre-ABC News employer, President Bill Clinton.
In his Thursday, January 30 "The Reliable Source" column, Lloyd Grove recounted how on Wednesday Tom Brokaw had "regaled the overflow crowd for restaurateur Carol Joynt's community lunch with the story of the previous day's White House lunch at which President Bush apparently couldn't stop teasing ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos."
Grove reported that Bush quipped to Stephanopoulos: "Welcome back to the White House, George. We'll have to make sure that we count the silverware."
Brokaw, Grove relayed, "recounted an even sharper jape. Discussing his upcoming State of the Union address, Bush told the assembled media heavies: 'I'm prepared. I'm not the kind of guy who's going to sit in the back of the limo on the way to the Capitol and rewrite my speech. Know what I mean, George?'"
The Post item is online at:
-- Brent Baker