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Dismissal of Charge Against DeLay Barely Touched by ABC and NBC --12/6/2005


1. Dismissal of Charge Against DeLay Barely Touched by ABC and NBC
Back on September 28, when a county grand jury in Texas indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge related to local Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle's contention DeLay had participated in putting corporate money into Texas campaigns, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with the development and aired at least two segments each. Earle subsequently got another grand jury to deliver a money laundering indictment. But on Monday night, after a Texas judge dismissed that original conspiracy indictment which generate so much media attention, ABC gave it a piddling 16 seconds and NBC a mere 20 seconds with only CBS showing some consistency by devoting significant time. ABC and NBC characterized the dismissed charge as the "less serious" one, but CBS called the remaining charge the "more difficult to prove."

2. Sawyer Has Gall to Rant Over Delay in Radio Public Safety Space
ABC's Diane Sawyer had the temerity on Monday's Good Morning America to lecture White House counselor Dan Bartlett about the length of time it's taking to get more radio spectrum allocated to public safety when it is television broadcasters, led by the National Association of Broadcasters to which ABC belongs, which have been fighting to delay the move of television transmissions to HD digital on new channels, a necessary step to free up TV channels 60-69, the upper end of the 700 MHz spectrum, for public safety. Citing a low grade from the 9/11 Commission, Sawyer complained that "four years after 9/11, police and firefighters still can't talk to each other. They don't have interconnected radios, which is something that could have been done right away." Unsatisfied by Bartlett, who could have pointed out that Congress stands in the way, Sawyer exclaimed: "But four years?" Later in the day, on ABC's World News Tonight, Martha Raddatz pointed out: "Why the holdup? The 9/11 commission says part of the problem is that broadcasters have not set aside part of the radio spectrum for emergency personnel, keeping it instead for commercial broadcasts."

3. New Co-Anchor of ABC's WNT Delivered Propaganda from North Korea
On Monday, ABC announced the new anchor pairing, starting in January, of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff. Alerting viewers to it at the end of Monday's newscast, Vargas asserted that "we are committed to every way maintaining the standard of excellence established by Peter Jennings" and Woodruff promised that "we will try to make Peter proud." One Woodruff resume listing ABC is proud enough to tout is his trip to North Korea. The ABCNews.com announcement boasted of how "in June 2005 he got unprecedented access to the secretive country of North Korea." But, as documented at the time by the MRC, Woodruff's reports during his week inside the totalitarian regime showcased North Korean officials denouncing the U.S. and happy kids doing art and playing music.


Dismissal of Charge Against DeLay Barely
Touched by ABC and NBC

Back on September 28, when a county grand jury in Texas indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge related to local Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle's contention DeLay had participated in putting corporate money into Texas campaigns, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with the development and aired at least two segments each. Earle subsequently got another grand jury to deliver a money laundering indictment. But on Monday night, after a Texas judge dismissed that original conspiracy indictment which generate so much media attention, ABC gave it a piddling 16 seconds and NBC a mere 20 seconds with only CBS showing some consistency by devoting significant time -- but not the lead story (CBS led with the Hussein trial).

ABC and NBC characterized the dismissed charge as the "less serious" one, but CBS called the remaining charge the "more difficult to prove." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas related how "a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy." NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how "a judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering." CBS's Gloria Borger, however, reported that DeLay's "office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove."

For a full rundown of the top of the newscast coverage of the Wednesday, September 28 ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, check the September 29 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Transcripts of the December 5 coverage:

# ABC's World News Tonight, 16 seconds from anchor Elizabeth Vargas: "In Austin, Texas, a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy. The case will now move toward trial next year. DeLay was forced to vacate the House leadership position when he was indicted."

# NBC's Nightly News, 20 seconds from anchor Brian Williams: "An important day in court for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay today and the results were mixed. A judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering. DeLay had hoped to have all the charges dismissed so he could reclaim his leadership post. He was required to step down when he was indicted back in September."

# CBS Evening News. Anchor Bob Schieffer reported: "There's a new development tonight in the Tom DeLay case. A Texas judge threw out charges that DeLay conspired with others to violate election laws. But the judge upheld a charge that DeLay and two fundraisers illegally funneled $190,000 from corporations to Texas Republicans. We want to bring in our political correspondent Gloria Borger now in Washington. Gloria, he still faces some problems, does he not?"

Borger, from Capitol Hill: "Yes, Tom DeLay does have some problems. Legally, Bob, his office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove. But politically, he does have some tremendous problems. He wanted to come back to Congress in January, re-take his job as Majority Leader. You are not allowed to serve in the leadership if you're under indictment. An instead, he's going to be going to trial."
Schieffer: "Well, I think that is the bottom line, isn't it? He is going to go to trial. This case is not going to be thrown out."
Borger: "This case is not going to be thrown out. And the Republicans and the rank and file in the House that I speak with are getting a little restless about this. There are some of them who say that perhaps Tom DeLay should never return as Majority Leader. They're worried that these ethics charges could tarnish all of them and they're looking to their re-election in the 2006 midterms."
Schieffer: "So Congress will re-start in January and without Tom DeLay, okay. Thank you very much, Gloria."

Sawyer Has Gall to Rant Over Delay in
Radio Public Safety Space

ABC's Diane Sawyer had the temerity on Monday's Good Morning America to lecture White House counselor Dan Bartlett about the length of time it's taking to get more radio spectrum allocated to public safety when it is television broadcasters, led by the National Association of Broadcasters to which ABC belongs, which have been fighting to delay the move of television transmissions to HD digital on new channels, a necessary step to free up TV channels 60-69, the upper end of the 700 MHz spectrum, for public safety. Citing a low grade from the 9/11 Commission, Sawyer complained that "four years after 9/11, police and firefighters still can't talk to each other. They don't have interconnected radios, which is something that could have been done right away." Unsatisfied by Bartlett, who could have pointed out that Congress stands in the way, Sawyer exclaimed: "But four years?" Later in the day, on ABC's World News Tonight, Martha Raddatz pointed out: "Why the holdup? The 9/11 commission says part of the problem is that broadcasters have not set aside part of the radio spectrum for emergency personnel, keeping it instead for commercial broadcasts."
Sawyer also expressed disappointment at Bush's opposition to raising taxes, telling Bartlett: "There are people, including Alan Greenspan of the Fed and also the GAO, the top auditor in the country, who've said with these deficits, these mounting deficits, it is simply hard to look at this economy as anything but on thin ice. No matter what, no new taxes?"

On the radio spectrum, media hero John McCain blasted TV broadcasters in a September 13 floor speech: "Congress also provided additional spectrum for first responders in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. So, after spending millions of dollars in funding and additional spectrum for our nation's first responders why aren't we better off than we were on 9/11 when it comes to interoperable communications? Because the spectrum Congress provided to first responders in 1996 is being held hostage by television broadcasters." For the posting of the entire speech on the Senator's web site: mccain.senate.gov

The FCC originally mandated that television stations move to digital by January 1, 2006, a date since delayed and currently under debate in the House and Senate with a McCain-sponsored bill calling for an April of 2009 date. In an April pronouncement, the NAB made clear its push for a later conversion date: "As a matter of public policy, the corporate financial interests of a handful of technology companies should not trump the needs of American television viewers. Make no mistake: a premature end to analog television could leave millions of Americans without access to free local TV station signals. The harm to these consumers -- a disproportionate number of whom come from poor and minority households -- must be considered against the purely parochial interests of high-tech companies hoping to profit from new uses of this spectrum." See: www.nab.org

Preston R. Padden, Executive VP, Worldwide Gov. Relations for the The Walt Disney Company, owner of ABC, sits on the NAB's Board of Directors. See: www.nab.org
The conversion to HD digital calls for the removal of all but a very few TV stations from channels 2-13 and the consolidation of TV channels in HD mode on channels 14-58, thus freeing the 60-69 range, the upper end of the 700 MHz spectrum, for public safety.

(A personal aside: The 9/11 Commission ranting about the critical need for the new spectrum to provide public safety with "interoperability" is largely a canard. While it is no doubt true that some regions will benefit from the ability to get additional voice and data channels, presuming money is available for the costly acquisition of new radio systems, and thus allow multiple agencies to be on the same bandwidth and enable easier interoperability, interoperability is possible now without the 700 MHz frequencies. And, in many regions, 700 MHz will just add another band with which many other agencies are incompatible.
The reason Arlington County Virginia and DC, and NYC Fire and Police, could not directly communicate on 9/11 was a result of policy decisions made by those departments to not set up cross-communication capabilities. Nothing technologically prevented it then or now. Plenty of rural American town police departments, county sheriff's and state police agencies inter-communicate without any trouble even when each is on different bands using radios which cannot communicate on the other bands. They just transmit on their frequency and the officers from the other department monitor on a scanner and talk back on their frequency. Urban departments face more complex communication challenges, but similar solutions are available, yet rarely pursued.
The biggest impediment to interoperability is the culture of police and fire departments which do not want others on their channels. A large Washington, DC area county now has what the 9/11 Commission considers nirvana, a single 800 MHz digital trunked radio system for both the fire and police departments, yet there there is little, if any, inter-communication between the two over the radios because neither department wants anyone from the other department on their channels. So, when a paramedic unit is dispatched to a shooting or stabbing, they "stage" a few blocks away and wait until the police tell them the scene is secure. But while the Motorola radios would enable the police officer to switch to a fire channel and directly tell the medics to "come on in," that is not allowed. Instead, while the victim bleeds, the officer radios in on his channel to a police dispatcher, who then types a message to the fire dispatcher who then, when radio traffic allows, passes along the all secure message -- a process which can easily take up to two minutes.)

The MRC's Brian Boyd took down much of Sawyer's 7am half hour December 5 session with Bartlett, who appeared from the White House:

Diane Sawyer: "Dan Bartlett, good morning to you. Thanks for being with us...Want to get right away to this indictment by the 9/11 commission. Specifically, after 9/11, four years after 9/11 police and firefighters still can't talk to each other. They don't have interconnected radios, which is something that could have been done right away."
Dan Bartlett: "Well, that is an issue that we take very seriously. Everybody recognizes, particularly after Katrina, a natural disaster, the levels of communication between state, federal and local officials is critical. We constantly work to fix that. Billions of dollars are being spent in that regard."
Sawyer: "But four years?"
Bartlett: "It is getting better and in some cities, like New York and elsewhere, I believe the progress has been substantial. Other cities in America need to pick up the pace. And that's something that we're going to work here in Washington with our local and state officials at their level to make sure we do everything we can. That firefighters, police, firefighters, first responders across the board have the type of technology and protocols to communicate during a crisis."
Sawyer: "But that also point out that some of the money, the $8 billion that's been allocated, has been used to buy leather jackets for some of the District of Columbia. It has also been used to give self-improvement seminars to sanitation workers. Who's watching the store here? Who's watching the money?"
Bartlett
Sawyer: "I want to play what Thomas Kean, former Republican governor, said though about the leadership on the issue and the sense of urgency. Here it is."
Thomas Kean, on Meet the Press: "You don't see the Congress or the President talking about public safety as number one, as we think it should be. And a lot of the things we need to do, really to prevent another 9/11, just simply aren't being done by the President or by the Congress."
Sawyer: "Distracted by Iraq?"
Bartlett: "Well, no, actually not. In Iraq and the war on terror and what we're doing overseas is absolutely critical to the protection of the American people here at home. Other aspects of our government, including the President, obviously the President, are focused on doing everything we can to protect the American people. But make no mistake about it, Diane, we need to do more. Congress needs to do more. All of us need to be working together to do everything we can. We are lucky in some respects but also, because of the efforts we have taken, grateful that our nation has not been attacked again since 9/11. I think a lot of people, thousands of people in the intelligence community, law enforcement deserve a lot of credit for the hours of work they put in to protect the American people, but we can't rest on our laurels, Diane. We need to do everything we can here in Washington to protect everybody across this land."
Sawyer: "I know, Dan, the President is giving a big speech on the economy coming up. But there are people, including Alan Greenspan of the Fed and also the GAO, the top auditor in the country, who've said with these deficits, these mounting deficits, it is simply hard to look at this economy as anything but on thin ice. No matter what no new taxes?"
Bartlett: "The last thing we need to do in our economy when people are trying to pay for higher heating bills or trying to make ends meet paying for health care, the last thing we need to do is sock them with another, with a tax increase. They're getting it at the local level, they're getting it at the state level, the last thing they need is for Washington politicians to not find other ways to cut spending but to send them the tab. We're not going to do that. It's bad economic policy. We're going to keep this economy growing by instilling more trust and more control to the American people."
Sawyer: "So the President's big message today is?"
Bartlett: "The big message today is that our economy is growing strong, which puts us in the position to address other issues that workers are concerned about: rising health care costs, energy issues. Those are the type of issues American people want us to address and President Bush today will speak directly to that."

New Co-Anchor of ABC's WNT Delivered
Propaganda from North Korea

On Monday, ABC announced the new anchor pairing, starting in January, of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff. Alerting viewers to it at the end of Monday's newscast, Vargas asserted that "we are committed to every way maintaining the standard of excellence established by Peter Jennings" and Woodruff promised that "we will try to make Peter proud." One Woodruff resume listing ABC is proud enough to tout is his trip to North Korea. The ABCNews.com announcement boasted of how "in June 2005 he got unprecedented access to the secretive country of North Korea." (See: abcnews.go.com )

But, as documented at the time by the MRC, Woodruff's reports during his week inside the totalitarian regime showcased North Korean officials denouncing the U.S. and happy kids doing art and playing music. The June 10, 2005 CyberAlert, "ABC: North Koreans Hate Americans, Offer Great Music/Art for Kids," recounted: "North Koreans are isolated from outside information and fed a steady diet of anti-American propaganda, but that apparently doesn't make the anti-American comments from regime operatives, or citizens with minders standing nearby, unnewsworthy to ABC. 'There are large gaps in what the world knows about the North Korean leader and his people,' World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas noted before asserting that 'many North Koreans, it seems, have strong opinions about Americans.' From Pyongyang, Bob Woodruff went aboard the captured USS Pueblo and relayed how the 'officer who gave us a tour today said the ship's an example of American crimes and another reason Koreans don't like Americans.' The uniformed woman declared: 'They invaded to our territory, and they supplied information, so all Koreans were angry.' Woodruff traveled to a collective farm where found an 11-year-old girl who said of Americans: 'They killed Korean people.' Finally, Woodruff went to the 'Children's Palace' where '5,000 North Korean kids are trained after school in music, art and sports.' The video showed healthy kids in colorful uniforms playing instruments, painting and dancing."

Two days later, Woodruff conceded that "because we were not allowed to bring in our own translator, we had to rely on our minders to tell us what people were saying." So they could have been praising Americans for all we know? (See more below in the excerpt from the June 15 CyberAlert.)

[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your thoughts, go to: newsbusters.org The MRC's Tim Graham posted a compilation of liberal comments from Vargas over the years. See: http://newsbusters.org/node/3090 ]

Now, back to more from the June 10 CyberAlert report about Woodruff's June 9 story:

All week, World News Tonight, and on some mornings GMA too, have been carrying Woodruff's "exclusive" reports from inside North Korea. An earlier segment showed a nearly empty capital city, since many were shipped out to work in the fields, with traffic lights turned off and no cars, yet still people at each intersection to direct the non-existent traffic.

World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the [Thursday] June 9 offering: "We have another exclusive report tonight from the most secretive nation in the world: North Korea. Access to the country is incredibly hard to come by. There are large gaps in what the world knows about the North Korean leader and his people. But many North Koreans, it seems, have strong opinions about Americans. ABC's Bob Woodruff reports again from North Korea."

Woodruff, walking with a uniformed North Korean woman and then over historic video of ship: "The USS Pueblo, the American ship which North Korea caught spying off its coast in 1968, is now a museum on the river here. One American crewman was killed during the assault, and 82 men were captured, then imprisoned, for 11 months under horrible conditions. [video of two inside sub] The officer who gave us a tour today said the ship's an example of American crimes and another reason Koreans don't like Americans."

Kim Mee Kyong, with words on screen: "They invaded to our territory, and they supplied information, so all Koreans were angry."

Woodruff: "Do you have any good feelings about Americans?" [Kim Mee Kyong laughs]

Woodruff, in front of ship: "This is the kind of image of America that goes completely unchallenged here. There are no American products in the markets, no American programs on television. And since almost no U.S. citizens ever visit North Korea, most North Koreans have never even met one. [video of dreary countryside] What all North Koreans do hear is a steady drumbeat of anti-American propaganda. So when we traveled two hours north of the capital today in our SUVs and with our government minders, we found anti-U.S. feeling. On this collective farm, three 11-year-old girls. Do you know about America? Have you heard about America?"

Korean girl through translator: "They killed Korean people."

Woodruff: "When did they kill Korean people? [voice of translator, but no translated reaction] This 18-year-old we found fishing told us he plans to join the army to protect his country. What do you think about the Americans? 'I curse them,' he said, 'as the sworn enemy of the Korean people.' Have you ever met an American before?"

Korean boy, through translator: "No."

Woodruff: "I'm an American. [translator speaks, guy looks down, no response provided]"

Woodruff, over video of well-dressed and healthy looking kids playing string instruments, a kid painting with Woodruff sitting next to him, and a shot of a swimming pool]: "Our final stop today was at the Children's Palace in Pyongyang where 5,000 North Korean kids are trained after school in music, art and sports. [video of colorfully-dressed kids dancing on a stage] This was their final performance for foreign dignitaries today, [long pause] stunning reminder of how well children can learn if the state decides to teach them. Bob Woodruff, ABC News, Pyongyang."

END of Reprint of June 10 CyberAlert article

For the June 10 CyberAlert article with still shots from Woodruff's story: www.mediaresearch.org

The June 15 CyberAlert, "ABC Admits America-Bashing Relayed by North Korean Translators," followed up with what Woodruff admitted on the June 11 World News Tonight/Saturday:

Last Thursday ABC framed a story from Bob Woodruff around how North Koreans hate Americans, but on Saturday Woodruff conceded that "because we were not allowed to bring in our own translator, we had to rely on our minders to tell us what people were saying." So they could have been praising Americans for all we know?

Reviewing his week in North Korea, on Saturday's World News Tonight Woodruff pointed out how the regime assigned three minders for his five-person team and then observed, from the capital of the communist regime: "Most North Koreans have never met an American, especially one with a camera, so some were nervous. And some were surprised by our direct questions. Gradually our minders grew more comfortable with us. They let us travel outside the capital. And when we asked them to stop at a village or by the road, they did, so we could speak to ordinary North Koreans unannounced. But because we were not allowed to bring in our own translator, we had to rely on our minders to tell us what people were saying.

Woodruff to one of the three 11-year-old girls: "Do you work here in the fields or do you go to school?"

Without providing her answer, Woodruff continued: "Of course, there were many places completely off limits to us. They refused our request to visit their nuclear facilities. We didn't even bother asking to see military installations or the prison camps that North Korean defectors have described. But of the material we did gather, not one word was censored. And the only picture they stopped us from transmitting was this shot of the country's founder, Kim il Sung, because they said it was partly blocked by a tree. Even in this more open North Korea, there are still some absolute limits. Bob Woodruff, ABC News, Pyongyang."

Allowing one U.S. reporter to pass along images they like hardly constitutes a "more open" North Korea.

END of Excerpt from June 15 CyberAlert

-- Brent Baker