2. ABC Keeps Grilling Romney on Religion; Gushed Over Faith of Dems
3. After Debate, CBS's Storm Focuses on Hit Piece on Mrs. Giuliani
4. Top New York Times Editor Insists Liberal Bias 'Relatively Rare'
A pronounced example of how bad news is news and good news is much less newsworthy: On Friday night, ABC and NBC teased full stories on the 281 point plunge that day in the Dow Jones average, but on Monday, after the Dow rebounded by five points greater than Friday's loss in the biggest one-day gain in five years, the networks limited coverage to a few seconds. "The stock market stumbles again today exposing fault lines in the nation's housing market," ABC's Charles Gibson teased a full story Friday night on the stock market and troubles in the mortgage industry which he introduced by emphasizing how "the gains of the past couple of days were more than wiped out by a dramatic late-day sell-off." But on Monday night, Gibson didn't tease the rebound news and held coverage to barely 20 seconds.
Brian Williams teased Friday's NBC Nightly News: "Stocks slide again on Wall Street. What is spooking the market tonight as we head into the weekend?" Williams spent a minute-and-half with CNBC's Jim Cramer discussing reasons for the plunge, but on Monday fill-in anchor Ann Curry gave the good news just 20 seconds, not counting time for more bad news: The bankruptcy filing by American Home Mortgage. CBS's Katie Couric on Friday only devoted 25 seconds to how "investors headed for the exits, and the Dow plunged 281 points. So, since hitting a record high 14,000 two weeks ago, the Dow has now given up more than 800 points." On Monday, however, she squeezed in a piddling eight seconds on the rebound, not counting unemployment news and a note about American Home Mortgage.
[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Friday versus Monday comparisons for the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, collected with the assistance of the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
# ABC's World News, Friday August 3:
CHARLES GIBSON, OPENING TEASER: Troubled homes: The stock market stumbles again today exposing fault lines in the nation's housing market...
GIBSON SETTING UP STORY: Now, to Wall Street, where the gains of the past couple of days were more than wiped out by a dramatic late-day sell-off. Just before the final bell, the Dow Jones average seemed in free fall, ending the day down more than 280 points, while the NASDAQ lost almost 65. Investors are worried that lenders are making it much tougher to get credit, impacting millions of people hoping to get a mortgage. Betsy Stark joins us tonight. Betsy?
ABC's World News, Monday August 6:
GIBSON: More volatility today on Wall Street today with prices moving higher. There were sharp losses on Friday, a robust recovery today as the Dow gained 286 points and the NASDAQ finishing up 36. It was the biggest single-session gain in five years. Stocks were up partly as a result of falling oil and gas prices.
KATIE COURIC: On Wall Street today, it took just a few words from one man to spark a big sell-off. Bear Stearns CFO Sam Molinaro said the turmoil in the credit markets is the worst he's seen in 22 years. With that, investors headed for the exits, and the Dow plunged 281 points. So, since hitting a record high 14,000 two weeks ago, the Dow has now given up more than 800 points.
CBS Evening News, Monday August 6:
COURIC: On Wall Street, after Friday's big sell-off, a big rally. The Dow today got back all the points it lost on Friday and then some.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, OPENING TEASER: Stocks slide again on Wall Street. What is spooking the market tonight as we head into the weekend?
WILLIAMS, SETTING UP CRAMER: Wall Street was in the news again today, another sell-off. At the closing bell, the Dow had plunged more than 281 points. NASDAQ was down more than 64 at the end of the day. And the reason for all this may sound familiar. For more on this, we are joined by Wall Street veteran Jim Cramer. He's with us from the global headquarters of CNBC. Jim, what's doing this?
NBC Nightly News, Monday August 6:
ANN CURRY: On Wall Street today, a big rebound from Friday's late night sell-off, late session sell-off rather, the Dow finished the day up almost 287 points, gaining back everything it lost on Friday. The NASDAQ was up 36 points on the day and the S&P also recouped its big Friday loss, up almost 37 points.
On Monday's "Good Morning America," guest host George Stephanopoulos pressed 2008 Republican candidate Mitt Romney over whether he will "do more to address" the issue of his Mormon faith. This is the same ABC program that has repeatedly raised questions about whether the former Massachusetts Governor's religion could damage his '08 chances. In June, reporter Dan Harris speculated on how "uncomfortable questions" about Mormonism could harm the campaign. In contrast, GMA gushed over a CNN sponsored event in June where Democratic candidates discussed their faith. An onscreen graphic wondered, "Are evangelicals embracing Democrats? New party of God?" For that segment, co-host Robin Roberts marveled, "...Senator Obama out on the campaign trail has, has freely talked about his faith." She also played an extended clip of Hillary Clinton discussing the important role faith played in her life. See: www.mrc.org
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Mitt Romney has received no such favorable treatment. Rather, GMA has repeatedly discussed Mormonism in relation to how it might harm his campaign or discourage Republican primary voters from supporting him. On Monday, Stephanopoulos played a clip of Romney defending himself and his church to an Iowa radio host. Diane Sawyer teased that segment by calling it, "Romney unplugged." Then, after being asked yet again about his faith and whether conservative Christians would vote for him, Romney attacked the media's heavy focus on his faith:
On June 19, GMA reporter Dan Harris narrated a segment on the "uncomfortable questions" that the 2008 Iowa front-runner will face: "There are other Mormon beliefs that may provoke uncomfortable questions for Mitt Romney. For example, Mormons believe God was once a human being. Mormons also believe in symbolically baptizing the dead, even if they're members of other religions. And, up until 1978, including a time during which Romney was prominent in the church, black people had second-class status. Mormons used to teach that blacks have dark skin due to a curse from God." See: newsbusters.org
And in April, GMA co-host Robin Roberts grilled Romney about receiving campaign donations from the heavily Mormon state of Utah. Below are a sampling of her questions:
- Robin Roberts: "So, where is the money coming from, Governor?"
- Roberts: "You say the money is coming from all the states. The New York Times this morning is reporting that 15 percent of the money raised in your campaign is coming from the state of Utah. Many speculate that it has something to do, of course, with your being a Mormon. Does your, does your religion factor in at all in your campaign and in your fund-raising?"
- Roberts: "Many are wondering if you will do, take a page from former President Kennedy, who had addressed the nation about his Catholic upbringing. Do you anticipate, anticipate doing the same?"
For the full rundown, check the April 4 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
Good Morning America has demonstrated there's quite a contrast between how the program focuses on a Republican's faith and that of Democrats.
A partial transcript of Romney's August 6 exchange with Stephanopoulos:
7am tease, Diane Sawyer: "Mitt Romney unplugged."
7:12am, Stephanopoulos: "You know, just before the debate this weekend, the cameras caught quite an exchange you had with an Iowa talk show host. It was during a break in his program. But the cameras caught it. He was pressing you on your Mormon faith. Let's take a look."
Republican presidential candidates participated in a debate on Sunday, but on Monday morning CBS's Hannah Storm seemed more interested in Rudy Giuliani's personal life and Mitt Romney's crankiness. On the August 6 edition of The Early Show, Storm kicked off a segment noting there was a Republican debate the previous day but, "they did not talk about an issue hanging over front-runner Rudy Giuliani and that is his wife, Judith, who has become a controversial topic in his campaign."
Storm cited a hit piece from Vanity Fair magazine claiming "she's portrayed as someone who pursued a married man, she has lavish spending habits, demands an extra seat on the campaign plane for her Louis Vuitton handbag, apparently has a hit list of campaign aides that she once fired." The Vanity Fair article: www.vanityfair.com
Though Giuliani may not be the ideal candidate for conservatives, it is notable that a left leaning publication's hit piece on a Republican finds its way to the network news. If a right leaning publication were to write a similar piece on any Democrat, would the CBS morning producers jump on it?
When Storm finally did move on to the debate, much of the focus was on some "sharp responses" Romney made regarding his shifting stance on abortion and his Mormon faith. Although Hannah Storm offered a negative tone on Romney's prospects, guest Jim Vandehei noted the Republican candidate is "doing very well in Iowa, in New Hampshire in those early states and he's doing well because of conservative support."
The transcript of the August 6 Early Show segment in the 7am half hour:
HANNAH STORM: Welcome back to the CBS Early Show. I'm Hannah Storm. The Republican presidential candidates met in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday and Iraq, abortion and the War on Terror dominated their latest debate. They did not talk about an issue hanging over front-runner Rudy Giuliani and that is his wife, Judith, who has become a controversial topic in his campaign. Jim Vandehei, is executive editor of Politico.com a CBS News partner covering Campaign 2008. Good morning, Jim.
The nation's top newspaper men think only an unsophisticated rube sees liberal bias as a persistent, intentional application of media muscle. In his book, Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, Stephen Hayes of Weekly Standard fame reprints an e-mail that New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller sent to Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems in 2004 in which he denied that his paper has an agenda, and there are "even a few people who think the news coverage and editorial page operate in lockstep as part of a liberal cabal. The Vice President is much too experienced and sophisticated, I suspect, to really believe that."
Keller admitted stories occasionally show "liberal assumptions," but "I think those instances are relatively rare, and I fight to filter them our [sic] and deplore them when they get into the paper." He also claimed in his own paper's defense that Team Clinton "also had a lot of Times-haters at the top."
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Keller wrote after the Times made a whiny public display of protest -- with a great degree of arrogance and entitlement -- against how the Vice President did not include a seat for a Times reporter on his press plane:
I'm pretty sure your boss understands that when reporters inject a "gotcha" attitude into their prose, their agenda usually has nothing to do with bias or conviction, it has to do with getting their stories on the front page and making their competitors envious. That, plus an eagerness to prove they have not been "spun"; when it comes to dealing with politicians and public officials, there is often a reluctance to seem naive, credulous, or "in the pocket" of people they cover. All of this sometimes leads reporters to write tendentious language or to pump up little facts into doubtful stories, and it's part of our job to edit out those excesses. This was just as true in the Clinton administration (which also had a lot of Times-haters at the top) as it is in this administration. So it doesn't entirely explain why some officials at senior levels in this administration regard the Times with such scorn.
END of Excerpt
That's a typically self-defensive whopper, made without any serious attempt to marshal evidence. It's "just as true" that Vice President Gore drew as much negative coverage as Dick Cheney? On the wider point, that nasty anti-Republican articles are manufactured because of intense media competition rather than ideological animus: so if the Times and The Washington Post are competing to see which one can be nastier to Cheney for commercial reasons, why should that make him more agreeable to cooperate? It doesn't matter whether it's left-wing "idealism" or competitive careerism that makes for Times hatchet jobs. What counts is what the Times reader was told. Keller would surely tell the conservative media critic it's unfair to "mind read" liberal bias, but it's at least as questionable to "mind read" the lack of it.
Keller wrote that perhaps the liberal-bias charge is a tactic to move newspaper copy to the right: "I suspect there are some people who believe if they scream 'Liberal agenda! Liberal agenda!' long enough, we'll overcompensate by writing stories they like. Or, if they make a show of not inviting us to briefings, not including us on official trips, that we'll behave as they like."
To use some Keller lingo, I'm sure Keller knows that conservatives are much too experienced and sophisticated to believe that there's any viable method of keeping fist-shaking liberal bias out of the New York Times. Cheney may have made the simple calculation that journalists who hate you and see you as a neocon warmongerer are not the best traveling companions.
Hayes also relayed that Keller knows the score, conceding that the media establishment's biases cut against conservatives like Cheney, as he explained that the media's role is not to "support" leaders, but ought to be to "figure out what they believe and why," whether they're Democrat or Republican:
I think the media, including the Times, but also most other mainstream newspapers, news magazines, and television -- has a more difficult time doing this with conservatives than with liberals. The reasons for that are probably too obvious and too complicated to go into here, but it's been a pet cause of mine at the Times to make a special effort to understand and portray conservatives in a way that's not necessarily flattering, but three-dimensional, and that an honest conservative would regard as fair.
END of Excerpt
Hayes reported that Keller finished his letter with a message about how granting access to the Times inevitably results in better coverage, contrasting the coverage of Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, and John Ashcroft, the attorney general. Wolfowitz spent time with Keller for a long piece he wrote for the New York Times Magazine, Hayes noted. The payoff for Wolfowitz, said Keller, was that "a considerable number of NYT readers found themselves reassessing the man, or at least understanding him on a different level." Ashcroft, by contrast would never open himself up and "he still lives in the land of the stereotype." Hayes added: "His message was not so subtle: so does Dick Cheney."
This is where citizens and journalism scholars should all realize that this is the transparent and raw exercise of media power. This is Keller making a threat: surrender to our reporter or we will stick to portraying you as Darth Vader. This kind of bullying might be the way to get the job done, but it's at odds with the idealistic Hollywood legend of reporters as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman with no aims other than hustling to save our democracy. Washington reporters are no better or worse than politicians in pursuing their own self-interest and claiming it's the national interest.
Amazon's page for the Hayes biography of Cheney: www.amazon.com
-- Brent Baker