Drumbeat of Media Questions" Aiding Democratic Candidates --7/14/2003
2. Clift Puts Bush Team's Credibility Gap at 9 on 1 to 10 Scale
3. Couric Provides Benevolent, Non-Ideological Tag for MoveOn.org
4. By 2-to-1, Public Sees Liberal Over Conservative Bias
5. Vermont Media Have Never, Ever Labeled Howard Dean as Liberal
6. Gumbel Launches Name-Calling, Rebukes MRC's Bozell as "Bozo"
Clarification: CyberAlert was unwittingly swayed by skewed media coverage and in the July 9 edition mis-reported that in his State of the Union address President Bush had "cited how Iraq had received uranium from Niger." In fact, Bush only said that Saddam Hussein had "sought" uranium. The sentence in Bush's speech which is fueling the media eruption: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Technically, an accurate statement, conveying what a British report stated.
Democratic presidential candidates may be attacking President Bush's credibility over the single sentence in his State of the Union address, but they are aided by the media which are becoming obsessed as a summer scandal with how Bush "misled" the public and "deliberately exaggerated the case for war." Multiple stories on the "controversy" have led the evening newscasts since the middle of last week with the morning shows devoting a top of the show interview segment to it.
On Saturday night, ABC anchor Claire Shipman declared: "The firestorm over false intelligence that President Bush used to help justify war in Iraq is intensifying."
Over on CBS on Sunday night, anchor John Roberts referred to the "swirl of controversy over whether" the Bush administration "knowingly put dubious intelligence into this year's State of the Union address." In a self-fulfilling statement, Roberts argued that "the issue refuses to go away."
But as ABC News Political Director Mark Helperin suggested on World News Tonight/Sunday, the media are enabling the Democratic presidential candidates: "Why are the Democrats now directly going after Mr. Bush in the very area where he has been so strong?" Over a shot of the cover of Time magazine with "Untruth & Consequences" over photo of Bush delivering State of the Union address, Halperin answered: "For one thing, there's the daily drumbeat of media questions."
Halperin had noted how "the Democrats hope to break the presidential monopoly on national security and credibility, to return the Bush image to one some Americans held of candidate Bush after this famous campaign pop quiz:"
For a flavor of the media's hyperbolic focus, some intros to the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Friday and Sunday:
-- ABC's World News Tonight on Friday. Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, an ABC News poll that will not please the President: Half the public thinks he deliberately exaggerated the case for war. The Democrats are demanding a public investigation."
-- NBC Nightly News on Friday. Brian Williams began: "It was just one sentence in a long State of the Union speech that the President delivered in January. But it was a major accusation, one part of the President's case for possible war with Iraq. The facts have turned out differently. The accusation was wrong. And now, with 148,000 Americans on the ground there, with over 200 dead and over a thousand wounded, the questions for this White House are heating up. We begin tonight with NBC's David Gregory traveling with the President in Nigeria."
-- CBS Evening News on Sunday. Anchor John Roberts announced: "The White House tried to lay to rest today the swirl of controversy over whether it knowingly put dubious intelligence into this year's State of the Union address. Top administration officials said again today that the claim Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa should not have been in the speech, but they denied any attempt to deceive the American people or hype the evidence against Iraq. But as Joie Chen reports, the issue refuses to go away."
The media certainly won't let it.
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift put the Bush administration's "credibility gap" at a very high "eight or a nine," she asserted on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend.
In the wake of the controversy over the State of the Union address and the lack of any weapons of mass destruction being found, John McLaughlin asked the group to rate the administration's "credibility gap" with zero representing no gap and ten representing a "metaphysical gap."
Clift replied: "With all of that, and also throw in the fact that they're stonewalling the 9-11 commission, making it hard for them to do their work, it's up to an eight or a nine."
I'd put Clift's liberal advocacy at 11.
Katie Couric on Friday morning benevolently referred to MoveOn.org, the far-left anti-war group, simply as an organization "started by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by the political process."
During a segment on the uranium from Africa controversy, Couric asked Tim Russert, as transcribed by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd: "As we look at background video, Tim, of an ad that's being put out by a group called MoveOn. It was started by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by the political process. This drumbeat will be heard more and more loudly, don't you think, in the weeks to come?"
"Most Americans (53%) believe that news organizations are politically biased, while just 29% say they are careful to remove bias from their reports. When it comes to describing the press, twice as many say news organizations are 'liberal' (51%) than 'conservative,'" a just-released Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey discovered.
In fact, not only do a majority of Republicans (by three-to-one) and independents (by two-to-one) see the news media as reflecting a politically liberal tilt, but so do Democrats of whom 41 percent perceive a media slant to the liberal side versus 33 percent of Democrats who see a skew in the conservative direction.
The poll also discovered that most "see it as a good thing when news organizations take a 'strong pro American point of view,'" but "many more people believe some news organizations are becoming too critical of America (46%) than say they are becoming too pro American (25%)."
The survey was conducted for Pew by "Princeton Survey Research Associates among a nationwide sample of 1,201 adults, 18 years of age or older, during the period June 19-July 2, 2003."
Pew headlined the summary of the survey results released on July 13, "Strong Opposition to Media Cross Ownership Emerges: Public Wants Neutrality and Pro American Point of View."
....[N]otable is the public's receptivity to the idea that news organizations embrace a decidedly "pro American" viewpoint, which coexists with continuing support for neutrality in news coverage. Seven in ten Americans see it as a good thing when news organizations take a "strong pro American point of view." However, when asked specifically if it is better for coverage of the war on terrorism to be neutral or pro American, fully 64% favor neutral coverage. And these views are largely unrelated. Even most of those who see a pro American point of view as a good thing favor neutral war coverage (62%).
The survey shows that the public has nuanced views about patriotism and the press. A narrow majority of Americans (51%) believe that news organizations generally "stand up for America." At the same time, however, many more people believe some news organizations are becoming too critical of America (46%) than say they are becoming too pro American (25%).
The growing audience for the Fox News Channel, nearly half of whom identify themselves as conservatives, has more consistently negative views of media, especially regarding its patriotism. Nearly two thirds of Fox News viewers (65%) believe some news outlets are becoming too critical of America, compared with fewer than half of CNN and network news viewers (48%, 45% respectively). (Note: Respondents are asked "How have you been getting most of your news about national and international events?" Multiple answers are allowed.)...
Public cynicism about press values and performance runs deeper than perceived inaccuracies. Most Americans (53%) believe that news organizations are politically biased, while just 29% say they are careful to remove bias from their reports. When it comes to describing the press, twice as many say news organizations are "liberal" (51%) than "conservative" (26%) while 14% say neither phrase applies. This was also the case in surveys conducted in the mid to late 1980s and, not surprisingly, there is a significant partisan cast to these perceptions.
Republicans see the press as more liberal than conservative by nearly three to one (65% 22%). Among independents, the margin is two to one (50% 25%). And while a third of Democrats say there is a conservative tilt to the American press, a slight plurality (41%) says the press is more liberal than anything else.
But an ideological slant is not the only form of bias the public perceives. Two thirds say news organizations pay too much attention to bad news -- just a quarter say the press reports the kind of stories they should be covering. Just 2% say too much attention is given to good news.
Over the past two decades, public concern about press bias has been gradually increasing. Today, two thirds (66%) say the press tends to favor one side when presenting the news, and seven in ten say news outlets are often influenced by powerful people and organizations. In 1985, barely half (53% each) expressed such negative opinions about media independence....
The public is largely satisfied with the amount of attention the media has given to developments in Iraq (60% right amount) and the Middle East (59%). But most Americans (55%) say that the press is devoting too much coverage to the publication of Hillary Clinton's memoir, and a sizable minority (39%) says the same about coverage of the Laci Peterson murder.
More than two thirds of Republicans (68%) and nearly as many independents (61%) say the press has over covered Clinton's book. Democrats are less likely to express that opinion; still, a plurality of Democrats (40%) thinks the book has gotten too much media attention....
END of Excerpt
For the full rundown of the findings: people-press.org
CNN's Judy Woodruff stumbled upon an insight that doesn't do much to instill trust in the Vermont media's credibility. A veteran Vermont reporter and columnist told Woodruff, in a story run on Friday's Inside Politics, that in Howard Dean's entire career as a legislator, Lieutenant Governor and Governor, "there was never a sentence in any newspaper in the state of Vermont that contained the word 'liberal' and 'Howard Dean.'"
Maybe that's the problem with the national media: Hiring too many Vermont reporters who can't recognize a liberal or liberal policies.
The boast/admission came in a taped piece Woodruff put together after a visit to the Green Mountain state to learn about how Vermonters view Dean.
Woodruff noted in her July 11 piece: "But the rap on Dean is that the Burlington Birkenstock crowd, people who put Dean signs in bars called the Red Square, can't take their man to the White House, that he's just too far left."
Amazing. I suppose that compared to the socialist Bernie Sanders, Dean looks downright right-wing, especially to Vermonters who think Sanders is too conservative.
The Web site for Freyne's newspaper: www.sevendaysvt.com
The very mention of Brent Bozell, President of the MRC, causes Bryant Gumbel to get angry. As both the Washington Post and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Saturday, during an appearance to plug his new PBS show, at the very mention of Bozell's name a pleasant Gumbel turned angry, denigrated Bozell as a "bozo," and refused to address the complaint of his liberal bias.
The July 12 Washington Post story by Lisa de Moraes about PBS's day at the "Summer Press Tour" in Los Angeles for TV critics, during which the networks promote their new fall shows, related this incident:
For de Moraes' filing in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Starting Tuesday night, Gumbel will co-host with Gwen Ifill a new quarterly PBS program, Flashpoints USA.
In Saturday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rob Owen reported from Los Angeles: "Given the presence of Gumbel, known for his liberal views (he called conservative watchdog Brent Bozell 'bozo' during yesterday's press conference) and the debatable reputation of PBS as a bastion of liberalism, will Flashpoints be truly balanced? Ifill says yes. 'It's extremely even handed,' she said. 'You need to guard against media profiling us to assume that because it has two black co anchors it's going to be a liberal show. We're doing journalism.'"
No, I'm profiling it as liberal because it's anchored by two liberals, one of whom has shown little or no respect toward conservatives during his career.
For Owen's article: www.post-gazette.com
Here's how the PBS Web site describes the new program:
Can't imagine how anyone could fear such a show topic might favor liberal views.
The Web page for Flashpoints USA: www.pbs.org
Owen reported that the next edition of Flashpoints USA, set to air in September, "will look at the relationship between Americans and the media and whether they believe what they hear, see and read on TV and in newspapers."
What are the chances Gumbel will highlight how, by two-to-one, the public see a liberal bias? (See item #4 above.)
For photos of Gumbel and Ifill at the Television Critics Association's "Summer Press Tour," see these posted by Yahoo: search.news.yahoo.com
For more Gumbel quotes than anyone can stand, culled from his years at NBC and CBS, see an MRC Web page with a very long rundown and video clips of his most egregious slams at conservatives and instances of liberal advocacy: www.mediaresearch.org
* A heads-up for the week: Ari Fleischer is scheduled to appear Thursday night on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman.
-- Brent Baker