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In "Greatest American" Contest, Lauer Trumpets Clinton's Success --6/6/2005


1. In "Greatest American" Contest, Lauer Trumpets Clinton's Success
In summarizing the lives of the 25 finalists in the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" contest, NBC's Matt Lauer on Sunday night labeled Bill Clinton as "brilliant" before trumpeting: "Under Clinton the economy boomed -- deficits turned into surplus -- and more than 22 million jobs were created. Along with the character flaws and the subpoenas came peace and prosperity." The brief segment did not feature any explicit criticisms of Clinton's presidency, but when it came to George W. Bush, whom Lauer described as "our tough-talking, language-mangling Commander-in-Chief who most Americans just want to hang out with," Discovery put on musician "Moby," who declared over flag-draped coffins: "From my perspective, you cannot call yourself a Christian, talk about the sanctity of life, and then support the death penalty, and support a war." Listen to MP3 audio clip

2. Talking to Bradlee, Stephanopoulos Raises Conservative Media Bias
ABC's George Stephanopoulos takes his cues from left-wing letters to the editor? On Sunday's This Week, interviewing Ben Bradlee, the Executive Editor of the Washington Post during Watergate, Stephanopoulos took up the media's supposed conservative bias as he read from a letter in Saturday's Post from a guy in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, though Stephanopoulos did not note the overseas origin. The writer contended: "The Post seems to be cowed by the Bush administration, burying doubts about weapons of mass destruction on back pages and failing to investigate the warping of intelligence." When Bradlee demurred from criticizing the Post, Stephanopoulos moved to a wider angle: "There have been many who have said that the entire media was cowed in the aftermath of 9/11 and didn't go hard enough, for example, at the story of weapons of mass destruction."

3. Rather Receives Standing Ovations from "Investigative" Reporters
Dan Rather "received standing ovations at the start and end of his 45-minute appearance" Saturday night in Denver as the keynote speaker at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, Dave McNary reported for Variety. Jim Hughes of the Denver Post recounted how "Rather left the room surrounded by star-struck, snapshot-taking reporters." Apparently, the reporters were unfazed by Rather's bad journalism. Daniel Zwerdling of NPR told Hughes: "Every journalist in this room, including me, makes mistakes. The question is, do we acknowledge them and learn from them? He has."


In "Greatest American" Contest, Lauer
Trumpets Clinton's Success

In summarizing the lives of the 25 finalists in the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" contest, NBC's Matt Lauer on Sunday night labeled Bill Clinton as "brilliant" before trumpeting: "Under Clinton the economy boomed -- deficits turned into surplus -- and more than 22 million jobs were created. Along with the character flaws and the subpoenas came peace and prosperity." Bill Clinton
Listen to MP3 audio clip
Text of clip + audio archive

The brief segment did not feature any explicit criticisms of Clinton's presidency, but when it came to George W. Bush, whom Lauer described as "our tough-talking, language-mangling Commander-in-Chief who most Americans just want to hang our with," Discovery put on musician "Moby," who declared over flag-draped coffins: "From my perspective, you cannot call yourself a Christian, talk about the sanctity of life, and then support the death penalty, and support a war."

To launch its series of Sunday night shows in which the public can vote to select the "greatest American," Discovery on Sunday night aired a three-hour program (8-11pm EDT) hosted by Lauer. For the first two hours, Lauer ran through those ranked from #100 down to #26 as nominated by AOL members over the past few weeks. Amongst those in the bottom 75, some ridiculous nominations, including Phil McGraw, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Tom Cruise. Micheal Moore made it too, a couple of spots ahead of Rush Limbaugh who came in at #59. Lauer asserted: "His ultra-conservative show has transformed talk radio into a powerful political force."

Discovery devoted the third and final hour to the top 25, for whom the public can now vote -- via phone, text messaging or AOL's Web site -- in the "Greatest American" short-run series on Discovery over the next few weeks (two-hours this Sunday, an hour each on the next two Sunday nights.)

In addition to Bush and Clinton, the final 25, as presented by Lauer in alphabetical order:

Muhammad Ali Lance Armstrong Neil Armstrong Walt Disney Thomas Edison Albert Einstein Henry Ford Benjamin Franlkin Bill Gates Bill Graham Bob Hope Thomas Jefferson John Kennedy Martin Luther King Abraham Lincoln Rosa Parks Elvis Presley Ronald Reagan Eleanor Roosevelt Franklin Roosevelt George Washington Oprah Winfrey Wright Brothers

Lauer Discovery's format interwove narration from Lauer with clips or pictures of the subject and with comments from a variety of public figures. In the top 25, each person got about 90 seconds.

For George W. Bush, his segment began with a clip of him at Ground Zero in 2001: "And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
Lauer: "He's our tough-talking-"
Bush: "And you're working hard to put food on your family."
Lauer: "-language-mangling Commander-in-Chief who most Americans just want to hang out with."
Tom Brokaw: "People look at George Bush and however else they may feel about him, they think, 'you know, that's probably a guy I'd like to have a beer with.'"
Ann Curry on Today, December 2001: "The U.S. Supreme Court effectively handed George W. Bush the presidency last night."
Lauer: "After conquering dangling chads in 2000, George Bush took over the family business. And like father like son tied his political fortunes to Iraq."
Senator John McCain: "If the people of Iraq are able to achieve a free and democratic society, history will show that those young Americans died in the service of a noble cause."
Moby, musician, over shot of flag-draped coffins: "From my perspective, you cannot call yourself a Christian, talk about the sanctity of life, and then support the death penalty, and support a war."
Bush: "Even though we haven't found the stockpiles of weapons, we thought were there, I still would have made the same decision."
Rudy Giuliani: "Sometimes events force greatness or the lack of it, and in his particular case, it showed greatness. And I think that is gonna give President Bush a very important place in our history."

On Clinton, Lauer began with: "Brilliant."
Clinton before Congress: "Let this Congress be the Congress that finally balances the budget."
Lauer: "Skilled and surprisingly self-destructive."
Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
Howie Mandel, comedian: "It's not sex!"
Wendy Williams, syndicated radio personality: "It was sex, Bill."
Clinton: "It depends upon what the meaning of the word is."
Lauer: "Despite the scandals and investigations, Bill Clinton was an incredibly popular President who connected with the American people."
Clinton: "The best is yet to come. The best days of America."
Howie Mandel: "Phenomenal politician, phenomenal speaker."
Clinton: "Thank you and God bless you all."
Tiki Barber, New York Giants: "He could talk on any level to anyone and make them feel comfortable."
Lauer: "Under Clinton the economy boomed -- deficits turned into surplus -- and more than 22 million jobs were created. Along with the character flaws and the subpoenas came peace and prosperity."
Jesse Jackson: "He was a good President and the facts speak for themselves."
Unidentified woman: "I do think that he's one of the smartest Americans. The things he wanted to do for our country were positive."
Brokaw: "My guess is that he'll be judged as an exceptionally skilled politician with some grave personal flaws."

For the Web site for the show, where you can cast your vote or watch the brief biographies of each nominee: tv.channel.aol.com

Talking to Bradlee, Stephanopoulos Raises
Conservative Media Bias

George Stephanopoulos ABC's George Stephanopoulos takes his cues from left-wing letters to the editor? On Sunday's This Week, interviewing Ben Bradlee, the Executive Editor of the Washington Post during Watergate, Stephanopoulos took up the media's supposed conservative bias as he read from a letter in Saturday's Post from a guy in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, though Stephanopoulos did not note the overseas origin. The writer contended: "The Post seems to be cowed by the Bush administration, burying doubts about weapons of mass destruction on back pages and failing to investigate the warping of intelligence." When Bradlee demurred from criticizing the Post, Stephanopoulos moved to a wider angle: "There have been many who have said that the entire media was cowed in the aftermath of 9/11 and didn't go hard enough, for example, at the story of weapons of mass destruction."

On the June 5 This Week, Stephanopoulos asked: "There's a lot of people that are also looking at the attitude of the Washington Post today and I was interested in a letter to the editor -- it was written to the Post yesterday and I want to show it to our viewers. He says 'it's a very different Post now.' He says [text on screen, with name Nick Wreden at bottom]:
'The Post seems to be cowed by the Bush administration, burying doubts about weapons of mass destruction on back pages and failing to investigate the warping of intelligence, etc....The Post should stop resting on ancient laurels and start knocking on doors, just as two cub reporters did in 1972.'
"Do you think that's fair criticism?"
Bradlee, from his home in St. Mary's County, Maryland: "Well, I don't -- I don't particularly want to get into criticism of the Post. You know, I've been out 13 years since I was Executive Editor. Len Downie is the Executive Editor. He's doing a great, great job, and I -- you know, every time I read the paper I find something wrong with it and I'm sure you do, George."
Stephanopoulos wouldn't let it go: "Well, let's take it off the Post then and just onto the media generally because there have been many who have said that the entire media was cowed in the aftermath of 9/11 and didn't go hard enough, for example, at the story of weapons of mass destruction and there was a story to be gotten in the media didn't do their job."
Bradlee: "Well, I think there's some merit to that. I think there's some merit to that, but didn't we have a right to be -- cautious? I mean, this was -- this was very serious stuff here. I think it's fair to say that after Watergate, the media was cowed including the Washington Post by, you know, what God hath wrought. I mean, I wasn't all that hot to take on a new President and if by his own behavior he had gotten into trouble, the Post would have been blamed. I think we eased up a little and I'm not sure we should have. I don't think we did it very long."

Wreden's letter in full, from the June 4 Washington Post:

I remember waking up early each morning when I was in college just so I could read the latest Watergate revelation in The Post. The tenacity of "Woodstein" and the courage of Katharine Graham were inspiring. But I am more than a little put off by The Post's self-congratulatory treatment of an event that happened more than 30 years ago. Much more relevant, and where The Post needs to do a little soul-searching, is its current record.

The Post seems to be cowed by the Bush administration, burying doubts about weapons of mass destruction on back pages and failing to investigate the warping of intelligence, etc. Undoubtedly, there is more. The Post should stop resting on ancient laurels and start knocking on doors, just as two cub reporters did in 1972.

NICK WREDEN Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

For the Washington Post's Saturday letters: www.washingtonpost.com

Rather Receives Standing Ovations from
"Investigative" Reporters

Dan Rather "received standing ovations at the start and end of his 45-minute appearance" Saturday night in Denver as the keynote speaker at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, Dave McNary reported for Variety. Jim Hughes of the Denver Post recounted how "Rather left the room surrounded by star-struck, snapshot-taking reporters." Apparently, the reporters were unfazed by Rather's bad journalism. Daniel Zwerdling of NPR told Hughes: "Every journalist in this room, including me, makes mistakes. The question is, do we acknowledge them and learn from them? He has."

Two nights earlier, however, in a CNN appearance, Rather hardly showed contrition as he stood by his infamous anti-Bush story. As summarized in the June 3 CyberAlert: Dan Rather reiterated to CNN's Larry King on Thursday night that he believes the memos, in his National Guard hit piece on President Bush, were genuine. Rather emphasized how "the documents were part of a fairly wide array of information we had" and were "supported by all kind of things other than the documents." When King wondered, "so, are you saying the story might be correct?", Rather replied: "Well, I'm saying a prudent person might take that view." Rather pointed out how the investigatory panel named by CBS said that "the story was not born of any personal or political bias." Rather soon scolded those who presume the memos as forged: "They often say, well, they dealt with fake documents or fraudulent documents. Let's just say gently that that's not known. That's not a fact." Earlier, King asked: "Do you think the Republicans, the right-wing Republicans were after you?" Rather, who insisted he's "independent," ignored the substance of his bad reporting as he again saw a political agenda behind his critics: "Some people for their own partisan, political and ideological reasons want to jump on people that they perceive to be not with them." www.mediaresearch.org

-- An Excerpt from the June 5 Variety article highlighted on Sunday by the DrudgeReport.com:

Journo's Rather contrite Former CBS anchor speaks at conference

By DAVE MCNARY

DENVER -- Dan Rather found a receptive audience for a contrite apology over his handling of last September's "60 Minutes II" report on President Bush's National Guard Service....

Rather admitted he had improperly defended the story after questions arose about the veracity of its documentation. CBS subsequently acknowledged the documents were unverified and an independent panel investigating the story for the network criticized Rather's conduct.

"I was guilty of standing by and standing up for the story," he said. "I accept the panel's criticism that I shouldn't have done that."

The biggest lesson he learned, Rather said, was that the American people are "fair and fair-minded." And he refused to shift blame when asked if other journalists should have pursued the National Guard story as aggressively as they covered the "60 Minutes II" scandal.

"You have to look to yourself," he responded.

Rather, who choked up several times, received standing ovations at the start and end of his 45-minute appearance. He urged the journos to take their watchdog role seriously and said his biggest worry stems from the American public's "increasing lack of understanding" of the importance of First Amendment protections of the press....

END of Excerpt

For the Variety story in full: www.variety.com


-- An excerpt from a June 5 Denver Post article, "Rather expresses regret for Bush Guard report," by Jim Hughes:

Mistakes were made, he and people he works with at CBS News made them, and now his hunt for the next story goes on, a humbled Dan Rather told an audience of journalists at the annual conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors in Denver on Saturday.

At times choking up, Rather answered pointed questions about his critical "60 Minutes II" report on the National Guard service of President Bush last fall that CBS has since acknowledged was based on unverified documents.

Rather acknowledged that he improperly defended the story after questions arose about the authenticity of its underlying documents -- a finding of the independent panel that later investigated the story for CBS.

"I accept the panel's criticism that I shouldn't have done that," he said.

Asked what he learned from the scandal over that report, he said he learned that the American people are "fair-minded."

"That's the biggest lesson I've learned," he said. "You can trust the audience."

In prepared remarks, Rather took on the role of journalistic evangelist, urging his colleagues to take seriously their role as the watchdogs of government.

Though he has retired as anchor of "CBS Evening News," Rather still appears on the network's "60 Minutes."...

And his greatest surprise as a journalist came when President Johnson announced in 1968 that he would not seek a second term in office.

"I wouldn't have been more surprised if Fidel Castro had come riding through on a giraffe," he said.

As Rather left the room surrounded by star-struck, snapshot-taking reporters, others in the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt downtown said they were impressed by his candor.

"We all make mistakes," said National Public Radio senior correspondent Daniel Zwerdling, who had just received an IRE award for his reporting on the abuses of immigrants at two New Jersey jails.

"Every journalist in this room, including me, makes mistakes. The question is, do we acknowledge them and learn from them? He has."

END of Excerpt

For the article in full, along with a picture of a smiling Rather acknowledging a standing ovation: www.denverpost.com

The home page of the Investigative Reporters and Editors group based at the University of Missouri's journalism school: www.ire.org

For the section devoted to the group's annual conference: www.ire.org

-- Brent Baker