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Gregory Regrets How Journalistic Behavior "Created a Diversion" --2/20/2006


1. Gregory Regrets How Journalistic Behavior "Created a Diversion"
On Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory, the main antagonist over Dick Cheney in the White House press room last week, conceded "it was inappropriate for me to lose my cool with the press secretary representing the President. I don't think it was professional of me," but Gregory was more sorry for how the focus on the journalistic behavior "created a diversion from some of the serious questions in the story, so I regret that." Gregory rued how Cheney defenders "have been eager to stoke this as a false debate between the Vice President and the White House press corps, attempting to cast this as the White House press corps is a ping-pong in the culture wars. The reality is that that false debate obscures some real facts." Gregory contended that the events are "emblematic of the rather secretive style with the press by the Vice President" and so "I, for one, don't apologize for pushing hard for answers. I think people who view the news or view what I do for a partisan lens may think I was making a political statement. I was not."

2. Kristol: Time Commissioned Poll Hoping "Cheney's Numbers Plummet"
After NPR's Mara Liasson relayed on Fox News Sunday how a Time magazine poll "showed 65 percent thought he [Dick Cheney] should have taken immediate responsibility as opposed to waiting," fellow panelist Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard pointed that while Time's press release highlighted that finding, they didn't stress numbers which demonstrated the public doesn't see the hunting accident revelation time line as such a big deal. Kristol cited how by 52 to 42 percent most approve "of how the Vice President handled this and when asked, "Do you think the Vice President is an asset to the President and to his administration or damaging?," by 41 to 37 percent the plurality chose "an asset." Kristol postulated: "Time obviously commissioned this poll desperately hoping 'Cheney's numbers plummet, damaging Bush administration.' They couldn't find a thing like that. So it tells you much more about the press corps than the Vice President, I think." And Newsweek's cover story: "He peppered a man in the face, but didn't tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney's dark, secretive mind-set"and the forces that made it that way."

3. NBC's Gregory Sees Vindication, Skips How Most Want to Move On
ABC and CBS, which both led Friday night with Harry Whittington's first public appearance since his hunting accident with Vice President Dick Cheney, held their coverage to Whittington's comments as well as remarks from Cheney at the Wyoming Capitol. But while NBC, for the first time since the incident didn't lead with the topic, David Gregory highlighted Whittington's praise for the media and explored whether Cheney "has become a political liability." Gregory, the leading antagonist on the issue in the White House press corps, ignored a poll by NBC's own WNBC-TV which determined the overwhelming majority want no further investigation of the incident, and began his story by suggesting some vindication: "Harry Whittington left the hospital in Texas today, and ironically began his remarks by thanking the news media for its coverage of this incident."

4. Dreyfuss Urges Bush's Impeachment, Baldwin: Cheney a "Terrorist"
Late last week two left-wing actors launched volleys at President Bush and Vice President Cheney urging Bush's impeachment and calling Cheney a "terrorist." In an address at the National Press Club on Thursday, Richard Dreyfuss charged: "Unless you are willing to accept torture as part of a normal American political lexicon; unless you are willing to accept that leaving the Geneva Convention is fine and dandy; if you accept the expression [probably meant to say "expansion"] of wiretapping as business as usual, the only way to express this now is to embrace the difficult and perhaps embarrassing process of impeachment." And in a Friday piece on the Huffington Post blog, Alec Baldwin unleashed: "Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately. Who ever thought Harry Whittington would be the answer to America's prayers. Finally, someone who might get that lying, thieving Cheney into a courtroom to answer some direct questions."


Gregory Regrets How Journalistic Behavior
"Created a Diversion"

On Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory, the main antagonist over Dick Cheney in the White House press room last week, conceded "it was inappropriate for me to lose my cool with the press secretary representing the President. I don't think it was professional of me," but Gregory was more sorry for how the focus on the journalistic behavior "created a diversion from some of the serious questions in the story, so I regret that." Gregory rued how Cheney defenders "have been eager to stoke this as a false debate between the Vice President and the White House press corps, attempting to cast this as the White House press corps is a ping-pong in the culture wars. The reality is that that false debate obscures some real facts." Gregory contended that the events are "emblematic of the rather secretive style with the press by the Vice President" and so "I, for one, don't apologize for pushing hard for answers. I think people who view the news or view what I do for a partisan lens may think I was making a political statement. I was not."

Time Russert led Sunday's Meet the Press with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, but then devoted more than half of his hour to a panel with NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot and Cheney advisor Mary Matalin, who mocked the media obsession with the time line on public disclosure of Cheney's hunting accident.

Some highlights of Gregory's defense of his behavior, starting with Russert reading from an off-camera exchange at the morning "gaggle" last Monday.

Russert, reading text displayed on screen attributed to the Chicago Tribune: "There also had been an off-camera exchange that Gigot just referred to. Scott McClellan: 'David, hold on, the cameras aren't on right now. You can do this later.' David Gregory: 'Don't accuse me of trying to pose for the cameras. Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question.' McClellan: 'You don't have to yell.' 'I will yell," Gregory: 'If you want to use the, that podium to try to take shots at my personally, which I don't appreciate, then I will raise my voice because that's wrong.' McClellan: 'Calm down, Dave, calm down.' Gregory: 'I'll calm down when I feel like calming down. You answer the question.' Looking back at that a few days later, your sense?"
Gregory, on Meet the Press: "I think I made a mistake. I think it was inappropriate for me to lose my cool with the press secretary representing the President. I don't think it was professional of me. I was frustrated, I said what I said, but I think that you should never speak that way, as my wife reminded me, number one. And number two, I think it created a diversion from some of the serious questions in the story, so I regret that. I was wrong, and I apologize.
"But I think what interesting about all of this is that Mary and others in the White House have been eager to stoke this as a false debate between the Vice President and the White House press corps, attempting to cast this as the White House press corps is a ping-pong in the culture wars. The reality is that that false debate obscures some real facts. You laid out some of them in terms of questions that were raised about how the vice president initially disclosed this, making the decision to not disclose it himself and have Katharine Armstrong do it.
"It also overlooks a very important point, and that is there was disagreement, as Mary well knows, within the White House about how this was handled: the question of why the vice president didn't call the president. Also the fact that there were some White House advisers who told me this week, it made the president look bad, it raised questions about who was really running the rodeo in the White House.
"The Vice President created these questions. It's also emblematic of the rather secretive style with the press by the Vice President. And so I think it's fair to disagree with the White House press corps, or with me, or the White House press corps generally, I think, is more important, in terms of how we go about answers. But I, for one, don't apologize for pushing hard for answers. I think people who view the news or view what I do for a partisan lens may think I was making a political statement. I was not. I make no apologies for pushing hard for information because sometimes it's hard to get."

A bit later, Gregory acknowledged a lack of "empathy" for Cheney: "Tim, can I just speak up on a point that Paul [Gigot] made that I think is a good one, which is I think for the moment I'm the only one here representing the White House press corps. I think one of the things we may have missed this week is a little bit more empathy for the Vice President, given what he went through. This is a terrible incident for two people, one of whom happened to be the Vice President. I think we missed that a little bit in all of this questioning. I do think the Vice President gave voice to that personal pain extremely well this week, which is why, I for one, was so pleased to see him speak publicly about it and, you know, why I think it would have been useful to speak about it more quickly."

Gregory soon made a very partisan point: "I just wonder what Mary Matalin and others would have said if Vice President Gore had accidentally shot someone with similar facts and the press corps was pressing hard for answers and if Mary or others wouldn't think we would press just as hard for answers in that circumstance with this kind of story, I think that's mistaken."
Matalin retorted: "I don't know what answers you pressed for that weren't contained in this story. And you want to know why there's bad faith because this human accident, this tragedy is conveyed as 'Vice president' -- she [Maureen Dowd] just characterized it -- 'The Vice President sent people out for four days to blame the victim.' No such thing occurred."

Kristol: Time Commissioned Poll Hoping
"Cheney's Numbers Plummet"

After NPR's Mara Liasson relayed on Fox News Sunday how a Time magazine poll "showed 65 percent thought he [Dick Cheney] should have taken immediate responsibility as opposed to waiting," fellow panelist Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard pointed that while Time's press release highlighted that finding, they didn't stress numbers which demonstrated the public doesn't see the hunting accident revelation time line as such a big deal. Kristol cited how by 52 to 42 percent most approve "of how the Vice President handled this and when asked, "Do you think the Vice President is an asset to the President and to his administration or damaging?," by 41 to 37 percent the plurality chose "an asset." Kristol postulated: "Time obviously commissioned this poll desperately hoping 'Cheney's numbers plummet, damaging Bush administration.' They couldn't find a thing like that. So it tells you much more about the press corps than the Vice President, I think." And Newsweek's cover story: "He peppered a man in the face, but didn't tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney's dark, secretive mind-set"and the forces that made it that way."

During the panel segment on the February 19 Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson of NPR asserted: "With the exception of the late-night comedians, who had a field day with this, this is a story that was pretty easy to understand. The Vice President shoots somebody. Then there was the issue of whether he should have disclosed it sooner or handled it differently. And on that, there's a remarkable amount of consensus. There is a Time poll that showed 65 percent thought he should have taken immediate responsibility as opposed to waiting. And I guess among that number would be President Bush, whose spokesman made it pretty clear that he also thought that Cheney maybe should have come out sooner. But at the same time, the Time poll showed that 69 percent said this would have no effect at all on their opinion of the Vice President, which nationally is pretty low. I think his approval rating is 29 percent. So I think, overall, is this an important, significant story that will change something politically? No. For people who -- including members of the press, who feel this White House is too secretive and the Vice President has too much power and is unchecked, this becomes a metaphor for that."
Bill Kristol, Publisher of the Weekly Standard, reading from Time magazine's press release: "Time, of course, chose to put this on the cover in its next week's issue with this very dark, ominous subhead, 'How One Shot at a Quail Hunt Turned a Gentile Quail Hunt into a Political Crisis.' And then they highlight in their press release the first number Mara mentioned -- 'most people think Cheney should have come forward a little earlier.' What they don't highlight are some -- let me just mention a couple of additional numbers from the poll.
"'Do you approve of how the Vice President handled this?' 52-42, yes, approve. 'What's your general approval or disapproval of the Vice President?' It's the same as the President, almost identical to the President's approval rating. And this is my favorite: 'Do you think the Vice President is an asset to the President and to his administration or damaging?' 41-37, an asset. Cheney is not hurting the Bush administration. If anything, he's helping it some. I think he's a political and substantive asset to the Bush administration. This accidental shooting has done nothing at all to hurt, to change, the numbers on Cheney.
"Time obviously commissioned this poll desperately hoping 'Cheney's numbers plummet, damaging Bush administration.' They couldn't find a thing like that. So it tells you much more about the press corps than the Vice President, I think."

Also, by an overwhelming 85 to 10 percent, those polled rejected the idea Cheney should resign. And by 56 to 39 percent, the majority of those surveyed said they do not believe "Cheney was trying to hide something by waiting to disclose the accident."

For Time's poll: www.time.com

Or, for it all in one page: www.time.com

The story in Time's February 27 edition is headlined, "Inside the Shooting at the Ranch: What really happened in the brushy South Texas wild that day? How one shot turned a genteel quail hunt into a political crisis." See: www.time.com

But that's mild compared to Newsweek's cover story, "The Shot Heard Round the World: He peppered a man in the face, but didn't tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney's dark, secretive mind-set'€"and the forces that made it that way." See: www.msnbc.msn.com

NBC's Gregory Sees Vindication, Skips
How Most Want to Move On

ABC and CBS, which both led Friday night with Harry Whittington's first public appearance since his hunting accident with Vice President Dick Cheney, held their coverage to Whittington's comments as well as remarks from Cheney at the Wyoming Capitol. But while NBC, for the first time since the incident didn't lead with the topic, David Gregory highlighted Whittington's praise for the media and explored whether Cheney "has become a political liability." Gregory, the leading antagonist on the issue in the White House press corps, ignored a poll by NBC's own WNBC-TV which determined the overwhelming majority want no further investigation of the incident, and began his story by suggesting some vindication: "Harry Whittington left the hospital in Texas today, and ironically began his remarks by thanking the news media for its coverage of this incident."

After a clip of Cheney and then of President Bush dismissing the controversy as "noise," Gregory saw wisdom in one conservative columnist as he brought up a piece from the day before on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page: "Republicans are now faced with the question of whether...the Vice President has become a political liability, the hunting accident being just the latest example. Conservative pundit Peggy Noonan suggested in the Wall Street Journal the President might consider pushing the Vice President to step down. 'Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now,' Noonan wrote. But many Republicans say Mr. Cheney serves an important function...." Gregory, who through his vocal hectoring of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, made sure the story became a distraction, concluded that "this week" Cheney "was a distraction."

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

Over on ABC's World News Tonight, Martha Raddatz concluded her review of the Friday comments from Whittington and Cheney, by picking up on a poll that proved most want to move on:
"The Vice President does not intend to give any more detail about the accident or why it took more than 20 hours to release information about the shooting. But the public does not seem concerned. In a poll released today by the Marist organization, voters were asked whether there should be a further investigation of the hunting accident. 65 percent said no [34 percent yes]. And Texas officials agree with that, Elizabeth. They say the case is officially closed."

In fact, that's from the latest "WNBC/Marist Poll" released Friday -- posted in PDF format. So, an ABC News reporter was willing to let viewers know about it, but not NBC's own national network reporter, David Gregory, on the NBC Nightly News carried by WNBC-TV, channel 4, the NBC-owned TV station in New York City.

Lee Cowan handled the story on the CBS Evening News and, when he was finished, anchor Bob Schieffer asked him: "Lee, did it strike you odd that he said nothing about the circumstances or how it happened, only that he just felt bad for the Vice President?"

Now, a full transcript, provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, of the February 17 NBC Nightly News story. Anchor Brian Williams, from Torino:
"We heard today from the man who was shot by the Vice President in that hunting accident in Texas last weekend. Harry Whittington was sent home from the hospital today, and before he departed it was clear he wanted to add his view of the debacle that ended up causing political damage to his hunting partner, Vice President Cheney. Our report tonight from NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory."

David Gregory began: "Harry Whittington left the hospital in Texas today, and ironically began his remarks by thanking the news media for its coverage of this incident."
Harry Whittington, outside hospital in Corpus Christi: "I know your role is to get the news out to the public. I compliment you on what you've done."
Gregory: "Criticism of the coverage of last weekend's hunting accident quickly emerged as a subplot to the story. Whittington sounded philosophical today about being shot by his friend, the Vice President. The bird-shot leaving its mark on Whittington's face and neck."
Whittington: "Regardless of how experienced, careful, and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen."
Gregory: "Meanwhile, in the Vice President's home state of Wyoming, Mr. Cheney appeared to see light at the end of this story."
Dick Cheney at Wyoming Capitol, before state legislature: "It's a wonderful experience to be greeted with such warmth by the leaders of our great state. That's especially true when you've had a very long week."
Gregory: "For his part, the President was in Florida today, dismissive of the ways of Washington when asked what he thought of the Cheney hunting accident topping the news this week."
George W. Bush at public event: "There's a lot of noise in Washington. There's a lot of flattery, there's a lot of criticism, there's just a lot of noise."
Gregory: "But Republicans are now faced with the question of whether that noise is something more. Whether the Vice President has become a political liability, the hunting accident being just the latest example. Conservative pundit Peggy Noonan suggested in the Wall Street Journal [picture on screen of Noonan and of her article with quoted text across bottom of screen] the President might consider pushing the Vice President to step down. 'Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now,' Noonan wrote. But many Republicans say Mr. Cheney serves an important function."
Vin Weber, Republican strategist: "The Vice President is the point man for the administration often on ideological issues. He's the point man within the base of his own party."
Gregory concluded, from the White House lawn: "But this episode has raised new questions about the relationship between the President and Mr. Cheney, who this week was a distraction. David Gregory, NBC News, the White House."

Dreyfuss Urges Bush's Impeachment, Baldwin:
Cheney a "Terrorist"

Late last week two left-wing actors launched volleys at President Bush and Vice President Cheney urging Bush's impeachment and calling Cheney a "terrorist." In an address at the National Press Club on Thursday, Richard Dreyfuss charged: "Unless you are willing to accept torture as part of a normal American political lexicon; unless you are willing to accept that "


| |

leaving the Geneva Convention is fine and dandy; if you accept the expression [probably meant to say "expansion"] of wiretapping as business as usual, the only way to express this now is to embrace the difficult and perhaps embarrassing process of impeachment.

And in a Friday piece on the Huffington Post blog, Alec Baldwin unleashed: "Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately. Who ever thought Harry Whittington would be the answer to America's prayers. Finally, someone who might get that lying, thieving Cheney into a courtroom to answer some direct questions."

Friday's Hannity & Colmes on FNC played the above clip of Dreyfuss on February 16 and it will be added, in RealPlayer and Windows Media formats, to the posted version of this CyberAlert. In the meantime, you can watch it on our NewsBusters blog, where I added the video Friday night to a posting by Noel Sheppard: newsbusters.org

The MRC's CNSNews.com, in a February 17 story by Randy Hall, "Impeaching Bush Is 'Cause Worth Fighting for,' Actor Says," first recounted the February 16 remarks by Dreyfuss. An excerpt, picking up after Dreyfuss recommended impeachment:

Noting that the process was established by the country's "founders, who we revere to check executive abuse with congressional balance," Dreyfuss said impeachment "is a statement that we refuse to endorse bad behavior." See Video

"If we refuse to debate the appropriateness of the process of impeachment, we endorse that behavior, and we approve the enlargement of executive power," regardless of whoever may occupy the White House in the future, he said.

"And don't kid yourselves: No one ever gives up power, ever," Dreyfuss added.

"Now, it is not your job as the press to impeach George Bush," the actor stated. However, people in the media should "maintain the integrity of that debate" by not dismissing the topic out of hand as partisan or unpatriotic.

During his address on the subject of Hollywood's view of contemporary news media, Dreyfuss said he is not a cynic or a liberal, but is instead a "'libo-conservo-middle-of-the-roado,' and I have been for many years."

"I'm deeply in love with my country," he added. "As a matter of fact, I'm deeply in love with the country that I was taught about in school, the land of the free and the home of the brave."

END of Excerpt

For the CNSNews.com story in full: www.cnsnews.com

The CNSNews.com posting includes several video clips, only in Windows Media format, but it can only be streamed and is at a very high quality level (1100 kbps, more than four times higher than the FNC clip posted above) and so only try to view if you have a broadband connection.

In a Friday Huffington Post posting, "Will They Go to Court?", Alec Baldwin spewed (an excerpt):

So, I suppose the question is...what kind of civil trial will we see, or not see, between Cheney and Whittington?....

What would Cheney do about the whole secrecy thing then? I mean, this is the guy that sicced Enron on Gray Davis and the state of California to embarrass Davis, trigger the recall and then watched Arnold Schwarzenegger become governor of California. (To this day, perhaps, still the low point in American political life.) Then Cheney covered it up.

Cheney's the guy who told Libby to out Valerie Plame. The rumor I heard is that someone yelled, "Look out! Shooter!" and Cheney thought he said Scooter and fired in that general direction.

Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately. Who ever thought Harry Whittington would be the answer to America's prayers. Finally, someone who might get that lying, thieving Cheney into a courtroom to answer some direct questions.

END of Excerpt

For Baldwin's short posting in full: www.huffingtonpost.com

Last year, Baldwin was a runner-up for the "Barbra Streisand Political IQ Award for Celebrity Vapidity" in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2005: The Eighteenth Annual Award for the Year's Worst Reporting," for this shot on HBO's Real time with Bill Maher: "Most Republicans who are registered Republicans are decent, honest good people who you have a difference of opinion with. The leadership of the Republican Party are a bunch of sociopathic maniacs who have their lips super-glued to the ass of the conservative right." To watch video: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker