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Holder Hailed, But in 2000 Ashcroft Marked as Sop to 'Far Right' --11/19/2008


1. Holder Hailed, But in 2000 Ashcroft Marked as Sop to 'Far Right'
Eight years ago when incoming President George W. Bush named Senator John Ashcroft as his choice for Attorney General, the broadcast network evening newscasts applied ideological labels and highlighted opposition to him from liberals, but Tuesday night with President-elect Barack Obama's pick of Eric Holder for the same position, the anchors avoided any ideological tags or controversies and hailed him as an "historic" pick which fulfills Obama's promise of "diversity."

2. Matthews: 'Too Much Time Between Elections and Taking Over'
MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who conceded the obvious to Jay Leno that "I'm partial" to the "remarkable political reality" of Barack Obama, on Tuesday's Tonight Show regretted Obama cannot be inaugurated sooner than on January 20. "The President looks like he's already in the locker room with a towel around his neck. It looks like he's taken off," Matthews complained before insisting "we need a President pretty soon." The host of Hardball fretted about the long wait to get Obama into office, warning: "I'm getting worried because it's about another couple of months before we get a President and I'm worried about this country falling between the cracks because we've got one President who's sort of already retired and we got another President who's politely tip-toeing around the job. Who's leading us right now? It scares me." After a quip from fellow guest "Larry the Cable Guy," Matthews reiterated his point: "I think we've got too much time between elections and taking over."

3. CNN Labels Catholic Cardinal's Criticism of Obama a 'Diatribe'
On Tuesday's Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal's criticism of Barack Obama's abortion position as a "scathing rant" and a "diatribe." A CNN graphic also used the "scathing rant" term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal's words as a "blistering rant." All three of these terms came during Blitzer's promos for a report by CNN correspondent Brian Todd, which focused on recent comments made by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, who referred to Obama's pro-abortion stance as "aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic." Just before the top of the 5 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer gave the following promo for the segment: "Also, a scathing rant against Barack Obama from a rather surprising source, a Roman Catholic cardinal -- the story behind his diatribe against the President-elect." Ten minutes later, the CNN anchor gave another promo for Todd's report, in which he stated that the cardinal unleashed "a blistering rant on the President-elect."

4. NY Times Contends Dan Rather Correct on GOP-CBS Conspiracy
New York Times media reporter Jacques Steinberg's Monday story on disgraced former CBS anchorman Dan Rather's lawsuit against his old company, "Rather's Lawsuit Shows Role of G.O.P. in Inquiry at CBS," lauded Rather as still clever like a fox: "Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter -- including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath -- [Dan Rather] has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network." Not really, Steinberg painted a flattering picture of Rather as a veteran journalist who still has his chops, even when pursuing a ludicrous lawsuit that's cost him much of whatever respect he'd still retained after CBS dropped him from the anchor chair.


Holder Hailed, But in 2000 Ashcroft Marked
as Sop to 'Far Right'

Eight years ago when incoming President George W. Bush named Senator John Ashcroft as his choice for Attorney General, the broadcast network evening newscasts applied ideological labels and highlighted opposition to him from liberals, but Tuesday night with President-elect Barack Obama's pick of Eric Holder for the same position, the anchors avoided any ideological tags or controversies and hailed him as an "historic" pick which fulfills Obama's promise of "diversity."

ABC's Charles Gibson noted Obama's promise of "diversity of political party, of gender, of geography and of race" and reported "Eric Holder would be the first African-American" Attorney General. In December of 2000, the late Peter Jennings stressed how Ashcroft is "from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And some of the positions he's taken as a politician have galvanized liberal opposition to his nomination today."

Katie Couric, on CBS, trumpeted Holder as "another historic choice," but eight years ago Dan Rather decided "anti-abortion groups and the self-described Religious Right could not be happier" with Ashcroft who is "known for his tough anti-abortion stand. Planned Parenthood immediately urged Congress not to confirm him."

On NBC, Brian Williams simply summarized Holder's resume as "a veteran lawyer, former U.S. Attorney, number two person at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. If confirmed, Eric Holder would be the first African-American to become the nation's top law enforcement officer." Filling in for Tom Brokaw in 2000, Williams referred to Ashcroft as a "conservative Missouri Republican Senator" and asserted the selection "calms the far right politically."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The subsequent stories on Holder, none of which applied any ideological tags or cited his position on abortion, all did point out the controversy over his role in President Clinton's pardon of the fugitive Marc Rich that wasn't mentioned in the introductions from the anchors. In Clinton's second term, Holder served as Deputy Attorney General.

Network-by-network comparisons from Friday, December 22, 2000 (as recounted on the December 26, 2000 MRC CyberAlert which has more on coverage that night of the selection delayed by the elongated post-election day battles) versus Tuesday, November 18, 2008:

# ABC:

2000, World News Tonight. Anchor Peter Jennings opened the show by stressing liberal opposition: "George W. Bush has chosen the person he wants to be Attorney General. He is the 58-year old soon to be former Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri. Senator Ashcroft lost his bid for re-election this year. The Senator is a former law professor and former Attorney General of Missouri and Governor -- from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And some of the positions he's taken as a politician have galvanized liberal opposition to his nomination today."

2008, World News. Charles Gibson: "Since he was elected, Barack Obama has largely been staying out of public view, working on his cabinet. He has signaled that in the cabinet, there will be diversity, diversity of political party, of gender, of geography and of race. Today, ABC News has learned he will turn to one of his close associates to be the new Attorney General. If confirmed, Eric Holder would be the first African-American to hold that post."


# CBS Evening News:

2000, Dan Rather began: "Good evening. Anti-abortion groups and the self-described Religious Right could not be happier with President-elect George Bush's nominee for U.S. Attorney General. Bush today named John Ashcroft, a just-defeated Republican Senator from Missouri known for his tough anti-abortion stand. Planned Parenthood immediately urged Congress not to confirm him. Bush also named New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, who supports abortion rights, for a post with no role in abortion policy. She was picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency."

2008, Katie Couric: "And now to the incoming Obama administration, which takes over in nine weeks. The President-elect made his first cabinet selection today. Chip Reid is in Washington and, Chip, it's another historic choice."


# NBC Nightly News:

2000, fill-in anchor Brian Williams led the broadcast by emphasizing Ashcroft's appeal to the "far right" of the GOP: "America's second ever Bush administration is taking shape tonight with the naming of a GOP veteran to a crucial position. If confirmed, conservative Missouri Republican Senator John Ashcroft will be this nation's next Attorney General. With this move Mr. Bush rewards a defeated U.S. Senator, calms the far right politically and makes a decidedly law and order statement."

2008, Williams: "Now we turn to the presidential transition and word today that Barack Obama has made his choice for Attorney General. He is Eric Holder, a veteran lawyer, former U.S. Attorney, number two person at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. If confirmed, Eric Holder would be the first African-American to become the nation's top law enforcement officer."

Looks like Williams is wearing the same tie in 2000 and 2008 -- or at least likes similar-looking purple ones.

More on Ashcroft coverage in the December 26, 2000 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

Matthews: 'Too Much Time Between Elections
and Taking Over'

MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who conceded the obvious to Jay Leno that "I'm partial" to the "remarkable political reality" of Barack Obama, on Tuesday's Tonight Show regretted Obama cannot be inaugurated sooner than on January 20. "The President looks like he's already in the locker room with a towel around his neck. It looks like he's taken off," Matthews complained before insisting "we need a President pretty soon." The host of Hardball fretted about the long wait to get Obama into office, warning: "I'm getting worried because it's about another couple of months before we get a President and I'm worried about this country falling between the cracks because we've got one President who's sort of already retired and we got another President who's politely tip-toeing around the job. Who's leading us right now? It scares me."

After a quip from fellow guest "Larry the Cable Guy," Matthews reiterated his point: "I think we've got too much time between elections and taking over."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Matthews made the same case on his syndicated Chris Matthews Show over the weekend: "Okay. We have an interregnum here. We have one President not in office yet, one not still there it seems psychologically. You know, they changed the Constitution back in the '30s to have this shorter lame duck period. But now this lame duck period looks really dangerous for us right now because we've got through the holidays all the way to January 20." See: www.mediaresearch.org

(In his column last Friday, USA Today founder Al Neuharth argued "people who elect a new President are eager for the change to take place. The sooner the better," so he proposed: "We should move the President's inauguration up to the first Tuesday in December, one month after the election." November 17 CyberAlert with more: www.mrc.org )

Matthews on the Tuesday, November 18 Tonight Show on NBC:

We will not put up with mediocrity and we've had it for too long. The American people would not put up with this team we've had. This country has not been well served, we've not had good leadership. The President looks like he's already in the locker room with a towel around his neck. It looks like he's taken off and we need a President pretty soon. By the way, I'm getting worried because it's about another couple of months before we get a President and I'm worried about this country falling between the cracks because we've got one President who's sort of already retired and we got another President who's politely tip-toeing around the job. Who's leading us right now? It scares me.

It's a real problem because you know they used to have President sworn in in March and they moved it up to January, but now we got, I think we got too much time between elections and taking over.

CNN Labels Catholic Cardinal's Criticism
of Obama a 'Diatribe'

On Tuesday's Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal's criticism of Barack Obama's abortion position as a "scathing rant" and a "diatribe." A CNN graphic also used the "scathing rant" term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal's words as a "blistering rant."

All three of these terms came during Blitzer's promos for a report by CNN correspondent Brian Todd, which focused on recent comments made by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, who referred to Obama's pro-abortion stance as "aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic." Just before the top of the 5 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer gave the following promo for the segment: "Also, a scathing rant against Barack Obama from a rather surprising source, a Roman Catholic cardinal -- the story behind his diatribe against the President-elect." Ten minutes later, the CNN anchor gave another promo for Todd's report, in which he stated that the cardinal unleashed "a blistering rant on the President-elect."

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Cardinal Stafford, who is the former archbishop of Denver and now works in the Vatican, critiqued President-elect Barack Obama's pro-abortion position during a lecture at Catholic University of America on November 14. During his introduction to the actual report, Blitzer quoted the cardinal's "apocalyptic" comment, and called these words "surprisingly-harsh." Todd, who had interviewed the Catholic prelate over the comment, then gave his own introduction: "Wolf, this cardinal told me he wants to make sure that his words are not taken out of context, but he is not backing down from some very strong criticism of Mr. Obama, specifically over his willingness to sign pro-choice legislation when he becomes President."

It seems the cardinal's concerns about being taken out of context were justified. The soundbite from his lecture that Todd played during the report didn't provide some of the context of his words. The clip was taken from a YouTube posting by The Tower, the student newspaper at CUA, which included audio excerpts from Cardinal Stafford's lecture. Just before making his "apocalyptic" statement, Cardinal Stafford quoted from a speech Barack Obama gave to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, in which the Democrat asserted that the "first thing I will do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act." The act, if passed, would overturn most, if not all laws regulating abortion in the U.S. The prelate then labeled Obama's promise, among other comments he made during the speech, "post-modernist" rhetoric, and that they point to "an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic." During this portion of his lecture, Cardinal Stafford used a calm tone of voice, contrary to the "blistering" impression Blitzer had given earlier.

For The Tower's YouTube posting containing excerpts from Cardinal Stafford's lecture at Catholic University, and their accompanying article, see their November 14 item, "Cardinal at CUA: Obama is 'Aggressive, Disruptive and Apocalyptic,'" at: www.cuatower.com

For excerpts of Obama's July 17, 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood, see the YouTube.com item, "Barack Obama Promises to Sign FOCA," at: www.youtube.com

At the end of the segment, Blitzer misrepresented the Catholic Church's stances on various issues. He stated that the Church and Obama "do agree on some hot button issues, including opposition to the war in Iraq, greater access to health care, and more equitable tax codes," as a CNN graphic referred to the health care issues as "universal health care." On the last two issues, this is an oversimplification. Paragraph 2211 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the "political community's" duty to "honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure," among other things, "the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate" and "in keeping with the country's institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits." The same Catechism, which lists the official teachings of the Catholic Church, says nothing of "more equitable tax codes." It only states how it is "morally obligatory to pay taxes" (paragraph 2240) and that tax evasion is "morally illicit" (paragraph 2409).

On the other hand, Blitzer did correctly state that Obama and the Church "strongly disagree on embryonic stem cell research; abortion rights...and civil unions for gay couples, all of which Obama supports -- the Catholic Church opposes."

NY Times Contends Dan Rather Correct
on GOP-CBS Conspiracy

New York Times media reporter Jacques Steinberg's Monday story on disgraced former CBS anchorman Dan Rather's lawsuit against his old company, "Rather's Lawsuit Shows Role of G.O.P. in Inquiry at CBS," lauded Rather as still clever like a fox: "Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter -- including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath -- [Dan Rather] has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network." Not really, Steinberg painted a flattering picture of Rather as a veteran journalist who still has his chops, even when pursuing a ludicrous lawsuit that's cost him much of whatever respect he'd still retained after CBS dropped him from the anchor chair.

Rather was disgraced in September 2004 when his 60 Minutes piece on George W. Bush's Vietnam-era service record backfired when it was shown the documents purporting to prove Bush had gone AWOL from the National Guard were in fact not from the early '70s but recent creations of Microsoft Word. "Rathergate" ended the veteran anchorman's career at CBS, but he's still clawing at his old network in the courts, accusing them of trying to appease the GOP (yeah, right) with its inquiry into how the phony story came to be aired in the first place.

[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]

Steinberg stroked Rather's already-healthy sense of journalistic self-worth with his portrait of Rather, investigative reporter at large:

When Dan Rather filed suit against CBS 14 months ago -- claiming, among other things, that his former employer had commissioned a politically biased investigation into his work on a "60 Minutes" segment about President Bush's National Guard service -- the network predicted the quick and favorable dismissal of the case, which it derided as "old news."

So far, Mr. Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. And according to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money.

Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter -- including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath -- he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.

Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the "60 Minutes" segment.

SUSPEND Excerpt

What a shame that Rather didn't use some of that reportorial acumen on that sheaf of obviously phony National Guard documents.

And after you strip away that forbidding phrase about "Republican operatives," what Rather actually uncovered was far more benign:

Some of the documents unearthed by his investigation include notes taken at the time by Linda Mason, a vice president of CBS News. According to her notes, one potential panel member, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, was deemed a less-than-ideal candidate over fears by some that he would not "mollify the right."

Meanwhile, Mr. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, was named a panelist by CBS, but only after a CBS lobbyist "did some other testing," in which she was told, according to Ms. Mason's notes, "T comes back with high marks from G.O.P."

Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather's lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled "Roger Ailes," the founder of Fox News.

Asked about the assembly of the panel in a sworn deposition, Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News, acknowledged that he had wanted at least one member to sit well with conservatives: "CBS News, fairly or unfairly, had a reputation for liberal bias," and "the harshest scrutiny was obviously going to come from the right."

END of Excerpt

For the November 17 article in full: www.nytimes.com

If one were brainstorming a list of panel members, why would prominent conservatives be excluded?

Check TimesWatch daily for the latest examples of bias in the New York Times: www.timeswatch.org

-- Brent Baker