Jennings and Brokaw Defend Rather Who Sees Effort to "Smear" Him --10/4/2004
2. Brokaw Scolds MRC for Damaging the Credibility Network News
3. View that Kerry Won Debate a "Rare Degree of Unanimity" in Media
4. On Debate Night, Daily Show Beat MSNBC; Viewers Fled CBS News
5. MRC-Highlighted Media Quotes in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911
6. "Top Ten Highlights of Last Night's Presidential Debate"
At a Saturday forum in New York City, Dan Rather refused to comment specifically on his political hit job on President Bush using forged documents, but his paranoid feelings came through later when he complained that if you ask too many tough questions of an administration they will do their "very best to smear you" and they will "attack you, the messenger," because they "can't attack you on the facts." Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw came to Rather's defense at the New Yorker Festival event which featured the three anchors. To loud applause, Jennings argued: "I don't think you ever judge a man by only one event in his career." Brokaw lectured: "What I think is highly inappropriate is what's going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS News that is quite outrageous." Making a political comparison to a non-media outlet transgression, Brokaw complained "that there's been very little attention given, by those people who are initiating a lot of these attacks, to what's happened to the investigation into who leaked to Bob Novak the use of what turned out to be a forged document to make a claim about uranium in Niger."
All three anchors kvetched about how they were not tough enough before the war to stand up to pro-war sentiments. Jennings complained about FNC's rating success and how that proved "that there were a lot of people in the country who clearly wanted to cheer the war on and cheer the troops on particularly," but he then made a telling admission that it "was not a natural instinct for any of us in the so-called establishment media to cheer the country on."
(Also, for the third time this year, Brokaw lashed out at the MRC for criticizing mainstream news reporting. In that rant, Brokaw insisted that "these three aging white men are stuck somewhere in the middle trying, on a nightly basis, give a fair and balanced picture of what's going on in the world." See item #2 below.)
Below are quotes I took down from C-SPAN's Sunday playback of the Saturday morning New Yorker Festival forum with Rather, Jennings and Brokaw, held at the New York City Public Library and hosted by the New Yorker's Ken Auletta. The Washington Post and AP carried stories on the event, and CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday showed a few clips, and so I began with those quotes, but I corrected them against the tape and expanded upon several of them.
Comments in sequence from the three anchors who all sat in directors chairs on a stage:
# Peter Jennings: "The one thing I feel quite strongly about, and I've said this to Dan, I say it to everybody else: I don't think you ever judge a man by only one event in his career."
# Tom Brokaw: "What I think is highly inappropriate is what's going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS News that is quite outrageous because when it comes to fraudulence and forgery and claims that cannot be supported, that's where you see an enormous harm being done, I think, to real discourse in this country. And I'm also struck by the fact that there's been very little attention given, by those people who are initiating a lot of these attacks, to what's happened to the investigation into who leaked to Bob Novak the use of what turned out to be a forged document to make a claim about uranium in Niger. Those have been shoved aside while there's an attempt to tee up CBS News, I think, in a greatly exaggerated and disproportionate fashion and I think it drives too much of what's going on in this country in terms of political discourse."
# Brokaw: The CBS incident "re-enforces in the minds of some people, this drumbeat that all three network news divisions, and the three of us particularly, as just short if not members of the Communist Party."
# Brokaw: "It is certainly an attempt to demonize CBS News, and it goes well beyond any factual information that a lot of them have. There's a kind of demagoguery that is unleashed out there."
# Dan Rather, after earlier refusing to comment on the CBS scandal, claimed that the public relations machine of every administration is getting better: "We want to instill fear in you, that you won't ask tough questions, you won't do aggressive, bold reporting. You dare not take a chance, because if you do that kind of reporting, we're going to make you pay a terrible price for it. So part of it is fear. And the other part, and keep in mind I'm saying this -- Democratic, Republican administrations try this-"
# Jennings on pre-war coverage: "I think we've all had some serious second thoughts as to whether we were as on the ball as we should have been....
Dan Rather, vowing to resist any "smear" campaign against him by the Bush administration or other critics, said Saturday he would not "give up the fight" and intends to remain in the CBS anchor chair....
Under questioning by New Yorker writer Ken Auletta at the ornate New York Public Library on 42nd Street, Rather offered an impassioned defense of his overall work that offered a glimpse of his emotional state during the toughest episode of his 42-year career at CBS News. It quickly became clear that the 72-year-old anchor, who has long been a lightning rod for conservative critics -- some of whom are demanding that he resign -- sees himself as under siege by his critics.
"I'm an independent journalist," Rather said. "I don't have a political agenda. What I'm trying to do is be an honest broker of information. I'm going to make my mistakes...and not give in to those" who are themselves "biased."...
Defending his approach, the anchor said: "Once we say the pressure is so great, the price is so high to pay, once we give up that fight, we give up something that's important not only to journalism but also important to the country."
At another point, he said: "If you don't report as somebody wants you to report, if you don't reflect news through the prism of their prejudices, they're going to call you biased."...
All three men expressed misgivings about the media's coverage during the run-up to the Iraq war, when the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein possessed illegal weapons got far more attention than the views of critics. "I think we've all had some serious second thoughts as to whether we were as on the ball as we should have been," Jennings said. Noting the success of Fox News during that period, when many Americans wanted the media to root for the U.S. troops, Jennings said it was "not a natural instinct for those of us in the establishment media to cheer the country on."
Brokaw said "there was a lot of martial music in the air" but also blamed what he called "a failure of the political system." He said Democratic Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards, who now criticize the war as running mates, "not only voted to authorize it but released press statements saying how proud they were of that vote."
Rather engaged in a bit of soul-searching during the forum. When there is "flag-waving" and "Sousa music playing" in time of war, he said, "I want to be a patriotic journalist." But, he said, "you begin to get confused as to what the role of a patriotic journalist is. One thing I wished I had done was to ask more questions, had more courage to ask more of the tougher questions," even though he said he would have gotten "hammered."
Although he can withstand labels such as "liberal" or "bomb-throwing Bolshevik," Rather said, "when the risk is that they're going to hang a sign around you, 'unpatriotic,' it takes tremendous strength -- strength I didn't always have -- to say, 'You know what? The hell with you.' "
When asked about his future, Rather, whose contract runs through 2006, said: "Sure, I have thoughts about stepping down. Everyone has thoughts." But as long as he likes the job and "think I can do it reasonably well -- and more important, as long as the people I work for think I can do it reasonably well -- I want to continue doing it. I don't have a date. I don't have a time frame."
But if his CBS bosses decide otherwise, he added, "I'll be happy to go."
END of Excerpt
For Kurtz's October 3 article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
On Saturday, for the third time this year, Tom Brokaw lashed out at the Media Research Center. At the New Yorker Festival, Brokaw rued how "Brent Bozell has, you know, an entire organization devoted to doing as much damage, and I choose that word carefully, as he can to the credibility of the news divisions." We couldn't have done it without their help.
Brokaw's comments came during a Saturday morning forum hosted by Ken Auletta, at which Brokaw was joined by Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. On Sunday, C-SPAN played a tape of the event. See item #1 above for additional remarks from Brokaw as well as from Rather and Jennings.
A brief look back at Brokaw's earlier shots at the MRC followed by a full quotation of his latest comments:
-- From the July 28 CyberAlert morning edition: These MRC CyberAlerts really annoy NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. On the Sunday before the Democratic convention, at a forum on media coverage of the presidential campaign held at Harvard University, Brokaw blasted MRC President Brent Bozell by name: "There are organized interest groups out there. There's a guy by the name of Brent Bozell, who makes a living at, you know, taking us on every night. He's well-organized, he's got a constituency, he's got a newsletter. He can hit a button and we'll hear from him." For more, including a RealPlayer video clip: www.mediaresearch.org
-- January 9 CyberAlert: In an interview in the January/February edition of the Columbia Journalism Review magazine, Brokaw denied he's guilty of any liberal bias and seemed to be referring to the MRC's CyberAlert as he called the constant drumbeat of criticism from the MRC "a little wearying" since the MRC's "fine legal points" are "everywhere every day." He charged that "most of the cases" of liberal bias complaints "are pretty flimsily made," but Brokaw had no problem seeing bias on FNC: "It's a lively, right-of-center opinionated all-news channel." See: www.mediaresearch.org
We've certainly gotten under Brokaw's skin.
The universal media assessment that John Kerry won the debate "represents a rare degree of unanimity among the chattering and commenting classes, in my experience," veteran Washington Post editor Robert Kaiser observed at the outset of noontime Friday online chat session on washingtonpost.com.
Kaiser, currently an associate editor at the paper after holding the number two slot, Managing Editor, from 1991 to 1998, noted at the start:
For the October 1 chat session: discuss.washingtonpost.com
Comedy Central's 11pm EDT live "The Bush-Kerry Debate: The Squabble in Coral Gables," actually "beat MSNBC's post-debate analysis," the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes noted on Saturday, "although it enjoyed the advantage of running 30 minutes earlier than Comedy Central's." FNC, de Moraes reported, "pulled in an impressive 9.6 million viewers for the debate, which is its second biggest audience ever, behind only that four-minute-long coverage of President Bush's we're-at-war speech of March 19, 2003. That had 9.7 million viewers." But FNC viewership was well behind the broadcast networks. The AP's David Bauder suggested that "Nielsen ratings for the debate offered indications of a potential viewer backlash against CBS's Dan Rather." CBS's 9-11pm EDT coverage lost much of its Survivor lead-in and that, Bauder contended, "indicates a significant number of viewers switched channels from CBS when the debate came on. By contrast, NBC, ABC and Fox all had more viewers for the debate than they had for the programs immediately preceding them, Nielsen said."
Bauder observed: "For much of the country, the hit show Survivor preceded the debate, and it led all the networks in its time slot with 21.1 million viewers, Nielsen said. But for the debate itself, CBS had 13.5 million viewers -- actually lower than for the first Bush-Gore matchup in 2000." Furthermore, while CBS "CBS ranked second behind NBC for most debate viewers," for "the half-hour of analysis after the debate, CBS slipped to third behind ABC." That slipped occurred when the CBS cameras switched from Kerry and Bush to Dan Rather.
Using the October 2 Washington Post and AP stories as my sources, below is a numeric listing, from most watched to least watched outlet, for the Thursday night, September 30 debate coverage. Please note that PBS is not rated by Nielsen, so that number of viewers is based on an estimate cited by de Moraes, and neither article provided as estimate of C-SPAN's presumably small viewership.
The 63 million known debate viewers, broken down by outlet:
-- NBC: 17.2 million viewers
Post-debate analysis (Fox did not stay on the air long enough to be rated):
-- NBC: 13.3 million viewers
Did Michael Moore use the MRC archive to locate left-wing media quotes to highlight in his far-left movie screed, Fahrenheit 911? If so, he did so to use those quotes not to admonish the media but to cite the quotes as evidence for one of his anti-Bush theories. The "documentary" will be released Tuesday on DVD, and so with that as hook, below are descriptions of the four MRC-highlighted media quotes that I noticed showcased in Fahrenheit 911 back when I saw it in a theater in early July:
-- April 7, 2004 CBS Evening News. Fahrenheit 911 lifted the part of this quote about Vietnam and showed the graphic CBS put on screen:
Dan Rather: "The renewed battle for control of Iraq raged for a fourth day today with street clashes in nearly ever corner of the country. Fighting was especially intense in towns west of Baghdad, towns in the so-called 'Sunni Triangle.' U.S. Marines, under heavy fire from two mosque areas in Fallujah, called in air strikes, killing dozens of Iraqis. Since Monday, at least 15 Marines have died in fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi. In Najaf, the militant Shiite cleric al-Sadr echoed the refrain Iraq could become quote, 'another Vietnam' for America."
On screen, CBS displayed a map of Iraq with flashing lights in areas with fighting. As Rather quoted al-Sadr, CBS highlighted his words with text on screen in square at the bottom of a map of Iraq:
To see the graphic, which was showcased by Moore: www.mediaresearch.org
Moore's movie ran this clip from an unidentified male soldier featured in the ABC story: "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation."
CNN anchor Paula Zahn: "If Al Gore had gotten what he wanted, which was a statewide manual recount or a recount of those four specific counties, George Bush would still have won. So I wonder, and I'm going to put up on the screen now a paragraph from your book where you once said: 'The wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, and this is no small thing in our nation's history.' Do you still agree with what you wrote?"
From the October 1 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Highlights of Last Night's Presidential Debate." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Bush tearing apart Kerry's podium in a futile search for weapons of mass destruction.
9. Thanks to makeup, Cheney pulled off a surprisingly good Bush impersonation.
8. Moderator Jim Lehrer's "girlfriend" who was obviously a hooker.
7. When the camera was on Bush, Kerry was giving him the finger.
6. Kerry's attempt to reach the youth vote by saying, "yo, yo -- let's stick it to W, so I can get my props up in the white hizzy, yo."
5. John Kerry's stirring rendition of Jeffrey Osborne's 'On the Wings of Love.'
4. A belligerent Ralph Nader being tasered by Secret Service.
3. Bush's taunting that he nailed Theresa.
2. Bush and Kerry greeting each other with wet, open-mouthed kiss.
1. Whenever the proceedings lagged, Oprah came out to give away cars.
-- Brent Baker