Jennings Considers Plight of Guantanamo Detainees the Top Story --4/21/2004
2. ABC Highlights Claims of UN Corruption in "Food for Oil" Program
3. ABC Skips Own Poll With Bush Beating Kerry,But When Kerry Led...
4. NPR Ties the Right & Limbaugh to Death Threats Against Gorelick
5. New York Post Features Op-Ed on Woodward Adapted from
All the networks on Tuesday ran full stories about the Supreme Court hearing a case asking them to rule that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay should have access to U.S. federal courts, but only ABC's Peter Jennings considered it the most important news of the day as he traveled to Washington, DC to cover the hearing, framed his lead story around how "the lawyers for more than a dozen prisoners say the President is violating the American commitment to the rule of law" and followed up, with a story he narrated himself, about the anti-Bush protesters outside the court, which prompted him to raise the mistreatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Jennings gave three soundbites to the protesters, with none on the other side, as he relayed how "these petitioners believe that holding nearly 600 men from 42 countries without even charging them violates the International Geneva Conventions for prisoners."
Jennings teased at the top of the April 20 show: "On World News Tonight, the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the Bush administration's policy for prisoners taken in the war against terrorism."
With the White House behind him (probably placing Jennings at the Hay Adams hotel), he led the broadcast, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
Medrano began: "The government claims that foreign nationals being held at Guantanamo Bay are on foreign soil and outside the jurisdiction of American courts. President Bush authorized the detentions. At the Court today, the lawyer for the prisoners claimed that the President was creating a 'lawless enclave.'" ...
Viewers then heard audio clips released by the Supreme Court, with pictures of the person talking on screen along with the text, from plaintiff's lawyer John Gibbons, Justice Ginsburg, U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer before Medrano concluded: "The government claims that the war on terrorism is a new kind of war, and this is the first opportunity the Supreme Court has had to weigh in on whether the Bush administration has gone too far in combating that war."
Jennings then added: "Next week, the Court hears two cases about American citizens labeled enemy combatants who are being held without any access to the courts. All these cases constitute an historic argument between presidential and judicial authority at a time of war."
Jennings has had a long interest in the plight of those at Guantanamo, at least when he could portray them as victims. The March 10 CyberAlert reported:
ABC's Mike Lee related the allegations of how "the U.S. military has used 'cowboy-like' excessive force when arresting Afghans." He focused on one Afghan man who claimed he was sent to Guantanamo Bay and forced to sign a confession though he was really innocent. Lee ominously concluded: "The Human Rights Watch report warns that many other Afghans out there are angry over how they've been treated and may be less willing to help in the war against terrorism."
Lee ignored a 12 to 13-year-old Afghan boy, who upon his release from Guantanamo Bay, told London's left-wing Guardian newspaper, a paper you'd think Peter Jennings would find authoritative: "I am lucky I went there, and now I miss it. Cuba was great." The boy cited the delicious food, how he liked snorkeling in the ocean and proclaimed that "Americans are great people, better than anyone else," so, "if I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer -- or an American soldier."
A month ago, a 15-year-old released from Guantanamo informed London's Sunday Telegraph that "they gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons." An elderly Afghan man let go last fall praised his treatment: "They treated us well. We had enough food. I didn't mind [being detained] because they took my old clothes and gave me new clothes."
"Cuba? It was great, say boys freed from US prison camp," declared the headline over the March 6 Guardian story which the FNC's Brit Hume highlighted in his "Grapevine" segment.
For details: www.mediaresearch.org
That wasn't the first time Jennings has used ABC air time to complain about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay:
-- February 21, 2003 CyberAlert: ABC's Peter Jennings treated an accused terrorist arrested on Thursday as the victim of an over-aggressive Justice Department as ABC failed to report how the man once wished "death" upon America. Jennings referred to "the government's aggressive campaign in the U.S. against people it accuses of supporting terrorism" and to what the "government calls a terrorist group overseas." Jennings also fretted about how "we learned today that three more prisoners being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have attempted suicide." Jennings proceeded to assert that "at least two human rights organizations are seeking information about the interrogation techniques." See: www.mediaresearch.org
On the up side, after opening with a story from the left (see item #1 above), Tuesday's World News Tonight explored an issue largely ignored by the broadcast media and barely touched in print, though FNC has devoted some attention to it: UN corruption in its "Food for Oil" program with Iraq in which Saddam Hussein allegedly kept much of the money for himself instead of using it to buy food for his people. With congressional hearings upcoming, this may soon get some widespread attention, but ABC's Brian Ross was first out of the box on it on a broadcast network as he reported how "U.S. and European intelligence sources tell ABC News that at least three senior UN officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime to overlook the theft."
Jennings set up the April 20 segment on World News Tonight:
Ross began: "To help feed his people, Saddam Hussein was allowed to sell limited amounts of oil under supposedly tight UN supervision. Now, one year after his fall, there's hard evidence, including the cash, that Hussein diverted some $5 billion from the UN food program to his personal bank accounts."
ABCNews.com has posted a longer version of the Ross story: abcnews.go.com
Kerry leading is news, but not when Bush moves ahead? In early March, when an ABC News/Washington Post poll put Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry ahead of President George W. Bush by 48 to 44 percent amongst registered voters, ABC's Good Morning America highlighted the finding in two morning news updates. Six weeks later, however, when a new ABC News/Washington Post poll put Bush ahead of Kerry by five points amongst registered voters, 48 to 43 percent, with Ralph Nader at 6 percent, GMA cited some findings in the poll, but not the Bush versus Kerry number.
News reader Robin Roberts read this poll finding during the 8am news update on Tuesday's GMA: "Most Americans think the U.S. is mired in Iraq, but appear determined to see it through. According to the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 59 percent think the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq, while 41 percent think we are making good progress. But 52 percent believe the U.S. was right to go to war with Iraq; 46 percent think it was a mistake."
Back on Tuesday, March 9, the MRC's Jessica Anderson discovered, GMA twice highlighted Kerry's lead. During the 7am news update, Bob Woodruff announced: "Voters will cast primary ballots in four southern states today. This morning a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that John Kerry would beat George Bush if the national election were held today. The margin is narrow, 48 percent to 44 percent. It is a tight race, which means a bit of tough rhetoric on the campaign trail."
An hour later he intoned: "If the presidential election were held today, John Kerry would beat President Bush by a 48 to 44 percent margin, according to latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Today voters go to polls in four southern states holding primary elections; a total of 465 Democratic delegates are up for grabs."
World News Tonight, by the way, remained consistent, skipping over the Kerry versus Bush numbers in both polls. On Monday night of this week, Jennings buried the big news, that Bush is favored over Kerry in ten of eleven issue areas: "An ABC News-Washington Post poll today finds today that nearly six in ten Americans [59 percent] believe the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq. But two-thirds [66 percent] say the troops should remain there until order is restored, even if it means more casualties. President Bush's approval rating has remained fairly steady since February. It's at 51 percent despite the increased violence in Iraq and the quite controversial hearings about 9-11 in Washington. The President is trusted more than the Democratic challenger John Kerry on ten of eleven separate issues, including terrorism and the economy."
Back on Monday, March 8, Jennings opened World News Tonight: "Good evening, everyone. We begin with the presidential campaign tonight. As our political director put it a while ago, the President and Senator Kerry were going after each other today like it was early season basketball game that had taken on the intensity of a play-off game. As of now, it's a very close race in a very divided country. And an ABC News/Washington Post poll today confirms it. As of now, Mr. Bush is vulnerable on the economy. Only 41 percent of Americans say they trust him to do a better job handling the economy than Mr. Kerry. 57 percent of Americans, however, say they do trust Mr. Bush to do a better job on terrorism. The challenger, Mr. Kerry, was in Florida today, rich with memories for Democrats. The President was in Texas. And the two were beating on each other."
Online, in a posting headlined "Despite Troubles in Iraq, Poll Finds Presidential Ratings Steady or Rising," ABC polling expert Gary Langer summarized the highlights of the poll conducted late last week. An excerpt:
Significantly in terms of election politics, economic concerns -- a threat to incumbents -- have eased somewhat, and preference for Kerry across a range of issues -- Iraq, the economy, taxes, health insurance, the deficit, education and others -- has cooled since its peak during the primaries. Last month Kerry led Bush in eight of 11 issues; today he leads in just one of them, health care, and by a narrower margin.
Kerry's lost ground on personal attributes as well, and just 41 percent of Americans believe he "takes a position and sticks with it," a concerted line of attack by the Bush campaign. Bush, meanwhile, retains a large advantage on fighting terrorism, long the wellspring of his support. Overall, with Ralph Nader out of the equation, the race is a dead heat; with him in, it's slightly better for Bush....
More broadly -- among all Americans, not just among those who pick one of these issues as most important to them -- Bush has battled back to parity or better. As noted, in early March, riding high off his primary victories, Kerry led in public trust to handle eight issues out of 11. Today Kerry leads only in trust to handle health care, and by just six points -- compared with a 20-point advantage last month.
In other examples, last month Kerry led Bush by 15 points among all Americans in trust to handle the deficit; today there's just a single point between them. Kerry led by 12 points in trust to handle the economy; today they're even. They were about even on Iraq (Kerry +1); now it's Bush +11. Even on same-sex marriage, a much lower-tier issue, trust has gone from an even split to a 16-point Bush advantage. And Bush's 21-point lead in trust to handle the campaign against terrorism is unchanged....
There are still miles to go before Election Day, but given these changes, it follows that overall vote preferences have shifted slightly. In a three-way match-up, including Ralph Nader, 48 percent of registered voters prefer Bush, 43 percent Kerry, and 6 percent Nader. That's a slight four-point gain for Bush and a five-point loss for Kerry since March.
With Nader removed from the equation, it's 49 percent for Bush, 48 percent for Kerry -- a 50-50 nation.
END of Excerpt
For Langer's report in full: abcnews.go.com
Conservatives in general, and conservative radio talk show hosts in particular, are responsible for causing death threats against 9-11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick? NPR's Nina Totenberg sure seemed to imply so in a Monday Morning Edition story, which Rush Limbaugh highlighted on his radio show on Tuesday. In it, she simplistically summarized how John Ashcroft "blamed a policy of the Clinton administration for 9/11," a reference to his revelation that Gorelick wrote a memo which codified the bar of the CIA sharing with the FBI information about terrorists, and then the threats came as she noted how "within 48 hours, House GOP leader Tom DeLay and House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner were calling for Gorelick's resignation. And conservative talk shows were taking up the battle cry."
Following a clip of Limbaugh on his radio show criticizing Gorelick, without mentioning how Gorelick herself conceded in the 1995 memo that the guidelines she was imposing "go beyond what is legally required," Totenberg launched into a lengthy defense of Gorelick and the policy she outlined. To counter Limbaugh, Totenberg intoned: "In fact, however, by all independent accounts, the wall was not created during the Clinton administration but by the Reagan and first Bush Administrations in the 1980s in response to court rulings."
Totenberg's Monday story followed a Saturday ABC story recounted in the April 20 CyberAlert: Only when 9-11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick supposedly became the victim of right-wing hate did ABC's World News Tonight bother to get around to informing its viewers of her 1995 memo mandating that the CIA not share with the FBI information about terrorists. At last Tuesday's 9-11 hearing, John Ashcroft declassified Gorelick's memo in which she herself conceded the guidelines she was imposing "go beyond what is legally required," a point ABC ignored. Also, Al Hunt denounced Ashcroft for "Joe McCarthy-type" tactics in revealing the memo, and while Condoleezza Rice appeared on three Sunday shows, only Fox News Sunday raised with her Gorelick's chutzpah in quizzing her about the "wall of separation." For details on all of that, along with links to Ashcroft's statement and the Gorelick memo: www.mediaresearch.org
Back to the April 19 Morning Edition on NPR, the MRC's Ken Shepherd accessed the audio file on the NPR Web site and painstakingly transcribed the entire story. To listen to the story via either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, go to: www.npr.org
Anchor Bob Edwards introduced the story by tying the death threats to Ashcroft's revelation: "The FBI is investigating death threats against a member of the independent commission investigating the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The member is former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. She was the target of pointed criticism last week from Attorney General John Ashcroft during his testimony, and that prompted demands for her resignation. NPR Legal Affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports."
Totenberg began: "Jamie Gorelick served for three years as Deputy Attorney General in the first term of the Clinton administration. In Washington, she has a reputation as a smart administrator with a cool head. But she admits she lost some of that cool last Friday."
For a picture and bio of Totenberg, who you may see as a regular on the Inside Washington weekend public affairs TV show: www.npr.org
Of course, faithful CyberAlert readers will recall that Totenberg issued a death threat of her own a few years ago against Senator Jesse Helms.
Back on the July 8, 1995 Inside Washington, Totenberg had this reaction to Senator Jesse Helms' complaint that AIDS research was getting a disproportionate share of federal research money. Inside Washington host Tina Gulland asked: "I don't think I have any Jesse Helms defenders here. Nina?"
That comment was a runner-up in the "I'm a Compassionate Liberal But I Wish You Were All Dead Award (for media hatred of conservatives)" category in MRC's 1999 "DisHonors Awards" for the most outrageous quotes of the decade. To view a RealPlayer clip of Totenberg in action: www.mediaresearch.org
When the other panelists on Inside Washington were taken aback by her wish ("You putting a hit out on this guy or what?" and, "What is this, the Sopranos?"), she quickly backtracked: "In his job, in his job, in his job, please, please, in his job." See: www.mediaresearch.org
And for examples of media figures blaming conservatives and talk radio hosts for the Oklahoma City bombing, see our 1995 "Special Purveyors of Hate & Division" issue of Notable Quotables: www.mediaresearch.org
"Network Naifs Buy Bogus Buzz," reads the headline over an op-ed in today's (Wednesday) New York Post by Brent Baker, that's me, adapted from an item I wrote for Tuesday's CyberAlert about network coverage on Monday of Bob Woodward's book.
For the piece in the April 21 New York Post: www.nypost.com
# Scheduled to appear tonight (Wednesday) on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Bill Maher. Scheduled to appear on Thursday night: Janeane Garofalo.
-- Brent Baker