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Jennings: Iraq "Bleak," Williams: "Unease," Rather: "Inspiring" --1/31/2005


1. Jennings: Iraq "Bleak," Williams: "Unease," Rather: "Inspiring"
On the election in Iraq, the three broadcast network anchors on scene in Baghdad delivered very different assessments on Sunday. ABC's Peter Jennings played skeptic, NBC's Brian Williams remained dour while CBS's Dan Rather, in contrast, was quite upbeat. "All over Baghdad today there is no question that it looked like an occupation," maintained Jennings over video of U.S. troops patrolling the streets. Insisting that in Sunni areas "it looks as if the election process has been rejected," Jennings declared: "This is a huge problem for Iraq as a whole. Without Sunni participation, somehow, the future here is still pretty bleak." Williams felt "a kind of general unease. Atmospherically, we have heard as many booms and concussions over the past hour as we have combined really over the past few days." But Rather concluded the opposite: "So the story here today is not one of violence. The story is one of bravery by the Iraqi people by going to the polls." Rather opined: "It was encouraging, inspiring. It took guts to do what these Iraqis did today."

2. FNC's Harrigan on Friday: "There's Going to Be a Bloodbath"
Two days before the vote in Iraq, which did produce some deadly suicide attacks but no where near the mass-casualty violence predicted by some, FNC's Steve Harrigan was amongst those assuming the worst. "I think there's going to be a bloodbath on Sunday," he predicted on Friday's Fox and Friends.

3. For Second Time, Jennings Finds Iraqi Who Champions George Bush
Peter Jennings found a lot of problems in Southern Iraq but on Friday's World News Tonight, for the second time last week, he also showcased an Iraqi man who likes President Bush: "Chafit Sharrad (sp?), who can't make enough money for his family, says that he loves George Bush. 'This is the Bush revolution,' he says, and he means it as a compliment." Jennings soon, however, spent much more time on a favorite media topic. He previewed an upcoming segment: "At the end of the broadcast tonight, Abu Ghraib prison. We have just been there. Thousands of prisoners and many memories."

4. Jennings v World News Tonight with Jennings on Ballot Confusion
Peter Jennings versus World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. "There's a lot of talk about the confusion of the ballot," Jennings noted on Friday's Good Morning America before dismissing such concerns. "It's covered with symbols and I think even going into the election people know who they want to vote for instinctively," Jennings contended and "so I'm not sure they're going to be as confused as we are." But hours later on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, ABC reporter David Wright in Iraq with Jennings, asserted: "Many who want to vote in this election for a national assembly say they're baffled by the ballot." Wright maintained that the ballot has 111 options made up of "mostly party names that are new and confusing."

5. Media See Cheney "Fashion Faux Pas" as "International Incident"
The Washington Post on Friday plastered, across the entire width of the top of the front page of the "Style" section, an opinionated critique of Vice President Dick Cheney's attire. "Dick Cheney, Dressing Down: Parka, Ski Cap at Odds With Solemnity of Auschwitz Ceremony," read the headline over the article by Robin Givhan who complained that at the Thursday ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp, Cheney "was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." She explained his transgression: "Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood." The AP and Reuters soon picked up the story as well as CNN's Inside Politics, PBS's Washington Week and MSNBC Countdown on which Alison Stewart hyped it as "the fashion faux pas that's becoming an international incident."

6. NPR's Totenberg Urges Bush to "Abandon" Tax Cuts for Top 2%
NPR's Nina Totenberg charged over the weekend that while "the President is asking for sacrifice for Iraq...the only people who are really sacrificing are the men and women who are going over there and their families." She complained that "he's not willing to abandon the tax cuts for the top two percent of the people in this country. So, the richest people in this country don't have to sacrifice, just our youngest and bravest."


Jennings: Iraq "Bleak," Williams: "Unease,"
Rather: "Inspiring"

CBS's Dan Rather On the election in Iraq, the three broadcast network anchors on scene in Baghdad delivered very different assessments on Sunday. ABC's Peter Jennings played skeptic, NBC's Brian Williams remained dour while CBS's Dan Rather, in contrast, was quite upbeat. "All over Baghdad today there is no question that it looked like an occupation," maintained Jennings over video of U.S. troops patrolling the streets. Insisting that in Sunni areas "it looks as if the election process has been rejected," Jennings declared: "This is a huge problem for Iraq as a whole. Without Sunni participation, somehow, the future here is still pretty bleak." Williams felt "a kind of general unease. Atmospherically, we have heard as many booms and concussions over the past hour as we have combined really over the past few days." But Rather concluded the opposite: "So the story here today is not one of violence. The story is one of bravery by the Iraqi people by going to the polls." Rather opined: "It was encouraging, inspiring. It took guts to do what these Iraqis did today."

On ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday, Peter Jennings began his recounting of his day in Baghdad traveling with a U.S. Army unit: "It seemed a strange way to experience the democratic process, from the back of a heavily-armored vehicle. But all over Baghdad today there is no question that it looked like an occupation. The First Cavalry's Sergeant Major with us agreed there hasn't been this much armor on the streets since the U.S. conquered Baghdad."

After a series of stories on how the voting went in various parts of the country, from an enthusiastic and large turnout in the South, to a smaller turnout on Mosul, Jennings wrapped up on a negative note:
"In other parts of the Sunni Muslim heartland tonight, it looks as if the election process has been rejected. In many places we're told the polling stations didn't even open. This is a huge problem for Iraq as a whole. Without Sunni participation, somehow, the future here is still pretty bleak."

NBC's Brian Williams At the top of NBC's Meet the Press, produced at 9am EST just as the polls were closing in Iraq, Brian Williams checked in from Baghdad with a dour report which hardly reflected the huge turnout and defiance of the insurgents by the Iraqi people. After Tim Russert noted how interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had voted, Williams asserted:
"Ayad Allawi obviously expressing great confidence that this is the first day of a new era here in Iraq. But we should back up to the overall feeling here and that, I think, most here would agree is a kind of general unease. Atmospherically, we have heard as many booms and concussions over the past hour as we have combined really over the past few days. A while back, the threat of pedestrian suicide bombers had us confined to quarters, and there has been violence. As of air time this morning, 14 attacks in the easiest place, most dependable place for statistic gathering, and that is here in Baghdad, 14 bombing attacks, 36 people dead so far.
"But, Tim, like the election numbers, those will change. And probably the best way to approach all of the numbers we'll be hearing today, you hear turnout at 72 percent in one precinct, 50 in another, 4 percent in another, is with the same caution we exercise in the States with those now famous first-wave exit polls and other early information. This is probably, it's safe to say at this hour, a fairly unquantifiable election so far."

CBS viewers head a much more upbeat assessment from Dan Rather. On Face the Nation, he told Bob Schieffer: "By any reasonable analysis, Bob, this is a probable tipping point, certainly a very major turning point in the history of the U.S. mission here. There was a high voter turnout, possibly above 72 percent of the eligible voters. Even the most conservative estimates are well above 50 percent of the eligible voters. So the story here today is not one of violence. The story is one of bravery by the Iraqi people by going to the polls, high voter turnout. And then a sub-story under that, the insurgency, while it killed more than 30 people, didn't mount any cataclysmic event. And the insurgency gives every indication of being on the run. It doesn't mean it's completely over. But by any objective analysis, Bob, this is the biggest day for the Iraqi people and for U.S. policy and the Bush administration here since the fall of Baghdad and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue."

Later, on Sunday's CBS Evening News, Rather concluded his coverage from Baghdad: "It was encouraging, inspiring. It took guts to do what these Iraqis did today. And they did it, not only with courage, but with good humor and joy at the opportunity to vote. There's still a long way to go here before real peace and stability are achieved. Electricity, fuel, sewage, garbage pick-up all remain problems. But make no mistake, this was a huge step today."

FNC's Harrigan on Friday: "There's Going
to Be a Bloodbath"

Two days before the vote in Iraq, which did produce some deadly suicide attacks but no where near the mass-casualty violence predicted by some, FNC's Steve Harrigan was amongst those assuming the worst. "I think there's going to be a bloodbath on Sunday," he predicted on Friday's Fox and Friends.

Harrigan, who has reported from Baghdad for FNC for many months, appeared in-studio Friday morning to preview the election. The MRC's Megan McCormack caught this exchange on the January 28 show:
Mike Jerrick: "What do you think's going to happen Sunday?"
Steve Harrigan: "I think there's going to be a bloodbath on Sunday."
Brian Kilmeade: "Where?"
Harrigan: "All over the place, especially in Baghdad and a few other cities, Mosul. I mean, what would you do if you had to walk down the street to vote in a school, and everyone sent out notes saying 'we're going to blow you up. If we see ink on your finger, we're going to kill you; we're going to kill your family.' We're asking a lot of the Iraqi people to go out there and vote. They are putting their lives on the line to go out and vote."
Kilmeade: "In how many cities?"
Harrigan: "You know, you're going to play that game of, you know, we got ten provinces safe and four provinces there's dangers. About half the country's in big trouble, half the country's all right. All the desert provinces where nobody lives, they're in great shape."

Harrigan wasn't alone in the media in presuming the vote would generate a lot of deadly violence or that the election would be a flop because few would vote. Later today, expect a CyberAlert Special with some additional examples.

For Second Time, Jennings Finds Iraqi
Who Champions George Bush

ABC's World News Tonight: Chafit Sharrad Peter Jennings found a lot of problems in Southern Iraq but on Friday's World News Tonight, for the second time last week, he also showcased an Iraqi man who likes President Bush: "Chafit Sharrad (sp?), who can't make enough money for his family, says that he loves George Bush. 'This is the Bush revolution,' he says, and he means it as a compliment." Jennings soon, however, spent much more time on a favorite media topic. He previewed an upcoming segment: "At the end of the broadcast tonight, Abu Ghraib prison. We have just been there. Thousands of prisoners and many memories."

As recounted in the January 28 CyberAlert, on the January 27 World News Tonight, in a look at the situation in Northern Iraq, Jennings highlighted an Iraqi man who said, "we thank Bush for helping us get rid of Saddam." See: www.mediaresearch.org

Looking at Southern Iraq, on the January 28 World News Tonight Jennings explained, over matching video:
"...There is a terrible shortage of electricity. Clean water is an issue. In the town of Hilla, these people have been waiting for gas for days -- sleeping in their cars, eating in their cars. They have been waiting so long that local entrepreneurs now cater specifically to the gas lines. Adnan Alwan blames the police -- they take bribes, he says, to let people jump the lines. Nearly two years after the Americans came, Iraqis still don't understand how a technological giant, the United States, cannot produce more gasoline in a country that has so much oil. Abdul Ameer owns a factory to make bricks in e al Muthene (sp?) province. When Saddam Hussein was in power, he says, there were no fuel shortages. Fuel cost less. And bandits never bothered him.
"Those Americans who want nothing more than to help Iraqis have a better life hate it when people say this. But many Iraqis in the south were optimistic, even if they didn't offer up a very specific reason. In Amara, near the border with Iran, people are very poor. The school has only 50 desks for 150 children, but the Shiites here hated Saddam Hussein so much that in his absence many of them do think they're moving forward. And there is an underlying feeling here that when the Shiites vote next weekend, Shiite power is going to get a boost. Chafit Sharrad (sp?), who can't make enough money for his family, says that he loves George Bush. 'This is the Bush revolution,' he says, and he means it as a compliment.
"This reporter remembers Iraq when Iraqi dates were the envy of the region. Dates were once the second largest export after oil. And then war and neglect took a terrible toll. Today in the south, they are planting thousands of date palm seedlings. It's an investment in the future. They do not bear fruit for seven years. So here in the south, there is faith in the future.
"Our thanks of course to those Iraqis who helped us with this. It wasn't easy. At the end of the broadcast tonight, Abu Ghraib prison. We have just been there. Thousands of prisoners and many memories."

Jennings v World News Tonight with Jennings
on Ballot Confusion

ABC's World News Tonight Peter Jennings versus World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. "There's a lot of talk about the confusion of the ballot," Jennings noted on Friday's Good Morning America before dismissing such concerns. "It's covered with symbols and I think even going into the election people know who they want to vote for instinctively," Jennings contended and "so I'm not sure they're going to be as confused as we are." But hours later on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, ABC reporter David Wright in Iraq with Jennings, asserted: "Many who want to vote in this election for a national assembly say they're baffled by the ballot." Wright maintained that the ballot has 111 options made up "mostly party names that are new and confusing."

On Friday's GMA, the MRC's Jessica Barnes noticed, Jennings reported from Baghdad: "And if I may, one more thing, there's a lot of talk about the confusion of the ballot. I've just been looking at it -- we picked up one in Mosul up north yesterday from the men who've come to help with the election process. It reminds me a little bit of the first ballot in South Africa, which seemed so confusing to the people in the first free election there. But the truth of the matter is, it's covered with symbols and I think even going into the election people know who they want to vote for instinctively. There were a lot of choices, more than a hundred, but I think they'll vote for family, for neighborhood, for region, to some extent, for religion or secular instinct. So I'm not sure they're going to be as confused as we are."

Just under 12 hours later on Friday's World News Tonight, however, David Wright warned: "Many who want to vote in this election for a national assembly say they're baffled by the ballot. On election day, voters will get one choice from a list of 111 -- mostly party names that are new and confusing. The names include [names on screen] 'The List of Independents' and 'The Independent List,' 'The Iraqi List' and just 'Iraqis.'"

Media See Cheney "Fashion Faux Pas" as
"International Incident"

Vice President Dick Cheney The Washington Post on Friday plastered, across the entire width of the top of the front page of the "Style" section, an opinionated critique of Vice President Dick Cheney's attire. "Dick Cheney, Dressing Down: Parka, Ski Cap at Odds With Solemnity of Auschwitz Ceremony," read the headline over the article by Robin Givhan who complained that at the Thursday ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp, Cheney "was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." She explained his transgression: "Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood." The AP and Reuters soon picked up the story as well as CNN's Inside Politics, PBS's Washington Week and MSNBC Countdown on which Alison Stewart hyped it as "the fashion faux pas that's becoming an international incident."

Stewart snidely suggested: "Maybe he thought he was going to a Green Bay Packers game." She relayed how "Givhan contended the parka, cap and boots had the unfortunate effect of suggesting that he was more concerned with his own comfort than the reason for braving the cold at all."

For Givhan's article, with picture of Cheney at the event: www.washingtonpost.com

-- CNN jumped on the incident. CNN's announcer plugged the Friday topic: "Vice President Cheney out in the cold. Wisely bundled up or a fashion faux pas?"

Judy Woodruff got to it during a session with Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile: "All right. I want to move you on now to a story that is not as important as this one but one that is getting some attention in the newspaper. And that is, one day after attending the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland, Vice President Dick Cheney is being chastised for what he wore to ward off the bitter cold weather [video]. While virtually all the other dignitaries were dressed in dark formal overcoats, hats and shoe, Cheney chose an olive drab parka with fur-trimmed hood, a ski cap and hiking boots."
"Now, the Washington Post's fashion writer, Robin Givhan, noted today that 'Cheney's attire was more appropriate for operating a snow blower,' she wrote, 'than a somber event where he was representing the United States.' We tried to contact the vice president's staff for reaction to the story in the Post. We were not able to reach anyone because they were still traveling. Now, having clarified all that, Bay, was it appropriate or not?"
Bay Buchanan: "Listen, even that -- this article was completely petty and catty, and the woman that wrote it even herself admitted that the vice president showed enormous thoughtfulness and respectfulness at this occasion. And so what is she talking about? She didn't like the way he dressed. That's all. And he needed to stay warm. He chose those clothes that keep him warm. And I strongly suggest here that there could have been an advance man problem, that he wasn't properly informed as to the kind of occasion, the kind of clothes he needed to bring with him."
Woodruff: "Well, there's a way to stay warm and still be appropriate. But do clothes matter in a situation like this?"
Donna Brazile: "Well, clearly he could have borrowed the clothes he wore at his swearing-in and it would have been appropriate. But, look, I'm no fashion critic or fashion police. I understand. He looked cozy, in my judgment. Perhaps another vice president in earth tones, no problem with that. But clearly, you know, the vice president didn't get the memo that this was a solemn occasion, that perhaps he could have used his inaugural suit and jacket to show more respect."
Woodruff: "Well, I'm certainly not going to criticize anybody for clothes."
Buchanan: "It's clearly borrowed. It looks like some staffer handed it to him, and more than likely, Lynne said, put this on, Dick. You need to stay warm. So this is just -- what happened is I'm sure they're opened their suitcases and said, 'We don't have the right clothes, but we're going to stay warm.'"

-- PBS's Washington Week. Host Gwen Ifill, over blurry, dark video which panned the crowd and stopped on Dick and Lynn Cheney, with snow blowing across the screen as the camera shook a bit:
"One more thing before we go. On occasion, most of you know, we like to point out the faux pas of people in power. Look at this: The scene is the official observance of the liberation of Auschwitz, a sober ceremony attended by world leaders, all, it seems, dressed in black, except -- yup, that's Dick Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney. What was he thinking? Write us at washingtonweek@pbs.org and tell us your guess. We are way too polite to speculate -- not on camera, anyway. And thank you to Robin Givhan, the fashion writer at the Washington Post, for catching that for us."

-- MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, but hosted Friday night by Alison Stewart: "And finally the fashion faux pas that's becoming an international incident. There's an uproar over Vice President Cheney's choice of attire when he attended the Holocaust memorial in Poland yesterday. It was a solemn event marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Well he dressed for the weather, at least. Sitting among a sea of world leaders in black formal coats, the Vice President stood out in his green parka and knit hat from the Jackson Hole ski resort [still shot, no video]. The fashion writer Robin Givhan of the Washington Post criticized Cheney for arriving dressed quote, 'in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower,' end quote.
"And boy, clearly Cheney owns a proper over coat. The world saw it during his swearing in as Vice President last week [video from Inaugural] in frigid snow dusted Washington. Perhaps he forgot to pack his good coat or it was at the dry cleaner's. Maybe he thought he was going to a Green Bay Packers game. Givhan contended the parka, cap and boots had the unfortunate effect of suggesting that he was more concerned with his own comfort than the reason for braving the cold at all."

Actually, Washington, DC wasn't so "frigid" on January 20 and the video of Auschwitz sure looked a lot colder.

An excerpt from Givhan's January 28 rant in the Washington Post:

At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag....

Some might argue that Cheney was the only attendee with the smarts to dress for the cold and snowy weather. But sometimes, out of respect for the occasion, one must endure a little discomfort.

Just last week, in a frigid, snow-dusted Washington, Cheney sat outside through the entire inauguration without so much as a hat and without suffering frostbite. And clearly, Cheney owns a proper overcoat. The world saw it during his swearing-in as vice president. Cheney treated that ceremony with the dignity it deserved -- not simply through his demeanor, but also through his attire. Would he have dared to take the oath of office with a ski cap on? People would have justifiably considered that an insult to the office, the day, the country.

There is little doubt that intellectually Cheney approached the Auschwitz ceremony with thoughtfulness and respect. But symbolism is powerful. That's why the piercing cry of a train whistle marked the beginning of the ceremony and the glare of searchlights signaled its end. The vice president might have been warm in his parka, ski cap and hiking boots. But they had the unfortunate effect of suggesting that he was more concerned with his own comfort than the reason for braving the cold at all.

END of Excerpt

For Givhan's piece in full, see the link earlier in this item.

This isn't the first time Givhan has attacked a conservative for their appearance. Back in November of 2000, the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, she denigrated Katherine Harris: "One wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship."

That earned her a rebuke from the Post's ombudsman. See the November 24, 2000 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

NPR's Totenberg Urges Bush to "Abandon"
Tax Cuts for Top 2%

NPR's Nina Totenberg charged over the weekend that while "President is asking for sacrifice for Iraq...the only people who are really sacrificing are the men and women who are going over there and their families." She complained that "he's not willing to abandon the tax cuts for the top two percent of the people in this country. So, the richest people in this country don't have to sacrifice, just our youngest and bravest."

Totenberg made her liberal political point on Inside Washington, a weekly public affairs program produced by, and aired on, Washington, DC's ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV.

NPR reporter Totenberg's contention in full: "The President is asking for sacrifice for Iraq, but the only people who are really sacrificing are the men and women who are going over there and their families. Because this is a very expensive proposition and he's not willing to abandon the tax cuts for the top two percent of the people in this country. So, the richest people in this country don't have to sacrifice, just our youngest and bravest."

Of course, the vast majority of young adult Americans are not in the military and thus also not sacrificing while the rich are sacrificing to pay most of the taxes.



# Carson tribute tonight. For those interested in more retrospectives about Johnny Carson's career, Monday's Late Show with David Letterman on CBS will be dedicated to Carson. The two guests: Former Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Executive Producer Peter Lassally, now an executive with Letterman's Worldwide Pants, and Carson's band leader, Doc Severinsen. (The delay is because the Late Show was dark last week.)


-- Brent Baker