Jennings Questions Accuracy of Ashcroft's Terror Plot Warnings --6/15/2004
2. Safer on RR: "I Don't Think History Has Any Reason to Be Kind"
3. Newsweek's Fineman Wished Gorbachev Spoke at Reagan Funeral
4. Conservative Blacks "Decry Negative Reagan Media Coverage"
5. Kerry Earned "Best Press" of Any Nominee Ever Tracked by CMPA
6. Bette Midler Disses George W. Bush,
Lowe Praises Schwarzenegger
7. Top Ten Things Going Through 41's Mind as He's Skydiving
After all the media kvetching over the failure to connect the dots pre-9/11 you'd think that journalists would resist undermining high government officials who act on the side of caution to prevent a potential mass murder of civilians. But not ABC's Peter Jennings, who on Monday night, after noting how Attorney John Ashcroft announced a Somalian man had been charged with plotting to place a bomb in an Ohio shopping mall, gratuitously added: "Over the last three years Mr. Ashcroft has made several dramatic announcements about terrorist plots in the U.S., and it is hard to verify them because the evidence is held in such secrecy."
CBS viewers got a straighter play of the facts as Dan Rather announced on the June 14 CBS Evening News: "The Justice Department revealed today it has filed conspiracy charges against a man who allegedly received al-Qaeda terror training at a camp in Africa. CBS's Jim Stewart reports investigators say the suspect planned to bomb a shopping mall in the Columbus, Ohio area."
Reporter Jim Stewart concluded on an ominous note: "It's hard to know what to make of the Columbus plot, except that it fits with one of the FBI's greatest terrorist fears, that an attack on a mall could cost many lives and cause enormous economic damage -- two of al-Qaeda's chief goals."
On ABC's World News Tonight, however, Jennings inserted his feeling that Ashcroft was just grandstanding, as he introduced a report from Pierre Thomas: "In Washington today the Attorney General said that al-Qaeda has been planning to blow up a shopping mall in Ohio. John Ashcroft went before the cameras to say that a man from Somalia, currently in U.S. custody, is at the heart of this plan. Over the last three years Mr. Ashcroft has made several dramatic announcements about terrorist plots in the U.S., and it is hard to verify them because the evidence is held in such secrecy."
"Somali Charged in Plot on Ohio Mall," read an AP dispatch by Curt Anderson, which began:
Discussing Ronald Reagan's legacy on Monday's Larry King Live on CNN, the 60 Minutes team largely stuck to the positive, despite their past swipes at the late President's record, but CBS correspondent Morley Safer was not in a forgiving mood. Safer complained about the "excess of adulatory commentary ad nauseam," not "by the public, but by reporters who should know better." Safer mocked praise for Reagan's vision: "Did his vision include extraordinary deficits? Did his vision include cutting of the budgets for education and a back of the hand in terms of public education?" Asked how history will view Reagan, Safer shot back: "I don't think history has any reason to be kind to him."
When Mike Wallace wondered "when was the last time we had a President Americans loved?", Lesley Stahl jumped in: "And of course, not all Americans loved him, Mike."
Outgoing Executive Producer Don Hewitt argued the public outpouring had little to do with an affection for Reagan: "I don't think this is about Ronald Reagan. I think this is about a country that's hungry for nostalgia. And it just so happened that Ronald Reagan's death and America's hunger for nostalgia coincided."
The discussion, at the top of a pre-taped King show broadcast on June 14, involved a lot of cross-talk, but I've gone through the transcript to correct it against the video of what aired and to eliminate confusing cross-talk to get it down to this more compact rundown of the comments on Reagan:
King: "Last week, the death of Ronald Reagan. How did you react? Let's go around the horn. Don?"
Hewitt soon insisted: "I don't think this is about Ronald Reagan. I think this is about a country that's hungry for nostalgia. And it just so happened that Ronald Reagan's death and America's hunger for nostalgia coincided, and I think that's why there's been so much coverage, and that's why it's gone on and on, Morley. And I don't think it's as much about the guy as it is about us and our hunger for another time."
Stahl credited Reagan's popularity to his personality not his policies: "I think it is about Reagan. And I do think that his personal qualities make people look back and smile and remember the affability and a time when we didn't have people at each other's throats to the extent that we do today. And I think it -- you know, we used to do polls when he was president, and we would ask about the issues. And his issues weren't necessarily popular. When he call the Soviet Union an 'evil empire,' people didn't like it. They thought he was a war monger. They didn't like his budget cuts. Ketchup was a vegetable. People didn't like that. So he had all these negatives. And then they would ask about his personal qualities. Do you think he's a strong leader? Do you like him being president? And all these polls would flip the other way."
For photos and bios of the 60 Minutes team: www.cbsnews.com
60 Minutes (Sun) already has a plug up for Dan Rather's session this Sunday with Bill Clinton: www.cbsnews.com
-- Stahl on NBC's Later with Bob Costas, January 11, 1989: "I predict historians are going to be totally baffled by how American people fell in love with this man and followed him the way we did."
-- Bradley in an April 28, 1996 speech to Benedictine University in Illinois, aired May 11, 1996 on C-SPAN: "The legacy of the Reagan administration will be with us for years. The deficit under Reagan totaled more than a trillion dollars. Someday we're going to have to pay those bills. As officials look to cut spending and taxes at the same time, we can't afford another round of voodoo economics....I remember that campaign slogan one year 'It's morning again in America.' Well, it may have been morning for some, but for a lot of people in this country it's become a nightmare."
Those two quotes came from the MRC's Special Report released on Monday, "Ronald Reagan. The 40th President and the Press: The Record"
For 88 or so more Reagan-bashing quotes from journalists, with Real Player video clips for a few: www.mediaresearch.org
Catching up on a Reagan coverage item, Friday night on MSNBC Newsweek's Howard Fineman argued that to make for a more unifying week, the funeral organizers "should have included as a speaker either Mikhail Gorbachev or a Democrat of some kind."
Just before midnight EDT on Friday night, as Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman and Pat Buchanan sat in MSNBC's North Capitol Street studio overlooking the Capitol, after Buchanan noted how the events of the day had unified the nation, Fineman, the MRC's Kristina Sewell noticed, offered a sour note:
Matthews asked: "I wonder if they distrusted them because someone might have gotten in there in one of these services and thrown a monkey wrench in by saying, you know, something like that.... But you think, do you think that Mrs. Reagan, well, Mrs. Reagan certainly put the list together with the former President, the late President, and they probably couldn't think of a Democrat they really wanted to hear from on this occasion."
Picking up on a June 10 CyberAlert item about how ABC's Peter Jennings brought up how "we haven't seen many African-American faces up at the presidential library" and George Stephanopoulos maintaining that the "black community" feels that Reagan "did not reach out to African-Americans during the time of his presidency," the National Center for Public Policy Research's "Project 21" issued a press release on Friday: "Black Activists Decry Negative Reagan Media Coverage."
A reprint of the press release, which Washington Times "Inside Politics" columnist Greg Pierce highlighted on Monday:
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are taking issue with remarks being made by members of the television news media who are reporting that the Reagan Administration did not help black Americans during the 1980s and that Ronald Reagan himself had a poor relationship with blacks.
For example, during the coverage of memorials for the late president, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos said Reagan "did not reach out to African-Americans." ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, commenting on the public visitation at the Reagan Library, said, "we haven't seen many African-American faces."
Project 21 member Mychal Massie, who waited in line five-and-a-half hours to view Reagan's casket in the Capitol Rotunda, said, "It is appalling that the Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaws, Dan Rathers and Sam Donaldsons of the media elite would surrender themselves to such morally opprobrious and vacuous pabulums of untruths and misrepresentations regarding the relationship that the late President Reagan shared with blacks in America. Ronald Reagan saw American as a pluralistic whole and worked to address her concerns as such. Their jaundiced rhetoric, while beneath contempt, is obviously not out of character for them."
Project 21 member Gregory Parker adds: "Those who say such things are not looking around hard enough. I grew up with him as president, and he was the reason I became a conservative."
Regarding allegations that Reagan's policies did not help blacks, Project 21 member Deroy Murdock notes, "Rising employment and opportunities for entrepreneurship helped grow the black middle class during the Reagan years." Project 21 member James Coleman adds, "Black businesses and businesses owned by women prospered greatly in the 80s." As an example of Reagan's connection to black America, President Reagan corresponded with Ruddy Hines, a black elementary school student in Washington, D.C., throughout his presidency.
"Ronald Reagan always highlighted the best of America and its people regardless of skin color," said Project 21 member Jerry Brooks. "He spoke of hope and opportunity for all Americans."
END of Reprint of press release
It's posted at: www.ncppr.org
For the Project 21 home page: www.project21.org
For the June 10 CyberAlert item: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Reagan mourners are not diverse enough for CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer who wanted to know if those waiting hours to see Ronald Reagan lying in repose at the Reagan Library "look like America," meaning: "Are they ethnically diverse, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, or is it largely white?" www.mediaresearch.org
-- Hours after the Philadelphia Inquirer hit newsstands on Tuesday with Tom Brokaw's argument that "the Reagan legacy has some scandals," including "his failure to recognize early on the AIDS epidemic," the NBC Nightly News featured an interview with Michael Deaver, to whom Brokaw proposed that "retrospectives" of the Reagan presidency assert "that he was not nearly as sensitive to the disenfranchised in America, the poor people, especially African-Americans." www.mediaresearch.org
-- ABC's Peter Jennings just can't let a moment pass without pointing out how Ronald Reagan was not popular with African-Americans. On Thursday's Good Morning America, Jennings delivered liberal cliches as he asserted that at the end of Reagan's presidency "a great many people thought he'd made the wealthy wealthier and had not improved life particularly for the middle class, and there were just occasional intrusions yesterday of the divisiveness which was evident during his presidency, particularly in the African-American community, which felt that Ronald Reagan had not given it their due." www.mediaresearch.org
-- Wrapping up coverage on Wednesday night after the service in the Capitol's Rotunda, NBC's Tom Brokaw acknowledged that "the vast majority" agreed with Reagan's vision of America as "a city on a hill," but he cautioned that the "city shining on a hill does not apply to everyone in America. There are disenfranchised people as well, people of color who were not the beneficiaries of Ronald Reagan's administration." www.mediaresearch.org
John Kerry earned the "best press," 81 percent positive, for "any nominee" tracked backed to 1988, the Center for Media and Public Affairs revealed in announcing the results of their content analysis of January and February broadcast network evening show campaign coverage. In fact, CMPA determined that "Democratic primary candidates have gotten 60 percent good press since 1988, compared to 45 percent for Republicans."
The numbers, from the group founded and headed by Dr. S. Robert Lichter, were featured in the March/April issue of the group's newsletter, "Media Monitor," an issue just mailed at the end of last week. The issue provided no detailed explanations and only a few examples from newscasts, limiting its report to a front page list of "Major Findings" and several pages of matching graphs inside which carry captions that match the "major findings."
CMPA has a Web site, www.cmpa.com , but they have not yet posted this edition of Media Monitor. [A CMPA staffer has since informed us that the issue is online, but available only to those with an online subscription.]
Their study, of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from January 1 to March 1, the eve of Super Tuesday, assessed the "evaluations of non-partisan sources and reporters" in campaign stories.
A reprint of the "Major Findings":
-- Primary coverage was down 17 percent from 2000.
-- Kerry had best press of any nominee we've ever tracked -- 81 percent positive.
-- But Edwards had the best press of any major candidate -- 96 percent positive. [48 percent for Dean, no number for Bush]
-- The Democratic field got the best combined coverage ever -- 75 percent positive.
-- Democratic primary candidates have gotten 60 percent good press since 1988, compared to 45 percent for Republicans.
-- Only 18 percent of all coverage was issue-oriented; 77 percent with the horse race.
-- The 18 percent issue-oriented coverage was the lowest since 1988 (15 percent); the highest was 1996 -- 44 percent issue coverage. [1992: 32 percent; 2000: 22 percent]
END Reprint of text on front page of Media Monitor
Last week, after her appearance at a Kerry fundraiser was canceled due to Ronald Reagan's death, Bette Midler told David Letterman: "I would like to make sure that this year we actually elect a President instead of having one assigned to us, like a home room teacher." Going in the other direction, but not so far as to say anything nice about President Bush, on Monday's Good Morning America, Rob Lowe, who is infamous for his antics at the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta, praised California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger "as an amazing leader. What he's done in California already is unbelievable, unbelievable!"
On the June 8 Late Show on CBS, as tracked down by the MRC's Brian Boyd, Letterman asked her: "Do you have some time off now?" Midler answered: "No, no. Yeah, it's election year. It's an election year. I would like to make sure that this year we actually elect a president instead of having one assigned to us, like a home room teacher. Yeah, it's very exciting because I think actually, I think the country is ready for a change. I think the country is ready for a makeover, an extreme makeover."
Midler was on to promote a movie in which she stars, Stepford Wives. For her Internet Movie Database page: www.imdb.com
In fact, Midler did gain some time off. In a June 7 article titled, "Kerry Taking the Week Off to Honor Reagan," the AP's Nedra Pickler reported: "The events Kerry canceled include two star-studded fund-raisers that would have raised millions of dollars for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee -- in Los Angeles on Monday and in New York on Thursday. Performers who were participating included Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor and John Mellencamp.
That article in online at: news.yahoo.com
Lowe, who left NBC's The West Wing for his own soon cancelled show on NBC, The Lyon's Den, and who will star in a new show on CBS this fall, dr. vegas, came aboard ABC's GMA on Monday morning to plug a movie in which he stars that will debut Sunday night on TNT, Salem's Lot.
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this exchange:
Diane Sawyer: "Now, we saw your out campaigning for Mr. Schwarzenegger, and some of us who had seen you at Democratic conventions were a little surprised by that."
One imagines that infatuation would end if Schwarzenegger ever did anything conservative on the social policy front.
Lowe's IMDb page: www.imdb.com
TNT's page for the Salem's Lot horror film based on a Stephen King novel: www.tnt.tv
From the June 14 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Going Through Former President Bush's Mind at This Moment," as he's skydiving on Sunday afternoon attached to the front of a member of the Army's "Golden Knights" parachuting team. Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "I'm falling faster than my son's approval rating"
9. "Hey, who's that white-haired dude waving at me? Oh, it's Barbara"
8. "Would it be unpresidential to urp on 350 people?"
7. "I feel like I'm 75 again"
6. "I thought this kind of thing was only allowed in Massachusetts"
5. "How can I break it to George that I'm voting for Kerry?"
4. "I don't remember having so much jowl resistance last time"
3. "If this doesn't impress Carmen Electra, I give up"
2. "Read my lips: Holy crap, I'm gonna die"
1. "It's a good thing I'm drunk"
-- Brent Baker