2. Matt Lauer Cues Up and Reads Aloud John Kerry's Talking Points
3. NBC: Iraqis Grateful for Saddam's Ouster, Creating Newspapers
4. USA Today Spikes Poll Finding on How Public Sees Liberal Bias
5. Letterman's "Top Ten Jerry Springer Campaign Promises"
Highlighting the negative reaction of the brass to a few soldiers in Iraq trashing their mission and the Secretary of Defense in stories aired by ABC, Wednesday's World News Tonight re-ran the most strident blasts before anchor Peter Jennings asserted, "We were reminded today of a common refrain from drill sergeants to their troops: 'We are here to defend democracy, not to practice it.'"
Wednesday's Good Morning America re-ran the Tuesday World News Tonight story by Jeffrey Kofman and then Charles Gibson interviewed the wives of a couple of the soldiers. Following that, Central Command chief General John Abizaid was asked, at a Pentagon briefing, about the comments and he suggested disciplinary action. For details on Kofman's July 15 story: www.mediaresearch.org
Jennings teased at the top of his July 16 broadcast: "On World News Tonight, the U.S. commander in Iraq says troops who criticize their mission should be disciplined. On Capitol Hill, the CIA director defends U.S. intelligence on Iraq. Tonight, the phony document that led to the bogus claim in the State of the Union address."
In the top story, Martha Raddatz re-ran the same soldier soundbites from Kofman's piece of the night before: "The continuing unrest comes at a time when some U.S. troops are tired and frustrated. Yesterday, ABC News broadcast interviews with members of the Third Infantry Division, who had expected to return home after major combat ended."
Jennings picked up on the ABC News-created controversy: "We've had a lot of questions in the last 24 hours about whether soldiers are permitted to publicly criticize their mission or their superiors, as some did on this program last night. Officially, a soldier could be court-martialled for this, although it is rare and at the discretion of his commander. We were reminded today of a common refrain from drill sergeants to their troops: 'We are here to defend democracy, not to practice it.' Those soldiers who lashed out on this broadcast about the Pentagon are based at Fort Stewart in Georgia. It was, as we've said, a very unusual outburst. And we were naturally curious to see how their families felt. ABC's Erin Hayes reports from Fort Stewart tonight."
Hayes checked in, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The families of the Third Infantry Division are traditionally accepting of the uncertainties of Army life."
For the ABC News posting on the complaining soldiers: abcnews.go.com
Instead of playing devil's advocate with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, or at least challenging some of his premises, Today co-host Matt Lauer on Wednesday mainly cued Kerry up with leading questions meant to draw out Kerry's talking points on Iraq and the questions over the credibility of the intelligence cited. And Lauer even helpfully read a long excerpt from a then-upcoming Kerry speech.
Amongst the "questions" posed by Lauer on the July 16 Today:
-- "Do you have a suspicion that Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell had some role to play in this?"
-- "So let me ask you bluntly, did the President mislead the American public in using that information in his State of the Union address?"
-- "Either he knew the information was faulty and if questions were raised by experts and he still delivered that information then in effect, he mislead, the American public intentionally or he had no idea that the information was faulty. And I'm asking, in your gut, what do you think happened?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down the relevant portions of the 7am half hour interview session. Lauer set it up: "On Close Up this morning Iraq, homeland security and the 2004 presidential race. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is seeking the Democratic nomination and today he'll address those topics and more in a speech to New York City firemen and police officers."
-- "I want to talk about your speech in a second but first in Washington today CIA Director George Tenet is going to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence committee. If you were on that committee what is the most important question you'd like to ask Director Tenet?"
-- "Do you think he should resign? Most people are saying that they don't call for his resignation. But if he is to blame and he's taken responsibility should he resign?"
-- "Do you have a suspicion that Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell had some role to play in this?"
-- "Let me play you a couple of comments that the President made during his State of the Union address back on January 20th and you can comment on the other side."
-- "On the uranium question there had been questions about that information dating back to October about three months before the State of the Union address. On the aluminum tubing issue it was disputed by a former American or a State Department intelligence expert named Greg Thielmann who said that months earlier, quote, 'We had high confidence that the aluminum tubes were not intended for the Iraqi nuclear weapons program.' So let me ask you bluntly, did the President mislead the American public in using that information in his State of the Union address?"
-- "Democrats are jumping on this issue, not only intelligence leading up to the war but the efforts in Iraq, post-war. House leader Tom DeLay said this, he said quote, 'The Democrats are asking overblown questions on Iraq,' and went on to say, 'Democrats know that they have to attack Operation Iraqi Freedom to energize their Bush-hating base.' He went on to say, 'They think if they get a little bit angrier, a little bit meaner and a little bit louder, the American people will start hating the President as much as they do.'"
-- "You say the administration was arrogant, that they didn't have a better plan to win the peace in Iraq. You say, 'It's like the Bush administration quote, 'stumbled into Baghdad, with no idea how to secure the country after Saddam Hussein was removed from power.' As a member of the Senate when you voted to authorize the President to use military force in Iraq, did you lay out a better plan than the administration had laid out?"
-- "Here's some of what you'll say in a speech to firefighters and police officers in New York today, 'All of the shortcomings of this administration when it comes to playing it straight on national security, none affects New Yorkers and all Americans than the preparedness gap. The preparedness gap is the huge difference between where America needs to be to combat terrorist attacks and where we are now. The huge difference between what the administration in Washington is telling America and the reality which local firefighters, police officers and frontline defenders are living with on the ground.' Most people say the President's strength is homeland security. You're basically saying it's smoke and mirrors."
-- "So you think the President's vulnerable here? This is what some people, most people think is his strength going into 2004?"
-- "It's impossible not to let politics come into play here because some people, your critics, have called you a political opportunist here. They've said that some of the other Democrats have been attacking the President on Iraq on homeland security for months and you've come to this party kind of late."
-- "When it comes to the presidential race in 2004, Senator, can you ignite the kind of, people have called you a little bit aloof, some people call you cold, a little distant. Can you ignite the kind of passion in the American voters that you're going to need to win the nomination and the election?"
-- "Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont, had a pretty good fundraising quarter, in the second quarter of this year. Is he a person who could make you stumble, derail your campaign if he does well in Iowa and in New Hampshire?"
Given the steady dose of negative stories coming out of Iraq about the lack of basic services, anger at U.S. soldiers and all the attacks on them, many network viewers probably assume the nation is falling apart and the people are weary of the U.S. presence.
But the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night, surprisingly, provided a counter-view with Richard Engel celebrating the creation of new newspapers and political parties and Tom Brokaw, who is in Baghdad this week, learned that "despite the daily violence and the chaos, everywhere you go, Iraqis express their gratitude for the war that removed Saddam Hussein from power."
Engel trumpeted how, "for all the chaos here, Iraq has developed the most vibrant political scene in the entire Arab world."
A pretty low threshold to meet!
In his July 16 NBC Nightly News story, Engel showcased a man who makes candy (a not very appealing treat of hunks of cheese covered in honey) who has begun a newspaper he's named, "Those Who Have Been Freed."
Engel explained that it "is one of more than a hundred private newspapers that have sprung up since the war, part of the explosion of political activities here the Iraqis are calling the opening, their version of glasnost, which opened up the Soviet Union almost two decades ago."
Engel also highlighted the creation of about 200 new political parties: "For decades Iraq was ruled by one political party, Saddam's oppressive Ba'ath Party. But today, for all the chaos here, Iraq has developed the most vibrant political scene in the entire Arab world."
A bit later in the show, Tom Brokaw profiled a family which was living in exile in San Diego, two parents and a twenty-something daughter, who have now moved back to Iraq. Brokaw introduced his story by describing how grateful most Iraqis are for the war:
For text of Brokaw's subsequent story, which roughly matches what aired, and Windows Media Player video of it: www.msnbc.com
USA Today spiked a poll which documented the public's perception of liberal bias. As recounted in the July 14 CyberAlert, a survey released over the weekend by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found, that by two-to-one, Americans believe the media tilt to the left, with even a plurality of Democrats thinking so.
But in his 500-word "Media Mix" article on the poll, in Wednesday's USA Today, Peter Johnson seemed to recite every poll finding but that one, which was the first time Pew had asked about whether respondents saw the news media as more conservative or liberal.
The July 14 CyberAlert summarized the media bias finding: "Most Americans (53%) believe that news organizations are politically biased, while just 29% say they are careful to remove bias from their reports. When it comes to describing the press, twice as many say news organizations are 'liberal' (51%) than 'conservative,'" a just-released Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey discovered. Even a plurality of Democrats see a liberal slant over a conservative one by 41 to 33 percent. For the CyberAlert with an excerpt from the Pew rundown: www.mediaresearch.org
But that didn't make it into the July 16 USA today story headlined, "Public unsettled by media consolidation, poll shows."
An excerpt from the findings Johnson found more interesting:
In 1985, a Pew Research Center poll found that 53% of people thought that the news media were "often influenced by powerful people and organizations."
When asked that same question last month, that number had risen to 71% -- a sign that Pew director Andrew Kohut views as rising anxiety about the news media in the hands of huge conglomerates....
Public fear that big media outfits are getting even bigger might be behind another Pew finding released this week: Opposition to a Federal Communications Commission decision to loosen media cross-ownership restrictions has increased sharply since February as more Americans learned about the plan....
After the war with Iraq, the poll found that 70% of Americans like it when news organizations take a "strong pro-American point of view." But that doesn't mean they want patriotism to color reporting on the war on terrorism: 64% want neutral coverage, compared with 29% who want pro-American coverage.
The poll found that Americans are increasingly turning to cable's Fox News Channel for their news. More than one in five (22%) get most of their news from Fox, compared with 16% in January 2002. The poll found that Fox's audience is decidedly more Republican and conservative than audiences for CNN and the broadcast networks.
Fox's success may signal the dawn of a new kind of "news system at the network level, where you have market differentiation by political affiliation," says New York University journalism chairman Jay Rosen....
But Bill Shine, Fox News executive producer, views the poll another way. "It shows right off the bat that people like what we're doing." The poll also found that Fox has a higher percentage of independents than CNN (30% to 28%) and 24% of its audience is Democrat. "I think it shows we have a good mix."
END of Excerpt
For Johnson's July 16 story in its entirety: www.usatoday.com
From the July 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Jerry Springer Campaign Promises." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. "Fifty-dollar tax rebate if you have sex with your wife's sister"
9. "All staff dinners will be at D.C.-area Hooters"
8. "Sausages will attack baseball players with bats!"
7. "Repeal restrictive laws against first-cousin marriages"
6. "Amend Constitution to include words 'hoochie mama'"
5. "In the summer months, all press conferences are topless"
4. "I'll tell the truth about which legislators have too much junk in the trunk"
3. "Solar powered prostitutes"
2. "C-SPAN will feature more young people calling each other 'bitch'"
1. "Enough cheap sex to make the Clinton years look like a church social"
Those all seem in the realm of the believable.
And on tonight's Late Show with David Letterman on CBS: Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
* We're taking a crew of interns and staffers into the District today to be in the audience at GWU for CNN's Crossfire, so if you hear any catcalls aimed at James Carville you'll know why.
-- Brent Baker