Journalists on Sunday Shows Hail Leaker for Exposing Prisons --4/24/2006
2. Bob Schieffer Denounces "Dubious First" Firing of Leaker
3. More False "Record" Oil Prices, ABC Pushes "Windfall Profits Tax"
4. Olbermann Showcases "Bush Worst President" Rolling Stone Article
5. WashPost's Milbank: Red Chinese Dictator Suffers "Indignities"
Far from condemning a CIA officials damaging leak of classified information about ongoing efforts to prevent terrorism, on the Sunday morning interview shows, three panelists -- a former network White House correspondent, a newspaper and radio veteran and a current network anchor -- hailed Mary McCarthy, the CIA staffer fired last week for telling the Washington Post's Dana Priest about secret prisons in Eastern Europe. ABC's Sam Donaldson heralded the revelations as "a victory for the American people" and compared her actions to those sitting at lunch counters in the 1960s, NPR's Juan Williams trumpeted her "right to speak" and her "act of conscience" and CBS's Bob Schieffer characterized the prisons as what "scares" him and claimed the "CIA fired an agent" just "for hanging out" with a reporter.
On ABC's This Week, Donaldson asserted: "Remember the great American saying, 'disobedience to tyranny is disobedience to God.' In this case it was something that clearly I think most Americans would agree is not what we want to do, secret prisons, the right of detention not being open to public scrutiny. I mean, I think exposing something like that does not hurt us. It helps us." Former Washington Post reporter Juan Williams, now with NPR, contended on Fox News Sunday that since "she's an American citizen, she has a right to speak out." Confronted by host Chris Wallace, "You don't really believe that there's any justification for what she did. You don't really?", Williams proclaimed: "Yes, I do....If she felt that this was a violation of our principles as a country and was untenable in terms of her conscience working for the U.S. government, why shouldn't she act?" Schieffer maintained in his end of the show commentary on Face the Nation that "it's not the leakers, it's what they're leaking that scares me. After all, why should a democracy be operating secret prisons? If the government hadn't told us they exist, can we ever be sure who might wind up inside them? Isn't finding out stuff like that what reporters are supposed to do?"
[This item was posted Monday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
On Friday's CBS Evening News Schieffer had denounced the firing as a "dubious first." For more about that, and for links to more about the Priest story which won a Pulitzer Prize, see item #2 below.
Some highlights from the discussions, on the Sunday, April 23 Sunday shows, about the leak case.
# ABC's This Week:
George Stephanopoulos: "Sam, let me ask you, is this prosecution or this termination, a victory for national security or a defeat for government accountability?"
Juan Williams: "....Here you have his opponents making a political leak very much intended to say that the administration's policy is off-base and taking us down the path of secret prisons that violate our principles as Americans. So you come to the idea that she was trying to defeat this administration because she felt what their activities were doing was hurting the American -- hurting America both at home and abroad in terms of our ideals. Porter Goss says it hurt us for our relationships-"
Bob Schieffer: "Finally, at my age, nothing much surprises me, but my jaw dropped when I read the FBI has been trying to go through the files of dead columnist Jack Anderson to see if he had any classified documents. Now mind you, Anderson was 83 when he died and did virtually no work for 15 years because of Parkinson's, but the FBI has been pressing his family to get at those files. The family has said no. Dare I state the obvious: that with Osama Bin Laden still on the loose, maybe there are more important things for the FBI to do than that.
At least one leading mainstream journalists isn't too happy about the revelation Friday that on Thursday the CIA fired an official who admitted being the leaker of top secret information about CIA prisons overseas used to hold al-Qaeda suspects. Bob Schieffer didn't withhold his personal opinion from his newscast as he introduced a CBS Evening News story by asserting that "it is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission" and he described the firing as "a first -- a dubious first, to be sure."
Citing the Washington Post story on the then-secret prisons and the New York Times article disclosing terrorist surveillance efforts, both of which won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, NPR's Nina Totenberg declared on Inside Washington that nefarious Bush administration practices justified the decision to reward the two newspapers: "It's a good thing that they won for those intelligence stories because the Bush administration is investigating now and is threatening to subpoena and conceivably jail those reporters. So I think it's important that those stories be rewarded as something important to have done."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your take, go to: newsbusters.org ]
CBS's story didn't name the CIA staff member and neither did ABC's World News Tonight which held itself to a short item read by the anchor. Friday afternoon on MSNBC, and on the NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell identified the fired CIA employee as Mary McCarthy of the CIA's Inspector General's office. MSNBC.com's story, by Robert Windrem and Mitchell, reported:
In a rare occurrence, the CIA fired an officer who acknowledged giving classified information to a reporter, NBC News learned Friday.
The officer flunked a polygraph exam before being fired on Thursday and is now under investigation by the Justice Department, NBC has learned.
Intelligence sources tell NBC News the accused officer, Mary McCarthy, worked in the CIA's inspector general's office and had worked for the National Security Council under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
The leak pertained to stories on the CIA's rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.
Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well....
END of Excerpt
For the MSNBC.com posting in full: www.msnbc.msn.com
(Saturday's New York Times reported: "Public records show that Ms. McCarthy contributed $2,000 in 2004 to the presidential campaign of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee." See: www.nytimes.com )
That Priest story was a November 2 front page article, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons: Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11." See this Post page for a collection of Priest's 2005 stories for which she won the Pultizer "for her persistent, painstaking reports on secret 'black site' prisons and other controversial features of the government's counterterrorism campaign": www.washingtonpost.com
Schieffer introduced the April 21 CBS Evening News story:
Later, on Inside Washington aired at 8:30pm EDT on Washington, DC's PBS affiliate, WETA-TV channel 26 (and which re-airs at 7pm Saturday on Washington's cable NewsChannel 8 and again at 10am Sunday on Washington's ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV channel 7 where it was taped Friday afternoon), NPR's Nina Totenberg argued:
As they did all week, on Friday night the three broadcast network evening newscasts again hyperventilated over the "record" high price for a barrel of oil, though adjusted for inflation, the only competent way to measure any price over time, current $75 per barrel oil is $12 short of the real record high set in January of 1981. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas falsely cited how "a week of skyrocketing oil prices ends with another record today," erroneously claiming that "records were set on four out of five days, and today the price for a barrel of crude topped $75 for the first time ever." CBS's Bob Schieffer announced that "we end the week as we began it, and that is not good news because we began this week by reporting that the price of crude oil had reached a record high." Over on the NBC Nightly News, fill-in anchor Lester Holt had as little regard for accuracy as had Brian Williams the rest of the week. "Pain at the pump," Holt teased, "Yet another record high for oil."
Friday's World News Tonight also featured a preview of a session with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger taped to air on Sunday's This Week. Vargas passed along how the liberal Republican "warned that price-gouging on oil and gas will not be tolerated. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos he would not rule out taxing oil companies on their enormous profits." In the brief excerpt then shown, Stephanopoulos cued up Schwarzenegger: "So do we need a windfall profits tax?"
[This item was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An April 20 CyberAlert item, "Networks Falsely Cite 'Record High' Price for Barrel of Oil," recounted erroneous reporting aired on Wednesday night and relayed how some print outlets have noted reality in stories about "record high" prices. In the April 18 USA Today, for instance, reporter James Healey acknowledged: "The Monday high is not a record if inflation is taken into account. That peak is the equivalent of $86.99 in today's dollars, set when oil was $38.85 a barrel in January 1981, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration." See: www.usatoday.com
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth gathered quotes for how the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts led on Friday night, April 21:
# ABC's World News Tonight:
Elizabeth Vargas, in opening teaser: "I'm Elizabeth Vargas. Tonight, a week of skyrocketing oil prices ends with another record today, and now gasoline shortages."
Vargas began: "Good evening. It's been a remarkable week for oil and gasoline prices in the U.S. Records were set on four out of five days, and today the price for a barrel of crude topped $75 for the first time ever. That is a 24 percent increase over last month. Gasoline prices have also gone up to an average of $2.78 per gallon. The record prices have brought warnings against price gouging from the White House and a promise from Congress that it would investigate. And now, in some parts of the country, there are gas shortages. ABC's Lisa Stark begins our coverage in Washington."
After Stark's piece which recited complaints from Schwarzenegger, Vargas asserted: "The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, also warned that price-gouging on oil and gas will not be tolerated. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos he would not rule out taxing oil companies on their enormous profits."
Bob Schieffer, in opening teaser: "Good evening. I am Bob Schieffer. The price of crude oil went up again today, and the only question now is: Will it ever stop? We'll start there tonight and go on to these stories."
Schieffer led: "Well, we end the week as we began it, and that is not good news because we began this week by reporting that the price of crude oil had reached a record high. It is still going up. It broke the $70 barrier Monday, and since then it has risen nearly $5 a barrel. By tonight, the price was $75.17. No surprise then that the price of regular gasoline is up to a national average of $2.86 a gallon at the pump. Here's our business correspondent, Anthony Mason."
Lester Holt, in opening teaser: "Pain at the pump: Yet another record high for oil. No end in sight for gas. What these sky-high prices could mean for consumers and the President."
Holt opened: "And good evening, everyone. Most of us frankly don't know how much oil is in a barrel of oil. But many of us are starting to track that barrel's skyrocketing cost, a misery index of sort, driving up the price and pain at the gas pump. Today a barrel of oil, 42 gallons, by the way, jumped $1.48 to close at another record, just over $75. So what does that mean to you? Well [over national map with cited cities highlighted], in Boston today, it means the average price of a gallon of regular gas, according to AAA, hit $2.82. Chicagoans are paying a dime more at $2.92. In New York City, that gallon costs $3.04. And in Los Angeles, the price is up to $3.07. We have two reports, beginning tonight with NBC's Anne Thompson, looking for rhyme, reason, and rationality at the pump. Anne, good evening."
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann plugged left-wing historian Sean Wilentz's Rolling Stone magazine cover story which argued that George W. Bush may be the worst President ever, citing the opinions of over 400 historians. As he introduced his interview with Wilentz, Director of the American Studies program and Princeton University, Olbermann sympathetically referred to the recently fired CIA employee who leaked classified information on the agency's use of secret prisons in Europe in the War on Terrorism, calling her a "whistleblower," and asked the question: "President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?"
While introducing the segment, Olbermann listed several of Wilentz's attacks against Bush without challenging their validity, including accusations of "fabricated evidence" of WMD, a "retro fiscal policy" of "massive tax cuts" for the wealthy that "racked up monstrous deficits," and a criticism citing an unnamed Republican strategist who claimed that the Republican Party is "the first religious party in U.S. history." Olbermann, who perennially makes comparisons between George Orwell's novel 1984 and the Bush administration, managed to work in yet another reference to Orwell as he ended the interview mocking the administration's use of the term "pre-9/11 thinking," charging that Bush would accuse Wilentz and the other historians of being "guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said."
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For Rolling Stone's "The Worst President in History?" cover story, with a drawing on the cover of Bush wearing a dunce cap: www.rollingstone.com
Olbermann previewed the segment in the show's teaser: "Worst President ever: As Mr. Bush contemplates his page in history, a covey of historians predict that could easily be the chapter title."
After interviewing former Nixon White House counsel John Dean about the recent firing of the CIA agent who leaked classified information about secret prisons in Europe, during which Olbermann drew comparisons between leaks in the Nixon and Bush administrations, he could not resist making further comparisons between Nixon and Bush. Olbermann read a brief item about student protesters at Stanford University who blocked President Bush's helicopter from landing, which he compared to Nixon's problems with student protesters, and then gave a plug for the Wilentz interview by relaying that some historians say Bush "might have passed the James Buchanans and the Richard Nixons to become the worst President ever."
As Olbermann introduced the segment, in light of the recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll that showed Bush with a 33 percent approval rating, the Countdown host took a shot at FNC's Brit Hume by recounting that a few months ago the FNC host declared that a CBS poll showing a low approval rating for Bush "wildly oversampled Democrats."
Olbermann continued his introduction by sympathetically calling the recently fired CIA employee a "whistleblower," as if she had exposed some great wrong: "Our fourth story in the Countdown, President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?"
Olbermann then read a list of Wilentz's criticisms of the Bush administration, all from a left-wing point-of-view, without any analysis of their validity: "This is some of what he considers: That the 43rd President of the United States and his administration strained or even fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction not only to justify the war in Iraq, but to promote a Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare; claimed an unprecedented expansion of presidential power under the guise of war, many of the administration's scandals having flowed from that; rammed retro fiscal policies through Congress, massive tax cuts that may have benefitted only the wealthy, racked up monstrous deficits borrowing more money between 2001 and 2005 than all of the previous 42 presidents combined; and other domestic policies so strident and so dismissive of scientific knowledge that one former Republican strategist calls today's Republicans, quote, 'the first religious party in U.S. history.'"
During the interview, Olbermann only made a couple of gentle challenges to Wilentz's overall thesis, suggesting that a number of one-term Presidents deserve a lower ranking than Bush, and also pointing out the overwhelming dominance of academia by liberals: "Answer the obvious criticism of this survey of 415 or so historians who had already in 2004 pretty much said this is a losing proposition by a vote of 8-2, that, well, historians, academics tend to be liberal, there was a political motivation relative to the reelection campaign of 2004. Where does that, where does that fit in into this equation?"
Olbermann concluded the interview by working in his latest reference to George Orwell to mock President Bush: "Of course, [Bush] would turn around and say that you're guilty and the other historians are guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said."
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the April 21 Countdown show, including the entire interview with Wilentz:
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Worst President ever: As Mr. Bush contemplates his page in history, a covey of historians predict that could easily be the chapter title."
After an interview with former Nixon counsel John Dean in which he compared the recent firing of a CIA agent for exposing classified information on secret prisons in Europe, and comparing this with Nixon's attempt to find out who linked the Pentagon Papers, Olbermann continued with another comparison to Nixon:
Olbermann: "Another page from President Nixon's administration coming to life tonight for President Bush in California, protesters at a college campus. After visiting with Governor Schwarzenegger, he was meant to go to a meeting at the Hoover Institution in Stanford before going to dinner at former Secretary of State George Shultz's house. But when Marine One arrived at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, protesters blocked the route. The helicopter circled while the President figured out what to do. He ended up giving up and moving the meeting to Mr. Shultz's house."
Olbermann, before commercial break: "And just when you think it couldn't get worse than a 33 percent approval rating for the President, historians are suggesting that history may decide that number is a little high."
Olbermann, during commercial break: "He has always countered criticism with the belief that history will prove him right, Yet, some presidential historians are already saying that President Bush might have passed the James Buchanans and the Richard Nixons to become the worst President ever. That's next. This is Countdown."
Olbermann, introducing the segment: "Less than two months ago, in the face of a CBS poll putting the President's approval rating at just 34 percent, Brit Hume of Fox News said, quote, 'There's good reason to be skeptical of this CBS poll. It's wildly over-sampled Democrats.' Then came yesterday's poll from Fox News, which marks the President's approval at 33 percent. There is a different kind of survey as well from way back in early 2004. Of 415 historians, 81 percent of them deemed the Bush administration to be a failure -- at that point. Our fourth story in the Countdown, President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst? That poll of historians just part of the evidence considered by fellow historian Sean Wilentz in Rolling Stone magazine. He will join us presently. This is some of what he considers: That the 43rd President of the United States and his administration strained or even fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction not only to justify the war in Iraq, but to promote a Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare; claimed an unprecedented expansion of presidential power under the guise of war, many of the administration's scandals having flowed from that; rammed retro fiscal policies through Congress, massive tax cuts that may have benefitted only the wealthy, racked up monstrous deficits borrowing more money between 2001 and 2005 than all of the previous 42 presidents combined, and other domestic policies so strident and so dismissive of scientific knowledge that one former Republican strategist calls today's Republicans, quote, 'the first religious party in U.S. history.' Also, since reliable polling began in the 1940's, the only other two-term President to drop to Mr. Bush's level was Richard Nixon in the throes of the Watergate disgrace. As promised, I'm joined now by the Director of the American Studies program at Princeton University, also author of The Rise of American Democracy, Sean Wilentz. Thanks for your time tonight, sir."
Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" columns on page 2 of the Washington Post often provide not just Milbank's trademark snark, but some interesting first-person observations on the political scene. Friday's offering on the state visit of communist China dictator Hu Jintao seemed to feel Hu's pain. Every perceived slight was magnified. The screaming Chinese woman protester screamed on and on, but Milbank even found "indignity" in the Vice President's choice of eyewear:
For Milbank's April 21 treatise: www.washingtonpost.com
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For a rundown of Givhan's rants, see this CyberAlert look at what won Pultizer Prizes for her and two others: www.mrc.org
Friday's CyberAlert item, "Nets Portray Protest and Taiwan Status Through Red China Prism," recounted: Though the Red Chinese regime was so embarrassed by a woman interrupting the White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao to denounce him, that it censored the incident from news coverage back in China, CBS on Thursday night framed coverage around worries about offending China over Taiwan and how some incident made the White House look bad while NBC focused on the "embarrassment" the protester caused to the Bush team. CBS's Bob Schieffer led with how "this was not the best day the White House ever had," citing how "a government announcer introduced China's national anthem by calling it the national anthem of the Republic of China." Schieffer adopted Red China's spin as he explained how Republic of China is "the formal name of the island of Taiwan," which "claims to be an independent nation, a claim that China fiercely disputes." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas echoed Schieffer's concern about the announced name of the country. NBC's David Gregory declared that "this was considered to the President a major embarrassment" and fretted about how "the outburst was a major irritant to the Chinese leader since the White House gave her a day pass to attend the event." See: www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker