2. Schneider Awards "Play of Week" to Bush-Bashing 9/11 Families
3. A Year After the War, "Freedom" and Normalcy in Baghdad
4. Carlin: U.S. "Paying the Piper" for "Exploiting" the World
Barely a week after left-wingers created a mainstream media mini-firestorm over a few fleeting images from 9/11 in Bush re-election campaign TV ads, on Fox News Sunday NPR's Juan Williams relayed the claim of a Kerry campaign operative about how "the right wing" has "the ability to start a rumor on the Internet. It gets then into the right-wing radio and to Rush Limbaugh and the like. And then it suddenly gets repeated all over the TV discussions shows, and suddenly, then it's taken as legitimate by mainstream media" but, he ludicrously relayed, "the left wing doesn't have that capacity."
Williams' ridiculous theory sent Brit Hume to chortling before he countered by pointing out how Democrats "only have the three major networks, the leading newspapers, NPR, everything on PBS. They only have sympathy from the overwhelmingly largest news organizations in the country, which will give Kerry, as the season progresses, more and more forgiving coverage." Williams wouldn't give up and, apparently serious, disputed any liberal tilt at NPR: "And when you say NPR, come on, NPR now is left wing?"
A piece in this week's Weekly Standard, titled "How to Stage a Controversy: Peace activists, left-wing flacks, and compliant reporters produced the flap over Bush's 9/11 ads," lent support to Hume. In the article in the March 22 edition, Matthew Continetti recounted how "much of the controversy" over the Bush ads "can be traced directly to a press release issued by the Institute for Public Accuracy, or IPA, at a little after 2:00 P.M. on March 4," a press release which directed reporters to a select list of left-wing activists: A head of a firefighters union who actively campaigned for John Kerry and members of a group called "September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows."
Continetti observed: "Members of Peaceful Tomorrows are often quoted without any mention of their group affiliation. In what looks like an egregious case of lazy reporting, multiple news outlets treated members of Peaceful Tomorrows as if they were non-affiliated people-on-the-street in order to make the controversy over the Bush ads seem widespread."
That matches what CyberAlert documented about the broadcast news side. An excerpt from the top of the March 5 CyberAlert:
The Bush campaign may have $100 million to spend, but the Kerry team has the news media as part of its base, a reality demonstrated on Thursday, a day John Kerry took off and didn't even campaign. Based on a single news story in the New York Daily News quoting a single firefighter and a few members of families with 9-11 victims, the morning and evening shows on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, as well as CNBC and MSNBC in prime time, picked up the charge that new Bush campaign TV ads, which very briefly show images from 9-11, somehow improperly exploit that day for political gain.
In the morning, Karen Hughes was quizzed about it and in the evening the supposed "controversy" led or was the number two story on every evening newscast.
ABC's Diane Sawyer, CBS's Harry Smith and CNN's Soledad O'Brien highlighted how the "firefighters union" protested the ad, but failed to point out how that union, the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), long ago endorsed John Kerry. Sawyer asked Hughes on GMA, for instance: "The firefighters union says in a statement that it was a cheap trick to use even fleeting images of the real events of 9/11."
Kate Snow set up that GMA segment: "Using these 9/11 images is already drawing political fire from Senator John Kerry and outrage among some victims' families; 'a slap in the face,' says one widow, 'of the murders of 3,000 people.'"
Over on CBS's The Early Show, Harry Smith lectured Hughes: "But you know this is one of those things where images can make or break a candidate. Could this turn into another 'Mission Accomplished?'"
NBC's Katie Couric avoided distorting the firefighter's upset as something independent from the Kerry campaign, but Couric, like the other morning hosts, ignored the quotes in the New York Daily News from 9-11 victim family members who found the ads perfectly fine and quoted only from those who attacked the Bush campaign: "One September 11th widow told the Daily News this morning she was offended by the use of 9-11 images in these ads saying quote, 'After three thousand people were murdered on his watch it seems to me that takes an awful lot of audacity. Honestly, it's in poor taste.' What's your response to that?"
In the afternoon, on CNN's Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff refused to note the agenda of the IAFF as she intoned in leading into a soundbite from IAFF President Harry Schaitberger: "Two of the new Bush campaign ads include brief images of the World Trade Center ruins, and of firefighters. That's not sitting well with some firefighters, and relatives of 9/11 victims."
On screen during the 5pm EST Wolf Blitzer Reports on CNN: "Trading on Tragedy?"
By the evening, the network stories at least noted how the firefighters union had endorsed Kerry, but they nonetheless still quoted union chief's Shaitberger's attack on Bush despite the fact that the union's main agenda is a selfish quest for more federal spending for fire departments, a matter of a liberal-conservative split on the role of federal spending on tasks traditionally the responsibility of local governments. That didn't dissuade CBS's John Roberts: "The firefighters union, which backs John Kerry, wants them off the air, adding, 'President Bush has short-changed first responders on critically needed equipment and training.'"...
END of Excerpt from previous CyberAlert
For the March 5 CyberAlert item in full: www.mediaresearch.org
What a crazy notion!
The March 22 Weekly Standard story cited above outlined how the Kerry campaign has the mainstream media in its corner. An excerpt from the article by Matthew Continetti:
....What people ended up talking about after the Bush ads were unveiled was whether the president's campaign had "exploited" the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by using a couple of seconds of footage from that day in two of its three advertisements. That's because the news coverage of the official launch of George W. Bush's reelection campaign focused on the reactions to the ads of firefighters and 9/11 victims' families. These people, presented as a random assortment of individuals, were angry at the president for using the attacks supposedly as a political prop....
[M]uch of the controversy can be traced directly to a press release issued by the Institute for Public Accuracy, or IPA, at a little after 2:00 P.M. on March 4.
The IPA is a five-person media clearinghouse located in the National Press Building. According to GuideStar, a website that tracks nonprofits, the group "promotes the inclusion of outlooks that usually get short shrift." It does this by issuing press releases. It has been issuing press releases since April 8, 1998. These go out to about 7,000 journalists and television producers. They promote speakers and experts whose outlooks are generally of a far-left bent. When I asked Sam Husseini, the IPA's communications director, whether the outfit was left-liberal, he told me, "I'm so far beyond labels, just give me the facts." But the IPA's facts are often questionable (mass starvation in Afghanistan, a massacre at the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002, and so on), and their opinions are always hard-left. After the Clinton administration began its bombing of Kosovo in March 1999, the IPA promoted the antiwar punditry of Howard Zinn, the radical historian, who claimed Clinton had "deceived" the United States into war against Slobodan Milosevic. And when the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, the IPA turned reporters onto similar radical ideologues who opposed the war. Ditto with the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
The IPA release on March 4 was brief -- under 500 words -- and little more than a list. It highlighted three potential stories and sources for journalists. One was the upcoming trip to Afghanistan of a mother whose firefighter son was killed in the September 11 attacks. Another was an Afghan women's rights activist's comments on International Women's Day, which took place on March 8.
But the lead item was the Bush ads story, featured in the subject line of the email: "Firefighters and 9/11 Families on Bush Ads." Journalists were pointed in two directions. First, they were alerted that Harold Schaitberger, the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, was outraged at the Bush ads. As is typically the case with such press releases, a helpful quote from Schaitberger was included. "I'm disappointed but not surprised that the President would try to trade on the heroism of those firefighters in the September 11 attacks. The uses of 9/11 images are hypocrisy at its worst." Two email addresses were listed, as well as two contact numbers for Schaitberger, both in Washington, D.C., where the IAFF has its headquarters.
Second, the IPA press release directed reporters interested in the Bush campaign ads to Adele Welty, David Potorti, and Colleen Kelly, members of a group called September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. All three had lost relatives in the September 11 attacks. All were promoting Adele's upcoming peace mission to Afghanistan. And all were also "available to comment on the Bush advertising campaign," with their phone numbers provided.
And comment they did. Sifting through the news coverage of the controversy over Bush's ads, one finds the same individuals -- Schaitberger, Potorti, and Kelly -- quoted again and again. Schaitberger and Kelly are both quoted in a Boston Globe story that ran on March 5. Schaitberger and Kelly Campbell, a spokeswoman for September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, were the sources for the Washington Post's account. Kelly, Potorti, and Jeff Zack, a spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, are quoted in the AP dispatch on the Bush ads. Potorti is quoted in USA Today's story.
In fact, members of Peaceful Tomorrows are often quoted without any mention of their group affiliation. In what looks like an egregious case of lazy reporting, multiple news outlets treated members of Peaceful Tomorrows as if they were nonaffiliated people-on-the-street in order to make the controversy over the Bush ads seem widespread.
For example, in the March 5 Boston Globe story, Colleen Kelly is identified as the "New York area coordinator for Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy group formed by relatives of those killed on Sept. 11." But David Potorti, who is the group's co-director, is identified only as someone "whose brother was killed in the attacks on New York."
The same thing happens in the Associated Press's account, in which Potorti is identified as a political "independent from Cary, N.C." In fact, of all the major news outlets that quoted Potorti as a 9/11 family member upset at the Bush ad campaign, only USA Today identified him as a member of Peaceful Tomorrows.
The same rule applied to other members of Peaceful Tomorrows. Here is an excerpt from Paul Farhi's Washington Post story on March 5, which ran under the headline "Bush Ads Using 9/11 Images Stir Anger":
Notice that, while Campbell is identified as the codirector of Peaceful Tomorrows, Rita Lasar is quoted as if she'd been selected at random from a list of people who had lost relatives in the terror attacks. But two days later, in a CNN.com report on a press conference in New York City held by Peaceful Tomorrows and organized by the anti-Bush group MoveOn.org, Rita Lasar shows up again...this time, as one of the group's spokeswomen. "It's a deep hurt and sorrow that any politician, Democrat or Republican, would seek to gain advantage by using that site," she told CNN.
It is worth noting that Harold Schaitberger and other members of the International Association of Fire Fighters never said their criticism transcended partisan politics. This makes sense. Last fall, the union was one of the first to endorse John Kerry's presidential bid. But most news outlets that talked to Schaitberger mentioned the fact that he is a partisan Democrat only several paragraphs below the catchy headline (usually a variation on "Firefighters Angry at New Bush Ads") if at all. And no story mentioned that Schaitberger is one of eight national cochairs of John Kerry's campaign.
By contrast, the members of Peaceful Tomorrows did say that their outrage was bipartisan. "It's an insult to use the place where my brother died in an ad," David Potorti told the AP. "I would be just as outraged if any politician did this." Would he? Certainly NPR, which reported that Peaceful Tomorrows was an "officially nonpartisan" organization, thought so. As did the Washington Post, which also called Peaceful Tomorrows "nonpartisan." This was an exceedingly unhelpful and incomplete description. It's true that the group does not officially support Democrats or Republicans. But obviously relevant to its political identity is that it opposed any military response to the September 11 attacks, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. And one question about the 9/11 survivor-critics of the Bush ads that reporters failed to investigate was: Who are these people?...
On September 11, 2001, the day Jim Potorti died inside the World Trade Center, his brother David was living in Cary, North Carolina. David had moved there from California in order to pursue a master's degree in folklore. He was devastated by his brother's death. But what also disturbed him was the way in which the United States responded to the terrorist attacks. "While the humanity of the 9/11 victims -- their names, faces, and stories -- became better known," he wrote last year in an op-ed for New York Newsday, "our society seemed to care less and less about the traditions, histories, and humanity of other innocent victims." America was seized by "anger and intolerance" -- the "very things that had led to my brother's murder."...
Potorti was no stranger to activism. In 1997, living in Santa Monica, California, he joined The Oaks Project, a progressive organization devoted to organizing "people who feel disenfranchised by the two-party, big-money system." The Oaks Project was a creation of Ralph Nader, the consumer activist and presidential candidate. Potorti spent time gathering signatures for legislation nullifying parts of a utility deregulation bill. In his pre-9/11 days, Potorti was a frequent writer of letters to the editor. In one, he inveighed against "righteous conservatives." In another, he accused Republicans of ignoring the homeless and the unemployed.
As Potorti marched north as part of the "Walk for Healing and Peace," he got to know Amber Amundson, whose husband Craig had died on September 11, and Craig's brothers, Ryan and Barry. He also met Kelly Campbell, Craig Amundson's sister-in-law, who worked at a nonprofit in San Francisco. They all had backgrounds in progressive activism. And their status as relatives of those killed on 9/11 gave them special cachet among peace activists....
Funding was not a problem. Potorti says that the group's funding is "confidential." But a quick visit to several nonprofit websites shows that Peaceful Tomorrows receives money and support from a bevy of left-wing foundations. Among them is the Tides Center, which is a project of the Tides Foundation, which is a recipient of generous grants from the Heinz family endowments, one of which, at least, is chaired by Teresa Heinz, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. (Spokesmen for the Heinz endowments are quick to say that the money they provide to the Tides Foundation and Center is directed solely towards environmental projects in western Pennsylvania.) Peaceful Tomorrows is only one of many Tides Center projects. Others include the Ruckus Society, a radical antiglobalization group, and the Iraq Peace Fund, which provides support to such anti-Bush groups as MoveOn.org and Democracy Now....
The members of the group also wrote letters to the editor. The New York Times published one from David Potorti on April 28, 2003:
Since the worst terrorist attack in American history, which took the life of my brother, occurred in New York on Sept. 11, it seems appropriate that President Bush will be making his re-election bid from that city at that time in 2004.
Indeed, Peaceful Tomorrows never pretended to shrink from involvement in politics. On September 25, 2002, group members held a joint press conference with congressman -- and future Democratic presidential candidate -- Dennis Kucinich. The conference was called to protest a potential invasion of Iraq. "I believe the best way to honor the dead is by seeking justice through nonviolent means, not by starting new wars," said Andrew Rice, a member of Peaceful Tomorrows whose brother died at the World Trade Center....
It's a safe bet that there are thousands like [Bush supporting New York City firefighter Jimmy] Boyle, relatives of people murdered on 9/11 who supported the president during the wars against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. And it's a safe bet, further, that any one of those people, or any of the numerous 9/11 families groups, would have happily gone on record as having no objection to the Bush campaign's reelection ads. Indeed, reading the news coverage of the ads controversy, one finds, scattered among the quotes from Harold Schaitberger and the members of Peaceful Tomorrows, individuals who support Bush's campaign ads....
Or Ernest Strada, who told the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, at the Nassau County unveiling on March 11, "It's important that everybody in the country, led by the president, continue to remember what happened two and a half years ago." Milbank, in fact, found near unanimity among the people he interviewed at the unveiling. "Virtually all," he wrote, "said [Bush] was welcome here and welcome to use the attacks in his campaign."
So what went wrong here? Why the fuss over Bush's ads? How is it that so many journalists were willing to be led by the nose to write blatantly misleading stories, when the truth was so easy to ascertain? The simple answer is, well, they were being lazy and partisan. Plus, the straight story -- "Peace Activists, Kerry Co-chair Criticize Bush Ads" -- is a yawner....
END of Excerpt
For the Weekly Standard article in full: www.weeklystandard.com
A month after awarding his "Political Play of the Week" to liberal Democrats for how they pounded at Bush over the "AWOL" charge, CNN's Bill Schneider on Friday saluted September 11 families for how they got Bush to drop his insistence on only sitting for an hour with the 9/11 commission. In his March 12 "Political Play of the Week," Schneider quoted two women, both of whom bashed Bush, but didn't bother to note how both are active in a left-wing group, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. (See item #1 above for more about the group.)
Inside Politics anchor Judy Woodruff, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, set up Schneider's segment: "The most obvious way that regular citizens can affect the government, of course, is by voting. But it isn't the only way. Sometimes all you have to do is get together, and speak up. Who knows, you might also get Bill Schneider's 'Political Play of the Week.'"
For the home page for the September 11th Victims for Peaceful Tomorrows: www.peacefultomorrows.org
Lasar's name is all over the site and while Breistweiser's name comes up less often, she's long been a vocal critic, from the left, of the Bush administration.
Recent CyberAlert items on Schneider's picks for the "Political Play of the Week."
-- February 16 CyberAlert: CNN's Bill Schneider on Friday night awarded Democrats for their hounding of President Bush on AWOL charges, trumpeting how "the Democrats now have standing to play the military card and make it the 'Political Play of the Week.'" Schneider argued: "The issue may work this time not just because the Democrats have a war hero but because the Republicans have a war, an increasingly unpopular war and a President with a growing credibility problem coming out of that war." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- A week after CNN's Bill Schneider awarded his "Political Play of the Week" on Inside Politics to Democrats for how they trumpeted the scurrilous "AWOL" charge, on this past Friday afternoon's IP he awarded "the newly elected" Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, as opposed to the unelected Massachusetts Supreme Court, for the non-stop issuance of illegal same-sex gay marriage certificates, though Schneider, naturally, failed to characterize the entire circus as beyond the law. Instead, Schneider championed how "the 36-year-old Mayor is looking to the future. Younger Americans are much more inclined to favor same-sex marriage. It's like their civil rights issue." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Some early glimmers of hope that this week's one-year anniversary coverage of the liberation of Iraq might let some good news slip in. On Friday's Larry King Live on CNN, CBS's Dan Rather in Iraq opined to King that if he were to travel to Iraq, "I think the biggest thing you would notice is freedom." On Saturday night, ABC's John Donvan conveyed, over video of kids on swings and people smiling from their trucks and rickshaws as they drove by, that "to a surprising degree, that doesn't often make the news," much of life goes on in Baghdad with dry cleaners functioning, chicken grilling at street side and sidewalks full of goods for sale.
On Friday night, CNN's Larry King asked Dan Rather, who appeared from Baghdad, what changes he's noticed since his last time there in September and earlier. Rather replied:
The next night, on ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday, anchor Terry Moran introduced the last story on the program: "It's been a tumultuous for the ancient Iraqi capital, but through it all, the people of Baghdad have endured and even prospered."
John Donvan then began his piece by showing how, to the marvel of those who see it on the street, Uday Hussein's Rolls Royce is now used by members of the police when they get married. Donvan noted: "There is violence in Baghdad, there is smoke, there is anger, but to a surprising degree, that doesn't often make the news, there are life moments like that one with the limo. Drive around Baghdad, and it's not all tension all the time."
Over video of kids on swings and of people smiling out the windows of their trucks and looking over their shoulder as they ride a rickshaw, Donvan observed: "On any given days, including days following violence, this is what you see. This is not indifference to reality, it's coping and this city does it well..." He went on to show a dry cleaner who is keeping busy, a lamp store, chicken being grilled street side and how the sidewalks are filled with stuff not available before the war.
The U.S. has earned to disgust of the world which has fueled terrorist attacks, comedian/actor George Carlin argued Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher in implicitly suggesting we deserved the 9/11 attacks. Carlin contended: "This country has been pushing the world around and exploiting people of the world for a long, long time. And sometime you have to pay the piper."
Carlin, the legendary comedian who is starring in the just-released Jersey Girl movie, opined on the March 12 HBO show, in the midst of a discussion about how the Bush administration was disingenuous in the reasons it gave for going to war with Iraq:
George Carlin's Web page: www.georgecarlin.com
The Internet Movie Database's page for Jersey Girl, a movie which stars Ben Affleck: www.imdb.com
-- Brent Baker