Lauer Remains in Past, Dubs Reagan's 1980s the "Decade of Greed" --12/31/2003

1. Lauer Remains in Past, Dubs Reagan's 1980s the "Decade of Greed"
You'd think that after the phony bubble of the late 1990s, built on exaggerated earnings and revenue claims by some greedy corporate executives, that referring to the Reagan era of the 1980s as "the Decade of Greed" would be passe. But it's a slap at the decade some in the media can't shake. Case in point: On Tuesday's Today, Matt Lauer marked the 20th anniversary of the film The Big Chill -- yes, NBC considered this milestone newsworthy -- by recalling how it was released in 1983, a period he described as "a time of Reaganomics, burgeoning yuppies, and the Decade of Greed."

2. More Runners-Up Quotes in MRC's Awards for the Worst Reporting
The second and third runners-up quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2003: The Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

3. New York Post and Denver Paper Run Columns on "Best of NQ"
Today's New York Post features an editorial devoted to the "Best of" awards quotes and Mike Rosen penned a column on them for last Friday's Rocky Mountain News in Denver.

Lauer Remains in Past, Dubs Reagan's
1980s the "Decade of Greed"

You'd think that after the phony bubble of the late 1990s, built on exaggerated earnings and revenue claims by some greedy corporate executives, that referring to the Reagan era of the 1980s as "the Decade of Greed" would be passe. But it's a slap at the decade some in the media can't shake. Case in point: On Tuesday's Today, Matt Lauer marked the 20th anniversary of the film The Big Chill -- yes, NBC considered this milestone newsworthy -- by recalling how it was released in 1983, a period he described as "a time of Reaganomics, burgeoning yuppies, and the Decade of Greed."

MRC analyst Amanda Monson caught the assessment from NBC's Lauer on the December 30 Today.

Lauer reminded viewers of the film's plot and context: "They were college classmates from the '60s, mourning the loss of a friend and their idealism. [movie clip] It was 1983, a time of Reaganomics, burgeoning yuppies, and the Decade of Greed. This group of former radicals that once spent weekends protesting societal wrongs, spent this weekend questioning their life choices. JoBeth Williams played Karen."
JoBeth Williams: "I think it speaks to an experience that many, many people in our generation went through. It was a reminder of what it was like to be around during the Vietnam War, the idealism, the activism, the passion that we felt."

Given Today's decision to showcase such an anniversary, it seems to be a passion felt too by NBC News producers.

In addition to Williams, the movie co-starred Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline and Meg Tilly. For the Internet Movie Database's page on The Big Chill:

More Runners-Up Quotes in MRC's Awards
for the Worst Reporting

Monday's CyberAlert featured the winners and Tuesday's the first runners-up. So today, the second and third runners-up quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2003: The Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

For the winners, see item #4 in the December 29 CyberAlert:

For the first runners-up, see the December 30 CyberAlert:

And for the names of the 46 judges, see item #5 in the December 29 CyberAlert:

Or, you can find it all on the MRC Web site in the special section devoted to the awards issue. For the full results, with RealPlayer clips of many of the television quotes, go to:

For an Adobe Acrobat PDF that matches the eight-page hard copy version:

For the list of judges, with links to Web pages for each judge, whether his or her own page or a page about their show or work created by their employer, check:

As explained in the December 29 and 30 CyberAlerts, to determine this year's winners, a panel of 46 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from a slate of five to eight quotes in each category. Each received a paper ballot in late November and returned it within two weeks.

First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. Point totals are listed in the brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote. Each judge was also asked to choose a "Quote of the Year" denoting the most outrageous quote of 2003.

Now, the second and third runners-up (not all categories have a third runner-up) in 17 award categories:

Damn Those Conservatives Award [second and third runners-up]:

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan: "I think the media and the Democratic Party spent the 1990s saying, 'None of this matters. You can do anything to women. We'll beat 'em up, we'll put private eyes on them....'"
Time columnist Joe Klein: "Wait a second!...You can beat 'em up?"
Noonan: "As a matter of fact Bill Clinton was literally charged with that. He was charged with worse things than, than Arnold [Schwarzenegger]."
Klein: "He was charged with those things by lunatics. He was never legally charged with that."
Noonan: "Whoa! He was charged by Juanita Broaddrick. I don't think that it's fair to call her a lunatic."
Klein: "That? Yes, I do think that she was an extremist."
-- Exchange on the Oct. 12 Chris Matthews Show. [36]

National Public Radio correspondent Nina Totenberg: "Now they've got this guy [General Jerry Boykin], who's head of the intelligence section in the Defense Department, who's being quoted as telling various groups, while he's in uniform, that this [war] is a Christian crusade against Muslims....I mean, this is terrible, this is seriously bad stuff....I hope he's not long for this world."
Host Gordon Peterson: "You putting a hit out on this guy or what?...What is this, The Sopranos?"
Totenberg: "No, no, no....In his job, in his job, in his job, please, please, in his job."
-- Exchange on Inside Washington, October 18. [35]

Baghdad Bob Award for Parroting Enemy Propaganda [second runner-up]:

"Iraqis are growing increasingly enraged by the mounting damage to civilian sites -- including this maternity hospital, smashed up by a bomb that exploded nearby. Several people were killed, even though patients had been evacuated at the start of the war. Walking through the streets of Baghdad today, it's clear that this war is not popular. I asked this man if he thinks the war is about liberating him from Saddam's brutal regime. 'Liberation?' he asked me. 'Who asked for America to liberate us?'"
-- Freelancer Richard Engel reporting from Saddam-controlled Baghdad, ABC's World News Tonight, April 2. [31]

Dominique de Villepin Snottiness Award for Whining About the War [second and third runners-up]:

Lesley Stahl: "The Powell Doctrine in military terms is that you throw a massive force, if you're going to go to war, make it huge. There are now criticisms, we're beginning to hear, that this force isn't massive enough."
Colin Powell: "It's nonsense....The United States armed forces, with our coalition partners -- the British, principally, and the Australians -- have gone 300 miles deep into Iraq in a period of five days. That is a heck of an achievement."
Stahl: "Yeah, but our, the rear is exposed."
Powell: "It's not. Exposed to what? Exposed to small-"
Stahl: "Exposed to Fedayeen, exposed-"
Powell: "Fine. So? We'll get them in due course...."
Stahl: "Are you saying you're not worried or concerned about guerilla warfare?"
Powell: "Of course we are and that, and we're trained to handle this....They're not threatening the advance."
Stahl: "But you can't get your supplies, well you can't-"
Powell: "Who says?"
Stahl: "-can't get the humanitarian-"
Powell: "Who says?"
Stahl: "-well you can't get the humanitarian aid in there."
Powell: "Only because the minefields haven't been cleared at the port of Umm Qasr....The situation will change rapidly."
-- Exchange on CBS's 48 Hours, March 25, the 6th day of the war. [38]

"We should change our attitude toward the United Nations. There has to be some power in the world superior to our own....We should not have attacked Iraq without the okay of the United Nations....Now we have to live with that mistake. We're living with it, and too many of our guys are dying with it."
-- CBS's Andy Rooney in what correspondent Mike Wallace billed as a "serious" commentary at the conclusion of the October 12 60 Minutes. [38]

The Invisible Liberal Award for Camouflaging Ideology [second and third runners-up]:

"Ever since the George McGovern disaster of 1972, the party has routinely chosen technocratic moderates for standard-bearers."
-- Time's Joe Klein in the magazine's May 19 cover story, "Why They Don't Make Democrats Like They Used To (And How to Fix It)." [41]

Judy Woodruff: "The rap on Dean is that the Burlington Birkenstock crowd, people who put Dean signs in bars called the Red Square, can't take their man to the White House, that he's just too far left."
Vermont political reporter Peter Freyne: "His entire time in Vermont politics, going back to his days in the legislature, as Lieutenant Governor and as Governor in the '90s, there was never a sentence in any newspaper in the state of Vermont that contained the word 'liberal' and 'Howard Dean.'"
-- CNN's Inside Politics, July 11. [28]

Media Suck-Up Award [second and third runners-up]:

HBO's Bob Costas: "How, from where you sit, have you maintained your dignity, and how can you be so controlled under circumstances that would be trying for the best of us?...If you became President, what kind of First Gentleman would Bill Clinton be?...What are your best and worst qualities as a politician?"
Senator Hillary Clinton: "Probably my worst quality is that I get very passionate about what I think is right."
-- Exchange on HBO's On the Record with Bob Costas, July 18. [26]

John Cochran: "Remember the $8 million advance Hillary Clinton's publisher gave her? Turns out it was a bargain. She has earned every penny -- and then some. Her book is a best-seller in eight countries....She has not only signed 20,000 copies of her book, she has also put her name on more legislation than any other Senator in this Congress, sponsoring or co-sponsoring 396 bills, ranging from resolutions on Girl Scouts Week to funds for rebuilding Iraq and-"
Senator Hillary Clinton: "- to help them improve our homeland defense."
-- ABC's World News Tonight, July 31. [24]

Pompous Peter Award for Jennings' Arrogant Condescension [second and third runners-up]:

"By the way, 'No blood for oil,' from many people who are opposed to the war is, is not complicated at all. They believe the United States wishes to occupy Iraq in the long term to have the oil. Just so we understand why they wear those little buttons, 'No blood for oil.'"
-- Jennings on World News Tonight, March 20. [33]

"Saddam Hussein may have been, or may be, a vain man, but he has allowed himself to be sculpted heavy and thin, overweight and in shape, in every imaginable costume -- both national, in historic terms, in Iraqi historic terms -- in contemporary, in every imaginable uniform, on every noble horse. The sculpting of Saddam Hussein, which has been a growth industry for 20 years, may well be a dying art."
-- Jennings during ABC's live coverage at about 10:45am EDT on April 9, shortly before U.S. Marines helped cheering Iraqis topple their former dictator's statue. [32]

Romanticizing the Rabble Award for Glorifying Protesters [second runner-up]:

"It was a party a hundred thousand strong, flowing haltingly below the slated mansard roofs of Paris's stately avenues, accompanied by balloons and banners and vendors selling foot-long hot dogs and fries. If there is one thing the French know how to do, it is how to conduct a demonstration. "Ladies in stiletto heels and fur-fringed jackets, fathers pushing strollers trailing McDonald's balloons, drably dressed union members, students in face paint and carnival clothes - all turned out to make some noise. Yet despite the gay atmosphere beneath a brilliant blue sky, the message was stark, even dark. "'The United States is a barbarian country,' shouted some. 'Bush, let's murder,' shouted others. One group chanted, 'Bush, Blair, Sharon, Putin, Chirac: Justice in Palestine, don't touch Iraq.'"
-- Introduction of Craig Smith's February 16 New York Times story, about anti-war protests in Paris, headlined, "Throwing a Party With a Purpose." [56]

Barbra Streisand Political IQ Award for Celebrity Vapidity [second and third runners-up]:

"Being a man, I've got to say that we've got this guy in the White House who thinks he is a man, you know, who projects himself as a man because he has a certain masculinity, and he's a good old boy, and he used to drink, and he knows how to shoot a gun and how to drive a pickup truck, et cetera, like that. That's not the definition of a man, God dammit!"
-- Actor Ed Harris speaking at a January 21 NARAL Pro-Choice America banquet televised on C-SPAN. [43]

Craig Kilborn: "Use the words 'compassionate' and 'conservative' in the same sentence while being neither ironic nor scornful."
Actor/activist Tim Robbins: "That's a tough one. Neither ironic nor scornful?"
Kilborn: "Yeah." Robbins: "Alright. F*** compassionate conservatives!"
-- Exchange in "5 Questions" segment on CBS's Late Late Show, October 30. CBS bleeped the F-word. [38]

Begala & Carville Prize for Demonizing George W. Bush [second and third runners-up]:

"Is it fair to say that the White the end of the day thought that to make progress, the benefit for these 11.9 million children should go in order to, in part, save the dividend benefit for investors?...I just want to make sure that you are saying that the White House agreed to make the choice to leave these children behind."
-- ABC's Terry Moran to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, referring to efforts to extend the child tax credit to non-income taxpayers, at a May 29 press briefing. [39]

"Bush promised a foreign policy of humility and a domestic policy of compassion. He has given us a foreign policy of arrogance and a domestic policy that is cynical, myopic and cruel."
-- Joe Klein in a column in the June 9 Time magazine. [35]

Fruitless Plains of Poverty Award [second and third runners-up]:

"Today in San Diego, the supercarrier USS Abraham Lincoln finally docked after nearly 10 months at sea. We'll have more on the reunion with eager loved ones in just a moment, but these soldiers, of course, are coming home to a sober reality as well: an economy that, if anything, is struggling more than it was when they set sail. The government said today the unemployment rate is up to six percent. More than half a million jobs were lost in the last three months."
-- ABC's Claire Shipman anchoring World News Tonight on May 2. [46]

"Tonight, we're going to show you a new true face of homelessness in America. Today's homeless are families, and the families you will meet have done everything right and yet there's no place for them. Still, they struggle to find a home....There are more families homeless in New York City now than at any in the last 20 numbers, it's estimated, not seen since the Great Depression."
-- NBC's John Hockenberry on the July 4 Dateline. [31]

Bill Moyers Sanctimony Award [second runner-up]:

"It's the richest Americans -- the top one percent -- who get the lion's share of the tax cuts, people like Secretary of the Treasury John Snow, [and] Vice President Dick Cheney....Eleven million children in families with incomes roughly between $10,000 and $26,000 a year will not be getting the check that was supposed to be in the mail this summer. Eleven million children punished for being poor, even as the rich are rewarded for being rich."
-- Moyers on his PBS newsmagazine Now, May 30. [54]

Media Millionaires for Higher Taxes Award [second, third and fourth runners-up]:

"Something got screwed up in terms of your priorities if you think it's more important to get rid of the dividend tax than it is to take care of 11 million kids."
-- Washington Post reporter and columnist David Broder on NBC's Meet the Press, June 1, referring to conservative resistance to extending the larger child tax credit to parents who don't pay any income tax. [41]

"It seems to me that instead of cutting taxes, we ought to be increasing the taxes to pay off the deficit, rather than let that thing build up to the point where our grandchildren's grandchildren are going to be paying for our period of time and our years at the helm."
-- Former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown, June 18. [36]

"He [Treasury Secretary-designate John Snow] is said to be in favor of further tax cuts but against deficits. Doesn't one lead to the other?"
-- ABC's Peter Jennings to George Stephanopoulos on World News Tonight, December 9, 2002. [35]

Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis [second and third runners-up]:

"Once upon a time, a scientist named Galileo said the Earth was round, and the political leaders of the time said, 'No, no, Galileo it's flat,' and Galileo got life under house arrest for his little theory. Today, the vast majority of scientists will tell you the Earth is getting warmer and most would agree that industry is at least in part to blame. So far nobody's gone to jail for saying that, which doesn't mean the idea isn't squarely at the center of a political dust up -- and not an insignificant one at that because, if the charges leveled against the White House are true, an important environmental question is being twisted or ignored for the sake of politics."
-- CNN's Aaron Brown on NewsNight, June 19. Galileo was actually punished by the Catholic Church for saying the Earth revolves around the sun. [39]

"If you see a whole monkfish at the market, you'll find its massive mouth scarier than a shark's. Apparently it sits on the bottom of the ocean, opens its Godzilla jaws and waits for poor unsuspecting fishies to swim right into it, not unlike the latest recipients of W's capital-gains cuts."
-- Food writer Jonathan Reynolds in a July 27 New York Times Magazine article about Norway's seafood. [38]

Good Morning Morons Award [second and third runners-up]:

"Is your SUV a weapon of terrorism? Some people think so. They're taking out ads to tell you why." "Coming up in our next half-hour, is your SUV a weapon of mass destruction?"
-- Substitute Today co-host Lester Holt plugging a story on claims buying oil aids terrorism, Dec. 17, 2002. [40]

"What would you advise the United States to do today to fight al-Qaeda?...What would be the wise course for the United States to follow now in Iraq?"
-- George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week, Aug. 3, interviewing Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, sponsor of anti-American terrorist attacks in the 1980s. [40]

Al Franken Cheap Shot Award (for Lambasting Rush Limbaugh) [second and third runners-up]:

"Rush Limbaugh has been more than a bit unkind to me more than once. He's also been unkind to Al Franken, who in turn has been unkind to him. He's taken shots at Michael Wolff, New York magazine's media critic and Michael is hardly the retiring sort. So, here we all are, Al, Michael, and me, and the subject is Rush -- made worse, no doubt, by the permanent smirk that seems to be attached to my face."
-- CNN's Aaron Brown on the October 10 NewsNight after Limbaugh announced he was seeking treatment for an addiction to prescription pain medicine. [46]

"Derrick Jackson, who's a columnist for the Boston Globe, Tim, back in July when ESPN hired Rush Limbaugh, he wrote a column about some of the comments that Mr. Limbaugh has made in the past. In the 1970s, according to this column, Limbaugh told an African-American caller, 'take that bone out of your nose and call me back.' He goes on to say Limbaugh has always had crime and black people on the brain. He once said, 'have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?'...Given the fact that Rush Limbaugh has made these kind of inflammatory comments in the past, was it appropriate for ESPN to hire him in this capacity?"
-- NBC's Katie Couric to Tim Russert on the October 2 Today. Couric did not identify Jackson as a left-wing columnist or note that his source was a book published by a far-left group more than 10 years ago. [34]

What Liberal Media? Award [second and third runners-up]:

"I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did....The entire body politic...did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."
-- CNN's Christiane Amanpour on CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown, September 10. [40]

"It took conservatives a lot of hard and steady work to push the media rightward. It dishonors that work to continue to presume that -- except for a few liberal columnists -- there is any such thing as the big liberal media. The media world now includes (1) talk radio, (2) cable television and (3) the traditional news sources (newspapers, newsmagazines and the old broadcast networks). Two of these three major institutions tilt well to the right, and the third is under constant pressure to avoid even the pale hint of liberalism....What it adds up to is a media heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians."
-- Former Washington Post and New York Times reporter E.J. Dionne in a Dec. 6, 2002 Washington Post op-ed. [33]

Quote of the Year [second runner-up]:

"Our greatest accomplishment as a profession is the development since World War II of a news reporting craft that is truly non-partisan, and non-ideological, and that strives to be independent of undue commercial or governmental influence.... "It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions, this attempt to convince the audience of the world's most ideology-free newspapers that they're being subjected to agenda-driven news reflecting a liberal bias. I don't believe our viewers and readers will be, in the long-run, misled by those who advocate biased journalism."
-- Then-New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines accepting the "George Beveridge Editor of the Year Award" at a National Press Foundation dinner shown live on C-SPAN2, February 20.

END Rundown of second and third runners-up quotes

That's it for the "Best of" issue this year.

New York Post and Denver Paper Run Columns
on "Best of NQ"

"Best of" awards issue in the news. I'm aware of a couple of presentations in newspapers of selected quotes from the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2003: The Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

First, today's (Wednesday, December 31) New York Post devotes the entire editorial column to reciting their favorite quotes. "HOIST ON THEIR OWN PETARD" is online at:

Last Friday, December 26, Denver's Rocky Mountain News featured a column by Mike Rosen, "2003 media madness," in which he listed the quotes he found most obnoxious. See:

No more CyberAlerts until next year.

-- Brent Baker