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Lesley Stahl: Press Corps "Assumes" Cheney Tells Bush What to Do --5/4/2004


1. Lesley Stahl: Press Corps "Assumes" Cheney Tells Bush What to Do
CBS's Lesley Stahl let slip in a Friday interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews how "we all suppose and assume" that Vice President Cheney "is sitting in the room and kind of hand-signaling to the President about what he's supposed to do." But, she conceded, "we don't know that." The press corps just assumes it.

2. AP: "Dole Rises to Kerry's Defense Over Vietnam"; But He Didn't
AP's distorted headline. Asked on Fox News Sunday if "people should take into account" how John Kerry threw away ribbons/medals and denounced the U.S. government during the Vietnam War, former Senator Bob Dole affirmed: "Oh, I think so. When you come back, when first you brag about all the medals you have and being wounded three times and things of that kind, then you throw everything away and join the other side, it's going to be fairly hard to explain, particularly to veterans." The AP's headline over a story on what Dole said on the program: "Dole Rises to Kerry's Defense Over Vietnam."

3. CNN's Brown Admits Own Net Doesn't Show Much of Normalcy in Iraq
Add CNN's Aaron Brown to the list of television anchors who have acknowledged that networks news does not adequately convey the good news and/or normalcy of life in Iraq. After a story on Friday's NewsNight which showed well-stocked stores and outside vendors selling goods to people in Baghdad, Brown commented: "It was nice in the piece just to see kind of normal life in the streets of Baghdad, or at least in parts of Baghdad. We don't get to see that often." As if Brown and CNN are powerless to show more of it.

4. Koppel's Reading of Names of Those Killed in Iraq Boosts Ratings
Whether or not Ted Koppel meant it as a ratings stunt, his Friday night special "The Fallen," in which he read the names and showed pictures of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq, scored well in the ratings. File it under any publicity is good publicity. In Tuesday's Washington Post, Lisa de Moraes reported that in preliminary Neilsen numbers from metered markets, "Nightline scored nearly 30 percent more viewers on Friday night than it did the rest of last week."

5. Letterman More Skeptical Than CBS News About Clarke's Motivation
David Letterman expressed more skepticism toward Dick Clarke's motivation for apologizing to 9/11 families than did John Roberts of CBS News. At President Bush's April 13 news conference, Roberts picked up on Clarke's apology and pressed Bush: "Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you?" But on Friday's Late Show, interviewing Senator Hillary Clinton, Letterman recalled how Clarke issued his apology at the start of testimony before the 9/11 Commission, and ruminated: "I'm wondering, was that a sincere, heartfelt moment for the guy or a means by which he could embarrass the administration and distance himself and also promote his book?"

6. On ABC's The Practice: Bush "Lying" So "He Could Start a War"
President Bush is guilty of "lying" about weapons of mass destruction "so he could start a war," just as "the President before that lied under oath about sex he was having in the Oval Office," a leading character on ABC's The Practice declared in the episode which aired Sunday night. Coming to the defense of a colleague whose character was being questioned, "Bobby Donnell," a lawyer played by Dylan McDermott, railed about how "we have a Supreme Court Justice going duck hunting with the Vice President while presiding over a case involving the Vice President" while "the author of the Book of Virtues gambles millions of dollars in Vegas" and the Attorney General is "rounding up suspects like poker chips."


Lesley Stahl: Press Corps "Assumes" Cheney
Tells Bush What to Do

MSNBC's Chris Matthews & CBS's Lesley Stahl CBS's Lesley Stahl let slip in a Friday interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews how "we all suppose and assume" that Vice President Cheney "is sitting in the room and kind of hand-signaling to the President about what he's supposed to do." But, she conceded, "we don't know that." The press corps just assumes it.

Stahl's admission on the April 30 program came during a pre-taped session with Matthews in a portion of the interview when the two were discussing how Bob Woodward's book portrayed the relationship between Cheney and Bush. Stahl brought up how "on the Cheney relationship, something is very strange in Woodward's book, because all through it, as I say, the President is making all the decisions. But then they come to the big decision of when to start the Iraq war. And the President goes around the table. Everyone tells them they think he should go to war. Then, he says, 'wait a minute.' And he calls Cheney out and they go into a room and confer. And then he comes out of the room and says, 'Okay, I've decided we'll go to war.' And then Powell tells Woodward, that's the way it always is."

But when Matthews summarized her point, "I guess the book is saying the real meeting is when Bush and Cheney get together. That's the one that counts," she backed off: "No, that, that's just one line in the book. The rest of the book has, has the President making all the decisions. So it's kind of strange."

Matthews proposed: "Yeah. Well, it's certainly a new vice presidency we have now, because if you look back to Mondale and George Bush Sr. and all those, they were never power players. They were never, they were never given any executive authority. Isn't Cheney the first to have real, real power, not just influence?"
Stahl seemed to speak for what the press corps believes: "Well you know, we don't know. I think it's still a mystery. I think we all suppose and assume that he is sitting in the room and kind of hand-signaling to the President about what he's supposed to do, but we don't know that. And this book is confusing."

AP: "Dole Rises to Kerry's Defense Over
Vietnam"; But He Didn't

AP's distorted headline. Asked on Fox News Sunday if "people should take into account" how John Kerry threw away ribbons/medals and denounced the U.S. government during the Vietnam War, former Senator Bob Dole affirmed: "Oh, I think so. When you come back, when first you brag about all the medals you have and being wounded three times and things of that kind, then you throw everything away and join the other side, it's going to be fairly hard to explain, particularly to veterans." The AP's headline over a story on what Dole said on the program: "Dole Rises to Kerry's Defense Over Vietnam."

As highlighted by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show on Monday, on Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Dole if Kerry's Vietnam-era activities matter, Dole responded by initially saying it doesn't, a comment AP ran with, but his full answer showed he meant the opposite, or certainly something far from a defense of Kerry. Dole told Wallace: "I don't think it matters. I don't know what whether he threw away his ribbons his shirt or his medals, but I'm proud of mine and I've kept them, and I think most veterans are. I don't know what possessed John -- I know he came back -- came out against the Vietnam War, but he made his point, and he's going to have to live with it. I think some of the things he said were probably not very good judgment, but he was a much younger man then without much experience in public life, but that's the record."
Wallace: "And so that's something people should take into account as they-"
Dole jumped in: "Oh, I think so. When you come back, when first you brag about all the medals you have and being wounded three times and things of that kind, then you throw everything away and join the other side, it's going to be fairly hard to explain, particularly to veterans."

The Monday AP story, by Jennifer Kerr in Washington, DC, matched the "Dole Rises to Kerry's Defense Over Vietnam" headline. An excerpt:

Former Sen. Bob Dole isn't making much of the controversy over whether decorated Vietnam veteran John Kerry threw away his medals or ribbons during a 1971 anti-war protest.

When it comes to choosing a president, "I don't think it matters," Dole, the Republican candidate for president in 1996 and a veteran whose arm was badly injured in World War II, told Fox New Sunday....

"I think some of the things he said were probably not very good judgment," Dole said of the Democrat, "but he was a much younger man then without much experience in public life."

Kerry maintains that he used the terms ribbons and medals interchangeably.

Still, Dole said Kerry might have trouble explaining his anti-war activities, particularly to veterans. "He made his point, and he's going to have to live with it," said Dole....

END of Excerpt

For the AP story in full: story.news.yahoo.com

CNN's Brown Admits Own Net Doesn't Show
Much of Normalcy in Iraq

Add CNN's Aaron Brown to the list of television anchors who have acknowledged that networks news does not adequately convey the good news and/or normalcy of life in Iraq. After a story on Friday's NewsNight which showed well-stocked stores and outside vendors selling goods to people in Baghdad, Brown commented: "It was nice in the piece just to see kind of normal life in the streets of Baghdad, or at least in parts of Baghdad. We don't get to see that often." As if Brown and CNN are powerless to show more of it.

On March 12, 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:
"I guess the biggest change, Larry, if you were here, I think the biggest thing you would notice is freedom. I know that will strike some people as corny or cliche but it's what you feel. And it's what the Iraqi people, by and large, feel. They, most Iraqis alive today have never known anything approaching freedom. And just the fact that Iraqis can speak out, that they can say what they want to say, is probably the biggest change that's happened over the last year."

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."

Several weeks later, on the April 1 Larry King Live, ABC's Peter Jennings told King of what he learned during his recent visit to Iraq: "One of the really strong impressions I had, having been there for only 10 days, is this strange ambiguity because life is improving for people in Iraq in many, many ways, and the U.S. influence in Iraq is having, in many ways, a very significant influence. Our focus on the loss of American soldiers and now civilians on a sometimes almost daily basis, it gets so intense, somewhat I think overshadows what has been happening, in more general terms, in restructuring or structuring the country."

Back to Friday night, April 30, Robert Cox of TheNationalDebate.com (www.thenationaldebate.com) alerted CyberAlert to Brown's comment which followed a piece by Jane Arraf on how Iraqis view the July 1 turnover of power. Over video showing people shopping and goods displayed, such as fruit, shoes and handbags, Arraf explained: "This is one of the main middle-class shopping areas in Baghdad. Compared with after the war, things are almost back to normal. But almost everyone we speak with here says they're worried about what going to happen after June 30. The area is called Mansour. It's been spared a lot of the violence of other neighborhoods."

After her piece ended, Brown remarked: "Just an observation. It was nice in the piece just to see kind of normal life in the streets of Baghdad, or at least in parts of Baghdad. We don't get to see that often."

Koppel's Reading of Names of Those Killed
in Iraq Boosts Ratings

Whether or not Ted Koppel meant it as a ratings stunt, his Friday night special "The Fallen," in which he read the names and showed pictures of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq, scored well in the ratings. File it under any publicity is good publicity.

In today's (Tuesday) Washington Post, Lisa de Moraes reported that in preliminary Neilsen numbers from metered markets, "Nightline scored nearly 30 percent more viewers on Friday night than it did the rest of last week." She elaborated: "An average of about 4.5 percent of the TV households in the nation's largest markets watched the controversial telecast....The preliminary rating is about 22 percent higher than the show had done the previous Friday in the metered markets. In fact, it's the biggest metered-market rating for Nightline during a May sweeps since 2002."

de Moraes added: "And it's all the more impressive because 'The Fallen,' as Nightline called its Friday program, aired in only 52 of those 56 metered markets. Stations in the other markets preempted the controversial show, including all of the ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group."

She also confirmed what CyberAlert reported on Saturday, that ABC pulled all the national advertising from the show: "ABC News 'specialed out' the program, running it without national advertising, which means the ratings will not be included in the May sweeps average for Nightline."

Foe de Moraes' May 4 article in full: www.washingtonpost.com

For a detailed rundown of what Koppel did and said Friday night, see the Saturday, May 1 CyberAlert: "Koppel Denies He's Against War, But Lectures on Sharing Its Cost." It's at: www.mediaresearch.org

Letterman More Skeptical Than CBS News
About Clarke's Motivation

David Letterman expressed more skepticism toward Dick Clarke's motivation for apologizing to 9/11 families than did John Roberts of CBS News. At President Bush's April 13 news conference, Roberts picked up on Clarke's apology and pressed Bush: "Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you?" But on Friday's Late Show, interviewing Senator Hillary Clinton, Letterman recalled how Clarke issued his apology at the start of testimony before the 9/11 Commission, and ruminated: "I'm wondering, was that a sincere, heartfelt moment for the guy or a means by which he could embarrass the administration and distance himself and also promote his book?"

At the April 13 press conference, Roberts asked Bush: "Two weeks ago, a former counter-terrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you be prepared to give them one?"

On the April 30 Late Show, Letterman ventured to Clinton: "Now when he was called to testify, help me if I make mistakes here, one of the first things he said in his little preamble was he apologized for being a part of the administration that had failed America, that may have resulted, or did result in the attacks of 9/11, and then he went on with his testimony. But that, or course, was the headline of his testimony and people then started thinking, 'well, if he's apologizing, what about others in the administration? Also around that time, his book was published. And in thinking about it myself I'm wondering, was that a sincere, heartfelt moment for the guy or a means by which he could embarrass the administration and distance himself and also promote his book?"
Clinton rejected Letterman's implication: "I haven't talked to him. I don't have any first-hand knowledge. But based on what I know of him, I think it was sincere. It came from a sense of duty..."

On ABC's The Practice: Bush "Lying" So
"He Could Start a War"

President Bush is guilty of "lying" about weapons of mass destruction "so he could start a war," just as "the President before that lied under oath about sex he was having in the Oval Office," a leading character on ABC's The Practice declared in the episode which aired Sunday night. Coming to the defense of a colleague whose character was being questioned, "Bobby Donnell," a lawyer played by Dylan McDermott, railed about how "we have a Supreme Court Justice going duck hunting with the Vice President while presiding over a case involving the Vice President" while "the author of the Book of Virtues gambles millions of dollars in Vegas" and the Attorney General is "rounding up suspects like poker chips."

He pretty much covered every left-wing pet peeve, more imaginary than real.

The series finale of The Practice will air on May 16, but for the last few episodes the producers, led by show creator David Kelley who also created Boston Public and Ally McBeal for Fox, have brought back the "Bobby Donnell" character who was dropped at the end of last season. He had played the head of a criminal defense firm located in Boston.

On the May 2 episode, sleazy defense lawyer "Eugene Young," played by Steve Harris, is up for a judgeship. Donnell walks into a room where a panel of some sort vetting Young is questioning his character because of his ethically-questionable defense maneuvers, such as accusing innocent people of the crime in order to cast doubt upon guilt of his client.

Donnell enters and this exchange occurs, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:

Donnell: "Excuse me, may I be heard? My name is Bobby Donnell, and I used to work with this man."
Man on panel #1: "Thank you, sir, but we're not taking testimony today."
Donnell: "Testimony? You make it sound like a trial. Is somebody on trial here? Actually, I just thought we could all use a good laugh. Talking about Eugene Young's character is actually a little funny."
Man on panel #2: "You find it funny?"
An indignant Donnell lectures: "We got a President lying to us about weapons so he could start a war. The President before that lied under oath about sex he was having in the Oval Office. We have a Supreme Court Justice going duck hunting with the Vice President while presiding over a case involving the Vice President. Our biggest pop star is an alleged pedophile. Some of our athletes are up on murder and rape charges while the author of the Book of Virtues gambles millions of dollars in Vegas. And you're making character an issue?"
Man on panel #1 again: "I hate to shock you, Mr. Donnell, but it still counts."
Donnell thunders: "Well, if so, you sure as Hell picked the wrong man to make an example of. This is a man who could go to a big firm and command a salary upwards of a million dollars. He works for a fraction of that. Why? Because he sees the erosion of civil rights, and he fights to stop it. He sees high courts forsaking the Constitution, and he rails against it. He sees an Attorney General rounding up suspects like poker chips."
Man on panel #2 again: "We do not need a speech about-"
Donnell intones: "You need this speech. The reason the justice system is so unfair in this country is because the benches are stacked with former prosecutors. We need to see your character here. How about you confirm a man who cares more about civil liberties than throwing bodies in prison? Eugene Young hasn't forgotten why he went to law school. Eugene Young clings to the ideology that a defendant, every defendant is entitled to a fair trial. Now, you want to cast him off because you don't like his politics or his views on the death penalty? Fine. But don't you dare cite as a pretext his character."

For a picture and bio of Dylan McDermott, who plays[ed] Donnell, see his page on the Internet Movie Database site: us.imdb.com

For ABC's page on Steve Harris as Eugene Young: abc.go.com

For IMDB's page on David Kelley, the creator and producer: us.imdb.com

For ABC's page for The Practice: abc.go.com

I used to watch The Practice, but haven't this season, so it was a bit disconcerting to tune in and see some of the old characters replaced by James Spader and William Shatner.

-- Brent Baker