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McClellan Suggestion Newsweek Repair Damage Appalls Journalists --5/18/2005


1. McClellan Suggestion Newsweek Repair Damage Appalls Journalists
Some journalists were appalled Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's suggestion that Newsweek "help repair the damage that has been done...by talking about the way they got this wrong, and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the Holy Koran." At the briefing, ABC's Terry Moran demanded: "Who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?" On the CBS Evening News, Wyatt Andrews tried to explain away Newsweek's responsibility: "The White House is still pressuring Newsweek, saying this mistake cost lives. Newsweek, however, says no U.S. official ever denied that story until four days after the rioting began, and that the magazine immediately scrambled to uncover and then admit the error." Bob Schieffer marveled at how "I can never recall a White House telling a news organization to go report X, Y or Z." Andrews then scoffed: "As if Newsweek is now obligated to repair the damage that America has suffered to its reputation overseas. Never seen it."

2. Lauer Frets About "Pressure" and "Piling On" from White House
NBC's Matt Lauer decided the real story related to Newsweek's misinformation was White House "pressure" and how the world assumed the worst about the U.S. anyway, so Newsweek really didn't do any damage. Interviewing Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Dan Klaidman on Tuesday's Today, in reference to Newsweek's retraction, Lauer demanded: "Did you get pressure from the White House?" Lauer wanted to know, from a Muslim point of view, "Why shouldn't I believe that it's still occurring, that it did happen, but that Newsweek magazine retracted the story because of the administration's effort to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world?" Lauer put the burden on the White House, not Newsweek: "Do you think there is a bit of piling on here from the administration?" Next, Lauer cued up Richard Engel from Baghdad: "What you're telling me is that from your experience people in that world expect the worst from the United States?" Engel passed along a "rumor" about how "women were raped in Abu Ghraib. One woman said that and published an open letter in a newspaper, said she was raped every night by six American soldiers."

3. Olbermann Charges White House with "Treasonous" Action
Barely 90 minutes after MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday night prompted his guest, Craig Crawford, to outline a grand conspiracy about how the Bush administration "set up the news media" as the Newsweek case reflected how they deliberately let media outlets go ahead with stories the Bush team knows are wrong, Olbermann posted a blog entry in which he charged the White House with "treasonous" actions. Olbermann argued on his "Bloggermann" blog that Scott McClellan's resignation should be "drifting out over Washington, and imminently." In a line he also uttered on his show Tuesday night, Olbermann took this shot: "Whenever I hear Scott McClellan talking about 'media credibility,' I strain to remember who it was who admitted Jeff Gannon to the White House press room and called on him all those times." Regurgitating Crawford, Olbermann alleged: "The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet -- or has its proxies do it for them. That's beyond shameful. It's treasonous."

4. NBC Airs One-Sided Look at What Critics "Fear" from Bush Judges
Previewing the showdown over Bush judicial nominees, NBC's David Gregory on Tuesday night, apparently reading off the talking points of People for the American Way, provided a one-sided look only at what critics say about two of them, supplemented by a law professor explaining what critics of them "fear." Gregory concluded by hold President Bush, not Democrats who have altered 200 years of precedence, responsible for the impasse: "When it comes to the courts, this President is unwilling to compromise." On Janice Rogers Brown, Gregory relayed how "she holds controversial views about economic regulations. During a speech, she called laws upholding New Deal programs like Social Security and minimum wage regulations, quote, 'the triumph of our own socialist revolution.'" Turning to Priscilla Owen, Gregory quaked that "she has been accused of being anti-abortion rights. In a Texas case, she questioned the application of a state law that allowed girls to have an abortion without telling their parents."

5. NBC: Oil Prices "Soaring," E-Mailer Wishes for Higher Gas Prices
Al Gore pretended he's "Leslie" from Johnstown, Pennsylvania? NBC's Today on Tuesday solicited e-mail comments on gas prices, and at 8:30am Katie Couric and Matt Lauer read two of them. In the second, Leslie from Pennsylvania argued: "I think gas prices should be higher! Americans should wake up and realize what other countries pay for gasoline and what kind of cars they drive. Then maybe we would driver smaller, more energy efficient cars and consume less of our resources." Earlier on the same show, NBC's reporters seemed confused about energy prices. While Natalie Morales correctly noted that "gas prices are at their lowest level in nearly two months," Kevin Tibbles, although the price of oil is falling, ominously warned: "Now with oil prices soaring, breaking that addiction," to SUVs, "isn't going to be easy and what happens if a price of a gallon of gas goes up to say, $4 or $5 a gallon? We'll be looking at that frightening scenario in the days to come."

6. CBS Cancels 60 Minutes Wed, But Rather to Move to Sunday Edition
You'd think Dan Rather would have time to make more speeches at $75,000 a pop now that CBS has cancelled his remaining outlet at CBS News, the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, the program which ran his hit job on President Bush based on forged memos. But, the AP's David Bauder reported Wednesday morning, TV viewers can't yet escape Rather since he "will contribute stories to the Sunday edition of 60 Minutes, said CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves."


McClellan Suggestion Newsweek Repair
Damage Appalls Journalists

Wyatt Andrews Some journalists were appalled Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's suggestion that Newsweek "help repair the damage that has been done...by talking about the way they got this wrong, and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the Holy Koran." At the briefing, ABC's Terry Moran demanded: "Who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?" On the CBS Evening News, Wyatt Andrews tried to explain away Newsweek's responsibility: "The White House is still pressuring Newsweek, saying this mistake cost lives. Newsweek, however, says no U.S. official ever denied that story until four days after the rioting began, and that the magazine immediately scrambled to uncover and then admit the error." Bob Schieffer marveled at how "I can never recall a White House telling a news organization to go report X, Y or Z." Andrews then scoffed: "As if Newsweek is now obligated to repair the damage that America has suffered to its reputation overseas. Never seen it."

In fact, the Koran is the only holy book the Pentagon has special rules to protect, the Washington Post's Robin Wright reported Tuesday. Appearing on Tuesday's Good Morning America, ABC's Charlie Gibson asked her about that: "I noticed a piece that you wrote this morning in the Post, that you'd gotten hold of a memo or a document, a couple of years old, that had circulated to interrogators, telling them that they really needed to be very sensitive in their handling of the Koran."
Wright explained: "The Pentagon has a three-page document that stipulates things like a Koran must never be put by a sink, a toilet, on the floor, near feet, that only Muslim chaplains and interpreters can handle the Koran and they must do it with gloves on and they must put the gloves on in front of a detainee, that to move the Koran, a towel must be put on the detainee's bed and then wrapped and never turned upside down in an effort to show respect. It's a quite detailed and quite amazing document. The Pentagon has no policy on any other religious document."

For Wright's May 17 article, "U.S. Long Had Memo on Handling of Koran," go to:
www.washingtonpost.com

This exchange occurred during the 12:45pm EDT briefing:

Terry Moran: "Scott, you said that the retraction by Newsweek magazine of its story is a good first step. What else does the President want this American magazine to do?"
McClellan: "Well, it's what I talked about yesterday. This report, which Newsweek has now retracted and said was wrong, has had serious consequences. People did lose their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged; there is lasting damage to our image because of this report. And we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region. And I think Newsweek can do that by talking about the way they got this wrong, and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the Holy Koran. The military put in place policies and procedures to make sure that the Koran was handled -- or is handled with the utmost care and respect. And I think it would help to point that out, because some have taken this report -- those that are opposed to the United States -- some have taken this report and exploited it and used it to incite violence."
Moran: "With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?"
McClellan: "I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them to help-"
Moran: "You're pressuring them."
McClellan: "No, I'm saying that we would encourage them-"
Moran: "It's not pressure?"
McClellan: "Look, this report caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. And Newsweek has said that they got it wrong. I think Newsweek recognizes the responsibility they have. We appreciate the step that they took by retracting the story. Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report. And that's all I'm saying. But, no, you're absolutely right, it's not my position to get into telling people what they can and cannot report."

For the White House's transcript of the entire May 17 session, in which other reporters also challenged McClellan on daring to suggest how Newsweek could help un-do what it did: www.whitehouse.gov
A competing network, CBS, picked up Moran's theme. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer intoned: "One day after Newsweek magazine retracted a report that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp had defiled the Koran, the State Department told U.S. embassies today to spread the word that America respects Islam and all religious faiths. And in an unusual move, the White House called on Newsweek to pitch in, too. Here's Wyatt Andrews with that story."

Andrews began, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "The White House suggestion to Newsweek was highly unusual and very specific. To atone for Newsweek's now-retracted report that U.S. interrogators had flushed a Koran down the toilet -- a report that sparked days of riots and 15 deaths -- White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the magazine should now report how the military values the Koran."
Scott McClellan, at briefing: "The military put in place policies and procedures to make sure that the Koran was handled, or is handled, with the utmost care and respect. And I think it would help to point that out."
Andrews: "When challenged on whether the White House was dictating a news article, McClellan said no."
McClellan: "I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them."
Andrews: "Newsweek had no comment. The magazine's new edition does admit that a trusted government source for the original story had backed away from the Koran allegation."
Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief, from Tuesday's Early Show: "We will continue to look at how we put together this story, learn from the mistakes that we made, and make improvements that are appropriate as we go along."
Andrews: "But making improvements is the hard part. The Koran flushing story was used as fuel to inflame anti-American sentiment, and Monday's one-line retraction by Newsweek is getting far less play than the original story. The State Department rushed out two cables urging diplomats to publicize America's admiration for the Koran. [text on screen] 'Disrespect for the holy Koran,' the cable reads, 'is a reprehensible act that would not be sanctioned.' The White House is still pressuring Newsweek, saying this mistake cost lives. Newsweek, however, says no U.S. official ever denied that story until four days after the rioting began, and that the magazine immediately scrambled to uncover and then admit the error. Bob?"

Schieffer then turned to a video screen showing Andrews at the DC bureau: "Wyatt, admittedly this is a very serious mistake that Newsweek has made and apologized for and retracted. But I must say I can never recall a White House telling a news organization to go report X, Y or Z. Can you ever remember anything like that?"
Andrews commiserated: "I've thought about that, Bob. I cannot remember any circumstance like this from the White House podium, especially in this context, as if Newsweek is now obligated to repair the damage that America has suffered to its reputation overseas. Never seen it."

Reporters wouldn't have seen it if Newsweek hadn't messed up.

Lauer Frets About "Pressure" and "Piling
On" from White House

NBC's Matt Lauer decided the real story related to Newsweek's misinformation was White House "pressure" and how the world assumed the worst about the U.S. anyway, so Newsweek really didn't do any damage. Interviewing Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Dan Klaidman on Tuesday's Today, in reference to Newsweek's retraction, Lauer demanded: "Did you get pressure from the White House?" Lauer wanted to know, from a Muslim point of view, "Why shouldn't I believe that it's still occurring, that it did happen, but that Newsweek magazine retracted the story because of the administration's effort to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world?" Lauer put the burden on the White House, not Newsweek: "Do you think there is a bit of piling on here from the administration?" Next, Lauer cued up Richard Engel from Baghdad: "What you're telling me is that from your experience people in that world expect the worst from the United States?" Engel passed along a "rumor" about how "women were raped in Abu Ghraib. One woman said that and published an open letter in a newspaper, said she was raped every night by six American soldiers."

Lauer's questions to Klaidman, who appeared via satellite from DC, on the May 17 Today:

-- Lauer: "Let's go back to the original story published on May 1st. In it described affronts by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It reported, quote, 'Interrogators in an attempt to rattle suspects flushed a Koran down the toilet,' end quote. Fast forward to Monday and this statement from Newsweek editor, your boss Mark Whitaker who said quote, 'Based on what we know now we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay. What led to the retraction?"
Klaidman: "Matt we retracted the story when we came out on our Web site on Sunday and then in the magazine, newsstands on, on Monday. We said in our, in the exhaustive story that we wrote about this, that we asked the question how did Newsweek get its facts wrong and then laid out what we got wrong and how we got it wrong. There was some confusion, I think, because we didn't use the word 'retraction,' but it was-"
Lauer: "Yeah on Sunday it came out as an apology for the story that you couldn't be sure of your sources and, and it seems much stronger on Monday."
Klaidman: "Very clear in the story that we wrote. Look Matt when we realized that we had a problem with this story, which was, many days, almost 11 days after the story appeared. We sat down, editors, reporters we tried to figure out what happened. And from the very beginning we said we have got to figure out that if we made a mistake that we've got to acknowledge it quickly, be as transparent as we possibly can and-"

-- Lauer: "Did you get pressure from the White House, Dan?"
Klaidman: "The only pressure we got, Matt, was our own sense of responsibility here. We had made the decision to acknowledge the mistakes long before the White House uttered a single word about this. In fact long before the Pentagon had many any public statements about it."
Lauer: "You know there's suspicion in the Muslim world. They say, 'Well we've heard these stories before from former detainees who've been released from Guantanamo and why shouldn't and, and this is them speaking. Why shouldn't I believe that it's still occurring, that it did happen, but that Newsweek magazine retracted the story because of the administration's effort to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world?"
Klaidman: "All I can say Matt is that we've been reporting on Abu Ghraib, on the interrogation controversies aggressively, carefully for a long time. We will continue to do that. That is our mission and hard for us to figure out why people believe what they believe even in these instances but we're gonna continue with our mission."

-- Lauer: "The administration's criticism of Newsweek has intensified over the last 24 hours following the so-called apology on Sunday. Do you think there is a bit of piling on here from the administration?"
Klaidman: "I'm not gonna try to divine motives here. It is their prerogative to make the statements that they think are appropriate. They've got their megaphone. The media has a megaphone as well. And I'll just leave it at that."

-- Lauer: "Was, was there, prior to the story going to print, was there a final discussion? I know it was shown to a Pentagon official who had problems with some other aspects of the story but not the Koran aspect. Was there then a discussion among the editorial staff where you said, 'Look this is gonna have repercussions in the Muslim world, are we sure about our source?'"
Klaidman: "I had discussions about that. Other editors and reporters talked about it. This was a source who I was familiar with. Someone who had been reliable in the past. A senior government official who had helped Newsweek on other stories that proved to be accurate. And so we had these discussions and that is our normal practice and as you mentioned we went beyond that by providing the story to a senior responsible Department of Defense official."

-- Lauer: "And real, real quickly Dan, if you will, we've made mistakes on this show and it makes you want to throw up, it feels so bad. Someone gonna lose their job? Will there be disciplinary action taken?"
Klaidman: "The, the reporting procedures, as far as we can tell, we did it the right way. These were, the mistakes that we made and that we acknowledged were made in good faith. Everybody involved with this was, did their job professionally. We, we regret the mistake we made."
Lauer: "Right."
Klaidman: "We feel terrible about it but that's our view."

Lauer moved on: "Now for more on the fallout in the Muslim world and the challenges the U.S. faces to repair the damage let's turn to NBC's Richard Engel who's in Baghdad. Richard, good morning to you. What's, what's the reaction this morning to the retraction of this story?"
Engel, from Baghdad: "Good morning, Matt. People here are not surprised at all. There are many rumors both in Iraq and across the Arab and even wider Muslim world that this kind of thing happens regularly. Just to give you an example there's one rumor spreading today, it's been in local newspapers, it's been on the local television and was also broadcast on the Al Jazeera television network. It's that U.S. soldiers, U.S. Marines while raiding a mosque in Ramadi or near Ramadi that they kicked a Koran and then took it and spray-painted in black paint a cross right on top of the Koran. And of course the military quickly came out and denied this but it is only one of many stories that people on the ground generally believe. Another one that came out a couple of weeks ago was in a local newspaper. It said that during a search of a woman's bag U.S. soldiers with a team of dogs were sniffing through her bag. She had a Koran in the bag. The dogs pulled the Muslim holy book out of the bag with its mouth and that the soldiers started laughing and there was, again, a popular reaction against this and, and no sense if that story ever happened at all but the fallout is that people definitely believe, on the ground, that this is not a war on terrorism that at some level the U.S. administration, through the U.S. military, is carrying out a war against Islam."
Lauer: "So, so when we talk about the battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, what you're telling me is that from your experience people in that world expect the worst from the United States?"
Engel: "I think they do and if you talk about a battle for hearts and minds I'm not sure if we're winning that battle. There are a lot of, still there's, today, fallout from the Abu Ghraib incident. There have been rumors coming up again and again that are in the local newspaper, for example, that women were raped in Abu Ghraib. One woman said that and published an open letter in a newspaper, said she was raped every night by six American soldiers. The U.S., U.S. troops here say this is absolutely not true but that after this happened other women came out and wrote similar claims in other newspapers and this does have repercussions on the ground. Abu Musab-Al-Zarqawi when he carried out an attack on April 2nd, said it was to avenge the women who were raped in Abu Ghraib. So he's using it to try and build his support, Matt."

Olbermann Charges White House with "Treasonous" Action

Barely 90 minutes after MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday night prompted his guest, Craig Crawford, to outline a grand conspiracy about how the Bush administration "set up the news media" as the Newsweek case reflected how they deliberately let media outlets go ahead with stories the Bush team knows are wrong, Olbermann posted a blog entry in which he charged the White House with "treasonous" actions. Olbermann argued on his "Bloggermann" blog that Scott McClellan's resignation should be "drifting out over Washington, and imminently." In a line he also uttered on his show Tuesday night, Olbermann took this shot: "Whenever I hear Scott McClellan talking about 'media credibility,' I strain to remember who it was who admitted Jeff Gannon to the White House press room and called on him all those times." Regurgitating Crawford, Olbermann alleged: "The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet -- or has its proxies do it for them. That's beyond shameful. It's treasonous."

The May 17 CyberAlert recounted: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann led Monday's Countdown by snidely asking: "Why does a book in a toilet start riots, but a war doesn't?" Turning conspiratorial, Olbermann soon proposed that "something smells funny to me about this Newsweek apology, then retraction" after White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan "blasts Newsweek." Guest Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly and CBS News charged that the Bush administration may well have "set up the news media" to look foolish: "The government had the opportunity to see this report before it was published -- and passed. This is a pattern we've seen before, Keith. We saw it in the CBS case as bad as the supposedly fake memorandum that Dan Rather used in the 60 Minutes report on Bush's National Guard service, as bad as that was, they did show it to the administration ahead of time. It does make you wonder if sometimes they set up the news media." Apparently, an easy mark. See: www.mediaresearch.org

On Tuesday's Imus in the Morning on MSNBC, the MRC's Jessica Barnes noticed, Crawford repeated his theory which is based upon the assumption that it is the job of a presidential administration to drop everything and investigate a media outlets claims fort it:
"The thing that bugs me about this is this pattern of when a news organization goes at the administration with a tough story or a document like CBS did, I mean, this doesn't take anything away from what the news media did wrong in these cases, but when they take these things to the government media officers, I mean be it's their job, you know, to respond to it in some way, and if they don't, the mistake, I guess, the media's making is assuming that if they don't take the opportunity to question a story or ask for time to research it or something, that's assumed as confirmation, which is probably the mistake. But in this story, you know, both the Pentagon and CentCom, I guess it was, or SouthCom or whatever they call it had the opportunity to look at this Periscope item from Newsweek and didn't raise an objection, and Newsweek assumed that it was solid, which was probably the mistake they made and the lesson everybody needs to learn from here on, but that happened in the CBS thing, too, you know? They took that document before publication to the, I think it was Bartlett at the White House."
Don Imus: "Yeah."
Crawford: "And they said nothing. I mean, I'm not saying that you have to get the, the government has to support, you know, substantiate your story if you bring it to 'em, but it looks like they could give some kind of response, and then the administration 10 days later starts saying this story is inaccurate. I mean, I don't know if that's a set-up or not, but it's one of the interpretations you can talk about."

The night before, at 9:45pm EDT Monday night, barely 90 minutes after Crawford had appeared on Countdown, Olbermann filed an item for his "Bloggermann" blog. An excerpt from the May 16 entry:

The resignation of Scott McClellan (Keith Olbermann)

SECAUCUS -- I smell something -- and it ain't a copy of the Qu'ran sopping wet from being stuck in a toilet in Guantanamo Bay. It's the ink drying on Scott McClellan's resignation, and in an only partly imperfect world, it would be drifting out over Washington, and imminently.

Last Thursday, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Donald Rumsfeld's go-to guy whenever the situation calls for the kind of gravitas the Secretary himself can't supply, told reporters at the Pentagon that rioting in Afghanistan was related more to the on-going political reconciliation process there, than it was to a controversial note buried in the pages of Newsweek claiming that the government was investigating whether or not some nitwit interrogator at Gitmo really had desecrated a Muslim holy book.

But Monday afternoon, while offering himself up to the networks for a series of rare, almost unprecedented sit-down interviews on the White House lawn, Press Secretary McClellan said, in effect, that General Myers, and the head of the after-action report following the disturbances in Jalalabad, Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, were dead wrong. The Newsweek story, McClellan said, "has done damage to our image abroad and it has done damage to the credibility of the media and Newsweek in particular. People have lost lives. This report has had serious consequences."

Whenever I hear Scott McClellan talking about 'media credibility,' I strain to remember who it was who admitted Jeff Gannon to the White House press room and called on him all those times.

Whenever I hear this White House talking about 'doing to damage to our image abroad' and how 'people have lost lives,' I strain to remember who it was who went traipsing into Iraq looking for WMD that will apparently turn up just after the Holy Grail will -- and at what human cost....

Whatever I smell comes from this odd sequence of events: Newsweek gets blasted by the White House, apologizes over the weekend but doesn't retract its story. Then McClellan offers his Journalism 101 outdoor seminar and blasts the magazine further. Finally, just before 5 PM Monday, the Dan Rather drama replaying itself in its collective corporate mind, Newsweek retracts.

I'm always warning about the logical fallacy -- the illusion that just because one event follows another, the latter must have necessarily caused the former. But when I wondered tonight on Countdown if it applied here, Craig Crawford reassured me. "The dots connect."...

One of the most under-publicized analyses of 9/11 concludes that Osama Bin Laden assumed that the attacks on the U.S. would galvanize Islamic anger towards this country, and they'd overthrow their secular governments and woo-hoo we've got an international religious war. Obviously it didn't happen. It didn't even happen when the West went into Iraq. But if stuff like the Newsweek version of a now two-year old tale about toilets and Qu'rans is enough to set off rioting in the streets of countries whose nationals were not even the supposed recipients of the 'abuse', then weren't those members of the military or the government with whom Newsweek vetted the plausibility of its item, honor-bound to say "you can't print this"?

Or would somebody rather play politics with this? The way Craig Crawford reconstructed it, this one went similarly to the way the Killian Memos story evolved at the White House. The news organization turns to the administration for a denial. The administration says nothing. The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet -- or has its proxies do it for them.

That's beyond shameful. It's treasonous.

It's also not very smart. While places like the Fox News Channel (which, only today, I finally recognized -- it's the newscast perpetually running on the giant video screens in the movie "1984") ask how many heads should roll at Newsweek, it forgets in its fervor that both the story and the phony controversy around it are not so cut-and-dried this time....

[A]nd also for that tasteless, soul-less conclusion that deaths in Afghanistan should be lain at the magazine's doorstep -- Scott McClellan should resign. The expiration on his carton full of blank-eyed bully-collaborator act passed this afternoon as he sat reeling off those holier-than-thou remarks. Ah, that's what I smelled."

END of Excerpt

For Olbermann's rant in full: www.msnbc.msn.com

NBC Airs One-Sided Look at What Critics
"Fear" from Bush Judges

David Gregory Previewing the showdown over Bush judicial nominees, NBC's David Gregory on Tuesday night, apparently reading off the talking points of People for the American Way, provided a one-sided look only at what critics say about two of them, supplemented by a law professor explaining what critics of them "fear." Gregory concluded by hold President Bush, not Democrats who have altered 200 years of precedence, responsible for the impasse: "When it comes to the courts, this President is unwilling to compromise." On Janice Rogers Brown, Gregory relayed how "she holds controversial views about economic regulations. During a speech, she called laws upholding New Deal programs like Social Security and minimum wage regulations, quote, 'the triumph of our own socialist revolution.'" Turning to Priscilla Owen, Gregory quaked that "she has been accused of being anti-abortion rights. In a Texas case, she questioned the application of a state law that allowed girls to have an abortion without telling their parents."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected against the video the closed-captioning for the May 17 NBC Nightly News piece. Anchor Brian Williams introduced it: "This whole fight is now over a few candidates for vacant federal judgeships. The President's choices have proven explosive if you ask the Democrats. We've heard a lot so far about this controversy, but not that much about who these judges are. More on that tonight from NBC's David Gregory."

Gregory began: "The nominees at the center of the fight, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen, were seen briefly today arriving at the White House for a morale-boosting meeting with the President."
Scott McClellan: "Both have a conservative judicial philosophy. They're exactly the kind of people that the President is looking to appoint to the bench."
Gregory: "Rogers-Brown, 55 years old and since 1996 an associate justice on California's supreme court. Known among her supporters as a fiery, smart and independent conservative who favors strict limits on federal power, she holds controversial views about economic regulations. During a speech, she called laws upholding New Deal programs like Social Security and minimum wage regulations, quote [text on screen], 'the triumph of our own socialist revolution.' Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen on what her critics fear:"
Professor Jeffrey Rosen, George Washington University Law School: "She might strike down lots of federal and state regulations ranging from environmental laws to health and safety laws that liberals and conservatives have taken for granted for a long time."
Gregory: "Priscilla Owen, 51 years old, with political ties to White House advisor Karl Rove, in 1994 she was elected to serve as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. Also known for her sharply worded legal opinions, she has been accused of being anti-abortion rights. In a Texas case, she questioned the application of a state law that allowed girls to have an abortion without telling their parents. Fellow justice at the time, and now-U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales criticized her opinion as an attempt to go beyond state law, a form of judicial activism."
Rosen: "Judge Owen's critics fear that she might be substituting her own views about abortion for those of democratically elected legislators."
Gregory: "Both nominees have promised to apply the law, not make it. But the controversy surrounding their nominations underscores an important point: When it comes to the courts, this President is unwilling to compromise. David Gregory, NBC News, the White House."

NBC: Oil Prices "Soaring," E-Mailer Wishes
for Higher Gas Prices

Al Gore pretended he's "Leslie" from Johnstown, Pennsylvania? NBC's Today on Tuesday solicited e-mail comments on gas prices, and at 8:30am Katie Couric and Matt Lauer read two of them. In the second, Leslie from Pennsylvania argued: "I think gas prices should be higher! Americans should wake up and realize what other countries pay for gasoline and what kind of cars they drive. Then maybe we would driver smaller, more energy efficient cars and consume less of our resources." Earlier on the same show, NBC's reporters seemed confused about energy prices. While Natalie Morales correctly noted that "gas prices are at their lowest level in nearly two months," Kevin Tibbles, although the price of oil is falling, ominously warned: "Now with oil prices soaring, breaking that addiction," to SUVs, "isn't going to be easy and what happens if a price of a gallon of gas goes up to say, $4 or $5 a gallon? We'll be looking at that frightening scenario in the days to come."

The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught the energy price conflict and Al Gore-like e-mail.

In a story at about 7:50am on the May 17 program, Kevin Tibbles reported: "For average families like the Sloans, though, consuming oil is a fact of life and quitting cold turkey is not an option."
Man: "I don't think you need to get rid of the SUV, I think you need to make the SUV more efficient."
Tibbles: "Now with oil prices soaring breaking that addiction isn't going to be easy and what happens if a price of a gallon of gas goes up to say, $4 or $5 a gallon? We'll be looking at that frightening scenario in the days to come. Matt, Katie, back to you."

Ten minutes later, during the 8am news update, Natalie Morales maintained: "Gas prices are at their lowest level in nearly two months. The government says the price of unleaded regular fell two cents over the past two weeks to $2.16 a gallon. But that is still up from 15 cents from a year ago."

Tibbles' hype is way off base. A Tuesday Reuters dispatch relayed:
"Oil prices fell toward three-month lows on Tuesday as top world exporter Saudi Arabia said it had no plans to reduce supply despite rising U.S. crude inventories and slowing demand growth.
"U.S. crude eased 6 cents to $48.55 a barrel after hitting $47.60 on Monday, the lowest level since Feb 18. London Brent crude was down 10 cents at $48.99 a barrel.
"Oil has slumped nearly $10 from April's record high of $58.28 a barrel as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries boosts supplies almost to 25-year highs, raising U.S. crude stocks to their highest level since July 1999...." See: news.yahoo.com

As for gas prices, the AP on Monday reported:
"The average price nationwide for all grades of gasoline fell 3 cents in two weeks, continuing a drop in pump prices that began last month, an industry analyst said Sunday.
"The average retail price for all three grades dropped 3.05 cents to $2.24 per gallon between April 22 and Friday, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations around the country...." See: news.yahoo.com

At the top of the 8:30am half hour, as Couric and Lauer stood outside, they read two e-mails they had solicited, with the text of each displayed on screen.

Couric: "And by the way we asked you earlier in the show to email us about your opinion on gas prices in this country and if they would alter your plans for Memorial Day weekend. Here's what some of you had to say. Terry in Ohio wrote: 'Gas prices will not slow us down this summer. We have a boat, a 4-wheeler, and a tractor, not to mention the weed whacker, the chain saw and other garden tools that are run by gasoline. We've cut back on other things to be able to continue to use gas.'"
Lauer: "And here's one from Leslie in Pennsylvania, get this. 'I think gas prices should be higher! Americans should wake up and realize what other countries pay for gasoline and what kind of cars they drive. Then maybe we would driver smaller, more energy efficient cars and consume less of our resources.'"

CBS Cancels 60 Minutes Wed, But Rather
to Move to Sunday Edition

You'd think Dan Rather would have time to make more speeches at $75,000 a pop now that CBS has cancelled his remaining outlet at CBS News, the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, the program which ran his hit job on President Bush based on forged memos. But, the AP's David Bauder reported Wednesday morning, TV viewers can't yet escape Rather since he "will contribute stories to the Sunday edition of 60 Minutes, said CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves."

For Bauder's story, "CBS Cancels Wednesday 60 Minutes," go to: story.news.yahoo.com

The May 5 CyberAlert had reported: Dan Rather has signed on with the Newton, Massachusetts-based speakers' service, the American Program Bureau (APB), which, CyberAlert has learned, has set his fee per appearance at $75,000, plus two first-class airline seats. For details: www.mediaresearch.org

The CBSNews.com page for 60 Minutes Wednesday, which tonight will feature an interview with Sopranos creator David Chase: www.cbsnews.com

-- Brent Baker