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Mitchell: Doonesbury Critique Bad News for Romney with GOP Voters --4/6/2007


1. Mitchell: Doonesbury Critique Bad News for Romney with GOP Voters
The flip-flops on issues by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been a topic of discussion for months amongst GOP and conservative opinion leaders and pundits, but on Thursday's NBC Nightly News reporter Andrea Mitchell contended a critique in the Doonesbury comic strip is really what's the "worse" development for Romney this week. As if Republican primary voters care about the left-wing cartoonist's take. Providing a rundown of the significant events this week in the presidential campaigns, Mitchell started with "a new Republican front-runner in the money race now facing new scrutiny. So when Mitt Romney cozied-up to the gun lobby," -- Mitchell played a clip of him asserting that "I've been hunting pretty much all my life" -- "his campaign had to admit he's only been on hunting trips twice." She then declared: "Even worse, Romney was lampooned in Doonesbury all week as a flip-flopper." As she spoke, viewers saw a blow-up of a frame of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury with a radio talk show fretting: "Say it ain't so, Governor Romney! Changed positions on abortion, gun control, and gay rights? What's next, immigration?"

2. ABC News Charges Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Were 'Slanderous'
A story posted Wednesday on ABCNews.com with the leading headline, "Bush Swift Boats Belgium, Congress: President Slips Swift Boat Ambassador Past Congress," declared that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a "slanderous" group, a word defined as an "action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation." The author of the article, ABC News political unit producer Tahman Bradley, wrote that Sam Fox, whom President Bush used a recess appointment to name as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, "in 2004 contributed $50,000 to the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which used a series of television ads to undermine Kerry's combat record." A blogger discovered a key fact about Bradley left out of his bio on ABCNews.com: In 2005, his "commitment to progressive values and social justice," earned him a fellowship with the left-wing People for the American Way. A Thursday New York Times story claimed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth issued "unsubstantiated accusations" against John Kerry.

3. CBS: American Taliban 'Victim of Timing' in 'Harsh Atmosphere'
Wednesday's CBS Evening News, anchored by Russ Mitchell, provided a sympathetic look at efforts to win an early release for John Walker Lindh, the American citizen who was convicted of giving aid to the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan. Mitchell and correspondent John Blackstone, who only displayed soundbites sympathetic to Lindh, relayed the argument of Lindh's parents that his 20-year sentence was "not fair considering Australian David Hicks was sentenced to just nine months for his terror conviction," without considering whether Hicks' sentence was too light. CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen further contended that because Lindh was tried relatively soon after the 9/11 attacks, that he was a "victim of timing" in a "harsh atmosphere." Andrew Cohen: "He was the first person to go through the legal system after 9/11 in federal court, and the atmosphere at that time was so intense and harsh that he is essentially a victim of timing."

4. NY Times: 'American Idol' Popularity Result of Gore's 2000 Loss
Wednesday brought another kooky column from New York Times TV-beat reporter and critic Alessandra Stanley. "Voting Rights Drive 'Idol,' Not the Abuse or the Hair," explained America's eagerness to vote on Fox's American Idol singing contest show in terms of blowback from Al Gore's loss in the 2000 presidential election: "It cannot be a coincidence that television voting rights arose so soon after the 2000 election left slightly more than half the voting population feeling cheated. Those who didn't go to the polls and fear that their abstention inadvertently made possible the invasion of Iraq may feel even worse" and so "Idol could be a displacement ritual: a psychological release that allows people to vote." She also speculated that "maybe the reason that more people didn't turn out for the 2004 presidential race, despite the closeness of the tally four years earlier, is that they were still in denial and distracted by American Idol." In fact, 15 million more voted in 2004 than 2000.


Mitchell: Doonesbury Critique Bad News
for Romney with GOP Voters

The flip-flops on issues by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been a topic of discussion for months amongst GOP and conservative opinion leaders and pundits, but on Thursday's NBC Nightly News reporter Andrea Mitchell contended a critique in the Doonesbury comic strip is really what's the "worse" development for Romney this week. As if Republican primary voters care about the left-wing cartoonist's take.

Providing a rundown of the significant events this week in the presidential campaigns, Mitchell started with "a new Republican front-runner in the money race now facing new scrutiny. So when Mitt Romney cozied-up to the gun lobby," -- Mitchell played a clip of him asserting that "I've been hunting pretty much all my life" -- "his campaign had to admit he's only been on hunting trips twice." She then declared: "Even worse, Romney was lampooned in Doonesbury all week as a flip-flopper." As she spoke, viewers saw a blow-up of a frame of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury with a radio talk show fretting: "Say it ain't so, Governor Romney! Changed positions on abortion, gun control, and gay rights? What's next, immigration?"

A bio of Trudeau, also known as Mr. Jane Pauley: www.doonesbury.com

Mitchell's decision to highlight Doonesbury says more about her, and how the Washington press corps apparently check the strip every day, than conservatives who largely ignore it.

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

To see and read this week's strips, check Slate's Doonesbury page and click on "previous" to go back to Monday, April 2. Then proceed forward: www.doonesbury.com

From the start of Mitchell's April 5 NBC Nightly News update on the campaigns of the major presidential candidates: "It's been a week that turned the presidential campaign upside down. A new Republican front-runner in the money race now facing new scrutiny. So when Mitt Romney cozied-up to the gun lobby-"
Mitt Romney at campaign event: "And I've asked for the NRA's endorsement. [edit jump] I've been hunting pretty much all my life."
Mitchell: "-reporters asked questions. His campaign had to admit he's only been on hunting trips twice. Even worse, Romney was lampooned in Doonesbury all week as a flip-flopper..."

Mitchell then moved on to how the fundraising numbers announced this week show that Senator Hillary Clinton has new competion from Senator Barack Obama for the title of frontrunner.

ABC News Charges Swift Boat Veterans
for Truth Were 'Slanderous'

A story posted Wednesday on ABCNews.com with the leading headline, "Bush Swift Boats Belgium, Congress: President Slips Swift Boat Ambassador Past Congress," declared that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a "slanderous" group, a word defined as an "action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation." The author of the article, ABC News political unit producer Tahman Bradley, wrote that Sam Fox, whom President Bush used a recess appointment to name as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, "in 2004 contributed $50,000 to the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which used a series of television ads to undermine Kerry's combat record." A blogger discovered a key fact about Bradley left out of his bio on ABCNews.com: In 2005, his "commitment to progressive values and social justice," earned him a fellowship with the left-wing People for the American Way.

A Thursday New York Times story claimed the group issued "unsubstantiated accusations" against John Kerry. Reporter Jim Rutenberg charged: "Mr. Fox donated $50,000 to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that opposed Senator John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign. The group attacked Mr. Kerry's record in the Vietnam War with advertising that included unsubstantiated accusations that he had not earned his war medals."

An excerpt from the top of Bradley's April 4 story:

While Congress is out of session, President Bush flexed his executive power muscle, appointing businessman Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium less than a week after his nomination was pulled when Senate Democrats hammered away at him for donating money to a conservative group that helped sink Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

Kerry and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., led Senate Democrats' opposition to Fox, who in 2004 contributed $50,000 to the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which used a series of television ads to undermine Kerry's combat record.

Despite his grilling by Democrats, Fox, the national chairman of the Jewish Republican Coalition, refused to apologize for his donation.

Bush was forced to withdraw Fox's nomination last week after 11 of Kerry's Vietnam crewmates sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging members to oppose Fox's nomination....

END of Excerpt

For the article in full: abcnews.go.com

The MRC's Tim Graham pointed out, in a Thursday NewsBusters posting, how Greg Pollowitz noted at NRO's Media Blog that the original home page link was "Major Donor to 'Swift Boat' Smear Ads Is Made An Ambassador." See: media.nationalreview.com

In a follow-up item, NewsBusters Managing Editor Ken Shepherd relayed:

Blogger Myra Langerhas of "Snarking Dawg" might have found the reason for Bradley's slanted treatment. The Howard University alumnus (Class of 2006) was active in College Democrats and was a 2005 Fellow for People for the American Way, according to a Web site for the left-wing interest group:

Tahman Bradley

YP4 Fellowship Class: 2005
Campus: Howard University
Graduation Year: 2006
Major: Journalism
Birthday: November 13
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Campus Involvement: College Democrats, The Hilltop Campus Newspaper
Fortune favors the bold.

Curiously Bradley's fellowship went unmentioned on his ABC News profile, even though he works for the ABC political unit and the information is germane to his background and biases as a political reporter:

"Tahman Bradley is an ABC News field producer based in the network's Washington bureau. He covers national politics, contributing content to the various platforms at ABC News. Prior to joining the ABC News Political Unit, Bradley was a Carnegie Fellow working on special projects with the ABC News Investigative Unit in New York. Bradley is a graduate of Howard University, where he studied journalism and political science."

END of Except of Shepherd's blog on the MRC's NewsBusters: newsbusters.org

For the PantryDawg blog posting: pantrydawg.blogspot.com

Bradley's incomplete bio on ABCNews.com: abcnews.go.com

For a picture of Bradley on the People for the American Way site: youngpeoplefor.org

Bradley was a fellow in People for the American Way's "Young People For" program which the site defines as:

The Young People For fellowship is a year-long leadership development program for young leaders, activists and social entrepreneurs who demonstrate a strong commitment to progressive values and who are on the road to becoming high-impact leaders in the nonprofit, business and government sectors. During their first year of fellowship, the Young People For team supports Fellows by offering strategic and financial assistance to implement Blueprints for Social Justice with a campus or community focus. Our Fellows are Fellows for life, and after their fellowship year they have access to resources such as targeted professional development, career counseling and personal strategic planning, as well as social and career networking.

The fellowship classes of 2005 (125 leaders) and 2006 (165 leaders) were selected based on campus and community activism, leadership skills and a commitment to progressive values and social justice. The diverse group of Fellows was selected from historically black colleges and universities, women's colleges, state universities, conservative and liberal campuses, private schools and community colleges'€"a collective network of 70 campuses in 18 states.

See: www.youngpeoplefor.org

A reprint of an April 5 posting, by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, online at: www.timeswatch.org

The "Unsubstantiated" Swift Boat Allegations Rise Again A flashback to the Times' 2004 campaign coverage --"unsubstantiated accusations" again Sen. John Kerry from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

It was a Vietnam flashback in Thursday's news pages, as reporter Jim Rutenberg deployed 2004-era Times language to attack the veracity of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the Vietnam veterans group that successful challenged John Kerry's Vietnam war record. The story concerned Sam Fox, Bush's nominee for ambassador to Belgium, who was forced to withdraw from consideration after Sen. John Kerry made a stink that Fox donated $50,000 to the Swifties. Bush took advantage of the Congressional recess to install Fox as ambassador without waiting for Senate approval.

Rutenberg: "President Bush used the Congressional recess on Wednesday to push through his choice to be ambassador to Belgium and to fill two domestic policy positions, provoking Democratic ire with all three appointments.

"The ambassadorship will be filled by Sam Fox, a major Republican donor who had withdrawn his name for the job in late March when it became clear that Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee were lining up against him.

"Mr. Fox donated $50,000 to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that opposed Senator John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign. The group attacked Mr. Kerry's record in the Vietnam War with advertising that included unsubstantiated accusations that he had not earned his war medals."

For Rutenberg's April 5 article: www.nytimes.com

Sound familiar? As Times Watch revealed in a 2004 special report "Double Standard: Times Tars Swift Boat Vets, Plugs False 'Bush AWOL' Story," the Times stuck that exact same warning label ("unsubstantiated") on the Swift Boats Veterans no less than 20 times during the campaign.

By contrast, not once did the Times describe the Democrat's false Bush-was-AWOL from the Texas National Guard charges as "unsubstantiated." See: See: www.timeswatch.org

CBS: American Taliban 'Victim of Timing'
in 'Harsh Atmosphere'

Wednesday's CBS Evening News, anchored by Russ Mitchell, provided a sympathetic look at efforts to win an early release for John Walker Lindh, the American citizen who was convicted of giving aid to the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan. Mitchell and correspondent John Blackstone, who only displayed soundbites sympathetic to Lindh, relayed the argument of Lindh's parents that his 20-year sentence was "not fair considering Australian David Hicks was sentenced to just nine months for his terror conviction," without considering whether Hicks' sentence was too light. CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen further contended that because Lindh was tried relatively soon after the 9/11 attacks, that he was a "victim of timing" in a "harsh atmosphere." Andrew Cohen: "He was the first person to go through the legal system after 9/11 in federal court, and the atmosphere at that time was so intense and harsh that he is essentially a victim of timing."

[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Mitchell brought up Hicks' nine-month sentence as he introduced the story: "The family of the American Taliban appealed to President Bush today to set him free. John Walker Lindh, who is 26 years old, is serving 20 years in prison. His family says that's not fair considering Australian David Hicks was sentenced to just nine months for his terror conviction."

Blackstone's report showed clips of both Lindh's parents making their case, including soundbites of his father Frank Lindh contending that his son "is not anti-American" and does not have "sympathy" for terrorism. After recounting the story of CIA agent Mike Spann, who was killed in a prison uprising by Taliban prisoners soon after interrogating Lindh, after which an "angry nation [America] saw Spann and Lindh as opposites," Blackstone played a clip of Frank Lindh complaining that his son was treated unfairly. Frank Lindh: "The good American and the bad American. It was completely unfair. John was wounded and nearly killed in the same uprising where Mike Spann was killed."

CBS News legal analyst Cohen soon labeled John Walker Lindh a "victim." Cohen: "He was the first person to go through the legal system after 9/11 in federal court, and the atmosphere at that time was so intense and harsh that he is essentially a victim of timing."

Blackstone concluded the piece by relaying the complaint that Lindh's sentence was much harsher than that of Australian David Hicks: "Lindh's parents point to Australian David Hicks, who will be allowed to leave Guantanamo, though he pleaded guilty to aiding al-Qaeda. Still, the Lindh family knows it's a long shot that their son will be freed before finishing his 20-year sentence in America's highest security prison."

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Wednesday April 4 CBS Evening News:

Russ Mitchell: "The family of the American Taliban appealed to President Bush today to set him free. John Walker Lindh, who is 26 years old, is serving 20 years in prison. His family says that's not fair considering Australian David Hicks was sentenced to just nine months for his terror conviction. John Blackstone spoke exclusively today with Lindh's parents."

John Blackstone: "When he was captured in Afghanistan in November, 2001, John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam, was labeled a traitor."
George W. Bush, dated September 28, 2001: "He's working with the enemy, and we'll see how the courts deal with that."
Blackstone: "Now, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker are asking the President to commute their son's 20-year sentence."
Marilyn Walker, mother of John Walker Lindh: "I believe that, you know, that everyone has a capacity for the compassion."
Blackstone: "After years of staying largely silent about their son, Lindh and Walker spoke exclusively to CBS News."
Frank Lindh, father of John Walker Lindh: "We know that he's not anti-American. We know he doesn't have any sympathy for terrorism. And yet here he stood accused of these things in the public eye."
Blackstone: "When Lindh was captured, he was videotaped being interrogated by CIA officer Mike Spann. Soon after, span was killed in an uprising, and an angry nation saw Spann and Lindh as opposites."
Frank Lindh: "The good American and the bad American. It was completely unfair. John was wounded and nearly killed in the same uprising where Mike Spann was killed."
Blackstone: "Walker hadn't seen her son in two years when she saw photos of him bound to a stretcher."
Marilyn Walker: "You could see the terror in his eyes. I mean, I've looked at those photographs over and over again, and there's terror in his eyes."
Blackstone: "Even though Lindh never took part in terrorism or fought against America, there were calls for him to get the death penalty."
Andrew Cohen, CBS News legal analyst: "He was the first person to go through the legal system after 9/11 in federal court, and the atmosphere at that time was so intense and harsh that he is essentially a victim of timing."
Blackstone: "Lindh took a plea bargain, a 20-year sentence not for terrorism, but for supplying services to the Taliban. Lindh's parents point to Australian David Hicks, who will be allowed to leave Guantanamo, though he pleaded guilty to aiding al-Qaeda. Still, the Lindh family knows it's a long shot that their son will be freed before finishing his 20-year sentence in America's highest security prison. John Blackstone, CBS News, San Francisco."

NY Times: 'American Idol' Popularity
Result of Gore's 2000 Loss

Wednesday brought another kooky column from New York Times TV-beat reporter and critic Alessandra Stanley. "Voting Rights Drive 'Idol,' Not the Abuse or the Hair," explained America's eagerness to vote on Fox's American Idol singing contest show in terms of blowback from Al Gore's loss in the 2000 presidential election: "It cannot be a coincidence that television voting rights arose so soon after the 2000 election left slightly more than half the voting population feeling cheated. Those who didn't go to the polls and fear that their abstention inadvertently made possible the invasion of Iraq may feel even worse" and so "Idol could be a displacement ritual: a psychological release that allows people to vote." She also speculated that "maybe the reason that more people didn't turn out for the 2004 presidential race, despite the closeness of the tally four years earlier, is that they were still in denial and distracted by American Idol." In fact, 15 million more voted in 2004 than 2000.

[This item is adapted from a posting, on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, by Clay Waters: www.timeswatch.org ]

And excerpt from Stanley's April 4 article:

The high viewer turnout for Idol, which is on tonight, cannot solely be explained by technological advances or a regression in human nature. It cannot be a coincidence that television voting rights arose so soon after the 2000 election left slightly more than half the voting population feeling cheated. Those who didn't go to the polls and fear that their abstention inadvertently made possible the invasion of Iraq may feel even worse. Idol could be a displacement ritual: a psychological release that allows people to vote -- and even vote often -- in a contest that has no dangerous or even lasting consequences. (Even losers win out in the end: both Mr. Gore and Jennifer Hudson ended up on the Oscar stage.)

Maybe the reason that more people didn't turn out for the 2004 presidential race, despite the closeness of the tally four years earlier, is that they were still in denial and distracted by American Idol.

END of Excerpt

For Stanley's piece in full: www.nytimes.com

It's Stanley's silliest mash-up of pop culture and politics since she found anti-Bush discontent in NBC's science-fiction hit Heroes. She opined on February 7: "Nowadays, many dramas obliquely echo the public's disenchantment with their government after Abu Ghraib and the quagmire in Iraq." See the TimesWatch article for more: www.timeswatch.org

Stanley's American Idol take is factually unsteady to boot: Over 122 million people voted in the 2004 election (the 61% turnout marking the highest percentage since 1968), compared to around 106 million people in 2000 (with a 54% turnout). Check the January 15 Washington Post story, "Election Turnout in 2004 Was Highest Since 1968," online at: www.washingtonpost.com

-- Brent Baker