Morning Shows Bait Bush Officials on Policy But Cuddle Hillary --9/11/2003
2. On 9/11 Anniversary NBC Bashes Bush Team Over Air Quality Report
3. Reuters More Critical of Bush's "War on Terror" Than of
Hillary Clinton made the morning show rounds of ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN (but not FNC's Fox & Friends). On ABC, CBS and NBC, the junior Senator from New York received much gentler questioning than the pounding reserved for Pentagon representatives. ABC's Charles Gibson hammered Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz with the notion that "as far as we know [Iraq] had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack," while CBS's Hannah Storm suggested to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers that the Iraq war "derailed" the war on terror. But Storm "asked" Clinton: "You've fought so much for the heroes of 9/11...Has enough been done for the heroes, the people who fought so bravely on that day?"
If challenging Bush officials about the administration's anti-terror policies and war with Iraq was appropriate on the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks, then the network interviewers should have been just as willing to press Mrs. Clinton about how her husband's administration reacted to earlier terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda. Two new books out last week document the Clinton administration's lack of action.
Here's a rundown of the double standard in interviews on the three broadcast network morning shows on September 11: Tough questions for Bush administration representatives standing in the front of one terrorist target, the Pentagon, compared to soft, reflective sentences for Clinton, with the vista of Ground Zero behind her.
-- ABC's Good Morning America: MRC analyst Jessica Anderson found that ABC's Charles Gibson approached Senator Hillary Clinton with questions properly reflective of the day's somber tone. He began during the 7:30am half hour:
Gibson went on to pose two questions about plans for the Ground Zero memorial, and whether the Senator is concerned about tall buildings being built in that area.
Gibson concluded with the Illinois-born, Arkansas-bruised, and Washington-battling presidential spouse: "And I'm just curious, as a New Yorker and Senator and whatever, how are you feeling this day?"
Senator Charles Schumer is a native New Yorker. Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who was also born in Illinois but who worked on Wall Street for many years at Goldman Sachs, is more of a New Yorker than Clinton.
But in the first half hour, Gibson had no time for memories and niceties with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose Pentagon building had a plane explode into it. It was all hard-ball business. He began by asking if Iraq was an unnecessary diversion: "The President just the other night was saying Iraq is the central front in the 'War on Terror,' but this new tape shows that Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant continue to function. Are we focused on the wrong place?"
When Wolfowitz said no, Gibson protested: "But we have put our resources into Iraq, which as far as we know had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, while the men who are responsible are still at large." Then, Wolfowitz tried to suggest that this day should be for remembering the attacks on our country. Gibson suggested that was reserved for other interviews, and resumed pounding: "Well, indeed this is a day of looking forward as well as back, to some extent, and we will do that through the morning, but I do want to talk some about policy because the critics look at Iraq, Mr. Secretary, and they say to the extent that it is a front in the 'War on Terror,' it is the war itself that made it such, and that the war is proving to be a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda."
-- CBS's The Early Show: In the first half hour, MRC analyst Brian Boyd reported, co-host Hannah Storm was tough with General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he stood with the Pentagon behind him, Storm began with this odd introduction: "Two years after 9/11, America's war against terrorism has led to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But are we any closer to defeating the enemy?"
Maybe Storm missed the President's speech on Sunday night, where he said this about Iraq: "Since the end of major combat operations, we have conducted raids seizing many caches of enemy weapons and massive amounts of ammunition, and we have captured or killed hundreds of Saddam loyalists and terrorists. So far, of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders, 42 are dead or in custody."
Storm asked a balanced first question: "In the war on terrorism over the last two years, what do you consider to be the military's biggest success and where do you consider to be the military's biggest misstep?"
She then suggested it would be strange to insist that things in Iraq were going well: "Let me ask you about Iraq. There was another car bombing today targeting Americans, you know, soldiers are dying. Services have yet to be restored, but you're telling me that things are going according to plan, that you feel that postwar Iraq is a success, thus far? Is that what you're saying?"
She asked Myers about scenarios under which the Pentagon would favor sending more troops, and what would happen if no troops from other nations arrive. She concluded: "There are people even within the military though who contend that all the resources and the money and the troops that we have spent in Iraq have derailed the war on terrorism. Derailed your search for Osama bin Laden and your efforts to dismantle al-Qaeda. What's your response?"
But when Senator Clinton came on from above Ground Zero during the 8am half hour, CNN veteran Storm's focus was all soft and deferential: "Senator Hillary Clinton is at Ground Zero this morning to attend the September 11th anniversary ceremony. And she joins us now. Good morning, Senator Clinton...As a former First Lady and a Senator from this state which has suffered so terribly from those attacks, what are your personal reflections on this day?"
From there, Storm lurched into enthusiastic praise: "You've fought so much for the heroes of 9/11. You have sought money for firefighters, you've taken the EPA to task for toning down their report on air quality at Ground Zero. Has enough been done for the heroes, the people who fought so bravely on that day?"
Storm soon turned the conversation to Iraq, suggesting "a lot of people" are upset with the war: "Senator Clinton, you mention security and I want to talk about the news that's dominating the Senate right now, and that's Iraq. A lot of people feel the focus on the war in Iraq has not only derailed our own security and has hurt us economically, it's hurt our credibility on the world stage. Are we suffering a crisis of leadership in this country right now?" (Hillary answered coyly that she'd "be happy to come back and talk with you about that sometime in the future," but the day belongs to the victims and their families.)
Storm finished: "Let me ask you about a comment that Mayor Giuliani told us earlier this morning and he was noting that we had such great unity among the political leadership in our country two years ago, and that has been replaced by a divisiveness. He was wondering what that was a function of. Was it a function of the upcoming presidential election, or something else?"
-- NBC's Today: When Katie Couric took her turn with General Myers during the 7:30am half hour, she at least began by asking something about the anniversary: "What kind of a memorial service is planned for today?" She moved on to the new Osama tape, and estimates of his location in Pakistan, and then: "General Myers, of course the big question is, on this anniversary, why hasn't he been captured in two years?" Plus: "At the same time, clearly General, tapes like these are a rallying cry for Islamic fundamentalists worldwide, wouldn't the capture or death of Osama Bin Laden be an important symbolic step in the war against terrorism?"
Couric moved on to Iraq, and how it's allegedly mucked up the larger war: "Some experts say that resources have been diverted from finding Osama Bin Laden because of the war in Iraq. What's your reaction to that assessment?" Myers insisted "that's absolutely not true," and that "we have great resources" to fight in Iraq and continue to hunt for al-Qaeda. She also asked Myers to confirm a U.S. News & World Report account about "Task Force 11," which was tasked with finding bin Laden, being disbanded. He confirmed the story, but said the reorganization did not mean taking resources away from the effort.
Couric really put the accelerator on the negativity as she wrapped up: "Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq seems to be unraveling. More than 150 U.S. troops have been killed since the official end of combat on May 1st. As you know an average of a dozen attacks daily against U.S. soldiers, bombings at the Jordanian Embassy, at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, at that mosque in Najaf and yet Pentagon planners say the situation isn't as bad as it seems. How so?" Myers maintained there's been great progress in four months, with 55,000 trained Iraqis now in uniform and securing the country.
By contrast, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Couric began her Hillary interview without an icy, accusatory tone: "New York Senator Hillary Clinton will be participating in the ceremonies at Ground Zero. She joins us from there. Senator Clinton, good morning."
Her non-challenging questions which cued up Clinton's default spin: "Two years after September 11th, two years later how safe and secure do you think this country is?" And: "What do you think the major holes are if you had to assess them?"
For more on Couric's session with Senator Clinton, see item #2 below.
The second anniversary of terrorist acts of mass murder at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the attack that fizzled in Pennsylvania may be a somber occasion for most Americans. But this morning NBC saw it as a golden opportunity for politics.
To be specific, the new Hillary Clinton campaign to insinuate that the Environmental Protection Agency put the health of New Yorkers at risk by stating the air around Ground Zero wasn't hazardous enough to prevent everyday routines in the city from resuming. NBC also hectored current and former New York mayors on the issue this morning, and when they objected, co-hosts Matt Lauer and Katie Couric rebutted them.
But, as the Cato Institute's Steven Milloy asserted this week, in a point of view ignored by NBC: "There have been no credible reports that the ambient air quality near Ground Zero a week after the attacks, when the EPA made the statement, caused any significant, widespread or long-term harm to the public."
In her third question to Senator Clinton on the September 11 Today (see item #1 above for earlier questions), Katie Couric prompted Hillary to discuss her favorite recent subject:
Mrs. Clinton said she had "strong feelings" about the issue, but insisted that the two-year anniversary of the attacks should be reserved for commemoration, but then she opined anyway: "I think that issue about what kind of health considerations we should be taking for the people who were exposed and also to learn the lessons from 9-11 is one that I'm gonna keep focused on."
Couric, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, stuck to the question of post-attack health issues: "I know you were instrumental in gaining federal funding for Mount Sinai's World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program. And it offers medical screening and evaluation of, of those who were affected, I guess directly affected by September 11th. What kind of ongoing medical problems are experts seeing and how widespread are they?"
She then bit the EPA apple again: "Do you think Americans and New Yorkers were misled by the EPA?" Mrs. Clinton responded with another routine of express niceties followed by taking a political shot: "Well you know I'd be happy to talk to you about that at another time. I think today I want to keep the focus on where New York has come and how New Yorkers are faring. What else we need to do here to be prepared for the future. But it was the inspector general of the EPA itself which made the point that we weren't given the accurate information that, you know, as mature citizens we should have to make decisions about ourselves. And I'm gonna keep pushing this. As you know I put a hold on the nominee for the new EPA administrator until I do get answers and actions that I think the people of New York and frankly all Americans deserve."
NBC made a theme of the EPA controversy in its interviews. In a session with current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Couric inquired: "Just a week after September 11th the EPA issued a press release and it told New Yorkers that the air quality around Ground Zero was safe to breath. Now two years later, as you well know, a recent report issued by the inspector general states the EPA, at the urging of the White House, mislead the public about air quality in New York City following the attacks. What is your reaction to these latest allegations and do you think people should be worried about their health?"
When Bloomberg replied that "virtually all the reputable scientists say the air is certainly clear now and was in a few days after the terrible tragedy," Couric rebutted: "Well I don't know about that, if that in fact is the case. If the air was safe to breathe. Because now the EPA is saying perhaps, or government officials are saying a rosier picture was painted than was really the case."
Co-host Matt Lauer also trotted out this line with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani: "I do want to ask you about the days and weeks following September 11th. An inspector general's report from the EPA has come out recently saying that the White House may have changed some of the wording in press releases about air quality in and around Ground Zero in that time period. You stood down there with workers, many of whom had taken off their protective breathing masks because they were told the air quality was alright. If, if this inspector general's report is accurate you must be mad as heck?"
Giuliani said no, the EPA official isn't consistent with other reports: "The reports that we got from EPA which are now being reviewed were consistent with all the reports that we got from the state, and the city environmental agencies and the private ones that had been commissioned by the unions and the contractors that went down there."
Lauer retorted: "But if the inspector general of the EPA says now that those reports were based on insufficient evidence and data what does that tell you?" Giuliani replied: "You know, before this becomes a major political issue, which in a way it kind of has, somebody should look at the substance of it because those reports were pretty darn consistent as I recall it with maybe seven other agencies unconnected with the EPA."
This is not the first time that Today has focused on building Hillary's EPA/9-11 scandal. On the September 4 show, NBC reporter Lisa Myers reported a story featuring clips of an interview with EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley (whom, reporters fail to mention, was confirmed in the Clinton years.) The story did feature a brief reply from former EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman.
NBC fueled Senator Clinton's publicity efforts when they brought her aboard the August 28 show to expound on the subject. Lauer set her up: "On Close Up this morning Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lashes out at the Bush administration. The junior senator from New York is accusing the White House of misleading the public about the quality of air in New York City after the September 11th attacks two years ago and has called for Senate hearings into that matter."
Lauer helpfully read from her statements on the matter: "Here's what you said, 'Maybe after the first couple of days nobody could know, but a week later, two weeks later, two months later, six months later. Gimme a break. They knew,' meaning the EPA, 'and were going to tell us the truth and the White House told them not to tell us the truth.' Who in the White House?...You think the President was involved? Do you think he knew about this?"
He followed up with more of her language: "You, you say you're not gonna speculate. But you are alleging some kind of a cover-up. Here's what you said, 'I know a little bit about how White Houses work. I know somebody picked up a phone, somebody got on a computer, someone sent an email, somebody called for a meeting, somebody in that White House probably under instructions from someone further up the food chain, told the EPA, 'Don't tell the people of New York the truth.' And I want to know who that is.' Those are serious allegations."
It should be noted that Lauer also cited the Wall Street Journal editorial page's response, even though he called it "scathing" and described Clinton as a "victim" of conservative accusations: "It's early, I don't know if you've had a chance to see the Wall Street Journal this morning, but there's a scathing editorial about you in there....Well basically it's saying, here you're claiming some kind of cover-up in the White House when as First Lady you were the victim of, of similar accusations on a number of occasions. Let me read you a little bit of it: 'This of course comes from the same woman, who as First Lady, felt it understandable that her long subpoena records could suddenly materialize in a room right next to her White House study. We suppose Mrs. Clinton's explanations have to be taken on faith. So if the honorable junior senator from New York now wants to argue that she knows a cover-up when she sees it because she knows all about how these things work, who are we to argue?'"
NBC made no attempt in any of these segments to balance the scientific and political debate with conservative policy experts.
Just yesterday in the New York Post, Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, strongly disputed the Hillary complaint, writing:
Milloy also challenged the NBC assumption that somehow it's inappropriate for the White House to never exercise any influence over press releases from an executive branch agency: "The EPA chief reports directly to the President. To say that the White House can't influence, much less order, the EPA to take a particular course of action would be to elevate the agency to a separate branch of government, on a par with the president, Congress and Supreme Court. Moreover, in a time of national emergency, the White House should be directing the EPA. After all, this is an agency that spends most of its time chasing imaginary or infinitesimal health risks from the everyday environment. It's arguably not equipped to operate without supervision in an emergency."
For Milloy's September 10 New York Post column in full: www.nypost.com
They still won't call it terrorism. Two years after 9/11, the British news service Reuters continues its adversarial coverage of the U.S. government's reaction to the terrorist attacks even while its correspondents treat al-Qaeda as a perfectly legitimate -- and possibly blameless -- entity.
[Rich Noyes, the MRC's Director of Research, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
Referring to the terrorist attacks in a September 10 dispatch from Dubai, Reuters' Firouz Sedarat would only say that the 2001 attacks were "widely blamed" on al-Qaeda, as if there was still some dispute among experts.
In his story about the release of audio and video tapes purporting to show Osama bin Laden, Sederat reminded readers that "more than 2,800 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that were widely blamed on al-Qaeda and sparked the U.S. 'war on terror,'" using the now-standard Reuters' formula of placing quote marks around "war on terror."
Sederat also obliged al-Qaeda with a straight-forward, non-judgmental account of their threats to commit another mass murder. But in a Thursday story, another Reuters' reporter, Saul Hudson, filed a story from Tikrit that painted the Bush administration in a negative light, claiming that even "his soldiers...are skeptical of Bush's justifications for war."
Hudson quoted one soldier's complaint that "It's supposed to be all about beating back terrorism but we are seeing more terrorist attacks than before." Another charged that the war was "just about one thing -- oil."
An excerpt from the September 11 story filed from Iraq by Hudson:
To seize oil, destroy banned weapons or just kick Saddam Hussein's butt, the reasons why U.S. troops think their president sent them to war vary as much as public opinion back home.
But the one thing that motivates all the soldiers fighting in Iraq is payback for Sept. 11, 2001....
President Bush may have failed to convince most Americans of a link between al Qaeda and Iraq but his soldiers believe they are on the front line of the fight against terror even if they are skeptical of Bush's justifications for war. "We are the tip of the spear on the global war on terrorism," Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division headquartered in Tikrit, told about 150 soldiers at a Sept. 11 memorial service....
In Tikrit, where troops have run out of spray paint trying to hide all of the pro-Saddam graffiti, soldiers marked the day America's vulnerability was exposed by tripling the number of patrols for fear of an attack on such a symbolic date.
Sergeant Roger Garcia said the war was about a U.S. "show of force" after September 11 but that he was worried the revenge strategy had backfired.
"It's supposed to be all about beating back terrorism but we are seeing more terrorist attacks than before," said Garcia, who is married with two children.
"On a day like this, you want to be with your family because while we're all over here you wonder about security back home and how safe they are."
....Bush's main justification for war was to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But five months after toppling Saddam, the U.S. military has failed turn up nuclear, biological or chemical arms.
Bush has shifted to emphasizing the goal of "freeing" the Iraqi people but has come under increasing criticism because of the rising numbers of U.S. soldiers dying in Iraq. Almost 70 soldiers have been killed in hostile fire since the official end of major combat in Iraq on May 1. U.S. forces there come under attack almost every day.
Most troops say they are proud of ridding Iraq of a brutal dictator, but they complain the president has unnecessarily extended their deployments to rebuild the oil-rich nation.
Specialist Matt Drish remembers how a rallying speech his president gave in January at his home base heightened the soldiers' concern. But now he calls the alleged banned arms "weapons of mass distraction."
"They haven't found none, so I think this war's about just one thing -- oil," Drish said.
END of Excerpt
For Hudson's report, from Dubai, in full: www.reuters.com
In contrast, the September 10 dispatch by Sedarat included no critical comments about al-Qaeda or its leaders, but merely recounted their anti-American rantings. An excerpt:
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged Iraqi fighters to kill Americans and turn Iraq into their graveyard in an audio tape aired by Al Jazeera Arabic television Wednesday.
"To our struggling brothers in Iraq: we pray to God to be on your side in fighting the crusaders ... Rely on God and devour the Americans as lions do and bury them in the graveyard of Iraq," said the voice, which sounded like that of Zawahri.
Al Jazeera also aired what it said was new footage of al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and his top aide Zawahri.
A voice said to be bin Laden's, in a separate audio tape, praised the suicide hijackers who flew planes into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington two years ago Thursday.
"Whoever wants to be taught about loyalty and honesty should have known them (the attackers)...They were the most honest and the bravest," he said....
No new video pictures of bin Laden have been seen for many months, though al Qaeda has issued several audio messages over the last year.
More than 2,800 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that were widely blamed on al Qaeda and sparked the U.S. "war on terror."
END of Excerpt
The entire story can be read at: www.reuters.com
Shortly after the attack on the Pentagon and the destruction of the World Trade Center, Reuters' global head of news Stephen Jukes rejected referring to the attackers as "terrorists," even though the wire service had used the term without reservation after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
"We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist," Jukes told his staff in an internal memo cited by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in a September 24, 2001 story. "To be frank, it adds little to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack," added Jukes.
For details: www.mrc.org