2. NY Times Not So Eager to Report Adultery Charges Against Clinton
3. ABC Spikes Michelle Obama's Gaffe, Then Declares It Unimportant
4. ABC's David Wright: Obama Rallies Like Springsteen Concerts
5. Letterman's 'Top Ten Reasons Fidel Castro is Retiring'
MSNBC was so excited about a Thursday New York Times story with a derogatory look at Republican presidential nominee John McCain's supposed relationship with a female lobbyist eight years ago, that the network broke into the 7 PM EST re-run of Hardball to read from the Web-posting of the article which Keith Olbermann described as "extraordinary" before he insisted the quoted efforts of staffers to "protect" McCain sound "eerily similar" to Clinton-Lewinsky. Later in his 45 minutes of "Breaking News" coverage, Olbermann proposed: "If this doesn't sound like deja vu all over again, I don't know what does."
CNN avoided such extended coverage as its 8 PM EST CNN Election Center stuck to other campaign news, though Anderson Cooper led at 10 PM EST with McCain's denials about any romance with a lobbyist: "Tonight the McCain campaign is slamming a potentially incendiary story and the New York Times for writing it. Does the timing of the story add up to a hit job? Is the subject, ethics and rumored infidelity, fair game?"
FNC's Hannity & Colmes began with an exclusive with attorney Bob Bennett, retained by McCain, who denounced the New York Times story as "a smear job."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
At about 7:45 PM EST, Olbermann broke in on MSNBC to announce "Breaking News," specifically:
We interrupt Hardball to tell you that the New York Times is reporting on its Web site tonight that top advisors to Senator John McCain have, quote, "intervened to protect the candidate from himself," unquote, to keep a 40-year-old Washington lobbyist named Vicki Iseman away from Senator McCain because, in the words of the Times correspondents, they became quote "convinced the relationship had become romantic." The Times says both Ms. Iseman and Senator McCain deny there is any kind of romantic relationship.
What exactly the relationship is between the 71-year-old McCain and 40-year-old lobbyist who's representative of several firms whose business has come before the Senate is unclear at this point, but the Times has broken in onto its Web site with this extraordinary story that reeks of so many in American history the day after Senator McCain won the Wisconsin primary....
Though McCain and Vicki Iseman denied any romantic involvement and the article centered on events eight years ago, over the next 45 minutes Olbermann discussed the story with NBC News reporter Kelly O'Donnell, Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Pat Buchanan and NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Then, a bit past 8:30 PM EST, Olbermann picked up with his regular Countdown show. But at 9 PM EST, Dan Abrams returned to McCain as his lead item.
Just after 8 PM EST, Olbermann ruminated with Wolffe:
OLBERMANN: The phrase here, "protect the candidate from himself." "Intervene." This sounds, this sounds eerily familiar. We harkened back to the efforts from members of President Clinton's staff to try to keep Monica Lewinsky away from him ten years ago or more. Those are eerily similar uses of the language, are they not?
The AP reported Wednesday night: "Republican presidential hopeful John McCain issued a statement Wednesday night saying he 'will not allow a smear campaign' to distract from his campaign as published reports questioned his relationship with a lobbyist." See: news.yahoo.com
An excerpt from the top of "For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk," the New York Times story by Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick and Stephen Labaton:
WASHINGTON -- Early in Senator John McCain's first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client's corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself '€" instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist's client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity....
END of Excerpt
For the entire story: www.nytimes.com
So the New York Times has released a story by a four-person investigative team alleging a potentially inappropriate relationship between Sen. John McCain, the apparent GOP nominee for president, and a lobbyist named Vicki Iseman, three decades his junior. There is no proof of an inappropriate romantic or sexual relationship, merely suspicions by staff members now said to be disgruntled. So why is the Times biting on this story? A look back at a few Clinton sex scandals suggests a different standard for Republicans and Democrats.
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
# When Arkansas state troopers told The American Spectator and the Los Angeles Times in 1993 they secured sexual conquests for Gov. Bill Clinton, the MRC found:
As in the Gennifer Flowers case, the Times initially buried Clinton's sex scandal in small wire stories on the back pages. Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple proclaimed "The New York Times is not a supermarket tabloid." But the Times ran a front-page Maureen Dowd story the day before the release of Kitty Kelley's book -- without any of Kelley's critics, or any attempt to prove Kelley's allegations [that Nancy Reagan had an affair with Frank Sinatra]. The Times also ran a 1991 Fox Butterfield article which revealed the name of William Kennedy Smith's accuser and described her "wild streak," her fondness for drinking, and her speeding tickets.
# In 1999, when Juanita Broaddrick came forward to charge Bill Clinton with sexual assault in a Little Rock hotel when he was attorney general of Arkansas, once again, the Times tried to be last and least:
The newspaper that published Kitty Kelley's allegations about Nancy Reagan's sex life on page one also touched the Broaddrick story as a media critique, lamenting that "smaller outlets on the Internet and cable television" are "overwhelming the slower and more sober judgments of mainstream news organizations." The Times followed up with a short mention from White House reporter James Bennet and a few TV articles from reporter Lawrie Mifflin.
ABC's World News, which on Tuesday skipped Michelle Obama's comment that "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country," on Wednesday finally got to it, but only minimally as George Stephanopoulos praised her "good damage control" and declared: "I don't think it's going to be a huge deal." Hard for it to become "a huge deal" when a broadcast network's most-watched news program doesn't bother to report it. On Wednesday, the World News campaign stories again ignored the remark and the newscast only arrived on the story in anchor Charles Gibson's last question to Stephanopoulos.
Gibson played the comment, then explained: "Now she said today what she was talking about, or meant to say, was that she was proud of how many people are now taking part in the political process. Is this a big deal? Is it a tempest in a teapot?" Stephanopoulos was pleased by her explanation: "Ah, well that was good damage control by Michelle Obama." He acknowledged "her first comment was a mistake," but "as long as this isn't repeated, as long as they don't dig the hole deeper -- she did start to dig out today -- I don't think it's going to be a huge deal."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted early Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The February 20 CyberAlert article, "Burden on Cindy McCain Over Michelle Obama's Lack of Pride in U.S.," recounted:
Michelle Obama proclaimed that "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country," but instead of putting the burden on the Obama campaign to defend her admission of a lack of pride in her nation, NBC on Tuesday night framed its coverage around Cindy McCain's "rhetoric" in issuing a "political jab" over the remark and concern over whether that "was a knock at Michelle Obama?" But at least NBC highlighted the comment from Monday. ABC's World News didn't utter a word about it while CBS's Jim Axelrod pointed out how the Obama "campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot."
For that CyberAlert item in full: www.mrc.org
ABC did mention the remark the next morning, on Wednesday's Good Morning America, the MRC's Scott Whitlock informed me. From a story by Jake Tapper:
JAKE TAPPER: Their wives are in a preview of that fight. Fodder was provided by Michelle Obama.
Wednesday's NBC Nightly News followed-up with Michelle Obama's clarification:
LEE COWAN: Today she was defending herself after a remark she made over the weekend that caused a stir, even among some liberals.
The Gibson-Stephanopoulos exchange on the Wednesday, February 20 World News on ABC, the newscast's first mention of Michelle Obama's lack of pride in her country:
CHARLES GIBSON: One other thing I want to raise: Michelle Obama said something on Monday -- the Clinton campaign trying to jump on every potential mistake that the Obama campaign makes -- Michelle Obama said something on Monday that they are talking a lot about Let's take a look.
The reporters at ABC's Nightline continued to outdo themselves in their glowing adoration for Senator Barack Obama. Correspondent David Wright, filing a story on Tuesday about the swelling crowds at the Democratic presidential contender's rallies, advised viewers to think of the events as "Springsteen concerts, but the tickets are free." Describing those who waited outside in the cold for such a rally, he bubbled, "...Everyone waited patiently, because inside...they felt the warm glow of hope." Wright even wondered if the candidate can "redeem politics from mere partisanship."
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Descending to a level of fawning that's usually reserved for the subjects featured in Tiger Beat or on Entertainment Tonight, Wright created a religious metaphor: "Obama's true believers respond as though they've spent their whole lives out in the cold." Continuing the analogy, the ABC journalist exclaimed: "Politics doesn't even begin to describe it. A visit to an Obama rally is a pilgrimage."
Wright appeared to deride anyone who refused to jump on the Obama bandwagon as thoroughly uncool, as the type of person who wouldn't understand Frank Sinatra or the Beatles. "To them, the crowds around Obama are as baffling as the bobby soxers once were, screaming for Frankie while their parents worried," he explained.
Wright did feature L.A. Times columnist Joel Stein to provide some sarcasm about the cult of Obama. According to Stein, "It's kind of like being 13 and seeing Shawn Cassidy and we're all just on board. We're on board the Scott Baio train. So, we're not embarrassed when we get together."
But, clearly, Wright should be included in the throngs of glowing supporters. He closed the segment with what must be described as one of the most over-the-top statements in the history of Nightline. According to Wright, the senator's supporters are hoping that "Obama can redeem politics from mere partisanship. Black people hoping he can finally achieve Martin Luther King's dream. White people hoping he can redeem America from the sins of slavery and segregation." Admitting that Obama is not all powerful, he concluded, "It is hard to see how any politician, a mere human, can achieve all that..."
In a previous example of fawning over Obama, Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran described the senator as someone who makes "connections" and overcomes divisions. See the January 31 CyberAlert for more: www.mrc.org
A partial transcript of the February 19 Nightline segment:
TERRY MORAN: Well, that's Barack Obama's response to efforts by Hillary Clinton and, increasingly, by John McCain to turn his rhetorical skills into a weakness, but there's no denying his soaring oratory has helped him build a massive and fervent following unlike anything we have seen in politics for a while. And David Wright is with the Obama campaign in Texas tonight. David?
From the February 19 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Reasons Fidel Castro is Retiring." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. He has accepted the role of Dr. Ramon Vazquez on "General Hospital"
9. Achieved his goal of getting Cuba's unemployment rate under 83%
8. Wants to spend more time interrogating his family
7. Just got Season One of "Gilmore Girls"
6. Caught injecting human growth hormone into his wife, Debbie Castro
5. Too many tacos
4. He was adopted by Angelina Jolie -- honestly, how crazy would that be?
3. Always promised himself he'd quit torturing when it stopped being fun
2. Jane Fonda called him a blank
1. 49 years at the same job? Who am I, Letterman?
-- Brent Baker