NBC: Craig a 'Conservative Crisis,' Another 'Right Wing' Scandal --8/29/2007
2. CBS: 'Craig Scandal' Exhibits How 'GOP Is Already Under a Cloud'
3. Poverty Falls, CBS Stresses Rise in Number Sans Health Insurance
4. Newsweek: Best to Bill Clinton, Reno; Worst to Lynne Cheney
Interviewing Joe Scarborough, NBC's Curry also listed scandals involving those linked to conservatives as if to blame the movement itself for the GOP's troubles: "First it's been a rough year for the right. Let's list them. Congressman Mark Foley, conservative pastor Ted Haggard, Senator David Vitter. All involved in scandals, accusing them of inappropriate conduct. So the question's gotta be asked, why do these kinds of scandals seem to be following Republicans, lately?"
In fact, the Today team couldn't contain their glee in casting this story as a problem for the conservative movement as it applied the terms "conservative" or "right wing" to it's coverage of Craig, a whopping seven times, within the first nine minutes of the show.
After Scarborough delivered tough comments on the GOP, Curry felt compelled to "remind people you are a Republican. You are a former Republican Congressman, so those are very strong words and opinion from you." Scarborough conceded: "Always good to remind my Republican friends, that yes I am a Republican. Doesn't sound like it."
The Dickens post includes audio/video highlights, rendered by Ken Shepherd, of Today's generalizations about conservatives and the right wing. The audio/video will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert.
A complete transcript of Lauer and Curry's teasers, followed by Bob Faw's report, along with Curry's interview of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough as they occurred on the August 28 edition of Today:
Matt Lauer: "Good morning, politician in peril. Idaho Senator Larry Craig, an opponent of gay rights, admits pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after a police officer accused him of soliciting sex in an airport men's room. Can the right-wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?"
Ann Curry: "What a shocker! Idaho Senator Larry Craig's political future is in some serious doubt this morning."
Lauer: "But first the arrest of Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, says that Craig was arrested in June at the Minneapolis airport after a plain-clothed officer noticed him peering into his stall, then putting his foot and hand underneath the divider, supposedly a sign that he wanted to engage in lewd conduct. Now last year a gay activist Web site publicly claimed Craig is a homosexual. His office denied it. So is the gay-rights opponent living a double-life or is he just the victim of a big misunderstanding. Here's NBC's Bob Faw."
[On screen headline: "Conservative Crisis, 'Lewd Behavior' Plea for Senator."]
Bob Faw: "Craig, a conservative Republican said in a statement issued late Monday, that he did nothing inappropriate and that quote, 'in hindsight, I should not have pled guilty,' to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for alleged lewd behavior, observed by an undercover policeman in a public restroom at a Minneapolis airport in June. While Craig, who last year denied he was homosexual, says airport police quote, 'were misconstruing my actions,' his defense might prove somewhat, unpersuasive, back in conservative Idaho."
Ann Curry: "Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough is the host of Morning Joe on MSNBC. Joe, good morning."
Tuesday's Good Morning America used the arrest of Senator Larry Craig in a men's bathroom as an excuse to again herald the end of the Republican Party. Guest co-host Bill Weir teased a story on the Idaho legislator by wondering, "Is the GOP losing its grip?" Reporter David Kerley saw this as a case of Republican hypocrisy. He pointedly observed that "Craig is a conservative who lists among his goals to defend and strengthen the traditional values of the American family."
In early summer, the ABC morning show found another reason to predict doom for the GOP. Co-host Chris Cuomo, introduced a June 25 story on new polling data by claiming that the Republican candidates were "hitting some serious bumps in the road." He then ominously added, "So now the question is, can any of them beat the eventual Democratic nominee?"
Following David Kerley's August 28 piece on Senator Craig, This Week host George Stephanopoulos briefly discussed the issue with guest GMA co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas. At one point, Stephanopoulos appeared to find the whole situation amusing. Vargas asked the former Clinton aide why Craig pled guilty. Stephanopoulos responded with a laugh: "Uh, that was a big mistake, I guess. [Laughs] I think, the evidence, if you read the police report, and we're not going to go into the details of a police report, it does seem like he was engaging in some kind of solicitation."
7am tease from Bill Weir: "This morning, back-to-back bombshells. First the attorney general's surprise resignation and now a Senator's stunning guilty plea after being accused of lewd behavior. Is the GOP losing its grip?"
7:02am, Bill Weir: "But first, let's get right to our top stories this Tuesday. Another high-profile resignation and another congressman stung by a sex scandal. Our correspondents are live in Washington covering all the angles on these two political bombshells, but we begin with ABC's David Kerley on Capitol Hill. David, good morning."
David Kerley: "Good morning, Bill. Idaho senior senator says police got it wrong and he made a mistake pleading guilty. But the allegations by a police officer are disturbing. And if this case grows, it could impact the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. He's a three-term senator, a member of the singing senators. But just three weeks ago, Larry Craig pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, charges that came out of an investigation into lewd behavior in a Minneapolis airport men's bathroom. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, an undercover police officer, investigating complaints of sexual activity, says the senator, in a stall next to him, tapped his foot, a signal, the policeman says, used by those, quote, 'wishing to engage in lewd contact.' And then the senator reportedly further signaled by swiping his hand under the divider. Senator Craig was arrested. He told police that, quote, 'They were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.' But his court documents show a guilty plea was entered at the county courthouse August 8. Craig was told to may more than $1,500 in fines and fees and placed on one-year unsupervised probation. This morning, in a statement on his website, Craig says he shouldn't have pled guilty and should have hired an attorney. Trouble for a senator facing re-election next year."
7:10am, Elizabeth Vargas: "In the meantime, we heard from David Kerley's reporting that Senator Craig of Iadaho said he made a mistake charges in which police suggest lewd behavior in an airport bathroom. Why then did he plead guilty?"
Unlike the morning shows which exploited the arrest of Republican Senator Larry Craig, on charges stemming from alleged lewd conduct in an airport men's room, as a chance to tar the "right wing," "conservatives" and the "GOP," with the notable exception of CBS, the broadcast network evening shows -- which all led Tuesday night with Craig -- refrained from using the matter to malign Republicans or conservatives. ABC and NBC kept the story to Craig himself as ABC's World News framed the story around the on-screen heading: "Defiant Senator." The NBC Nightly News keyed its coverage to how "Senator Craig Speaks."
In contrast, the CBS Evening News saw a "scandal," with "Craig Scandal" as the on-screen title. Katie Couric teased: "Tonight, Senator Larry Craig caught in a sex sting says the only thing he did wrong was plead guilty." She led by declaring "the story exploded on front pages all over America today: Another member of Congress caught up in a scandal, a sex scandal. Republican Senator Larry Craig caught in a police sting at the Minneapolis airport." In the subsequent story, reporter Sharyl Attkisson highlighted how "the GOP is already under a cloud with FBI investigations of Congressmen Rick Renzi, John Doolittle, Don Young, and Senator Ted Stevens." Stuart Rothenberg, of the Rothenberg Political Report, then helpfully explained: "The Republican brand at the moment is very weak. And what this does, this adds to the buzz about Republicans and what do Republicans believe, and are Republicans hypocrites."
[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
(As recounted in #1 above, Tuesday morning NBC's Today show put "Conservative Crisis, 'Lewd Behavior' Plea for Senator," on screen and Matt Lauer opened by asking his viewers: "Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?" Ann Curry listed scandals involving those linked to conservatives: "First it's been a rough year for the right. Let's list them. Congressman Mark Foley, conservative pastor Ted Haggard, Senator David Vitter. All involved in scandals, accusing them of inappropriate conduct. So the question's gotta be asked, why do these kinds of scandals seem to be following Republicans, lately?" ABC's Bill Weir teased at the top of Good Morning America: "Is the GOP losing its grip?")
A rundown of how the Tuesday, August 28 ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts teased and introduced their lead stories:
# CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC's TEASE, WITH "CRAIG SCANDAL" ON SCREEN: I'm Katie Couric. Tonight, Senator Larry Craig caught in a sex sting says the only thing he did wrong was plead guilty.
COURIC, WITH "CRAIG SCANDAL" ON SCREEN: Hello, everyone. The story exploded on front pages all over America today: Another member of Congress caught up in a scandal, a sex scandal. Republican Senator Larry Craig caught in a police sting at the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct but now, on second thought, he says his conduct was just fine. In any case, fellow Republicans are calling for an investigation. We caution you, there are graphic details in this report from Sharyl Attkisson....
ATTKISSON: The GOP is already under a cloud with FBI investigations of Congressmen Rick Renzi, John Doolittle, Don Young, and Senator Ted Stevens.
FILL-IN ANCHOR KATE SNOW's TEASE: Welcome to World News. Tonight, a defiant denial. The Senator arrested in an airport restroom says he is not gay and his only mistake was pleading guilty.
SNOW, WITH "DEFIANT SENATOR" ON SCREEN: Good evening. A Republican Senator is fighting to save his political career and personal reputation, tonight. Police records have surfaced revealing Senator Larry Craig of Idaho was arrested by an undercover officer for soliciting sex. A short while ago, Craig was adamant about a news conference denying the accusations. He says the only thing he did wrong was to plead guilty in the hopes the incident would go away. It has not. ABC's David Kerley joins us from Washington....
BRIAN WILLIAMS' TEASE: Speaking out. Tonight Senator Larry Craig is defiant.
WILLIAMS, WITH "SENATOR CRAIG SPEAKS" ON SCREEN: We begin this evening with a drama that is the talk of the nation's capital and the talk of the state of Idaho tonight. It is the story of a Republican United States Senator, arrested for an alleged sexual advance to an undercover police officer in an airport men's room in Minneapolis. But despite pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, a plea Senator Larry Craig says he should now not have made, the Senator loudly and publicly claimed today he is not gay. Our NBC News senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, has been following this story for us...
The Census Bureau announced a drop in the poverty rate, but NBC and, especially CBS, on Tuesday night managed to turn the good news into bad by emphasizing an increase in the number of Americans without health insurance while ABC, in contrast, portrayed the decrease in poverty as good news. "A bright spot of economic news today," fill-in ABC anchor Kate Snow announced, "the percentage of Americans living in poverty dropped last year" by "three-tenths of a percent from the year before." Reporter Barbara Pinto actually acknowledged some positive trends during the Bush years, pointing to how "in the past four years, the country has added nearly 7 million jobs. And in those four years, the average household income has risen about $700." Pinto didn't ignore liberal class-warfare arguments, but after a left-winger asserted "there's very little that trickles down to those at the bottom," Pinto countered: "Obviously, some of that growth is trickling down."
Though the AP headlined its story, "U.S. poverty rate declines significantly," NBC anchor Brian Williams reported it dropped "a bit" and CBS anchor Katie Couric relayed how "the poverty rate is down slightly." And while most of those in poverty manage to have many comforts of life, from good-sized homes to cars, Couric insisted poverty level income is "hardly enough for food and housing, much less other items like health insurance." Wyatt Andrews devoted a full story to "the highest number of uninsured Americans in 20 years: 47 million without health insurance." Andrews failed to note that 16 million of the uninsured are illegals or on Medicaid while most people are uninsured for only short periods.
The AP dispatch as posted by Yahoo: news.yahoo.com
Brian Williams read this short item on the August 28 NBC Nightly News: "There's news on the economy tonight. The percentage of Americans living in poverty dropped a bit last year to 12.3 percent from 12.6 percent of the population the year before. But there was bad news on this front as well. The number of Americans without health insurance has gone up from nearly 45 million in 2005 to 47 million Americans last year."
[This item was posted Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, in an August 27 report, "How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the 'Plague' of Poverty in America," put the poverty numbers in perspective:
Most of America's "poor" live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago. Today, the expenditures per person of the lowest-income one-fifth (or quintile) of house-holds equal those of the median American household in the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation.
The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
- Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
- Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Only 6 percent of poor households are over-crowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
- The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
- Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
- Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
- Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
- Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
For the report in full: www.heritage.org
An August 28 Heritage press release outlined how the 47 million uninsured statistic exaggerates the problem:
# Analysis of data from earlier Census Bureau and other government reports shows that roughly 7 million are illegal immigrants; roughly 9 million are persons on Medicaid; 3.5 million are persons already eligible for government health programs; and approximately 20 million have, or live, in families with incomes greater than twice the federal poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four.
# Most of the uninsured are in and out of health coverage. The professional literature also shows that, overwhelmingly, the vast majority of the uninsured are persons who are in and out of coverage, largely as a result of job changes. Only a small number of the uninsured are chronically uninsured. For most of the uninsured, the problem is fixable if policymakers simply take steps to make health insurance portable, so the insurance policy sticks to the person, not the job.
# Current Federal Tax Policy Fuels Uninsurance. A substantial portion of uninsured Americans are not poor but rather middle-class working Americans who are forced to face a major tax penalty, resulting in premium increases of 40 to 50 percent, if they do not obtain health insurance through the place of work. For millions of Americans without job based health insurance, both the tax policy, and the excessive regulatory burden on health insurance in the states, prices families out of coverage. Current federal tax policy then unnecessarily drives millions into the ranks of the uninsured.
For the entire press release: www.heritage.org
A transcript of the August 28 CBS Evening News story:
KATIE COURIC: Here at home, mixed economic news tonight. For the first time in six years, the poverty rate is down slightly. In 2006, 12.3 percent of Americans lived in poverty, down from 12.6 percent in 2005. Poverty level income for a family of four is $20,400 a year, hardly enough for food and housing, much less other items like health insurance. And as Wyatt Andrews reports, more people are going without.
WYATT ANDREWS: It's the highest number of uninsured Americans in 20 years: 47 million without health insurance and dozens of them come in every day to the free clinic in Arlington, Virginia. For house cleaner Mariah Carvealio, who makes $8,000 a year, the clinic is her only option. What if this clinic did not exist?
The more upbeat take on ABC's World News:
ANCHOR KATE SNOW: A bright spot of economic news today that's been years in the making. The percentage of Americans living in poverty, dropped last year of 12.3 percent, a drop of three-tenths of a percent from the year before. A total of 36.5 million Americans were living below the poverty line in 2006. It's the first significant decline this decade. Here's ABC's Barbara Pinto.
BARBARA PINTO: The reason for today's good news is, in a word, jobs.
In their September 3 editions, both Time and Newsweek magazines offered a Fall Preview to the new season in books, TV, music, and movies, but only Newsweek turned its art criticism into a crudely partisan exercise. In a "First to Worst" preview, Newsweek gave its "Last & Least" stink-bomb to the new memoir by Lynne Cheney, "conservative icon (and VP spouse)," for being "Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Dr. Laura," while the magazine lauded Bill Clinton's new book: "This book-length sermon is all heart." To add insult to injury, Newsweek even gave one of its best-of-autumn honors to a new CD organized by Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno. This is not a 'Saturday Night Live' joke.
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
On the books page, graced by a photo of Bill Clinton reflecting deeply on a sunny African vista with his hands in his pockets, Mrs. Cheney took a beating:
That seems like quite an indictment from snooty New York-based book critics. It's one thing to be a liberal and dislike Dr. Laura's tough-love radio show, but to go so far as to diss Little House on the Prairie? That's telling most of the country they're yokels for ever reading about the Ingalls clan. But to Newsweek, the height of nonfiction achievement comes from their favorite humble idealist, our last President:
The only other nonfiction honor is the last book by the late liberal author David Halberstam indicting Washington war-makers for how they handled the Korean War.
From the music page, here's the Newsweek paragraph touting Janet Reno's "edifying Dance Party," as USA Today put it when the project was first announced in 2005:
This CD might be an interesting compilation, but pitching Reno as a musical mastermind is definitely a liberal stretch.
-- Brent Baker