NBC Features Workers Demanding Social Security Not Be Touched --2/27/2004
GMA Showcases 50-Somethings Pleading for Maximum Payouts
3. Rooney Jokes About Crucifixion, Belittles Religion in General
4. Time of Jesus "Not Unlike" the "Imperial Occupation" Now of Iraq
5. Sawyer Gives O'Donnell Platform to Denounce Bush as "Vile"
6. Matt Lauer Prods and Pushes Tim Robbins to Castigate Bush
7. FNC Picks Up on Misleading CBS Take on Repubs "Furious" at Bush
8. "Top Ten Things Heard Outside the New Mel Gibson Movie"
Simplistic Stories on Social Security, first of two items. The night after the NBC Nightly News distorted Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's remarks on how Social Security cost of living hikes and the retirement age must be adjusted in order to shore up the program, by targeting Bush's tax cuts as the problem when Greenspan specifically said he favored making them permanent, the future anchor of the show, Brian Williams, delivered a story which assumed the Social Security program was threatened, when Greenspan merely suggested slight decreases in the rate of growth, and featured people demanding that the program not be touched.
Williams highlighted a woman who "worries about getting back all the Social Security money she paid in." The woman maintained: "I am entitled to the money. It's my money. I've saved it."
Williams, naturally, never explained that the woman's money over the years has gone to retirees and she's expecting future workers to pay for her.
Thursday's CyberAlert explained how Greenspan told a House committee on Wednesday that the soon-to-be soaring number of retiring baby boomers will require that Social Security costs be reduced by slowing cost of living hikes and/or by raising the retirement age, but though Greenspan specifically said he favors making the Bush tax cuts permanent and strongly urged budget cuts over tax hikes to reduce the deficit, the NBC Nightly News distorted Greenspan's testimony and targeted the Bush tax cuts, which they bizarrely labeled "Bush's spending," for blame. Without mentioning actual spending, Tom Brokaw listed as a problem the "big tax cuts the President is determined to make permanent." David Gregory pointed to how "the President also wants to make his tax cuts permanent at an estimated cost of nearly $2 trillion over the next ten years." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Williams, over video of front of school with a blue flag over the door displaying "WSMS": "Inside this small, private elementary school in Manhattan, Mimi Basso came to work this morning thinking about retirement. She has no plans to retire, but these days, worries about getting back all the Social Security money she paid in."
Simplistic Stories on Social Security, second of two items. Experts have been warning for decades that the current financing of the Social Security system would not be able to sustain the current rate of benefits when Baby Boomers begin retiring in a few years, but ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday greeted Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's realistic suggestion of reducing the growth of benefits as cruel promise-breaking.
[The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this article for CyberAlert.]
Instead of asking a balanced panel of liberals and conservatives to debate various ways to solve the widely-acknowledged problem, ABC chose to publicize the pleadings of a handful of fifty-something workers, all of whom predictably demanded the maximum benefits without regard to who might have to pay for them.
"I think what Mr. Greenspan is proposing is ridiculous. People work their whole lives and look forward to retiring, not to stay at their job for the rest of their life," one woman whined.
"I certainly hope that there isn't any changes -- at least not until I get to retire," another woman selfishly admitted.
ABC did nothing to disabuse viewers of the commonly-held myth that their Social Security checks are merely the return of a lifetime of "investing" in some sort of savings account or guaranteed insurance program. In fact, the money sent to retirees each month is taken out of current workers' paychecks, and the number of people collecting benefits is growing faster than the number of workers forced to pay into the system.
The segment, which MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, began with co-host Diane Sawyer briefly outlining what Greenspan said before a House committee on Wednesday and then announcing that it would be "interesting to ask some people at or near retirement to make their case to you about why the retirement age should not be raised."
It would have been nice to have heard one twenty-something worker complain about being taxed to fulfill the unrealistic promises of liberal politicians who have long since left office and are no longer accountable for the mess they've made.
Sawyer began: "Well, another political bombshell out there. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan threw the hand grenade into the presidential race when he told Congress it's time to get serious about, among other things, raising the retirement age for Social Security. In a nutshell, he said, there are so many aging Baby Boomers that they're going to bankrupt the system if something isn't done. President Bush has said benefits shouldn't be changed for people at or near retirement, but we thought it might be interesting to ask some people at or near retirement to make their case to you about why the retirement age should not be raised."
One after another, in a series of video clips, the workers all insisted on getting every penny they think they are due:
-- Rosemary Grotto: "My name is Rosemary Grotto. I'm 53 years old and I'm a school secretary for the Department of Education. I think what Mr. Greenspan is proposing is ridiculous. People work their whole lives and look forward to retiring, not to stay at their job for the rest of their life."
-- Susan Simone: "My name is Susan Simone. I'm 54 years of age. I'm employed in the room service department of a boutique hotel. This is something that was promised to us, this is something I paid into. We're not people that have been waiting for somebody to take care of us."
-- Joyce Ann Eager: "My name is Joyce Ann Eager. I'm 51 years old. I work in the development office of a parochial high school. When I heard the news, I was frightened."
-- Rob Green: "My name is Rob Green. I live in Glen Ellen, Illinois. I'm 53 years old. The consequences of the Alan Greenspan proposal will be detriment to my retirement."
-- Nancy Healey: "I'm Nancy Healey and I'm 55 years old, and I've been a school bus driver for 27 years. I certainly hope that there isn't any changes, at least not until I get to retire."
-- Green: "As a generation of the '50s, we're the ones that have been saving out monies in our 401(k)s, we've been doing all the right things, and now because there is an extraordinary deficit we are being threatened, almost, with having our retirement benefits cut."
-- Eager: "My biggest fear is what will there be when I've reach the point where I need to have that Social Security benefit?"
-- Simone: "Where do people in the government expect a 65-year-old woman to go and seek employment?"
-- Healey: "I certainly don't think that anybody needs to be driving a school bus when they're in their 70s, and I definitely don't plan on being behind a steering wheel then either."
Sawyer concluded by transmitting the liberal claim that rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthy would cure everything, though the level of revenue involves hardly covers the projected demands for Social Security payouts: "Some thoughts from around the country. Others who weighed in yesterday, of course, the presidential candidates. Democrat John Edwards said the answer is not to cut benefits, but to ban that tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, to revoke it. And according to one liberal think tank, Social Security crisis would be eased if you rolled back the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $293,000 a year, if you rolled 'em all back -- one crisis eased by that."
At least Sawyer managed to apply the "liberal" label.
Four days after he used his 60 Minutes platform to denigrate Mel Gibson as a "wacko" and a "nut case," Andy Rooney showed up Thursday on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning and further insulted Christian believers as he belittled Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, and religious believers in general. Asked if he'd seen the movie which portrays the crucifixion of Jesus, Rooney derogatorily quipped: "I don't want to pay nine dollars just for a few laughs."
He declared the movie "indefensible" on an intellectual basis and dismissed religion in general: "I think the real legitimate question about religion is whether or not it can be a force for good, even though it can't be defended, you know, historically, logically, or scientifically."
Asked about gay marriage, Rooney admitted he's in a bit of a conundrum and is "ambivalent" since he's basically against it, but "all the people who oppose gay marriage stand for everything I dislike."
As recounted in the February 24 CyberAlert, on the February 22 60 Minutes, Rooney lashed out, doing some name-calling, in the name of God, against Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson. Claiming to be relaying what God wanted him to say after Rooney had a conversation with him, Rooney passed along how God delivered insults as he said that "I wish you'd tell your viewers that both Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson strike me as wackos. I believe that's one of your current words. They're crazy as bedbugs" and "Mel is a real nut case. What in the world was I thinking when I created him?" Returning to his own voice, Rooney demanded: "My question to Mel Gibson is: How many million dollars does it look as if you're going to make off the crucifixion of Christ?"
For a full rundown of Rooney's 60 Minutes commentary: www.mediaresearch.org
Imus: "Have you seen this Mel Gibson movie?"
He's certainly not ambivalent about Mel Gibson.
Not even a movie review of The Passion of the Christ is a safe-haven from a little Blame America First bashing of the U.S. "occupation" of Iraq. In a review for the San Francisco Chronicle, its religion reporter, Don Lattin, recalled how at the time of Jesus portrayed in the film "there were prophets, rebels, mystics, fundamentalists and more than one guy claiming to be the messiah." Lattin then asserted: "They all were trying to survive under the forces of an imperial occupation -- not unlike the Sunnis and the Shiites amid the chaos of today's Iraq."
On Thursday, James Taranto in his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com, www.opinionjournal.com , titled, highlighted Lattin's review, "Truth and fiction of 'Passion'; Gibson film goes beyond Bible to tell story of Jesus' crucifixion."
For Lattin's February 25 piece in full: sfgate.com
Thursday's Good Morning America, proudly touting its "exclusive" in a constant on-screen graphic, provided Rosie O'Donnell with an unimpeded platform to proclaim her intention to "marry" her partner and to denounce George and Laura Bush with some over-the-top language. Diane Sawyer went along with "O'Donnell's PR line as she relayed how O'Donnell "might not be getting married today if the President hadn't announced he would deny rights awarded by some states with an amendment to the Constitution banning same-sex marriages."
O'Donnell then charged that President Bush's comments in support of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, were "the most vile and hateful words ever spoken by a sitting President, in my opinion. I am stunned and I'm horrified." Told by Sawyer that the First Lady noted how "same-sex marriage is a very, very shocking issue for some people," O'Donnell called the amendment "shocking and immoral."
At no time did Sawyer point out how the leading Democratic presidential candidates say that they oppose same-sex marriage, nor did O'Donnell have an unkind word for them.
Co-host Charles Gibson trumpeted at the top of the February 26 show: "Getting married, a Good Morning America exclusive interview with Rosie O'Donnell taking on the President, as she heads to San Francisco to wed her long-term partner."
Sawyer introduced the pre-taped interview which ran during the 7:30am half hour, as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Well, now to our exclusive interview with Rosie O'Donnell. As we said, she is not only speaking out against President Bush and the constitutional ban on gay marriage, she's going to take action with her 34-year-old partner, Kelli Carpenter, a former dancer and marketing director at Nickelodeon. She's going to head to San Francisco today to wed, and she's told us yesterday that she's now decided that civil union is not enough, even though the word marriage, she knows, troubles many people."
Reasonable people can disagree with Bush's proposed policy or strategy on the same-sex marriage issue, but it's hard to see anything "vile and hateful" in Bush's February 24 announcement which mainly recites the positive benefits for children of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman: www.whitehouse.gov
On Wednesday's Today show NBC's Matt Lauer prodded and pushed outspoken liberal actor Tim Robbins to bash the Bush administration, urging him to deliver some "payback" for how he was criticized for expressing his anti-war views. Robbins came aboard to promote his off-Broadway play Embedded, which satirizes how reporters were sycophants for administration policy during the liberation of Iraq. During the interview, Robbins said he doesn't mind criticism but draws the line at boycotts that cost actors jobs. However, Robbins himself once tried to end the career of a fellow actor.
[MRC analyst Geoff Dickens submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
After Lauer congratulated Robbins on the various nominations and awards he received for his performance in Mystic River, including an Academy Award nomination, Lauer wondered if the actor/activist would turn the Oscar stage on Sunday into a nationally televised platform to slam Bush:
Robbins then got Lauer to help him plug his new off-Broadway play which takes shots at the Bush administration's Iraq policy: "Have you, so you haven't sat down and written anything that might address war and the administration?"
After Robbins briefly discussed the importance of making the play entertaining, Lauer inquired about how Robbins dealt with the firestorm he created with his anti-war comments last year: "Talk to me a little bit about what you thought in terms of the reaction to your comments earlier in the year? You had appearances canceled, you were called a traitor, basically by a lot of people. What was fair? What goes with the territory for someone willing to speak his or her mind? What crossed the line?"
Robbins, however, was singing a different tune when it came to fellow thespian Elizabeth Hurley. In 2000 SAG actors went on strike against advertisers for higher residual pay. Robbins attacked Hurley for making an Estee-Lauder ad during the strike and called for Hurley's SAG card to be revoked. Lauer failed to catch Mr. Robbins hypocrisy on the issue. For more on media sympathy for Robbins' anti-war views and skipping up his attempt to black list Hurley, see the April 17, 2003 Media Reality Check: www.mrc.org
For a brief review of Robbins' off-Broadway play check this Newsmax article: www.newsmax.com
For the Internet Movie Database's page for Robbins: www.imdb.com
You read it here first. Wednesday night on the "Grapevine' segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, substitute anchor Jim Angle, picking up on the MRC's February 24 Media Reality Check which was reprinted in the February 25 CyberAlert, described how CBS News claimed that many Republicans are "furious" with Bush, though CBS's own poll found solid support for Bush amongst Republicans. Angle suggested Roberts got his notion from a New York Times story which conveyed some anecdotal quotes from supposed Republicans and mis-identified an independent guy as a Republican.
Angle announced on the February 25 show: "CBS has reported that President Bush is in trouble with many Republican voters who are 'furious,' it said, about the lingering situation in Iraq and the massive job losses. But a new CBS poll, out a week before that report, shows 85 percent of Republicans approve of President Bush's handling of Iraq and 77 percent approve of his handling of the economy. So where might the idea that Republican were 'furious' have come from? Well the New York Times this past weekend published a story in which it quoted George Meagher, a Republican the Times said, who threw his heart and soul into the 2000 Bush campaign, but is now dissatisfied with the administration. It turns out, though, Meagher's not a Republican; he's an independent, as the Times itself had identified him an another story three weeks earlier. That has now been corrected."
The February 25 CyberAlert reported: Media Reality Check. "Anti-Bush Anecdotes Trump Pro-Bush Poll: While CBS's Poll Shows Huge GOP Majorities Backing Bush, CBS Reporter Finds a 'Fury' on the Right." On Monday night, John Roberts claimed that "many Republican voters are furious about the lingering situation in Iraq and the massive job losses under the President's watch." He made the same charge on Tuesday morning in reciting how Republicans are upset from the left, apparently just feeding off a New York Times story based on some anecdotal quotes. See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- For "The Times' Anti-Republican Recycling Policy," a look at a Sunday Times story headlined, "Unhappy Bush Voters Weigh a Switch," see: www.timeswatch.org
-- For "UPDATE: Rosenthal's Anti-Bush Quote Recycling," about a correction, sort of, from the Times, see: www.timeswatch.org
For the latest on bias in the New York Times, check: www.timeswatch.org
From the February 25 Late Show, the "Top Ten Things Heard Outside the New Mel Gibson Movie." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. "Hey -- no shoving, Monsignor!"
9. "I don't know why they added subtitles -- everyone speaks Aramaic"
8. "I'm hoping my medium Mountain Dew will miraculously be changed into an extra large Mountain Dew"
7. "These 'Lord of the Ring' films are getting odder and odder"
6. "Was this really based on a book?"
5. "Twelve dollars for a movie ticket? Now that's a sin, am I right, people?"
4. "The Pope loved it almost as much as "Barber Shop 2'"
3. "Uh...I don't feel like dinner right now."
2. "That was awesome when Trump fired Pontius Pilate"
1. "Don't tell me the ending"
# Donald Rumsfeld will NOT be on the Late Show tonight (Friday). Monday's CyberAlert previewed that scheduled appearance, but then Rumsfeld took off this week for Iraq and Afghanistan.
-- Brent Baker