NBC Skips More Upbeat Iraq Judgment ABC and CBS Find Newsworthy --7/31/2007
2. ABC's Harris: New British PM 'Potentially No More Poodle' to Bush
3. CNN Promotes 'Generation Chicken Hawk' Attack on College Repubs
4. CBS Uses Child to Paint Bush as Heartless Over Spending on Cops
5. Reporters on Tom Snyder's Shows Denied Bias, Made Liberal Points
NBC Nightly News on Monday ignored a development both ABC and CBS found newsworthy, that after eight days in Iraq, two Brookings Institution scholars who describe themselves as "harshly" critical of Bush's Iraq policy, determined the situation in Iraq is better than they assumed and so the "surge" should continue into next year. Instead of reporting the fresh assessment from Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, NBC anchor Brian Williams, citing "a draft U.S. report," aired a full story on how "there are disturbing new details about corruption at the very top of the Iraqi government." But the NBC Nightly News has hardly been reticent before about running soundbites from O'Hanlon with dire warnings about Iraq.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson declared "the column was the talk of Washington today." From Iraq, Terry McCarthy related that "the report tracks fairly closely with what we're seeing both in our visits to U.S. bases in and around Baghdad involved with the surge, and also our trips out to Baghdad neighborhoods talking to Iraqi population. Clearly, security is improving as the U.S. military footprint expands so the violence goes down, the sectarian killings go down." Indeed, on CBS, David Martin noted how "with one day left in the month, American casualties in July are the lowest since the troop surge began in February. And civilian casualties are down a third." Martin aired soundbites from Pollack and O'Hanlon as he described "just enough progress so that a critic like Michael O'Hanlon, who used to think the surge was too little too late, now believes it should be continued."
[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Both ABC and CBS also highlighted a downbeat report on Iraq, an Oxfam report on the "humanitarian crisis."
In the Monday New York Times op-ed, "A War We Just Might Win," O'Hanlon and Pollack reported that they found that "morale is high" amongst "the soldiers and marines" who "told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results." They duo detailed progress they saw, before concluding "the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."
VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration's critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated '€" many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services -- electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation -- to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began -- though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done....
In Baghdad's Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers. The Sunni residents were unhappy with the nearby police checkpoint, where Shiite officers reportedly abused them, but they seemed genuinely happy with the American soldiers and a mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army company patrolling the street....
Another surprise was how well the coalition's new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants....
END of Excerpt
For the July 30 op-ed in full: www.nytimes.com
As noted above, the NBC Nightly News hasn't hesitated to feature O'Hanlon's previous dire forecasts. On April 28, the newscast featured O'Hanlon's warning: "We're going to have to see some pretty striking results from the surge pretty soon to continue to justify the strain and the sacrifice it's exacting on our forces." A week earlier, on April 20, O'Hanlon predicted: "If al-Sadr's people really fight us hard, we are in very bad trouble. If the car bombings continue like they did on Wednesday, we are not going to prevail." And back on February 3, NBC brought O'Hanlon on to comment on a government report about the situation in Iraq: "This report definitely leaves open the distinct possibility of utter chaos, outright civil war and complete mission failure. There is no doubt that Iraq could simply collapse."
Monday's NBC Nightly News ran a story by David Gregory on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's meeting with President Bush, which Williams set up by asking "will the Brits, under Brown, change course" on Iraq? Then, after a plug for his Tuesday interview with Brown, Williams set up the corruption story from Lisa Myers:
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth transcribed some of the July 30 coverage on ABC and al of it on te CBS Evening News:
# ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: A bit of a surprise today on Iraq. Two long and persistent critics of the Bush administration's handling of the war today wrote a column in the New York Times saying that after a recent eight-day visit to Iraq, they find significant changes taking place. Military analysts Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack wrote, "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms." They added, "We were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily victory but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with." The column was the talk of Washington today. So we are joined by Terry McCarthy in Baghdad, Martha Raddatz at the White House and Jake Tapper on Capitol Hill for reaction. Let's start with Terry. So, Terry McCarthy, let me start with you. Is what they say they saw in Baghdad a fair reflection of what's going on?
DAVID MARTIN: With one day left in the month, American casualties in July are the lowest since the troop surge began in February. And civilian casualties are down a third. U.S. officials attribute that to the dismantling of networks which make roadside bombs, and to American soldiers protecting the local population. It would only take a few spectacular attacks to reverse those trends, but even critics of the war strategy are encouraged.
ABC's World News Sunday featured a report about the Monday meeting between President Bush and recently chosen British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which included speculation about how Bush's relationship with Brown will compare to that with Tony Blair. Between anchor Dan Harris and correspondent John Cochran, the derogatory charge by Blair critics that he was Bush's "poodle" was mentioned three times. While Cochran described the label as "perhaps unfair," when the report concluded, Harris, after having already mentioned the "poodle" insult once as he introduced the story, followed up by remarking, "Potentially no more poodle."
Although Cochran laughed slightly, it is unclear whether Harris meant his "potentially no more poodle" remark as a joke or as serious commentary. The "poodle" label was not mentioned on the CBS Evening News as it previewed the meeting between Bush and Gordon, while the NBC Nightly News showed the front page of an issue of The Mirror which displayed the "poodle" insult underneath a Bush/Blair political cartoon.
[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Below is a complete transcript of Cochran's story from ABC's World News Sunday from July 29, followed by a relevant portion of the July 29 NBC Nightly News:
From the July 29 World News Sunday:
DAN HARRIS: The new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, just arrived here in the U.S. for a meeting with President Bush. Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, was lampooned by critics as Bush's "poodle." But the U.S./British relationship could now be changing. There is growing speculation that Britain may pull its troops out of Iraq. ABC's John Cochran is in Washington for us tonight.
From the July 29 NBC Nightly News:
JOHN YANG: A reality that might lead Brown to carve out a more independent, more business-like relationship with Mr. Bush than his predecessor Tony Blair. At last year's G-8 Summit, an open mike captured the President thanking Blair for a personal gift, a sweater.
Sanchez, and reporter Josh Levs, repeatedly described Blumenthal as merely "a writer," but as the MRC's Matthew Balan noted in a posting on the MRC's NewsBusters blog, he has written for The Nation magazine and for Media Matters for America. Not only did segment reporter Josh Levs fail to identify many of Blumenthal's left-wing associations (other than the fact that posted his video on the Huffington Post, which was not identified as a liberal website), he tried to cover for Blumenthal by stating that the left-wing writer "really rejects that radical left-wing label" after the co-chair of the College Republicans called Blumenthal part of "a bunch of radical left-wing people."
Levs, a journalist who works for several mainstream media outlets, including CNN and NPR, did the report on Blumenthal's "Generation Chicken Hawk," the latest in a series of videos in which The Nation writer goes to conservative conventions to ask "hard questions." This is how Sanchez and Levs began the segment during the 7pm EDT hour on Sunday, July 29:
RICK SANCHEZ: A writer, opposed to the Iraq war, goes to a national meeting of College Republicans, and creates a video that's fueling a hot political debate over the Web. He says that he's exposing the quote, 'hypocrisy of a group of young people who are behind the war, but won't put their own lives on the line when it comes to the war.' CNN's Josh Levs here with 'Josh's Corner' now. This is interesting, because I know a football coach who used to say, you know, 'it doesn't work if it's all show and no go.' And it does appear that this is moving in that direction.
LEVS: Blumenthal staunchly opposes the war. He calls his video 'Generation Chicken Hawk.'
Levs only mentioned the fact that Blumenthal "staunchly opposes the war." After his report was aired, Levs was even more disingenuous about Blumenthal's background.
LEVS: And Blumenthal, also, for the record, really rejects that radical left-wing label. He says, you know what, a lot of people in America agree with him. And Rick, it's also relevant to us to keep in mind there have been a lot of Internet videos on this whole argument over Iraq, and sometimes you've got people making fun of anti-war protesters as well.
How can Levs say that with a straight face, given Blumenthal's background. He mentioned the videos where "you've got people making fun of anti-war protesters," but when is CNN going to do a segment on that?
At the end of the segment, Sanchez played a clip of an interview he had conducted with visiting college students from both sides of the aisles about the Iraq war. He imitated Blumenthal by asking the three conservative/Republican students, "Raise your hand if you're ready to go? Raise your hand if you're ready to go to Iraq tomorrow." When the none of the three raise their hands, he pressed them for an explanation:
SANCHEZ: Is there anybody who is going to raise their hand and say they are ready to go to Iraq?
So, you not only have two CNN journalists promoting a left-wing partisan journalist, one of them is trying to imitate him.
Five hours later, during the 11pm EDT hour of CNN Newsroom which was delayed by an hour to allow another re-play of the CNN/YouTube debate with Democratic presidential candidates, CNN aired another live segment on the left-winger's attack on the College Republicans:
RICK SANCHEZ: Staying now with the Iraq war, and doing a little Josh's corner. Josh Levs is joining us to talk about something that's interesting, and it has to do with Young Republicans [sic] -- that's what the organization is called -- getting a visit from a writer, who then challenged them, since they all seemed to be very gung-ho about the war, as to whether or not they themselves would go and fight in this war. Or do they want to?
After playing clips from Blumenthal's "documentary" for the second time, Levs repeated his line that "Karl Rove...Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff" were all former members of the College Republicans.
The full transcript of the second Sanchez/Levs segment on Max Blumenthal:
(CNN CAPTION: "WHY AREN'T YOU SERVING?")
RICK SANCHEZ: Staying now with the Iraq war, and doing a little Josh's corner. Josh Levs is joining us to talk about something that's interesting, and it has to do with Young Republicans -- that's what the organization is called -- getting a visit from a writer, who then challenged them, since they all seemed to be very gung-ho about the war, as to whether or not they themselves would go and fight in this war. Or do they want to?
Another example of how journalists equate federal spending with caring, on Saturday's Early Show, CBS news reader Jeff Glor used a seven-year-old's letter to portray President Bush as criminally uncaring for planning to veto a bill to spend more federal money to pay for local police officers.
JEFF GLOR: And one seven year old boy's cry for help has gone as far as Capitol Hill and the White House.
In a posting on the MRC's NewsBusters blog, MRC intern Michael Lanza noted that Glor's July 28 item offered no specifics about the bill nor did he provide any explanation as to why the President is expected to veto it. Rather, from the framing of the story, the President is portrayed as something of a heartless monster, inexplicably denying the impassioned pleas of a scared child.
For more on what led to Valera's letter, see this Orlando Sentinel article: www.orlandosentinel.com
NBC, CNBC and CBS talk show veteran Tom Snyder, who passed away Sunday at age 71, frequently had media figures as guests on his shows and the journalists inevitably denied any liberal bias or otherwise made liberal political points. Then-NBC White House reporter Brian Williams gushed over President Clinton in 1995: "I've also said that if Americans were paying Presidents by the thought, we're getting a bargain in this guy because, my God, he's just always moving, his brain's moving, he hardly sleeps." Earlier that year, Dan Rather denied any media bias as he insisted "most reporters, when you get to know them, would fall in the general category of kind of common-sense moderates." A couple of years later, in 1997, actor Richard Belzer denounced former President Reagan for how "he did some unconscionable things," charging that Reagan "traded guns for cocaine to free hostages."
MRC intern Michael Lanza located these quotes, from the MRC's archive, of guest appearances on CBS's Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, which aired after David Letterman from 1995 to 1999, and Snyder's early 1990s show on CNBC:
# Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, on CBS's Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, August 19, 1998, in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal: "I think the bigger concern is that how this man who was filled with so much promise when he was first elected, you know, the first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt and all that, could have squandered so much of the promise of his presidency on this silly fling, and if it hadn't been for Monica Lewinsky, Ken Starr would have come up empty-handed....I don't get why Clinton's critics are so upset about this, and yet you talk about people who've lied to us about policy matters, you know, trading arms for hostages, or 'I won't raise your taxes' -- and those lies affect my life. Clinton's lie doesn't affect my life."
# White House reporter Sarah McClendon on The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, January 4, 1996, denouncing Republicans: "They don't know how people live. How could men come, be born of a woman and be as mean as some of those young Republicans are?"
# NBC White House reporter Brian Williams, November 17, 1995, CBS Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, on President Clinton: "As far as I'll go describing Bill Clinton is he's perhaps the most intellectually and physically active person to have held the job in decades. I've also said that if Americans were paying Presidents by the thought, we're getting a bargain in this guy because, my God, he's just always moving, his brain's moving, he hardly sleeps."
# Dan Rather answering a caller about liberal bias, February 8, 1995, CBS's Late Late Show with Tom Snyder: "It's one of the great political myths, about press bias. Most reporters are interested in a story. Most reporters don't know whether they're Republican or Democrat, and vote every which way. Now, a lot of politicians would like you to believe otherwise, but that's the truth of the matter. I've worked around journalism all of my life, Tom Snyder has as well, and I think he'll agree with this, that most reporters, when you get to know them, would fall in the general category of kind of common-sense moderates. And also, let me say that I don't think that 'liberal' or 'conservative' means very much any more, except to those kind of inside-the-Beltway people who want to use it for their own partisan political advantage. I don't think it holds up."
# Newsweek media writer Jonathan Alter on CNBC's Tom Snyder, October 6, 1993: "Sometimes I think the reports of liberal bias are a bit exaggerated. But you can subscribe to newsletters that tell you there's liberal bias and another newsletter will tell you there's conservative bias. What you realize is that those people aren't really interested in media criticism. What they're doing, often, is just ax-grinding for a political view in the guise of media criticism, getting it through customs as criticizing the media."
# A very hostile attitude for Ronald Reagan from actor Richard Belzer, then a star of NBC's Homicide drama. Belzer, now a star of NBC's Law & Order: SVU, appeared on the December 18, 1997 Late Late Show with Tom Snyder. Here's an exchange from the CBS show:
Tom Snyder: "You gave it to Reagan pretty good when Reagan was in office. Now, he's a former President and an old man at the end of his trail with Alzheimers. Do you see him differently now from the way you saw him them?"
-- Brent Baker