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NBC's Today Frets that Carter "Snubbed" from Funeral Delegation --4/6/2005


1. NBC's Today Frets that Carter "Snubbed" from Funeral Delegation
NBC's Today treated the lack of inclusion of former President Jimmy Carter, in the official U.S. delegation to Friday's funeral for the late Pope John Paul II, as an inexcusable snub by the Bush White House and the biggest news of Wednesday morning. Katie Couric insisted at the top of the show that with President Bush going to Rome with the First Lady and Condoleezza Rice, as well as his father and Bill Clinton, "the question some people are asking is where's President Carter in all this? Are the Bushes and the Carters the modern day version of the Hatfields and the McCoys? Andrea Mitchell soon fretted: "You have to wonder why the White House couldn't have asked the Vatican to permit one more person in the Basilica? Particularly a Nobel Laureate who actually worked on Third World issues with John Paul II. And it seems as though this snub may have had something to do with Carter's strong criticism of the President at last summer's Democratic convention." Matt Lauer wanted to know "why doesn't Secretary of State Rice step aside and say, 'you take my spot, you know, former President Carter?'"

2. CBS: Catholics in U.S. Saw Pope as "Reactionary and Out of Touch"
While CBS's Martha Teichner, in a lengthy and largely positive Sunday Morning profile of the late John Paul II, portrayed him as a "progressive" and "media-savvy humanitarian," she saw "another side, a more controversial John Paul" who "found himself at odds with millions of Catholics in the United States and Europe who considered him reactionary and out of touch."

3. Networks Continue to Forward Canard About "Record" High Gas Price
Adjusted for inflation, oil will have to top $90 a barrel to set a record and gas $2.97 a gallon at the retail pump, but network anchors continue to falsely describe much lower prices as a "record" high. On NBC's Today on Tuesday morning, Ann Curry asserted: "Gas prices have hit a record for a third week in a row, now averaging $2.22 a gallon for regular." The night before, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer called $58 a barrel "the highest price ever" for oil and claimed that $2.22 a gallon "for self-serve regular" represented "yet another record."

4. The West Wing's Ideal Republican President Holds Liberal Views
Hollywood' ideal Republican President, as brought to life two weeks ago by NBC's The West Wing, which has its season finale tonight (Wednesday), is "pro-choice," "pro-environment," will save the party from the "right wing," engineers a deal to raise the minimum wage and lectures about keeping religion out of politics. On the March 23 episode, a Democratic consultant told Republican presidential candidate, "Senator Arnold Vinick," played by Alan Alda, that he can win in a landslide because he's "moving the Republicans away from the right wing. You're not saying Democrats are not patriotic." After a pro-life Republican, who is so intolerant that he rejects Vinick's offer of the vice presidency, invites Vinick to join him in church, Vinick lectures a gaggle of reporters: "I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government."


NBC's Today Frets that Carter "Snubbed"
from Funeral Delegation

Matt Lauer & Andrea Mitchell NBC's Today treated the lack of inclusion of former President Jimmy Carter, in the official U.S. delegation to Friday's funeral for the late Pope John Paul II, as an inexcusable snub by the Bush White House and the biggest news of Wednesday morning. Katie Couric insisted at the top of the show that with President Bush going to Rome with the First Lady and Condoleezza Rice, as well as his father and Bill Clinton, "the question some people are asking is where's President Carter in all this? Are the Bushes and the Carters the modern day version of the Hatfields and the McCoys? Andrea Mitchell soon fretted: "You have to wonder why the White House couldn't have asked the Vatican to permit one more person in the Basilica? Particularly a Nobel Laureate who actually worked on Third World issues with John Paul II. And it seems as though this snub may have had something to do with Carter's strong criticism of the President at last summer's Democratic convention." Matt Lauer wanted to know "why doesn't Secretary of State Rice step aside and say, 'you take my spot, you know, former President Carter?'"

The April 6 Today, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, devoted a full story and a Lauer/Mitchell q and a to how the Bush White House didn't invite Carter to go to the funeral.

(Neither ABC's Good Morning America or CBS's Early Show had anything Wednesday morning about the supposed snub of Carter, the MRC's Jessica Barnes and Brian Boyd reported.)

NBC's Katie Couric On Today, however, Katie Couric trumpeted up top: "As President Bush travels to Rome this morning along with the First Lady, Condoleezza Rice and former Presidents Bush and Clinton, the question some people are asking is where's President Carter in all this? Are the Bushes and the Carters the modern day version of the Hatfields and the McCoys?"

News reader Ann Curry set up a story during the 7am news update: "Now let's go to NBC's Norah O'Donnell at the White House. She's got details on who is in the U.S. delegation to the funeral and who is not. Norah, good morning."
O'Donnell began from the White House: "And good morning to you. The White House insists that they reached out to President Carter and invited him to attend but Carters said he withdrew his request to attend the funeral once he was told by the White House that space was limited. Today President Bush and his wife Laura lead the U.S. delegation to Rome."
George W. Bush: "What a great man. It'll be my honor to, to represent our country at a ceremony marking a remarkable life. A person who stood for freedom and human dignity."
O'Donnell: "The White House says the Vatican limited the official delegation to just five people. Joining the President and First Lady former presidents Bush and Clinton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice but not President Carter who was the first and only president to welcome the Pope to the White House in 1979. Carter's spokesman said in a statement, 'President Carter expressed to the White House a desire to attend the Pope's funeral. He was quite willing to withdraw his request when he was subsequently informed that the official delegation would be limited to just five people.'"
Historian Douglas Brinkley charged: "I don't think there's any warm feeling about, you know, having Jimmy Carter around. On the other hand sometimes you have to do the right thing and the right thing is to have Jimmy Carter there for the Pope's funeral."
O'Donnell: "Now Carter had said that President Bush's Iraq policy was a quagmire and that the elections in Iraq would fail but the White House insists that they were, did reach out and give an invitation to, to Carter and that quote, 'It was his decision to make.' Ann."

After the weather, Lauer introduced a more in-depth look at the subject: "On 'Close Up' this morning, the U.S. delegation to the papal funeral. President Bush along with his father, the former President and former President Clinton are off today for Rome but why isn't former President Jimmy Carter going? Andrea Mitchell is NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent. Andrea, good morning. What's the back story here?"

From Washington, DC, Mitchell asserted: "Well it is a question a lot of people are asking. Why isn't Jimmy Carter part of that White House delegation and the inescapable conclusion Matt is that he was snubbed. Carter clearly did want to go but the White House said there was no room. You have to wonder why the White House couldn't have asked the Vatican to permit one more person in the Basilica? Particularly a Nobel Laureate who actually worked on Third World issues with John Paul II. And it seems as though this snub may have had something to do with Carter's strong criticism of the President at last summer's Democratic convention."
Lauer suggested: "Yeah but no one is going to say that publicly. In fact they're saying it's a, it's a limit on seating. Five or five people in the official delegation. Why not? Has somebody asked representatives at the White House why don't they just call the Vatican and ask for that one extra seat especially considering that Jimmy Carter is the only U.S. president who welcomed John Paul II to the White House."
Mitchell: "Well they seem to be sort of dancing around that frankly. What I've been told happened is that the White House called Carter and told him that this delegation was going and said that it was a very small group. He asked whether the other former Presidents were going and they said no they weren't. So he said, well in that case, if you're very limited then I won't go. Then, of course, Bill Clinton decided to go and so did the President's father. So at that point the other former Presidents were going, because President Ford no longer travels at the age of 91 and Carter did want to go but was told there was no more room so he sort of politely stepped aside. The other person who is going who's of course not the President and the First Lady and not a former President is Condoleezza Rice."
Lauer urged Rice to step aside: "And that brings up a question perhaps a little difficult for someone who covers the State Department but why doesn't Secretary of State Rice step aside and say, 'you take my spot, you know, former President Carter?'"
Mitchell proposed asking he Vatican for another seat to accommodate Carter: "Well I guess that is sort of a difficult question. It is a diplomatic trip. She is the nation's top diplomat and of course the Vatican is a state, in fact, and she's a deeply religious woman, the daughter of a minister but it would seem the diplomatic thing to do to let her step down and have the former President go but actually the easiest choice would be to simply ask the Vatican for another seat. After all Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ordered a plane, a Pentagon plane is taking congressman and senators and they have no hotel rooms I'm told and it's not clear that they have seats in the Basilica. They're just going."

CBS: Catholics in U.S. Saw Pope as "Reactionary
and Out of Touch"

CBS's Martha Teichner While CBS's Martha Teichner, in a lengthy and largely positive Sunday Morning profile of the late John Paul II, portrayed him as a "progressive" and "media-savvy humanitarian," she saw "another side, a more controversial John Paul" who "found himself at odds with millions of Catholics in the United States and Europe who considered him reactionary and out of touch."

The MRC's Brian Boyd caught Teichner's caveat in the midst of an otherwise positive review, on the April 3 Sunday Morning, of the late Pope's life.

After citing his world achievements, Teichner cautioned: "This was one side of John Paul, the progressive, media-savvy humanitarian. But there was another side, a more controversial John Paul." After a soundbite from a critic, Teichner continued: "This other John Paul found himself at odds with millions of Catholics in the United States and Europe who considered him reactionary and out of touch. Name the issue: abortion, birth control, divorce, homosexuality, the role of women in the church, refusing to go all the way to crack down on pedophile priests."

Networks Continue to Forward Canard About
"Record" High Gas Price

NBC's Ann Curry Adjusted for inflation, oil will have to top $90 a barrel to set a record and gas $2.97 a gallon at the retail pump, but network anchors continue to falsely describe much lower prices as a "record" high. On NBC's Today on Tuesday morning, Ann Curry asserted: "Gas prices have hit a record for a third week in a row, now averaging $2.22 a gallon for regular." The night before, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer called $58 a barrel "the highest price ever" for oil and claimed that $2.22 a gallon "for self-serve regular" represented "yet another record."

Curry, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, reported during the 7am news update on the April 5 Today:
"Gas prices have hit a record for a third week in a row, now averaging $2.22 a gallon for regular according to the government. In some places prices are even higher. More than $3.00 a gallon at this gas station in San Luis Obispo, California."

The night before, on the April 4 CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer reported: "For a while today, oil was selling for more than $58 a barrel. That's the highest price ever. The Energy Department says that gasoline is up seven cents in the past week to a nationwide average now of $2.22 a gallon for self-serve regular. That's yet another record."

Earlier CyberAlert items on mis-reporting of record high oil and gas prices:

-- March 17 CyberAlert: The futures price for a barrel of oil and the cost of a gallon of gas at the retail pump have been soaring, but they are far from record highs, yet the networks make that false assertion. On Wednesday night, Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, the price of oil is at another record high." Betsy Stark soon issued an inaccurate prediction that "gas prices are now within a penny of their all-time record." On CNN, Erica Hill referred to how "crude oil prices hit a record high today closing" and the "AAA predicts U.S. gas prices could reach an all-time high tomorrow." CBS's Bob Schieffer insisted that "the price of oil hit a record $56 a barrel today." NBC's Brian Williams declared that "the price of oil set a new record high -- $56 a barrel." PBS's Jim Lehrer maintained that "the price of crude oil rose to an all-time high today." FNC's Shepard Smith warned: "The cost of oil hitting an all-time high. It looks like the cost of gas is not far from behind." In fact, adjusted for inflation, oil will have to hit $90 a barrel to set a record high and gasoline would reach a record not at $2.07 per gallon but at a $2.97. See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- March 17 CyberAlert: CBS's Bob Schieffer repeated the error as he referred to how "the price of gasoline hit a record today" at $2.06 a gallon, but then he contradicted himself as he acknowledged that "adjusted for inflation, that's still about a dollar short" of the 1981 price. Meanwhile, NBC's Brian Williams again made the false claim that "retail prices for regular gasoline hit a record average of a little more than $2.05 a gallon," an inaccurate charge made on all the morning shows on Thursday. On Wednesday, Today's Matt Lauer had noted that "some economists are saying that if you take inflation into account that these prices are relatively better than for example some times in the late 1970s and the 1980s," but that didn't dissuade Today news reader Ann Curry, who proclaimed on Thursday morning: "Today gasoline prices are at a record high." www.mediaresearch.org

-- March 22 CyberAlert: Gas prices have "forced" a man to sleep at the office? The CBS Evening News on Monday night aired its silliest story since Bob Schieffer slid into the anchor chair nearly two weeks ago. After forwarding the canard about how gas prices "hit a new record," Schieffer warned that in Southern California "gas prices are forcing some drivers to take drastic action." Sandra Hughes looked a man who is "forced by economics to drive up to five hours a day" to his job in Malibu since he supposedly "can't afford to move closer to work" and "can't work closer to home," so he "sleeps overnight on a cot in his office." www.mediaresearch.org

The West Wing's Ideal Republican President
Holds Liberal Views

Alan Alda playing Senator Arnold Vinick on The West Wing Hollywood' ideal Republican President, as brought to life two weeks ago by NBC's The West Wing, which has its season finale tonight (Wednesday), is "pro-choice," "pro-environment," will save the party from the "right wing," engineers a deal to raise the minimum wage and lectures about keeping religion out of politics. On the March 23 episode, a Democratic consultant told Republican presidential candidate, "Senator Arnold Vinick," played by Alan Alda, that he can win in a landslide because he's "moving the Republicans away from the right wing. You're not saying Democrats are not patriotic." After a pro-life Republican, who is so intolerant that he rejects Vinick's offer of the vice presidency, invites Vinick to join him in church, Vinick lectures a gaggle of reporters: "I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government."

The West Wing's ideal Democrat would also be more liberal. This season the show introduced "Congressman Matt Santos," played by Jimmy Smits, as a long-shot presidential candidate who soars ahead with the guidance of "Josh Lyman," a top aide to Democratic President "Josiah Bartlet" who doesn't have the guts to take on the health care system. In the course of the campaign, Santos advocates the elimination of insurance companies in health care in a new "single-payer" system.

In tonight's (Wednesday) season finale, we'll learn whether Santos will win the Democratic nomination.

The March 23 episode picked up with Republican Senator Vinick (played by the left-wing actor Alan Alda) having won enough delegates to become the GOP nominee.

Some highlights of how the West Wing portrayed Vinick and some other Republicans, in scenes with the dialogue corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Megan McCormack.

-- Scene in Vinick's Senate office in which Democratic/Bartlet consultant "Bruno Gianelli," played by the somewhat conservative actor Ron Silver, tells the Senator how since he's not very conservative he could win in all 50 states:

Gianelli: "This campaign should be all about you, the reasons you should be President. And those reasons are exactly where 60 percent of the voters are: Pro-choice, anti-partial birth, pro-death penalty, anti-tax, pro-environment and pro-business, pro-balanced budget, and I could go on and on."
Senator Arnold Vinick: "Please do."
Gianelli: "You're in a unique position to run a completely positive campaign because most of the country agrees with you on most of the issues. The only thing you could do to ruin that now is to pick Don Butler [conservative candidate whom Vinick beat] as your VP. So you tell me you're not even thinking about that, I'll shut up. You've seen the papers. Everybody says Butler's on the short list. Every talking head on TV says that is brilliant; guarantees you a win, which it does, but not a big win."
Vinick: "I have to reach out to the pro-life Republican base. We have to give them some reason to come to the polls. I'm never gonna be that reason."
Bruno: "There are many pro-life Republicans who are more qualified for VP than Don Butler."
Vinick: "What do you know about Republican politics?"
Bruno: "I don't care about Republican politics."
Vinick: "Well, that I believe."
Bruno: "I don't care about Democratic politics, either. Okay, I do care about the Democrats. Look, they don't know it yet, you are the best thing to ever happen to them. You're moving the Republicans away from the right wing. You're not saying Democrats are not patriotic; you're just saying that your approach is better than theirs. You are making politics a fair fight again. What, you think I'm a spy? I snuck in here. I'm trying to steer you wrong?"
Vinick: "The thought has crossed my mind."
Bruno: "I've spent the last 20 years ripping this country apart, finding wedge issues to separate the voters. You don't have to do that to win; not this time. You do this right, you can do a lot more than win. You can stop using politics to divide this country. You can show us how much we agree instead of how much we disagree. You can put this country back together."


-- Meeting between the "Reverend Don Butler" and Vinick in which Vinick plans to offer him the VP slot:

Reverend Don Butler: "I hit you pretty hard during the primaries, and I just want you to know it was never personal. Abortion is not a political issue with me."
Vinick: "I know. I respect that."
Butler: "I've been thinking about how we could work around our differences, and put 'em behind us, and head toward November together."
Vinick: "That's funny, so have I. Don, I think you can help me take the White House back for the party. You won states I never could win and I think, in the general election, with you on the ticket-"
Butler: "Arnie, let me stop you right there. Now, I suppose I could go along with you on the environmental issues."
Vinick: "We agree on oil drilling in ANWR."
Butler: "And we could probably get closer together on trade."
Vinick: "Maybe split the difference on textile tariffs. And we could just keep talking tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts."
Butler: "Yeah, we're in lockstep on that one. But then we come back to abortion. And I am here to tell you, Arnie, I do not respect your position on abortion, and there's just no way in the world I could run on a ticket with you, no way. Now, I wanted to be a good soldier. I wanted to help the party. I really did. I prayed on it, prayed a lot. That's where I came out. This isn't easy for a kid who grew up in a trailer in Appalachia and finds himself within shouting distance of the vice presidency of the United States, next in line. It's not easy."


-- Butler in the hallway outside of Vinick's office after the meeting:

Reporter: "Reverend, will you pray for him [Vinick] to change his mind [on abortion]?"
Butler: "Sorry. You really surprised me with that one. Yeah, I never heard a good idea from a reporter before. Yes. Yes, I will pray for Senator Vinick, and he's welcome to come down to my church anytime he wants and pray with me. Now, I'll be back in the pulpit this Sunday. And there will always be a place for the Senator in the front row. Thank you."


-- Reporters in hallway with Vinick:

Reporter: "Senator Vinick? Senator, were you surprised at Reverend Butler's invitation?"
Vinick: "Sorry, guys, I got to go vote."
Reporter: "Are you going to accept his invitation?"
Vinick: "I'm sorry. I really have to go. Sorry."
Reporter: "Are you going to accept his invitation to come to his church this Sunday?"
Vinick: "Uh, I think I'm gonna, I have some TV commitments that day."
Reporter: "Meet the Press is more important than going to Reverend Butler's church?"
Vinick: "Look, I really don't, I don't know what my schedule is on Sunday. Sorry about that."
Sheila, aide to Vinick: "Get us out of here."
Reporter: "Are you going to another church on Sunday?"
Vinick: "Look, I-"
Reporter, in a question you'd never hear from a real reporter: "Do you think that doing Sunday morning TV shows is more important than going to church?"
Vinick: "Look, listen-"
Reporter: "Where do you go to church, Senator?"


-- President Barlet invites Vinick to the White House to propose a deal in which Democratic Senators would support a rise in the debt ceiling if Republicans would back a hike in the minimum wage. As the two sit in the Oval Office:

President Bartlet: "Democrats withdraw the minimum wage amendment from the debt ceiling bill. You pass the bill, then you give them a vote on the minimum wage."
Vinick: "You'll lose a vote on the minimum wage."
Bartlett: "We might be able to shame enough Republicans into doing the right thing in an election year."
Vinick goes the Democratic President one better: "How about you withdraw the minimum wage amendment, we pass the debt ceiling clean, then I round up enough Republican votes to pass the minimum wage increase?"
Bartlet: "You can get that done?"
Vinick: "We have Republican Senators in seven states with higher minimum wages than the federal level. California, it's a buck fifty higher. We don't want jobs moving to lower wage states. I can get you the votes."
Bartlet: "What do you want from me?"
Vinick: "I announce the deal."
Bartlett: "I know a few Democratic candidates for President who wouldn't be happy watching you take credit for this."
Vinick: "Then let them pass the debt ceiling for you and get you the minimum wage increase."
Bartlett: "Anything else?"
Vinick: "Help me keep a secret."
Bartlett: "What's that?"
Vinick: "That I just gave you more than you asked for. Let me hang around for a while, as if we're really slugging it out in here."


-- Bartlet and Vinick eat ice cream in the White House kitchen and commiserate about religion in politics:

Vinick: "Whatever happened to separation of church and state?"
Bartlet: "It's hanging in there, but I'm afraid the Constitution doesn't say anything about the separation of church and politics."
Vinick: "You saying that's a good thing?"
Bartlett: "I'm saying it's the way it is; always has been."
Vinick: "You think the voter really needs to know if I go to church?"
Bartlet: "I don't need to know, but then I'm not going to vote for you, anyway."


-- Final scene of the episode, Vinick in front of the White House at night with a gaggle of reporters, picking up after he touts his championing a hike in the minimum wage:

Reporter: "Senator, are you going to reconsider Reverend Butler's invitation to his church this weekend?"
Vinick: "I fully respect Reverend Butler's position. I mean, I appreciate his invitation and, look, I respect Reverend Butler and I respect his church too much to use it for my own political purposes. And that's exactly what I'd be doing if I went down there this Sunday, because the truth is it would just be an act of political phoniness. I may be wrong, but I suspect our churches already have enough political phonies in them."
Reporter: "Senator, do you or do you not-"
Vinick: "I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government. And I want to warn everyone in the press and all the voters out there. If you demand expressions of religious faith from politicians, you are just begging to be lied to. They won't all lie to you, but a lot of them will, and it'll be the easiest lie they ever had to tell to get your votes. So, every day until the end of this campaign, I'll answer any question anyone has on government. But if you have a question on religion, please, go to church. Thank you."

The Bush White House naturally took that as a shot at President Bush, Paul Bedard reported in this week's "Washington Whispers" column in the April 11 U.S. News. An excerpt:

White House and GOP insiders say they feel like suckers after falsely believing President Bush 's re-election would be met with acceptance from Hollywood. Their tip: Last month's West Wing episode in which the Alan Alda character blasted pols who use religion for political advantage. "Just when Hollywood was trying to get back in our good graces," said one insider, "they used that offensive script." Bushies think the script was targeting their boss. But Lawrence O'Donnell, a former Democratic Hill staffer, tells us he was just writing a good story, and he adds that the Alda character is a Republican presidential candidate. Then he let Bush have it. "If the White House worries that when that subject comes up it is somehow aimed at the president, well, you know, who told them to use religion in campaigning so much?" asks O'Donnell. "There's no one in our modern political history who has used his religiosity more deliberately and actively and falsely in campaigning than George Bush, second only to...Bill Clinton."

END of Excerpt

That confirms O'Donnell's anti-Bush message and his circular reasoning: If Bush didn't do what I don't like then I wouldn't attack him for it.

For Bedard's latest Washington Whispers items: www.usnews.com

NBC's page for The West Wing: www.nbc.com

NBC's page for Alan Alda/Senator Arnold Vinick: www.nbc.com

NBC's page for Jimmy Smits/Congressman Matt Santos: www.nbc.com

The Internet Movie Database's page for The West Wing: www.imdb.com

IMDB's page for Ron Silver/Bruno Gianelli: www.imdb.com

IMDB's page for Don S. Davis/Reverend Don Butler: www.imdb.com

-- Brent Baker