NBC's Today Promotes Al Franken's Book About Lying Conservatives --8/27/2003
2. CBS's Bob Schieffer Apologizes for Offending Atheists
3. ABC Revamps
This Week by Amplifying Stephanopoulos/Reducing Will
4. Sheen Defends Davis, Names Rob Reiner as Best Actor for Governor
5. FNC Shows Pick Up on
CyberAlert Items on Cronkite and Olbermann
6. "Top Ten Things Overheard at Schwarzenegger Campaign HQ"
NBC's Today on Monday brought aboard left-wing "satirist" Al Franken, for the second time in a week, to promote his new book and to talk about FNC's lawsuit against him for using the "fair and balanced" phrase in the title of his book, an unsuccessful legal effort which served only to publicize Franken's screed.
Today's Matt Lauer read from Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right: "I wish with all my heart the President wasn't a liar or if he were that he was more like President Clinton. Bush lies about important things like the economy, his tax cuts, his education, our reasons for going to war and drunk driving. But I think he lies only when he feels he has to. He knows that most of the time Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh are only too glad to do it for him.." Lauer wondered: "Do you truly think the President consciously lies about issues like the economy, tax cuts and things like that?" Franken affirmed his contention.
Lauer at least did raise how Franken himself lied to and tried to fool several conservatives with a serious letter to them asking them for details, for a non-existent book on the topic, about how they remained abstinent, a letter written on official Harvard University stationery which Franken was not authorized to use: "So when you come up with a book called, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and then you go and do something like that, don't you see how you're critics can say, 'see, he's willing to break his own rules to, to further his own agenda?'"
Caution: Vulgarities ahead.
Today posted on its Web page an excerpt from Franken's book which makes clear that his two of his top targets are Bernard Goldberg and Ann Counter. Franken wrote that God urged him to take on "those shitty books by Ann Coulter and Bernie Goldberg" which make "total bullshit" claims about the media having a liberal bias.
But while Franken got two invites onto Today, NBC has yet to bring aboard Coulter this year to talk about her latest book (she was on last year about her previous book, but not until the 9:30am half hour) and Goldberg only got onto Today last year by being paired with a left-wing author, Micheal Moore, and that only occurred months after his book became a best-seller.
From the June 26, 2002 CyberAlert: Katie Couric argued Wednesday morning with author Ann Coulter who accurately quoted Couric as having opened Today in 1999 by trumpeting: "The Gipper was an airhead. That's one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan..." Couric took umbrage: "I'm just curious why you took it so out of context?" But Couric didn't interview the author, Edmund Morris, until two days later. Couric insisted that Today opened with the "airhead" insult just once. In fact, they did it two days in a row. See: www.mediaresearch.org
....I had my Nexis, I had my Google, I had my Harvard fellowship, and I had my fourteen research assistants. I sat down to write. Nothing.
So I got on my knees and prayed for guidance. "How, God, can I best do Your work through this book? Who, dear Lord, is the audience for a book like this? And what's a good title?"
God answered, "YOU KNOW THOSE SHITTY BOOKS BY ANN COULTER AND BERNIE GOLDBERG?"
"The best-sellers that claim there's a liberal bias in the media?" I asked.
"TOTAL BULLSHIT," God said. "START BY ATTACKING THEM. HE'S CLEARLY A DISGRUNTLED FORMER EMPLOYEE, AND SHE JUST LIES. BY THE WAY, THERE'S SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH HER."
"That's pretty obvious."
"SO GO AFTER THEM, THE WHOLE LIBERAL BIAS MYTH, AND THEN GO AFTER THE RIGHT-WING MEDIA. ESPECIALLY FOX."
"Okay, God, I'm writing this down."
"THEN USE THEM AS A JUMPING-OFF POINT TO GO AFTER BUSH. YOU KNOW, BIG TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH, SURGING UNEMPLOYMENT, IGNORING EVERYONE BUT HIS CORPORATE BUDDIES, SCREWING THE ENVIRONMENT, PISSING OFF THE REST OF THE WORLD. THAT STUFF. AND THAT'S YOUR BOOK."
"Got it. One last thing. Title."
"HOW ABOUT BEARERS OF FALSE WITNESS AND THE FALSE WITNESS THAT THEY BEAR?"
"Hmm. I, uh, I'll work with that."
END of Excerpt
Today posted the book excerpt at: www.msnbc.com
Lauer set up his August 25 session with Franken, as tracked by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "A federal judge has refused a request by Fox News Channel to order changes to the cover of humorist Al Franken's new book called, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Fox had previously trademarked the phrase, 'Fair and Balanced,' but the judge called the case, 'wholly without merit.'"
After some discussion about the FNC lawsuit (Franken joked that "Joe Conason emailed me and said that should be their new trademark: 'Fox News: Wholly Without Merit'") and how Bill O'Reilly instigated it (Franken maintained: "I think they did it to satisfy someone who was having an, was in an infantile rage"), Lauer got to the book's content:
Lauer wrapped up by plugging the online excerpt: "Al Franken. Al good to have you here. If you'd like to read an excerpt from Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, you can log onto our Web site at today.msnbc.com."
Franken can thank Fox AND NBC's Today.
It's not unusual for journalists to offend religious believers, but when CBS's Bob Schieffer upset some atheists, he jumped to apologize. Recalling on Sunday's Face the Nation how the week before he had observed how "there are no atheists in foxholes," Schieffer reported that he heard from atheists, including two with the military in Iraq, who "reminded me that freedom of religion also means the right not to believe and they said my remark unfairly challenged the sincerity of their views."
Schieffer begged forgiveness: "To all of you who took offense, I can only say that none was intended and I regret a poor choice of words."
Schieffer delivered this commentary at the end of the August 24 Face the Nation:
Wonder if that guy might be a CyberAlert reader?
A couple of years ago ABC News dropped the conservative Bill Kristol from the This Week roundtable. Now, in a revamping of show prompted by plummeting ratings since George Stephanopoulos became the sole anchor, ABC has decided that the problem lies not with the ex-Clintonite Stephanopoulos, but with the airing of too much conservative opinion and so will end the roundtable altogether and thus shut down the outlet for George Will, the show's only conservative.
The decision was made, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported on Monday, by new This Week Executive Producer Tom Bettag. Last month, upon adding This Week to his portfolio, Bettag, who remains Executive Producer of Nightline, gushed over Stephanopoulos to the AP: "If you can help him get a dominant position on Sunday morning, he is in a position to be a journalistic leader for the next 30 years." For details: www.mediaresearch.org
Kurtz relayed how Bettag said that Will and fellow roundtable panelists Michel Martin and Fareed Zakaria "will still appear periodically -- by themselves -- for debriefing sessions with Stephanopoulos" and promised that Will "will join Stephanopoulos for some interviews with major newsmakers."
No word on the fate of Will's weekly commentary segment, but it sounds like it's gone.
An excerpt from Kurtz's August 25 story about how This Week will "relaunch" with a new format on September 7:
...."You can now see roundtables 24 hours a day on three cable networks," Bettag says. "Whatever they're going to say, you've already heard a thousand times." The gabfests also encourage viewers to say that "these journalists just think they know everything. No wonder I hate them."
Stephanopoulos says he's "excited" about a new approach that will stress reporting above all. "The whole notion of more facts, more analysis and less punditry is something I'm very comfortable with," he says. "It's sort of where my strengths have always been. We can really create something new here."
The dropping of the roundtable means Bettag has had to find new roles for house conservative George Will, the last remaining member of the original show launched by David Brinkley, and panelists Michel Martin and Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria. Bettag says the three will still appear periodically -- by themselves -- for debriefing sessions with Stephanopoulos that will stress their reporting and analysis, not opinion-mongering. Other ABC News staffers will also pop up for these chats -- including "Nightline" correspondents and, on occasion, Ted Koppel -- along with reporters from other news organizations.
In addition, Will, perhaps the show's best-known contributor because of his syndicated column and longevity on television, will join Stephanopoulos for some interviews with major newsmakers -- an approach that had been abandoned when Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts ran the show because it was considered too cluttered.
The program, which may get a new name, is obviously looking for a boost in the ratings one year after the former Clinton White House aide took the helm. "This Week" has slipped from second to third place this year, with 2.6 million viewers, trailing Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" on NBC (4.4 million) and Bob Schieffer's "Face the Nation" on CBS (2.8 million).
Stephanopoulos promises "more variety over the course of the hour," not just with his reports from the field but on topics ranging from "cultural issues" to "religion in politics" to "business and economics." For Bettag, the key is better production values -- from pictures and quotations of the week to glitzy graphics, even a female narrator instead of a booming baritone -- to avoid what he calls the "ponderously slow" pace of Sunday morning talk shows....
Bettag, 58, is a heavy hitter behind the scenes, having served as personal producer for Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Koppel. His goal, he says, is not just to revitalize the Sunday show but to groom Stephanopoulos, 42, as an ABC superstar for the coming decades.
"George Stephanopoulos is capable of addressing a different generation," Bettag says. "George unfortunately has been put in the position of doing a copycat show."
He recalls how the late ABC president Roone Arledge reinvented Sunday morning with the 1981 launch of "This Week With David Brinkley," but says the genre has grown stale over time. While professing great respect for Russert and Schieffer, he says the text-heavy graphics and lack of video make such programs sound like radio.
Bettag got his chance when he agreed to succeed the program's producer, Jon Banner, who is now executive producer of "World News Tonight."
The back story here involves "Nightline," which Bettag has produced for 12 years. He and Koppel signed five-year contracts in 2000 "to really build a succession and make way for another generation." This is beginning to happen, says Bettag, with the emergence of Chris Bury as Koppel's principal substitute, but the show -- especially after its near-death experience of almost being replaced by David Letterman -- has been looking for new sources of revenue through partnerships with other networks.
Putting the "Nightline" staff in charge of "This Week," Bettag admits, "has a lot to do with the Letterman thing" and impressing ABC's corporate owners at Disney. "If there's a question about the value of what 'Nightline' does, this makes 'Nightline' a more valuable unit to the corporation."...
END of Excerpt
For the article in its entirety: www.washingtonpost.com
Left-wing activist/actor Martin Sheen, appearing Friday night on CBS's Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, denounced the recall election as "a Republican grab for power. They're trying to buy what they couldn't win," defended California Governor Gray Davis as he blamed Enron for his problems, predicted that "there will be no recall" since "I think the voters of California are smart enough and they're not going to be dazzled by this" and, after dismissing Arnold Schwarzenegger because he's not "a public servant," declared that "Rob Reiner is really the only qualified guy in our profession to go into politics."
Despite his hostility to Schwarzenegger's candidacy, in an interview aired on Friday's Access Hollywood, a bathrobe-clad Sheen, on the West Wing set, offered this assessment of Schwarzenegger: "He's more Democrat than he is, he's Republican in name only."
That backs up actress Jamie Lee Curtis' characterization. On the August 7 Good Morning America, she argued: "I think he will make a fantastic Governor." She soon revealed her rationale: "I actually believe he's really, at his heart, even though he pretends to be a Republican, I think he's a social Democrat at heart." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Kilborn: "Let me ask you, what is your take on the whole California recall? New Governor?"
For a picture and bio of Sheen, check his page on the Internet Movie Database: us.imdb.com
Sheen's page on NBC's site for The West Wing: www.nbc.com
For the Internet Movie Database page for Rob Reiner, "Meathead" on All in the Family: us.imdb.com
For the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn site: www.cbs.com
# Compilation of California recall coverage. The MRC's Tim Jones has put together a special section, on the MRC's Web site, devoted to all of the MRC articles about the recall. See: www.mediaresearch.org
You read it here first. A couple of FNC shows picked up on items in CyberAlert last week. FNC's Fox Newswatch and Weekend Live highlighted Walter Cronkite's defense of why reporters should be liberal and Fox Newswatch also noted Janeane Garofalo's liberal rants as co-host of CNN's Crossfire as well as how "media watchdog groups on the right" were "upset" by how MSNBC's Keith Olbermann plugged an upcoming segment: "Critics of the war said it would turn into a quagmire like Vietnam. Did today's events start to make them right?"
The August 19 CyberAlert reported: A couple of weeks ago Walter Cronkite started writing his new weekly column for King Features. In the first one, he claimed that "basically I'm a fiscal conservative and a social liberal" and went on to rationalize why journalists are liberals. In the second one, he outlined his recommended "basic goals" for the Democrats, ten liberal agenda items made to seen as innocuous as possible. Cronkite made clear that he thinks President Bush has lessened America's standing in the world, as argued why Democrats should follow his advice: "There is nothing impractical about seeking the best for this nation's people, and the restoration of America as a beacon of freedom for the world." See: www.mediaresearch.org
On Sunday afternoon, the MRC's Kristina Sewell noticed, Tony Snow observed on his August 24 Weekend Live show, as transcribed by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd:
On the August 23 Fox Newswatch, host Eric Burns asserted: "Let me tell you what seems to me to be at least in terms of the reaction to it, the most controversial statement made by a journalist about the bombing. It was made by Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and this is a tease, meaning at the end of the segment on one of his shows, he was saying here's what's coming up next. He said: 'Ahead of us here tonight, critics of the war said it would turn into a quagmire like Vietnam. Did today's events start to make them right?' I'm sorry the it meaning the aftermath of the war, did the bombing make them right? Jane [Hall], then he went onto ask a retired general a question, which was virtually the same thing, using the words 'quagmire, Vietnam.' Some media outlets, some media watchdog groups on the right side of the political spectrum, very upset with this analogy."
Indeed, the August 21 CyberAlert reported: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday night raised the specter of Vietnam as he plugged an upcoming segment: "Critics of the war said it would turn into a quagmire like Vietnam. Did today's events start to make them right?" See: www.mediaresearch.org
From the August 26 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Overheard at Schwarzenegger Campaign Headquarters" Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. "It's pronounced 'Gu-ber-na-tor-ee-al'"
9. "Your wife called to say there's no way in hell she's voting for you"
8. "Kids don't need subsidized school lunches -- they need mass-building protein power supplements"
7. "Remember, when you're shaking hands, ease up if you hear cracking"
6. "Good news! Lou Ferrigno just endorsed us!"
5. "Don't worry -- Mars isn't close enough to hurt you"
4. "I'm not sure saying 'Hasta la vista, baby' constitutes an outreach to Hispanic voters"
3. "Who's the actor who plays Gray Davis?"
2. "Arnold got his head caught in the Soloflex again"
1. "You've lived here for 35 years. Why do you have an accent?"
That's a very good question.
-- Brent Baker, in New Hampshire being inundated by TV ads for John Edwards and Howard Dean