NBC's Today Treats Wilson as Victim, Lets Him Rail Against Rove --7/14/2005
2. Roberts: We'll Beat White House Press Secretary "Like Dusty Rug"
3. CBS's Schieffer Skips News of Higher Tax Revenue for Government
4. Editor Castigates Colleagues for Biased Iraq War News
NBC's Today show on Thursday gave former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the husband of the CIA employee at the center of an investigation over whether her name was illegally leaked in 2003, a chance to spout off against Karl Rove and the Bush White House. Wilson claimed he and his wife were victims of a "conspiracy" and a "web of lies," and demanded that President Bush fire Rove even before the investigation is completed. Reporter Jamie Gangel served up softballs like, "What does your wife think of Karl Rove?" and ""Do you and your wife believe the perpetrators of this will ever be punished?"
Not once did Gangel confront Wilson about the fact that both Democratic and Republican Senators last year found that Wilson had made false statements in his 2003 public condemnations of the Bush administration's Iraq policies, although she at least did ask him whether he was a Democrat. But instead of straight-forwardly replying that he was a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry at the same time he was criticizing the Bush administration, Wilson gave a ridiculously contorted answer designed to present himself as bi-partisan, claiming he was a donor to both Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. Gangel refused to follow up on that, either.
In her interview with Wilson, a snippet of which was also shown on Wednesday's Nightly News, Gangel treated him like a victim. Co-host Matt Lauer set up the interview, which followed three days of coverage of Newsweek's revelation that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rove talked to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper on "double super secret background" about Wilson and his wife - not the sort of condition one would put on information if their goal was to get it printed.
Lauer began, as transcribed by MRC's Ken Shepherd: "The CIA agent at the center of the leak controversy is Valerie Plame, her husband is ambassador Joseph Wilson. Our national correspondent Jamie Gangel caught up with a very angry Ambassador Wilson for an exclusive interview. Jamie, good morning to you."
Jamie Gangel, who was live via satellite from NBC's Washington, DC studio: "Good morning, Matt. We asked Joe Wilson whether he thinks Karl Rove should be fired, and about his wife who is back at the CIA. But Wilson started our interview by accusing the White House of a conspiracy."
Instead of pointing out the sheer gall of Wilson accusing others of concocting a "web of lies," Gangel continued: "And he's angry with the man he believes is behind that coverup, the President's top adviser, Karl Rove."
Gangel's questions/statements to Wilson:
# "It's now public that President Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, did talk to at least one reporter about your wife, but Rove insists he never used her name and that he did not know that she was undercover, that he did not knowingly give her up."
# "He says he also didn't know that she was an undercover operative."
# "What do you think of Karl Rove?"
# "What does your wife think of Karl Rove?"
# "What does she think about all this this week?"
# Finally challenging Wilson, she asked: "Your critics have said that this is partisan on your part, that you are part of a Democratic attempt to discredit Iraq policy."
# Then Gangel went back to treating Wilson as a victim: "Do you and your wife believe the perpetrators of this will ever be punished?"
# "Bottom line, what do you think the White House should do now?"
# "Do you think even though what Karl Rove did may not have broken the law, do you think from what you know, he should be fired?" Wilson replied: "Absolutely."
Back in the studio, Gangel explained: "We asked the White House and Karl Rove if they wanted to respond. They're sticking with no comment. And of course right now the biggest game in Washington, Matt, is guessing how this may impact the relationship between the President and Rove. Just remember what one Washington Post reporter, Dana Milbank, said about it, quote, 'Washington is Karl Rove's world, and we just live in it.' A lot of people right now in this town think that still sums it up. Matt?"
Since her interview with Wilson was taped on Wednesday, Gangel would not have seen the story in Thursday's USA Today casting doubt on whether Valerie Plame even fit the definition of a covert operative, which is the only reason she should not have been publicly identified. USA Today reporter Mark Memmott, who used Wilson's book "The Politics of Truth" as a source, found that the last overseas posting for Mrs. Wilson was in June 1997, six years before she was identified in Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column.
Memmott suggests: "The column's date is important because the law against unmasking the identities of U.S. spies says a 'covert agent' must have been on an overseas assignment 'within the last five years.' The assignment also must be long-term, not a short trip or temporary post, two experts on the law say. Wilson's book makes numerous references to the couple's life in Washington over the six years up to July 2003."
In other words, as USA Today's headline suggests: "CIA 'outing' might fall short of crime."
To read Memmott's entire article, go to: www.usatoday.com
Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly....
Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.
The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address....
END of excerpt.
For a much longer excerpt of Schmidt's Washington Post story, and how most of the network news programs that originally touted Wilson ignored the bi-partisan report debunking many of his claims, see the July 14, 2004 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
But Today viewers did get a tiny indication that this week Wilson was a poor source of information. On Wednesday, in an extremely brief interview at the tail end of the 7am EDT half-hour, Katie Couric asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about the whole Rove-Plame-Wilson matter.
Gingrich told Couric: "The question is whether or not what Karl did was in any way breaking the law. Remember that this whole thing became a story because Ambassador Wilson's wife recommended him for the job. When he was pushed, he said, oh, the Vice President's office asked him to do it. And the question that was raised with Karl was, did the Vice President or his office ask that Wilson go do this job. And what Rove said was it was his understanding that his wife had recommended him....But Wilson was lying to the country. Now the amazing thing to me is Wilson consistently lied through this entire process. And the question is whether or not Karl Rove did the wrong thing in saying to a reporter, 'that's not an accurate story.'"
Couric couldn't believe her ears: "Why do you say he was lying to the country?"
But Today's Gangel asked Wilson about none of this when she got a chance to interview him later on Wednesday.
But if you follow Roberts' analogy, he's one of the chief rug beaters. He seems to be admitting that he and the rest of the White House press corps won't be "politically" satisfied, and plan to keep "beating" White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan "like a dusty rug" until the Bush administration finally tells them what they want to hear.
Here's the entire exchange between Roberts and anchor Bob Schieffer on the July 12 CBS Evening News, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
Bob Schieffer: "Again today, there were sharp questions at the White House news briefing over whether it was the President's top political strategist, Karl Rove, who blew the cover of a CIA agent after her husband had criticized the President's Iraq policy. Our White House correspondent John Roberts was in the briefing today. John, where is this story going?"
The networks' favorite source for story ideas, the New York Times, on Wednesday carried a front-page story with the headline "Sharp Increase in Tax Revenue Will Cut Deficit," with reporter Edmund Andrews crediting "higher stock market gains and the business income of relatively wealthy taxpayers." But ABC's World News Tonight and the NBC Nightly News limited themselves to short items read by the anchors, and CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer -- who has insisted on the need for higher tax rates to deal with the deficit -- skipped the news completely.
Back on February 8, Schieffer appeared on CBS's Early Show insisting that the only way to generate more government revenue would be for Congress and the President to raise tax rates. He lectured co-host Hannah Storm:
For more, see the February 9 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
For more on that, see the April 25 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
While he was full of complaints about others in the media "all but ignoring" a pitch for higher taxes, now that rising economic activity is generating higher government income without any raise in rates, Schieffer is the one ignoring the news.
Here's how ABC and NBC covered the news that Schieffer skipped last night.
ABC's Charles Gibson was brief: "There's some encouraging news today about the nation's budget deficit. The White House says, for this fiscal year, it will be nearly $100 billion less than once thought. Today's administration projection put the amount of red ink at $333 billion. In February, that number was estimated at $427 billion. Increased tax revenue, the main reason for the decline."
Over on NBC, MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, anchor Brian Williams touted "independent budget analysts" who insisted that President Bush's tax cuts should not be credited with boosting business activity and thus government's income tax revenues.
Williams entire report on the July 13 Nightly News: "The White House released new federal budget numbers today that show a sharp drop in this year's projected deficit. The new projection shows this year's deficit will drop to $333 billion. That is down $94 billion from last February's projection of $427 billion.
An assistant editorial page editor with the St. Paul, Minnesota Pioneer Press has written a column, headlined "Why They Hate Us," castigating his fellow journalists for biased coverage of the Iraq War. Mark Yost explained that he saw the same media pattern when he served in the U.S. Navy in the 1980s: "Substitute 'insurgent' for 'Sandinista,' 'Iraq' for 'Soviet Union,' 'Bush' for 'Reagan' and 'war on terror' for 'Cold War,' and the stories need little editing. The U.S. is 'bad,' our enemies 'understandable' if not downright 'good.'"
Yost, in his July 12 column, chastised most of the Iraq coverage as inaccurate: "I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up."
Yost's complaint mirrors that of a U.S. Army Captain, the 18th Airborne Corps' Christopher Vick, who was seen and heard on the June 29 CBS Evening News pointing out that the media's fixation on violence is precisely what the terrorists desire.
For more on that rare instance when a TV network allowed a little criticism of their approach, see the June 30 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
Now, here's a longer excerpt of Yost's criticism of the media, which was mentioned in a short "Grapevine" segment on Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume:
....I decided to become a journalist when I was a soldier. I was in the U.S. Navy in the early and mid-1980s - "the glory years," as I like to say, a reference to President Ronald Reagan. As part of my duties, I went to some of the world's hot spots.
While sailing in the South China Sea, my ship picked up some refugee boat people on a rickety raft that I wouldn't take out on Como Lake, much less try to float across the Pacific Ocean. One of the survivors, shortly after coming up the accommodation ladder dripping wet, grabbed me (the nearest sailor), hugged me as tightly as his strength would allow, and could only murmur "thank you" through sobs of joy.
I'd then come back to the U.S. and read accounts of places I'd just been - in papers like the New York Times and Washington Post - that bore no resemblance to what I'd seen. There was one exception: the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I began reading a column called "Thinking Things Over" by Vermont Connecticut Royster, one of the legends of that august page. He would later become a mentor - a God, really - and I eventually worked there.
I'm reminded of why I became a journalist by the horribly slanted reporting coming out of Iraq. Not much has changed since the mid-1980s. Substitute "insurgent" for "Sandinista," "Iraq" for "Soviet Union," "Bush" for "Reagan" and "war on terror" for "Cold War," and the stories need little editing. The U.S. is "bad," our enemies "understandable" if not downright "good."
I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.
I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren't so blinded by their own politics that they can't see the real good we're doing there. More important, they can see beyond their own navel and see the real good we're doing to promote peace and prosperity in the world. What makes this all the more ironic is the fact that the people who are fighting and dying want to stay and the people who are merely observers want to cut and run.
I feel for these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan because I'm sure they're coming home and noticing the same disconnect that I did when I served. Moreover, stories about their families and others who are here and trying to make a difference largely go unreported....
And reporters wonder why they're despised.
END of excerpt.
For Yost's entire column, you can visit the Pioneer Press's Web site, but be prepared for an annoying registration process: www.twincities.com
-- Rich Noyes