2. Less to Forgery Than Content in AM, ABC Suggests GOP "Set UP"
3. CNN Fails to Note Left-Wing Views of Prof Cited to Undercut Bush
4. NBC to Promote Kelley's Bush-Bashing, Same as in '91 with Reagan
Despite acknowledging the possibility that the Texas Air National Guard memos, which CBS News on Wednesday reported were written by the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, were actually forgeries, on Thursday night ABC, CNN, FNC and NBC displayed no reticence about plowing forward and repeating CBS's loaded charges that they proved President Bush received preferential treatment and disobeyed an order to complete a physical. MSNBC's Hardball and CBS Evening News pretended there was no question over the memos and Dan Rather relayed how "Democratic Senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today asking for an investigation into the status of President Bush's National Guard service records. The Democrats called the belated revelation of new records quote, 'inexcusable.'"
ABC's Terry Moran spent more than a minute on World News Tonight reciting quotes from the documents put out by CBS before he noted that "several document experts contacted by ABC News have raised serious questions about the authenticity of these new documents. They point to the typeface, spacing and perfectly even imprint of the letters that look more like the creation of a computer than an old-fashioned typewriter. And there's this -- the little superscript 'th.' That's something very few typewriters could do in 1972."
Andrea Mitchell also took a full minute on the NBC Nightly News to quote what Killian reportedly wrote before she asked: "Are the new documents real?" Mitchell then vaguely referred to how "one computer Web site says the type style is too modern to have been used more than 30 years ago." That was it and she seemingly dismissed the question when she next noted that "the White House is not questioning their authenticity" -- as if that somehow validates CBS's claims.
CNN's NewsNight aired a piece from John King which didn't mention the forgery possibility as King reported how in a Bush campaign appearance Thursday there was "not a mention of new questions about his National Guard service. Newly discovered memos from then-Lieutenant Bush's commanding officer Democrats say contradict the President's long-standing assertion that he met all requirements and received no special treatment."
Later, about 30 minutes into the hour-long newscast which had devoted 13 minutes on Wednesday night to the Bush National Guard record, anchor Aaron Brown took a few seconds to acknowledge:
Earlier, on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Jim Angle recited how "some peculiarities in the documents have also raised questions about their authenticity. Two of the CBS documents have letterheads not seen in any of the official documents released by the Pentagon and in two documents, like this one from May 4, 1972, a reference to the 111th fighter interceptor squadron uses a smaller and raised 'th' known as superscript, which wasn't even available on most typewriters in the early '70s, raising questions among several experts today."
Hume proceeded to interview National Review's Byron York about the possibility of a forgery and the panel discussed it too.
The hoax/forgery speculation started Thursday on the Powerline blog site: www.powerlineblog.com
An InDCJournal blog soon offered expert detailed analysis of the typography: www.indcjournal.com
The questions broke open in the afternoon when the DrudgeReport.com showcased the Powereline blog along with a story posted by the MRC's CNSNews.com, written by Robert Bluey, "60 Minutes Documents on Bush Might Be Fake." Bluey recited how several typography experts "told CNSNews.com they were suspicious of the documents from 1972 and 1973 because they were typed using a proportional font, not common at that time, and they used a superscript font feature..." For the CNSNews.com article, see: www.cnsnews.com
For Wednesday night coverage of Bush's National Guard record, and a rundown of CBS's Evening News and 60 Minutes pieces, both of which focused mostly on the memos now in doubt, see the September 9 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Before an ad break, Jennings plugged the upcoming story: "When we come back this evening: Questions about President Bush's National Guard service. The new documents and another controversy."
Jennings introduced the subsequent story: "There are some new questions about President Bush's National Guard service during the war in Vietnam. New documents have surfaced that suggest Mr. Bush defied a commander's order and may have received preferential treatment. But there are some questions about the documents. Here's our White House correspondent, Terry Moran."
Moran began with a full run through of the claims in the memos: "Peter, these new documents, which were obtained by CBS News and then released by the White House last night, tell a story about tension between a young Lieutenant George Bush and one of his superior officers in the National Guard, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased the upcoming story: "Later on this broadcast we'll have reactions to our CBS News 60 Minutes revelation about President Bush's National Guard record. The Republicans are going after a man at the center of the story, this former Texas House Speaker."
Rather set up the second day story: "Democratic Senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today asking for an investigation into the status of President Bush's National Guard service records. The Democrats called the belated revelation of new records quote, 'inexcusable.' Some of the records were obtained exclusively by 60 Minutes. And there was more political fallout today as CBS's John Roberts reports."
Roberts began his story which assumed the memos were authentic: "Neither President Bush nor John Kerry mentioned the documents obtained by CBS News today, but the campaigns fought furiously to gain advantage. White House officials dismissed the documents as politics, an attack by the Kerry campaign. Democrats jumped on them as proof the President skipped out on the National Guard."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw introduced NBC's take: "Now to American presidential politics and the 35-year-old issue that will not go away: The war in Vietnam. Again today it was President Bush's service record that came in for new scrutiny."
Andrea Mitchell began: "The President today in Pennsylvania as the White House accused the Kerry campaign of coordinating recycled attacks on George Bush's National Guard service. But now for the first time, newly uncovered documents reportedly show Bush disobeyed an order and may have gotten preferential treatment. The White House has repeatedly said it had released all of the documents about the President's service. But last night the White House released four more it received from CBS following a report on 60 Minutes. One, from the President's former commander [on screen shots of the actual memo text lettering enlarged] says 'officer has made no attempt to meet his training certification or flight physical.' Another, after Bush asked for a transfer to Alabama to work on a political campaign said, 'I told him I had to have written acceptance before he could [she said "could," text read "would"] be transferred, but think he's also talking to someone upstairs.' And a third memo titled 'CYA' suggested the squadron commander was being pressured by higher-ups to give Bush breaks. In the commander's words, 'I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job.'
-- MSNBC's Hardball didn't question the authenticity of the memos, though Chris Matthews did feature a segment with those involved with Stolen Honor, a documentary which Matthews described as "a critical look at Senator John Kerry through the eyes of former prisoners of war."
Hardball reporter David Shuster treated the memos as gospel, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed: "It was seven months ago when the White House said it had released all of the records it knew of, of President Bush's National Guard service. But now there are more, and today the documents were splashed on the front pages of the nation's biggest newspapers. The newly uncovered memos from Colonel Jerry Killian, Mr. Bush's commanding officer, state that George W. Bush failed to meet Texas Air National Guard standards and refused a director order. One memo criticized a military official who, quote, 'is pushing to sugarcoat it.' Another memo said, 'I ordered 1st Lieutenant Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to standards and failure to meet annual physical examination.'"
The broadcast network morning shows put a much higher priority Thursday morning on hyping the Jerry Killian memos as damaging to President Bush than they did Friday morning, despite front page New York Times and Washington Post stories, to exploring the possibility that the memos were forged.
At the top of Thursday's Good Morning America, Charles Gibson trumpeted: "New questions about President Bush's military record. Did family friends pull strings? Did he get special treatment? And did he disobey orders?" Terry Moran drew attention to how "the most disturbing new document...raises the possibility that Mr. Bush's military records were falsified." And Gibson devoted a discussion with George Stephanopoulos to the revelations in the memos -- and Stephanopoulos tagged the falsified records suggestion the "real killer" against Bush.
But on Friday morning, while GMA gave more time than CBS and NBC combined to the forgery possibility as they brought Stephanopoulos aboard again to explain the questions about whether the typography was available in 1972, he also relayed how "a lot of Democrats suspect this was a set up, something set up by Republicans." Gibson, who on Thursday hyped how the memos showed that Bush "disobeyed orders" as GMA devoted a story and interview segment to the topic, on Friday, in the wake of the suggestion the memos were faked, decided they "are not all that explosive." (More below on Friday GMA coverage)
CBS's Early Show on Thursday opened with Hannah Storm's announcement: "Good morning, I'm Hannah Storm. President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard is under new scrutiny as documents obtained by CBS News suggest he failed to meet his obligations and received special treatment. We'll have details." Bill Plante proceeded to provide a full rundown of the memos.
But on Friday morning, the Early Show didn't get to doubts about authenticity until the 7:30am news update, the MRC's Brian Boyd observed. News reader Julie Chen noted: "There is more fallout over President Bush's service records. CBS' 60 Minutes this week cited newly released memos showing the President received favorable treatment while in the National Guard, but the authenticity of those documents is now being questioned. Family members of Bush's superior officer say they doubt he would have written an unsigned memo. And questions have been raised about the typography in the documents which some experts say appear to have been done on a computer, rather than typewriters used at the time. CBS News says it stands by the story saying the documents were quote 'thoroughly vetted by independent experts and we are convinced of their authenticity.'"
On Thursday's Today, NBC's Matt Lauer previewed a face-off between James Carville of CNN and the Kerry campaign and Tucker Eskew of the Bush campaign: "New questions are being raised about the President's National Guard service record." Katie Couric pressed Eskew: "Do you think the President was honest with the American people when he said he had fulfilled his duties as required?" Before that debate, reporter Carl Quintanilla summarized the documents first reported on CBS's 60 Minutes and showed a brief clip of the ad from Texans for Truth.
Friday's Today, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, didn't get to the matter until 7:12, and then quite briefly. Carl Quintanilla reported: "Despite the flurry of campaigning, more bad news for Democrats. New polls show Kerry falling behind in Ohio; Missouri, where he had been deadlocked with the President; and losing his lead in Pennsylvania. One reason more Democrats are now piling on allegations the President received preferential treatment and shirked duties in the National Guard."
Now more on ABC's Good Morning America. Following Thursday's opening tease quoted above, ABC went to Terry Moran at the White House who provided a full rundown of the statements in the Killian memos. Moran ominously concluded: "Perhaps the most disturbing new document is this one from 1973. In it, Lieutenant Colonel Killian says, after he complains about interference in his job, quote, 'I'll back date, but won't rate,' and that reference to back dating raises the possibility that Mr. Bush's military records were falsified."
In fact, it looks like the memos were what was falsified.
A few minutes later, Gibson asked George Stephanopoulos: "George, we just had Terry Moran outline what these documents say. How politically explosive are they?"
Stephanopoulos returned on Friday morning, just before 7:15am. The MRC's Jessica Anderson took down the session, which Gibson set up: "We're going to turn now to the controversy over those documents that seem to call into question George W. Bush's National Guard record. There are some experts now saying that the documents, which were uncovered by CBS News and reported on 60 Minutes, may be forgeries. This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos is joining us now from Washington to sort this out. George, welcome back."
With a close-up shot on screen of a memo, Stephanopoulos noted the issues of proportional spacing, the font and superscript not available in 1972, and the curved apostrophes which a typewriter could not make.
Gibson picked up: "Do the experts say, George, positively that these weren't typed and therefore couldn't have been made in the early '70s?"
CNN was oblivious Thursday afternoon to questions about the authenticity of the Texas Air National Guard memos supposedly written by President Bush's former commander, Jerry Killian, as Inside Politics hyped at the top of the show how President Bush is "on guard as more people come forward to question his military service three decades ago." Judy Woodruff quoted from the questionable memos, recited the claims of former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes who, Woodruff asserted, "pulled strings for Bush," and she relayed how "a professor who taught Bush at Harvard Business School in the early '70s has written a letter to his local newspaper saying Bush, quote, 'admitted to me that to avoid a Vietnam draft, he had his father's friend skip him through the long waiting list of the Texas National Guard.'"
But in treating the professor, Yoshi Tsurumi as authoritative, Woodruff failed to note his left-wing, Bush-bashing political views. In an article posted earlier this year by the Japanese Institute of Global Communication, which I located via Google, Tsurumi, a professor of International Business at Baruch College, the City University of New York, ranted:
Woodruff opened the September 9 Inside Politics: "Thank you for joining us. Like the swift boat controversy that dogged John Kerry, the flap over President Bush's military service seems to have taken on a life of its own. Just as the Kerry camp pointed a finger on that at the President, White House spokesman Scott McClellan today accused Kerry and his surrogates of coordinating attacks on Bush's record in the Air National Guard. The Kerry camp denies that. The fire is being fueled by new on-the-record statements as well as newly released documents."
Interspersed by clips from 60 Minutes, Woodruff outlined how "former Texas House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, a Democrat supporting John Kerry, told CBS 60 Minutes he called the head of the Guard in 1968 at the request of a Bush family friend. Bush's father then represented Houston in Congress."
After noting how the Bush himself once declared that "I never asked for, and I don't believe I received any special treatment," Woodruff countered: "The Bush campaign has stuck to that line ever since. But a professor who taught Bush at Harvard Business School in the early '70s has written a letter to his local newspaper [Scarsdale Inquirer, August 27] saying Bush, quote, 'admitted to me that to avoid a Vietnam draft, he had his father's friend skip him through the long waiting list of the Texas National Guard.'"
Without further identifying Tsurumi whose name was on screen, Woodruff then asked: "Which leads to the second lingering question: How did Bush perform in the Guard? Records first obtained by the Associated Press, which sued the Pentagon to get them, show that Bush ranked in the middle of his flight training class in 1969. But Bush was eventually suspended from flying the F-102 in August 1972."
Over an on screen graphic "Source: Jerry Killian Memorandum, Aug. 1, 1972," Woodruff recited: "Newly unearthed documents from the personnel file of a commanding officer reveal Bush not only missed a required physical exam but he 'made no attempt to meet his training certification.' The accusation that he was a no-show for duty has applied mainly to Bush's 1972 transfer to a Guard unit in Alabama, where he worked on the U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend. It is revived in a TV ad to run in several battleground states."
As NBC prepares another massive three-day Today sit-down with trashy celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley on Monday to promote her new book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, which, according to several newspaper accounts, claims that George W. Bush used cocaine at Camp David when his father was President, a quick review of how Today has helped her in the past. When her hatchet job on Nancy Reagan came out in April 1991, which claimed she had an affair with Frank Sinatra and that she and Ronald smoked pot, Today also gave her three days, and her interviewer, Bryant Gumbel, began: "Best-selling author Kitty Kelley has proven both her courage and her credibility..." Newsweek and the New York Times also loved her as Newsweek's Jonathan Alter touted: "If even a small fraction of the material amassed and borrowed here turns out to be true, Ronald Reagan and his wife had to be the most hypocritical people ever to live in the White House. Anyone who vaguely followed the events of his administration already knew that."
This time, Newsweek is passing on an excerpt after lapping it up in 1991.
[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert]
You might think the media have a responsibility to confirm allegations about public figures before reporting them. But that's not what happened when it came to Kitty Kelley's Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography. Kelley appeared on April 8, 9, and 10, 1991 to publicize her unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan. Then-Today co-host Bryant Gumbel offered this puffy introduction: "Best-selling author Kitty Kelley has proven both her courage and her credibility with her no-holds-barred biographies of Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Now she's out with her most difficult and explosive book yet. Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography goes on sale this morning, and already people are running for cover, issuing denials from all around the nation." He asked her: "This book paints a picture of a totally unethical, scheming social climber who lied and faked her way through life. Is that the picture you set out to create?"
NBC demonstrated a preference for sleaze over substance. While Kelley was given three interviews to promote her book, Lou Cannon, a Washington Post reporter and biographer of Ronald Reagan, appeared only once that year for his Reagan book, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.
The other networks weren't much better. CBS reporter Mark Phillips typified the media's smirking abandonment of duty at the end of his April 8, 1991 Evening News report: "So the world, it seems, must know. Did Nancy Reagan really recycle gifts to her own grandchildren? Is the stuff in the book true or just vindictive tales? Who knows? Who cares?"
The press frenzy started when the April 7, 1991 New York Times carried a long front-page story by Maureen Dowd which did not challenge one Kelley claim. Then-reporter Dowd summarized: "Ms. Kelley asserts that Mrs. Reagan will go down in history as the cold and glittering icon for a morally vacuous era. The author says the former First Lady reinvented herself with a tissue of fabrications about her background, age and family, just as her free-spirited mother did before her; that she had her nose fixed and her eyes lifted; that both the Reagans had extramarital affairs, and that Mrs. Reagan had a long-term affair with Frank Sinatra. Ms. Kelley also writes that the Reagans once smoked marijuana provided by Alfred S. Bloomingdale, the department store heir and founder of Diners' Club, at a dinner party in the late 1960s, when Mr. Reagan was Governor of California."
Dowd defended the book in the May 13, 1991 New Republic: "Of course, the book is tawdry. Of course the book is, in some spots, loosely sourced and over the top....Of course, there are mistakes in it...The point, however, is that Kelley's portrait is not essentially untrue." Dowd added: "Nancy Reagan was the epitome of her time, of its pious values and grasping mores; she was den mother to an era of materialistic dementia....[Kelley] might have written more about Mrs. Reagan's positive points: her political shrewdness, her utility as a hatchetwoman for her personable husband, her tempering of his more Neanderthal tendencies."
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter embarrassed himself by twisting himself into a pretzel defending Kelley's professionalism. In the April 22 issue he contended: "In a narrow sense, Kelley is an effective reporter." Later he added: "Despite her wretched excesses, Kelley has the core of the story right," and "however twisted, the bulk of Kelley's stories seem to at least be based on real events." Alter preferred assaulting the Reagans' reputation: "If even a small fraction of the material amassed and borrowed here turns out to be true, Ronald Reagan and his wife had to be the most hypocritical people ever to live in the White House. Anyone who vaguely followed the events of his administration already knew that. But millions of others still don't. While Kitty Kelley's sensationalism may undermine their ability to find and believe the truth, her popularity may encourage them to explore more of the real history of that era without her."
Eleanor Clift also contributed her two cents in the April 15 issue that carried the Kelley excerpt: "If privacy ends where hypocrisy begins, Kitty Kelley's steamy expose of Nancy Reagan is a contribution to contemporary history."
At least this time, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker is passing up the opportunity to excerpt the book. "We weren't comfortable with a lot of the reporting," he told the Washington Post.
This is not the way NBC treated liberal reporter Seymour Hersh when he wrote the Kennedy-bashing book "The Dark Side of Camelot." In two interviews on November 10 and 11, 1997, Today co-host Matt Lauer pounded Hersh as possibly "blinded by the desire to tell as a sordid tale," and underlined: "Some of your sources in this book have now come out and said you twisted their words. As a matter of fact, one gentleman, Jerry Bruno, a former Kennedy advance man, says after being interviewed by you and reading the final product that you should have called this book the Dark Side of Seymour Hersh." For more on those hardball interviews, see: www.mrc.org
At least Hersh received an invitation. In 1992, Today dropped an invitation to Richard E. Burke, a former Ted Kennedy aide who wrote a book titled The Senator, which claimed that Kennedy used the drugs cocaine and amyl nitrate in nightclubs and had regular sex with interns. Said then-Executive Producer Jeff Zucker: "In reading it over and seeing the way it was being portrayed by tabloid television, it didn't feel right for us."
Apparently, a book alleging cocaine use by Ted Kennedy is a serious charge which requires serious evidence before it makes NBC's air, while a book alleging cocaine use by George W. Bush at Camp David is fantastic grist for a three-part interview.
To underline his biases, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter also is the thinly disguised author of the magazine's "Conventional Wisdom Watch." Over the Burke book in 1992, Alter gave Senator Kennedy an up arrow and proclaimed: "Trashy bio goes too far." But when Kelley's book came out, Alter sneered about Mrs. Reagan: "No one deserves this, but if anyone does, you do."
-- Brent Baker