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Nets, Especially ABC & NBC, Deliver Upbeat View of Iraqi Election --12/16/2005


1. Nets, Especially ABC & NBC, Deliver Upbeat View of Iraqi Election
Taking a night off from their usual negativity, the three broadcast network evening newscasts, particularly ABC and NBC, led Thursday night with glowingly positive spins on the election in Iraq. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, the only anchor in Iraq, celebrated in her tease: "So much pride. So much joy. The chance at a better future." She then led World News Tonight with how "millions of Iraqis went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. They did so to elect a parliament which will write a new constitution and elect a new government." Remarkably, she pointed out how "the Bush administration set this process into motion nearly three years ago with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein." Campbell Brown, filling in for Brian Williams, teased NBC Nightly News: "A huge turnout. Millions casting their votes on a peaceful and historic day." She began her program by trumpeting: "It has been quite simply a remarkable day in Iraq, one that could have a real impact on the U.S. mission there. Millions of Iraqis all across the country lined up to cast ballots in today's historic elections. Even among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, as well as Shiites and Kurds, the turnout was heavy."

2. Cooper: Media Focus on "Bombs and Bullets," Miss Much of Iraq
In a Wednesday entry on a CNN Web page devoted to "Behind the Scenes" updates from correspondents, Anderson Cooper, who is in Iraq to cover the election, conceded that "every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news."

3. Olbermann Corrects Boortz/Cleland Photo Mixup, Praises Cleland
On MSNBC's Countdown Thursday night, host Keith Olbermann corrected his show's "Worst Person in the World" segment photo mixup from the night before when MSNBC displayed a picture of former Democratic Senator Max Cleland while Olbermann attacked conservative radio talk show host Neal Boortz. But while making his correction, Olbermann added to his attacks on Boortz, calling him a "radio babbler," while proclaiming of the liberal Cleland, "You are one of the best people in the world, and thus, ineligible for this list."

4. Doom on ABC: Hottest in 500,000 Years, Polar Bears Drowning
Forget about how cold it is outside -- according to ABC, there's no longer a debate about global warming: manmade greenhouse emissions have put Earth "under non-stop stress from the heat," with deaths from global warming "conservatively" estimated at 150,000 per year. In a stupendously one-sided story that aired on Thursday's Good Morning America -- a longer version of which was shown later Nightline -- reporter Bill Blakemore announced that unless "serious greenhouse gas emission cuts" are underway within the next ten years "the Earth will start to experience temperatures higher than it has known in half a million years." On Thursday's World News Tonight, anchor Bob Woodruff teased another version of Blakemore's story, this one with a polar bear twist: "On thin ice. So many polar bears are drowning. Is it evidence of global warming?"

5. "Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear at Office Christmas Party"
Letterman's "Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear at Your Office Christmas Party."


Nets, Especially ABC & NBC, Deliver Upbeat
View of Iraqi Election

Taking a night off from their usual negativity, the three broadcast network evening newscasts, particularly ABC and NBC, led Thursday night with glowingly positive spins on the election in Iraq. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, the only anchor in Iraq, celebrated in her tease: "So much pride. So much joy. The chance at a better future." She then led World News Tonight with how "millions of Iraqis went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. They did so to elect a parliament which will write a new constitution and elect a new government." Remarkably, she pointed out how "the Bush administration set this process into motion nearly three years ago with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein." Campbell Brown, filling in for Brian Williams, teased NBC Nightly News: "A huge turnout. Millions casting their votes on a peaceful and historic day." She began her program by trumpeting: "It has been quite simply a remarkable day in Iraq, one that could have a real impact on the U.S. mission there. Millions of Iraqis all across the country lined up to cast ballots in today's historic elections. Even among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, as well as Shiites and Kurds, the turnout was heavy."

Bob Schieffer suggested surprise at the success as he teased the CBS Evening News: "Iraq held an election and millions voted. It really happened, but what happens next?" Schieffer then delivered a positive, yet more muted than ABC or NBC, lead in which he described "one of the largest turnouts for a free election in the history of the Arab world."

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your views, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Below are transcripts of the December 15 broadcast network evening newscasts teases on Iraq and the introductions to the lead stories, compiled with the help of the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

# ABC's World News Tonight. The tease from Elizabeth Vargas in Iraq: "I'm Elizabeth Vargas in Iraq, where millions of Iraqis went to the polls today. So much pride. So much joy. The chance at a better future. Tonight, what's next for Iraq? The American General and the Senator who says the important thing is what the U.S. leaves in Iraq, not when." [The Senator: Lindsey Graham]

Vargas opened: "Good evening from Iraq. The country has never seen a day like this one before. Millions of Iraqis went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. They did so to elect a parliament which will write a new constitution and elect a new government. The Bush administration set this process into motion nearly three years ago with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. We do not know what kind of government will rule Iraq tomorrow, but today people here had a chance to have a say in the future."


# CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer's tease: "Good evening, I'm Bob Schieffer. Iraq held an election and millions voted. It really happened, but what happens next? We'll start there tonight."

Schieffer led: "Well, it was, by any measure, one of the largest turnouts for a free election in the history of the Arab world. Literally millions voted today in Iraq to choose a parliament which will form a government. Lara Logan heads our coverage of election day and the big turnout. Kimberly Dozier is with U.S. forces and will gauge the impact of the vote on them. And Sheila MacVicar is in Saudi Arabia to report on how the election is being seen throughout the Arab world. We're going first to Lara in Baghdad."


# NBC Nightly News. Campbell Brown's tease: "Election day in Iraq. A huge turnout. Millions casting their votes on a peaceful and historic day."

Brown began: "Good evening. It has been quite simply a remarkable day in Iraq, one that could have a real impact on the U.S. mission there. Millions of Iraqis all across the country lined up to cast ballots in today's historic elections. Even among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, as well as Shiites and Kurds, the turnout was heavy. And attacks by insurgents were light. The success of today's elections is critical to the U.S. plan for drawing down the number of American troops on the ground. It could be weeks before we know the outcome of today's elections to elect the 275-seat parliament. We begin tonight with NBC's Richard Engel in Iraq."

Cooper: Media Focus on "Bombs and Bullets,"
Miss Much of Iraq

In a Wednesday entry on a CNN Web page devoted to "Behind the Scenes" updates from correspondents, Anderson Cooper, who is in Iraq to cover the election, conceded that "every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news."

Greg Sheffield caught Cooper's comment and posted an item about it Thursday on the MRC's NewsBusters blog: newsbusters.org

Cooper's December 14 posting, "Soldiers say media miss Iraq story," didn't say with which military unit Cooper spent time. His last three paragraphs:
"Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.
"When today's patrol ended, one of the soldiers said to me, 'Sorry it wasn't more exciting for you.' I told him I wasn't looking for excitement, and in fact, I was glad the day unfolded as it did.
"It reminded me that life in Iraq is never what you expect it to be. The situation here is far more complex and the fight far more nuanced than it is often portrayed."

For the posting in full: www.cnn.com

Olbermann Corrects Boortz/Cleland Photo
Mixup, Praises Cleland

On MSNBC's Countdown Thursday night, host Keith Olbermann corrected his show's "Worst Person in the World" segment photo mixup from the night before when MSNBC displayed a picture of former Democratic Senator Max Cleland while Olbermann attacked conservative radio talk show host Neal Boortz. But while making his correction, Olbermann added to his attacks on Boortz, calling him a "radio babbler," while proclaiming of the liberal Cleland, "You are one of the best people in the world, and thus, ineligible for this list."

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To see side-by-side pictures of Cleland and Boortz as shown by MSNBC, or to share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

As recounted in the December 15 CyberAlert, on Wednesday's show, Olbermann attacked Boortz for comments he made on his blog regarding the possibility of riots if Stanley "Tookie" Williams were not given clemency. But instead of displaying a photo of Boortz, a photo of Cleland was displayed while Olbermann read his comments on Boortz. Olbermann castigated Boortz as "one of those commentators who give free speech a bad name" as he recounted how "Boortz predicted that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would commute the sentence of convicted killer Stanley 'Tookie' Williams because if he didn't, quoting Boortz here, 'there will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere.' Boortz added, 'There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now.'" Olbermann proposed: "So the guy's not only got no handle predicting events, but he's also a racist? Okay."

For the CyberAlert item in full: www.mediaresearch.org

For audio and video of Olbermann's Wednesday night rant, with the wrong picture displayed by MSNBC, go to this NewsBusters posting: newsbusters.org

On Thursday night's "Worst Person in the World" segment, during which Olbermann normally chooses three nominees to be awarded this title, the Countdown host made his correction by labeling his show the third place award of "Worse." But he then went on to further attack Boortz: "The radio babbler wrote some ludicrous racist prediction before the execution of Tookie Williams."

Olbermann, fearing he might have insulted Cleland by confusing him and Boortz, declared, "How this happened, how we could have gotten it any more wrong, I would need an hour to tell you!" and he expressed apologies, adding, "You are one of the best people in the world, and thus, ineligible for this list."

A transcript of Olbermann's comments from the Thursday, December 15 Countdown, which he made over side-by-side photographs of Cleland and Boortz displayed on-screen:
"Time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of 'Worst Person in the World.' The bronze goes to us. Countdown identified Neal Boortz as last night's runner-up. The radio babbler wrote some ludicrous racist prediction before the execution of Tookie Williams, and we showed a picture not of Neal Boortz, but rather of the distinguished former Georgia Senator Max Cleland. How this happened, how we could have gotten it any more wrong, I would need an hour to tell you! Suffice to say we're very sorry, Max Cleland. Very, very sorry. You are one of the best people in the world, and thus, ineligible for this list."

Doom on ABC: Hottest in 500,000 Years,
Polar Bears Drowning

Forget about how cold it is outside -- according to ABC, there's no longer a debate about global warming: manmade greenhouse emissions have put Earth "under non-stop stress from the heat," with deaths from global warming "conservatively" estimated at 150,000 per year. In a stupendously one-sided story that aired on Thursday's Good Morning America -- a longer version of which was shown later Nightline -- reporter Bill Blakemore announced that unless "serious greenhouse gas emission cuts" are underway within the next ten years "the Earth will start to experience temperatures higher than it has known in half a million years."

[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's NewsBusters blog. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

[On Thursday's World News Tonight, anchor Bob Woodruff teased another version of Blakemore's story, this one with a polar bear twist: "On thin ice. So many polar bears are drowning. Is it evidence of global warming?" Woodruff introduced Blakemore's subsequent one-sided story: "NASA said today that 2005 has tied the mark for the hottest year ever recorded. The heat is having a devastating effect on the people and animals that live in the Arctic Circle, in particular, the polar bears who are particularly vulnerable. ABC's Bill Blakemore has recently been to the Arctic ocean, north of Point Barrow, Alaska."]

Such cuts in emissions, however, would cause massive damage to the world economy. Financial columnist James Glassman recently highlighted a study from the International Council for Capital Formation which tried to assess the impact on just four European countries -- Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy:
"The result: an average decline of almost two percentage points in annual GDP for the four countries. Since these nations are currently growing at less than 1 percent a year, they would be plunged into recession. Jobs and capital would go elsewhere; total annual employment losses in the four countries would be 1.5 million." See: www.aei.org

Not a word of those dire consequences on ABC Thursday morning, which merely played up the most dramatic doomsaying without a single hint that there are scientists on the other side. MRC's Brian Boyd took down Blakemore's hysterical analysis, pegged to today's report from NASA that global temperatures in 2005 were about 1 degree Fahrenheit above average.

Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts introduced Blakemore right after a story about an ice storm hitting the East coast: "And we go from one weather extreme to another. With this cold snap you might find it hard to believe that we have a heat wave of sorts on our hands. This morning NASA is announcing that this year, 2005, is tied for the hottest year ever. And for the fourth year in a row we have seen the hottest annual global temperatures since reliable records started in the 1800s. ABC's Bill Blakemore is here with the details. I think people are going 'Huh?'"

Bill Blakemore, sitting across from Roberts, agreed that the weather might not be helping his case: "That's right, everybody's talking about how cold it is. But, in fact, as we're learning from the scientists today the yearly average temperature shows that the Earth is heating up as much as ever. In fact, today three environmental groups are suing the U.S. government to get the polar bear listed as an endangered species. And scientists are saying that the polar bear is seriously threatened as the Arctic keeps melting.

Then Blakemore's taped report began: "From the Arctic to the tropics, NASA's announcement today that 2005 ties for hottest year on record and the past four years in a row having the hottest temperatures means life around the globe now appears to be under non-stop stress from the heat." Pictures of forest fires and a bank thermometer reading 102 degrees helped underscore the notion of warming.
"NASA scientists say no natural climate cycles can explain it. The heat must be caused in large measure at least by greenhouse gas emissions. As for humans, new studies in the journal of "Nature" confirm World Health Organization's estimates that conservatively 150,000 more people die each year and 5 million more get sick because man-made global warming is helping insect and waterborne diseases to spread, especially among poorer nations.
Blakemore than recounted the litany of troubles facing a warmer planet: "Scientists in the tropics report the warming is drying out forests and spurring a growing number of extinctions. It's threatening even the many species of wild orchid that rely on the mist and the cloud forests. If it gets any warmer'€""
Soundbite from a woman in the forest: "I don't see how extinction can be avoided."
Blakemore: "Scientists in the Arctic are racing to catalogue hundreds of species that live under the frozen sea surface. NASA and other organizations calculate the sea ice is melting so fast it could disappear over the next few decades.
Katrin Iken, University of Fairbanks: "It will definitely create a huge change in the ecosystem here in the Arctic."
Blakemore: "Around the planet hundreds of scientists are reporting ecosystems scattering as species try to reach cooler ground. Harvard's Edward Wilson has been gauging the threat to life on earth for more than half a century."
Edward Wilson: "Do we want to destroy the creation?"
Blakemore to Wilson: "That's the question."
Wilson: "That's what we're doing, at an accelerating rate."
Back in the studio, Blakemore insisted that cutbacks in economic activity needed to start instantly: "NASA scientists now calculate, Robin, that the planet has at most ten years during which serious greenhouse gas emission cuts have to get well underway, or else by the time today's kids are reaching middle age, turning about 40, they say the Earth will start to experience temperatures higher than it has known in half a million years."
An astounded Roberts repeated: "In half a million years?"
Blakemore: "That's what they say."
Roberts: "It's an eye opener. Bill, thank you."

"Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear
at Office Christmas Party"

From the December 15 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear at Your Office Christmas Party." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. "I think the icing on this cake is wite-out"

9. "The bar will be open from 9:00 to 9:05"

8. "I've never seen chunky egg nog before"

7. "My New Year's resolution is to stop videotaping the men's room"

6. "Ooh, another windbreaker with the company logo -- This will help me put my kids through college"

5. "You're supposed to sit naked on the xerox machine, not the shredder"

4. "Put on Regis Philbin's Christmas album"

3. "Why is Shecky naked?"

2. "There's Letterman -- Get him!"

1. "Yeah, a glass of watery cider and a cookie makes up for a year of bull**it"

-- Brent Baker