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Nets Fret Over Cheney's "Scathing" and "Harsh Attack" on Kerry --8/13/2004


1. Nets Fret Over Cheney's "Scathing" and "Harsh Attack" on Kerry
The presidential candidates and their surrogates fire off attacks on each other virtually every day, but Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism on Thursday of John Kerry for promising to lead a "more sensitive war on terror," unleashed media angst with all the networks focusing a story on it. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas called it a "scathing attack," CNN's John King described it as a "fierce attack" and from Athens, NBC's Tom Brokaw tagged it a "harsh attack." On CBS, anchor Scott Pelley fretted about how while Cheney "hammered hard on one word in particular, trying to portray Democrat John Kerry as soft on terrorism," Kerry "refused to bite back." ABC's Vargas, however, told viewers the opposite, that "the Bush campaign questioned Senator Kerry's ability to be Commander-in-Chief," but "the Kerry campaign showed it can play that game, too." CBS's Jim Axelrod gratuitously passed along how "a few retired generals came out today for Senator Kerry, saying he volunteered for military service when the Vice President was working hard to avoid it."

2. Brokaw Makes Stem Cells the Focus of Bush Visiting Nancy Reagan
Tom Brokaw just can't think of Nancy Reagan without focusing on her disagreement with President Bush on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Over video of George and Laura Bush in the backyard of Reagan's home, Brokaw portrayed it as a moment when the two families put "aside their disagreements on stem cell research." He added, as if it were the most important topic: "The White House says there was no discussion of their disagreement over embryonic stem cell research, which the President opposes and Mrs. Reagan very publicly supports."

3. Admire McGreevey's "Moving" Speech, Regret His Resignation
Some network reporters on Thursday night delivered a sympathetic take on New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, portraying him as a victim as they focused on his declaration that he's a "gay American" and skipped over the charges that he mis-used state funds to employ his lover. "In a moving and highly personal speech," CBS's Randall Pinkston trumpeted, "McGreevey, who's Catholic, described his efforts to suppress his sexuality." ABC's Elizabeth Vargas celebrated how "another boundary of American politics has been crossed today" with "the highest-ranking American politician to identify himself as gay." CNN anchor Miles O'Brien wondered on NewsNight whether "in this day and age if a 47-year-old married father of two who realizes he is gay could make such an announcement without being forced to leave political office?" O'Brien yearned: "And we wonder also will the day come, ever, when he could?"


Nets Fret Over Cheney's "Scathing" and
"Harsh Attack" on Kerry

Vice President Dick Cheney The presidential candidates and their surrogates fire off attacks on each other virtually every day, but Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism on Thursday of John Kerry for promising to lead a "more sensitive war on terror," unleashed media angst with all the networks focusing a story on it. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas called it a "scathing attack," CNN's John King described it as a "fierce attack" and from Athens, NBC's Tom Brokaw tagged it a "harsh attack." On CBS, anchor Scott Pelley fretted about how while Cheney "hammered hard on one word in particular, trying to portray Democrat John Kerry as soft on terrorism," Kerry "refused to bite back." ABC's Vargas, however, told viewers the opposite, that "the Bush campaign questioned Senator Kerry's ability to be Commander-in-Chief," but "the Kerry campaign showed it can play that game, too."

Relaying Kerry campaign opposition research, ABC and CBS showed an example of President Bush using the term "sensitive," but in the context of balancing the rights of people against intelligence pursuits, not in fighting the war on terror militarily. CNN's John King, on NewsNight, came up with a more equivalent Bush quote, but one from before 9/11 as he related how Kerry "aides say by promising to be more sensitive he simply meant more diplomatic with other countries, much as President Bush used the term six weeks after taking office." In that undated speech, Bush declared: "Precisely because America is powerful, we must be sensitive about expressing our power and influence."

Though the CBS Evening News has only derided the views of those associated with Vietnam Veterans for Truth, smearing them in May and last week dismissing their new ad with one sentence about how John McCain denounced it, CBS's Jim Axelrod gratuitously passed along Thursday night: "A few retired generals came out today for Senator Kerry, saying he volunteered for military service when the Vice President was working hard to avoid it."

On August 5, CBS anchor John Roberts offered only criticism of the group's ad: "A harsh new television ad that attacks John Kerry is being denounced as quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable' by a Bush supporter, Republican Senator John McCain." See: www.mediaresearch.org

Back on May 4, the CBS Evening News tried to discredit the Vietnam veterans critical of John Kerry by impugning them as partisan activists tied to the Bush campaign, though the only link seemed to be a public relations firm involved in the 2000 campaign, and tarred all of them with the supposed dirty work for Richard Nixon of one. Very McCarthyistic. CBS's Byron Pitts went back to 1971 as he recalled how John O'Neill, who debated Kerry about Vietnam on ABC's Dick Cavett Show, "was handpicked by the Nixon administration to discredit Kerry." Pitts added, without any explanation, that "the press conference was set up by the same people who," in 2000, "tried to discredit John McCain's reputation in Vietnam service." Then Pitts connected the anti-Kerry veterans to a presumed nefarious "strategy" they had nothing to do with implementing: "It's the same strategy used to go after Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam." See: www.mediaresearch.org

Now, a full rundown of the Thursday night, August 12, stories on ABC, CBS and NBC.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas plugged the upcoming story: "When we come back: The Vice President launches a scathing attack on John Kerry. Much ado about one word."

Vargas set up the subsequent piece: "On the campaign trail, some very tough talk today. For the second-straight day, the Bush campaign questioned Senator Kerry's ability to be Commander-in-Chief. It was all about Kerry's use of the word 'sensitive.' But the Kerry campaign showed it can play that game, too. ABC's Dan Harris reports from the campaign trail."

Harris began with a clip of Dick Cheney at a campaign event in Dayton: "Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge, he would fight a 'more sensitive war on terror.'"
Harris: "In Dayton, Ohio, this morning, Vice President Cheney's latest attack played off this recent comment by John Kerry."
Kerry on August 5 at the UNITY: Journalists of Color conference: "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more pro-active, more sensitive war on terror."
Cheney: "The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."
Harris to Kerry in a crowd in Carson, California: "Senator, Any response to Vice President Cheney's comments today?"
Kerry: "No, it's just, you know, it's sad that they can only be negative."
Harris, over video of Web pages: "But Kerry did not explain what he meant by a 'more sensitive war on terror.' His campaign, however, did a quick search on the White House Web site, and found instances of the President using the same word -- 'sensitive.'"
President Bush at the UNITY convention on August 6: "Now, in terms of the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice, obviously is -- we need to be very sensitive on that."
Harris: "Perhaps predictably, both sides are accusing the other of taking their comments out of context. What this exchange does show, however, is that when it comes to national security, the two presidential candidates have very different ways of expressing themselves. For Bush, it's simple and declarative."
Quick series of Bush clips:
"My answer is -- bring 'em on."
"We're gonna smoke 'em out."
"Dead or alive, either way."
Harris picked up: "For Kerry, it's often about nuance."
Kerry at Democratic convention: "Now, I know that there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities, and I do."
Harris: "A lack of clarity, however, can be a liability."
Stephen Hess, Brookings Institution: "It doesn't have to be a message that you can put on a bumper sticker. But it's got to be a message that you can say, if not in a nine-second soundbite, at least in a 30-second commercial."
Harris concluded from Carson, California: "We may be living in a more complex world, but in the world of politics, simplicity often rules."

Just as in television news.

-- CBS Evening News. Anchor Scott Pelley announced: "Back in this country, the war of words known as campaign '04 escalated further today. Vice President Dick Cheney hammered hard on one word in particular, trying to portray Democrat John Kerry as soft on terrorism. But as correspondent Jim Axelrod reports from Los Angeles, Kerry refused to bite back."

Axelrod began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "John Kerry came to California to talk about tax cuts."
John Kerry at campaign event: "We believe it's time for America to have tax cuts that actually work for all Americans."
Axelrod: "That was his plan, and he was sticking to it-"
Dick Cheney in Dayton: "Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge, he would fight a 'more sensitive' war on terror."
Axelrod: "-no matter how much designated critic Dick Cheney unloaded on him."
Cheney: "President Lincoln and General Grant did not wage sensitive warfare."
Axelrod: "Cheney was referring to a comment Kerry made last week. Kerry said international coalitions were necessary to fight terror, and that he could build them."
Kerry on August 5 at the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention: "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more pro-active, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side."
Axelrod: "Not only did the Vice President seize on the word 'sensitive,' implying Kerry meant he'd be sensitive to terrorists-"
Cheney: "A 'sensitive' war will not destroy the evil men who killed three thousand Americans, and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more."
Axelrod: "-so did his wife."
Lynne Cheney, beside Dick: "I can't imagine that, you know, al-Qaeda is going to be impressed by sensitivity."
Kerry, by a crowd: "It's sad that they can only be negative. They have nothing to say about the future vision of America."
Axelrod: "While the candidate stayed on message today, staffers said Mr. Cheney distorted Kerry's words. Then, they pointed to the President at the same conference using the 's' word."
George W. Bush, August 6 at UNITY: Journalists of Color conference: "Now, in terms of, you know, the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice, obviously is, we need to be very sensitive on that."
Axelrod, in front of a park in Los Angeles: "A few retired generals came out today for Senator Kerry, saying he volunteered for military service when the Vice President was working hard to avoid it. Eighty-two days till the election, and the brass knuckles are out in a fight over sensitivity. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, Los Angeles."

-- NBC Nightly News. From Athens, before an ad break Tom Brokaw plugged an upcoming item: "Up next on NBC News 'In Depth," Vice President Cheney delivers another harsh criticism of John Kerry over the war on terror."

Brokaw handled the topic himself: "Vice President Dick Cheney delivered another harsh attack today on Senator John Kerry over a statement that Mr. Kerry made last week on the war on terror. Kerry said as Commander-in-Chief, he would fight a more effective, thoughtful, strategic, and what he called 'sensitive war on terror' that reaches out to other nations. Mr. Cheney said he takes issue with that word 'sensitive.'"
Cheney: "Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge, he would fight a 'more sensitive war on terror.' America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive."
Brokaw: "For his part, Senator Kerry, campaigning in California today, brushed off the Cheney remark, but the Kerry campaign issued a statement saying the Republican campaign attacks are quote, 'pathetic and desperate attempts to avoid coming clean with the American people about their failed policies,' end of quote."

Brokaw Makes Stem Cells the Focus of
Bush Visiting Nancy Reagan

Tom Brokaw just can't think of Nancy Reagan without focusing on her disagreement with President Bush on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Over video of George and Laura Bush in the backyard of Reagan's home, Brokaw portrayed it as a moment when the two families put "aside their disagreements on stem cell research." He added, as if it were the most important topic: "The White House says there was no discussion of their disagreement over embryonic stem cell research, which the President opposes and Mrs. Reagan very publicly supports."

Actually, Bush opposes federal funding of the research. Anyone can do whatever they want with embryonic stem cells so long as they don't use federal funds.

From Athens, on Thursday's NBC Nightly News Brokaw narrated a short item illustrated by video of George and Laura Bush, along with Nancy Reagan, walking in Reagan's backyard:
"In American politics tonight, putting aside their disagreements on stem cell research, an issue that is ever larger in the American presidential campaign, President and Mrs. Bush paid a short visit to Nancy Reagan today at her home in Bel Air California where Mrs. Reagan gave the Bushes a tour of her backyard. The White House says there was no discussion of their disagreement over embryonic stem cell research, which the President opposes and Mrs. Reagan very publicly supports. The White House says Mrs. Reagan did express her full support for the President's campaign for re-election as President."

Admire McGreevey's "Moving" Speech, Regret
His Resignation

Some network reporters on Thursday night delivered a sympathetic take on New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, portraying him as a victim as they focused on his declaration that he's a "gay American" and skipped over the very serious charges that he mis-used state funds to employ his lover. "In a moving and highly personal speech," CBS's Randall Pinkston trumpeted, "McGreevey, who's Catholic, described his efforts to suppress his sexuality." CNN anchor Miles O'Brien wondered on NewsNight whether "in this day and age if a 47-year-old married father of two who realizes he is gay could make such an announcement without being forced to leave political office?" O'Brien yearned: "And we wonder also will the day come, ever, when he could?"

While ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas celebrated how "another boundary of American politics has been crossed today" with "the highest-ranking American politician to identify himself as gay," reporter John Berman stressed how "McGreevey was forced into this admission to fend off some serious allegations." Berman noted that while "McGreevey cast his announcement as one of personal liberation...sources say that he was pressured to quit by the scandal" over how he allegedly misused his office to benefit his lover.

In the lead story for the August 12 CBS Evening News, Randall Pinkston ignored charges about McGreevey's personal abuse of government money: "While there have been clouds over his administration, two of his top associates are under federal investigation; until now, there was no public knowledge of his personal struggle."
McGreevey: "Shamefully, I engaged in an adulterous, consensual relationship with another man which violated my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable."
Pinkston: "McGreevey did not mention the name of his male lover, but it's been reported that Golan Cipel, his former aide, was planning to file a sexual harassment lawsuit."
McGreevey: "I realize the fact of my affair and own sexuality, if kept secret, leaves me and most importantly the governor's office vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure. So I am removing these threats by telling you directly about my sexuality."
Pinkston: "In a moving and highly personal speech, McGreevey, who's Catholic, described his efforts to suppress his sexuality."
McGreevey: "Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am. As a young child I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact confused."
Pinkston: "McGreevey is the latest public figure to step down over sexual misconduct this year. In Illinois, Republican senatorial candidate Jack Ryan dropped out over a sexual scandal and former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt quit a state job after admitting he had sex with a minor while serving as Portland's mayor. Ironically, Governor McGreevey opposed same-sex marriage. His resignation takes effect November 15, which will allow the New Jersey statehouse to remain in Democratic control through 2005."

Over on ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Elizabeth Vargas opened the broadcast: "Good evening. Another boundary of American politics has been crossed today. In New Jersey, the Governor, James McGreevey, made a stunning admission on national television. With his wife by his side, the Governor announced that he is gay, that he had an affair with a man and that he would resign. His announcement makes him the highest-ranking American politician to identify himself as gay."

But in contrast to Pinkston, ABC reporter John Berman outlined McGreevey's presumed misconduct: "McGreevey was forced into this admission to fend off some serious allegations. A former aide, Golan Cipel, is filing a lawsuit claiming sexual misconduct by the Governor. McGreevey met Cipel in Israel and then gave him a $100,000 a year job, overseeing New Jersey's homeland security."

Berman soon elaborated: "Certainly, other public figures and politicians have come out of the closet. But none quite like this. On live television, with a family, as chief executive of a state. McGreevey cast his announcement as one of personal liberation. But sources say that he was pressured to quit by the scandal, which they say will grow in the coming days, Elizabeth, with additional allegations, all very public. And all very personal."

Filling in for Aaron Brown, Miles O'Brien opened Thursday's NewsNight on CNN: "Hello from Atlanta. I'm Miles O'Brien in for Aaron Brown tonight. Politics in New Jersey has long been infected by a culture of corruption. By one estimate, the Garden State leads the nation in the number of former mayors in federal prison. So as we watch the burgeoning scandal surrounding Governor James McGreevey in recent months with allegations of bribes and attempts to silence witnesses, it seemed sadly familiar.
"But then came the bombshell. As of this afternoon, McGreevey is now an openly gay American, out of the closet and soon to be out of politics. The plot my thicken here. There are rumblings of a lawsuit from a spurned lover but we wonder in this day and age if a 47-year-old married father of two who realizes he is gay could make such an announcement without being forced to leave political office. And we wonder also will the day come, ever, when he could?"

In CNN's subsequent story, Alina Cho avoided the questions over how McGreevey arranged for government jobs for the man involved, as she touted how "it was a news conference like no other: Candid, poignant, personal."

# John O'Neill media appearances update: The author of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, was on opposite Lanny Davis Thursday on Crossfire on CNN where James Carville went crazy yelling at him and MSNBC's Hardball on Thursday night devoted the second half of the hour-long program to a showdown between O'Neill and John Hurley of Veterans for Kerry, but host Chris Matthews served as a surrogate for the Kerry team as he spent most of the session badgering O'Neill over his motivations.

For summaries of many CyberAlert articles this year which recounted media coverage, or lack thereof, for the anti-Kerry Vietnam veterans while the networks touted Kerry's "band of brothers" and bashed Bush over questions about his National Guard service, see this August 12 CyberAlert item: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Brent Baker