2. NBC Nightly News Focuses on "Dark Side" of 4.2% GDP Growth
3. Koppel's "Roll Call" Generating Controversy, But CBS Has Done It
On Wednesday, the Justice Department released memos showing that in 1995 U.S. Attorneys objected to Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick's guidelines about barring the CIA from sharing information related to terrorists inside the U.S., which Gorelick herself, now a member of the 9-11 Commission, conceded "go beyond what is legally required."
Thursday's Washington Times put the freshly-released information on its front page, noting how Gorelick had rejected "criticism from U.S. prosecutors, who feared it could undermine future efforts to stop terrorist attacks." On Wednesday night, FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume featured a full story on it.
But not a syllable aired about the subject Wednesday night on the ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC evening newscasts, nor on CNN's NewsNight, and all the morning shows avoided the topic on Thursday morning. On Thursday night, in the wake of the White House rebuking Justice for posting the documents, ABC, CNN, CNBC and NBC all ran brief mentions of how President Bush began his session with the 9/11 Commission by saying he was disappointed for the release of the documents embarrassing to Gorelick, but none let viewers in on what the memos revealed -- an amazing lack of interest given that any effort to suppress information, at least by this White House, normally energizes the press corps.
The Thursday CBS Evening News didn't utter a word about Gorelick, but like NBC, found time to highlight how Paul Bremer had hit the administration, back in February of 2001 in its fifth week, for being inattentive to terrorism. John Roberts asked and answered, with the text of Bremer's February 26, 2001 remarks on screen:
Dan Rather teased the April 29 CBS Evening News by putting the burden on Bush: "Why did President Bush fail to act on pre-9/11 warnings signs? The President and Vice President go before the 9/11 Commission. Tonight, what they were asked and how they answered."
After Roberts' opening piece on the commission interviewing Bush and Cheney, which ended with the above-quoted recitation of what Bremer said three years ago, Rather delivered this haughty sermon:
(Contrast that with how on April 8 Rather described Bill Clinton's appearance before the panel, in the afternoon of the day they heard public testimony from Condoleezza Rice: "The 9-11 Commission also met in private today, taking testimony from former President Bill Clinton behind closed doors for more than three hours. In a statement, the panel said the former President was, and I quote, 'forthcoming and responsive' to its questions but gave no other details.")
Over on Thursday's NBC Nightly News, in a piece which also aired on The News on CNBC and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, David Gregory concluded his story on the commission's interview of Bush and Cheney: "And in a rebuke to his own Justice Department, today the President opened the session with the commission by criticizing Attorney General Ashcroft for his attacks on Democratic commissioner Jamie Gorelick. Aides said later the President does not approve of pointing fingers."
Anchor Tom Brokaw then gave much more time to Bremer's old comments: "There are new reports tonight that before he went to work for the White House, the Bush administration's top man in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Jerry Bremer, was sharply critical of the administration's efforts against terror. In a speech just seven months before the 9/11 attacks, Bremer said, quote, 'The new administration,' that would be the President Bush administration, 'seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there is a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?' They have been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it,' end of quote, Ambassador Paul Jerry Bremer."
(Thursday's NBC Nightly News also ran a piece which undermined Dick Clarke's claim that high-level White House meetings in the Clinton years led to the capture of the Millennium bomber on the Canadian border with the U.S. Brokaw set up a story: "And we've learned more about that close call on the eve of the Millennium when a potential terrorist was intercepted coming across the Canadian border apparently headed for Los Angeles Airport. The Clinton administration was on high alert for terrorism, but, as NBC's chief investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has learned, the real hero that New Year's Eve 1999 was a woman acting on her own instincts, not instructions from Washington.")
ABC's World News Tonight didn't mention Bremer and Terry Moran was the only broadcast network reporter to point out how two commission member walked out early from the long-scheduled session with the President and Vice President.
Before getting to that event, Moran cited the Gorelick flap: "Mr. Bush also offered an apology to one panel member, Jamie Gorelick, in an extraordinary rebuke of his Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft's Justice Department released documents last night on its Web site aimed at showing that Gorelick, while in the Clinton administration's Justice Department, hampered information sharing between the FBI and the CIA."
But Kerrey had the time on Monday to appear on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Earlier Thursday, CNN's Inside Politics focused on the document release instead of their content as Dana Bash explained: "It was really an extraordinary development. We had from the White House podium the White House spokesman essentially saying that the president admonished his own Attorney General over that issue, and did he so in the private meeting with the commissioners earlier today.
FNC on Wednesday actually outlined how the memos which were released showed how federal prosecutors, including the Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorney for Southern New York, Mary Jo White, thought Gorelick's guidelines went beyond the law and would hinder efforts to stop terrorism.
FNC's Major Garrett began his April 28 story on Special Report with Brit Hume: "Despite public comments to the contrary, 9/11 commissioner Jamie Gorelick was heavily involved in the Clinton-era policy that heightened the bureaucratic wall separating criminal prosecutions from terrorism investigations. Justice Department documents released today, and given to the 9/11 Commission Tuesday, show Gorelick signing off on the new policy and rejecting criticism from U.S. prosecutors, who feared it could undermine future efforts to stop terrorist attacks.
"Memos show Gorelick involvement in 'wall,'" read the headline over the April 29 front page Washington Times article by reporters Charles Hurt and Stephen Dinan. See: www.washtimes.com
For a 29-page PDF of the memos between Gorelick, Vatis and White: www.justice.gov
For Ashcroft's prepared statement in full, at the April 13 hearing during which he first revealed how Gorelick was the author of the "wall" memo, as posted by the AP: wid.ap.org
As posted by National Review: www.nationalreview.com
-- April 14: Media Avoidance of Holding Clinton's Justice Department Accountable, part 1 of 2. During his appearance Tuesday before the 9-11 Commission, Attorney General John Ashcroft pointed out how the Clinton Justice Department, in a 1995 memorandum written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, now a member of the commission, imposed a systemic impediment to fighting terrorism by going beyond what the law required to bar the CIA from sharing information with the FBI about terror suspects inside the United States. The ABC, CBS and CNN evening newscasts on Tuesday all failed to mention the Gorelick memo as the networks chose instead to stress accusations about Ashcroft's supposed lack of interest in terrorism in the few months before September 11, 2001. See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 14: Media Avoidance of Holding Clinton's Justice Department Accountable, part 2 of 2. In the morning, as in the evening, the networks focused on making John Ashcroft culpable over any attention to the roles of Jamie Gorelick or Janet Reno, who was set to also appear at the Tuesday hearing. Gorelick, the author of the 1995 memo which established barriers to the CIA informing the FBI of terrorists inside the U.S., appeared on Tuesday's Good Morning America. But Charles Gibson didn't ask her a thing about Reno's policies or her record. No, he cued her up to castigate Ashcroft: "There are reports that John Ashcroft, who will testify today, the Attorney General, is harshly criticized in the draft reports from the commission for inattention to terrorism and terrorist threats in the summer of 2001. True?" She agreed. www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 15: Attorney General John Ashcroft's revelation, at the 9-11 Commission hearing on Tuesday, that commission member Jamie Gorelick, as Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, was the author of a 1995 memo which imposed a systemic impediment to fighting terrorism by going beyond what the law required to bar the CIA from sharing information with the FBI about terror suspects inside the United States, got some limited attention Wednesday after largely being ignored in Tuesday coverage. CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports and NewsNight did raise Gorelick's role, as did CBS's Early Show, but ABC did all it could to ignore it and/or discredit the charge. Diane Sawyer treated charges against Ashcroft as the big news of the day and didn't utter Gorelick's name when she raised Ashcroft's charge against Gorelick. On Nightline, Michel Martin undercut Ashcroft's point by couching it as "partisan." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 20: Only when 9-11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick supposedly became the victim of right-wing hate did ABC's World News Tonight bother to get around to informing its viewers of her 1995 memo, as Deputy Attorney General, mandating that the CIA not share with the FBI information about terrorists. At last Tuesday's 9-11 Commission hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft declassified Gorelick's memo in which she herself conceded the guidelines she was imposing "go beyond what is legally required." But that night, World News Tonight ignored the revelation and focused instead on complaints Ashcroft didn't care about terrorism. www.mediaresearch.org
Good news, but. NBC's Tom Brokaw on Thursday night highlighted how "the government reported today that GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year," but he then added an ominous "but" as he warned, "but there are also growing fears tonight that the good news may have a dark side." That dark side, as outlined in a full story by Anne Thompson: potential interest rate hikes and inflation -- as illustrated by the price of nails.
ABC and CBS also ran "yes, but" items on the GDP, but avoided any "dark side" warnings.
On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings announced: "The government has said today that the Gross Domestic Product, which measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States, grew at 4.2 percent during the first three months of the year. That is slightly better than the last three months of 2003, but well short of the five percent growth that economists had actually forecast."
Dan Rather wasn't quite so downbeat on the CBS Evening News as the "but" actually stressed a positive spin on the news: "The government reported today that the U.S. economy was growing in the first quarter of this year at an annual rate of 4.2 percent. That's less than economists were expecting, but it still indicates that a recovery is under way."
Brokaw introduced the April 29 NBC Nightly News story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "NBC News 'In Depth' tonight, the economy, and there's lots to report. First, the most important gauge of the American economy, the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, suggesting now that the economic recovery has real traction. The government reported today that GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, but there are also growing fears tonight that the good news may have a dark side. NBC's Anne Thompson, 'In Depth.'"
Thompson began: "To find signs of the improving economy, look no further than the growing number of home renovations in New York's Westchester County. Here, builder Andrew La Salla has his very own gauge, what he calls 'dumpster envy.'"
Or hammered by dire media focus on the "dark side" of a booming economy.
Nightline's plan to run a roll call tonight (Friday) of all the U.S. servicemen killed in the Iraq war has generated a lot of controversy from war supporters who suspect an anti-war agenda behind Ted Koppel's decision, and led the owner of eight ABC affiliated stations to drop the program tonight.
But as the MRC's Brian Boyd reminded me, as they did again this morning, since April of last year CBS has been devoting long portions of the 8:30am half hour of the Early Show to running pictures and announcing the names of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. (ABC's This Week ends every week with a list of the names of those killed and their home towns, but sans any pictures.) Today's tribute on the Early Show, which lasted nearly nine minutes and listed those killed since their last rundown on March 5, was the seventh since the first one on April 18, 2003.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group issued this statement on Thursday, as posted by Romenesko, about their decision to not air Nightline tonight:
The ABC Television network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30th edition of "Nightline" will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.
While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of "Nightline" this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.
We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of the 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorists attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.
END of Sinclair's statement
The statement in reaction from ABC News:
We respectfully disagree with Sinclair's decision to pre-empt "Nightline's" tribute to America's fallen soldiers which will air this Friday, April 30. The Nightline broadcast is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country. ABC News is dedicated to thoughtful and balanced coverage and reports on the events shaping our world with neither fear nor favor -- as our audience expects, deserves, and rightly demands. Contrary to the statement issued by Sinclair, which takes issue with our level of coverage of the effects of terrorism on our citizens, ABC News and all of our broadcasts, including "Nightline," have reported hundreds of stories on 9-11. Indeed, on the first anniversary of 9-11, ABC News broadcast the names of the victims of that horrific attack.
In sum, we are particularly proud of the journalism and award winning coverage ABC News has produced since September 11, 2001. ABC News will continue to report on all facets of the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism in a manner consistent with the standards which ABC News has set for decades.
END of ABC's statement
Both statements are online at: poynter.org
Sinclair owns or manages, via a local marketing agreement (LMA) or a lease, these eight ABC affiliates:
- St. Louis: KDNL-TV channel 30
For a list of all of Sinclair's affiliates, mostly with Fox and WB: www.sbgi.net
In an online interview Thursday with Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, Koppel emphatically denied any political or ratings agenda behind the decision to devote his entire program to the roll call of names and photos.
Poynter headlined their posting: "Koppel Defends 'The Fallen'; Nightline anchor expresses his surprise at the reaction to Friday's show and explains its genesis and purpose." See: www.poynter.org
But recall how Koppel ended Nightline, as he stood in an Iraqi desert on March 24, 2003, just after the war began last year, with this condescending lecture: "Telling you if and when things are going badly for U.S. troops, enabling you to bear witness to the high cost of war, is the hard part of our job. In a famous couple of lines from the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson, playing a Marine Colonel, snarls: 'You want the truth? You can't handle the truth.' Well, this is no movie. We'll do our very best to give you the truth in the hope and the belief that you can handle it."
Late word is that Nightline has decided to also feature those killed in non-combat incidents, thus extending Nightline to 40 or 45 minutes tonight. That's 10 or 15 more minutes for Sinclair to fill.
# Ripped from the headlines, tonight's episode of JAG is a clear take-off of the comments from Lt. General Jerry Boykin, which became a mini-controversy last October. The plot for tonight's episode, as summarized on the CBS.com page, for the pro-military show which revolves around characters in the Navy's Judge Advocate Corps: "Harm and Mac square off in the courtroom when a General is accused of making negative remarks about Islam while in uniform during a church sermon."
The JAG page: www.cbs.com
JAG airs on CBS at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT.
-- Brent Baker