Newscasts on Plame's Testimony: 'Impeach Bush,' Zilch on Armitage --3/19/2007
2. Steph's Double Standard: 'Something Fishy' in Bush Years, But...
3. WPost Promotes 'Peace' Marchers on Front Page, No Leftist Tags
4. Rather Lauds Comedians Who 'Speak Truth,' Actor Hails 'Integrity'
5. LA Times Reporter: FNC Much More Biased Than 'Traditional' Media
The three broadcast network evening newscasts were similar Friday night in featuring full stories on Valerie Plame's testimony before the House Government Reform Committee, including video of Plame with a woman behind her wearing a pink "Impeach Bush" T-shirt -- ABC even caught a moment when the woman was making the "shame" sign with her fingers (see screen shot in posted version of thie CyberAlert) -- and not mentioning Richard Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State who was the source for columnist Robert Novak's reporting of her name. CBS's Gloria Borger, remarkably, concluded her report by listing every big name involved but Armitage's: "When asked whether she'd gotten an apology from the President, the Vice President, Karl Rove or Scooter Libby, she said no."
But there were differences. Only NBC Nightly News led with Plame as fill-in anchor Campbell Brown announced: "The CIA operative at the heart of a scandal tells Congress the Bush administration blew her cover and wrecked her career." NBC's Chip Reid uniquely highlighted how Plame contributed to Al Gore's 2000 campaign and that she conceded "I am a Democrat." While CBS's Borger concluded with a missing apology to her, ABC's David Kerley ended his piece by noting how Plame is taking advantage of her situation: "While Plame may have lost the undercover job she loved, the blown cover is allowing her to find a new career. She signed a book deal for more than $1 million. And oh, about all those ingredients for a Hollywood movie, there will be one of those, as well."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
ABC's World News opened with the impact of the storm in the Northeast followed by how more troops are being added to the "surge" in Iraq, then arrived at Plame.
Katie Couric led the March 16 CBS Evening News with how Alberto Gonzales is "on his way out. Sources tell CBS News it's just a matter of time now before the Attorney General gets fired." She then ran an interview with ousted U.S. attorney of New Mexico, David Iglesias, before going to Borger's report on Plame. Couric teased the Plame story:
Couric set up Borger's subsequent report: "Meanwhile, we've been hearing about her for years, today we heard from her. Valerie Plame, the former CIA operative, testified on Capitol Hill. She accused the Bush administration of ruining her CIA career by leaking her name for political reasons."
Campbell Brown led the NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. She has been the object of fascination, the woman in the middle of a Washington scandal and Valerie Plame Wilson, the outed CIA officer, has never before spoken so extensively about what has happened to her until today. She arrived on Capitol Hill surrounded by photographers to tell Members of Congress that her career as a CIA undercover officer was brought to an end when Bush administration officials revealed her true identity."
Reporter Chip Reid uniquely highlighted this exchange:
Valerie Plame: "My exposure arose from purely political motives."
ABC's George Stephanopoulos grilled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys on Wednesday's Good Morning America, telling him that "something does seem fishy here," suggesting that the Bush White House was punishing U.S. Attorneys who were not pursuing a GOP-friendly agenda.
But as a White House spokesman back in 1993, Stephanopoulos faced exactly the same question over President Clinton's decision to fire U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens along with the other 92 U.S. Attorneys. "There is also a tradition of permitting prosecutors to remain on cases until current cases are completed," a reporter told Stephanopoulos in a March 25, 1993 briefing. Referring to the investigation into House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski for embezzling money from the House Post Office, a reporter asked, "Is there any intention to keep Jay Stephens until the Rostenkowski case is finished?"
[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
From the podium, spokesman Stephanopoulos coolly replied, "I don't think so, no."
In his political memoir, All Too Human, Stephanopoulos relayed the attitude Clinton insiders had toward Stephens, who said in March 1993 he was within 30 days of finishing the Rostenkowski investigation. (With Stephens off the case, the indictment came 14 months later, in May 1994.) Hearing that Stephens had been named by a government agency to look into the Clinton's Whitewater land deal, Stephanopoulos recalled his rage: "How could a Clinton hater like Stephens possibly conduct an impartial investigation? This is unbelievable! He has a clear conflict. How could it happen?"
Stephanopoulos voiced his outrage to Treasury Department official Josh Steiner, who told him there was no way to remove Stephens from the case. Stephanopoulos' seeming attempt to affect the Whitewater investigation actually earned him a trip to the grand jury room, although he was never indicted.
MRC analyst Scott Whitlock took down Stephanopoulos's accusatory questions to Gonzales from the March 14 Good Morning America:
-- "But Mr. Attorney General, something does seem fishy here. Five of the eight who were dismissed were involved in high profile political corruption cases. Four were going after Republicans accused of corruption or had gone after Republicans. One was being complained about because he wasn't going after Democrats aggressively enough. So it really does appear here, at least, like you singled out prosecutors that weren't with the program."
-- "And if it turns out that evidence of political interference does comes up in these e-mails and other communications, will you resign?"
Now back up to March 25, 1993, when the roles were reversed, with Republicans charging that the Clinton White House had fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in part to stall the Rostenkowski investigation. Here's the relevant portion of Stephanopoulos's White House briefing (unfortunately, the Federal News Service transcript retrieved via Nexis doesn't include the names or news organizations of the reporters asking the questions):
Q It has been the custom in the past for holdover US attorneys to stay on until their successors were nominated or even in place. Why was that not done in this case?
And here's how Stephanopoulos recalled the U.S. Attorneys firings and his attitude toward Stephens on page 247 of All Too Human. Stephanopoulos was explaining his phone call to Josh Steiner, a call that was later investigated by Special Counsel Robert Fiske as a possibly improper attempt to influence the Whitewater investigation:
So if Stephens should be regarded as "a Clinton hater" for publicly challenging his removal from a sensitive investigation of an important House Democrat, and therefore had "a clear conflict" that meant he was too prejudiced to be trusted with an investigation, what would Stephanopoulos say about fired U.S. Attorneys like Washington state's John McKay, who are going on TV to complain about their removal? Are they obvious "Bush haters" who are so prejudiced that their complaining should be dismissed out of hand?
Or are we to trust that Stephanopoulos has purged every partisan instinct from his body, and is unencumbered by any kind of "clear conflict" that should worry conservatives today?
The Washington Post highlighted Saturday's anti-liberation of Iraq protest march to the Pentagon on Sunday's front page, splashing a large color photo of a crowd of leftist demonstrators over the headline "4 Years After Start of War, Anger Reigns: Demonstrators Brave Cold to Carry Message to the Pentagon, as Counter-Protesters Battle Back." Counter-demonstrators won an article and two photos of their own in the Post, but Post reporters repeatedly referred to jeering conservatives giving the leftists a battering of abusive comments. The Post used no ideological labels or explained the communist origins of the organizers of the ANSWER Coalition -- unlike The New York Times, which did both in their Sunday coverage.
The lead sentence of the front-page Post article by Steve Vogel and Michael Alison Chandler mentioned that the "anti-war" protesters were "jeered along the way by large numbers of angry counter-demonstrators," but the rest of the front page was devoted to the left, especially the standard sympathetic rookie protester: 72-year-old Korean War veteran Paul Miller "making his first appearance at an anti-war rally" who felt "so bad for the young Marines who are getting their legs blown off and losing their lives." For the March 18 Post article: www.washingtonpost.com
Inside, Vogel and Chandler noted that "Much of the passion yesterday was supplied by thousands of counter-protesters," and "Some counter-protesters yelled obscenities and mocked the marchers as traitors." The conservatives couldn't say they were ignored, but they were portrayed with a thuggish appearance:
At one point before the march started, counter-demonstrators formed a gantlet along an asphalt walkway on Constitution Avenue and heaped verbal abuse at protesters who walked through on their way to the assembly area. One Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair yelled obscenities at demonstrators, including some with children.
Some demonstrators supporting the war effort engaged in good-natured banter with war protesters. But others blocked paths and prevented marchers from getting near the Wall, particularly anyone carrying a sign. District resident Eric Anderson, 47, had his sign ripped from his hands and thrown in the mud.
Bob Anders, 60, an Iowa banker who said he served with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and rode a bus from Iowa to protest the war, had his heart set on seeing the memorial but turned around after seeing the situation. "I've never seen the memorial, and I wanted to see it in a spirit of protest," he said.
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A few paragraphs later, the Post reporters added that counter-protesters were something leftists were forced to "survive," an unwanted battering:
They had survived the 22-hour bus ride as well as the insults of the counter-protesters, only to be defeated by the bitter cold.
"We just couldn't take it anymore," said Christine Gaunt, 50, a hog farmer from Grinnell, Iowa. Now, with a voice fatigued from chanting litanies against the president and feet tired from marching on the military industrial complex, Gaunt just counted the hours to the group's scheduled bus pickup at 7 p.m.
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Isn't it interesting that the Post refers to the leftist lingo of the "military industrial complex" without any distance or irony or quotation marks, as if that's simply what the Pentagon represents? The only quotation of a rally speaker came from "protest leader Mara Veheyden-Hilliard," with ANSWER, saying simply, "It's strange to say, but welcome to the Pentagon," since there was no counter-protesting crowd there. The reporters noted "speeches from antiwar activists including Cindy Sheehan" in their piece, but included no quotations.
Above the front-page story's continuation on page A-12 was an entire story on the counter-protesters by Brigid Schulte with the headline: "Veterans, Others Denounce Marchers." Schulte called it "the largest gathering of pro-administration counter-demonstrators since the war began four years ago." Most counter-protesters probably do support the Bush surge policy, but it's also possible that some were more passionate in opposing the "anti-war" crowd than with defending the administration. The oddest paragraph in Schulte's article was this one, another description of bullying, bitter right-wingers:
The vets turned both sides of Constitution into a bitter, charged gantlet for the war protesters. "Jihadists!" some vets screamed. "You're brain-dead!" Others chanted, "Workers World traitors must hang!" -- a reference to the Communist newspaper. Some broke into "The Star-Spangled Banner" as war protesters sought to hand out pamphlets.
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For that second story: www.washingtonpost.com
It was a little amusing to see that paragraph followed by a war protester fussing about a "bunch of hooligans in motorcycle jackets." It might be the first time a left-wing hooligan has denounced the other side as hooligans in the Post. At the very least, it's uncommon. Schulte's article reported that the catalyst for the counter-protest was vandalism and disrespect shown at the January leftist protest, including the spray-painting of the Capitol steps and a crowning of the Lone Sailor statue at the Navy Memorial in Washington with a pink tiara with the words "Women for Peace" on it.
The most striking part of the Schulte article was the large photo that came with it. A "U.S. Marine who served in Iraq yells at passing war protesters," read the caption. The Marine clearly projected rage, and had his left-hand in a fist. The other photo of counter-demonstrators lower on page A-12 had men holding their hats and praying near the Vietnam veterans memorial.
Once again, the Post displayed their disdain for the anti-abortion march in January, which despite having larger numbers than the Pentagon protest, was buried inside the front section.
In contrast to the Washington Post, in their report on Saturday's Pentagon protest, New York Times reporters David D. Kirkpatrick (formerly assigned to cover the conservative movement for the Times) and Sarah Abruzzese offered readers several things the Washington Post did not. Their story used the "liberal" label (twice), explained that the ANSWER Coalition was affiliated with the Workers World Party, noted the ANSWER signs celebrated communist icon Che Guevara, and quoted Cindy Sheehan's speech (typically) calling out President Bush and Vice President Cheney as "war criminals."
The New York Times story was not featured on Sunday's front page. The headline was unremarkable: "In March, Protesters Recall War Anniversaries." The Times duo quickly applied the liberal label to protest groups:
The liberal group MoveOn.org has held many small protest vigils around the country. And in Washington on Friday night a coalition of liberal Christian groups, including Sojourners/Call to Renewal, led several thousand people in a march that began with a service at the National Cathedral. More than 200 participants were arrested praying in front of the White House, the police said.
Saturday's march was organized by the Answer Coalition '€" named for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism '€" an organization that was initially associated with the Workers World Party and now affiliated with a breakaway faction of that party called the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
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For the NY Times story: www.nytimes.com
That's much more descriptive than liberal-media accounts usually are. They could have explained the party was Maoist, or that speaker Ramsey Clark was a defense lawyer for Saddam Hussein, but it's so much better than other accounts on ANSWER, it's a little hard to complain. Then came the part about Che and Cindy Sheehan:
Judging by the speeches and placards, the marchers on Saturday set their sights on sweeping goals, including not only ending the war but also impeaching President Bush and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Many carried Answer Coalition signs bearing the image of the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara.
Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the Answer Coalition and a member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, said the group held out little hope of influencing either the president or Congress. "It is about radicalizing people," Mr. Becker said in an interview. "You hook into a movement that exists '€" in this case the antiwar movement '€" and channel people who care about that movement and bring them into political life, the life of political activism."
In a speech before the march, Cindy Sheehan, who made headlines in 2005 camping outside the Mr. Bush's Texas ranch after her son was killed in Iraq, called the president and his military advisers "war criminals."
"We want the people in the White House out of our house and arrested for crimes against humanity," Ms. Sheehan said.
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Kirkpatrick and Abruzzese added a little more color about how some protesters were puzzled by the socialist signs all around them:
Many in the crowd said they were unfamiliar with the Answer Coalition and puzzled by the many signs about socialism. Several said they had come from across the country for a chance to voice their dismay at the war.
Alan Rainey, an adjunct professor and small publisher from West Lafayette, Ind., said he had not attended a protest since 1973, not long after he had returned from military duty in Vietnam. On Saturday, he carried a sign with green clover and a St. Patrick's Day theme. "Help drive the snakes out of the White House," it said, depicting snakes with the faces of Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"This war is criminal," Mr. Rainey said. "We impeached Clinton for a little indiscretion with an adult."
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Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Dan Rather praised left-wing comedians with television shows, namely Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, for "speaking truth to power" at a time when journalists have "lost our guts." Then, though last July Rather declared he "absolutely" believes "the truth" of his discredited Bush National Guard story based on forged memos, actor Jason Alexander hailed Rather: "I am really honored to be sitting next to a man that I think was one of the beacons of integrity in news journalism." Alexander, who is best-known for playing "George Costanza" on Seinfeld, proceeded to lean across fellow guest Martha Raddatz of ABC News to shake hands with Rather.
Rather declared to Maher that "comedians, such as yourself, Jon Stewart and others, are a valuable supplement" to the mainstream news media since "good journalism...speaks truth to power," but "we've lost our guts. We need a spine transplant. What's happened is comedians, in their own way, speak truth to power and fill that vacuum that we in journalism have too often left, particularly post 9/11."
The Internet Movie Database's page for Alexander, which notes that his real name is Jason Greenspan: www.imdb.com ]
[This item was posted late Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A brief transcript from the end of the panel session on the March 16 Real Time with Bill Maher aired live at 11pm EDT, from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, on HBO East:
Dan Rather: "Comedians, such as yourself, Jon Stewart and others, are a valuable supplement -- and here's why: Good journalism at its best frequently speaks truth to power. What's happened with journalists, again I don't except myself from this criticism, in some ways we've lost our guts. We need a spine transplant. What's happened is comedians, in their own way, speak truth to power and fill that vacuum that we in journalism have too often left, particularly post 9/11."
Los Angeles Times columnist (and longtime political reporter) Ron Brownstein tackled the issue of the Nevada Democratic Party dumping Fox News Channel as a debate partner. He thinks this rejection is similar to how "conservatives deal with mainstream media organizations they consider biased against them." Put aside for a minute the odd notion that Republican Party organizations or politicians would refuse to do debates thrown by liberal networks. As if. In his March 16 column, Brownstein's peddled the old canard that Fox News is exponentially more biased than "mainstream" news organizations: "The situation isn't exactly parallel. For all the howling on the right, it's difficult to argue that mainstream news organizations operate with anything approaching Fox' partisan and ideological agenda. But there's no question many conservatives feel as wronged by elements of the mainstream media as Democrats do by Fox."
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For Brownstein's column: www.latimes.com
Predictably, Brownstein pitched conservative media critics as insincere, pandering panhandlers, harvesters of rage, even though Republican politicians grip and grin with the "mainstream" folks:
Unasked by Brownstein: Do Republican politicians really have a choice to avoid "traditional channels"? All of them? I would also wonder how many Republican leaders spend their days "throwing rocks" at the major media?
It's always worth remembering when journalists accuse others of partisan appearances to look at the accuser's biography. Well, here's an old item from the MRC's MediaWatch newsletter in 1991 which would suggest Brownstein had a partisan liberal background, but still found a cozy job in that "mainstream" nonpartisan press. From "Two Times a Nader," a "Revolving Door" item in the April 1991 MediaWatch:
Ronald Brownstein, a national political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times since last spring, is out with a new book on the Hollywood-Washington connection, titled The Power and the Glitter. It's Brownstein's first book since he co-authored Reagan's Ruling Class: Portraits of the President's Top 100 Officials for Ralph Nader's Presidential Accountability Group in 1982. The year before, Brownstein edited with Nader a book published by the Sierra Club, Who's Poisoning America: Corporate Polluters and Their Victims in the Chemical Age.
Brownstein co-authored the Reagan book with his wife, Nina Easton, who has covered the entertainment community for the Los Angeles Times since 1989. In 1982 Easton authored Reagan's Squeeze on Small Business, a Nader report. In it, Easton concluded that Reagan's economic policies would accelerate economic concentration, "transforming a nation of business owners into a nation of employees."
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That's online at: www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker