2. New Low: Olbermann Calls Barbara Bush "Worst Person in the World"
3. CNN's Cafferty: Criticism of Iraq Media Coverage is "Nonsense"
4. Good Morning America Viewers Want to Hear the Good News from Iraq
5. "Role Reversal: Gregory Finds Out What It's Like to Be McClellan"
6. Cronkite: Dangers from Anti-Communist "Nuts," Iraq Equals Vietnam
Olbermann proposed to Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank: "Does this not smack of desperation on the part of the White House, to let something like that leak out right now?" Olbermann had gone too far even for Milbank, who came to Drudge's defense: "I, first of all, am never going to call Matt Drudge deplorable. Every time he links to one of my stories, I get an extra 50,000 hits." On Green, Milbank indicted his colleagues as he called for condemnation of the ABCer: "We have to say it is unacceptable for a journalist to be doing this, in part because, look, you and I and other journalists go out all the time and say things critical of Bush, but this fellow, I don't know him, is obviously very personally invested."
[This item was posted Thursday night, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. The video will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert item, but in the meantime to watch the video, in either RealPlayer or Windows Media formats, as well as a MP3 audio click, go to: newsbusters.org ]
The DrudgeReport on Thursday afternoon posted the text of a Thursday, September 30, 2004 e-mail via a Blackberry (with the time of 19:13) from John Green, Executive Producer of the Saturday and Sunday editions of Good Morning America, to a recipient whose name was blacked out: "Are you watching this? Bush makes me sick. If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke."
For the Drudge posting: www.drudgereport.com
September 30 was the night of the first Bush-Kerry debate, Tim Graham pointed out in a NewsBusters posting which quoted Bush's repeated use of the phrase that so annoyed Green: newsbusters.org
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for a couple of the questions Olbermann posed to Milbank, who appeared from Washington, in the lead March 23 segment tagged "White House Woes."
Keith Olbermann: "The war against the media, it's not something from our imagination, and it certainly got a little personal today. There was an e-mail that a producer at ABC News had written in the fall of 2004 during the presidential campaign that was leaked to the infamous, deplorable Matt Drudge. The e-mail read, as a posting today: 'Are you watching this? Bush makes be sick. If he uses the "mixed messages" line one more time, I'm going to puke.' I'm not even going to put the 'if that came from the White House somehow' thing in there because the timing's too good. When you consider that the President won that election and the e-mail was not even about Iraq, does this not smack of desperation on the part of the White House, to let something like that leak out right now?"
A bit later in the session, Olbermann got in another slap at Matt Drudge:
On his Countdown show Thursday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann designated Barbara Bush as his "Worst Person in the World" for a donation she made to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, a donation she required be used to buy education software for Houston schools from her son Neil's software company. Olbermann snapped that if you "make the charity give the donation to your son, it's not a damned donation anymore!" However, the Countdown host neglected to mention that the Bush family had also given other donations without any requirement as to how the money should be spent.
During his regular "Worst Person in the World" segment, Olbermann normally chooses three nominees to be awarded the dishonor of that name. His three nominees are labeled as "Worse," "Worser," and "Worst." Citing the Houston Chronicle as a source, Olbermann tagged Barbara Bush with the label of "Worst" because of the earmarked donation that would require the buying of software from her son's company. However, the Countdown host failed to mention that the Houston Chronicle article also relayed, citing former President Bush's chief-of-staff Jean Becker, that the Bush family had given additional donations to the Katrina fund without any requirement as to how they should be spent: "Becker said she wasn't at liberty to divulge how much money the Bush family gave to the hurricane funds, but said the 'rest of their donation was not earmarked for anything.'" See: www.chron.com
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann's attack on Barbara Bush from the Thursday, March 23 Countdown:
Count CNN's Jack Cafferty among the growing number of reporters who have expressed disdain towards those who criticize the mainstream media. During his 4pm EST "Cafferty File" segment on Thursday's The Situation Room, Cafferty was all riled up to take on those who believe the MSM's coverage of Iraq has failed to report on progress being made there: "This is nonsense. It's the media's fault and the news isn't good in Iraq. The news isn't good in Iraq. There's violence in Iraq. People are found dead every day in the streets of Baghdad. This didn't turn out the way the politicians told us it would. And it's our fault? I beg to differ."
[This item, by the MRC's Megan McCormack, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Cafferty's comments followed a discussion between Wolf Blitzer and CNN's Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz on the subject of Iraq war coverage. He dismissed any question of the media's role in covering Iraq, and placed all the blame directly on "politicians":
Before the segment ended, Blitzer applauded Cafferty for speaking his mind: "I love it, Jack, when you tell our viewers how you really feel about an issue, and you just did. Thanks very much."
Cafferty couldn't resist taking one last shot at critics, by mockingly telling Blitzer that, as a member of the mainstream media, everything in Iraq is his fault:
At 4:30pm, during The Situation Room's Strategy Session, conservative radio host Bill Bennett took Cafferty and Blitzer to task for their attitude towards Americans who feel the media is too negative in its reporting:
Blitzer: "But you're not suggesting, and Bill, I don't want to put words in your mouth, that the media is to blame for the horrible images that are coming out of Iraq?"
On Wednesday, Good Morning America asked viewers to go online and vote on which Iraqi story they thought should lead the news. The results were revealed on Thursday's GMA and as Diane Sawyer said after a segment by Dan Harris, "And we'll be back to Dan a little bit later in this half hour. He has the news on what you voted about what you wanted to hear from Iraq and it's a surprise." What surprised Sawyer? GMA viewers agreed with President Bush that more positive stories should make the broadcast. At 7:08, Charlie Gibson introduced Dan Harris for his second story of the day: "This morning we want to return to the question that the President has been emphasizing and that we discussed yesterday morning on this broadcast. And the question is: whether the media is only showing negative news from Iraq?"
[This item, by the MRC's Brian Boyd, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To add your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Gibson explained: "We asked you, yesterday, to tell us what stories you're interested in. And your response was huge. So we're going to go back now to Dan Harris in Baghdad with the results. Dan, again, good morning."
From Baghdad, Dan Harris checked in: "Charlie, again, good morning. Given the vehemence and the volume of the response we got, this is clearly an issue that provokes strong feelings among many Americans. In the past 24 hours hundreds of you logged on to our web site, posting more than 1,800 messages on the media's coverage of the war in Iraq. Some were positive."
For more about that CBS News poll, and how CBS News failed to report the finding recited by Harris, see the March CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
The third anniversary of the war for a free Iraq occasioned a wrong turn for the media. On Tuesday, NBC's Today planned to discuss media coverage of the war -- certainly an underexplored angle -- with Laura Ingraham and James Carville. NBC's question: "Is American getting a fair picture of what's actually happening in Iraq?" Ingraham came out of the blocks with fire, doing something no conservative does who wants to be invited on TV ever again. She went straight at her hosts:
The Today Show spends all this money to send people to the Olympics, which is great, it was great programming. All this money for "Where In The World Is Matt Lauer?" Bring The Today Show to Iraq. Bring The Today Show to Tal Afar. Do the show from the 4th ID at Camp Victory and then when you talk to those soldiers on the ground, when you go out with the Iraqi military, when you talk to the villagers, when you see the children, then I want [challenge] NBC to report on only the IEDs, only the killings, only the reprisals.
Conservatives at home heard the "Hallelujah Chorus" in their heads. One of the TV networks finally allowed someone to say they were unfair, unbalanced, and even lazy. Ingraham lectured:
To do a show from Iraq means to talk to the Iraqi military to go out with the Iraqi military, to actually have a conversation with the people instead of reporting from hotel balconies about the latest IEDs going off.
It was poetic justice, then, that her interviewer was a substitute host, NBC White House correspondent David Gregory. As a caller to her radio show Tuesday morning observed, suddenly Laura Ingraham was Gregory, and Gregory was Scott McClellan, twitching nervously and trying to change the subject: "Okay, hold, hold, Laura, Laura, I get, I get, I get the point. I get the, I get the anti-network point." He suggested: "Let me redirect this to, to get off the media point." But wait -- wasn't that the stated topic of the interview? Gregory shifted the interview by asking how his guests would advise President Bush, because the focus is always supposed to be on evaluating the president, and never on evaluating the media. Gregory desperately wanted to cling to the primary talking point of the press: Bush, how flagrantly has he failed?
But the interview caused a wave of reaction. Bill O'Reilly gave Ingraham another chance to push her message. Hugh Hewitt faced off with liberal reporters on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. On NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell did a defensive story.
Are the images Americans are seeing from Iraq due to the level of violence or is it just the messenger? And as the president suggested today, are the media also being used by the insurgents? As opposition to the war rises, it's a theme amplified by the vice president and conservative talk show hosts: a supposedly passive, even lazy media focusing too much on random violence.
After playing soundbites from Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, she quickly turned her story over to George Packer and David Gergen to state the usual cynical media response: the White House is lashing out in desperation over its awful war and its awful polls. Left out of the story was any real attempt to analyze if the media coverage is too dependent on violence or too well-tuned to what insurgents want Americans to hear. Self-examination? Humility? There's no time for that.
Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center laid out the general negative pattern of Iraq coverage in studying the first nine months of evening news coverage in 2005. He found 61 percent of the stories were dominated by a negative focus or pessimistic analysis, compared to only 14 percent that featured achievements or optimistic assessments. Two out of every five stories featured car bombings, assassinations, or other terrorist attacks. Just eight stories recounted episodes of heroism by U.S. troops, and another nine featured soldiers helping the Iraqi people. But 79 stories focused on allegations of combat mistakes or egregious misconduct by U.S. military personnel. These are facts the media self-defense teams ignore.
NBC -- the network where this all started -- was especially defensive on the morning after Ingraham's critique. Unlike any other type of major corporation, when they're attacked the TV networks can use their valuable air time to do shallow infomercials for themselves. Can viewers call the NBC News ombudsman to complain? Sorry, they don't have one.
NBC's Richard Engel did a story discounting the "myths and misperceptions" that he only files stories from the balcony on insurgent successes and underlining all the daily dangers to journalists in Baghdad. This in no way addressed whether Engel's reporting as a whole is fair, balanced, and accurate. David Gregory then appeared with a corporate-shill softball question about as tough as what McClellan might ask Bush: "Richard, bottom line. What's your gut check? Do we miss the overall story about what's going on in Iraq? Or does security remain the overall story?" Engel proclaimed, "I think the security problem is the overall story," and insisted "most Iraqis I speak to...[think] the situation on the ground is actually worse than the images we project on television."
It might seem unfair to charge reporters with being Balcony Bravehearts, and they were quick to point out that 80 journalists have died in Iraq. But Ingraham was challenging the networks to take up a wider mission: go out and interview American soldiers, interview Iraqi military sources, and relay some details from their activities.
When Richard Engel himself traveled outside Baghdad to Mosul in January of 2005, he was protected by a soldier there. At one point, shooting broke out, and he frankly admitted his reporting was incomplete when he recalled his experience: "[The soldier] actually stepped right in front of me protecting me with his body and started to return fire at the insurgents. And I just remember thinking that this is one of the small acts of heroism, I think you can say, that I so rarely get a chance to see and even less frequently report about."
Engel's defensive interview wasn't the only episode of energetic self-defense. Katie Couric brought on Tim Russert to defend the network against scapegoating: "Does the Bush administration have a legitimate gripe about the media coverage of the war, or do you think the media is being used as a scapegoat as public support for the war continues to erode?" Russert defensively argued: "We capture reality. Sometimes it's a political strategy to shoot the messenger, but the fact is what is happening on the ground is what you're seeing on your TVs and reading in the newspapers."
What arrogance. "We capture reality"? Not even "we try to capture reality"? TV news is a vanishing snippet of reality, a carefully edited (and often loaded) version of reality. Some viewers think the networks have captured reality all right -- and are holding it hostage in a basement until the president surrenders. What this narrative omits is that the White House's so-called war with the "messenger" has two sides -- and the "messenger" is holding his own just fine. The networks suggest that they're just holding the president accountable. Then why can't the President and his supporters do the same for the media?
END of Reprint
In a talk with the editor of the liberal Texas Monthly magazine who hosts a monthly interview show on Texas PBS stations, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite uncorked some more liberal opinions. In praising the CBS-boosting, Joseph McCarthy-trashing movie Good Night and Good Luck, Cronkite liked how it reminded Americans that "one nut could endanger the democracy," was "locking up our democracy in a very dangerous way," and persecuting people who were "simply good Americans." When pressed to compare Vietnam and Iraq, Cronkite declared that the comparison was "almost exact."
On Thursday, the Poynter Institute's Romenesko Web site linked to an interview that Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith did with Cronkite for broadcast on Thursday night in thirteen TV markets. Web site for Texas Monthly Talks: www.texasmonthly.com
First, they discussed the danger of Sen. Joseph McCarthy to our democracy. It's a bit surprising that at this late date, with all the archival information we have now on the Soviet state and its espionage activities, Cronkite still can't acknowledge any Soviet spies in the United States in the 1950s, and how that was a danger to our democracy:
SMITH: You like the movie?
CRONKITE: Oh, yes.
SMITH: Yeah? Did it feel authentic to you?
CRONKITE: I thought it was a superb movie. Beautifully done. George [Clooney], the producer, a good friend of mine. I followed the production of it but I think he made one mistake which he, he appreciates that. He says that he made a mistake.
CRONKITE: And that's the program needed a, a foreword. It needed a little bit of history for the present generations. There was a great movie and a very important movie regarding dangers to our democracy. But the, most of the generation today didn't know what we were talking about in that movie.
CRONKITE: And it needed a little foreword, which would have helped, I think, a lot.
SMITH: Explain to me what you mean by dangers to our democracy as it relates to that movie and what you see today.
CRONKITE: Well, of course the enemy at the gate was clearly defined in that picture with the threat to our democracy that one nut could endanger the democracy.
CRONKITE: He was putting people's feet to the fire who did not deserve it and for whom he did not have an adequate charge. But it was, it was locking up our democracy in a very dangerous way. People were being persecuted simply for being good Americans. He himself defined what an American was.
CRONKITE: And it wasn't our definition of it.
SMITH: How is the relationship between the government and press in your mind today? This is obviously not the days of Senator McCarthy, but I wonder if you feel like the press is doing a good job in dealing with the government and is the government doing a good job of dealing with the press?
CRONKITE: No on either one of those counts. This administration, of course, has been the most secret group in office in the White House that we've seen in my time and almost any time. It covets all of its information and is not sharing it with the people. We're not really given all that we need to know about our our government and what's it's doing for us, or to us.
END Excerpt of the transcript
Later, Smith asked Cronkite for his best TV moment. Cronkite began with the 1952 political conventions, and complained "I've been in favor of not covering the conventions, at least to the extent we have, to the full week covering. It's, we're giving them the free time. We shouldn't do it." Smith continued: "Is there any other moment that you think about maybe later in your career?"
CRONKITE: Well yes, the Vietnam War.
CRONKITE: And my story coming out, Tet Offensive, saying that we ought to get out of there was a highlight of my career certainly, a very important highlight. The uh...
SMITH: Well, makes me want to ask you about coverage of this war, of the Iraq War, because people try to make comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq.
CRONKITE: I think the comparison is almost exact.
SMITH: You do?
CRONKITE: Yes, I do. I do. I don't think...I think we made a mistake in getting into that war, even as we made a mistake in getting into the Vietnam War. John Kennedy did that to us, originally, and then Lyndon Johnson did his best with it. But he inherited it, and he had a difficult time getting us out of it. He did his best. This war is the same thing precisely. We shouldn't have gone in there. We got in by mistake. We got in thinking we could do something for democracy, save a democracy. Same thing we were saying, Kennedy said, for Vietnam, we were saying for the Middle East.
CRONKITE: And that we were in danger, and we had to save democracy. They didn't have any democracy, just like they didn't have in in the Far East. Uh they, Vietnam was a monarchy, and a very mean one. And much the same. Of course, we knew that we were getting that kind of situation in Asia. I mean, in the Mideast.
CRONKITE: But we didn't know the full extent of it. We thought we could create the liberties of a democracy there. A sad mistake, of course. We thought we were protecting us against terrible weapons of war today when they didn't have any such thing.
CRONKITE: Mistake after mistake. And then a mistake in sending too few troops and not equipping them well enough.
SMITH: Well, Mr. Cronkite, you are as ever candid. No one tells you what to think, which was always the case when you were a journalist, and I'm so pleased to see that that's the case today. We're out of time. You're so kind to be here. It's an honor to get to talk to you.
END Second Excerpt of transcript
For the transcript in full: www.texasmonthly.com
-- Brent Baker