Ongoing Blackout of Wright's 9/11 Rant, Only ABC Covers Him Mon --3/18/2008
2. CBS's Early Show Avoids Wright's Most Controversial Comments
3. ABC's Roberts Fawns Over Heart-Warming Clinton Charity
4. ABC Finds Optimistic Iraqis & Kids Playing Safely on the Street
5. Get Your Tickets Now for the MRC's 2008 'DisHonors Awards'
The broadcast network evening show blackout, of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's 2001 charge that the U.S. earned the 9/11 attacks, continued Monday night as neither CBS nor NBC touched the Wright issue and ABC ran a full story which included Wright's "U.S. of K-K-K-A" hate speech and how Obama has been close to Wright for 20 years, but concluded with how "many African-Americans do not understand" the controversy since the "kind of fiery language Wright uses is not uncommon in black churches."
The race-based, white-bashing rants may not be so uncommon, but is anti-American shouting -- about how "we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye" and so "America's chickens are coming home to roost" -- so common?
Anchor Charles Gibson set up the story from Jake Tapper by asserting Obama "is being dogged by his pastor's provocative comments." After the "U.S. of K-K-K-A" soundbite, Tapper pointed out how "Wright has played an important role in Obama's life for 20 years." Viewers then saw a clip of Obama from June of 2007 giving "a special shout out to my pastor" who's "a friend. And a great leader." Following some quotes illustrating Obama's awareness a year ago of how Wright's views could prove embarrassing, Tapper ended with how such language is not unusual in black churches.
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Not a word on Monday's CBS Evening News (anchored by Russ Mitchell) of Wright/Obama and, on Monday's NBC Nightly News, merely one cryptic "by the way" line from anchor Brian Williams:
In a sermon the Sunday after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Wright suggested America spurred and deserved the attacks:
No part of that far-left, Blame America First language has made it onto the ABC, CBS or NBC evening newscasts since the video became public last Thursday. The March 17 CyberAlert item, "Instead of Wright, NBC Touts Childhood Pals: 'Good Luck Barry!'," recounted:
Friday night, ABC didn't have anything on Wright, though after Thursday's Good Morning America aired a story by Brian Ross about Wright's rants, Thursday's World News was the only broadcast network evening newscast to touch Wright as Jake Tapper ran this one soundbite from Wright attacking Hillary Clinton: "Barack knows what it means to be a black man, living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich, white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a n----er."
Friday's CBS Evening News carried a story by Dean Reynolds which ran the "Not God Bless America, God [bleep] America" before Reynolds explained the close connection between Wright and Obama: "Reverend Wright officiated at Obama's wedding and the baptism of his children and he is described as a mentor for whom Obama took the phrase 'the audacity of hope' for the title of his book."
Saturday's World News and NBC Nightly News (as well as Sunday's World News) ran the "Not God Bless America, God Damn America" soundbite. (College basketball meant no CBS Evening News on Saturday, none in the EDT/CDT on Sunday.)
For the Monday CyberAlert article in full: www.mrc.org
The story on the Monday, March 17 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Next we're going to turn to the fine line that Barack Obama is walking as he embraces his religion while trying to distance himself from the fiery pastor of his Chicago church. Tomorrow Obama is set to deliver what his campaign calls a major speech on race. As senior political correspondent Jake Tapper reports, it comes as Obama is being dogged by his pastor's provocative comments.
JAKE TAPPER: Questions about Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, continued to dog the candidate on the campaign trail today. They came after a weekend of damage control: Putting out an explanatory video, removing Wright from his campaign team.
On Monday's CBS Early Show, a total of over 13 minutes of coverage was given to the controversy involving comments of Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, but only 16 seconds was given to play video of Wright's comments, video which did not include some of the Reverend's most shocking comments that September 11 was caused by U.S. foreign policy or that the AIDS virus was part of a government plot against the black community.
The coverage began with a report from CBS correspondent Dean Reynolds, who suggested the media were paying too much attention to the story: "For days now the news media have recycled Reverend Wright's sermons or at least their most inflammatory parts." That was followed by a relatively mild three second clip of Wright declaring: "Not God Bless America! God damn America!" Reynolds went on to explain: "Obama has denounced that and other anti-American statements, though the Senator says he never heard such comments before from the man who was his spiritual mentor." Reynolds never mentioned what those other "anti-American statements" were.
[This item, by Kyle Drennen, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The conclusion to Reynolds' report seemed to say Wright's comments were normal and reflective of most black churches. An idea that set the tone for the rest of the coverage: "The question is whether the rhetoric is so remarkable, because at African-American churches pastors often seek to rouse their congregants to self-reliance by speaking harshly of the country's troubled racial past and the need to overcome it...Now, the church leaders over the weekend here put out a statement saying that Jeremiah Wright was a victim of character assassination. And the clear concern at the Obama campaign is that the candidate has been victimized as well."
Following the report by Reynolds, co-host Russ Mitchell interviewed Reverend Calvin Butts about the controversy and asked: "When it comes to the African-American church, how surprised should people be when they hear a pastor from the pulpit giving a controversial statement using such strong language?" Butts replied: "Well, the strength of the language, of course, is questionable. However, the prophetic tradition of the African-American church has been such that we have had to criticize the nation that we love so dearly in order to win our human and civil rights. We've had to speak harshly about the injustices to draw people's attention to the real problems that we've had to face. The shock value is nothing new. The prophets used it in ancient Israel. The Disciples used it -- Jesus called the Pharisees 'white sepulchers,' 'white-washed tombs.' So, the shock rhetoric is not unusual in pulpits, black or white, but certainly in the black community because people have to have the point driven home, and they have to have made vivid. And sometimes the language can be awfully powerful."
Mitchell never asked specifically about any of Wright's "strong language" and at the end of the interview Mitchell asked Butts: "Black congregants are reluctant, are they not, to criticize their pastor in public, even if the pastor says something as strong, as controversial, as what Reverend Wright says?" Butts agreed: "That's right. I'm very surprised at any congregant who would denounce his or her pastor...Well, because people love their pastors, and in the churches they understand the rhetoric. See, you shouldn't look at this as if people just walk into church and the pastor says something shocking and they immediately run to it. They understand what is, you know, radical rhetoric and what is the practical application of the love of God to everybody."
Later in the 8:30 half hour, both Mitchell and co-host Maggie Rodriguez had a roundtable discussion with Mother Jones Columnist, Debra Dickerson, Bucknell University professor James Peterson, and Columbia University professor, Randall Balmer. Mitchell teased the discussion by wondering: "Will the situation have a lasting impact on Obama's campaign? Or has it been blown out of proportion?"
Prior to the roundtable, another two brief clips of video of Wright's comments were played, for a total of only 13 seconds: "Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich, white people!..Not Bod bless America, God damn America!" Again, Wright's other comments were missing.
Rodriguez actually did question how much Obama knew about Wright's comments: "Well, Barack Obama is pretending to be shocked. He says he's never heard this before. Do you think he's pretending?" Dickerson responded: "Yes. He's -- I think he's surprised because the things that get said in church tend not to, you know, sort of what happens in church stays in church. And we've never been called on the carpet before. We've never been at -- you know what it is, it was a vestige of racism. Nobody cared what we were saying in our churches unless it had sort of popular resonance, you know, when we were in the civil rights movement and that sort of thing. But the regular day-to-day Sunday sermons, this is not unusual."
Mitchell then turned to Peterson and asked: "Well James, let me ask you, did Reverend Wright, in your mind, cross the line there by making some of the statements that he made?" Peterson said this: "I don't think so. I think we need to understand that the pulpit is like a rhetorical space. And so, If we put that back into its context and saw the sermon develop over time, I think we might have a different take on it now. And when you pull certain comments out, it seems very sensational. But, I would agree that the black church is a kind of a bastion of sort of segregated culture, and there's a way in which we just are not having access to that. But what the Reverend is saying fits into a certain kind of context. And I'm not defending it or not defending it, I'm just saying that we're pulling it out of its rhetorical context. The pulpit is someplace from which we have to persuade people. And sometimes, whether it's a black persuasion or a white persuasion, those words are going to be very, very strong, very, very powerful and their designed to incite, designed to make us have the kind of conversations that we're having right now."
Rodriguez then asked Balmer if Obama was "guilty" by his close association with Wright. Balmer responded by saying no and finding a way to turn the discussion to President Bush's religion: "I don't think so. I -- I mean, I've been attending church for the better part of 53years. If I believed everything every minister ever told me, I'd probably be in analysis for the next 20 years. I mean that's just not a fair thing. And I think we're asking the wrong questions. The real questions should be to all of the candidates, how does your religious faith affect your policies, affect the way you govern. For example, eight years ago when George W. Bush declared that Jesus was his favorite philosopher, suppose somebody had followed up with a question 'Governor Bush, your favorite philosopher calls on his followers to be peace makers and turn the other cheek, how will that affect your foreign policy in the event of, say, an attack on the United States? Or how does Jesus' sentiment about expressing concern for the tiniest sparrow affect your environmental policies?' Those are real questions."
Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts interviewed Bill Clinton for nine minutes over two segments on Monday and somehow managed to avoid discussing the disgraced Eliot Spitzer and controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Instead, GMA again featured another positive look at the Clinton Global Initiative and its plan to fight poverty and get young people involved. Roberts gushed: "It's got to warm your heart 'cause this is something that's very -- has always been very dear to you about getting them involved."
Roberts found no time to ask the ex-President, who was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to a sex scandal, for his thoughts on former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's entanglement with a prostitution ring and his eventual resignation. The segment, which was highly edited, featured the ABC journalist making only a glancing reference to Wright, Senator Barack Obama's incendiary former preacher and the man responsible for racially charged statements. She mildly added: "...Geraldine Ferraro, Reverend Wright. I mean, both sides -- things that are being said by surrogates." Roberts then shifted the conversation back to a much older topic, Clinton's South Carolina comments linking Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama.
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Now, in the first segment, which aired in the 7am half hour, Roberts did occasionally press Clinton on whether the battle between his wife and Obama could harm the Democratic Party. And GMA co-host Diane Sawyer did highlight the Spitzer scandal in the 7:30 half hour. But, it's odd that Roberts glossed over the Wright controversy and skipped any questions about the former New York Governor.
GMA has repeatedly raved over Bill Clinton's charity work. On July 20, 2007, Diane Sawyer touted the ex-President's AIDS initiative as "his work to save a continent." Four days later, on July 24, reporter Kate Snow appeared equally enthused. She rhapsodized, "In Africa, they seem to be on a first-name basis with the former president, shouting 'Bill! Bill!'" Now, of course the organization's work should be applauded. But there are many fine charities and high profile individuals behind them that don't receive anywhere near as much coverage. For more on previous Good Morning America stories on the Clinton Global Initiative, see postings from the July 23 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
And the July 24 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
A transcript of the second segment, which aired at 8:17am on March 17:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And now the race for '08 and more of my conversation that I had with -- in New Orleans this weekend with former President Bill Clinton about his Global Initiative. It began in 2005, bringing together 1,000 world leaders to tackle the world's most pressing challenges and now President Clinton is trying to mobilize the youth of the world to do the same. Football games, finals and frat parties. For many, it's the image of college life these days, but that could be about to change if President Clinton gets his wish. Today he's inviting students from around the globe to join him in a bold, new effort. President Clinton, looking at the young people, all look different, sizes, shapes, colors, ages.
Marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, ABC's Wold News on Monday provided a status check on how Iraqis view their lives and, consistent with how the newscast has been the most willing of the broadcast network evening shows to acknowledge positive developments, anchor Charles Gibson explained "we have polled inside Iraq and there is some good news." Specifically, "today, 55 percent of Iraqi say their lives are going well. Last summer that number was 39 percent."
From Iraq, Terry McCarthy reported "you cannot say that life is good in Iraq today. Not yet. Only that life is less bad." However, McCarthy outlined: "As our poll takers spread across the country they found that for the first time in three years, people were more worried about economic and social problems than violence. And almost half think their country will be better off in a year -- double the number six months ago. In Dora, in southern Baghdad, we found these kids playing on the street. A year ago, they would haven't dared to come outside...."
McCarthy noted how "73 percent still oppose the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq," but he observed, "in a telling reality check, only 38 percent want U.S. troops to leave now, afraid that the gains in security might be reversed."
"Even Fallujah has turned around," McCarthy learned, "as the local population has largely abandoned the insurgency and now they're focusing on rebuilding the city from the ruins of war," though tough tasks remain with most complaining about electrical shortages and poor health care services.
In contrast, NBC Nighty News anchor Brian Williams stressed the negative Monday evening as he reported that two soldiers killed in Iraq "brings the total American death toll to 3,990." Richard Engel then provided a full story on a suicide bomber in Karbala and the visit to Iraq by John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson also noted the suicide bombing as he introduced McCarthy's story.
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
(The MRC on Monday posted a Media Reality Check compilation of highlights from several reports and studies on war coverage, "Five Years of Slant Against Iraq War Success; MRC Studies: Nets Minimize Iraq Success and Heroism, Emphasize Setbacks and Purported Atrocities." See: www.mediaresearch.org )
From the Monday, March 17 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Next we turn to Iraq, where both Vice President Cheney and Republican nominee John McCain were visiting today. The Vice President came to mark the fifth anniversary of the war and called the improved security situation "phenomenal." There was a major security breech, however. In southern Iraq today, a woman blew herself up near one of Iraq's holiest shrines in the Southern city of Karbala. More than 40 people were killed.
TERRY McCARTHY: You cannot say that life is good in Iraq today. Not yet. Only that life is less bad. As our poll takers spread across the country they found that for the first time in three years, people were more worried about economic and social problems than violence. And almost half think their country will be better off in a year -- double the number six months ago. In Dora, in
southern Baghdad, we found these kids playing on the street. A year ago, they would haven't dared to come outside. But now, says young Mustafa, "Things are not half bad." As security has improved so have household finances. Iraqis now earn an average of $403 a month compared to $322 last year. With more money in circulation and commerce booming. We found gold-sellers are opening for business again.
Tickets are now available for MRC's 2008 "DisHonors Awards." The MRC's annual video awards with the "William F. Buckley Award for Media Excellence," this year presented to Tony Snow, will take place in Washington, DC on Thursday evening, April 10. Confirmed participants: Ann Coulter, Larry Kudlow, Mark Levin, Cal Thomas and many more since surprise conservative guests will accept the awards in jest.
"It was a terrific show...It was a great, great, great assemblage of people... Everybody just had a blast!" -- Rush Limbaugh, 2007 recipient of the William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence.
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-- Brent Baker