PBS's Ifill Preposterously Pegs 6% Unemployment as "Record High" --5/6/2003
2. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria Takes on Bush Tax Cuts from the Left Fareed Zakaria, Editor of Newsweek International and now a regular on ABC's This Week, appeared on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show where he approached the proposed Bush tax cut from the left, claiming it's "mostly skewed to they very wealthy" and that the wealthy do not invest their tax cut in the economy: "The wealthy actually save those tax cuts whereas middle-class people spend them."
3. ABC & NBC Worried About Jackson But Revel in Bennett's Hypocrisy When Jesse Jackson admitted fathering a child out of wedlock, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today worried about the impact on his family and ABC's Diane Sawyer expressed concern about how the revelation could hurt his political activism. But when it came to the disclosure about Bill Bennett's gambling, neither program on Monday displayed either concern as both reveled in Bennett's hypocrisy.
4. Journalists Sees Distorted Baghdad Reporting Unfavorable to U.S. "To an amazing degree," New York Post embedded reporter Jonathan Foreman documented in a piece for this week's weekly Standard, "the Baghdad based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude." Foreman showed how reporters for U.S. outlets have exaggerated the level of looting and destruction in Baghdad -- and he named names. He recalled: "The Associated Press's Hamza Hendawi...massively exaggerated and misrepresented the nature of the looting in Baghdad in the first days after the U.S. armored forces took key points in the city."
5. Miller Takes on Mailer; Miller on
Tonight Show Again
Clarification. Non-CyberAlert error. The May 2 CyberAlert quoted George Stephanopoulos as saying on GMA that President George W. Bush "was a Navy pilot." In fact, he was in the Air National Guard, not the Navy.
PBS's Gwen Ifill on Friday night preposterously claimed that "the unemployment rate is at record highs" as she mocked how President Bush "somehow...says this is Congress' fault." The April unemployment figure stood at 6 percent, but as Gloria Borger noted seconds later, it was higher just nine years ago. Exactly 20 years ago, in April 1983, it was at 10 percent. So 6 percent is hardly any kind of "record high."
The MRC's Tim Graham noticed this exchange on the May 2 Washington Week, and MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth transcribed it:
Ifill: "Now, let's pick up where Dan just left off. The Democrats in South Carolina -- obviously, the Democrats, period -- want to talk about the economy. They don't want to talk about the war necessarily. And today we heard that the President also wants to talk about the economy. Today in a speech, that speech we referenced earlier in Santa Clara, this is what he had to say:"
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, the unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in 1980, 7.6 percent in 1981 and 9.7 percent in 1982.
Fareed Zakaria, Editor of Newsweek International and now a regular on ABC's This Week, approached the proposed Bush tax cut from the left, claiming it's "mostly skewed to they very wealthy" and that the wealthy do not invest their tax cut in the economy: "The wealthy actually save those tax cuts whereas middle-class people spend them." Zakaria, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, made his comments on Sunday's syndicated Chris Matthews Show.
Zakaria asserted on the May 4 program carried by many NBC affiliates: "Well it's also the wrong kind of tax cut. I entirely agree that the economy is sluggish. It needs some kind of stimulus. This tax cut is essentially a tax cut mostly for the out-years, mostly skewed to they very wealthy. What you need is an immediate middle-class tax cut that would actually have some effect. But one has to point out this is not gonna make much of a difference. It's a $10 trillion economy. The oil prices dropping will probably be a greater stimulus."
Of course, you need to have money to spend or save it and the wealthy have a lot more.
When Jesse Jackson admitted fathering a child out of wedlock, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today worried about the impact on his family and ABC's Diane Sawyer expressed concern about how the revelation could hurt his political activism. But when it came to the disclosure about Bill Bennett's gambling, neither program on Monday displayed either concern as both reveled in Bennett's hypocrisy.
Back on January 18, 2001, Sawyer concluded a Jackson segment by relating concern for his family: "This is, of course, a political story, but also a family story, and everybody has to be very concerned for the Jackson family." On Monday, she showed no such sympathy with the Bennett case, remarking to reporter Claire Shipman: "Well, you never know about people, do you, in this world?" Shipman echoed: "Indeed."
And in 2001 Sawyer worried about the political consequences, how Jackson's stepping out of the public eye would hurt the liberal cause: "This was going to be a weekend in which Jesse Jackson was very visible both in Florida, protesting the election there, and of course on the Ashcroft nomination. What are the consequences?" George Stephanopoulos reassured Sawyer that his withdrawal won't "have a dramatic effect" on the anti-Bush demonstrations.
Fast forward two years and three months and ABC's Shipman only wanted to expose Bennett as a hypocrite: "I think the real question a lot of people are asking at this point is what does this do to his image? Bill Bennett has been the booming voice on morality in America for the past decade, hardly shy on the subject....But now the author of the Book of Virtues is having his own virtue questioned." Shipman sarcastically noted: "There are others who point out that isn't it convenient that he never moralized about gambling, of all things."
After a story about Jackson on the January 18, 2001 Today, news reader Ann Curry empathized: "A tough time for his family." On Monday, however, when Today featured an interview segment with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter about his Bennett story, neither Alter or Matt Lauer worried about Bennett's family as Lauer drew out Alter on the details and cued him up: "Does this make him a hypocrite based on what he's written and spoken about?"
Over on NBC, Today showcased Newsweek's Jonathan Alter who suddenly found newsworthiness in Bennett's gambling when Alter was amongst those in the media who contended Bill Clinton's sexual activities were a private matter.
Lauer asserted: "Now to conservative pundit William Bennett. The former Education Secretary and the author of The Book of Virtues has lost at least $8 million gambling over the last 10 years. That's according to this week's Newsweek magazine. Bennett has admitted his gambling to Newsweek but doesn't see it as a problem. Newsweek columnist and NBC News contributing correspondent Jonathan Alter is co-author of the story along with Joshua Green along with the Washington Monthly. Jonathan, good morning to you."
So much for the media's concern for the "right to privacy."
For Alter's Newsweek story, "The Man of Virtues Has a Vice," which features a big photo of Bennett with President Bush, go to: www.msnbc.com
For the Washington Monthly version by Joshua Green: www.washingtonmonthly.com
"To an amazing degree," New York Post embedded reporter Jonathan Foreman documented in a piece for this week's weekly Standard, "the Baghdad based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude that accompany every such encounter."
Foreman detailed how reporters for U.S. media outlets have exaggerated or distorted the level of looting and destruction in Baghdad -- and he named names. Foreman recalled: "The Associated Press's Hamza Hendawi, for instance, massively exaggerated and misrepresented the nature of the looting in Baghdad in the first days after the U.S. armored forces took key points in the city."
Complaining about "the myth constantly repeated by antiwar columnists that the military let the city be destroyed in particular the hospitals and the national museum while guarding the Ministry of Oil," a tale Foreman dismissed as fantasy, he cited how "a typical piece of reporting on the 'destruction' in Baghdad came from the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran on April 22..."
Los Angeles Times reporter David Zucchino accompanied Foreman to one neighborhood, Foreman related, where a wealthy doctor said he's long had two bodyguards to protect him. But Zucchino reported that the doctor only hired the bodyguards after U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad, "as if the doctor had been driven to this expense by unrest following the arrival of the Americans."
Foreman, who is embedded with the Scout Platoon of the 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, penned the piece in the May 12 Weekly Standard titled, "Bad Reporting in Baghdad: You have no idea how well things are going." An excerpt:
It's endlessly fascinating to watch the interactions between U.S. patrols and the residents of Baghdad. It's not just the love bombing the troops continue to receive from all classes of Baghdadi though the intensity of the population's pro American enthusiasm is astonishing, even to an early believer in the liberation of Iraq, and continues unabated despite delays in restoring power and water to the city....
It's things like the way the women old and young flirt outrageously with GIs, lifting their veils to smile, waving from high windows, and shyly calling hello from half opened doors. Or the way the little girls seem to speak much better English than the little boys who are always elbowing them out of the way....
But you won't see much of this on TV or read about it in the papers. To an amazing degree, the Baghdad based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude that accompany every such encounter. Instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans for allowing the breakdown of law and order in their city.
Well, I've met hundreds of Iraqis as I accompanied army patrols all over the city during the past two weeks and I've never encountered any such fury (even in areas that were formerly controlled by the Marines, who as the premier warrior force were never expected to carry out peacekeeping or policing functions)....
Given that a large proportion of the city's poorest residents have taken part in looting the Baathist elite's ministries, homes, and institutions, that should tell you something about the sources preferred by the denizens of the Palestine Hotel (the preferred home of the press corps). Indeed it's striking that while many of the troops I've accompanied find themselves feeling some sympathy for the inhabitants of "Typhoid Alley" and other destitute neighborhoods and their attempts to obtain fans, furniture, TVs, etc., the press corps often seems solidly on the side of those who grew fat under the Saddam regime. (That said, imagine the press hysteria that would have greeted a decision by U.S. troops to use deadly force against the looters and defend the property of the city's elite.) Even in the wealthiest neighborhoods places like the Mansoor district, where you still see intact pictures of Saddam Hussein people seem to be a lot more pro American than you could ever imagine from reading the wires.
Perhaps this is just another case of reporters with an anti American or antiwar agenda. Perhaps living in Saddam's totalitarian Baghdad has left some of the press here with a case of Stockholm syndrome. It may also be a byproduct of depending on interpreters and fixers who were connected to or worked with the approval of the Saddam regime. And you cannot underestimate the herd instinct that can take over when you have a lot of media folk in a confined area for any length of time. But whatever the cause, the result has been very selective reporting.
The Associated Press's Hamza Hendawi, for instance, massively exaggerated and misrepresented the nature of the looting in Baghdad in the first days after the U.S. armored forces took key points in the city. Like so many Baghdad based reporters, she described an "unchecked frenzy" that did not exist at that time (the looting was targeted and nonviolent, in the sense that the looters attacked neither persons nor inhabited dwellings). Read her pieces and you'll meet a veritable parade of Iraqis who are angry with the United States.
Then there were those exaggerated reports of April 18 claiming (as Reuters' Hassan Hafidh put it) that "Tens of thousands of protesters demanded on Friday that the United States get out of Iraq....In the biggest protest since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein's iron fisted, 24 year long rule nine days ago, Muslims poured out of mosques and into the streets of Baghdad, calling for an Islamic state to be established." Demonstrators did come out of one mosque, but reporters seem to have confused them with the large numbers of Shia Muslims gathering for the pilgrimage to Karbala a pilgrimage long forbidden by the Saddam regime.
There are frequent small demonstrations in the blocks outside the Palestine and Sheraton hotels partly because that is where the press corps is congregated, but also because it's an area that many Baath party officials fled to after the war began. Anyone who assumes that the atmosphere of that downtown area is in any way representative of the city would be gravely mistaken. However, many reporters have chosen to do just that rather than venture further out to places where they would have seen that far more typical and frequent "demonstrations" involve hundreds or even thousands of Iraqis gathering to cheer U.S. troops. Admittedly, some of those crowds include people begging for money, desperate for aid, or just curious about these strange looking foreigners....
More irritating is the myth constantly repeated by antiwar columnists that the military let the city be destroyed in particular the hospitals and the national museum while guarding the Ministry of Oil. The museum looting is turning out to have been grotesquely exaggerated. And there is no evidence for the ministry of oil story. Depending on the article, the Marines had either a tank or a machine gun nest outside the ministry. Look for a photo of that tank or that machine gun nest and you'll look in vain. And even if the Marines had briefly guarded the oil ministry it would have been by accident: The Marines defended only the streets around their own headquarters and so called Areas of Operation. Again, though, given the pro regime sources favored by so many of the press corps huddled in the Palestine Hotel, it's not surprising that this rumor became gospel.
A typical piece of reporting on the "destruction" in Baghdad came from the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran on April 22, which repeated all the usual gossip about the ministry of oil and then quoted Saad Jawad, a professor of political science at Baghdad University: "The Iraqis had very high hopes for the Americans," Jawad told him. "But all this euphoria about change, all this relief, went away when they saw the amount of destruction to the infrastructure of the country and the carelessness of the Americans to the Iraqis' day to day lives." Yes, euphoria is bound dissipate, but there's no sign it has yet. More important, what infrastructure destruction? The reporter lets the charge stand undisputed but must be aware that roads, bridges, power stations, and rails lines were all left unbombed and intact by U.S. forces. The exception was power substations that fed key government buildings and broadcasting facilities (unless you count army bases and secret police headquarters as "infrastructure").
But my favorite mad media moment was when an AP journalist turned up in a car heading to the Ministry of Information, the top floor of which was on fire. "Why aren't you putting out the fire?" she angrily demanded of Sgt. William Moore. He looked at her with astonishment and asked, "How the hell am I supposed to do that?" Turning away, he muttered, "Piss on it?"...
Even embedded journalists (or perhaps their editors) can unconsciously misconstrue the facts on the ground. For instance, David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times, who like me is embedded with the 4th Battalion of the 64th Armored Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, recently accompanied my Scout platoon on a patrol. We went to an upmarket residential area, in which houses that formerly belonged to top Baath officials had been taken over by looters and in which a house owned by Qusay Hussein had been destroyed by a JDAM bomb. I was talking to Dr. Ali Faraj al Salih, a cardiologist trained at Edinburgh, when Zucchino, a fine, experienced foreign correspondent, walked over and began listening in. I asked Dr. Ali if he'd had any trouble with looters. "No" he replied, "I have guns, with license from the government. And I have two bodyguards." "Have you always had the bodyguards?" I asked him. "Oh yes," he said.
But Zucchino's April 22 article in the L.A. Times headlined "In Postwar 'Dodge City,' Soldiers Now Deputies" reports "Dr. Ali Faraj, a cardiologist, stood before his well appointed home and mentioned that he has hired two armed guards," as if the doctor had been driven to this expense by unrest following the arrival of the Americans.
Things may yet go horribly wrong here in American occupied Baghdad. But it is bizarre and sad that so few journalists are able or willing to recognize this honeymoon period for what it is.
END of Excerpt
For the May 12 Weekly Standard story in its entirety: www.weeklystandard.com
The day before making another appearance on NBC's Tonight Show, actor/comedian Dennis Miller penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal making fun of author Norman Mailer's latest anti-U.S. and Bush-hating jabs.
At the top of Miller's May 5 piece the Journal ran this quotes from Mailer taken from a Mailer column in the London Times last week: "With their dominance in sport, at work and at home eroded, Bush thought white American men needed to know they were still good at something. That's where Iraq came in....The great white stars of yesteryear were for the most part gone, gone in football, in basketball, in boxing, and half gone in baseball....On the other hand, the good white American male still had the Armed Forces."
An excerpt from Miller's opining:
....A guy like Mailer hates a guy like Bush because Mailer thinks of himself as infinitely smarter than Bush and yet President Bush is the most powerful man on the planet and old Normy's connecting through Atlanta and flying on prop planes to a community college that's so far out in the sticks the mail rider has yet to arrive with the message that The Great Mailer is currently more out of the loupe than a jeweler with conjunctivitis. All so he can scoop up a submicroscopic honorarium and the accolades of star struck locals and 18 year olds who mistakenly think Mr. Mailer wrote "Gravity's Rainbow."...
Mr. Mailer at one time challenged and provoked. Now he just provokes. Norman Mailer has become Norman Maine, a former matinee idol whom loved ones best keep an eye on, because if this is the best he can now muster, he'll no doubt be walking purposely into the surf off Provincetown any day now. And as Mr. Mailer's prostate gradually supplants his ego as the largest gland in his body, he's going to have to realize, as is the case with all young lions who inevitably morph into Bert Lahr, that his alleged profundities are now being perceived as the early predictors of dementia.
I empathize with Mr. Mailer in one regard, though. Although he's clearly abdicated the lucid throne, it must be hellish for someone who can still arrange words so beautifully i.e., "the question will keen in pitch" to wake up every morning and have it slowly dawn on him that he's effectively been rendered totally irrelevant.
END of Excerpt
-- Brent Baker