Polk Awards Go to Bush-Bashers, Those Undermining Anti-Terrorism --2/21/2006
2. Olbermann Raises Gumbel's "Paucity of Blacks" GOP-Olympics Slam
3. In One Day, NPR Thrice Promoted Salon.com's Rehash of Abu Ghraib
A year after Bill Moyers won a "career" award, the 2005 winners of the "George Polk Awards," which "memorialize the CBS correspondent who was murdered while covering the civil war in Greece in 1948," were announced late Monday. The winners, as selected by an advisory panel assembled by Long Island University, are a who's who of liberal activists, including left-wing New York Times columnist Frank Rich and Victor Navasky, the long-time Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine. Virtually all the winners in reporting categories went to journalists who revealed secret anti-terror operations, undermined the Bush administration's anti-terror efforts or embarrassed people and/or contractors linked to the Bush administration.
As posted Monday night by Romenesko, the "Television Reporting" award went to ABC's Brian Ross "for revealing the treatment, which many experts consider to be torture, that the CIA used in secret detention facilities. In naming the countries where the facilities were located as well as exposing the White House-approved 'enhanced interrogation techniques' used by the CIA...the reports triggered an avalanche of critical reaction from governments and the public around the world." The "National Reporting" nod was earned by "Dana Priest of the Washington Post for unveiling the existence of secret CIA-run prisons and wrongdoing that included the death of an Afghan detainee and the attempted cover up of the mistaken imprisonment of a German citizen. Priest detailed the elaborate covert operations in a series of 10 articles that unleashed an international furor and raised troubling questions at home about the government's counter-terrorism campaign."
[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your thoughts, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Long Island University's page for the awards has not yet, as of the time of this posting [noon Tuesday], been updated since last year: www.brooklyn.liu.edu
And the page listing the "advisors," who pick the winners, hasn't been updated since 2003: www.brooklyn.liu.edu
It's hard to find a non-liberal amongst the "career" winners going back to 1977: www.brooklyn.liu.edu
The Tuesday New York Times article on who won the Polk awards: www.nytimes.com
Several of the award winners, as listed in the Polk Awards memo posted Monday night by Romenesko: poynter.org
# George Polk Award for International Reporting will be Chicago Tribune reporter Cam Simpson and photographer Jose More for their investigation of the massacre of 12 Nepalese men in Iraq. Their two-part series uncovered a trail of forced labor and human trafficking that stretched from Nepal to the Middle East and was financed by a $12 billion U.S. defense contract awarded to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton.
# ABC News correspondent Brian Ross and reporter Richard Esposito will be awarded the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for revealing the treatment, which many experts consider to be torture, that the CIA used in secret detention facilities. In naming the countries where the facilities were located as well as exposing the White House-approved "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the CIA, including a method called "water boarding" that subjects detainees to simulated drowning, the reports triggered an avalanche of critical reaction from governments and the public around the world.
# The George Polk Award for National Reporting will go to Dana Priest of the Washington Post for unveiling the existence of secret CIA-run prisons and wrongdoing that included the death of an Afghan detainee and the attempted cover up of the mistaken imprisonment of a German citizen. Priest detailed the elaborate covert operations in a series of 10 articles that unleashed an international furor and raised troubling questions at home about the government's counter-terrorism campaign.
# Also from the Washington Post, reporters Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway will receive the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. Trekking across Afghanistan, they documented that claims of the U.S. reconstruction process in Afghanistan were a sham and a waste of millions of dollars. Shortly after they revealed that the U.S. Agency for International Development had misled Congress and the public, the longtime director of USAID resigned.
# Two New York Times journalists -- commentator Frank Rich and medical business reporter Barry Meier -- also will receive Polk Awards. For his barbed essays that intertwine popular culture with politics, including "The God Racket, from DeMille to DeLay" and "Enron: Patron Saint of Bush's Fake News," Rich will be honored with the George Polk Award for Commentary.
# Victor S. Navasky will receive the George Polk Book Award for "A Matter of Opinion," a unique memoir full of colorful personalities and big events published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Navasky, who became editor of the The Nation in 1978 and rose to become its publisher and editorial director in 1995, is now publisher emeritus. His work provides a historically significant view of the role that public discourse plays in sustaining the democratic process in an age of mass media and corporate dominance.
# JoAnn Mar, an independent radio producer, will receive the George Polk Award for Radio Reporting for "Crime Pays: A Look at Who's Getting Rich from the Prison Boom." Her one-hour documentary explored the privatization of the prison system during the past 25 years. It reveals how politically connected corporations and other businesses, as well as state and local economies, have a large stake in the prison business; some are active members of an influential consortium that has successfully promoted model legislation for longer sentencing requirements.
END of Excerpts from Romenesko posting of award winners
When the video ended, Olbermann reported that "as the transcript of that inched its way around the Internet, Gumbel was attacked by far-right bloggers." Though the NewsBusters posting was quite critical of Gumbel, Olbermann cited how "a writer at the right-wing Web site NewsBusters noted Gumbel's remarks 'perfectly sums up my feelings regarding the Olympics.'" Olbermann suggested Gumbel was either vindicated or somewhat undermined over the weekend when Shani Davis won "the gold in the men's thousand meter speed skating, the first African-American ever to win a gold in an individual Winter Olympic event."
Given its blurry nature and tinny sound, as well as how it exactly matched what was posted last week on NewsBusters, I'd bet the MSNBC producers lifted it from that Web-quality posting.
Olbermann also asserted that "Rush Limbaugh accused him of calling the Republican Party 'totally racist,' which I don't think he said." In fact, Limbaugh wasn't quoting Gumbel as saying Republicans are "totally racist," but was simply summarizing what he considered to be Gumbel's attitude. After playing the full soundbite as posted on NewsBusters and with the MRC CyberAlert, on his Thursday show Limbaugh concluded: "He just accused the Republican Party here of being total racists." See: www.rushlimbaugh.com
Keith Olbermann, on the February 20 Countdown, after a look at the career of sportscaster Curt Gowdy who passed away: "Sports is so often a barometer -- even a harbinger -- of race relations in this country. A prominent TV journalist like Curt Gowdy [meant to say "Bryant Gumbel"?], a long time NBC sportscaster, said he had no interest in the winter Olympics in part because of, quote, 'a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention.' It was Bryant Gumbel in the latest episode of his HBO series, Real Sports, that premiered about two weeks ago. On the subject of the Winter Olympics, Bryant was identifying himself as among those 'who don't like 'em and don't watch 'em.' He mentioned sports based on judging, not on game results, he pointed out that many reporters don't understand some of the exotic sports nor care about them between the Olympics. And then he played an unusual race card:"
Video of Gumbel from the February 7 Real Sports on HBO: "Tonight,
the Winter Games. Count me among those who don't like 'em and
won't watch 'em. In fact, I figure when Thomas Paine said 'these
are the times that try men's souls,' he must have been talking
about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they're so
trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too.
Like try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to
those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to
laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a
paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention."
Olbermann then discussed those questions with Tony Bruno of Sporting News Radio.
For the NewsBusters posting last Wednesday night by Dave Pierre, with RealPlayer and Windows Media video of Gumbel's racial slam, "HBO's Gumbel: Lack of Blacks Makes Olympics 'Look Like a GOP Convention," see: newsbusters.org
For a complete transcript of Gumbel's commentary, as well as another posting of the video, check the February 16 MRC CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
National Public Radio provided publicity to the leftist website Salon.com on three shows Thursday for their release of previously unseen (if not notably different) pictures of American abuses at Abu Ghraib. Nowhere in their three dollops of publicity did NPR label Salon as liberal or left-wing, or explain that they oppose President Bush and the war in Iraq. They did not mention how Salon compared Abu Ghraib's humiliations of prisoners to the killings of civilians at My Lai during the Vietnam war, as former Time reporter and USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro argued in explaining why the leftist website published the new photos.
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your takes, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Shapiro saw only torture condoned at the highest levels of the administration:
Abu Ghraib also symbolized the failure of a democratic society to investigate well-documented abuses by its soldiers. After an initial flurry of outrage, the Republican-controlled Congress lost interest in investigating whether senior military officers -- and even Pentagon officials -- created a climate in which torture (yes, torture) flourished. In similar fashion, the Army still seems intent on ending this shameful story by jailing the likes of Lynndie England and Charles Graner. At least after the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, Lt. Calley was convicted.
END of Excerpt
For the posting in full: www.salon.com
A soldier "being sodomized"? That doesn't match how Walsh, in a defensive letter to Salon readers, described "the scene of an allegedly mentally deranged prisoner apparently sodomizing himself with an unidentified object." In this piece, she explained why Salon published Abu Ghraib photos, but not the Muslim cartoons: "There's something essentially wrong about equating the Mohammed cartoons and the Abu Ghraib photos, anyway. The former are Op-Ed pieces commissioned by editors; the latter are images of actual events. We can and do condemn the hate and violence the cartoons provoked. But as Americans we are directly complicit in the violence that took place at a prison run by the American military. It is our story in a way that Danish cartoons can never be." See: www.salon.com
NPR didn't "bludgeon" Walsh on the contrast like she says Tucker Carlson did on MSNBC. See: www.msnbc.msn.com
(Walsh first welcomed the chance to answer the question, but as Carlson kept pressing, she struggled to satisfy him with an answer.) NPR was nicer:
INSKEEP: Was it a hard decision to decide to publish what you had obtained? Ms. WALSH: It was. You know, days of conversation among our editorial managers, more discussion about how to do it than whether to do it. I mean, Steve, these are the images we believe and we, the Center for Constitutional Rights told us they believe they are too, that the ACLU and the center have been fighting for, that a federal district court judge released to them, and the government appealed and got them locked up again. So, you know, these are images that many people, and especially civil libertarians believe, are an important part of the public record on the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Inskeep asked mostly bland questions:
That brought more talk about punishing all the higher-ups who are assumed responsible.
On the evening newscast "All Things Considered," anchor Michelle Norris reported: "Today the web site Salon.com published previously unreleased photos of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison in 2003. The website's editor said it has more than 1,000 photos and videos showing U.S. service personnel humiliating and abusing prisoners. The pictures were provided to them by a member of the military. Their publication comes on the same day as a new damning report about the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." See: www.npr.org
NPR defense reporter Jackie Northam added: "The pictures that appear on Salon.com are perhaps the most graphic, most disturbing images that have been released to the public since the abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison broke nearly two years ago. Two of the pictures show long blood smears leading out of a jail cell, as though someone had been dragged by their hands or legs. Another shows a bound prisoner apparently sodomizing himself with an object."
Here again, NPR didn't question Walsh or Salon about her claim on the blood-smear photos. What if they weren't American-inflicted wounds? Walsh claimed in her letter to readers: "In the end we published 18 photos. We ruled out photos that depicted horrific scenes that we couldn't be sure were the result of abuse -- while disturbing, certain subsets of images might be photos of people who arrived at the prison dead or injured, who were injured in the course of a battle and not during interrogation or torture."
Northam allowed Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman to plead that this isn't the standard the media (including Salon) used for the Muhammad cartoons. She added: "Even if the photos are old, there's concern of renewed anger, particularly in the Arab and Muslim world, over the treatment of Iraqi prisoners and that only low ranking U.S. soldiers have been punished." For NPR's reporters and listeners, it's an article of faith that this scandal does right up to Rumsfeld's office. The second half of her report focused on United Nations/European Union/American professor outrage over alleged human rights abuses of detained terror suspects at Guantanamo. (Notice that the online version of the ATC story offers one of Salon's photos, and a helpful link to Salon.)
Lastly, the hat trick came when Salon was mentioned again by Northam in a Guantanamo roundup on the NPR show cooperating with another liberal website, the NPR/Slate show "Day by Day." That's at: www.npr.org
NPR should be getting a free set of premium online advertisements after the three spots they gave Salon.com for their latest rehash. (PBS has advertised there before. Check this previous NewsBusters posting: newsbusters.org )
-- Brent Baker