2. NBC and CBS Hype "Explosive" Old News About Pat Tillman's Death
3. NPR Talk Show Host: "George Bush Is a [Unprintable Vulgarity]"
4. Dan Rather Signs With Speakers' Bureau, Fee: $75,000 Per Speech
On the very day the Washington Post reported that "lobbyist Jack Abramoff paid at least a portion of the expenses for two Democratic members of Congress...during a pair of trips in the mid-1990s to the Northern Mariana Islands," CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer set up a Wednesday "Inside Story" look at Abramoff by explaining that "many of the allegations against [House Majority Leader Tom] DeLay revolve around foreign trips he took that were paid for by" Abramoff, as indeed they do, but he and Gloria Borger ignored the fresh information about how Abramoff also paid for the Democratic members. Following Borger's review of Abramoff's dealings with Indian tribes, Schieffer prompted her: "Gloria, this is going beyond Tom DeLay now, isn't it?" But instead of raising the names of the two Democrats and tying them back to Abramoff, Borger just noted that Democrats are "beginning to discover that these rules that say that lobbyists cannot pay for travel are something that perhaps they didn't understand."
The two Democrats identified in the May 4 Post article: "James E. Clyburn (S.C.), now vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), now the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee."
Schieffer introduced the May 4 CBS Evening News story: "In Washington, the House Ethics Committee met tonight for the first time since Republicans overhauled rules that Democrats said were deliberately designed to protect the House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay. Many of the allegations against DeLay revolve around foreign trips he took that were paid for by a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff, a man well known in Washington but little known outside the Capitol. Well, tonight, we find out just who he is in Gloria Borger's 'Inside Story.'"
Borger ran through the allegations against Abramoff about taking money from different Indian tribes to lobby for and against the same policy on gambling rights and a lawsuit which charges he defrauded a tribe of $60 million.
After the taped piece ended, Schieffer turned to Borger on Capitol Hill: "Gloria, this is going beyond Tom DeLay now, isn't it?"
An excerpt from the top of the May 4 front page Washington Post story, "Democrats' Travel Costs Linked to Lobbyist," by R. Jeffrey Smith:
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff paid at least a portion of the expenses for two Democratic members of Congress and two staff members to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) during a pair of trips in the mid-1990s to the Northern Mariana Islands, according to a former Abramoff secretary and travel records published on the Internet yesterday.
The payments represent two new instances in which lawmakers and staff members on overseas trips had their expenses initially covered by a registered lobbyist despite a blanket ban in congressional ethics rules on direct payments by lobbyists for travel-related expenses.
The two congressmen were James E. Clyburn (S.C.), now vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), now the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee. The aides to DeLay were Edwin A. Buckham, now a lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group, and Tony Rudy, now a member of Buckham's lobbying firm.
In these instances, Abramoff was reimbursed by his law firm, Preston Gates Ellis. The island government, which had hired the law firm, eventually paid it back for the expenses incurred by Abramoff, according to a source close to the incidents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. House ethics rules contain no exemption for payments by lobbyists that are later reimbursed by others....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Treating old news as a fresh scandal. NBC's Katie Couric hyped at the top of Wednesday's Today: "Good morning. Why did they wait? An explosive new report finds the military knew almost immediately that former NFL player, Pat Tillman, was killed by friendly fire but took weeks to tell the public and his family." Three minutes later, however, Jim Miklaszewski undermined Couric's hype: "It's been known for some time that the Army did not inform the Tillman family that Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire in a timely manner." NBC had picked up on a Washington Post story about an Army report, "Army Withheld Details About Tillman's Death," a story the Post put not on the front page, but on page A-3.
Nonetheless, the CBS Evening News also treated the report as worth a full story as Lara Logan trumpeted how "we were told he died in tragic glory," but "it turns out the military knew different all along." But while the report may be new, its finding that the Army knew almost immediately in late April that Tillman was a victim of fratricide, was presumed in the late May 2004 stories about that revelation. And that was also detailed in a widely-quoted, including by NBC and CBS, December 6 Washington Post story, "Army Spun Tale Around Ill-Fated Mission."
Couric opened Wednesday's Today: "Good morning. Why did they wait? An explosive new report finds the military knew almost immediately that former NFL player, Pat Tillman, was killed by friendly fire but took weeks to tell the public and his family. Now the military is trying to explain itself today, Wednesday, May 4, 2005. "
Following plugs for other upcoming topics, Couric chatted a bit with her co-host: "And welcome to Today on this Wednesday morning, everyone. I'm Katie Couric."
In the 7am news update, Ann Curry got to the story: "More now on the investigation into the death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed in Afghanistan. The Washington Post is reporting that the Army knew within days that it was a case of friendly fire, but didn't tell his family or the public for weeks. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski is at the Pentagon this morning. Jim, good morning. What more do we know about this?"
Miklaszewski explained: "Well, good morning, Ann. It's been known for some time that the Army did not inform the Tillman family that Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire in a timely manner. In fact, didn't even tell the family until after Pat Tillman's funeral a couple of weeks later. But a 2000-page investigative report conducted by the Army finds serious fault with the Army's conduct. Not only in the friendly fire incident, but also in the way that the family was informed. Now, this investigation did not find any actual aggressive attempt to cover up the friendly fire incident and write it off primarily to Army bureaucracy, incompetence and perhaps even compassion on the part of the Army to keep some of those details from the family in the short term. But ultimately doing that raised suspicions of a cover up, and, in fact, the Army investigation found that seven of those involved in the incident were reprimanded for the friendly fire. And the Army said serious mistakes were made, and they hope that this report will correct that, Ann."
The CBS Evening News also jumped on the report. With "Military's Secret" below a split screen of Lara Logan and a picture of Tillman, Logan teased: "We were told he died in tragic glory. I'm Lara Logan, and it turns out the military knew different all along."
Anchor Bob Schieffer set up the subsequent story, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Pat Tillman became a national hero when he walked away from a pro football career with the Arizona Cardinals after 9/11 and became a U.S. Army Ranger. And when he died in Afghanistan, the Army put out a story about how he had been heroically killed by enemy fire. Later, the Army admitted that he had been killed accidentally by fellow Army rangers. Tonight, our Lara Logan, who has reported extensively from Afghanistan, is here with some new information about how the Army handled and mishandled the news of that tragedy. Lara?"
Logan began: "Bob, at first, Pentagon officials said Pat Tillman was killed by insurgents who'd ambushed his patrol. Just over a month later, they changed their story admitting it was friendly fire that had taken his life. Now it seems they may have known the truth all along.
ABC and NBC, as well as MSNBC's Countdown, also noted the Tillman report on Wednesday night, but held coverage to short items:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Charles Gibson: "There is a new Army report that acknowledges the Army withheld information about the death of Pat Tillman, the pro football star-turned soldier. The report says Army officials knew within days that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan but did not tell Tillman's family or the public until weeks after a televised memorial service."
-- NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams: "The death of U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last year was one of the most high-profile and heartbreaking in the U.S. war on terrorism, especially after it was revealed that Tillman, who had quit a promising career in the NFL to fight for his country, had been killed by so-called friendly fire by fellow Rangers. Now the Army admits its own investigators held back their finding that this was a friendly fire incident. They kept that fact secret for weeks, even from Tillman's family, until after his nationally televised memorial service, presumably to avoid embarrassment for the unit."
-- MSNBC's Countdown. Keith Olbermann: "Now to the east, to Afghanistan, another major front for the U.S. military. New details tonight about the death there of Pat Tillman, and they raise the question of whether good publicity might have been placed ahead of telling his family the truth about how he died. Tillman, of course, the pro-football player moved by 9/11 to sacrifice his career to instead join the Army Rangers. The Army now admitting that its own investigators withheld their findings for weeks that his death was the result of a friendly fire incident and they knew it immediately. Fellow soldiers immediately sure that Tillman had been killed by a barrage of American bullets, but they were told to keep that information secret even from Tillman's family, presumably to shield the unit from embarrassment. It was only weeks later, after his nationally televised funeral, that the details about Tillman's death were finally revealed."
An excerpt from the start of the May 4 Washington Post story by Josh White:
The first Army investigator who looked into the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last year found within days that he was killed by his fellow Rangers in an act of "gross negligence," but Army officials decided not to inform Tillman's family or the public until weeks after a nationally televised memorial service.
A new Army report on the death shows that top Army officials, including the theater commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, were told that Tillman's death was fratricide days before the service.
Soldiers on the scene said they were immediately sure Tillman was killed by a barrage of American bullets as he took shelter behind a large boulder during a twilight firefight along a narrow canyon road near the Pakistani border, according to nearly 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post.
The documents also show that officers made erroneous initial reports that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, destroyed critical evidence and initially concealed the truth from Tillman's brother, also an Army Ranger, who was near the attack on April 22, 2004, but did not witness it....
END of Excerpt
For the article in its entirety: www.washingtonpost.com
That morning, December 6, Jim Miklaszewski highlighted the Post story on the Today show: "Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan first blamed on the fog of war. But an investigative series by The Washington Post suggests that Army leaders tried to cover up some of the details in a pattern of deception....The Army kept the details of his death a secret, and it wasn't until five weeks after Tillman was buried in a hero ceremony that even his family learned how he died."
Not even NPR's talk show about cars is safe from anti-Bush venom. Tom and Ray Magliozzi, co-hosts of NPR's Saturday morning "Car Talk" show, traveled from Boston to Washington, DC to lobby for more taxpayer money for NPR and three times during an interview with the Washington Post's Mark Leibovich, brother Tom declared, as edited by the Post: "George Bush is a [unprintable vulgarity]."
"Oh, Brother: 'Car Talk' Guy Puts Mouth in Gear," read the May 4 Style section headline. The subhead: "Tom Magliozzi Opines and NPR Goes Into Reverse." An excerpt from the story by Mark Leibovich:
The guys who host "Car Talk" on National Public Radio -- brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi -- were in Washington yesterday to visit with some of the powerful government officials whose support for public radio is so vital. They also sat for a rare interview.
"George Bush is a [unprintable vulgarity]," Tom Magliozzi says, about three minutes into the interview.
Rule Number One: When you're trying to ensure government funding, it's best not to refer to the head of said government as an unprintable vulgarity.
Maybe this is why the "Car Talk" guys rarely give interviews.
"Yeah, you probably shouldn't say that," says Doug Berman, executive producer of public radio's most popular weekend show, who is sitting across the breakfast table at Cafe Luna on P Street. NPR spokeswoman Jenny Lawhorn agrees. As do Ray and Tom, aka "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers" at least until Tom essentially repeats himself, twice.
This is the part of the story where NPR officials make it clear that the views of the show's personalities do not reflect those of its management.
"I'd like to point out that 'Car Talk' is editorially independent," Lawhorn says.
"Their jokes and jabs," she further states in a follow-up e-mail, "aren't in any way the official views of NPR and its member stations."
This is an important distinction, since local public radio stations rely partly on the largess of Congress, some of whose members are Republicans. These stations, in turn, pay fees to NPR for programming. So NPR executives are understandably sensitive to what they call their "perception problem" -- that NPR is often considered a bastion of liberal sensibilities that are winning little love from Washington these days, or, for that matter, funding....
END of Excerpt
One can only speculate on what the "unprintable vulgarity" may have been.
Dan Rather has signed on with the Newton, Massachusetts-based speaker's service, the American Program Bureau (APB), which, CyberAlert has learned, has set his fee per appearance at $75,000, plus two first-class airline seats.
The American Program Bureau's Web site touts: "We are proud to announce that one of America's most recognized and renowned journalists and reporters, the Peabody Award-winning Dan Rather, is now available EXCLUSIVELY through APB for a select number of speaking engagements."
A page devoted to Rather declares that "Dan Rather has been the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalist" and promises that "as a speaker, few can match the authority, experience, and perspective Rather offers on world events and the passion he displays in defense of journalism." See: www.apbspeakers.com
It doesn't look like leaving the CBS Evening News will hurt Rather financially, presuming anyone wants to listen to him, but the new speaking deal may soon raise questions about conflicts given that he continues to file stories for 60 Minutes/Wednesday.
-- Brent Baker