Russert and Couric Assume Kerry Ignored Swift Vets Ad in August --9/3/2004
2. ABC's Stephanopoulos Terms Democrat John Edwards a "Big Loser"
3. Dan Rather Blames Bad Ratings on Lack of Time for CBS Reporters
4. Highlights of TimesWatch.org Articles Exposing NY Times Bias
5. A Rundown of National Public Radio's Biased Convention Approach
The morning after President Bush's speech before the Republican National Convention, the three broadcast network morning shows led off with explosions and gunfire at a Russian school seized two days earlier by terrorists and a major hurricane threatening Florida. But when they finally got around to politics, NBC's Katie Couric and Tim Russert seemed more interested in John Kerry's midnight rally in Ohio, where Kerry blasted Bush and Cheney as "unfit" for office.
Russert claimed Kerry had been "silent through the month of August" regarding attacks on his military service record and 1971 congressional testimony in which he alleged war crimes on the part of the U.S. military in Vietnam. "People are scratching their heads, saying, why did it take a month?" Russert told Katie Couric Friday morning on Today.
In fact, Kerry was anything but silent. Two weeks ago he gave a speech blasting President Bush, the Republican Party and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. At the same time, his campaign launched a television ad denouncing the Swift Vets charges as "smears" and "lies" sneakily perpetrated by the Bush campaign. Kerry's August 19 attack served to jumpstart coverage of the issue, which the broadcast networks had previously all but ignored. After Kerry's diatribe, all three broadcast networks ran stories about the Swift Vets on their evening and morning newscasts.
Indeed, as documented by the August 20 CyberAlert, the NBC Nightly News included a preview of Kerry's anti-Swift Vet attack in Brian Williams lead-in from Athens:
For more on how NBC and the other networks covered Kerry's energetic response to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, see the August 20 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
But on Friday morning, those Kerry campaign activities were forgotten as Couric and Russert touted Kerry's overnight speech. Couric told Russert: "Let's take a listen to what John Kerry said, when he staged a midnight rally last night, to respond to some of the charges heard at this convention."
Couric observed: "A midnight rally. Slightly unusual. What did you make of that, and what did you make of John Kerry really, sort of, hitting back on some of these allegations, and I'm going to read a quote from him in a second."
Couric raised Kerry's premise that military service is a prerequisite for the Presidency: "Last night, he was still talking about military service. He said quote, 'The Vice President even called me unfit for office last night. I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation rather than two tours of duty.'"
Russert noted: "Which is a direct challenge to the Vice President Cheney, who he was talking about with the five deferments. Democrats have been saying, and very outspoken, more and more publically, that they want Senator Kerry to start fighting, publically, in a way that says you accused me of flip flops, Mr., President. What about your flip-flops on x,y, and z? You accused me of military service, what about that of your administration? People are scratching their heads, saying, why did it take a month?"
Later, Couric interviewed newly-named Kerry campaign aide Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton's former White House Press Secretary, and she premised her question on the notion that Kerry had failed to respond: "Many Democrats have urged John Kerry, as you know Joe, to come out swinging, to take the gloves off. Is this the sign that we're going to see a much more aggressive campaign being waged by the Kerry-Edwards team?"
Lockhart tried to assure her: "When outrageous charges are pressed against John Kerry, he's going to respond, he's going to respond aggressively."
But, Couric wondered, "Well, why didn't he do so more aggressively and in a more expeditious way when those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads came out. Tim Russert and I were talking earlier this morning Joe, and we noted that it took a month for Senator Kerry to really go on the offensive about these ads."
Lockhart told her: "Actually, I don't think that's true..."
Friday morning on Good Morning America, ABC's George Stephanopoulos christened Arnold Schwarzenegger the "big winner" of the GOP convention, John Edwards the "big loser," and said "the jury is out" on whether Bush's speech would ultimately be proven successful. Over on CBS, Bob Schieffer repeated his complaint from Thursday night that the President's speech was just too darned long. But of the substantive proposals contained in Bush's speech, Schieffer was surprisingly positive, telling the Early Show's Rene Syler, "These are good ideas," although he wished for more details.
After the hurricane and Russian hostage stories, ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Stephanopoulos for his reaction:
After discussing Kerry's unorthodox midnight speech in Ohio, Stephanopoulos outlined his winners and losers: "First big winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He came in, he owned the convention on Tuesday night, didn't have to do any of the attacks against the Republicans, didn't have to do any interviews, comes out with lots of acclaim from the Republican Party. Big loser during the Republican convention, John Edwards, I think."
Sawyer was flabbergasted: "Huh? John Edwards?"
Stephanopoulos reminded her: "He's got that two Americas message that he gave to John Kerry. It was the target of every single Republican speaker: Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vice President Cheney. He took a hit during this convention."
Over on CBS's The Early Show, Schieffer joked with Syler that "who would have thought" the President's re-nominating convention would rank third on the newscast. Schieffer argued that Bush must provide details of the major reform ideas he spelled out Thursday night:
Then Schieffer complained about the length, comparing the 62-minute speech to the sort delivered by Bill Clinton: "Frankly, the President talked a little too long. I thought he had a very good start on the speech. I thought the ending was quite inspirational. It seemed to me it took him a long time to get there. And you have to wonder in a speech, I mean, this was a speech that was a Bill Clinton length. It went well over an hour. To hang in there for that long I think might have been tough for some people. But I thought all in all it was a good speech."
Immediately following Bush's speech, CBS's reporters -- Schieffer included -- were the most negative, with White House reporter John Roberts grousing that: "He seems to have completely forgotten about Osama bin Laden who remains at large. There was no talk about him. Also no talk about a couple of the other great challenges facing America on the international stage, and those are the problems with nuclear programs in both Iran and North Korea."
On Thursday night's O'Reilly Factor, FNC's Bill O'Reilly celebrated the fact that the 8-year-old cable news network garnered a larger audience for the second and third nights of the Republican convention than did the ABC, CBS or NBC broadcast networks, a first. But CBS anchor Dan Rather blamed the poor ratings on the fact that CBS reporters didn't have much time to comment on the speeches, although he touted his own network as a better way for politicians to reach "independent or swing voters."
The New York Times' Bill Carter solicited reaction to the fact that Fox News Channel was preferred. Carter wrote that Rather blamed the Republican strategy of leaving little time for reporter commentary. An excerpt:
...Dan Rather, the CBS anchor, said that precisely that kind of stage managing had helped reduce the networks' interest in the conventions. His team, he said, was left to act less like journalists than like sports producers who show up at a pre-packaged event and turn on their cameras.
"Actually, in sports you can do more," Mr. Rather said. "You can say the fullback missed a block. Here we don't even get to do that."...
Mr. Rather suggested that the ratings may not be ideal for the Republican Party come November.
"I tip my cap to Fox," he said. "I'm sure people in the [Republican] party are saying, 'That's a great audience, and on a channel that's friendly to us.' But the wise ones know that this is preaching to the converted. And if they want to reach independent or swing voters, the way to do that is through the over-the-air networks."
END of excerpt.
For the full New York Times article, headlined "Networks Left to Reflect on Week's Poor Ratings," go to: www.nytimes.com
MRC's Times Watch editor Clay Waters has had a very busy week posting critiques of the hometown New York Times' biased coverage of the Republican National Convention. Among the items available at www.timeswatch.org: "correcting" the Bush speech, Dick Cheney is a "rock," not a "rock star," Bronx cheers for "Zig Zag Zell" and his "Zellout," and a profile of adorable Revolutionary Communists.
Highlights, in reverse chronological order:
# Friday: Double Standards on Speeches. Todd Purdum's "news analysis" of Bush's acceptance speech (headline: "Bold Strokes, Few Details") was dominated by criticism from the start:
Also Friday: Fact-Checking Bush's Speech, But Not Kerry's. While John Kerry's speech didn't receive any morning-after spin, the Times felt compelled to "fact-check" Bush's -- with help from the Kerry campaign. David Sanger and Elisabeth Bumiller performed a highly unusual "reality check" on Bush's speech in Friday's "Comparing President's Address And History."
See Friday's stories at: www.timeswatch.org
# Thursday: Cheney: "A Rock More Than a Rock Star." Geez, what did Dick Cheney ever do to Rick Lyman? After a highly unfavorable write-up yesterday, reporter Lyman took on the VP's stoic speaking manner in a review embellished with extraneous insults in "For a Night, Cheney Dons Charisma."
Also Thursday: Bush Gets Union Endorsement: Is He Exploiting 9-11? Apparently any union endorsement of Bush is automatically suspect: Two Times reports on Bush's endorsement by New York City's largest firefighters union took time to fret about Bush's possible exploitation of 9-11.
See Thursday's stories at: www.timeswatch.org
# Wednesday: "Ruthless" Rudy Attacks Kerry. After barely mentioning it in their initial coverage of Rudy Giuliani's convention speech, the Times unloaded on Giuliani's "ruthless" attack on John Kerry in Wednesday's edition. In the strongly headlined "Loves Dogs, Hates Kerry: A Two-Prong Campaign Tactic," Adam Nagourney wrote:
Also Wednesday: Stolberg Profiles "Zig Zag Zell." Sheryl Gay Stolberg began her story, "Disaffected Democrat Who Is Now a G.O.P. Dream," by rehashing name-calling directed at Miller from fellow Democrats:
For all of Wednesday's Times Watch stories, go to: www.timeswatch.org
Also Tuesday: Cute Communists and Jerky Anarchists in Manhattan. Julie Salamon celebrated young Communist protesters in Manhattan in a story headlined "At Midnight, Protesters Turn Poets and Dreamers."
See Tuesday's stories at: www.timeswatch.org
# Monday: Boosting Anti-Bush Crowd Figures, Again. The Times again managed to pass along the highest crowd estimates for the anti-Bush rally in Manhattan on Sunday, just as it did during the anti-war protests of March 2003. Robert McFadden's front-page story, "March Raucous but Largely Peaceful," opened: "A roaring two-mile river of demonstrators surged through the canyons of Manhattan yesterday in the city's largest political protest in decades, a raucous but peaceful spectacle that pilloried George W. Bush and demanded regime change in Washington."
See Monday's stories at www.timeswatch.org
In National Public Radio's coverage of the Republican convention and related matters, the network repeatedly expressed surprise that most in the GOP see the Iraq war as part of a larger struggle against terrorism, repeatedly failed to label the protesters outside Madison Square Garden as left-wing, again likened the Iraq war to the Vietnam war, and broadcast a commentary concerning restaurant patrons' desire to pester Paul Wolfowitz, described on NPR as "Werewolfowitz."
MRC's NPR analyst Tom Johnson compiled a day-by-day sampling of NPR bias. The shows monitored were Morning Edition and the evening show All Things Considered from Monday through Thursday:
# On Monday's Morning Edition, co-host Steve Inskeep introduced Margot Adler's story on Sunday's protest march, said the march had been "largely organized by peace activists." That bland description, it turned out, foreshadowed Adler's reluctance to ideologically label the protesters. She spoke of the "mixed crowd of veterans, students, union members, environmentalists, all ages and races. There were Korean drummers, antiwar feminists wearing pink slips, and more than 900 people carrying coffins to represent the U.S. war dead in Iraq. There were angry youths shouting epithets and singing grandmothers with sunny smiles, and there were humorous signs." Adler, however, applied no ideological label to United for Peace and Justice, the far-left coalition that organized the march, nor to any other protester or group.
Later in the show, Juan Williams offered what at first hearing was a nomenclatural headscratcher: "The most conservative Republicans won't be given featured speaking slots. Those slots are reserved for moderates...many of whom are supportive of gun control, gay rights, and diversity." The 100 percent liberal position is "moderate." ("Diversity," one assumes, is Williams' term for "affirmative action" -- unless he truly believes conservatives oppose diversity, period.)
That evening on All Things Considered, co-host Melissa Block remarked, as if it were real news, "It seems like the Republicans are, to a man, combining the war in Iraq together with the war on terrorism, something the Democrats typically draw a pretty bright line between."
# On Tuesday's Morning Edition, co-host Renee Montagne took the baton from Block. Montagne, introducing Williams' story, stated that "most Americans tell pollsters they oppose the [Iraq] war. Republicans are responding by trying to link the Iraq war to the war on terror." In the piece itself, Williams similarly said, "While Republicans want to connect the war on terror to the war in Iraq, Democrats are sure to object."
A recurring theme on NPR over the past few weeks is the likening of the Iraq war to a certain war of the 1960s and '70s, one in which, it's rumored, the Democratic presidential nominee fought. After Michael Sullivan, reporting from southern Vietnam, soundbited two Vietnamese who oppose the Iraq war, he added, "The U.S. involvement in Iraq looks very familiar to many Vietnamese, to what happened here more than thirty years ago." According to Sullivan, those rare southern Vietnamese he found who are following the U.S. presidential election tend to be rooting for -- you guessed it -- John Kerry, for his position on Iraq.
Tuesday's All Things Considered included another Adler dispatch from the wacky, vaguely political world of convention protesters. She closed her report with, "This evening, anarchists and independent protesters plan civil disobedience and direct-action events [such as] disruptions at Republican fundraisers...In a city under tight control, the police are bracing for spontaneous and impromptu actions." Adler routinely referred to "activists" and used such politically freighted terms as "social-justice organization," but once more couldn't bring herself to utter "leftist" or any variant thereof.
# For Wednesday's Morning Edition, Mara Liasson summarized Tuesday night at the convention. "Last night's program," Liasson told listeners, "was meant to remind [voters] of 2000, when...Mr. Bush rejected hard-edged conservatism and the anti-immigrant stand of some in his party." She described Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech with two words not usually directed at moderates when she said that the California governor "wasn't above throwing some red meat to the crowd."
Adler, a New York correspondent who apparently never sleeps, was back with another protest report. At times she played up the lighthearted side of events. "Many activists headed on to 34th St.," she recounted, "where one group sought to model what it called 'a world of true security.' The idea was for people to bring food, music, puppets, dance, art, and massage as they claimed the streets around Herald Square." But even when Adler was describing more serious goings-on, such as police-protester confrontations, she labeled no person or group, even one as extreme as the War Resisters League, as leftist.
On Wednesday's All Things Considered, Andrei Codrescu, one of the program's regular commentators, discussed his recent spotting of deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in a Tacoma restaurant. Codrescu appeared to have mind-melded with Maureen Dowd as he mused on how to handle Wolfowitz's presence: "What do you do if you're an artist? You quickly write a heartfelt poem of protest and send a child to deliver it. One of our hosts had the perfect cherubic child for the job. You also start to sing Give Peace a Chance, Masters of War, and maybe Country Joe and Pete Seeger classics. That's what you might do, anyway, but we didn't do any of that, because, one, we weren't in Seattle, and, two, we were afraid for the child. Mr. Wolfowitz left the eatery, unmolested by peaceniks. He actually lurked out of there like a werewolf: Werewolfowitz. Good thing we didn't send the kid. Look what happened to Little Red Riding Hood."
# On Thursday's Morning Edition, Montagne read a brief item concerning the sale of such items as Kerry flip-flop sandals and Clinton doggie chew toys to GOPers in NYC, then grumbled, "Hopefully, the souvenirs don't reflect the level of discourse we can expect for the rest of the campaign season." More substantively, Inskeep insulted Republicans when he said, "Political strategists think there is a big percentage of white voters who do not want the party to appear intolerant." Inskeep didn't provide a guess as to what percentage of white voters DO want the party to appear intolerant.
In Adler's All Things Considered protest story, she, unsurprisingly, applied no left-wing labels, not even to the National Lawyers Guild, the far-left (and in the Cold War days, Communist) group. (See www.nlg.org if you have doubts.) Meanwhile, Robert Siegel stated the Republican platform is "very conservative on social issues," then notes the so-called "big-tent" amendment that liberal Republicans have pushed. Siegel twice asked Senator Bill Frist, how actual policy might change to please moderates since they "don't necessarily see [their] own principles reflected in the actions of the party."
-- Rich Noyes and Tim Graham, with the help of MRC's daytime crew of analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd and Megan McCormack