2. ABC and NBC More Sympathetic to Clinton's Recess Appointments
3. Rather Stands By What He Won't Call "Memogate," Will Get Emmy
The network evening newscasts reacted with indignation to President Bush's decision to make a recess appointment of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. "President Bush made an end-run around Congress," declared World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas. ABC's Terry Moran highlighted how "Bolton's blistering criticisms of the UN and his tough, even abusive, management style led Democrats and some Republicans to block his nomination, arguing that the U.S. cannot afford to alienate the international community further." George Stephanopoulos relayed the suggestion that Bolton "take a page from Hillary Rodham Clinton's play book when she ran for Senate from New York: Go on a listening tour. A little of that humility...will go a long way in the UN." CBS's Bill Plante cited "Bolton's combative personal style and in-your-face conservative ideology." NBC Nightly News anchor Campbell Brown asserted that Bush "has bypassed the confirmation process," explaining Democrats "were especially angry that the White House refused to release documents they said were important for the Senate's consideration." Andrea Mitchell contended Bolton is "going to have to be less ideological to establish his credibility."
(See item #2 below for examples of how the media were much more agreeable with some of Clinton's recess appointments.)
A rundown of Monday night, August 1 coverage on the broadcast networks, as compiled by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
# ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "The President side-steps the Senate: He appoints a controversial new UN ambassador while lawmakers are on vacation."
Vargas set up the subsequent story: "Turning now to news in Washington. Today, President Bush made an end-run around Congress and appointed John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton is highly controversial. Senate Democrats had held up his confirmation for months amid allegations that he was highly critical of the UN and abusive as a manager. The President waited until Congress went on vacation to act. And ABC's White House correspondent, Terry Moran, reports."
Moran began: "John Bolton arrived at the U.S. Mission to the UN this afternoon, losing no time in taking charge there. That is precisely what President Bush wanted."
Vargas turned to George Stephanopoulos: "As you can imagine, reaction from those who opposed Bolton's appointment was harsh. Democrats called the recess appointment 'devious' and 'seriously flawed.' Even Republican Senator George Voinovich said the appointment will add to Bolton's lack of credibility at the UN. And ABC's George Stephanopoulos joins us. And it is true that every President has used these recess appointments."
Plante began: "Brushing aside objections to Bolton's combative personal style and in-your-face conservative ideology, Mr. Bush today handed him the UN job and accused Democrats of playing politics with the nomination."
Schieffer asked Plante: "You know, when he was in the State Department during the first Bush administration, of course, he was not by any stretch of the imagination a part of Colin Powell's inner circle. Who exactly is his champion over there? Who pushed this thing, Bill?"
Brown introduced the story: "And now to Washington, where President Bush is defying his opponents in the Senate. He has bypassed the confirmation process and appointed John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the UN Democrats objected to Bolton's nomination for a variety of reasons, but they were especially angry that the White House refused to release documents they said were important for the Senate's consideration. Here's NBC's chief White House correspondent David Gregory."
Gregory checked in: "The President's controversial new ambassador was booed today as he arrived at his New York office for the first time. Hours earlier, the President explained why he bypassed Senate Democrats."
Brown: "NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins me now with more on the Bolton appointment. Andrea, good evening."
Not all high-profile recess appointments are equally egregious in the eyes of the DC press corps and network news chiefs in Manhattan. While ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas complained Monday night that "President Bush made an end-run around Congress and appointed John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations" and described Bolton as "highly controversial," in 1997 ABC framed Bill Clinton's effort to make Bill Lann Lee the Assistant Attorney General in charge of civil rights as a tale of a mistreated American hero. Peter Jennings described him as "a classic example of an American success story" and Linda Douglas insisted he "seemed to be the perfect candidate to be the nation's head of civil rights." NBC's Today a provided a sympathetic interview with Lann Lee in 1997, but on Monday morning Katie Couric demanded: "So over the weekend the White House...seemed to indicate that President Bush is poised to use his recess appointment power and send John Bolton to the UN without a Senate confirmation vote. How can he do that?!"
ABC also delivered contrasting approaches to Bush versus Clinton recess appointments of judges, as recounted in the January 19, 2004 CyberAlert:
ABC's inconsistency on recess judicial appointments. On Friday night, Peter Jennings, without uttering a syllable about how Senate Democrats have used unprecedented tactics to block Bush judicial nominees or conveying anything positive about Charles Pickering's qualifications, highlighted how "Democrats accuse Pickering of opposing civil rights" while Senator Kennedy claimed "'the President's appointment serves only to emphasize again this administration's shameful opposition to civil rights.'" But back in December of 2000 when President Clinton made a recess judicial appointment, anchor Aaron Brown treated Clinton as the one fully justified in his actions in the face of Senate Republicans opposed to black nominees. Brown trumpeted how Roger Gregory "will be the first African-American on the court. The President has nominated four African-Americans to the 4th Circuit but Republicans in Congress would not hold confirmation hearings."
Jennings, in Des Moines, provided this take, on the January 16 World News Tonight, about Bush's recess appointment to a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans: "The Bush administration's making news today. President Bush has unilaterally appointed a controversial judge to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats are very angry that Mr. Bush installed Charles Pickering. He's used what's called a recess appointment that will last until the next Congress takes office, made when Congress was not in session. Democrats accuse Pickering of opposing civil rights and bringing a conservative agenda to the bench. Senator Kennedy said for the Democrats today, 'the President's appointment serves only to emphasize again this administration's shameful opposition to civil rights.'"
A little more than three years ago, however, then-World News Tonight anchor Aaron Brown, now with CNN, portrayed Clinton as justified in the face of race-based GOP obstructionism. On December 27, 2000 Brown intoned: "At the White House today, President Clinton bypassed Congress and appointed lawyer Roger Gregory to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Mr. Gregory will be the first African-American on the court. The President has nominated four African-Americans to the 4th Circuit but Republicans in Congress would not hold confirmation hearings. Now that Congress is not in session, Mr. Clinton used his powers to make what's called a recess appointment."
END of Reprint of previous CyberAlert
Now, contrast the World News Tonight story on Bolton, in item #1 above, to the November 6, 1997 treatment of failed Clinton nominee Bill Lann Lee, as recounted in the November 7, 1997 CyberAlert:
While Linda Douglass allowed Senator Orrin Hatch to explain his opposition, he was outnumbered four-to-one in soundbites. ABC framed the story as a tale of a mistreated American success story, not as a story of how the nominee, Bill Lann Lee, wants to further the racial spoils system and insists on fighting public will in California's Prop 209 vote. As transcribed by Geoffrey Dickens, ABC offered this sympathetic picture of a victim of conservative racial apathy:
Peter Jennings: "In Washington today there is a nasty political battle going on about the fate of a man who everyone seems to acknowledge has been, at least up until now, a classic example of an American success story. His name is Bill Lann Lee. And he is the President's choice to run the civil rights division at the Justice Department. Mr. Lee who is Asian-American has been a supporter of affirmative action as is the President. Which makes Mr. Lee's nomination the latest battleground in the campaign to end affirmative action. Here's ABC's Linda Douglas."
Linda Douglas: "Bill Lann Lee seemed to be the perfect candidate to be the nation's head of civil rights. He grew up in Harlem, the son of penniless Chinese immigrants and watched his father suffer discrimination as he worked in a laundry. But Lee went on to win a scholarship to Yale and later became one of the country's leading civil rights lawyers representing the NAACP."
Edward Kennedy: "He's devoted his life and career to finding practical solutions to real life problems of discrimination and bigotry."
Douglas: "But today the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee described Lee as an affirmative action zealot who would twist the law to fit his political agenda."
Orrin Hatch: "It's time for us to take a stand against these policies that are dividing America and ripping us apart."
Douglas: "Hatch's stance is only recent. Coming after weeks of pressure by conservative groups to defeat Lee. And last week House Speaker Newt Gingrich took the unusual step of sending a letter to the head of the Senate arguing that Lee, 'seems to ignore the color blind nature of the Constitution.' But Democrats charge Republicans are just using Lee as a way to attack President Clinton for supporting affirmative action."
Joseph Biden: "I think you all have the wrong bill. I think this is about Bill Clinton not about Bill Lee."
Douglas: "Some of Lee's defenders believe it is easier for Republicans to go after Lee because he is not black but Asian-American."
Karen Narasaki, Asian Pacific American Consortium: "The Senators have been much more aggressive about going after Bill Lee because many of them come from states where there are not large Asian-American constituencies."
Douglas: "Most Republicans chose not to speak today but with civil rights leaders looking on [video of Jesse Jackson, Mfume and others] emotions ran high. Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy choked back tears as he talked about the discrimination faced by his father, an Irish immigrant."
Pat Leahy: "There is not a Bill Lann Lee or anybody else willing to enforce a civil rights law. Had there been my father's life would have been a lot different. I do not want to see us backtrack."
Douglas: "Privately some Democrats are gleeful believing that Republican's attacks on Lee may backfire with minority voters. But many Republicans are willing to take that chance gambling that the time is right to take on President Clinton over affirmative action. Linda Douglas, ABC News, Washington."
END of Excerpt
For that item online, with a contemporary picture of Jennings: www.mediaresearch.org
Couric's first question to Matthews, as noted by the MRC's Geoff Dickens: "So over the weekend the White House, Chris, seemed to indicate that President Bush is poised to use his recess appointment power and send John Bolton to the UN without a Senate confirmation vote. How can he do that?!"
Contrast that tone to Today's approach to Lann Lee on the December 12, 1997 Today, as recounted in the December 15 CyberAlert which was tracked down Monday by the MRC's Rich Noyes. An excerpt from the 1997 CyberAlert:
If you had any doubt about which side the networks will favor if President Clinton makes a recess appointment of Bill Lann Lee they should have been answered by Today's treatment of him on Friday. Co-host Matt Lauer described a recess appointment as "a solution" and failed to confront the nominee with the concerns of Republicans in the Senate.
Instead of a look at Lee's use of extortion while at the NAACP, euphemistically called "consent decrees," and continued advocacy of policies the Supreme Court has ruled impermissible, Lauer's questions painted him as a victim of conservatives out to get Clinton. Here are all of Lauer's questions from December 12 as transcribed by the MRC's Eric Darbe:
-- "You take a look at your resume and you seem like a pretty good candidate to be assistant attorney general for civil rights. But you've run into a wall in Congress. And, as you know, the problem is that some conservative Republicans think that your support of affirmative action simply doesn't work for this job. How do you convince them that you're the right guy for the job?"
-- "But some of these Republicans, Orrin Hatch among them, say look here's a guy who is going to be in the middle of the civil rights policy in this country and he has beliefs, on affirmative action, that fly in the face of what we believe, the Republicans talking here. And that also are in direct opposition to certain laws that have been passed in this country. Are you being treated fairly here?"
-- "Kind of an interesting situation here, it would be a little strange for the Republicans to expect Bill Clinton to appoint or to nominate someone for this job who is anti-affirmative action, after all the President himself is in favor of affirmative action."
-- "There's a solution here, albeit a temporary solution. The President could make you what's called a recess nominee. Which he can give you the job for a year, almost a trial run. And that way Republicans can say hey he's pretty good at this and then vote on you, a year from now. Would you accept the job under those conditions?"
-- "But your talking about Congress here, so in other words, you would take the job, you'd consider taking job even though you'd know that you do not have the support in Congress at this time?"
-- "There is talk behind the scenes, Mr. Lee, that the Republicans would be willing to give you, almost any other job, but this one. Would you be willing to walk away form this, and take another job?"
-- "Good Luck to you, Bill Lann Lee, nice to meet you."
END of Excerpt from a previous CyberAlert
In a SmartMoney.com/Esquire "What I've Learned" first-hand recounting of thoughts from Dan Rather, such as this insight, "You trust your mother. But you cut the cards anyway," Rather complained that "many of the people" who call his scandal "memogate" are doing "so for their own partisan and/or ideological purposes." Unlike with Watergate, he insisted in the July 29 posting, "no crime was committed here" and he maintained: "The central facts in the story were correct, and they have not been denied. A pillar of support for the story has been called into question and remains in question. We don't know everything yet." Rather also claimed that "whatever mistakes" were made, "real or imagined," they "were not born of political bias nor of prejudice." Plus, an ad in Television Week out on Monday disclosed that in September Rather will be awarded with a "special" Emmy "in recognition of his years of outstanding work."
Romenesko ( www.poynter.org ) on Monday highlighted the SmartMoney.com posting of what I presume appears in the hard-copy edition of the September Esquire magazine.
Rather's paragraph, in full, on Watergate versus Memogate:
Rather made a similar argument in a June 2 appearance on CNN's Larry King Live. The Friday, June 3 MRC CyberAlert summarized: Dan Rather reiterated to CNN's Larry King on Thursday night that he believes the memos, in his National Guard hit piece on President Bush, were genuine. Rather emphasized how "the documents were part of a fairly wide array of information we had" and were "supported by all kind of things other than the documents." When King wondered, "so, are you saying the story might be correct?", Rather replied: "Well, I'm saying a prudent person might take that view." For more, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
For Rather's "What I've Learned" page in full: www.smartmoney.com
The MRC's Tim Graham noticed on Monday that a back page Television Week ad soliciting ad buyers for a special section devoted to the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, touted how two people will be "Special Honorees" at the September 19 awards ceremony to be held at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
The Emmy Web site notes the special award planned for HBO's Sheila Nevins, but has nothing about any honor for Rather.
The ad in the just-published August 1 Television Week features pictures of Nevins and Rather under a "Special Honorees" heading. The text for Rather: "Dan Rather
The home page for the News & Documentary Emmy Awards: www.emmyonline.org
The link to the July 7 press release, "THE 26th ANNUAL NEWS AND DOCUMENTARY EMMY AWARD NOMINEES ANNOUNCED TODAY BY THE NATIONAL TELEVISION ACADEMY: LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD TO BE PRESENTED TO HBO'S SHEILA NEVINS," which made no mention of Dan Rather: www.emmyonline.org
-- Brent Baker