Speech 'Gift' for 'Confronting Race' w/ 'Honesty' --3/19/2008
2. Chris Matthews Hails Obama Speech as 'Worthy of Abraham Lincoln'
3. Cafferty: Wright's Rants Not Bad as Falwell/Robertson on Abortion
4. Four Times More Journalists Identify as Liberal Than Conservative
5. Get Your Tickets Now for the MRC's 2008 'DisHonors Awards'
Speech 'Gift' for 'Confronting Race'
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage of Barack Obama's speech, in reaction to the furor over the racist, paranoid and America-hating remarks of his long-time pastor, not by focusing on what it says about Obama's true views and judgment but by admiring his success in "confronting" the issue of "race in America" in an "extraordinary" speech. Indeed, both ABC and CBS displayed "Race in America" on screen as the theme to their coverage, thus advancing Obama's quest to paint himself as a candidate dedicated to addressing a serious subject, not explain his ties to racially-tinged hate speech. NBC went simply with "The Speech" as Brian Williams described it as "a speech about race."
In short, the approach of the networks was as toward a friend in trouble and they wanted to help him put the unpleasantness behind him by focusing on his noble cause. "Barack Obama addresses the controversial comments of his pastor, condemning the words but not the man," CBS's Katie Couric teased before heralding: "And he calls on all Americans to work for a more perfect union." On ABC, Charles Gibson announced: "Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on, and says it's time for America to do the same." Reporting "Obama challenged Americans to confront the country's racial divide," Gibson hailed "an extraordinary speech."
NBC's Lee Cowan admired how "in the City of Brotherly Love, Barack Obama gave the most expansive and most intensely personal speech on race he's ever given," adding it reflected "honesty that struck his rival Hillary Clinton." On NBC, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart asserted "it was a very important speech for the nation. It was very blunt, very honest" and so "a very important gift the Senator has given the country."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The CBS Evening News, following a lengthy report from Byron Pitts, brought aboard a panel of two from the far-left -- Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Debra Dickerson, a former U.S. News editor who is now a blogger for Mother Jones magazine, plus Jeff Greenfield of CBS News. Dickerson declared: "Obama was brilliant in this speech." Wallis insisted "the black pulpit is a place of truth-telling about the experience of black people."
Dickerson's Mother Jones index: www.motherjones.com
Dickerson's bio: www.debradickerson.com
Echoing that theme, ABC's Steve Osunsami centered a story, following the lead story from Jake Tapper and an assessment from George Stephanopoulos, around rationalizing Wright's rants as just typical of what's heard Sunday's inside black churches: "There's an understanding among many black parishioners that what happens in the black church -- the sermons, the discourse -- that they are performances of exaggeration; in the words of one black minister: gross hyperbole, but certainly with strands of truth."
The "truth-telling" and "strands of truth" that AIDS was created by the government to kill people of color and 9/11 was America's "chickens coming home to roost?" (See full quotes below.) To say nothing of Wright's praise for the anti-Semitic Louis Farakhan.
Also on ABC, George Stephanopoulos touted Obama's honor: "By refusing to renounce Reverend Wright, that was in many ways an act of honor for Senator Obama."
Can you imagine such admiration for a conservative candidate associated for decades with a religious figure who believed in separating the races and denounced Jews?
The networks matched the themes pushed in the afternoon by the New York Times and Washington Post. "Criticizing Pastor, Obama Assesses Race in America," declared the NYTimes.com headline: www.nytimes.com
The WashingtonPost.com headline: "Barack Obama Confronts Racial Division in U.S." See: www.washingtonpost.com
How about "Obama Refuses to Separate Self from Anti-U.S. Hate-Speech Spewer"?
Tuesday's Nightline featured an "exclusive" interview with Obama in which ABC's Terry Moran tossed softballs and cued up Obama to expound on his views about race. He never challenged Obama on his awareness of Wright's hate speech. (Interview excerpts will also air on Wednesday's GMA.)
Moran trumpeted: "Obama tried the almost impossible in America: He tried to talk about race honestly, about injustice, about white resentment, about black anger."
Moran also fretted over how "Obama has to worry about" his views on other issues getting "drowned out," as if that should be the concern of a journalist, as Moran hoped for "another way to think and communicate" about race:
Back to Tuesday's evening newscasts: CBS's Katie Couric, and ABC's Jake Tapper, but not NBC's Brian Williams or Lee Cowan, noted how Obama admitted hearing some of the remarks he now condemns, but neither pointed out how Obama thus contradicted what he said in interviews on Friday. From Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC:
MAJOR GARRETT: To a packed auditorium of supporters and reporters, Obama went farther than ever before in admitting that he listened in the pews to sermons from Wright that many might find objectionable.
After barely touching over the last few days the most outrageous of Wright's allegations, ABC, CBS and NBC on Tuesday again provided at best only cursory references to them so anyone relying on those newscasts would be hard-pressed to understand all the fuss.
NBC Nightly News didn't air any soundbites from Wright nor quote him as Brian Williams said Wright made "some" comments which "some" found upsetting: "He's made some comments some find highly objectionable." Lee Cowan, using "some," raised "an outcry over inflammatory and, some say, hateful words that his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, had spoken from the pulpit."
CBS Evening News viewers heard Wright's "God damn America" and Jeff Greenfield referred to how Wright claimed "AIDS is a government conspiracy." (Wright's inane paranoia about AIDS: "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.") On ABC's World News, anchor Charles Gibson cited "comments cursing America, implying that the U.S. deserved 9/11." That was the first broadcast network evening newscast reference to Wright's take on 9/11.
In a sermon the Sunday after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Wright suggested America spurred and deserved the attacks:
No part of that far-left, Blame America First language has made it onto the ABC, CBS or NBC evening newscasts since the video became public last Thursday. The March 17 CyberAlert item, "Instead of Wright, NBC Touts Childhood Pals: 'Good Luck Barry!'," recounted:
Friday night, ABC didn't have anything on Wright, though after Thursday's Good Morning America aired a story by Brian Ross about Wright's rants, Thursday's World News was the only broadcast network evening newscast to touch Wright as Jake Tapper ran this one soundbite from Wright attacking Hillary Clinton: "Barack knows what it means to be a black man, living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich, white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a n----er."
Friday's CBS Evening News carried a story by Dean Reynolds which ran the "Not God Bless America, God [bleep] America" before Reynolds explained the close connection between Wright and Obama: "Reverend Wright officiated at Obama's wedding and the baptism of his children and he is described as a mentor for whom Obama took the phrase 'the audacity of hope' for the title of his book."
Saturday's World News and NBC Nightly News (as well as Sunday's World News) ran the "Not God Bless America, God damn America" soundbite. (College basketball meant no CBS Evening News on Saturday, none in the EDT/CDT on Sunday.)
March 17 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org
For the March 18 CyberAlert rundown, "Ongoing Blackout of Wright's 9/11 Rant, Only ABC Covers Him Monday," go to: www.mrc.org
The teases and intro from ABC and CBS on Tuesday night, March 18, as well as a full transcript of NBC's coverage, the shortest of the three:
# ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON, in opening teaser: Welcome to World News. Tonight, Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on, and says it's time for America to do the same.
GIBSON: Good evening. It may turn out to be the seminal speech of his presidential campaign. Barack Obama, in Philadelphia today, took on the issue of race. It was a speech he says he's wanted to make for some time. He made it after inflammatory comments from his preacher, Jeremiah Wright, became widely publicized, comments cursing America, implying that the U.S. deserved 9/11 and attacking American support for Israel. Obama condemned the remarks but praised the preacher himself, and Obama challenged Americans to confront the country's racial divide. An extraordinary speech, and ABC's Jake Tapper reports from Philadelphia.
GIBSON: Well, in his speech, Obama complained about the endless loop of snippets from Pastor Wright's sermons, which have been broadcast over and over and reverberated around the Internet. The Senator says they give a distorted picture of the pastor and of his church, and only widen the gulf between blacks and whites in America. Here's ABC's Steve Osunsami.
KATIE COURIC, in opening teaser: Tonight, race and presidential politics. Barack Obama addresses the controversial comments of his pastor, condemning the words but not the man.
COURIC: Good evening, everyone. It may have been the most difficult, risky and important speech of his political career. Barack Obama, the first African-American to have a serious chance of becoming President, today addressed the race issue head on, including the racially charged remarks of his own pastor. Obama acknowledged hearing the remarks at church services, and, while he condemned them, he also tried to put them into context. And he challenged Americans to work together so we can, quote, "move beyond some of our old racial wounds." Our national correspondent, Byron Pitts, begins our coverage....
BRIAN WILLIAMS, in opening teaser: On the broadcast here tonight, the race. Barack Obama makes the most important speech of his presidential campaign and tackles the issue of his controversial pastor.
WILLIAMS: Good evening. This country is currently feeling its way through something entirely new. This is the first time an African-American candidate has a serious, some would say likely, shot at becoming the next President of the United States. So race is an issue in this year's campaign, both in a way that's inescapable and in other ways. The latest controversy has to do with a Chicago minister. He's made some comments some find highly objectionable, and he happens to be Barack Obama's former minister. He married the Obamas and baptized their two children. So what happened today has been coming for some time. Barack Obama gave a speech today about race, which amounted to another first in many ways. We begin here tonight with NBC's Lee Cowan. He's covering the Obama campaign tonight in Philadelphia. Lee, good evening.
LEE COWAN: Well, good evening, Brian. Not a lot of time to savor the speech tonight. The Senator is already on his way down to North Carolina tonight where he'll campaign tomorrow. In fact, he's giving another big speech on foreign policy there tomorrow. But he leaves behind this speech which, as you said, could be one of the most important of his career that will likely be talked about for the rest of this campaign. The symbolism was lost on no one. In the City of Brotherly Love, Barack Obama gave the most expansive and most intensely personal speech on race he's ever given.
WILLIAMS: Lee Cowan starting us off in Philadelphia, the scene of today's speech. Lee, thanks. And with us tonight for some perspective on what we heard today from Senator Obama, Joe Scarborough, former Republican Congressman and, these days, of course, the host of Morning Joe on MSNBC. And from the Washington Post, editorial writer Jonathan Capehart. Jonathan, let's start with you. What did you make of today's speech?
On Tuesday night's Hardball, Chris Matthews praised the current Democratic frontrunner's speech on race as "worthy of Abraham Lincoln," and also claimed it bypassed Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" address as the "best speech ever given on race in this country." Of Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia, Matthews went on to declare: "I think this is the kind of speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American tract."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday evening on the MRC's blog: NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following comments from Matthews on Obama's speech occurred on the March 18 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS OPENING THE SHOW: A divide as American as the Grand Canyon, a speech worthy of Abraham Lincoln. Let's play Hardball!
MATTHEWS: Did Barack Obama distance himself enough from Reverend Wright? Did he calm the fears of the white voter? How did the speech play? We'll have much more on this momentous day and what I personally view as the best speech ever given on race in this country. One that went beyond "I have a dream," to "I have lived the dream but have also lived in this country."
MATTHEWS: Let's all listen now to a bit of the speech. We should all, by the way, at some point after the program, please wait for the end of Hardball, at least. But check this out on our Web site, MSNBC.com, you can watch the whole speech. I think this is the kind of speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American tract. Something that you just check in with, now and then, like reading Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. Read this speech, once in a while, ladies and gentlemen. This is us. It's us with the scab ripped off. It's white people talking the way they do when they're alone with other white people, some people. It's black people talking the way they are when there's not white people around. It's an honest statement from a guy who comes from both backgrounds. We have never heard anything like this.
MATTHEWS: We'll talk about the politics of all this and whether voters will be convinced, by what many of us think is one of the great speeches in American history and we watch a lot of them, when we return. You're watching Hardball only on MSNBC.
During the roundtable segment on Monday's The Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty compared the racist and anti-American words of Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, to Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's condemnation of the many abortions in America. Cafferty, who in January suggested that abortion is a "crap" issue, asserted: "How is this different than John McCain chasing after Pat Robertson or the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, who talk about how we have a culture of murdering unborn children in this country and that we've turned into Sodom because we coddled the gay community in this country? I mean, to me, that stuff is considerably more offensive than decrying racial violence and intolerance in this country, which members of the black community have some firsthand knowledge of."
Cafferty's "crap" line in January: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Tuesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Even Borger, who more directly argued the importance for Obama to distance himself from Wright's comments, seemed to think Obama's association with Wright could have an innocent explanation as she agreed with Cafferty's contention that "my minister is an important figure in my life, too, but that doesn't mean I buy everything they say lock, stock and barrel."
GLORIA BORGER: But this is a man whom Obama has said has been an important figure in his life, almost his spiritual mentor. Which is why I think-
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Monday, March 17 The Situation Room on CNN, which ran at about 6:30 pm EDT:
WOLF BLITZER: So will Barack Obama's speech help answer why he followed this pastor who's made these controversial statements? Let's get to our roundtable. Joining us now, our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. Jack Cafferty in New York, as well. And senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. They're all part of the best political team on television. What do you want to hear from Obama tomorrow, Jack?
A survey conducted late last year and released Monday, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, confirmed the obvious -- that compared to the views of the public, conservatives are under-represented in national journalism while liberals are over-represented. Jennifer Harper of the Washington Times discovered the nugget buried deep in the annual "State of the Media" report from Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism and FNC's Brit Hume on Tuesday night highlighted the findings from the survey of 222 journalists and news executives at national outlets: "Only six percent said they considered themselves conservatives and only two percent said they were very conservative. This compares with 36 percent of the overall population that describes itself as conservative. Most journalists, 53 percent, said they're moderate. 24 percent said they were liberal and eight percent very liberal."
Only 19 percent of the public consider themselves liberal. And it's not much of a leap to presume many of the 53 percent who describe themselves as "moderate" are really quite liberal.
"State of the Media" report from Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism: www.stateofthemedia.com
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press: people-press.org
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, will be posted Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Hume's item on the March 18 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC:
A newly released survey indicates that conservatives in the national press corps are a lonely lot. 585 [the total of national, local and Internet] journalists were polled by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Only six percent said they considered themselves conservatives and only two percent said they were very conservative. This compares with 36 percent of the overall population that describes itself as conservative. Most journalists, 53 percent, said they're moderate. 24 percent said they were liberal and eight percent very liberal. The Washington Times quotes project deputy director Amy Mitchell as saying that the findings are about the same as in a similar survey done four years ago.
The MRC's "Media Bias Basics" has a section with the numbers from 2004, which are indeed very similar: www.mediaresearch.org
For Harper's March 18 Washington Times article: "Right underrepresented in press's diversity," go to: www.washingtontimes.com
The political ideology question is #36 on page 55 of the PDF with the results for the survey conducted September 17 to December 3, 2007. For national broadcast journalists (97 polled), zero percent call themselves "very conservative" while 6 percent said they are "very liberal." For the PDF: www.stateofthemedia.com
Overall, only 8 percent of those at national outlets attend church or synagogue weekly.
The political ideology results were summarized in "Section III" of the report released on March 17 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Financial Woes Now Overshadow All Other Concerns for Journalists The Web: Alarming, Appealing and a Challenge to Journalistic Values." The relevant portion:
As was the case in 2004, majorities of the national and local journalists surveyed describe themselves as political moderates; 53% of national journalists and 58% of local journalists say they are moderates. About a third of national journalists (32%), and 23% of local journalists, describe themselves as liberals. Relatively small minorities of national and local journalists call themselves conservatives (8% national, 14% local).
Internet journalists as a group tend to be more liberal than either national or local journalists. Fewer than half (46%) call themselves moderates, while 39% are self-described liberals and just 9% are conservatives.
Among the population as a whole, 36% call themselves conservatives -- more than triple the percentage of national and internet journalists, and more than double the percentage of local journalists. About four-in-ten (39%) characterize their political views as moderate, while 19% are self-described liberals, based on surveys conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
END of Excerpt
That's online at: people-press.org
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-- Brent Baker