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Stephanopoulos Suggests Blair Resign If WMD Not Found -- 03/31/2003 CyberAlert


1. Stephanopoulos Suggests Blair Resign If WMD Not Found
British Prime Minister Tony Blair must deal with the BBC regularly, but even he seemed aghast when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked him, in an interview for Friday's 20/20, if he would "resign" if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq. ABC appears insistent that such weapons be found immediately. At Sunday's CENTCOM briefing, ABC radio reporter Neal Karlinsky proposed to General Tommy Franks: "If you continue to come up empty handed in searches for weapons of mass destruction doesn't that present a big problem?"

2. AP: Not Terrorism But "Legitimate Resistance"; ABC: "Patriots"
Iraqis who use terroristic tactics are just employing "legitimate resistance" methods an AP reporter contended at Sunday's CENTCOM briefing. Forwarding similar reasoning, at Friday's White House briefing, ABC's Terry Moran argued "these are Iraqis who believe they are acting as patriots defending their country from an invasion." On FNC, Morton Kondracke condemned Moran's reasoning: "That struck me as really low, the idea that they would be identified as Iraqi 'patriots' when they're gangsters working for Saddam Hussein, plainly."

3. Opposite of ABC, CBS Shows How Iraqis Forgive U.S. Error
While ABC's Richard Engel on Friday night was relaying how Iraqis in Baghdad, upset at U.S. missiles landing in their neighborhood, are starting to believe "the government's propaganda that coalition forces are deliberately trying to kill civilians," CBS's John Roberts was recounting a tragic error in which Marines killed members of a family in a minivan, but then came to the aid of survivors. The family, Roberts added, "now freely express their disdain for Saddam" and "proclaim the victims martyrs and say they forgive the tragic error."

4. ABC Finally Realizes Iraqis Chanted for Hussein Out of Fear
ABC catches up with reality. On the March 26 NBC Nightly News, reporter Don Teague pointed out that crowds in Safwan denouncing the U.S. and praising Saddam Hussein could be explained by fear of retribution from the regime. But that night, ABC treated the expressions as genuine as Peter Jennings emphasized how the Iraqis "made a point to say the Americans are not welcome." But two days later ABC caught up as John Quinones, from nearby Umm Qasr, noted the lack of pro-Saddam chants and related how an Iraqi explained to him "that's because a few days ago so many of Saddam's Ba'ath party loyalists were still here watching, listening."

5. Ken Starr Reminds MSNBC's Newest Host of Heinrich Himmler
MSNBC's replacement, starting today, for Phil Donahue: A man who, in a previous stint with MSNBC, opined that "the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler" and wondered that if Starr continued to pursue President Clinton, "would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?"


Stephanopoulos Suggests Blair Resign If
WMD Not Found

British Prime Minister Tony Blair must deal with the BBC regularly, but even he seemed aghast when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked him, in an interview for Friday's 20/20, if he would "resign" if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq. Stephanopoulos suggested that Saddam Hussein may have already destroyed any weapons of mass destruction and demanded: "Can you call this military campaign a victory of you don't find significant stores of weapons of mass destruction?"

ABC appears insistent that such weapons be found immediately. At Sunday's CENTCOM briefing, ABC radio reporter Neal Karlinsky proposed to General Tommy Franks: "If you continue to come up empty handed in searches for weapons of mass destruction doesn't that present a big problem?"

During the Blair interview on the March 28 edition of 20/20, taped earlier in the day, Stephanopoulos told Blair: "The major goal of Resolution 1441 was disarming Iraq, disarming Saddam Hussein. Can you call this military campaign a victory of you don't find significant stores of weapons of mass destruction?"
Blair: "Again, I've no doubt we will find those."
Stephanopoulos suggested: "What if Saddam Hussein destroyed the evidence? What if he got rid of it? Maybe he thought that was in his strategic interest."
Blair: "Well, I think that's highly unlikely for this reason: What we know is that when the inspectors were forced to leave in 1998 there was a massive amount of weaponry unaccounted for. Now I think it is inconceivable, frankly, that having refused to destroy those weapons and having dodged and weaved around the inspectors for seven years, I think it's inconceivable that he'd then voluntarily decide to destroy the afterwards."
Stephanopoulos demanded: "So if those weapons aren't found, will you resign?"
Blair, taken aback: "Well I personally believe that they will be found. I don't think that, if you'll forgive me, I'll speculate about my resignation. We're pursuing a conflict at the moment."

Two days later, during Sunday's 7am EST CENTCOM briefing of March 30, ABC News radio reporter Neal Karlinsky raised the terrorist "camp in Northeast Iraq" which "was identified by Secretary of State Colin Powell before the United Nations as a camp with possible terrorist connections, possible links to al-Qaeda and it was used as part of the administration's justification for war." Karlinksy then argued:
"Yet a special operations team's raid on the camp turned up, according to people who were there on the ground, none of the suspected ricin or any other weapons of mass destruction. Why is that? Was there bad satellite intelligence and sir, if you continue to come up empty handed in searches for weapons of mass destruction doesn't that present a big problem?"
Tommy Franks: "'Present a big problem'? I wouldn't want to comment on because it hasn't happened yet..."

Franks proceeded to say that forces were only in the very early stages of searching the very large camp.

AP: Not Terrorism But
"Legitimate Resistance"; ABC: "Patriots"

Iraqis who use terroristic tactics are just employing "legitimate resistance" methods an AP reporter contended at Sunday's CENTCOM briefing. Forwarding similar reasoning, at Friday's White House briefing, ABC's Terry Moran argued "these are Iraqis who believe they are acting as patriots defending their country from an invasion."

Morton Kondracke condemned Moran's reasoning. On Friday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, Kondracke castigated Moran: "That struck me as really low, the idea that they would be identified as Iraqi patriots when they're gangsters working for Saddam Hussein, plainly." Fred Barnes suggested Moran's question "was not designed to get information from Ari Fleischer. It was argumentative. It was trying to stick words in his mouth that he knew Ari was not going to say."

At the Sunday CENTCOM briefing, a woman wearing a bright pink sweater, who identified herself as being from the AP, demanded that General Tommy Franks backtrack from his characterization of "terrorism" for how an Iraqi man waved four Marines over to his car at a check point and then set off a bomb killing himself and the Marines:
"In referring to the suicide bombing yesterday, you referred to it as 'terrorism.' I'd just like a definition because usually when you think of terrorism you think of attacks against civilians. The intended target was clearly military. You are in Iraq, they are resisting. Are these kinds of attacks not legitimate resistance?"
Franks: "Oh I didn't comment at all about whether it's legitimate or not. I suppose that's eye of the beholder. What I said was that there is an incredible similarity between this type of suicide bombing and what we see generally characterized as being terrorist..."

And an incredible similarity between the AP reporter's question and political advocacy on behalf of an enemy.

The reporter in question may be Nicole Winfield since that was the byline on the AP story on Sunday about the CENTCOM briefing.

ABC's Terry Moran Winfield may have been inspired by the moral equivalence reasoning pursued by ABC's Terry Moran at the White House on Friday afternoon. Moran began his exchange with White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer by demanding Fleischer concede the administration oversold expectations of an easy and quick war:

Moran: "Given what General Wallace and other commanders down the line that we're hearing from embedded reporters are saying, that this is a greater level of resistance, there's more fight in the Iraqis than they were expecting, what would be the harm -- I mean, do you have a policy of not acknowledging at this level, the political leadership level, what the soldiers on the ground are seeing, and it may be easily overcome, it may be part of the exigencies of war, but that we are a little bit surprised at the level of Iraqi resistance?"
Fleischer: "Again, I think General Brooks addressed it and I think it's always been understood that there was going to be resistance. This is war, there's going to be resistance, there's going to be fighting. That's why the President said what he said in Cincinnati in October."
Moran: "It seems like you're unwilling, as a matter of policy, to acknowledge that the President and the political leadership of this government might have miscalculated -- not in any fatal or even dangerous way, but might have miscalculated the response of the Iraqi army."
Fleischer: "I can only tell you the President's approach. And the President's approach remains exactly as the President described it to you. The President has faith in the plan. He believes that the plan is on track, it is on progress, it is working. Saddam Hussein will be disarmed. And the President, as I made repeatedly clear on any number of occasions, is not going to sit in the White House as the play-by-play commentator on every battle and every day's mission. The military is in charge of the daily, day-to-day operations. They are very available and you have their briefings, and they will be talking about these things."
Moran arrived at his Iraqi "patriots" contention: "Can I ask then one overall assessment that you might have made at this point? Given that level of fight that has been seen in the Iraqis -- and as you just said these are Saddam loyalists -- is it possible that it's more than that? Does the President have any judgment as to whether these aren't just soldiers who are being terrorized to fight, and not just essentially gangsters who are loyal to Saddam, but these are Iraqis who believe they are acting as patriots defending their country from an invasion?"
Fleischer: "Well, I think there's a certain element, of course, that is very deeply invested in Saddam Hussein staying in power. After all, they're the ones who have carried out his brutality. They're the ones who turned on their own people. They're the ones who have terrorized and tortured Iraqis. They're the ones who previously authorized the use of chemicals against the Iraqi people. They, of course, don't want the Iraqi people to be free because they know what the future holds for them as the ones who enforced the terror. Of course, they don't want the Iraqi people to be free. And that's why they'll turn on the people and support Saddam Hussein. Whatever numbers they are, whatever numbers they may be, whatever numbers they may be, they are insufficient for the American military."
Moran wouldn't back down: "So there are no Iraqi nationalists -- not Saddam loyalists, not terrorists, but no ordinary Iraqi nationalists who are fighting for their nation. It's only, in the President's judgment, fanatics, dead-enders, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, fighting solely for Saddam Hussein?"
Fleischer: "Terry, I don't know that it's my job to psychoanalyze the Iraqi military. They may fight for whatever their reasons-"
Moran: "He's the Commander-in-Chief. Does he have no assessment of what's happening on the ground there?"
Fleischer: "He does. He's continually shared it with you, and you heard it yesterday."

Noting that exchange and earlier pursuits by CBS's Bill Plante and NBC's David Gregory about "expectations" for an easy war, on Friday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes scolded the White House press corps:
"You might have thought that the White House press corps would have risen to the occasion, this is a war, but no. It's the same hectoring silly stuff. Their question seems to be who raised expectations. That's what they want to know rather who's winning the war or how's the war is going. In general, they are unserious."

Morton Kondracke of Roll Call tagged the Moran/Fleischer interplay as the "worst exchange" of the day, and zeroed in on Moran: "That struck me as really low, the idea that they would be identified as Iraqi 'patriots' when they're gangsters working for Saddam Hussein, plainly."

Barnes elaborated: "The point is with that question was, it was not designed to get information from Ari Fleischer. It was argumentative. It was trying to stick words in his mouth that he knew Ari was not going to say. It was silly, it was unserious, it was undignified. We're in a war. The White House press corps shouldn't act like that."

Opposite of ABC, CBS Shows How
Iraqis Forgive U.S. Error

While ABC's Richard Engel on Friday night was relaying how Iraqis in Baghdad, upset at U.S. missiles landing in their neighborhood, are starting to believe "the government's propaganda that coalition forces are deliberately trying to kill civilians," CBS's John Roberts was recounting a tragic error in which Marines killed members of a family in a minivan, but then came the aid of survivors. The family, Roberts added, "who now freely express their disdain for Saddam, proclaim the victims martyrs and say they forgive the tragic error."

Peter Jennings set up the March 28 World News Tonight story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "And now let's go to Baghdad because it was a very serious day of bombing. The U.S. dropped two bombs on a communications facility, each of which weighed 4600 pounds. The noise alone is devastating to many Iraqis. And in the western neighborhood of Al Shula, hospital officials and the government spokesmen say more than 50 civilians were killed when a market was attacked. The U.S. says it is looking into it. ABC's Richard Engel is in Baghdad for ABC News, and he has some of the details."

ABC freelancer Engel checked in over video of destruction: "Peter, witnesses say a missile exploded in this poor Baghdad neighborhood. It was packed with people shopping this evening. All those killed have been described as civilians. The Iraqi news agency called the missile strikes 'a new American crime.' It's the second incident in three days in which many civilians have been killed here. Each one makes it more difficult for Iraqis to believe President Bush's message that the war's aim is to end their suffering. Today angry crowds shouted, 'There is no God, but God,' the Islamic affirmation of faith. 'These are poor people. What did they do to deserve this?' asked this man. 'Does Bush think he can defeat us like this?' Dozens of wounded were hospitalized. Medical staff said many were in critical condition.
"Earlier today, coalition bombs destroyed a Ba'ath party headquarters in downtown Baghdad. The blast also shattered an adjacent home, killing several people inside. Overnight, U.S. and British forces dropped the heaviest bombs to date on the city. The so-called 'bunker busters' tore apart a telephone exchange, cutting off service in the neighborhood.
Engel concluded with a message: "Iraqis didn't expect this war to be without casualties. But they had faith in American technology and its ability to strike with accuracy. In fact, they're still convinced Americans have that ability, which is leading some people here to start believing the government's propaganda that coalition forces are deliberately trying to kill civilians."

Over on the March 28 CBS Evening News, John Roberts, embedded with a Marine unit, recounted a tragic error, but stressed how Iraqis realize the U.S. is trying to help them. Over video of a burned out minivan in a rural desert area, Roberts explained:
"It was exactly the type of mistake the U.S. military most wants to avoid but knows it cannot. A civilian vehicle carrying a family of farmers is attacked by Marines on a road north of An Nasiriyah. Three people -- the family patriarch and two brothers -- are killed. But amazingly, in their shock and grief, the surviving family members turn to the Marines for help."
Cpl. Jeff Lindsey, U.S. Marine Corps, on scene: "They told us that it was the American military that did this, but they're not angry with us and they understand because Saddam is sending civilians down this road intentionally for this to happen."

After explaining how the victims were burned beyond recognition and that the Marines provided body bags and then drove the bodies to a local mosque, Roberts conveyed the effort being made to keep civilians safe: "Marines know this sort of mistake could lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Military patrols on hair trigger alert take care to ensure they are not targeting non-combatants. Humvees equipped with loudspeakers issue cautions to stay off the roads, that Iraqi military tactics mean Marines often don't know who they are shooting at."
Lindsey: "They send civilian cars down, and those cars shoot at us. They open fire all the time, so we don't know who's the enemy and who isn't. So, you know, we see a car, and it starts to act in a threatening way, it doesn't stop, we open up on it."

Over video of Marines helping dig graves for the victims, one
Marine told Roberts: "It's very sad that we did this to these people. It's not easy to dig someone else's grave."
Roberts: "And the Iraqis, who now freely express their disdain for Saddam, proclaim the victims martyrs and say they forgive the tragic error."
Marine, translating for Iraqi man: "Thank you for giving us water, food and medical care. Thank you for helping us bury these bodies and transport them back. Thank you for everything."
Roberts concluded by warning of the Iraqi regime's depravity: "The toll on civilians, the Marines say, will only get worse. Most of casualties so far have been in sparsely populated rural areas. What lies ahead are major cities where, the Marine say, the Iraqi government has been collecting and hiding leaflets dropped by the U.S. telling civilians how to stay safe."

ABC Finally Realizes Iraqis Chanted for
Hussein Out of Fear

ABC catches up with reality. On the March 26 NBC Nightly News, reporter Don Teague pointed out that crowds in Safwan denouncing the U.S. and praising Saddam Hussein could be explained by fear of retribution from the regime. But that night, ABC treated the expressions as genuine as Peter Jennings emphasized how the Iraqis "made a point to say the Americans are not welcome" and Mike von Fremd proceeded to highlight anti-American rants.

Oh, but never mind. Two days later, on March 28, ABC caught up with NBC as John Quinones, from nearby Umm Qasr, noted the lack of pro-Saddam chants and related how an Iraqi explained to him "that's because a few days ago so many of Saddam's Ba'ath party loyalists were still here watching, listening."

As reported in the March 27 CyberAlert:

When the Red Crescent food trucks arrived in Safwan, ABC's Mike von Fremd heard Iraqis denouncing America. "People are sick and hungry" because of the U.S. invasion one woman complained and von Fremd highlighted a man who channeled Phil Donahue: "It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil." But NBC's Don Teague on Wednesday night suggested the uniform expression of revulsion towards the U.S. and fidelity for Hussein was based on fear of the Iraqi dictator: "Wherever there are cameras, Saddam Hussein is still the hero. Iraqis, not yet convinced he's lost control, worry they'll pay with their lives for speaking against him."

Jennings set up the March 26 World News Tonight story by pointing out how the Iraqis in Safwan "made a point to say the Americans are not welcome." Von Fremd, in Safwan, showed video of the "frenzied mob" which attacked the Red Crescent trucks filled with water, bread and cheese.

Von Fremd relayed: "While these Iraqis are desperate for this humanitarian aid, they also have a very strong message for the world. 'You brought us chaos,' this mother said. 'People are sick and hungry.' 'Women and children have been killed,' this man says. 'It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil.'"

Von Fremd to the angry Iraqi man: "The people of the United States thought you would be grateful to be liberated from Saddam Hussein."
Man: "No."
Von Fremd: "'We are not happy,' he says, 'you have humiliated us more than our enemies.' But as we were leaving, one camera-shy Iraqi pulled us aside to say, 'we do not all love Saddam, but we do not love the United States either.'"

For more on NBC's story:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20030327.asp#1

But two days later, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, ABC realized what NBC figured out earlier. In a March 28 World News Tonight story on food arriving in Umm Qasr, John Quinones observed: "Everywhere you go in this town, people shake empty jugs, plead for drinking water and other necessities. But those pro-Saddam chants of a few days ago were nowhere to be heard today."
Najib, Iraqi school teacher: "You can't imagine how we were suffering."
Quinones: "Najib, a school teacher in this town, says that's because a few days ago, so many of Saddam's Ba'ath party loyalists were still here watching, listening."
Najib: "I, myself, said it, but we were forced to say it. We were, we were obliged to do. If we didn't do, if we don't do it, we're killed or arrested or destroyed."
Quinones: "Najib still would not allow us to show his face for fear of reprisals."
Rear Admiral Charles Kubic, U.S. Navy: "They're terrified of these people. What they're finding, though, is that the big guys have come and the thugs are on the run."

Welcome to reality.

Ken Starr Reminds MSNBC's Newest Host
of Heinrich Himmler

MSNBC's replacement, starting today, for Phil Donahue: A man who, in a previous stint with MSNBC, opined that "the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler" and wondered that if Starr continued to pursue President Clinton, "would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?"

That man is Keith Olbermann, a frequent occupier of the 5pm EST slot in recent weeks filling in for Jerry Nachman. Tonight, he will debut as host of his own show, in the 8pm EST hour until recently held by Phil Donahue, Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

As host of the Big Show with Keith Olbermann in the very same time slot on the very same network on August 18, 1998, Olbermann "asked" then-Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren shortly after President Clinton's non-apology apology speech:
"Can Ken Starr ignore the apparent breadth of the sympathetic response to the President's speech? Facially, it finally dawned on me that the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler, including the glasses. If he now pursues the President of the United States, who, however flawed his apology was, came out and invoked God, family, his daughter, a political conspiracy and everything but the kitchen sink, would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?"

That won the "I'm a Compassionate Liberal But I Wish You Were All Dead Award (for media hatred of conservatives)" in the MRC's very first DisHonors Awards. See a RealPlayer clip of it:
http://www.mrc.org/notablequotables/dishonor1999/welcomeaward6.asp

On Saturday, the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes provided a humorous recapping of Olbermann's job instability. An excerpt:

My head hurts trying to keep track of Keith Olbermann's career. Yesterday, MSNBC announced it had rehired Olbermann to anchor a nightly show in the very same 8 p.m. time slot he used to have on the cable network.

Olbermann quit MSNBC five years ago, saying its obsession with the Monica Lewinsky story gave him "the dry heaves."

Yesterday's MSNBC news comes about 15 months after Olbermann announced he had returned to CNN, where he had worked in the '80s. "It's wonderful to be home," Olbermann said then.

He stayed home less than a year. His second stint at CNN had been announced about eight months after his job at Fox Sports Net collapsed.

This marks the third time Olbermann has worked for MSNBC President Erik Sorenson. That includes Olbermann's tenure at MSNBC starting in summer '97, not long after he walked out of ESPN, prompting one ESPN official to comment, "He didn't burn the bridges here, he napalmed them."

Before ESPN, Olbermann worked as a sportscaster at KCBS in Los Angeles for then-general manager Erik Sorenson. You may have heard the story about Olbermann breaking a bathroom door there to illustrate his unhappiness about a substandard promo segment.

"He's edgy, he's got attitude, he's hip, he's clever, he's a good writer," Sorenson said yesterday.

Nineteen months ago he called Olbermann "the Gary Sheffield of broadcasting" -- a reference to the talented, much-traded slugger who is considered clubhouse poison. Of course, Sorenson said that during one of those periods when Olbermann wasn't actually working for him.

All things considered, MSNBC and Olbermann are a match made in heaven; the network changes strategies about as often as he changes jobs.

Olbermann said he isn't concerned about MSNBC's ever-changing game plan, because parent NBC has already announced he will host the cable network's Summer Olympics coverage in '04. NBC will telecast about 800 hours of Summer Games, 600 of which will be brought to you on MSNBC and CNBC. It would be pretty embarrassing for MSNBC to sack him this year and have to bring him back for the Games, Olbermann joked....

CNN considered giving Olbermann the 8 p.m. time period during his last, brief stint there. The network went with Connie Chung instead; it canceled her show last week.

END of Excerpt

For the article in full:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45118-2003Mar28.html

For MSNBC's page for the new program, with a picture of Olbermann: http://www.msnbc.com/news/892155.asp

Can anyone list all the occupiers of MSNBC's 8pm EST time slot since the network debuted in July of 1996? Remember "InterNight" hosted on a rotating basis by Tom Brokaw, Bryant Gumbel, Bill Moyers and Ed Gordon?

Neither do I. -- Brent Baker