"Surprise" in Public Backing on Phones, But Media as Out of Touch --5/15/2006
2. Vieira Buys Gas 'Crisis' Hype; Befuddled by Basic Economics
ABC's Elizabeth Vargas and George Stephanopoulos reported Friday night that lawmakers opposed to the NSA's program, which collects phone numbers dialed, were "surprised" that by two-to-one Americans consider the effort an "acceptable" anti-terrorism program. But given the media's hyperbolic negative reaction to the supposed "Big Brother" program, which spread into a second day on Friday, it's Vargas and Stephanopoulos -- along with the rest of the mainstream media -- who should be embarrassed by news judgment so out of touch with the public.
"An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly support the surveillance of phone records as a way to protect them against a potential terrorist strike," Vargas reported as she cued up George Stephanopoulos by relaying how "some lawmakers were taken by surprise by this widespread public support for the program." Stephanopoulos echoed: "That's right, Elizabeth. When I was speaking to opponents of the program today they were really surprised that more Americans didn't share their outrage." (Those "opponents" are presumably in politics, but I'm sure the same could be said for journalists.) Stephanopoulos further marveled at how "two-thirds of Americans wouldn't be bothered, even if the NSA was collecting their own phone records."
Meanwhile, CBS and NBC plowed forward with fears over the program, continuing to treat it as a top story of the day. Bob Schieffer teased Friday's CBS Evening News with, in a nation of more than 200 million phone users making multiple calls most days, the obvious: "It turns out the phone companies gave the government records of not millions but trillions of phone calls made by Americans." The NBC Nightly News tease from Brian Williams illustrated how journalists live in another world from most Americans who can't comprehend the media hype for such a rational policy: "The political firestorm over the government surveillance program of Americans' phone calls..."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
The CBS Evening News skipped the overnight ABC News/Washington Post poll, but NBC's Andrea Mitchell did note, in her NBC Nightly News piece, the survey's 63 percent to 35 percent widespread support. PDF of the poll as posted by the Washington Post: www.washingtonpost.com
Stephanopoulos, from Washington, DC: "That's right, Elizabeth. When I was speaking to opponents of the program today they were really surprised that more Americans didn't share their outrage. But our poll shows that two-thirds of Americans [66%] wouldn't be bothered, even if the NSA was collecting their own phone records. And it also shows that a majority of Americans, 51 percent [versus 47%], think that President Bush has done a
good job of protecting privacy rights over these four years. Now that's not a huge majority, but it's much better than the President's ratings on issues like Iraq and the economy."
Incoming NBC Today show co-host Meredith Vieira, on Friday's ABC daytime show The View, showcased her susceptibility to baseless media hype and her own economic ignorance. Interviewing ABC's John Stossel, on to plug his new book, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is Wrong, and a Friday night 20/20 about it, Vieira demanded: "You say there is no gas 'crisis.' How can you say that?" Stossel explained it's plentiful and half the price as in Europe, but Vieira remained unswayed, ridiculously insisting: "But it's still a crisis, I mean in the sense that gas prices are going up. That's a crisis for us." A few minutes later, a befuddled Vieira exposed not only a lack of basic economic knowledge, but also unfamiliarity with a common conservative argument: "Why does raising the minimum wage, this is one I don't get, actually hurt poor people? I don't understand that one at all." (Meanwhile, in Monday's USA Today, Vieira insisted, that despite marching in an anti-war protest, she's "in the middle" politically.)
[This item is a adopted from a Friday afternoon posting on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog: newsbusters.org ]
Stossel's two exchanges with Vieira on the May 12 The View. In between, the other hosts talked a bit with Stossel:
Vieira: "You say there is no gas 'crisis.' How can you say that?"
And a couple of minutes later:
Stossel's ABC page: www.abcnews.go.com
An excerpt from his book: www.abcnews.go.com
Amazon's page for his book: www.amazon.com
...Then there was the peace rally she attended with Lily at the 2004 Republican National Convention, which conservative bloggers dug up when NBC announced that she would succeed Couric.
"I have a lot of issues with what's going on in this country, and I wanted my daughter to see what this process is like," says Vieira, who describes herself as "in the middle" politically. "I don't regret anything, but now I have to be objective. I won't preface an interview with 'I think you're a stupid idiot, but what do you think about...?'"
Actually, Vieira says, she's not very interested in politics and much prefers talking about Hollywood gossip or trying to get Ben into the college of his choice.
I'm pretty much like every woman who is watching the show. I have my kids. I go home. I think the more I can bring that perspective to the show, the better. This is a job. If I blow it, I blow it. But if something happened to Ben and college, then I'd be real upset."...
END of Excerpt
For the USA Today profile in full: www.usatoday.com
-- Brent Baker