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"Surprise" in Public Backing on Phones, But Media as Out of Touch --5/15/2006


1. "Surprise" in Public Backing on Phones, But Media as Out of Touch
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.

2. Vieira Buys Gas 'Crisis' Hype; Befuddled by Basic Economics
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.)


"Surprise" in Public Backing on Phones,
But Media as Out of Touch

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

On the May 12 World News Tonight, ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced: "There are two developments in the controversy about the government program that secretly collected records of millions of domestic phone calls. Qwest said today that it refused to provide its customers' phone records because it felt the surveillance violated privacy laws. Qwest was the only company that did not cooperate with the National Security Agency's program. 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. They're in favor of it by a margin of nearly two to one ["Is collecting phone records acceptable? Yes: 63%, No: 35%]." ABC's Chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos join us. And George, some lawmakers were taken by surprise by this widespread public support for the program."

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."
Vargas: "So how might this public support for the program affect all the calls in Congress for investigations, for hearings into this?"
Stephanopoulos: "I think you're still going to see the hearings. The Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter is pretty committed to getting telephone executives up there. But I think you might see it moderate some of the vehemence among some Democrats. And it also seems to something that is still not blocking General Hayden and his quest to become CIA Director. He had a series of meetings today on Capitol Hill and he even drew some praise from the Democratic leader, Harry Reid."

Vieira Buys Gas 'Crisis' Hype; Befuddled
by Basic Economics

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?"
Stossel: "A crisis means that you can't get it, but it's half the price it is in Europe. And the idea that we're running out of oil is just nonsense. There's enough in the tar sands of Canada to fuel America for a hundred years. It's just a matter of price. At fifty bucks a barrel, we have it from Canada."
Vieira: "But it's still a crisis, I mean in the sense that gas prices are going up. That's a crisis for us."
Stossel: "It's a crisis for some people. It's still cheaper than it was in the 80s or the 20s -- all these people saying 'it's a record!' It's just because they don't adjust for inflation. You might as well say the movie Rush Hour 3 was one of the highest-grossing movies of all-time."

And a couple of minutes later:
Vieira: "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."
Stossel: "We all want poor people to make more. But to think that raising the minimum wage to do that assumes that every employer has a fixed number of workers. But the truth is that people on the margins lose jobs when minimum wages go up. We used to have people washing windshields at gas stations. We don't anymore because of the minimum wage. There's no opportunity for kids, for entry-level workers. The jobs go to skilled workers then."
Joy Behar: "But did you ever work for minimum wage? It's hard."
Stossel: "It sucks. But it's an opportunity. It's the bottom rung of a ladder that goes up if we allow it too."

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

In a profile of Vieira in Monday's USA Today, Peter Johnson cited what "conservative bloggers dug up" about her anti-war activities, a reference to what the MRC's NewsBusters blog first reported in re-posting 2004 CyberAlert items. An excerpt from Johnson's May 15 piece:

...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

See the MRC's page on Vieira for text and video of Vieira in 2004 recounting her anti-war march experience and, in reference to the Iraq war, her charge: "Everything's been built on lies. Everything! I mean the entire pretext for war." Go to: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker