TEST Skip Greenspan's Approval of SS Plan, Excited Bush May Hike Tax --2/23/2005
2. Jennings Uses Bill Gates to Push Americans to Travel Abroad
3. GMA Hypes Prediction of "Devastating" Flooding Caused by Warming
4. NPR Commentator Denounces "Support Our Troops" Stickers on Cars
5. CBS Producers in Memogate Refuse to Go, Implicate Top CBS Execs
A night after ABC's World News Tonight centered a story around how a couple of GOP back benchers oppose President Bush's Social Security reform plan, the newscast on Wednesday had time for stories on identity theft, car sharing and an interview with Bill Gates, but ignored Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's revelation to a Senate committee that he "approves" of creating private accounts. NBC and CBS briefly noted Greenspan's endorsement, but NBC excitedly hyped President Bush's comment that he would consider raising the income subject to the Social Security tax as Brian Williams trumpeted how "a tax increase is emerging as a leading fix" for Social Security. NBC Nightly News viewers then heard how a poll found most think putting Social Security money into the stock market is a bad idea. CBS balanced a brief mention of Greenspan with a full report from Jim Axelrod in New Hampshire about how Granite staters don't think there's a Social Security "crisis" and how those he found in a coffee shop are unconvinced by Bush's sales pitch for his plan.
On FNC's February 16 Special Report with Brit Hume, Jim Angle provided an overview of Greenspan's remarks before the Senate Banking Committee: "Alan Greenspan was drawn into one of the most partisan political debates in Washington and surprised many Senators by saying he likes the idea of personal accounts in Social Security."
But ABC viewers heard none of that on Wednesday evening. As noted above, however, the night before ABC decided that some GOP opposition to Bush's plan was quite newsworthy. As recounted in the February 16 CyberAlert:
Reid touted from Capitol Hill: "At a campaign-style appearance in New Hampshire today, the President said he's wide open to suggestions for fixing Social Security."
Williams next brought aboard the anchor desk Campbell Brown to outline negative poll results for Bush on his Social Security plan: "And on that very topic, there are new numbers out tonight. In fact, we're releasing them here for the first time, the result of our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Social Security, on Iraq, even the President himself. With more on that, I'm joined here in our studio by NBC's Campbell Brown. And, Campbell, it is very clear now the President is putting at least most of his political chips on Social Security reform for this second term."
Over on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather briefly noted Greenspan's remarks and Bush's comment on Social Security taxes: "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave the U.S. economy a good report card today, but signaled the Fed will continue raising interest rates trying to keep inflation in check. He also said he approves of personal investment accounts for Social Security, but said they should be introduced slowly and cautiously. President Bush took his campaign for that and other big Social Security changes to New Hampshire today. In an interview he said he's open to raising the yearly limit on Social Security payroll taxes, but said he will not raise the tax rate from the current 12.4 percent."
Rather then set up a story from New Hampshire: "The President has been giving his plan the hard sell ever since his State of the Union address two weeks ago. How's it playing with the public? CBS's Jim Axelrod samples the response in our special series, 'Eye on Social Security.'"
From the Breaking New Grounds coffee shop in Portsmouth, Axelrod began, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Just a few miles from where the President was selling, we checked in to see who was buying."
ABC's Peter Jennings on Wednesday used an interview session with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to raise one of his pet peeves, the lack of foreign travel by Americans. Jennings reminded Gates of how he once "said that Americans who spent more time traveling in Africa, for one, would learn something." Jennings prodded: "How do you think the average American would change if he or she traveled more?" Gates, a big financial supporter of left-wing causes, replied: "I think they'd vote for politicians who cared more about the developing world and the tough conditions there. That our aid would be more enlightened and a higher percentage of what we do."
Jennings, who anchored the February 16 World News Tonight from Seattle, began his interview segment by asking Gates about being beaten by Google in search technology, what mistakes he's made and what has surprised him in technology over the past year. Jennings then inquired: "You've been a big advocate of travel. And you, on occasion, said that Americans who spent more time traveling in Africa, for one, would learn something. What would we learn?"
ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday aired their own version of a disaster movie, highlighting an EPA-funded study that projects global warming will lead inevitably to massive and "devastating" flooding in Boston around the year 2100. From the edge of Boston Harbor, reporter Bill Weir warned that the EPA had "a team of experts spend more than four years figuring out just how bad it'll be" and their "study predicts that if nothing is done, flooding will cost Boston alone $94 billion, which raises the $94 billion question: what to do?" On one side an environmentalist urged "we have to take action today." On the other side of the global warming debate? A skeptical scientist? A conservative think tank? No, men on the street saying, "who's saying this, scientists? What do they know?" And: "what year, 2100? I'll be dead."
[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
Diane Sawyer set up the February 16 segment with a dramatic example of current weather: "We've got some wild weather now to tell you about. It's a sort of perfect storm. Take a look at this, a double cyclone, 155-mile-an-hour winds, massive waves battering islands in the South Pacific. And these wild weather patterns, as we know, what we're all talking about, are they connected to global warming? Well, there is a new study out, a new report, taking a closer look at global warming and wanting everybody in America to know exactly what kind of havoc it could wreak and destruction if it someday hit the United States, and they decided to focus on Boston. And GMA Weekend anchor Bill Weir went to Boston to give us the details. Bill?"
Weir, standing by the ocean, explained: "Diane, yeah, this study is the first of its kind, and just by coincidence, a huge global treaty went into effect just hours ago. A treaty aimed at curbing global warming, 141 nations involved, the U.S. not among them. That is a controversial policy, especially in light of this new study, that predicts in 2100, with the right conditions, this water could end up downtown.
The study was publicized in Tuesday's Boston Globe, where reporter Susan Milligan noted one thing ABC did not, that the five-year EPA study came out of political calculation: "Frustrated by the unwillingness of a Republican-controlled Congress to address the issue of global warming, the Clinton administration had commissioned a series of reports on metropolitan areas, including the Boston area. The Boston report was completed last year...Environmentalists said the report makes a strong argument for regulation to control greenhouse gas emissions."
For the otherwise quite slanted Globe story in full: www.boston.com
For the November 2004 study on global warming coverage by the MRC's Free Market Project, go to: www.freemarketproject.org
Most Americans, regardless of their position on the war in Iraq, don't object to the expression "Support Our Troops," but earlier this week one National Public Radio commentator asserted that in at least one context, that phrase is "glib," "self-righteous," "partisan," and "vaguely...Ann Coulterish." He also declared darkly that "analyzing its rhetoric" may constitute "treason."
[Tom Johnson, who monitors NPR for the MRC, filed this item for CyberAlert.]
This past Monday on All Things Considered, Bob Sommer, whose son recently completed a year's service in Iraq, began his segment: "You would think that the sight of a yellow-ribbon magnet on the back of a car, proclaiming 'Support Our Troops,' would give me a lift, but it doesn't. It just seems so easy to express patriotism by slapping a magnet with a slogan on your car, so glib, so...self-righteous. 'Support Our Troops.' That sentence is neither a request nor a statement; it's a command. There's a hint of a dare in it that reminds me of a similar sentence: 'Bring it on.' It's vaguely...Ann Coulterish. Analyzing its rhetoric may be treason."
Sommer further complained: "I've noticed that these magnets often appear on vehicles that display still-lingering Bush-Cheney stickers. It isn't a big leap to conclude that there's something partisan about them, and the sight of all these yellow magnets is starting to bring out the worst in me. Sometimes, I want to roll down my windows and confront the drivers. I want to exclaim, 'Who doesn't support the troops? What have you done to support the troops?' They may be well-meaning and sincere people, but I'm convinced that they're just driving along, thinking support-our-troops thoughts like 'Thank God I live in a red state,' or 'Maybe it's time to price a Hummer.' That's what I assume they're thinking, anyway."
After Sommer detailed how he and his wife "expended a lot of emotional energy, as well as some financial resources, supporting our son and his buddies," including "sen[ding] Christmas gifts to the whole squad," he resumed his exegesis: "Still, that curious phrase, 'Support Our Troops,' on those yellow-ribbon magnets, seems to accuse me of not doing my part. Then I realized that 'Support Our Troops' is a code...Here's what I think it means: Those who presumably need to be admonished to support the troops are those who oppose the decisions of the [Bush] administration. 'Support Our Troops' means, then, that we should be supporting the war. I believe that most yellow-magnet-bearers want support not just for the troops, but for the mission, the presence, the President. Maybe the magnets should say, 'Shut Up and Support Our Troops.'"
It's hard to say whether "Support Our Troops" would bother Sommer much less if he saw it on, say, a red-white-and-blue lapel pin.
(OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto, in his "Best of the Web" column on Wednesday, ran an item on this NPR commentary. The MRC was already aware of it, but Taranto beat us on reporting it.)
Last month, All Things Considered aired another exotic commentary on military matters, in which regular ATC contributor Andrei Codrescu suggested that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld staged a military exercise in New Orleans because many "foreign artists" and anti-Bush "Hollywood actors" were in town. See: www.mediaresearch.org
More than a month after CBS President Leslie Moonves, in the wake of the report documenting the misdeeds of CBS News on its hit job on President Bush's National Guard service, asked three producers to resign, all have refused and, though no longer performing their former duties, continue to be paid, the New York Observer and New York Times reported Wednesday. The three, Josh Howard, the Executive Producer of the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, Mary Murphy, the Senior Producer for the program, and Betsy West, Senior Vice President of CBS News, have all hired lawyers and dispute the Thornburgh/Boccardi report and how Moonves interpreted it to justify asking for their resignations. Howard, the New York Observer's Joe Hagan relayed, maintains that "the report itself excludes evidence that would implicate top management at CBS."
For the February 16 New York Times article, "Asked to Resign, 3 at CBS Hire Lawyers Instead," by Jacques Steinberg, see: www.nytimes.com
An excerpt from, "The CBS Three Won't Slink Off; Hiring Lawyers," by Joe Hagan in this week's New York Observer:
On Jan. 10, when the 224-page report on the investigation into CBS News' 60 Minutes Wednesday memo scandal arrived, CBS president Leslie Moonves issued a statement dwelling on the failures of the employees involved in producing the disputed segment.
Prominent among the targets was executive producer Josh Howard. Mr. Howard, Mr. Moonves said, "did little to assert his role as the producer ultimately responsible for the broadcast and everything in it. This mistake dealt a tremendous blow to the credibility of 60 Minutes Wednesday and to CBS News in general."
The producer, he wrote, had been asked to resign, and the network was "taking a variety of actions to put this crisis behind us."
Five weeks later, the crisis is not yet behind Mr. Moonves....
Mr. Howard and two other ousted CBS staffers -- his top deputy, Mary Murphy, and CBS News senior vice president Betsy West -- haven't resigned. And sources close to Mr. Howard said that before any resignation comes, the 23-year CBS News veteran is demanding that the network retract Mr. Moonves' remarks, correct its official story line and ultimately clear his name.
Mr. Howard, those sources said, has hired a lawyer to develop a breach-of-contract suit against the network. Ms. Murphy and Ms. West have likewise hired litigators, according to associates of theirs, and all three remain CBS employees and collect weekly salaries from the company that asked them to tender their resignations.
None would agree to participate in this article.
Legally, CBS and the ousted staffers are in an unusual stalemate: The network cannot be sued for breach of contract unless it actually fires them. Theoretically, the network could refuse to offer an apology or correct statements and simply drag its feet, continuing to write paychecks to the trio until their contracts expire....
But Mr. Howard's complaint about Mr. Moonves' remarks could pose a serious problem for CBS. Sources close to Mr. Howard said he believes that the report -- which was assembled by an outside team of former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Associated Press head Louis Boccardi Jr. -- contradicts Mr. Moonves' statement about Mr. Howard's share of the blame.
Mr. Howard also believes, those sources said, that the report itself excludes evidence that would implicate top management at CBS and restore Mr. Howard's reputation in the television news business.
A senior official at CBS told NYTV that Mr. Howard's claims had no basis in fact and that management had only acted on the findings of the report, which the company deemed thorough, accurate and independent....
In a recent article in The New York Law Journal, James C. Goodale, the former vice chairman of The New York Times, called the CBS investigation "a flawed report. It should not be swallowed hook, line and sinker."
He added: "Surprisingly, the report is unable to conclude whether the documents are forgeries or not. If the documents are not forgeries, why is the panel writing the report?"
In the event of a lawsuit, Mr. Howard has told associates that he would like to see Mr. Moonves and Mr. Schwartz put under oath to talk about their own roles in the network's stubborn, hapless defense of the flawed segment on President Bush's National Guard service.
Mr. Howard has also indicated to colleagues that he would subpoena specific CBS documents, including the e-mails of top executives. That might shed further light on what members of management were saying to each other on Friday, Sept. 10, two days after the segment aired -- a day that Mr. Heyward and Mr. Schwartz were making important decisions about CBS's defense strategy.
That was also when Mr. Howard's leadership role, judging by CBS's own account, stopped being so important. The network held Mr. Howard, as executive producer, responsible for airing the flawed segment. But it apparently ignored him when he asked management to reconsider the strategy of categorical denial that led to 12 days of stonewalling.
On page 162, the report says that it was Mr. Howard who made the first concerted effort to address the possibility that the segment had been in error: At 4:53 a.m., he sent Ms. West an e-mail recommending that CBS News acknowledge the possibility that it had been duped and that the documents could be a hoax.
That request was ignored by Ms. West, who ceded responsibility to Mr. Heyward -- who apparently ceded responsibility to the network's public-relations man, Mr. Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz reports directly to Mr. Moonves and is responsible for penning his press releases (including, presumably, the Jan. 10 statement with which Mr. Howard takes issue).
Mr. Howard told the panel that later that day, further evidence offered by a typewriting specialist had been an "'unsettling event' that shook his belief in the authenticity of the documents." According to the report, both Ms. West and Mr. Heyward ignored his concerns and, in league with Mr. Moonves' communications director, continued to defend the documents....
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-- Brent Baker