Couric's 'Exclusive' with Hillary Clinton Avoids Tough Questions --11/27/2007
2. CNN Highlights YouTube Debate Questions Posed from Left
3. CBS's Early Show Touts UN Condemning Taser Use as Torture
4. Tom Brokaw Trashes Rush Limbaugh and Talk Radio on Ingraham Show
5. Rather's Profanity-Laced Tirades and Self-Pity in New York Mag
Katie Couric traveled to New Hampshire for an "exclusive" interview with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but it amounted to little more than a three minute segment in which Couric tossed softballs about the horse race and avoided any contentious topics, such as fugitive Norman Hsu's fundraising, Clinton's evolving positions on Iraq or her parsed stand on driver's licenses for illegal aliens. "In an exclusive one-on-one interview," Couric trumpeted, "Clinton exudes confidence."
Couric's questions to the Democratic frontrunner in the excerpt aired at the start of the CBS Evening News: Why she's launched a "more aggressive" campaign, how does she "feel" about Oprah Winfrey campaigning for Barack Obama, and "how disappointed" she'll be if she loses the nomination? -- a question Couric pursued in three formulations and the answers to which led to Couric's "Clinton exudes confidence" proclamation.
[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A longer video clip of the interview posted on CBSNews.com featured just two more inquiries: Are you lowering expectations in Iowa? And, your response to the view that your campaign is "nervous" about Obama's gains? See: www.cbsnews.com
From Concord, New Hampshire, Couric teased the November 26 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Obama versus Clinton.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down all the questions posed by Couric to Hillary Clinton shown on the newscast. The questions, plus a flavor on Clinton's replies:
COURIC: I asked her about the new, more aggressive tone of her campaign.
If the preview shown on CNN Sunday Morning is any guide, Wednesday night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate will likely be dominated by questions posed from the left, just as the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate also featured questions posed from the left. CNN correspondent Josh Levs showed clips of several sample questions, including a question from a gay Republican who charged "a vote for you is a vote against my family," a question from a woman concerned about "returning the civil liberties to the American people and stopping these outrageous attacks on our security and our privacy," and a question about CEO salaries increasing faster than the minimum wage. While Levs cautioned that he does not know whether any of the questions used in his piece will be chosen for the debate, none of the questions that appeared in the report were posed from a conservative point-of-view.
[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
-- CNN/YouTube Debate Questions Feature Many More Liberal Videos: www.mrc.org
-- CNN/You Tube Preview Questions from the Left on Health, Religion: www.mrc.org
-- CNN's You Tube Debate Delivers Questions from the Left: www.mrc.org
Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the November 25 CNN Sunday Morning:
T.J. HOLMES: All right, Wednesday is the big day. The second CNN-YouTube presidential debate. And this time around it's going to be the GOP candidates going at it.
JOSH LEVS: Hey, good morning to you guys. Yeah, this is last day. Tonight's going to be the deadline. And what I've gotten to do over the last couple of days is piece through some of the questions we've gotten. We have received so many literally from all over the world. We're going to give you now a taste of what just might be to come. Republican candidates can run, but they cannot hide from your questions in the CNN/YouTube debate, which may include some sharp jabs.
Monday's CBS Early Show picked up a liberal cause as co-host Hannah Storm fretted over the epidemic of taser related deaths in North America, citing how "at least six people died after being zapped by police last week, prompting a U.N. committee to consider tasers as a form of torture." CBS brought aboard a spokesman from Amnesty International who demanded an investigation into the cause of the deaths and Storm endorsed the group's agenda as she pointed out how "the NAACP is weighing in and agreeing with you, saying this needs to be looked at" and she pined: "What would it take to ban tasers?"
At the beginning of the segment reporter Joie Chen described how a video of a recent taser incident in Canada, "led Taser International to slam sensationalistic media reports." Of course, Chen quickly went on to continue her own "sensationalistic" reporting on the issue. She concluded by blaming trigger-happy police officers for the recent deaths as she raised "the questions about whether taser carrying officers have become too quick on the draw."
[This item is a based on a posting, by Kyle Drennen, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Storm followed Chen's alarmist report with an interview with Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, Larry Cox:
STORM: The U.N. weighing in on this and calling it a possible weapon of torture, what does that mean? What's the significance?
In a brief effort to present the other side, Storm asked Cox, "So how do you answer the claims by Taser International that people aren't dying specifically from the electric shock of the tasers?" Cox responded by dismissing such claims: "The important thing is, they are dying after they are tasered. That cannot be denied, no matter how you spin the language."
Here is the full transcript of the November 26 segment in the 7:30 half hour:
HANNAH STORM: The United Nations has stepped into the growing controversy over tasers. As we said, at least six people died after being zapped by police last week, prompting a U.N. committee to consider tasers as a form of torture. CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen has more.
JOIE CHEN: They're sold as devices designed to protect life, but tasers are now under fire after a stunning spike in deaths. In just one week, Frederick, Maryland, a deputy zaps 20-year-old Jerrell Gray during a fight. He dies on the spot. The same day in New Mexico, a suspect resisting arrest is tasered and dies after being taken to jail. In Jacksonville, Florida, two men in unrelated cases are zapped. Both die. In Nova Scotia, Canada, another tasered suspect dies. And then in British Columbia, a man zapped for strange behavior dies after being taken to the hospital. A Canadian case caught on a tourist camera, though, has provoked the biggest outcry. The Polish man in the Vancouver airport holding area spoke no English. Held for ten hours, he's clearly agitated, and then -- he's shocked twice and dies about a minute later. Over 1,000 protestors call the camera man a hero, but the video led Taser International to slam sensationalistic media reports. The company insists no deaths have ever been conclusively linked to what it calls the low-energy electrical discharge of the taser. But the 50,000-volt slap knocked 38-year-old Ohio suspect Heidi Gill out. On the Early Show, she showed Hannah what her clothes looked like after repeated hits, and she described intense pain.
STORM: Larry Cox is the Executive Director for Amnesty International USA, which has called for a moratorium on tasers as long as three years ago. Good morning, and thanks for being with us.
Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw took his publicity tour for his Sixties book Boom! into (at least somewhat) hostile territory on Monday's Laura Ingraham radio show. Ingraham played an old clip in which Brokaw slapped talk radio as "instantly jingoistic and savagely critical" of people questioning war.
Like many other journalists who instantly let conservatives know they haven't listened to Rush Limbaugh, Brokaw insisted Limbaugh "doesn't want to hear another point of view, except his." Ingraham disagreed. Brokaw added: "The problem with talk radio is they only want to hear one note...The problem with talk radio is they mock anyone else's point of view, and they do it often in a mindless fashion." This is rich talk coming from a man whose network hired Bill Moyers as his newscast's only commentator in 1995, and a man who wrote a syrupy tribute to hot liberal mock-jock Jon Stewart for his "Athenian" ideals in Time magazine.
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Monday -- with an MP3 audio clip of Brokaw on Ingraham's November 26 radio show -- on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Brokaw appeared on two segments with Ingraham, and they carried on a friendly discussion about the themes of his Sixties book. Before the talk radio exchange, the only other notable point of contention was Ingraham's suggestion that Phyllis Schlafly could have been interviewed next to Gloria Steinem in his women's lib section. Brokaw said she didn't accomplish enough to be considered worthy of inclusion, but noted he did interview Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Here's the transcript of the talk radio exchange:
INGRAHAM: One thing that we heard you talk about recently '€" a couple of years ago '€" you were talking about talk radio. I want to play the clip, then ask you about it.
That's a strong punch. If Brokaw had ever "wasted" an hour of his life listening to Limbaugh, he'd learn that liberal callers are often featured on the Limbaugh program, some times for long periods of time that make conservative callers jealous. He should really learn from others who've made this factual error and actually listen to the program and apologize, as Washington Post columnist William Raspberry did. See: www.mrc.org
After the two segments, Ingraham started noting that other talk radio hosts, from Sean Hannity to Michael Medved to Hugh Hewitt, love to engage liberal guests and callers. Brokaw should have been asked which major host or which "wannabe" is a fake conservative doing it all for the cash. Who would Brokaw name?
But in this interview, Brokaw just threw up his hands rather than defend the objectivity of network anchors:
BROKAW: But Laura, we're never going to resolve this. You know you have your point of view and I have mine.
Ingraham then noted that cable hits hot buttons, too, but they're usually celebrity-gossip or murder-of-the-month hot buttons, and then there was a long pause. "Let's have more dialogue." He then repeated: "We've lost the ability to have civil discourse in America and it's a big cancer on our political system as well."
In 1995, with liberals unsettled by the Republican sweep of Congress, Brokaw's show had a commentator with "only one note" -- once and future PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers, who was sold by NBC as fair and balanced. (The gig didn't last long, as Moyers resigned citing health problems later that year.) On March 7 of that year, he denounced Newt Gingrich for incivility to liberals:
For more on Moyers on NBC, check this 1995 MediaWatch article: www.mrc.org
That sounds a lot like a Brokaw speech. Gingrich wasn't offered a rebuttal by NBC. Before that, of course, NBC's sole commentator was liberal former NBC anchor John Chancellor.
Back in a year-end Time magazine in 2005, Brokaw hailed liberal Comedy Central mockery specialist Jon Stewart:
Brokaw might want to remember that this is the same Jon Stewart who suggested conservative columnist Robert Novak was a "115-year-old vampire demon" without a heart, and an "enemy of American democracy." Was that helping the cause of noble citizenship? Or was Stewart hitting the hot button of his liberal audience for commercial gain? See the September 20, 2006 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
Whatever Dan Rather does in his post-CBS television career, let's hope it's not on shows children watch. In another personality trait echoing his old historical nemesis Richard Nixon, Rather's interview with Joe Hagan of New York magazine is loaded with expletives (undeleted). The internal CBS report on the story was "pure, unadultered [BS]." When that internal review board included former Bush Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, Rather reacted: "Un-f-ing-believable!" Thornburgh was a "total ass." Rather wore a T-shirt on his last night in the anchor chair that said "F.E.A." for "F- 'Em All." When he called his producer Mary Mapes to commiserate over the fiasco, he identified himself as "Dan Rather plus three," meaning he'd drank three bourbons. That might explain why he claimed no one at the White House denied his story.
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The story's headline is "Dan Rather's Last Big Story Is Himself." As he described Rather's "lower lip jutting out like an ornery fish resisting a hook," Hagan sympathetically recounted:
When Dan Rather sits on a bench in Central Park to tell how his 44-year career at CBS News ended in ignominy and humiliation, he is in fact still waging a war, a bitter and personal one. And the memories of the battles that undid him are still fresh on his mind. "Monday morning, about 8:49 -- and I think that is the time precisely," he says. He's recalling January 10, 2005, when he first received the 224-page report commissioned by CBS that excoriated his infamous 60 Minutes Wednesday segment on President Bush's National Guard service. Of that report, Rather says, "When I read through it, all I could say to myself, on each page, is, 'What bullshit. What pure, unadulterated bullshit this whole thing is. What a setup. What a fix.'" He nearly spits the word fix.
Hagan claimed that in 2004, the media were still in a "defensive crouch" against pressure from the Bush team, but Rather was brave enough to seek out phony documents from a disgruntled source:
There had been questions about whether Bush had completed his required Guard duty as early as 2000, but no one had come up with definitive proof that he hadn't. The Killian documents appeared to be the smoking gun. With USA Today on its heels, CBS felt it had to rush the story on the air -- some say the heaviest pressure came directly from Rather. Rather says he repeatedly asked Mapes if the memos were authentic, telling everyone the story was "thermonuclear." When Mapes said they were real, that was good enough for him.
If the story was "thermonuclear," then who is it that Rather was trying to nuke? Considering his get-Bush attitude, it's a little odd for him then to insist dramatically that he was being executed or assassinated:
CBS declined to comment for this story, beyond releasing a statement saying the company is "mystified and saddened by the baseless and self-serving allegations and distortions of fact raised in [Rather's] lawsuit." So that leaves us with Rather's version of what happened next. "The fact is, they caved," he says. "They crumbled." When the documents were savaged by right-wing bloggers and press critics, CBS News found it couldn't prove their authenticity and backed down. And so, at the time, did Rather...
Two days after the apology, Rather's faith in his employers was shaken. CBS announced it was commissioning an independent investigation into the flaws of his 60 Minutes Wednesday segment, to be co-chaired by former U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh, a Bush family friend and onetime Nixon confidant. Rather felt CBS was handing him over to his enemies for execution. When Heyward informed him that Thornburgh would lead the investigation, Rather was riding in a car in Manhattan with a CBS security guard assigned to him after he'd been mobbed by paparazzi. "I don't believe what I'm hearing," Rather told him, slamming his fist on the dashboard. "This is un-fucking-believable! You couldn't have picked anybody who is worse."
Rather says he told Heyward, "'You can't do this.' And he very coldly said, 'It's done.'"
Already a chronic insomniac, Rather barely slept now, arriving at his office at 7 a.m. to make frantic calls to anyone and everyone, desperate to glue the story back together. After the 6:30 broadcast of the Evening News, he would stay on the set for hours going over the details. "He was crazed," says a friend. "He looked exhausted."
....Rather and Heyward had known each other since the early eighties, when Rather plucked Heyward from the local New York affiliate to work at the network. Heyward promised they would get through the ordeal together. "He'd gone corporate long before this," says Rather. "Nevertheless, I believed him."
When he describes his eight-hour interrogation before the commission, Rather seems to relive the moment. He can visualize the seating chart of his inquisitors, pointing to exactly where Thornburgh sat. Former Associated Press chief Louis Boccardi was the only journalist on the panel, outnumbered by lawyers, Rather says, with two from Thornburgh's legal team doing the bulk of the questioning. Thornburgh sat silent and coiled, waiting to interject "like a cobra strikes."
"He'd get up right in your face: 'Mr. Rather, you mean to tell me that after all of this you'd do a story with Mary Mapes?' 'Yessir, that's exactly what I said.' And then he'd shake his head," says Rather. "I thought he was a total ass. He tried cheap Perry Mason tactics."
Conservatives thought the Thornburgh panel's report was weak, not scathing. (It punted the question of political bias at CBS.) Then came the part of the story where Angry Dan gets liquored up:
Rather's shock turned to quiet fury. He stalked the offices, barely acknowledging staffers in the hallways. People referred to this mode as "Defcon 4." "He got progressively, visually angry," says a former colleague. "You don't want to be in his eyesight when he's like that." His only release was commiserating on the phone late at night with Mary Mapes; he would announce himself as "Dan Rather, plus three" -- meaning he'd had three glasses of bourbon.
He asked for a meeting with CBS boss Les Moonves to plead his case:
"I'm not sure there's yet an understanding of what's happening here," he recalls telling Moonves. "We've done a true story, and they're not denying it because they can't deny it."
Angry that Mapes and other producers in the pipeline were fired, Rather went passive-aggressive:
But the anger was seething just below the surface. The next night, Rather's last as anchor of the CBS Evening News, he wore a T-shirt under his suit and tie that read F.E.A. -- "Fuck 'em all."
Hagan helpfully suggested that the supposed Killian documents were "never proved real, never proved fake." After a few paragraphs, Dan is being assassinated again:
Like Kennedy trying to solve his own assassination, Rather explored every possible conspiracy theory, from Karl Rove's planting passable fakes to damage him to a National Guard employee's typing up copies before the originals were destroyed. "I've been down every one of those rabbit holes and 50 more," says Rather, "including people saying, 'You come up with $200,000 in small bills...' About that I say, 'Listen, I'm not going to pay for anything.'"
But Hagan didn't always allow Rather's claims of his irrefutable journalistic glory go unchallenged. On the matter of Bill Burkett, the disgruntled, Bush-hating source:
Still, Rather is ultimately relying on the same source who got him into trouble in the first place. Why does he believe his documents are real now? There are two reasons: "First of all," he says, "the story is true. Here is the proof that the story is true: Nobody has ever denied what was reported in the story. President Bush has not denied it, nobody at the White House has denied it, and nobody connected with the Bush administration has denied it." (Actually, Bartlett does deny what CBS reported: "We believe the story is inaccurate, both the general thrust of it and the questionable sources they used," he says. "I'm not a forensic specialist, but many people who are concluded the documents were fraudulent.")
Late in the piece, Hagan assessed how Rather seems to inspire puzzled giggles from colleagues:
Rather's lawsuit has made him radioactive, even among his allies -- many of whom would not speak about him on the record. It has also opened him up to criticism that he held on too long -- both to his job and to the story -- and, as CBS has stated in its legal rebuttal, that suing is his desperate attempt to return to public significance. Several of his former associates from CBS believe Rather should have bowed out gracefully like NBC's Tom Brokaw. "He should have gotten out of this place a long time ago," says a 60 Minutes producer. "He seemed to have no ability to make that choice and cross the line. He just moved the line."
Rather insists he's not just clinging to his public profile. "I can say truthfully I've never thought of it that way," he says. "Being on television every day can be egocentric and it can develop an almost egomaniacal quality to it. That's undeniable. And frankly, if you only do the anchoring work, you're much more susceptible to that."
People invariably laugh when you ask them to analyze Rather. Even Rather gives a smile and admits that figuring him out "may be full-time work." Still, everyone has an opinion. Some of his friends think he's brave to take on CBS; others see it as a little tragic. "It's kind of sad that he feels like he has to do this," says one admirer. "It's going to zap a lot of his energy." Morley Safer thinks Rather is suing because he "enjoys being a martyr." For his detractors, there is also the whiff of insanity that clings to such a quixotic cause. In conversation, Rather doesn't seem particularly crazy. But the "Crazy Dan" theme -- "Gunga Dan," "Courage," "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" -- still trails him.
"I've been a reporter for 58 years," says Rather, not terribly happy that I've brought it up. "That old saying, as you go through life your friends fall away and your enemies accumulate -- when you insist on being independent, sometimes with a capital I, people who are highly partisan politically, on all sides of things, when you don't report things the way they want you to report it, they call you eccentric or wacky or biased or what have you.
"I'm not proud of this, but I fight back," says Rather. "That's just in my id."
For the article in full in this week's New York magazine: nymag.com
-- Brent Baker