Fred Barnes: CNN's Debates: 'Screw Republicans...Boost Democrats' --11/30/2007
2. CNN's American Morning Omits Admission Gay General Was 'Activist'
3. CNN Highlights Omission of Bush's Name, But CNN Chose the Topics
4. ABC and NBC, But Not CBS, Note Passing of Conservative Icon Hyde
5. As Iraq Improves, Survey Shows Journalists Continue to Despair
6. ABC Highlights Pregnant Cancer Patient Who Rejected Abortion
7. Late Night Re-Runs Drone On, But 'NewsBusted' All New This Week
Describing the agenda of questions CNN chose to pose, during its Wednesday night Republican presidential debate with YouTube, as "completely different" from those forwarded to Democrats in July, Fred Barnes, on Thursday's Special Report on FNC, cited the contrast in questions about the military and Iraq as demonstrating how CNN picked the questioners to "screw Republicans" and "boost Democrats." Mara Liasson of NPR echoed the sentiment, recalling that the questions put to Democrats "were about global warming and health care and education, all kind of Democratic issues" and so they "weren't challenging the basic principles of the Democratic Party," but "there were lots of questions last night that were" meant to undermine GOP principles.
Earlier in the day, on The Weekly Standard's Web site, Barnes, Executive Editor of the magazine, hypothesized: "I don't know if the folks who put the debate together were purposely trying to make the Republican candidates look bad, but they certainly succeeded." He asserted that the YouTube video submission questions CNN decided to air reflected "the issues, in the view of liberals and many in the media, on which Republicans look particularly unattractive."
Referring to how CNN put retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr, a member of Clinton's steering committee on gay and lesbian issues, in the audience for a follow-up after his YouTube video asking why gays can't serve in the military, Barnes observed on FNC:
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
In a Friday Washington Post article, "CNN Admits Holes in Screening of Questioners," Howard Kurtz reported:
The exchange on the November 29 edition of FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, but anchored by Bret Baier:
BRET BAIER: Fred, how about the questioners chosen for this debate?
The Bible question Liasson cited came from a man who asked, as he held up a Bible: "I am Joseph. I am from Dallas, Texas, and how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?"
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth located the questioner's MySpace page and it appears Joey Dearing is a genuine Bible-believing Christian, but that doesn't mean the question wasn't chosen so as to put Republicans in the position of saying the Bible is literally accurate, a position which would allow the media to paint them as extremists, or say they don't believe every word and thus alienate part of the GOP's base. The MySpace page: www.myspace.com
This YouTube page has videos of all the questions and answers at the November 28 debate: www.youtube.com
An excerpt from the entry by Barnes, in a The Daily Standard compilation of reactions to the debate, by editors and writers for The Weekly Standard:
....I don't know if the folks who put the debate together were purposely trying to make the Republican candidates look bad, but they certainly succeeded. True, the candidates occasionally contributed. For the first few minutes, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney continued their debate over their records on immigration and did so with the kind of intensity that this trivial matter didn't warrant. These are two fine candidates who have only themselves to blame for looking petty.
But it was chiefly the questions and who asked them that made the debate so appalling. By my recollection, there were no questions on health care, the economy, trade, the S-chip children's health care issue, the "surge" in Iraq, the spending showdown between President Bush and Congress, terrorist surveillance, or the performance of the Democratic Congress.
Instead there were questions -- ones moderator Anderson Cooper kept insisting had required a lot of time and effort by the questioners -- on the Confederate flag, Mars, Giuliani's rooting for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, whether Ron Paul might run as an independent for president, and the Bible. The best response to these questions was Romney's refusal to discuss what the Confederate flag represents. Fred Thompson discussed it.
The most excruciating episode occurred when Cooper allowed a retired general in the audience to drone on with special pleading in favor of allowing gays in the military. This was a setup. The general had asked a question by video, then suddenly appeared in the crowd and got the mike. The aim here could only have been to make the Republican candidates, all of whom oppose gays in the military, squirm. As it turned out, they didn't appear to. The general turns out to be a Clinton supporter, by the way.
By my count, of the 30-plus questions, there were 6 on immigration, 3 on guns, 2 on abortion, 2 on gays, and one on whether the candidates believe every word in the Bible. These are exactly the issues, in the view of liberals and many in the media, on which Republicans look particularly unattractive. And there were two questions by African Americans premised loosely on the notion that blacks get nothing from Republicans and have no reason to vote for them.
These questions would better be asked of Democrats at one of their presidential debates. After all, the biggest news so far at a Democratic debate was when Hillary Clinton muffed a question about illegal immigrants and drivers' licenses....
For the entire compilation: www.weeklystandard.com
Thursday's American Morning on CNN, while reporting retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr's connections to the Hillary Clinton campaign, failed to mention one key revelation made by debate moderator Anderson Cooper during the post-debate coverage -- that Cooper knew that Kerr was "an activist of some sort."
Co-host John Roberts not only reported during all three hours of American Morning Kerr's membership in Hillary Clinton's "LGBT Americans for Hillary Steering Committee," but conducted a live interview of Kerr during the 7am Eastern hour. Six minutes into the 6am Eastern, Roberts gave the following brief on the Kerr story:
JOHN ROBERTS: After the debate was over, CNN found out that a man who asked one of the most intense questions of the night had a connection to the Clinton campaign. We didn't know it at the time, but we do know it now, and we want to clear things up for you. He is retired Army brigadier general Keith Kerr, who asked about the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. After the candidates gave their response to his YouTube post, General Kerr, who was in the audience, had this to say.
Only a half-hour after the close of the debate, debate moderator Anderson Cooper, responding to Bill Bennett, who had mentioned that he was receiving "a ton" of e-mails stating Kerr was part of the Clinton steering committee, stated that he "had not heard that, and had no knowledge of [that], nor do I think anyone here. And if so, that should have been certainly disclosed, and we would have disclosed that. I do know that he is an activist of some sort, but I had not heard that he's actually working for a campaign." Roberts did not mention this detail in his 6am hour brief, nor did he mention it in the subsequent briefs or segments on the Kerr story.
[This post, by Matthew Balan, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
During his live interview with Kerr, which started 17 minutes into the 7am hour, Roberts asked the retired general about his involvement with the Clinton LGBT steering committee. Kerr denied doing any kind of substantive work with the Clinton campaign. "I have not done any work. Several friends asked me if I would -- allow my name to be listed. And I agreed, because she is such a strong advocate of gay and lesbian rights." When Roberts asked if "anyone from Hillary Clinton's campaign, or from the steering committee, or anyone else associated with a political association put you up to the idea of asking this question," Kerr replied, "Absolutely not. This was a private initiative, on my own."
Roberts did bring up one thing that hadn't been previously mentioned on CNN, either in the post-debate coverage or earlier on American Morning: "There is also a news release dated November 11, 2007 that lists you as a national co-chair on 'Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Clinton.' Are you, in fact, a member of that organization?" Kerr's reply: "Yes, it's the same one, simply my name on the list."
Roberts didn't press Kerr further on that matter, and asked the retired general if he ever thought about disclosing these campaign affiliations. He answered: "No, it never concerned me, because I had not really participated in that," and then went on to say that he had supported some Republicans, and was registered as an independent in California.
At the bottom of the 8am Eastern hour, Roberts basically repeated the brief he had given at the beginning of the 6 am Eastern hour, and didn't mention anything about CNN knowing that Kerr was an "activist of some sort."
A report on Thursday's The Situation Room on CNN tried to make an issue out of the fact that President Bush's name was only mentioned a few times at the Republican presidential debate CNN produced with YouTube, but maybe that was because few of the questions CNN chose to run cited Bush or any of his policies. In fact, only one cited Bush by name. CNN correspondent Carol Costello compared the President's name to a curse word in her introduction: "It sure seems like Bush has become a four-letter word you don't want to mention if you are a Republican running for office. They've taken to talking about him in code, not daring to say 'Bush,' but not shy about promoting his agenda."
During the report, which aired at the bottom half of the 5pm Eastern hour, Costello went on to say that "the Bush moniker [was] uttered just four times in two hours." This is indeed the case if you look at the CNN transcript of the debate: transcripts.cnn.com
But this doesn't tell the entire story. The 34 debate questions were selected by CNN from a pool of over 5,000, which were submitted to YouTube. CNN senior vice president David Bohrman oversaw the selection process. Questions about key policy issues dominated the debate -- four questions about immigration, three about federal spending, one about taxes, three about gun control, two about abortion, one about the death penalty, and two about homosexuality.
Only five questions dealt directly or indirectly about Bush administration policies. In the first question, which was the only one which referred to President Bush by name, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist asked about the candidates' commitment to the Bush tax cuts during the first hour the debate.
[This item is adapted from a Thursday night posting, by Matthew Balan, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
During the second hour of the debate, a Muslim woman asked about repairing America's image in the world, which in her view, was damaged by the Iraq war. Next, someone asked the candidates about Senator John McCain's stance against waterboarding. The fourth question dealt with a possible long-term commitment to Iraq. The last question of the five dealt with the power of the vice president, which was asked by an animated caricature of Dick Cheney.
So, if CNN is surprised by the lack of mention of President Bush during the debate, then how come they didn't select many questions that dealt with him personally or the policies of his administration?
The oddest moment of the report came when Costello tried to make something out of Congressman Duncan Hunter's decision to invoke Ronald Reagan during the debate: "And even though they won't readily admit it, most of these candidates agree with the Bush agenda. For example, President Bush cut taxes. Congressman Duncan Hunter voted for them. But who does he credit?" Hunter: "I came in with Ronald Reagan in 1980 to cut taxes, and I probably voted for more tax cuts than anybody here."
Did Costello forget that Reagan's tax cuts came before Bush's?
After pondering the reason that the Republican candidates "don't take on an unpopular President head-on," Costello cited the "progressive Web site" Daily Kos on how there is a "danger of not overtly criticizing Bush." Costello: "Some say there is a danger of not overtly criticizing Bush. According to the publisher of Daily Kos, a progressive Web site, if Democrats remind voters the Republican platform, and Bush's policies are one in the same, victory will be assured in the general election."
Long-time conservative Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, a hero to conservatives for his ideological consistency and efforts to limit abortions, passed away Thursday morning at a Chicago hospital. While ABC and NBC noted his death, at age 83, on their Thursday evening newscasts, and even managed to avoid any pejorative ideological labeling, the CBS Evening News ignored Hyde. But Katie Couric made time to highlight how, in a Time magazine interview, Barack Obama said if he wins he'd give Al Gore a job "in a minute" and a position to Bill Clinton "in a second." Couric added on Clinton: "Obama said 'there are few more talented people out there.'"
ABC's George Stephanopoulos, filling in for Charles Gibson, described Hyde as "a fierce abortion opponent" and pointed out how "his effort to ban federal funds for abortions came to be known as the Hyde Amendment" and that "Hyde led impeachment proceedings against President Clinton." NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams echoed with how Hyde "will perhaps always be remembered chiefly for two things: Leading the impeachment effort against President Clinton and a high-profile measure banning federal money for abortions, which became known quickly as the Hyde Amendment. Henry Hyde, remembered by colleagues today as a man of the House..."
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The full text of the short item read by Stephanopoulos on the November 29 World News:
Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News: "We learned today of the death of Henry Hyde. The veteran former member of Congress from Illinois will perhaps always be remembered chiefly for two things: Leading the impeachment effort against President Clinton and a high-profile measure banning federal money for abortions, which became known quickly as the Hyde Amendment. Henry Hyde, remembered by colleagues today as a man of the House, was 83 years old."
Are U.S. journalists missing the news right in front of their eyes? Even as the violence ebbs and Iraqi refugees are returning home by the thousands, a new survey of Iraq war correspondents finds most are still deeply pessimistic about conditions in Iraq, with one in six (15%) saying that they believe news coverage "makes the situation look better than it is," compared to just three percent who think news reports have been inordinately negative.
The poll of 111 U.S.-based journalists who are now covering the Iraq war or who have been posted there over the past four-and-a-half years was conducted over the past several weeks by the Pew-funded Project for Excellence in Journalism, which promises to release a content analysis of the media's Iraq war coverage later in the year.
[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Thursday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A similar poll of 72 journalists, conducted back in 2005 by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, also found that reporters were far more pessimistic than the public. Then, few correspondents (just 28%) thought the decision to invade Iraq was correct, and most thought the war would be harmful to the overall war on terrorism (68%) and that the effort to build a stable, democratic Iraq would fail (63%). See: www.mrc.org
Such pessimism about the course of the war matches what network reporters have said on TV. Back in March of 2006, NBC's Richard Engel argued on the Today show that "most Iraqis I speak to say, actually, most reporters get it wrong. It's, the situation on the ground is actually worse than the images we project on television." See: www.mrc.org
And just last month, as U.S. and Iraqi casualties were falling dramatically, CBS's Lara Logan (whose frequent coverage of the Iraq war means she fits the group of reporters the researchers sought to contact) opined on NBC's Tonight Show that the war was going "extremely badly, from my point of view." Reality, she asserted, was "much worse than the picture, the image we even have of Iraq." For more, including video of her comments, check the October 16 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
In a telling sign of how much progress has been made, last week even the New York Times admitted that the U.S. troop surge had improved daily life in the Iraqi capital, featuring a big front-page headline, "Baghdad Starts to Exhale as Security Improves." That same night, November 20, ABC anchor Charles Gibson interviewed President Bush about the good news from Iraq: "You took a lot of doubting and rather skeptical questions about the surge. I'll give you a chance to crow. Do you want to say, I told you so?" See: www.mrc.org
Here are excerpts from the survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism:
After four years of war in Iraq, the journalists reporting from that country give their coverage a mixed but generally positive assessment, but they believe they have done a better job of covering the American military and the insurgency than they have the lives of ordinary Iraqis. And they do not believe the coverage of Iraq over time has been too negative. If anything, many believe the situation over the course of the war has been worse than the American public has perceived, according to a new survey of journalists covering the war from Iraq.
Above all, the journalists -- most of them veteran war correspondents -- describe conditions in Iraq as the most perilous they have ever encountered, and this above everything else is influencing the reporting. A majority of journalists surveyed (57%) report that at least one of their Iraqi staff had been killed or kidnapped in the last year alone -- and many more are continually threatened. "Seven staffers killed since 2003, including three last July," one bureau chief wrote with chilling brevity. "At least three have been kidnapped. All were freed."
A majority of journalists surveyed say most of the country is too dangerous to visit. Nine out of ten say that about at least half of Baghdad itself. Wherever they go, traveling with armed guards and chase vehicles is the norm for more than seven out of ten surveyed....And most journalists, eight out of ten, feel that, over time, conditions for telling the story of Iraq have gotten worse, not better....
The journalists surveyed tend to disagree. Most (70%) of those surveyed believe their coverage overall has given an accurate picture of what is happening there. About one-in-six (15%) believe the coverage makes the situation look better than it is. Hardly any (3%) believe it focuses too much on the negative.
The public, while divided on the question, is far more likely than the journalists to view the coverage as too negative. A Pew public opinion survey in August found that more than a third of the public (37%) believed news reports were making the situation in Iraq seem worse that it really was. Roughly a third (34%) thought the press portrayed Iraq accurately. Just under a quarter (21%) believed the media made the situation seem better than reality.
Journalists also do not believe the coverage has been too hard on the Bush Administration. Indeed, about four in ten of those surveyed (43%) say coverage of Iraq has been "too easy" on the Administration. Roughly the same number (44%) say they find the coverage to be basically fair. Only 1% describe coverage as too critical of the Administration. (And 8% did not respond to the question.)
For the findings in full: www.journalism.org
On Wednesday's World News, ABC anchor Charles Gibson highlighted a woman suffering from breast cancer who chose to keep her baby instead of having an abortion while opting to be treated during the second and third trimesters when her baby would likely be able to withstand the chemotherapy. Gibson recounted the story of the new mother who "spent her pregnancy fighting to save her baby's life and her own," relaying her choice not to have an abortion: "Her doctor told her she could abort the baby, but Linda found specialists who told her there was another choice, that she could treat the cancer and carry her child to term."
[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Wednesday, November 28 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Finally, we don't normally have birth announcements on this broadcast, but tonight, an exception. The new arrival is just 48 hours old, and we introduce you to her because earlier this month, we introduced you to her mother, who spent her pregnancy fighting to save her baby's life and her own. In the course of just a few days last April, Linda Sanchez learned she was pregnant, and that she had breast cancer.
LINDA SANCHEZ, Cancer patient: It's a lot to think about April.
The strike by writers continues, but the MRC's twice-a-week NewsBusted comedy show is not on strike. Two new episodes have been posted this week. So while Leno, Stewart, Letterman, O'Brien, Ferguson, Kimmel and Colbert are all still in re-runs because of the strike by the Writers Guild of America, the MRC's NewsBusted comedy video show -- with jokes about politics, Hollywood and media bias -- is fresh again this week. Topics in the latest editions: CNN's presidential debates, Joe and Valerie Wilson, leftist bridge players, United Nations, NASA debunking global warming and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Check out the latest two-and-a-half-minute comedy show now at the top of the MRC's NewsBusters blog: newsbusters.org
And enjoy the archive of past shows: www.youtube.com
-- Brent Baker