NBC's Williams Suggests Obama Likely to Be 'Swift-Boating' Victim --10/31/2007
2. ABC: Iraqis Adapt to 'New Normal' as 'Violence on Downward Trend'
3. CNN and Washington Post Play Up 'Bitter' Soldier's Words on Iraq
4. GMA Grills Huckabee, But Gushed over Clinton's 'Knowledge Base'
5. Study: Media Elite's Campaign News More Biased than Talk Radio
6. 'Top Ten Things Overheard During Dick Cheney's Hunting Trip'
During Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC, NBC anchor Brian Williams posed a question to Barack Obama which managed to simultaneously impugn Republicans as executors of disreputable campaign practices and portray Obama as a likely victim of it -- all based on Mitt Romney flubbing Obama's name and memories of the Bush campaign's attacks on John McCain in 2000.
Explaining that his question would be "about religion and misinformation," Williams, who co-moderated the debate with Tim Russert, raised how Romney "misspoke twice on the same day, confusing your name with that of Osama bin Laden," as if, apparently, that was some sort of effort to suggest Obama is Muslim. Williams proceeded to highlight how "your party is fond of talking about potential swift boating," before he got to his charged political point in the form of a question: "Are you fearful of what happened to John McCain, for example in South Carolina a few years back, confusion on the basis of things like names and religion?"
[This item was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
On October 23, Romney made this gaffe, which he immediately corrected: "I think that is a position which is not consistent with the fact. Actually, just look at what Osam, uh, Barack Obama, said just yesterday, Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. 'That is the battlefield. That is the central place. Come join us under one banner.'"
The question, in full, from Williams at about 10:09pm EDT during the October 30 two-hour debate from Drexel University in Philadelphia: "Senator Obama, we're going to transfer into a new area here. A question specifically for you because you're in a rather unique position. It's about religion and misinformation. Governor Romney misspoke twice on the same day, confusing your name with that of Osama bin Laden. Your party is fond of talking about potential swift boating. Are you fearful of what happened to John McCain, for example in South Carolina a few years back, confusion on the basis of things like names and religion?"
Both NBC and ABC on Tuesday night noted the smallest number of American servicemen killed in Iraq since March of 2006, but while NBC's Brian Williams stressed the total number killed since the war began, ABC's Charles Gibson segued to a story about "booming" markets and significantly improving life in Baghdad. Eight days ago, ABC uniquely highlighted Fallujah's "extraordinary comeback story." [See below] Williams cited three soldiers killed, observing "that brings the toll for October to 37 Americans dead, which we should point out is the lowest monthly total in a year and a half. Since the war started almost four and a half years ago, more than 3800 Americans have died in the war in Iraq."
Gibson listed 36 as killed, not 37, and clarified "some of them in non-combat-related incidents." After relating how "that is the lowest number of U.S. deaths since March 2006," Gibson described "violence on a downward trend" in Iraq so now "Iraqis are learning to adapt to what might be called a new normal." Reporter Miguel Marquez conveyed how Baghdad's largest market is "booming. Big sales, says this vendor. Everything, 2,000 dinars. There hasn't been an attack here since February." Marquez highlighted "pockets of security where life is starting to get back to normal," but, he acknowledged, "it's not a normal by most standards" since though "large-scale violence between Sunnis and Shiites has stopped" in one neighborhood, "there are still criminal gangs" so "most people...are too afraid to leave their homes." Still, "with wedding season coming up," a woman florist "is hopeful that business and life will get back to something like normal."
[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An October 23 CyberAlert posting, "ABC Airs Upbeat Iraq Story on Fallujah's 'Remarkable Turnaround," recounted:
A rare upbeat story on Iraq ran Monday night on ABC's World News. Anchor Charles Gibson touted "an extraordinary comeback story" about Fallujah, the city of one of the war's bloodiest and longest battles, but now where reporter Miguel Marquez discovered bustling markets, Marines welcomed by kids and no car bombs or shootings of Marines in several months. Gibson effused about how "we have an extraordinary comeback story tonight from the place where the Marines suffered their worst losses of the war. Fallujah is undergoing a remarkable turnaround. Tribal leaders, local officials and the U.S. Marines have united behind a common cause. Bringing security to a place that had been one of Iraq's most insecure."
Over matching video, Marquez described how "the markets bustle. Traffic chokes the streets. Marines, once despised here, are now a welcome sight." Viewers saw video of a Marines with kids before Colonel Rich Simcook told Marquez: "This is one of my big measures of effectiveness, where, you know, kids will come up to you, you know, they feel safe to come out and play." Speaking with a Marine Sergeant, Marquez wondered: "When's the last time you were shot at these days?" The Marine replied: "I'd say, end of March." Marquez saw a corollary sign things are going well: "The last car bomb in Fallujah was in May." Though Marquez added some caveats about high unemployment and the lack of weapons for the Iraqi police, he concluded on the bright side: "There are encouraging signs. Schools just opened, and enrollment is at its highest since before the war. Construction, from huge infrastructure projects to fixing sidewalks, is everywhere. Fallujah even sports solar street lights..."
For the entire CyberAlert rundown: www.mrc.org
The brief item from Brian Williams, in Philadelphia, on the October 30 NBC Nightly News:
The story on the October 30 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: In Iraq today, another indication of how things are changing. This month, 36 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Some of them in non-combat-related incidents. That is the lowest number of U.S. deaths since March 2006. With violence on a downward trend, Iraqis are learning to adapt, to what might be called a new normal. Here's ABC's Miguel Marquez in Baghdad.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ: Shorja market, Baghdad's largest, is booming. Big sales, says this vendor. Everything, 2,000 dinars. There hasn't been an attack here since February. Today, the market is secured with concrete barriers. Everyone entering gets frisked. All goods must be carted in by hand. "The security
keeps out the bombs," says this businessman. "But we have a very hard time carrying in our merchandise." And shoppers take a risk getting out. Since February, at least 48 people have died in bomb, gun and mortar attacks in the area surrounding Shorja market. It's a similar story across Baghdad. Pockets of security, where life is starting to get back to normal. But it's not a normal by most standards. Captain Mark Battjes has been trying to get the Jamiah [?] neighborhood back on its feet for the past five months.
Beyond ABC (see #2 above), the mainstream media's long march against the Iraq war continues unabated. On October 27, the Washington Post ran a front-page story with an attention-grabbing headline taken from a quote by an American soldier serving in Iraq: "I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life." Two days later, on October 29, CNN's Jack Cafferty on The Situation Room used the same quote for his "Question of the Hour:" "What does it say about the conflict in Iraq when troops there are saying things like, 'I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life.' Our soldiers are saying that stuff."
For the Saturday, October 27 Washington Post story, go to: www.washingtonpost.com
The Post story, by Joshua Partlow, detailed the experience of American soldiers in a neighborhood of Baghdad called Sadiyah, which is known for its slide into sectarian violence over the past 14 months. The piece seemed to be tailored to put a negative spin on the recent drop in violence across Iraq. For example: "While top U.S. commanders say the statistics of violence have registered a steep drop in Baghdad and elsewhere, the soldiers' experience in Sadiyah shows that numbers alone do not describe the sense of aborted normalcy -- the fear, the disrupted lives -- that still hangs over the city."
[This item, by Matthew Balan, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
At the end of the article, the sentiment was reinforced by another quote from a soldier patrolling Sadiyah:
The context of the "money quote" that was used in the Post's headline doesn't make it clear whether the soldier -- Sgt. Victor Alarcon -- was referring to the neighborhood of Sadiyah or to the entire country of Iraq:
Yet, Cafferty, in his Monday "Cafferty File" segment, which came nine minutes into the 5pm Eastern hour, made it clear that he thought the soldier meant the entire country:
The "tired, weary, bitter, and skeptical" line is a parphrase of the subtitle of Partlow's article: "After 14 months in a Baghdad district torn by mounting sectarian violence, members of one U.S. unit are tired, bitter and skeptical."
ABC's George Stephanopoulos highlighted adversarial quotes and characterizations for an interview with 2008 Republican candidate Mike Huckabee on Tuesday's Good Morning America. The former Clinton operative quoted conservative Phyllis Schlafly as saying "[Huckabee] destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas" and Betsy Hagen of the Eagle Forum who compared the GOP contender to Bill Clinton and labeled him a liberal. In a previous piece, ABC reporter Jake Tapper highlighted an American Spectator article that derided Huckabee as "a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics."
One could argue that Stephanopoulos's critique hit Huckabee from the right and, by quoting Schlafly, questioned whether the former governor is conservative enough to be the GOP nominee. However, just two weeks ago ABC medical expert Dr. Tim Johnson conducted a fawning interview with Hillary Clinton over her health care plan. He lauded the Democrat for knowing "health care better, I think, than any other candidate" and gushed over how impressed he was with the New York Senator's "knowledge base." She certainly didn't face any adversarial quotes about temperament and "questionable ethics." For more, check the October 23 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
To be fair, Stephanopoulos did offer some neutral questions and even this softball: "I know you had a big concert on Saturday night...Who's the one rock star you would just love to jam with before the end of this campaign?" And, certainly, hitting a GOP candidate on the issue of being conservative enough is valuable for Republican primary voters. But if Mike Huckabee is going to have to respond to such stinging critiques, it would be nice if Hillary Clinton faced reporters who do more than coo about her "knowledge base."
A transcript of the Stephanopoulos segment, which aired at 7:16am on October 30:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is where I began with Governor Huckabee, earlier this morning. Good morning, Huckabee. Boy, the better you do, the bigger the target you've become. Some of your old adversaries in Arkansas are stepping out now. Betsy Hagan of the Eagle Forum saying about you, 'He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal. Just like Bill Clinton, he will charm you, but don't be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office.' Phyllis Schlafly, 'He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas and left the Republican Party a shambles.' What do you say to that?
According to a new study, those news organizations which hold themselves up as the most neutral and professional -- big newspapers, the broadcast networks and taxpayer-subsidized National Public Radio -- are actually producing campaign stories that are the most tilted in favor of Democrats, while online news and talk radio have actually been the most balanced.
The study, released Monday from the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and Harvard's Shorenstein Center, found newspapers and broadcast TV outlets devoted far more time to covering the Democratic candidates than the Republicans and that the tone of those stories was much more favorable to the Democrats, mirroring the results of a Media Research Center study released in August. PEJ discovered that on NPR "stories about a Democratic candidate were more seven times more positive than negative" and "the tone of coverage in the 30-minute evening newscasts was much more positive toward the Democrats than Republicans" while the morning shows were nearly as tilted as the evening news, with Democrats benefitting from 43.4 percent positive stories vs. 17.6 percent negative stories, compared to 26.8 percent positive vs. 31 percent negative for Republicans.
For the PEJ study, "THE INVISIBLE PRIMARY -- INVISIBLE NO LONGER," go to: www.journalism.org
For the MRC's study, "Rise and Shine on Democrats: How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats On the Road to the White House," go to: www.mrc.org
The PEJ study looked at a wide array of media -- broadcast and cable TV, liberal and conservative talk radio, public radio, newspapers and the Internet -- but in most cases used sampling techniques to keep the number of stories to a manageable amount. For daytime cable TV, for example, the group looked at just a half-hour per day of CNN, MSNBC and Fox; for newspapers, the researchers only read stories that appeared on the front-page.
Nevertheless, the study -- which looked at campaign coverage from January 1 through May 31 -- offers additional evidence that the elite news media are tipping in favor of the Democrats, in both amount of coverage and the tone of coverage. According to the report, here's how the researchers measured the tone of each campaign story:
Using that methodology, the researchers found that the news sources that hold themselves up as the most objective -- newspapers, the three broadcast morning shows, the three broadcast network evening newscasts and NPR -- were in fact the most tilted, all in favor of the Democrats. At the same time, cable news, commercial talk radio and online news were overall more balanced (with conservative and liberal talk radio basically cancelling each other out).
[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Some key details from the massive report:
# National Public Radio: According to the report, "like the media overall, the first 30 minutes NPR's Morning Edition produced more stories about Democratic candidates than Republicans (41% vs. 24%). What was different was how little negative coverage Democrats received, especially compared with all other media. Stories about a Democratic candidate were more seven times more positive than negative: 41% positive vs. 6% negative." For Republicans, the comparable figures are 30 percent positive vs. 20 percent negative.
# Newspapers: The researchers examined the front pages of 13 daily newspapers, checking the New York Times every day and a dozen other papers every other day. "Democrats got much more positive coverage in the daily papers examined than they did elsewhere. Fully 59% of all stories about Democrats had a clear, positive message vs. 11% that carried a negative tone. That is roughly double the percentage of positive stories that we found in the media generally....For the top tier Democrats, the positive tilt was even more the case than for Democrats in general."
# Evening Newscasts: "The tone of coverage in the 30-minute evening newscasts was much more positive toward the Democrats than Republicans." An accompanying chart shows that nearly four in ten evening news stories about Democrats (39.5%) were rated as positive, while just 17.1 percent were coded as negative. For Republicans, the figures were reversed: 37.2 percent negative, vs. 18.6 percent positive.
According to the raw data tables appended to the report, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric had the biggest tilt in favor of the Democrats and against Republicans, while the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams was the most balanced (but still pro-Democratic). See: www.journalism.org
# Morning Shows: Unlike the MRC's study of TV's morning shows, this study looked at just the first half-hour of each two- or three-hour program. But the report found the same tilted agenda uncovered by MRC: "The [morning] shows produced almost twice as many stories focused on Democratic candidates than on Republicans (51% vs. 27%)."
Exploring the raw data tables appended to the report, the morning shows look nearly as tilted as the evening news, with Democrats benefitting from 43.4 percent positive stories vs. 17.6 percent negative stories, compared to Republicans 26.8 percent positive vs. 31 percent negative.
# Cable, Online and Talk Shows: The PEJ study found cable news overall to be just slightly pro-Democratic, with Democratic coverage 34% positive vs. 25% negative, compared with 29 percent positive and 30 percent negative for the GOP. MSNBC was the most pro-Democratic, Fox the most pro-Republican, with CNN somewhere in between.
The online sample -- a survey of the top stories at CNN.com, Yahoo! News, MSNBC.com, Google News and AOL News -- contained very few campaign stories, just 104 in five months. The tone of these stories was practically the same for both Republicans and Democrats, with twice as many positive stories as negative ones.
For talk radio, the group looked at both conservative and liberal talk radio, with the results basically balancing each other out -- 14 to 18 percent positive for the Democrats and Republicans, respectively, compared to 67 and 70 percent negative. With one exception, the liberal hosts were the most partisan, never praising any of the top GOP candidates or criticizing Barack Obama or John Edwards. Hillary Clinton, however, the subject of more negative than positive reviews on the liberal shows -- 17 percent positive vs. 33 percent negative.
Some news stories on this study have misleadingly charged that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has received mostly negative coverage, such as Tuesday's New York Post:
But to reach that conclusion, one must count conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity alongside supposedly objective news sources like ABC, CBS, NBC and the New York Times.
While the report does not detail the tone of Clinton's by each media source, it does report that conservative talk radio accounted for "nearly 20%" of the 294 stories examined, and that "nearly nine-out-of-ten Clinton segments in conservative talk (86%) were clearly negative in tone." Apply some arithmetic and the tone of Clinton's coverage -- without conservative talk radio -- instantly becomes mostly favorable: roughly 33% positive, vs. 26% negative.
In other words, while Hillary may not be the darling of either liberal or conservative talk radio, the media elite are still showering her with lots of good press.
From the October 30 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Overheard During Dick Cheney's Hunting Trip." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "Has everyone updated their will?"
9. "The crisp air is giving me goose bumps -- no, wait, it's another heart attack"
8. "This can't end well"
7. "My pacemaker also makes bird calls"
6. "I want that quail taken alive -- let's find out what the son of a bitch knows"
5. "Bush was supposed to come, but his father got him out of it"
4. "Condi, grab a shotgun and go get yourself a man"
3. No number 3 -- writers making picket signs for upcoming strike
2. "You shoot one old guy in the face, avoid talking to authorities, delay taking a blood-alcohol test and you're labeled a bad guy"
-- Brent Baker