Ashamed of American Patriotism; Rather's Pep Talk; Who Didn't Take Off Lens Cap?; Movie Agenda Admired; Goldberg Trashed by Neuharth
1) Ashamed of American patriotism. Bryant Gumbel agreed on Thursday morning with the sentiment that "they shouldn't be keeping a medal count" by nation since "this is not about nationalistic efforts."
2) Calling it the "first controversy of these games," on Monday night MSNBC anchor Lester Holt focused on how at the opening ceremony, "the President added the words 'on behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation' to the Olympic oath." Holt stressed how critics "say it's an example of the overly patriotic Salt Lake Olympics."
3) Too much U.S. jingoism at the Olympics. On CNN's NewsNight Anne Taylor Fleming argued: "It's just a time to mute our swagger. I mean, it is the time to comport ourselves gracefully as a member of the world. And I'm just hoping, you know, maybe against hope, that we are respectful and that the jingoism is muted."
4) Dan Rather's inspiring message to viewers in the wake of the Pearl murder and Army helicopter crash: "It will be a long war. There will be more American casualties. We are being tested. And part of the test is our collective national willpower and staying power. Lest we forget."
5) CBS's Bob Schieffer claimed on Imus in the Morning that when President Ronald Reagan visited the Korean DMZ he failed to remove the lens cap from his binoculars, but pictures show that was a problem experienced by President Bill Clinton.
6) Washington Post movie reviewer Stephen Hunter noted that John Q glorifies a terrorist act, but Today's Ann Curry sympathized with the plot of the movie about a man who takes hostages when a HMO won't pay for an operation. Curry cued up the director, Nick Cassavetes, to push his agenda: "It must be nice...to be in the unique position...of being able to influence people to talk about this issue. What is it that you hope, or what is it that you think needs to be done about it?"
7) Bernard Goldberg's book is the work of a "second-rate newsman," USA Today founder Al Neuharth claimed as he insisted that Rather, Jennings and Brokaw are all "fair." Neuharth charged: "The book is what it calls others. Blatantly biased, from cover to cover."
Moyers fired back at the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes over Hayes'
cover story on him and now the Weekly Standard has posted a rejoinder from
Hayes. The February 19 CyberAlert featured an excerpt from the Hayes
expose of Moyers. Refer back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020219.asp#5
Ashamed of American Patriotism, Part One. Bryant Gumbel agreed on Thursday morning with the sentiment that "they shouldn't be keeping a medal count" by nation since "this is not about nationalistic efforts."
MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught this exchange at the top of the February 21 Early Show on CBS:
Jane Clayson: "To see Jimmy Shea last
night kissing that gold medal, it was really, his story is such an
emotional highlight of these Olympic games."
Shea won gold in the skeleton. His grandfather, who won two medals in the 1932 Olympics, died in a car crash last month.
There's nothing wrong with tracking individual achievement, but there's also nothing wrong with a nation's citizens tracking the success of their nation's athletes.
Ashamed of American Patriotism, Part Two. Calling it the "first controversy of these Games," on Monday night MSNBC anchor Lester Holt focused a segment on how at the opening ceremony, "for first time in Olympic history, the President added the words 'on behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation' to the Olympic oath." Noting that he "gave the oath while standing among the U.S. athletes," Holt stressed how critics "say it's an example of the overly patriotic Salt Lake Olympics."
Holt set up the February 18 segment on The
News with Brian Williams, but without Williams, as caught by MRC analyst
Two other guests for the segment, John Findling and Hank Stuever, defended the patriotism.
Holt asked the British Elliott: "Well,
Michael Elliott, how much of this is related to the war and how much of it
is simply related to this is our culture, this is America, the games are
here, and we do the wave and we do chant USA and that's just the way we
But not all nations are equal. There is a difference between a free and democratic nation, which is hosting an Olympics, exulting its values to a world audience and a repressive dictatorial nation using an Olympics to cement its hold on power.
The essay from Elliott, usually a
right-of-center analyst, appeared in the February 18 issue. The fairly
nuanced piece carried a provocative title, "Don't Wear Out Old Glory:
Sept. 11 boosted Americans' admirable patriotism. But now it's out of
control." To read it:
Ashamed of American Patriotism, Part Three. Before the Olympics end, a flashback to the night they opened. Back on the February 8 CNN NewsNight, regular essayist Anne Taylor Fleming complained about too much patriotic "swagger" in Atlanta in 1996 as she declared "it's just a time to mute our swagger. I mean, it is the time to comport ourselves gracefully as a member of the world. And I'm just hoping, you know, maybe against hope, that we are respectful and that the jingoism is muted."
Anchor Aaron Brown set up the segment observed by the MRC's Ken Shepherd: "Question on the table, is there too much red, white and blue there? How much is too much? Some thoughts on patriotism tonight and September 11th and the games from one of our favorite guests on the program, Anne Taylor Fleming, who joins us from Los Angeles. It's always nice to see you. What's on your mind, Anne?"
Fleming whined: "Well, certainly the games, which I have to confess I snuck a little look at while even during your program -- but I turned back really quickly. You know, the whole idea of patriotism really infecting the games in a positive or negative way. I mean, we had enough trouble in Atlanta during a time of peace, sort of restraining ourselves. I mean, that was a really, I thought, sort of swaggery performance by the country. And you know, I'm just girded for it, and hope it doesn't happen. We've already seen the flap with the tattered flag. The International Olympic Committee first said that the Americans couldn't have it be part of these opening ceremonies, and then in the wake of all of the e-mails and stuff that they got from people, they relented and indeed the tattered flag is now going to have a place. You know, it's just a time to mute our swagger. I mean, it is the time to comport ourselves gracefully as a member of the world. And I'm just hoping, you know, maybe against hope, that we are respectful and that the jingoism is muted."
I'd like to see such condemnations of patriotism muted.
A more inspiring message from Dan Rather. Noting the casualties of Daniel Pearl's murder and the crash of an Army helicopter in the Philippines with 12 aboard, Rather concluded Thursday's CBS Evening News by contending: "We are being tested. And part of the test is our collective national willpower and staying power."
On his February 21 broadcast, Rather bucked up
CBS's Bob Schieffer claimed on Imus in the Morning that when President Ronald Reagan visited the Korean DMZ he failed to remove the lens cap from his binoculars, but as pictures shown by RushLimbaugh.com and FNC prove, that was a problem President Bill Clinton really had.
On the February 20 Imus in the Morning radio
program simulcast on MSNBC, on the occasion of President George W. Bush
going to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea,
Schieffer recalled his own visits to the DMZ. MRC analyst Ken Shepherd
took down his memories:
Last night to end FNC's Special Report with
Brit Hume, fill-in anchor Tony Snow showed side by side photos of Clinton
in 1993 and George W. Bush a few days ago as each looked north through
binoculars when they were at the DMZ. Clinton's binoculars had the lens
caps on, Bush's did not. Rush Limbaugh's Web site has posted the
I can't guarantee that Reagan didn't have the same problem as Clinton, but I'd put my money on Schieffer getting it wrong, especially since he had a whole explanative narrative going about Reagan playing a movie role. And if Reagan did have a lense cap problem, Clinton is a much newer example Schieffer could have cited for his humorous anecdote.
As we head into another movie-going weekend, time to catch up with an item from last Friday caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens. Washington Post movie reviewer Stephen Hunter asked that if in Israel "a man goes to a busy emergency room, pulls a gun, takes the place over and demands policy changes or he'll start killing hostages, what would you call him?" Hunter's answer: "A terrorist." Yet, "if the same thing happened in the United States, according to the grotesquely inverted moral compass of John Q., here's what we'd call the man: a hero."
And that's just how Today news reader Ann Curry looked at the film starring Denzel Washington in which he plays a man who threatens to kill hostages when an HMO won't pay for a heart transplant for his son, a very expensive and hardly typical medical procedure.
At the very end of the February 15 Today, in the only non-Olympic segment of the day, Curry in New York City interviewed the film's director, Nick Cassavetes and his pre-teen daughter, about their frustrations with the health care system. Curry admired how he's using a movie to push an agenda: "It must be nice, also, to be in the unique position, Nick, of being able to influence people to talk about this issue. What is it that you hope, or what is it that you think needs to be done about it?"
A "unique position" Curry was at that very moment abusing herself to push an agenda.
Far from castigating Cassavetes for the film's terrorist-like pro-violence message, Curry excused it: "Nick, I know that you don't advocate, of course, violence. So what is it that you hope people will take away from this movie?"
Curry introduced the February 15 segment:
Curry's "questions" in the form of prompts:
-- "Nick it's interesting that you decided to make a movie about this given your personal experience. Your daughter, Sasha, who's sitting with you, was born with congenitive heart disease. How frustrated have you been with the system?"
-- "Dealing with the bureaucracy of
having to get care for your child. Sasha, do you share any frustration,
specifically about the, about the system, about how it deals with you,
how, how it's made your father frustrated?"
Curry gently raised another point of view: "Right but let me, right but let me tell you what some people have taken away, as you know, from this movie. An HMO lobbying group called the American Association of Health Plans is using your movie to blame, basically, Washington for this problem. Saying, 'Hey it's not the HMOs!' What do you think? How do you react to, to these ads that are now being taken out in The Hollywood Reporter and also The Daily Variety?"
-- For her next question Curry returned to
admiring his advocacy: "It must be nice, also, to be in the unique
position, Nick, of being able to influence people to talk about this
issue. What is it that you hope, or what is it that you think needs to be
done about it?"
The film's preachiness was even too much for the Washington Post's movie reviewer. Stephen Hunter's February 15 review began:
In, let's say, Israel, if a man goes to a busy emergency room, pulls a gun, takes the place over and demands policy changes or he'll start killing hostages, what would you call him?
Why, I believe the answer is: a terrorist.
But if the same thing happened in the United States, according to the grotesquely inverted moral compass of "John Q.," here's what we'd call the man: a hero.
On top of that, he'd be played by that essay in humane charisma, that emblem of decency and intelligence, Denzel Washington.
The movie purports to examine the issue of HMO care guidelines and the sometimes unfair ways they play out. Even the most partisan on both sides of that policy dispute agree that it's about as thorny as an issue can get, and even the nuttiest of them would consider "John Q.'s" solution by gun violence way off the mark. It's as crass and manipulative as a Stalin-era poster, it reduces the complexities to bromides and slogans and it gets so preachy-keen and so tub-thumpingly loud it makes you feel like a chump just for sitting through it....
END of Excerpt
For Hunter's impassioned review in full:
The night before the Today segment, Jay Leno gushed over the movie's meaning to its star, Denzel Washington. On the February 14 Olympic Tonight Show, Leno oozed: "It's a wonderful story. You know, maybe it's just the times we live in right now. But you really feel drawn to him because, you know, most movies about guys running around, something like that, or divorced or whatever, and it's just a guy trying to keep a family together."
USA Today founder Al Neuharth denounced Bernard Goldberg's book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Neuharth took a personal shot at Goldberg, accusing him of being "a second-rate newsman," and insisted that "Goldberg's depiction of the three biggies as biased bad guys is fiction" since Rather, Jennings and Brokaw are all "fair." Neuharth charged: "The book is what it calls others. Blatantly biased, from cover to cover."
The blast from Neuharth, the long-time Gannett executive who launched USA Today in 1992 and later created the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, came in his weekly Friday column in USA Today two weeks ago today. I had forgotten all about it but suddenly recalled it yesterday and so decided to squeeze it in today. An excerpt from Neuharth's February 8 column:
....The author himself was a second-string (some say second-rate) newsman at CBS for 20 years. He took early retirement two years ago, at age 54, because he couldn't make it to the top. Has a fat lifetime CBS pension.
Goldberg's depiction of the three biggies as biased bad guys is fiction. Based on my longtime acquaintance with each, here's what they're really like:
-- Jennings, born in Toronto and still a citizen of Canada, may come across as a bit uppity in Peoria. But he's fair.
-- Rather, a patriotic product of Texas, sometimes wears his emotions on his sleeve. But he's fair.
-- Brokaw airs some of the prairie populism of his native South Dakota. But he's fair.
Andy Rooney, longtime curmudgeon of CBS' 60 Minutes, says, "I think he (Goldberg) put his finger on a lot of things that are true and made a jerk of himself in the process."
My beef with Bias: The book is what it calls others. Blatantly biased, from cover to cover.
END of Excerpt
Below Neuharth's column, USA Today featured
two "Feedback" quotes. One from Regnery Publishing President
Alfred Regnery and the other from Detroit News columnist Tom Bray:
For the entirety of Neuharth's diatribe:
From the February 21 Late Show with David Letterman (www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/ ), as read by Army soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the "Top Ten Good Things About Being Stationed in Kandahar." Copyright 2002 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. "When I go for a ride in my armored Humvee, everyone is really
friendly to me"
9. "All the fabulous new goat recipes"
8. "I've gotten the autographs of over a dozen Mullahs"
7. "You don't really have time to dwell on that figure skating
6. "All-you-can-eat sand"
5. "Did you say 'Kandahar'? They told me this was Canada"
4. "Aren't many better ways of getting out of jury duty"
3. "There's a great duty-free shop in what's left of the Kandahar
2. "I haven't seen The Late Show in six months"
1. "Of all the 'stan' countries, this is the place to be"
#7 puts it all in perspective.
To watch a RealPlayer clip of a segment from Thursday's Late Show of David Letterman's mom interacting with Donald Rumsfeld at the Olympics in Utah, go to the Late Show home page: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/ 
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