"Taliban Officials Say"; ABC Focused on Civilian Killed by U.S.; Bush's Oil Interests Behind Terrorism Fight; Reagan Oldest Ever
1) Introducing two CBS Evening News stories on Thursday night Dan Rather couched statements by the U.S. as "the official version" and then gave equal weight to how "Taliban officials say U.S. attacks have killed more than 200 people."
2) ABC devoted a story Thursday night to supposed atrocities committed by the U.S. against civilians as ABC's Bob Woodruff highlighted the claims of two men who had just fled Afghanistan. He reported that "the Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings." They "believe"?
3) The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offered an odd juxtaposition of the choice facing the networks when asked not to run raw al-Qaeda video: "On the one hand, you don't want to hand the White House a propaganda victory by imposing a blackout on the other side." The "other side" to just the Bush administration?
4) Not a conspiracy, but. Nina Burleigh wondered "whether 6,000 Americans might prove to have died in New York for the royal family of Saud, or oil, or both." She suggested President Bush is only going after terrorism because of "how Big Oil might benefit from a cleanup of terrorists and other anti-American elements in the Central Asia region."
5) Last Sunday on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney apologized for belittling President Bush as "not too smart" for saying terrorist "harbors won't be safe" when Afghanistan is "landlocked." Rooney wasn't too smart as he didn't comprehend Bush's meaning of "harbor" as a safe haven. Rooney reported in his mea culpa that "the producer of 60 Minutes thought I was wrong, but he never refuses to let me make a fool of myself if I insist, and I insisted."
6) On 60 Minutes Mike Wallace prompted former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler to denounce President Bush for his "dreadful decision" to not have the U.S. sign onto a biological weapons convention.
7) After citing a New York Times editorial which denounced the Bush tax cut plan as "ineffective, irresponsible, and a regressive tax cut," NBC's Soledad O'Brien added: "Other critics have said that it overwhelmingly favors the rich."
The Taliban has no less credibility to Dan Rather than does the U.S. Department of Defense? Introducing two CBS Evening News stories on Thursday night Rather couched statements by the U.S. as "the official version" and then gave equal weight to what "Taliban officials say."
Rather set up the first story: "On this fifth day and night of airstrikes in Afghanistan, U.S. pilots may have had fewer targets to choose from -- it looks that way -- but as CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports, the official version is they hit those targets harder than ever."
Martin provided no information casting doubt on "the official version."
Moving on to the situation inside Afghanistan, Rather introduced the next field report: "On the ground in Afghanistan Taliban officials say U.S. attacks have killed more than 200 people including, they say, many civilians. Those claims cannot be confirmed, but from behind the northern lines of the anti-Taliban alliance, which calls itself the United Front, CBS's Elizabeth Palmer can confirm the intensity of the air campaign."
ABC devoted much of a story Thursday night to supposed atrocities committed by the U.S. against Afghani civilians. ABC's Bob Woodruff highlighted the claims of two men who had just fled Afghanistan as he reported that "the Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings." They "believe"? That imputes a level of genuine belief beyond just a propaganda point.
From Chaman, Pakistan, just over the border from Afghanistan, Woodruff began his dispatch: "At this chaotic border crossing today, new arrivals, refugees from Kandahar. They say after a few days of bombs falling outside the city, now they are hitting the city center. 'Today a bomb exploded on a house,' this man says. Eight women and their children died on the spot. Two other men told us that same story. There are other stories too. 'I saw civilians die,' he says. 'Yes, this morning I saw 20 or 25 killed myself.' The Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings, but there's no way to verify any of it."
Then why report such an uncorroborated allegation?
NBC's Tom Aspell at least allowed Secretary
of Defense Don Rumsfeld to react to the Taliban claim. Aspell reported
that "the Taliban claims more than 200 civilians killed since the
raids began Sunday; 140 in the last 24 hours alone. Claims impossible to
verify, regarded with skepticism at the Pentagon."
Network executives, who all agreed to review al-Qaeda tapes before airing any future clips, seem a lot more sensible than the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz or ABC's Ted Koppel.
In an online article on Thursday, Kurtz offered an odd juxtaposition of the choice facing the networks: "On the one hand, you don't want to hand the White House a propaganda victory by imposing a blackout on the other side." It's a Bush "propaganda victory" and not a concern that involves all Americans? The "other side"? That makes al-Qaeda no different in relation to Bush than Democrats who want a bigger prescription drug plan.
On Nightline, Koppel emphasized the ineffectiveness of a U.S. blackout: "Those videotapes are satellited all over the world, including here, by an Arabic television station and they are all over the Internet already." But taking the videos off U.S. airwaves would make them less prevalent and harder to access.
Kurtz opened his Thursday morning-posted online "Media Notes" column with the supposed conundrum facing the TV networks. An excerpt:
The journalistic decisions are getting tougher.
You're a network news boss. Condi Rice is on the phone. She wonders if, just possibly, you might consider doing the administration a favor: Stop running those Osama bin Laden videos, live and unedited.
There's a possibility the terrorist leader might be sending out coded messages to his followers.
Could you look at these tapes first, and maybe just run excerpts?
You think about it. On the one hand, you don't want to hand the White House a propaganda victory by imposing a blackout on the other side.
But what if there are coded messages? (Of course, how would you know?) You don't want to play into a murderer's hands. Although bin Laden could certainly get his message out through al-Jazeera television, the popular Arabic service (which is making as much as $20,000 a minute for hawking the Osama diatribes to the western media).
What to do? This is why you're paid the big bucks.
Fortunately, that wasn't a difficult choice for network executives. As Kurtz noted: "For ABC's David Westin, CBS's Andrew Heyward, NBC's Neal Shapiro, CNN's Walter Isaacson and Fox's Roger Ailes, it wasn't hard to agree that reviewing the videotapes first, rather than rushing them on the air unseen, might be the prudent course of action."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that the
night before, October 10, Koppel set up a Nightline story:
Another beaut from Nina Burleigh, the former Time magazine reporter who proclaimed in a 1998 New York Observer article: "I would be happy to give him [Bill Clinton] a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs."
Writing for the left-wing TomPaine.com Web site, Burleigh wondered "whether 6,000 Americans might prove to have died in New York for the royal family of Saud, or oil, or both." She suggested President Bush is only going after terrorism because of "how Big Oil might benefit from a cleanup of terrorists and other anti-American elements in the Central Asia region." After reviewing the business ties of Bush's father and his buddies to oil-rich nations in the region, Burleigh ominously warned: "It doesn't add up to a conspiracy theory. But it does mean there is a significant MONEY subtext that the American public ought to know about."
So, Bush created the terrorism just so he'd have the opportunity to clean up the region for his father's financial benefit? A financial windfall Burleigh made sure readers realized would benefit the current President Bush through inheritance.
And if the oil industry does have an interest in eliminating terrorism how's that bad? It would be just one more point of pressure to bring upon Arab nations with oil to get them to cooperate in fighting terrorism. Burleigh referred to the "fossil-fueled future outlined recently by Vice President Cheney," but the President wants to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by drilling in the U.S., a policy opposed by Burleigh's liberal friends, an inconvenient fact she ignored in building her grand pseudo-conspiracy.
Below is an excerpt from Burleigh's October 11 diatribe, brought to my attention by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/ ). "Missing the Oil Story" announced the headline over Burleigh's rant:
Recently I attended one of those legendary Washington dinner parties, attended by British cosmopolites and Americans in the know. A few courses in, people were gossiping about the Bush family's close and enduring friendship with the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, dean of the diplomatic corps in Washington. By the end of the evening, everyone was talking about how the unfolding events were going to affect the flow of oil out of Central Asia.
I left wondering whether 6,000 Americans might prove to have died in New York for the royal family of Saud, or oil, or both. But I didn't have much more than insider dinner gossip to go on....
A quick Nexis search brought up a raft of interesting leads that would keep me busy for 10 years if the economics of this war was my beat. But only two articles in the American media since September 11 have tried to describe how Big Oil might benefit from a cleanup of terrorists and other anti-American elements in the Central Asia region. One was by James Ridgeway of the Village Voice. The other was by a Hearst writer based in Paris and it was picked up only in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In other words, only the Left is connecting the dots of what the Russians have called "The Great Game" -- how oil underneath the 'stans' fits into the new world order. Here's just a small slice of what ought to provoke deeper research by American reporters with resources and talent.
Start with father Bush. The former president and ex-CIA director is not unemployed these days. He's been globetrotting as a member of Washington's Carlyle Group, a $12 billion private equity firm which employs a motorcade of former ranking Republicans, including Frank Carlucci, Jim Baker and Richard Darman. George Bush senior and colleagues open doors overseas for The Carlyle Group's "access capitalists."
Bush specializes in Asia and has been in and out of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (countries that revere him thanks to the Gulf War) often on business since his presidency. Baker, the pin-striped midwife of 'Election 2000' was working his network in the 'stans' before the ink was dry on Clinton's first inaugural address....
The Carlyle connection means that George Bush Senior is on the payroll from private interests that have defense business before the government, while his son is president. Hmmm. As Charles Lewis of the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, has put it, "in a really peculiar way, George W. Bush could, some day, benefit financially from his own administration's decisions, through his father's investments. And that to me is a jaw-dropper."
Why can we assume that global businessmen like Bush Senior and Jim Baker care about who runs Afghanistan and NOT just because it's home base for lethal anti-Americans? Because it also happens to be situated in the middle of that perennial vital national interest -- a region with abundant oil. By 2050, Central Asia will account for more than 80 percent of our oil....
It's assumed we need unimpeded access in the 'stans' for our geologists, construction workers and pipelines if we are going to realize the conservation-free, fossil-fueled future outlined recently by Vice President Cheney. A number of pipeline projects to carry Central Asia's resources west are already under way or have been proposed. They would go through Russia, through the Caucasus or via Turkey and Iran. Each route will be within easy reach of the Taliban's thugs and could be made much safer by an American vanquishment of Muslim terrorism....
So many business deals, so much oil, all those big players with powerful connections to the Bush administration. It doesn't add up to a conspiracy theory. But it does mean there is a significant MONEY subtext that the American public ought to know about as "Operation Enduring Freedom" blasts new holes where pipelines might someday be buried.
To read all of Burleigh's screed, or to hear her read it via RealAudio, go to: http://www.tompaine.com/news/2001/10/11/index.html 
As the CyberAlert last Friday reported he would do, on this past Sunday's 60 Minutes Andy Rooney apologized for denigrating President Bush as "not too smart" for saying terrorist "harbors won't be safe" when Afghanistan is "landlocked, it doesn't have a harbor." Of course, Rooney was the one who wasn't too smart as he didn't comprehend Bush's meaning of "harbor" as a safe haven.
Rooney reported during his October 7 mea culpa that "the producer of 60 Minutes thought I was wrong, but he never refuses to let me make a fool of myself if I insist, and I insisted." File that under don't let facts get in the way of airing a personal attack on the President during wartime.
For a full rundown of Rooney's September 23 off-base commentary, refer back to the September 28 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010928.asp#3 
On the October 7 programs Rooney showed how
the pile of letters castigating him for his anti-Bush diatribe was much
bigger than letters from those in favor. He then read from some of the
After conceding Bush was "speaking metaphorically," Rooney concluded: "The producer of 60 Minutes thought I was wrong, but he never refuses to let me make a fool of myself if I insist, and I insisted. Look, George W. Bush, he's your President and he's my President. I feel bad about what I said and I apologize for saying it. Please, don't harbor a grudge."
Earlier on Sunday's two-hour 60 Minutes, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Mike Wallace prompted former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler to bash President Bush for his "dreadful decision" to not have the U.S. sign onto a biological weapons convention, as if words on paper would inhibit terrorists.
The MRC's Brian Boyd tracked down this October 7 exchange between Wallace and Butler:
Wallace: "Richard Butler says it's
imperative for the U.S. to lead the world in banning biological weapons.
He says President Bush had that chance and missed it this past summer when
nations around the world agreed to strengthen the biological weapons
convention that was signed back in 1972."
After using a New York Times editorial as her authority to criticize the Bush tax cut plan, quoting the editorial as calling it an "ineffective, irresponsible, and a regressive tax cut," NBC's Soledad O'Brien added: "Other critics have said that it overwhelmingly favors the rich."
O'Brien relayed the liberal attacks during an interview on last Saturday's Today with Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed this week.
O'Brien argued on the October 6 Today:
"I want to ask you briefly about the tax cut portion of what the
President has proposed. The New York Times says that this plan, and I'm
quoting now is 'ineffective, irresponsible, and a regressive tax cut.' Not
exactly a vote of confidence."
To some in the media, "come together" means uniting to oppose any tax cutting.
Jennings nicely noted on Thursday night that President Reagan is now the
oldest President who has ever lived. He squeezed in this short item on the
October 11 World News Tonight:
Amount of time from when President Bush turned from the podium at the end of his press conference on Thursday night at about 8:47pm EDT to when CBS began Survivor: Africa -- a mere one minute and 25 seconds.
And that was even after CBS mistakenly fed to EDT/CDT affiliates the MDT/PDT start of the CBS Evening News and then as planned ran a promo for CSI. When Bush finished, Dan Rather offered about a 40-second review before signing off.
But, CBS News did return to the air at the end of the EDT/CDT prime time, at 10:50 EDT/9:50 CDT, following Survivor and CSI, for an eight-minute update anchored by Rather.
Due to the press conference, CBS decided to dump the 10pm EDT/9pm CDT scheduled The Agency so that local news and the Late Show could air on time. ABC filled the hour to 9pm EDT/8pm CDT with ABC News and followed with on time airings of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and the Peter Jennings special about Muslims. Even though NBC dumped one 30-minute sit-com in the EDT/CDT feed, local news and the Tonight Show started 20 minutes late. -- Brent Baker