Bin Laden = Ashcroft; MRC's Falwell Coverup?; ABC Promoted Amnesty International Critique; Katie Couric Gushed Over Jim Jeffords
1) New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis thinks "certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft." Lewis also made clear he doesn't let reality get in the way of his utopian vision for a socialist Britain: "The health service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."
2) Newsweek's Jonathan Alter excoriated the Media Research Center for not condemning a post-September 11 remark by Jerry Falwell, but Alter missed a fundamental point: The MRC reviews the news media, not comments by religious and political figures.
3) Getting to what's really important. On Monday's Good Morning America, from Afghanistan reporter Dan Harris made sure viewers were aware "that according to Amnesty International, at least, parading prisoners of war in front of the media is a violation of the Geneva Conventions."
4) Liberal Senator Jim Jeffords was warmly embraced by Katie Couric, who dubbed him "a maverick" and raved that he "is the personification of one man, one vote, and his story a classic of American politics." Couric gushed: "Jeffords is a man at peace with himself, enjoying work on his Vermont farm, splitting logs, saving a few pennies with some inventive repair work on a wheelbarrow."
5) West Wing star Richard Schiff recalled that he'd only previously seen the District of Columbia "through tear gas" and, referring to the show's liberal "President Bartlet," asserted that he encounters many who "kind of wish that Bartlet was in the White House at times."
Elaboration/Clarification: The December 17 CyberAlert cited how, unlike NBC and MSNBC, ABC's Peter Jennings on December 13 avoided derogatory language in reporting on President Bush's decision to have the U.S. withdraw from the ABM treaty, but the CyberAlert failed to point out how Jennings referred to the Soviet Union in the present tense: "President Bush formally notified the Soviet Union today the U.S. will withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so the U.S. can proceed with building a missile defense system. Mr. Bush said today it was part of the war against terrorists. The Russians say it's a mistake because it disrupts long-standing arms control agreements."
Just-retired New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis revealed that his "big conclusion" about life is that Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft both represent how "certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right." Lewis, whom the Times described as "the newspaper's most consistently liberal voice in recent years," equated the two men in an interview published on Sunday, the day after his final column ran.
Lewis, a Times reporter for many years before becoming a columnist in the late 1960s, also expressed disappointment in the failure of socialism in Britain, but made clear he doesn't let reality get in the way of his utopian vision: "You know, the health service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."
The December 16 Week in Review section featured a parting interview with Lewis. The introduction: "At the age of 74, after 50 years at The New York Times, Anthony Lewis has retired. His last Op-Ed column appeared yesterday. Ethan Bronner, an editor at The Times, asked Mr. Lewis, the newspaper's most consistently liberal voice in recent years, to reflect on his career."
Bronner's first question: "What have
been the large themes of your columns?"
Bronner's second question: "Have you
drawn any big conclusion?"
As James Taranto suggested in his "Best of the Web" column on Monday (www.opinionjournal.com/best ), "imagine if a right-wing commentator had similarly likened Ashcroft's predecessor, Janet Reno, with, say, Stalin."
A bit later, readers came across this exchange. Question: "Have you changed your view on socialism?" Lewis maintained: "I can remember when the Labor government was elected in 1945 in Britain. It was one of those defining events. I was coming out of a lecture hall at Harvard. There were still a lot of troops abroad and all that. The election was announced and it was a Labor landslide, which was an extraordinary surprise. And here was a headline on a newspaper that somebody was hawking outside this lecture hall. And I thought, Well, this is great. Socialism is really going to have a chance. Democratic socialism is going to have a chance. Well it just turned out to be more difficult and the resources weren't there. You know, the health service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."
A great illustration of the cliche of living in an ivory tower.
To read the entire interview, those registered
with the New York Times online can go to:
In his December 15 column, his final one, Lewis also equated Islamic and Christian fundamentalism: "No one can miss the reality of that challenge after Sept. 11. Islamic fundamentalism, rejecting the rational processes of modernity, menaces the peace and security of many societies. But the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is not to be found in Islam alone. Fundamentalist Christians in America, believing that the Bible's story of creation is the literal truth, question not only Darwin but the scientific method that has made contemporary civilization possible."
OpinionJournal.com's Taranto commented: "Now, we have no brief for Christian fundamentalism, but give us a break. There's a world of difference between hijacking airplanes, destroying skyscrapers and murdering thousands on the one hand, and 'questioning Darwin' on the other. (Besides, to question is the essence of the scientific method.)"
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter excoriated the Media Research Center for not condemning a post-September 11 remark by Jerry Falwell, but Alter missed a fundamental point: The MRC reviews the news media, not comments by religious and political figures.
Alter recalled how the MRC's Notable Quotables cited quotes by him, David Broder, Susan Sontag and Bill Maher, yet skipped Falwell. But at the top of every NQ the MRC describes itself as "a bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media" -- not in the religious media.
Alter began his December 14 online piece for MSNBC, to which the MRC's Ken Shepherd and Rich Noyes alerted me: "He's back. Three months after the Rev. Jerry Falwell said on Pat Robertson's show 'The 700 Club' that liberals 'helped this [September 11] happen' and that 'the enemies of America give us probably what we deserve,' Falwell has mailed out a new fund-raising pitch for the Jerry Falwell Ministries..."
A bit later in his article, Alter complained:
"Some on the right have actively protected Falwell. For example, the
Media Research Center, run by longtime conservative activist L. Brent
Bozell, published a newsletter chronicling what it called 'The Good, the
Bad and the Ugly' in media commentary about September 11. Washington
Post columnist David Broder was in the 'Bad' category for criticizing
missile defense in the wake of September 11, as was I for saying on MSNBC
that we should retaliate but not 'go on too much of a war footing.'
Susan Sontag and Bill Maher were in the 'Ugly' category for their
now-famous comments that the hijackers were not 'cowardly.'
Jesse Jackson, many left-wing professors and some far-left politicians also made some pretty stupid comments, but we didn't quote them either because they are not in the mainstream media. And, unlike Sontag, are not part of New York's literary community given a forum in an establishment magazine or, unlike Maher, do not host a broadcast network show dealing with politics. The 700 Club doesn't pretend to be an unbiased news show so the MRC does not monitor it, just as we never quoted what Jackson said on his old CNN show since we were able to differentiate it from the rest of the CNN schedule.
But I'm sure this is obvious to everyone but Alter.
To read all the quotes in the MRC's special October 1 four-page edition of Notable Quotables titled, "Terrorist Attack on America. Media Coverage: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/notablequotables/2001/nq20011001.asp 
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF of the hard
copy version, go to:
To read Alter's December 14 MSNBC piece in
full, go to:
Getting to what's really important. On Monday's Good Morning America, from Afghanistan reporter Dan Harris made sure viewers were aware "that according to Amnesty International, at least, parading prisoners of war in front of the media is a violation of the Geneva Conventions."
Harris's observation came at the end of a December 17 story about how "this morning, the Afghans paraded their Al-Qaeda prisoners in front of the international media. The prisoners looked weak, defeated, many had trouble walking from their injuries. Some sat with their heads bowed, others refused to show their face."
Harris ended his piece, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed, by pointing out: "It may be worth noting that according to Amnesty International, at least, parading prisoners of war in front of the media is a violation of the Geneva Conventions."
As if, compared to Taliban atrocities, that even rates. And what Afghan government with any power now ever agreed to abide by the Geneva Conventions?
NBC's Today provided an approving forum for liberal Senator Jim Jeffords, who gave Democrats control of the Senate, to pitch his new book. Katie Couric raved that "Jim Jeffords is the personification of one man, one vote, and his story a classic of American politics."
Though neither Bush or Jeffords changed their viewpoints, Couric claimed that "Jeffords found himself increasingly at odds with the GOP on Capitol Hill and the White House over issues ranging from education, to the environment, to the size of the tax cut, all of which forced him to examine his core beliefs."
Couric soon gushed: "Today, Jeffords is a man at peace with himself, enjoying work on his Vermont farm, splitting logs, saving a few pennies with some inventive repair work on a wheelbarrow."
Interviewing Jeffords, Couric tagged him a "maverick" and avoided any tough questions about his motivation or whether he has responsibility for the current gridlock which is preventing bills from getting passed. Instead, she prompted him to expound on how Republicans don't want to spend enough on education and portrayed those he betrayed as the ingrates for giving him the "cold shoulder."
Couric set up the 8am half hour segment on
December 17: "Last May, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords bolted from the
GOP and became an Independent, a move which handed control of the Senate
to the Democrats and shocked political Washington."
-- "How tough a decision was this in retrospect?" (Answer: "Really rough, so many people were hurt by it...")
-- "But having said that, you have no regrets?" ("None whatsoever.")
-- "You've always been considered a bit of a maverick. I don't think, as P.J. O'Rourke said, you're going to get your nose pierced anytime soon, which he mentioned earlier in this program, but you've always been sort of an independent thinker. Had you ever considered leaving your party prior to last spring?"
-- "The two things that really pushed you over the edge though, this time, funding for special education: you didn't think the Republicans were going to fight hard enough for that. And the President's tax cut. Those were really the two things that were working in concert that made you say 'I'm out of here,' right?" ("Absolutely. Need money for education...")
-- "You also, recently, working with the
Democrats on the education bill, you did not get funding for the
Individuals with Disabilities Act which you care so deeply about and as a
result you've announced that despite your switch to independent you're
going to vote against the bill. So how frustrated are you? Do you feel
like it was all for naught in a way?"
-- "On a personal level, Senator, what kind of impact has this had on your relationships with your Republican colleagues? For example, you appeared on this show a few years ago with a group called The Singing Senators, I think responsible for a number of major hits, including Elvira, at least when it came to our show. And, a lot of these folks, I mean they gave you the cold shoulder, particularly Trent Lott, who circulated a memo saying that you had 'staged a coup of one, subverting the will of Americans who had voted for a Republican majority.'" ("Disappointing...")
-- "And you really mucked things up for him [Lott]."
-- "What is your relationship like with him [Lott] now?" ("Getting better...")
-- "Any political reprisals by Republicans on Capitol Hill or by the White House itself?" ("Not really...")
CBS's 60 Minutes ran a piece on Jeffords on Sunday night. For more about that, refer back to the December 17 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011217.asp#2 
Last week on Today, West Wing star Richard Schiff recalled that he'd only previously seen the District of Columbia "through tear gas and with riot police everywhere" and, referring to the show's liberal "President Bartlet" played by Martin Sheen, asserted that he encounters many who "kind of wish that Bartlet was in the White House at times and that the virtual White House was the real White House."
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught the December 12 interview segment tied to the West Wing cast taping TV ads to promote Washington, DC tourism.
When Katie Couric inquired as to "how you all got involved in this project," Schiff, who plays White House Communications Director "Toby Zeigler," replied: "We were just asked to participate in it. Happily, certainly I happily volunteered to do it for them. And the rest of the cast, I think, did too. And, you know, for me, the city has been great to us. It's a beautiful, beautiful city which I never knew. The only time I had been there in my life before I started working on The West Wing was in a demonstration about 30 years ago. And I'd only seen the city through tear gas and with riot police everywhere. So I had no idea what a beautiful, beautiful city it is and it truly is. And the people there have been great to us. It's an inspiring place to be actually."
Couric later jokingly asked: "Are you
afraid that tourists coming to the White House might go to the White House
thinking they're going to see President Bartlet instead of President
The West Wing airs Wednesday nights at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT on NBC.
Some noteworthy appearances this week on the late night talk shows by TV reporters and a media-related plot on a prime time show. Since CyberAlert readership is sure to decline as Christmas approaches, though a couple of these events will not air for a few days, I thought I'd put out this information in advance.
-- ABC's Cokie Roberts is scheduled to be a guest tonight, Tuesday December 18, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
-- ABC's Peter Jennings is scheduled to make a rare late night appearance on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman on Friday night, December 21.
-- The plot of Thursday's (December 20) The
Agency, a show on CBS about the CIA, as outlined on the program's Web
The Web page for The Agency, which airs at
10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT:
And, don't forget about She Says: Women in News on PBS tonight, December 18. As detailed in the December 17 CyberAlert: On the PBS show to air Tuesday night, ABC's Carole Simpson reveals she doesn't think network news is liberal enough as she will bemoan how the elimination of the "American Agenda" segment on the weekday World News Tonight means "it's kind of a depressing time right now. I don't think we are fulfilling what I always thought was our historic role, which was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." For more, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011217.asp 
> I anticipate the "Best Notable Quotables of 2001: The Fourteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting," as judged by over 40 media observers, will be posted today on the MRC home page. I'll send an e-mail as soon as it is up. -- Brent Baker