2. White House Reporters Ridicule Scott McClellan at Monday Briefing
3. New Study Finds No Media Honeymoon in Bush's Second Term Either
4. Celebrity Journalists Gather to Help Left-Wing Anti-Gun Group
Monday night and Tuesday morning, all three broadcast network newscasts trumpeted a leaked e-mail that indicated that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper in July 2003 that Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife "apparently works at the agency," meaning the CIA. Teasing his upcoming story, CBS's John Roberts last night breathlessly suggested scandal: "The CIA leak investigation: Is the trail leading right to the White House?" On World News Tonight, ABC's Terry Moran summoned the image of Watergate, saying White House spokesman Scott McClellan's response yesterday was to "stonewall," then ran a series of soundbites showing McClellan yesterday saying he couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation.
This morning, network morning hosts began organizing their "Dump Rove" movement. ABC's Charles Gibson announced at the top of Good Morning America: "The big question, will or should the President fire him?" When a guest pointed out that Rove had apparently revealed neither Valerie Plame's name nor her covert status, Gibson was indignant: "Is that not a Clintonian defense?"
Over on CBS, Early Show co-host Hannah Storm suggested to national political correspondent Gloria Borger: "The President has said on more than one occasion that he would fire anyone in the administration who did leak the name of a covert CIA officer. What sort of position does this put the President in now if, indeed, Rove is proven to have leaked a name?"
And on NBC's Today show, Tim Russert argued: "Karl Rove is deeply involved in all the policy and politics of this administration. What effect will this have upon his ability to function in that role? And as one Republican said to me last night, if this was a Democratic White House, we'd have congressional hearings in a second."
But on Monday's Nightly News, NBC's David Gregory, who in the White House press room on Monday scolded McClellan as "ridiculous" (see item #2), pointed out that Rove, may not be the individual who revealed Plame's CIA job: "It's still unclear whether this new information about Rove answers the question at the heart of the leak investigation: Who blew Valerie Plame's cover?" Even CBS's Roberts conceded that he was told by Rove's attorney that "Rove has been assured by prosecutors that he is not the target of the investigation."
Indeed, the Robert Novak column that first named Plame as Wilson's wife cited two administration sources, and the e-mail that so aroused the press corps yesterday seems to show that Rove neither mentioned Plame by name nor seemed to understand that she was an undercover "operative," as she was described by Novak.
And while Rove last week waived his confidentiality agreement with Time's Cooper, allowing him to testify and thus avoid going to jail, ABC's Moran on World News Tonight nevertheless wondered: "Is Rove the source for New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who sits in a prison cell tonight because she wouldn't divulge her source?"
Now, for more on how each network handled the Rove story, both last night and this morning:
Roberts snidely continued: "But in an e-mail, obtained by Newsweek magazine, Rove told Time reporter Matt Cooper the woman is someone who 'apparently works' at the CIA. When asked about that today, the once forthcoming White House suddenly went silent."
In another clip, this one dated June 10, 2004, an unnamed reporter is shown vaguely asking the President: "Do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?"
Roberts continued: "Democrats today said they hoped the President would make good on that pledge. But Rove's attorney today told me there's nothing in the e-mail that Rove hasn't already told investigators, and that Rove was only trying to steer Cooper away from potentially bad information, not intentionally disclose the identity of a covert agent. He also said Rove has been assured by prosecutors that he is not the target of the investigation."
After another clip of McClellan saying he couldn't discuss the case, Roberts chastised: "It was a bad day at the White House, unable to defend its own on the record statements, unable to explain why what it repeatedly said with such certainty 21 months ago now would appear so demonstrably false."
Back on camera, he told anchor Bob Schieffer: "In the end, this may turn out to be more just an embarrassment for the White House than anything else, and it will be an embarrassment. After all, as you pointed out, Bob, there is a reporter in jail over all of this. Bob?"
A few minutes later, co-host Hannah Storm asked CBS's Gloria Borger about Rove: "There are calls for Rove to be investigated, prosecuted, fired. Is this merely an embarrassment for the White House at this point or something more serious?"
Storm followed up, wondering if Rove should be forced out: "Well, the President has said on more than one occasion that he would fire anyone in the administration who did leak the name of a covert CIA officer. What sort of position does this put the President in now if, indeed, Rove is proven to have leaked a name?"
After Borger argued that a more important question would be to find out who told Rove about Wilson's wife, Storm returned to the idea of Rove's firing: "Just a few seconds left. Do you envision any scenario under which the President would be forced to fire his closest advisor?"
After stories on Hurricane Dennis and the London bombings, Gibson introduced Moran's report: "A huge controversy has erupted in Washington involving one of the President's closest advisors, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. The issue: did Rove play any role in outing a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame? Newsweek reported yesterday that Rove had at least one conversation with a reporter about the CIA agent before her identity was revealed. Here's our White House correspondent, Terry Moran. Terry?"
Moran complained: "For two years, the White House has insisted that Karl Rove had nothing to do with leaking the classified identity of the CIA operative."
Moran: "Now, Newsweek has published an e-mail from a Time magazine reporter to his boss that proves Rove did leak -- if not the name, the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA official, in July 2003. Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a fierce critic of the President's case for the Iraq War. In the July 11, 2003, e-mail, Time reporter Matthew Cooper wrote that he had spoken with Rove 'on double super-secret background,' and that Rove told Cooper not to get 'too far out on Wilson,' because Wilson's wife 'apparently works at the agency,' an effort to discredit Wilson's claims."
Moran then channeled Democratic desires to have Rove removed: "Today, Democrats pounced, demanding Rove have his security clearance revoked, or resign, or face a congressional inquiry."
Moran concluded by suggesting Rove was somehow responsible for the imprisonment of Judith Miller and that Bush, if he were consistent, would fire Rove:
Later in the first half-hour, the MRC's Jessica Barnes caught how Gibson introduced a debate segment between ex-Clinton aide Paul Begala and Republican consultant Joe Watkins by showing excerpts from Monday's tumultuous White House briefing, followed by clips from previous denials that Rove had anything to do with Plame's naming.
Gibson only then got around to his guests, turning first to the liberal Begala: "So, how deep is the water in which Karl Rove now resides?"
Gibson then turned to Watkins, suggesting that anyone defending Rove would be guilty of hypocrisy: "Joe, if this had happened in the Clinton administration, the Republicans would be going nuts."
Watkins again tried to focus on the key details: "Well, first of all, he had to know, it's only illegal if he knew that she was a covert operative of the CIA and he knew that he was blowing her cover and he knew that the CIA wanted her to remain covert, and that hasn't been the case and that's not been proven."
But Gibson again rejected Watkin's arguments: "Aren't you technically, though, burying yourself in a defense on words -- technically didn't know she was undercover, didn't actually say her name?"
Gibson asked Begala: "Do you think there's a chance in the world that the President will ask his chief political advisor to step down?"
Gibson saved his last question for Watkins: "Do you think there's a chance in the world he'll let Rove go?" Watkins said absolutely not.
Unlike CBS's Roberts and ABC's Moran, reporter David Gregory began by describing the contents of the leaked e-mail from 2003, and only then got around to McClellan's refusal to comment:
He then showed a clip of himself at Monday's briefing, questioning McClellan about Rove: "Was he involved or was he not? Because, contrary to what you told the American people, he did, indeed, talk about his wife, didn't he?"
Gregory got back to the case: "The real question is whether Rove committed a crime. No, his lawyer says, insisting Rove never revealed classified information, nor did he reveal that Plame was a secret agent. Experts say the legal hurdles are high."
Gregory downplayed the idea that Rove is the secret source that prosecutors are looking for: "Robert Novak's column, however, based on two administration sources, identifies Plame as, quote, 'an operative.'"
Tuesday morning on Today, Matt Lauer showed a lengthy excerpt of Monday's briefing, including a diatribe against McClellan by Gregory, before turning to Tim Russert.
MRC's Megan McCormack took down Gregory's hectoring comments: "This is ridiculous, the notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail." He continued scolding McClellan: "You're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved, or was he not?"
Then Today ran a short bite from ABC's Moran telling McClellan: "You're in a bad spot here, Scott."
Lauer then turned to Russert: "When's the last time you heard an exchange like that, Tim?"
Lauer wondered: "Well, let me just mention, there is no evidence, at the moment, that Karl Rove committed a crime, but could he become a political liability for the White House nonetheless?"
When ABC's Moran got his turn, he charged that Rove had been "caught red-handed" and ridiculed McClellan's argument that he could not properly comment while the prosecutor was still conducting his probe: "All of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?"
Ironically, NBC's Gregory took the most balanced tone in his story on Monday's Nightly News (see Item #1 above), but Moran and CBS's John Roberts also used their evening news stories as vehicles to continue lampooning McClellan.
MRC's Ken Shepherd reviewed the entire White House briefing that was shown on C-SPAN early on Tuesday morning and drafted this item documenting the White House reporters' scolding tone.
CBS's Roberts was the first of the big three network reporters to confront McClellan, and his question previewed the spin he would deliver later on the CBS Evening News:
# "Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003 when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliott Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, 'I've gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this' -- do you stand by that statement?"
# "Scott, I mean, just -- I mean, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?"
# At one point Gregory demanded to know: "Why are you choosing when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate [to comment on the case]?"
When ABC's Terry Moran got his chance, he charged that Rove had been "caught red-handed" and scoffed at McClellan's argument that he could not properly comment while the prosecutor was still conducting his probe:
Moran disdainfully followed up: "Wait, wait -- so you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore, and since then, you haven't?"
Much like CBS's Roberts, Moran maintained his disdainful tone when he appeared on ABC's World News Tonight.
A new survey of network evening news coverage confirms that President Bush has received mostly negative attention from ABC, CBS and NBC during the first 100 days of his second term. The non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs, which has tracked presidential news coverage since 1989, found that from January 20 through April 29, two-thirds of the President's coverage has been negative, compared to just one-third positive. During the first 100 days of Bush's first term in 2001, a time when new presidents usually receive a "honeymoon" from the press, the coverage was even more hostile: 71 percent bad press, compared with a measly 29 percent good press.
CMPA's methodology consists of tallying every explicitly positive and negative statement, either by a reporter or in a soundbite from a news source, "that evaluated the President's policies, political skills and personal traits." In 1993, new President Bill Clinton received more balanced coverage, according to CMPA: 41 percent good press/59 percent bad press. In 1989, CMPA found that then-President George H. W. Bush actually received mostly good press, with 61 percent positive evaluations compared to 39 percent negative during his first 50 days in office.
An article in Monday's Washington Times by media reporter Jennifer Harper summarized the key findings of CMPA's latest report. An excerpt:
More than two-thirds of the news stories on ABC, NBC and CBS covering the first 100 days of Mr. Bush's second term were negative, according to an analysis released today by the District-based Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA)....
ABC was the most critical -- 78 percent of the coverage of the president on "ABC World News Tonight" was negative. On CBS, the coverage was 71 percent negative. The study called NBC "more balanced" at 57 percent negative.
The analysis also flagged comments deemed judgmental or overtly negative.
"Without comment about how he felt taking the nation to war on such flawed assumptions, President Bush agreed it's time to go to work," said CBS correspondent John Roberts on March 31.
NBC, meanwhile, showcased one Georgia voter saying in early February, "I'm in the working world, trying to make a living. Seems like [Bush is] screwing it all up."
The three networks also had pet targets. Seventy-eight percent of stories about Mr. Bush's Social Security reforms were negative, along with 77 percent of stories on his domestic policy and 71 percent of stories on Iraq policy.
The president got an easier ride on his foreign policies. The study found that those stories were 58 percent negative....
END of excerpt.
For the full Washington Times article, headlined "Bush finds no friends at networks," go to: www.washtimes.com
To see a PDF image of CMPA's press release on the study: www.cmpa.com
Can you imagine the National Rifle Association hosting a fundraiser that's emceed by PBS's Mark Shields, featuring CBS's Mike Wallace and former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, supported by Walter Cronkite and current personalities at CNN and NBC News? Probably not. But a liberal group opposed to the NRA, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, will be doing just that in hosting an 80th birthday party fundraiser for humorist Art Buchwald in September in Washington at the French embassy.
[The MRC's Tim Graham wrote and submitted this article to CyberAlert.]
NRANews.com's Cam Edwards passed along the Internet link for the invitation. It says: "The Brady Center for Prevent Gun Violence is Proud to Present Art Buchwald's 80th Birthday Party and Celebration" scheduled for September 28 at the Embassy of France. The web page for the black-tie dinner says sponsorships will cost from $1,000 to $50,000 and regular tickets are $250.
It promises "Emcee Mark Shields, with Ben Bradlee, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Mike Wallace." So guaranteed to be on stage for the liberal fundraiser are a Kennedy, a PBS "NewsHour" pundit, a former Executive Editor of the Washington Post, and the best-known face of CBS's "60 Minutes."
The event's "Honorary Birthday Committee" is also studded with media names: NBC News health analyst Dr. Sue Bailey, former New York Times columnist Russell Baker, humor columnist Dave Barry, Bradlee, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, Playboy Publisher Christie Hefner, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips, former New York Times columnist William Safire, Shields, Wallace, and Time magazine photographer Diana Walker. For the observant spouse-watchers, the committee list also includes Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau (husband of talk show host and former NBC anchor Jane Pauley) and super-agent Bob Barnett (husband of CBS reporter Rita Braver).
See the invitation at www.bradycenter.org/birthday.
-- Rich Noyes