ABC's Terry Moran, who back in 2006 was already enthralled with Barack Obama (“You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon”), on Monday night from Iraq refrained from such infatuation as ABC's World News, nonetheless, gave Obama a lengthy platform to espouse his Iraq policy. Moran began his lead story by trumpeting how “Barack Obama came to Baghdad, and he brought his star power with him.
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center (MRC), the publisher of NewsBusters. He’s been the central figure in the MRC’s News Analysis Division since the MRC’s 1987 founding and in 2005 spearheaded the launch of NewsBusters.
Baker oversees the selection of the award nominees and “winners” for the MRC’s “DisHonors Awards,” presented at an annual gala, and each week he helps the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard select a “Mainstream Media Scream.” Those picks are added, on a one week delay, to NewsBusters. (Archive for 2012-2014 on MRC.org)
In 2001, Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes dubbed Baker “the scourge of liberal bias.”
For 13 years he compiled and edited the daily CyberAlert e-mail and online report. In late May of 2009 the CyberAlert became an e-mail-only product based on BiasAlert postings on the MRC's Web site. BiasAlerts since early 2012. (In February 2015, the MRC discontinued posting BiasAlerts on MRC.org and began feeding the newsletter via CyberAlert posts on NewsBusters).
An avid fan of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey team, in January of 2009 the Washington Post's "DC Sports Bog" took note of Baker's attendance at a Caps game with John Kerry: "The Caps, John Kerry and a Scourge."
Baker lived in Massachusetts through high school, whereupon he fled the liberal commonwealth for George Washington University in DC and, since graduation, a life in Northern Virginia. Full bio on MRC.org.
The tree doesn't grow far from the apple. A little under two years after Katie Couric, Dan Rather's successor as anchor of the CBS Evening News, suggested just before the 2006 election that President Bush was manipulating gas prices to benefit Republican candidates, on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show over the weekend a conspiratorial Rather predicted “the people who can affect the price of oil would prefer a Republican” presidential victory, so “watch the price of oil.” Rather didn't identify these people, but presumably he meant Big Oil executives who he thinks can raise or lower prices at their whim. In the “Tell me something I don't know” segment, Rather told Matthews:
Things to watch with the thought in mind many people vote their pocketbooks when it comes to voting for President: price of oil. The price of oil has been high. The people who can affect the price of oil would prefer a Republican presidential candidate. Watch the price of oil. If it goes down, which it may very well it could help John McCain quite a bit.
Matthews tried to clarify: “October surprise?” Rather promised “October or before” and then anticipated “you'll hear the argument, 'listen, we never were in a recession, it was a near recession but wasn't actually a recession.'” Of course, as things stand now, that would be the truth, but in Rather's eyes that apparently would reflect some kind of nefarious scheme to fool the public.
For the second night in a row, on Sunday night the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Barack Obama's overseas trip as CBS Evening News anchor Forrest Sawyer trumpeted: “Tonight, Barack Obama on the U.S. challenge in Afghanistan, laying out the stakes in an exclusive CBS News interview.” Reporter Lara Logan set up a condensed version of her interview which had consumed the first ten minutes of Face the Nation: “Speaking out for the first time since arriving in Kabul this weekend, Senator Barack Obama offered a bleak assessment of the worsening conditions inside Afghanistan.”
On ABC's World News, anchor David Muir led with how “Barack Obama is calling it one of the biggest mistakes made in the war on terror: The Bush administration's decision to focus on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.” NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt admired Obama's need to walk on a “diplomatic and political tight rope, trying to balance his role as a U.S. Senator versus that of a presidential candidate” before heralding:
His words tonight are reverberating from the war fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Pentagon.
A great first day on national television news for Barack Obama as he began his much-hyped overseas trip with a stop in Kuwait before moving on to Afghanistan. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, seemingly channeling the media's own excitement, on Saturday night hailed it as “a trip that seems to be captivating the rest of the world as much, if not more so, than many in the United States.”
ABC, CBS and CNN showcased video of Obama making a basketball shot at a gym with troops in Kuwait. Over video troops cheering Obama as he walked into the gym, on ABC's World News Jim Sciutto touted: “Though the destinations were new, the greeting was familiar. Senator Barack Obama signing autographs with soldiers on his first stop in Kuwait, even taking time to play some basketball...” Forrest Sawyer, anchoring the CBS Evening News on Saturday night, apparently with a new job after many years with ABC and MSNBC, highlighted how Obama “sank a shot from way outside the paint.” Sawyer announced over matching video:
Now, before Afghanistan Senator Obama stopped off in Kuwait to talk to the troops there. You remember all that grief Obama got for being a terrible bowler? Well, at a local gym someone handed him a basketball and he promptly sank a shot from way outside the paint. He made it look easy. You just have to pick the game.
Will Katie Couric be as tough with Barack Obama as North Korean television is with Kim Jong Il? The last time Couric (and the other anchors to, for that matter) interviewed Obama the liberal Democrat had no more to fear from her and them than the communist dictator ever has from his state media.
Pressed at the TV critics session with the networks in Beverly Hills on Friday as to whether ABC, CBS and NBC sending their anchors along with Barack Obama on his overseas trip is “justified or reflect media infatuation with the presumptive Democratic nominee,” the AP's Lynn Elber reported (as did the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes) CBS News correspondent Jeff Greenfield predicted: “I have a strong hunch the people interviewing Obama will have tough questions. It's not like North Korean television covering (communist leader) Kim Jong Il.” Couric, also appearing via satellite from New York City, promised: “It's not going to be like, 'How do you like the weather in Jordan, Senator?'”
Yet, when Couric last sat down with Obama, back on June 4 when he had become the presumptive nominee, Couric was so giddy she couldn't complete her question: “Did you ever think you'd see this day? I mean, are you still just completely-” Pressing Obama about picking Hillary Clinton as his VP consumed five of her seven questions aired in the CBS Evening News excerpt.
Toward the end of the lead story on Friday's CBS Evening News about Barack Obama embarking on a trip to the Middle East and Europe, Jeff Greenfield acknowledged: “This saturation coverage has already led the conservative blogosphere to offer blistering critiques of a liberal media slavishly treating Obama as a pop star.” But, Greenfield assured anchor Katie Couric, who, along with Brian Williams and Charles Gibson, will accompany Obama, “the sheer presence of media in no way guarantees favorable coverage. In some ways, it makes the possibility of a misstep that much more dangerous.” That prompted a worried Couric to wonder: “What do you think is the biggest potential landmine for him?”
When Greenfield advised that Obama “doesn't have to equal McCain” in foreign policy expertise, “he just has to make voters seem like he's okay, he knows what he's talking about,” Couric chirped in: “Especially if he draws big crowds, right? That might help him as well.” Greenfield insisted: “I think the sight of an American politician being cheered in Europe at this stage would probably be welcomed by most Americans.” Couric had cheerily led her newscast:
Good evening, everyone. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, is about to begin a major overseas tour designed to bolster his foreign policy and national security resume, and help him be seen as a credible Commander-in-Chief and potential leader of the free world...
The media love affair with Al Gore continues. Thursday night, after Gore delivered a speech calling for the end of “carbon-based fuels” within ten years, CBS anchor Katie Couric asserted that “as many as 10 million families could have their electricity shut off this year because they simply can't pay their bills,” but, she assured viewers, “Al Gore says there is a green answer.” Reporter Nancy Cordes then trumpeted: “The man who has cast himself as the country's environmental conscience issued an audacious dare to America's next President.” Cordes concluded with how “both Barack Obama and John McCain accepted Gore's challenge. As McCain put it, Katie, if the Vice President says it's doable, I believe it's doable.”
Introducing her interview with Gore, which she traveled to Washington, DC to conduct, Couric hailed: “Al Gore laid down a green gauntlet today.” And she couldn't resist reminding viewers that Gore's “environmental work earned him a Nobel prize” before she helpfully cued him up on energy policy: “It really is multi-tiered, isn't it? I mean, it's a national security issue, it's an environmental issue.” Couric soon moved on to pushing Gore about accepting the VP slot or at least “being, say, an environmental czar” in Obama's administration.
“Our Planet,” fill-in NBC anchor Ann Curry teased, "Al Gore's ambitious energy plan for America off fossil fuels within ten years. Is it possible?” Reporter Ann Thompson celebrated how Gore “threw down the gauntlet to the nation to dramatically change the way America generates electricity.” After reporting Gore's plan would cost $3 trillion, Thompson called Gore “undaunted” and concluded: “And he says the time to move is now.”
A Question from Katie Couric on Wednesday night illustrated how members of the media will use lack of majority support amongst whites for Barack Obama to raise potential racism. Citing a new CBS News/New York Times poll in which Obama leads McCain by 45 to 39 percent overall, Couric pointed out “it showed that John McCain had a slim lead over Barack Obama” (by 46 to 37 percent) with white voters so, she wondered: “Is there any way to determine if race is playing a role in those numbers at all?” She didn't mention how Obama leads McCain by a near-unanimous 89 to 2 percent amongst blacks.
Jeff Greenfield undercut her premise: “I really don't think so. White voters have tended to vote Republican for the last 44 years.” The night before, July 15, Greenfield noted: “Obama does trail among whites by nine points, but remember John Kerry lost the white vote by nearly twice that margin in 2004.” And yet a day later Couric saw racism.
In Greenfield's Wednesday night CBS Evening News story, he featured liberal professor and blogger Michael Fauntroy, nephew of former DC federal delegate Walter Fauntroy, who contended John McCain spoke to the NAACP in order to appease “Republican moderates” who “do not feel comfortable being associated with a party that's known as hard right.” What “hard right” party? I wish there still was one.
A night after ABC anchor Charles Gibson hit full panic mode by leading with how “markets are gyrating, inflation is rising, banks are closing” and suggesting money is only safe “under the mattress,” on Wednesday night he actually began with how “Wall Street posts its best day in months. Financial stocks rise. The price of oil falls.” But he couldn't be completely upbeat as he proceeded to note that “consumer prices also rose sharply.”
Katie Couric, however, was one hundred percent negative. After teasing Wednesday's CBS Evening News by asserting “the economic vise tightens,” Couric intoned over a matching graphic (see above):
Good evening, everyone. We wish we didn't sound like a broken record, but once again tonight there is troubling economic news. Americans are getting it from all sides. From inflation. Today the government reported the second-biggest monthly increase since 1982. To the mortgage mess where a tight market has sent prices tumbling 29 percent in one year in southern California. And the banking crisis. The FBI is now investigating the failed bank IndyMac for fraud. We have a team of correspondents covering these economic developments tonight...
Hitting full panic mode on Tuesday night, ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Markets are gyrating, inflation is rising, banks are closing. Consumer pessimism is at an all-time high.” Actually, only one bank. Gibson explained “we are going to devote a large part of our broadcast tonight to the economy because the news each day seems unrelentingly bad.”
It certainly is on television news where Gibson brought aboard a group of three experts “to help us separate fact from fear,” but they and Gibson spread fear as he put himself in the place of a viewer and wondered: “My house is falling apart, the real estate mortgage companies may be in trouble, and now I hear about possible bank failures. And the stock market is tanking. So how do I be thoughtful about what I do with my money?” An exasperated Gibson soon pleaded:
Tell me where people go now to make sure their money is safe. With stocks down, you think the safest place to do is in the bank, and now we're told that there could be a lot of bank failures. So where do you put your money that you know it's safe? Under the mattress?
With “WORST. WEEK. EVER?” on screen above the promise of “NO BIAS, NO BULL,” Friday's CNN Election Center show devoted a story to John McCain's bad week, but afterward, Mark Halperin, the former ABC News political director now with Time magazine, declared that McCain's challenge are less his supposed gaffes than “his problem is stopping the press and the Democrats from making this what the election is about.” Specifically, “I think the problem is that the press right now and the Democrats are trying to seize on every mistake, the Democrats are being very adept at creating the story of the day when John McCain misspeaks.”
Before Halperin, the 8 PM EDT CNN show anchored by Campbell Bran ran a set up piece by Dana Bash who ran through a series of events in McCain's campaign, such as Phil Gramm's America is in a “mental recession,” but also McCain's “politically perilous” decision to express in Michigan his pro-free trade position. Halperin scolded her:
I have great respect for Dana Bash, but I'd say that some of the examples in her piece, I don't think were particularly bad. John McCain is a free trader. We've had free traders as Presidents who've been elected almost every election in modern times. So I don't think everything that the press is picking on is necessarily a gaffe or a problem.
Three weeks ago when a Newsweek poll put Democrat Barack Obama 15 points ahead of Republican John McCain, the ABC and CBS evening newscasts highlighted the out of sync finding. But when a new Newsweek survey released Friday placed Obama a mere three points in front of McCain, neither ABC's World News nor the CBS Evening News mentioned it on Friday or Saturday night.
“A startling new poll,” fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell announced during the Friday, June 20 newscast, “Barack Obama now leads John McCain nationwide by 15 points, 51 to 36 percent. This according to Newsweek.” The next night, Saturday, June 21, ABC World News anchor David Muir pointed to “a new poll from Newsweek magazine that shows Barack Obama opening a 15-point lead over John McCain.”
Newsweek's Jonathan Darman failed to consider the inaccuracy of the earlier poll as he expressed his befuddlement on Friday with the slim 44 to 41 lead for Obama: “Perhaps most puzzling is how McCain could have gained traction in the past month.”
Proving the old saw that a “gaffe” is when a politician stumbles into the truth, ABC's World News, which has showcased Americans whining about the inability to afford “joy rides” or breakfast, on Thursday night led with former Senator Phil Gramm's observation that “this is a mental recession”and “we've sort of become a nation of whiners.” In relaying the comments from the economic adviser to the McCain campaign, anchor Charles Gibson conceded “the fundamentals of the economy may be sound, as Gramm argues,” but: “There are a lot of people suffering right now. So, Barack Obama was quick to pounce, and John McCain was quick to renounce.”
Reporter David Wright featured a soundbite of Obama asserting “we need somebody to actually solve the economy. It's not just a figment of your imagination. It's not all in your head,” and then backed him up: “That certainly's what voters seem to think.” A man on the street insisted: “I think it's way more than just our imagination. It's in our face. And we need help.” Wright concluded with how Gramm's “point seems to be that while consumer confidence has been at record lows, other economic indicators are pretty good -- that the fundamentals are sound.” Wright, naturally, countered: “That's no consolation to folks who worry about their mortgages and who are paying these high prices at the pump.”
Meanwhile, on the CBS Evening News after a look at Gramm/McCain, Jeff Greenfield suggested that Jesse Jackson's violent intentions toward Barack Obama -- “I want to cut his nuts off” -- will benefit Obama:
Overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Senate and House agreed to a new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) the President will happily sign, with the Senate -- including 21 Democrats -- voting for it Wednesday by 69 to 29, yet NBC and ABC painted it as “controversial” based on how the bill blocks lawsuits against telecommunications companies which cooperated with the President after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Though the program tracked communication between suspected terrorists overseas and people within the United States, not all of them Americans, NBC's Brian Williams delivered a more nefarious picture of firms that had “helped to spy on Americans” and ABC's Charles Gibson referred to “the ability to listen in on Americans without a warrant.” Williams announced:
The Senate approved controversial new rules allowing the government to listen in on phone calls and read e-mails. And what happened today is controversial in large part because America's telecommunications companies get unprecedented protection from lawsuits if they helped to spy on Americans in effect.
Gibson asserted: “One of the most controversial aspects of the bill will protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits for giving the government the ability to listen in on Americans without a warrant.”
On NBC, reporter Pete Williams fretted: “This dooms more than three dozen lawsuits against telephone companies and e-mail providers over what they did to help the government intercept communications after 9/11. So this means that no court can now be asked to rule on whether the Bush administration's eavesdropping program was ever constitutional.”
As was pattern earlier this year and last, ABC's World News is much more willing -- than its CBS and NBC competitors -- to acknowledge good news in the Iraq war. On Tuesday night, ABC's Martha Raddatz cited “some really impressive gains” as she reported the plummeting number of attacks in Baghdad, falling from 1,278 in June of 2007 to 112 last month. The night before, only anchor Charlie Gibson highlighted the “upbeat assessment of security in Iraq today from Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen.”
Neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Mullen on Monday night while NBC's Jim Miklaszewski only noted less violence in Iraq in contrast to a “record number of Americans killed in Afghanistan last month,” so “if there's any bright side here...it's that the level of violence in Iraq has come down enough” to allow the military to move resources to Afghanistan.
Tuesday night, CBS anchor Katie Couric offered just a clause on violence in Iraq -- “Iraq's national security adviser called today for setting a timetable, a sign Baghdad is growing more confident as the violence decreases” -- before finding a away to deliver depressing news about Iraq: How though Iraqi oil profits “are on the rise,” the “money is not going to one place it's desperately needed.” That would be ill-equipped hospitals.
When far-left former Democratic Senator Howard Metzenbaum passed away in March, the NBC Nightly News didn't identify his party or apply any ideological label as fill-in anchor Ann Curry hailed his life as “the classic American success story” of a man who “always fought for the little guy, taking on the oil and insurance industries” while he “stuck to his populist principles.”
But on Friday night, Independence Day holiday fill-in anchor Lester Holt accurately described former Senator Jesse Helms, who passed away earlier in the day at age 86, as “a Republican and staunch conservative” as well as “a champion to the right and a lighting rod to the left.” NBC reporter Martin Savidge, however, tagged Helms as “an ultra-rightist” when he won his Senate seat in1972, though Savidge concluded his review of Helms' career by portraying the late Senator's ideology in a positive light: “Helms finally left the Senate in 2003 at the age of 81, and for the rest of his life would proudly wear the unofficial title of the Senate's most conservative Senator.”
Holt painted Helms from the negative, what he was against as opposed to what he favored: “He staked out firm positions against everything from communism and foreign aid to civil rights and modern art.”
FNC's Brit Hume led his Wednesday night “Grapevine” segment by marveling that though “you might have thought it was big news Tuesday when the administration reported to Congress that Iraq had made satisfactory progress on 15 of 18 political benchmarks set by the U.S.,” up from progress on only eight a year earlier, “the Media Research Center says there was not a word about the report on the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News or ABC's World News Tonight.”
Hume added that “the New York Times also ignored the story, and the Washington Post relegated its coverage to page eight,” before he expressed astonishment at the AP's spin:
And this -- and I'm not making this up -- is how the Associated Press began its story on the report: “No matter who's elected President in November, his foreign policy team will have to deal with...the slow pace with which the government in Baghdad operates.”
After leading Tuesday's Special Report with how “last year the administration reported satisfactory progress on only about eight of 18 benchmarks” while this year, in a report disclosed Tuesday, the administration determined “there has been satisfactory progress on 15 of the 18,” FNC's Brit Hume doubted “word of this progress is going to get through” to the public as he predicted:
I suspect that this broadcast tonight -- and maybe some others on this channel -- are the only ones who are going to make a headline out of this. This is not going to be a big story elsewhere.
Indeed, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Iraq while on ABC's World News anchor Charles Gibson read a short update about “increasing dangers for U.S. troops in Afghanistan” since “in the month of June there were 28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month.” CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 was also silent Tuesday night about the benchmarks.
Here we go again. Just as with 2001-2003 coverage of Bush's tax cuts which gave the greatest percent cut to those in the lowest income tax bracket (going from 15 down to 10 percent, a 33 percent reduction), ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday chose to undermine the fairness of John McCain's proposed tax plan (and illustrate the media hostility sure to greet McCain whenever he takes a conservative position) by citing estimated dollar cuts by income level, as if it's unfair for someone earning more to get a larger dollar amount tax cut than someone making less.
Citing the Tax Policy Center, a project of two left of center organizations -- the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution -- Stephanopoulos reminded This Week guest Tim Pawlenty, the Republican Governor of Minnesota, how “your trademark has been that the Republican Party has to be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club.” Stephanopoulos, who failed to hit his other guest, Democratic Congressman Rahm Emmanuel with any numbers critical of Obama's tax plan, pounced on Pawlenty:
The Tax Policy Institute [actually, Center] has crunched the numbers on John McCain's tax plan. I want to put some of them up there right now. It shows that if you're making under $60,000 a year about, the bottom 60 percent will get about $150. The top one percent of people, making about $600,000 a year, get $45,000. The top 0.1 percent -- that's approaching $3 million a year -- get almost $270,000. How do you sell that as a plan that targets Sam's Club more than the country club?
Regretting that “few grownups are concerned about the $526 billion cost so far for the Iraq war without end” because “President Bush and his rich buddies have made sure most of the monetary burden will be borne by our children and grandchildren,” USA Today founder Al Neuharth, in his weekly column on Friday, recommended “a stiff income tax surcharge” to pay for the war. But Neuharth made clear his real motive is to turn those for the war against it:
The surest way to jar us into realizing the unconscionable cost of the Iraq debacle is to impose a stiff income tax surcharge to pay for it. If we did that, most hawks would become doves overnight.
Neuharth hailed Abraham Lincoln for imposing an income tax to pay for the Civil War and stressed how the current rates in the U.S. “are below those of other major countries. France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan all assess higher rates. The Netherlands' top rate is 52% and Sweden's is 60%.”