Networks Trumpet Cause of Bush-Hater Sheehan's Anti-War Vigil

The broadcast networks and CNN on Monday morning trumpeted the vigil outside of President Bush's Texas ranch by a virulent Bush-hater, but didn't really fully convey her hatred. NBC's Katie Couric showcased her at the top of Today: “And a mother's vigil. Her son died in Iraq. Now this woman is camping outside the Bushes' Texas ranch and demanding a meeting with the President today, Monday, August 8th, 2005." On CBS's Early Show, news reader Julie Chen snidely played off of Bush's vacation: "President Bush may be on vacation in Crawford, Texas, but one mom wants to make sure he doesn't forget there's a war going on in Iraq.” On Saturday, CBS anchor Thalia Assuras had noted how “while President Bush has heralded the sacrifice of the fallen, his words were met with anger today.” That story featured Cindy Sheehan's accusation: “I'm never going to be able to enjoy another vacation because he killed my oldest son."

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While all the stories featured angry words from Sheehan about President Bush, none pointed out how she's accused Bush of “traitorous” behavior. Sheehan is a founder of Gold Star Families for Peace and that Web site features an article by her, “Lie of Historic Proportions,” in which Sheehan charges:
“The evidence is overwhelming, compelling, and alarming that George and his indecent bandits traitorously had intelligence fabricated to fit their goal of invading Iraq. The criminals foisted a Lie of Historic Proportions on the world. It was clear to many of us more aware people that George, Condi, Rummy, the two Dicks: Cheney and Perle, Wolfie, and most effectively and treacherously, Colin Powell, lied their brains out before the invasion. The world was even shown where the WMD’S were on the map. We were told that the 'smoking gun' could come at any time in the form of a 'mushroom cloud' or a cloud of toxic biological or chemical weapons. Does anyone remember duct tape and plastic sheeting?”

The home page for Gold Star Families for Peace, which displays the Sheehan article.

The site's explanation for the current protest in Crawford:
“George Bush said speaking about the dreadful loss of life in Iraq in August: (08/03/05): 'We have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by completing the mission.' 'The families of the fallen can be assured that they died for a noble cause.'
“In reaction to these two assinine and hurtful statements, members of Gold Star Families for Peace (GSFP) are going to George's vacation home in Crawford, Tx this Saturday, August 6th at 11:00 am to confront him on these two statements.”

The media's promotion of the cause of the one parent began on Saturday. On ABC's World News Tonight, Terry Moran noted: "And near the gates of President Bush's ranch in Texas today, a few dozen people protested against the war. And one of them is the mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who demanded an accounting from the President of how he's conducted the war in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan's son, Casey, an Army specialist, was killed last year. A spokesman for Mr. Bush, who's vacationing in Crawford, says like all Americans, the President wants the troops home as soon as possible after their mission is completed."

# Saturday's CBS Evening News, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed, used Sheehan as a peg for a larger story. Anchor Thalia Assuras asserted on August 6: "While President Bush has heralded the sacrifice of the fallen, his words were met with anger today and questions about the politics of syntax. Here's Mark Knoller."
Clip of protesters: "W. killed her son. W. killed her son."
Knoller: "Led by the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, some 50 protesters today tried to take their pain and anger to the President at his ranch."
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families or Peace, outside Bush's ranch: "He took something away from me that's irreplaceable. He's going on a five-week vacation when we're in the middle of war, and I'm never going to be able to enjoy another vacation because he killed my oldest son."
Knoller moved on: "The passion of their message reflects the polarizing effects of war and may be why some in the administration tried over the last several weeks to call the conflict something else."
General Richard Myers, Joint Chiefs Chairman: "I think I've objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before because, one, if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution."
Donald Rumsfeld: "As our country wages the global struggle against the enemies of freedom."
Knoller: "But when the effort to re-brand the war only fueled late-night comics, the President on Wednesday made sure everyone everywhere knew what he was calling it."
George W. Bush: "Make no mistake about it, we are at war."
Knoller: "And not just once but more than a dozen times in a 47-minute speech."
Bush Clip #1: "We're at war. We're facing an enemy that-"
Bush Clip #2: "To win this war on terror-"
Bush Clip #3: "This war is against killers who hide."
Knoller: "Professor James Thurber of American University thinks the name game by the administration shows a struggle to sell a war that's becoming more unpopular."
James Thurber, constitutional scholar: "I think the President at this point wants to get stronger support from the American public. I think he thinks if he says that we're at war that he'll get more support."
Knoller: "Both the protesters and the President agree that war is the right word, but under the Constitution, only Congress can declare war, and no Congress has asserted that authority since Pearl Harbor. Mark Knoller, CBS News, with the President in Crawford, Texas."

# On Monday morning, on a Good Morning America devoted almost entirely to the death of Peter Jennings, ABC managed to squeeze in a short item on Sheehan, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed. During the 8am news update, Robin Roberts announced: "An angry and determined mother of a fallen soldier is holding a peace vigil outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch. Cindy Sheehan says she's not leaving until the President explains to her why U.S. troops, like her son, are dying in Iraq."
Cindy Sheehan, mother of soldier killed in Iraq, outside of Bush's ranch: "I begged my son not to go, and he said, 'mom, my buddies are going, I have to go.' And so, there's somebody that's sitting up there in his air conditioning who sent our brave and honorable young people to die for absolutely no reason."
Roberts: "Sheehan says if President Bush does not talk to her in Texas, she will follow him to Washington and camp on his lawn, as she put it."

# NBC's August 8 Today considered Sheehan worthy of a top of te show plug as Katie Couric previewed the broadcast: "Good morning, remembering a giant in television news. Our friend and colleague, ABC's Peter Jennings has died at the age of 67. Landing delayed. NASA ways off the shuttle Discovery's touchdown, keeping it in space one more day. And a mother's vigil. Her son died in Iraq. Now this woman is camping outside the Bushes' Texas ranch and demanding a meeting with the President today. Monday, August 8th, 2005."

As Couric talked about Sheehan, viewers saw video of her sitting in a chair by a road outside of Bush's ranch.

About 17 minutes later, Couric got to the Sheehan story: "There's a Texas standoff going on this morning outside President Bush's ranch. One grieving mother is demanding a face to face meeting with the President and she won't take no for an answer. NBC's Don Teague is in Crawford, Texas with more on this story. Don, good morning."

Teague began: "Good morning, Katie. Cindy Sheehan's son was killed in Iraq just over a year ago. She says she'll stay camped out on a road here in Crawford until she has that face to face meeting with the President. Even without Texas' legendary summer sizzle the side of a road in Crawford is hardly a comfortable place to camp but Cindy Sheehan is doing just that, she says to turn up the heat on the President."
Cindy Sheehan, camped out: "You know 'cause he's, he's insulated, he's safe."
Teague: "Safe she says from worrying about his children fighting in Iraq."
George W. Bush, in Crawford, date unknown: "We mourn the loss of every fallen troop."
Teague: "While so many other families make that sacrifice. Her son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed there last year."
Sheehan: "So I will stay here everyday and, and my only condition for leaving is if George Bush meets with me and I want him to tell me the truth."
Teague: "Sheehan did meet privately with the President last summer but says she was still in shock over her son's death."
(Footage of protestors and signs. One sign has a picture of Bush with the word "Liar" over it.)
Teague: "So she and several dozen peace activists marched as close as they could to the President's ranch over the weekend."
Sheriff's deputy to Sheehan: "The President will not come out."
Teague: "And while two of the President's top advisers did meet with the group for 45 minutes to hear their concerns Cindy Sheehan says she'll wait until she gets a visit from the man himself."
Sheehan: "Well I'm staying here until George Bush comes or meets with me and answers my questions and that's what I intend on doing."
Teague: "Well the President will leave his ranch to sign the energy bill in Albuquerque today but he won't pass Cindy Sheehan in his motorcade because he's not taking a motorcade he's taking his helicopter to meet Air Force One. Katie."

# CBS's Early Show. During the 8am news update, the MRC's Ken Shepherd observed, Julie Chen framed the story around how Bush may forget about Iraq: "President Bush may be on vacation in Crawford, Texas, but one mom wants to make sure he doesn't forget there's a war going on in Iraq. CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller reports."

Knoller checked in: "Just a few miles down Prairie Chapel Road from the Bush ranch, there's a makeshift campsite. It's occupied by a few anti-war protesters, led by the grieving mother of a U.S. soldier killed last year in Iraq, and she is demanding to speak with the President."
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace, outside ranch entrance: "I'd ask him what noble cause did my son die for, and if he started saying, 'freedom and democracy,' I'd stop him. I'd say, 'no, that's not why Congress gave you the power to invade Iraq.'"
Knoller: "Cindy Sheehan came to the President's hometown on Saturday, and tried to lead a protest march to his ranch."
Sheehan, talking to a sheriff's deputy: "You're going to let me go through."
Sheriff's deputy: "No, ma'am, you're stopping right here, okay."
Sheehan: "He killed my son."
Knoller pointed out: "But in fact she already met with Mister Bush last year, during his visit to the Fort Lewis Army base in Washington State."
Sheehan, speaking to Knoller: "He came in, and the very first thing he said was, 'who are we honoring here?' And me and my family looked at each other like, he doesn't even know Casey's name, and he wouldn't even look at the pictures we brought of Casey."
Sheehan, shown shouting at sheriff's deputy: "I'm going to go see the President."
Knoller: "Sheehan wants another meeting to tell him face to face of her objections with the war in Iraq. In the hope of calming the anguished mother, the White House on Saturday sent two top aides to talk with her. She said they tried to explain the administration's policy, but she wasn't buying."
Sheehan, talking to Knoller: "Finally, I just said, 'you know what, I might be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid, and I don't think you guys are stupid either, and I don't think you believe even what you're telling me.'"
Knoller concluded: "Sheehan concedes there's probably nothing President Bush could say that would satisfy her, but she still wants the satisfaction of a meeting, and she'll stay here through the month of August to try to bring that about. Mark Knoller, CBS News, with the President in Crawford, Texas."

# CNN's American Morning, 8am EDT half hour, as tracked by the MRC's Megan McCormack. Co-host Soledad O'Brien set up the story: "The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq is demanding answers from the commander in chief. She wants U.S. troops to come home, and she's holding a vigil at President Bush's Texas ranch to make her point. Here's Elaine Quijano."

"Peace Mom" runs on the bottom of the screen throughout the story.

Quijano explained: "Her name is Cindy Sheehan, and she is one voice in the emotional debate over the Iraq war."
Cindy Sheehan, near Bush's ranch: "I'm a mom. My heart was broken on April 4th when my son was killed."
Quijano: "Her son, 24-year old Army specialist Casey Sheehan, died in Baghdad's Sadr City last year. She blames President Bush for his death."
Sheehan: "George Bush said that the families can be, can rest assured that their children died for a noble cause, and I want to ask him, what is that noble cause?"
President George W. Bush, in Crawford: "We're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. We're defeating the terrorists in a place like Iraq so we don't have to face them here at home."
Quijano: "Recent polls show the public support for the President's Iraq policy is falling below 40 percent. And while the President says he's determined to finish the job-"
Bush: "We will stay the course. We will complete the job in Iraq."
Quijano: "Cindy Sheehan says she's determined to get answers from him. Sheehan has met the President before, when he stopped at Fort Lewis, Washington to deliver a speech about the Iraq War."
Sheehan: "My son had only been dead two months. I was in a deep state of shock. Since we met with George Bush in June of 2004, the Downing Street memos have come out, the Duelfer weapons of mass destruction, or lack of weapons of mass destruction report came out."
Quijano: "She vows to camp out near the President's Texas ranch for the rest of his vacation, until she sees him. Two top White House officials, the National Security Advisor and the deputy Chief of Staff, did come out to talk to Sheehan on Saturday, but she isn't satisfied."
Sheehan: "They said they'll pass on the concerns to the President, I've said fine, but I'm not leaving until I talk to him."
Quijano: "The White House says, 'many of the hundreds of families the President has met with know their loved ones died for a noble cause and that the best way to honor their sacrifice is to complete the mission.'"
Sheehan: "The only way he can honor my son's sacrifice, and my family's sacrifice, is by bringing the troops home, in honor of my son's sacrifice."
Quijano: "Elaine Quijano, CNN, Crawford, Texas."

O'Brien, in the Manhattan street-side studio, added a plug for Sheehan's group: "Cindy Sheehan is the co-founder of a group called Gold Star Families for Peace."

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center