Before and after Cindy Sheehan’s announcement Thursday that she was leaving Crawford to attend to her ill mother, the networks celebrated her supposed achievements and hoped they’d re-invigorate the anti-war movement. “Did just one grieving mother spark the beginnings of an anti-war movement? We'll give you the 'Inside Story,'" CBS anchor John Roberts promised before Wyatt Andrews trumpeted: "Her movement seemed to catch fire Wednesday night as tens of thousands of people in more than a thousand places attended vigils in support.” He insisted that it’s “very clear Cindy Sheehan has tapped the public's frustration." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas saw “a campaign born of sadness and resolution.” Thursday morning, ABC’s Charlie Gibson championed: "All across the country protests against the war in Iraq, inspired by the mother standing her ground at President Bush's ranch.” On screen, GMA put "MOM ON A MISSION: IS ANTIWAR MOVEMENT GROWING?" George Stephanopoulos claimed “a lot of Republicans would say” that “this is the President's swift boat moment.”
The AP’s Ron Fournier got into the act too, opening a Thursday night dispatch: “What began as one mother's vigil on a country road in Texas two weeks ago has grown into a nationwide protest, putting a grieving human face to the miseries of war and the misgivings about President Bush's strategies in Iraq.”
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Fournier insisted: “While her backers maintain the vigil in Texas, Republican Party leaders are worried that the so-called Peace Mom has brought long-simmering unease over Iraq to a boil by galvanizing anti-war activists. They fear that protests will strike a chord with the large number of Americans who have long felt uneasy about the war yet have been giving Bush the benefit of the doubt.”
A further rundown of those and a couple of other fawning stories from Thursday, August 18:
# CBS Evening News.
Anchor John Roberts, the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth noticed, offered this plug: "Coming up next on tonight's CBS Evening News, did just one grieving mother spark the beginnings of an anti-war movement? We'll give you the 'Inside Story.'"
Roberts set up the subsequent story: "Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, suspended her anti-war vigil outside of President Bush's ranch today after learning that her 74-year-old mother had a stroke. Sheehan's protest has already drawn world attention, but is it affecting public opinion? Wyatt Andrews has tonight's 'Inside Story.'"
Andrews began: "Whatever Cindy Sheehan represents, her movement seemed to catch fire Wednesday night as tens of thousands of people in more than a thousand places attended vigils in support. The question is: In support of what?"
Clip of protesters chanting: "Meet with Cindy, tell her the truth."
Andrews: "To many, Sheehan's cause is the spark that will bring a simmering anti-war movement to a boil."
Unidentified woman with microphone: "You have a sense out there that this is a tipping point."
Unidentified man: "Actually, it's given a sort of a single voice to the peace movement of America."
Andrews: "But is there a peace movement in America? One recent poll showed [USA Today/Gallup] that a majority of Americans, 56 percent, favor withdrawing some or all troops from Iraq. It's not clear if that majority favors an immediate withdrawal but very clear Cindy Sheehan has tapped the public's frustration."
Unidentified woman: "Enough is enough. Our sons don't need to die for this."
Andrews: "Those nationwide vigils were also remarkable because, just two weeks ago, Cindy Sheehan's movement was some lawn chairs and a cooler. But here's what her movement is not: 25 years ago, at the height of Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of people marched on both New York and Washington. You aren't seeing that, says Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs, because most Americans aren't solidly opposed to Iraq."
Jan Scruggs, Vietnam Veteran, standing with Andrews in Lafayette Park across from the White House: "I do not see the passion among the average Joe on the street to bring the troops home, to end the war now. I just do not see that kind of passion."
Andrews squeezed in a brief mention of a contrary view: "Sheehan also has detractors. Many veterans' families, including Linne Blankenbecler, who lost her husband James in Iraq, are not part of Sheehan's movement."
Linne Blankenbecler, Widow of U.S. soldier killed in Iraq: "My husband is not a part of that. He would have never protested this war. He is a supporter of Bush. I voted for Bush."
Andrews concluded: "The anti-war movement faces its truest test one month from now when supporters say 100,000 anti-war protestors will march on Washington. It's a march even organizers acknowledge that's been energized by the emergence of Cindy Sheehan. Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, Washington."
# ABC’s World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "'A Closer Look' at the national anti-war movement created by a single woman whose son was killed in Iraq: The military families who say Cindy Sheehan does not speak for them."
Vargas introduced a series of point-counterpoint clips from two parents: "We're going to take 'A Closer Look' tonight at a new national movement against the war in Iraq, the woman who started it, and the people who do not agree. It is a campaign born of sadness and resolution. In dozens of cities last night, people gathered to show support for Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and decided to do something about the war she does not support. [Cindy Sheehan] Ms. Sheehan has been camped near President Bush's ranch in Texas for nearly two weeks now, asking for a meeting with President Bush, and telling anyone who will listen that American troops should get out of Iraq.
“A lot of people are listening. Her struggle has also created something of a backlash, people who say she's exploiting her own son's death to advance her campaign against the war. More than 1800 Americans have been killed in Iraq, four more today. Some of their parents, like Celeste Zappala, who lost her son earlier this year, say they agree with Cindy Sheehan. Others, like Ron Griffin, whose son was killed early on in the war, say Sheehan does not speak for them...."
# ABC’s Good Morning America.
Charlie Gibson plugged the Thursday program: "This morning a war of words. All across the country protests against the war in Iraq, inspired by the mother standing her ground at President Bush's ranch. But is anyone in the White House feeling the heat?"
In the 7am newscast, Robin Roberts introduced a story: "Thousands of anti-war voices have joined the mission of military mom Cindy Sheehan, who has been camped outside the President's ranch. ABC's Geoff Morrell joins us live from Crawford, Texas. Good morning, Geoff."
Morrell checked in: "Good morning, Robin. There is more evidence that Cindy Sheehan is re-energizing the anti-war movement. Her sunset vigil on the road to the President's ranch spawned an estimated 1,500 others nationwide."
Protesters singing: "I once was lost-"
Morrell: "Crawford's Prairie Chapel Road turned into a place of worship overnight as a tearful Cindy Sheehan and more than a hundred of her supporters prayed by candlelight for an end to the war that killed her son, Casey."
Cindy Sheehan: "I'll never get to see him again. I'll never get to hear his voice again. [edit jump] I'll never het to hug him or kiss him."
Morrell: "This seen was repeated across the country from Washington to Seattle, Dallas to Detroit. In groups large and small. These demonstrations, though no doubt heartfelt, were hardly spontaneous. They were promoted by at least three liberal political action groups whose Web sites provided plans, protest sites and even placards ready to print. All this is unlikely to get Sheehan another meeting with President Bush, but it has inspired her and others to keep fighting. In fact, Sheehan now says she'll head to Washington in late September and continue her protest there."
Following a segment with pro/con on war from two parents who lost sons in Iraq, with "MOM ON A MISSION: IS ANTIWAR MOVEMENT GROWING?" on screen, Gibson bought aboard, from Washington, DC, George Stephanopoulos.
His first question, as tracked by the MRC’s Brian Boyd: "Are Cindy Sheehan and the anti-war movement doing President Bush any political damage? Joining us now from Washington, This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos. George, Cindy Sheehan to an extent has become a focal point, a symbol for those who oppose the war. Has the White House in anyway let her become so by the President not meeting with her?"
Stephanopoulos: "I think a lot of Republicans would say so, Charlie. They would say that this is the President's swift boat moment. Remember last August when John Kerry was attacked by those other Vietnam veterans, he didn't respond. They're saying that the President has made the exact same mistake here by not meeting with Cindy Sheehan. But the White House says 'No, that's not it. If we had met with her she would still be out there.' The protest would still be out there. And the real problem is the violence in Iraq. What we're seeing every single day. Four more Americans killed today. People are going to be sour when they see that kind of violence."
A befuddled Gibson repeated himself: "So they don't feel in anyway that they miscalculated by not having the President meet with her?"
Stephanopoulos: "You know, Charlie, if you put them up to a lie detector they might admit it. But they are not admitting it at all in public. They are saying there is no second guessing. The President is not going to meet with her. Their point, and it seems like a personal point for the President, is that the Crawford ranch is going to be his home, they hope for the next 30 or 40 years and they couldn't set the precedent of letting people just come up to the gate and forcing a meeting with the President."
Gibson: "I know you've been doing some reporting on this. Was it a group decision or did the President make the decision himself that he wouldn't go out there?"
Stephanopoulos: "I think there were others involved but clearly the President was involved in the decision. It shows, as I said, this is his home and he was going to make a decision about his home. But they know they have a big problem overall right now with Iraq, Charlie, and they are going to try and do something about it. The President is going to go back out on the road next week, a series of three speeches and one more time making the case on Iraq, making the case that the sacrifice is worth it."
# NBC’s Today.
Ann Curry, during 7am news update: "Well, last night in hundreds of vigils from coast to coast, thousands of anti-war protesters turned out in support of the California mother who's been camped outside the President's ranch in Texas. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell joins us now with more on this story from Crawford. Kelly, good morning."
O’Donnell: "Good morning, Ann. For the first time since Cindy Sheehan set up camp near the President's ranch, supporters and some detractors in places far away from Crawford added their own voices to hers. Outside the president's other home, the White House, the message was the same as in Crawford, citizen opposed to the war in Iraq-"
Group: "Meet with Cindy! Tell her the truth!"
O’Donnell: "-but countered by a different gathering, in favor of the President's war policy. While in New York City's Union Square, hundreds answered Cindy Sheehan's call, and in Fort Lauderdale, where they repeated Sheehan's request to meet with the President.”
Unidentified Woman #1: "Bush ignoring her is indicative of how he's interacting with the American people."
O'Donnell, over video of very small crowd, one person holding "Bush Lied People Died" sign: "From Boston to Charleston, South Carolina, activism on display."
Unidentified Woman #2: “The real patriots are the ones like Cindy Sheehan who are standing up against this war.”
O’Donnell: “To Cleveland, where they remember the recent loss of 20 Marines based in the area, across the time zones to California, organizers claim volunteers signed up on the Web to attend more than 1500 vigils nationwide."
Group, singing: "We are a gentle and-"
O’Donnell: "The coordination done by three liberal activist groups long opposed to the war. Back in Crawford, Sheehan herself was the draw."
Cindy Sheehan: "I'll never get to see him again. I'll never get to hear his voice again."
O’Donnell: "Her own vigil now in its 13th day. Cindy Sheehan and her supporters may be ready to move but not very far. A local landowner who has property near the Bush ranch, closer than the protesters are right now, has offered them space if they can work out some details. That move may happen soon, and it could also ease some of the concerns in the community from people annoyed by the protest. Ann."
# “'Peace Mom': Spearhead of Peace Movement?” read the headline over the Yahoo posting of AP veteran political reporter Ron Fournier’s August 18 dispatch. An excerpt:
WASHINGTON -- What began as one mother's vigil on a country road in Texas two weeks ago has grown into a nationwide protest, putting a grieving human face to the miseries of war and the misgivings about President Bush's strategies in Iraq.
It's still not clear whether Cindy Sheehan's effort was the start of a lasting anti-war movement or a fleeting summertime story fueled by media-savvy liberal interest groups....
While her backers maintain the vigil in Texas, Republican Party leaders are worried that the so-called Peace Mom has brought long-simmering unease over Iraq to a boil by galvanizing anti-war activists. They fear that protests will strike a chord with the large number of Americans who have long felt uneasy about the war yet have been giving Bush the benefit of the doubt.
The president's falling poll numbers -- less than 40 percent approve of his handling of Iraq -- could drop further, threatening his military plans in Iraq, his agenda at home and Republican political prospects in the 2006 congressional and gubernatorial elections.
But will that happen? Will one woman's demand to meet the president outside his vacation home be viewed someday as a tipping point against the war?
"It's really hard to tell whether this will be a blip on the radar screen or whether it reflects a deep change in public opinion," said John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics. "A lot will depend to what extent Sheehan and her vigil link up with the disquiet we're seeing in public polls, especially with the people who haven't been opposed to the war in the past."
It also depends on factors outside the control of Bush, Sheehan and their supporters. A reduction in violence in Iraq or a legitimate, new constitution for the government would help Bush. More bloodshed and no political progress in Iraq would probably give momentum to Sheehan and her supporters.
No matter what happens, it can't be denied that Sheehan thrust herself and her cause into the spotlight at near-record speed....
More like the news media thrust Sheehan’s cause into the spotlight at near-record speed.