News Media Ignored Lieberman, But Leno Pressed Dean About Senator's Stance

After leading their evening newscasts with Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s call for a withdrawal from Iraq, the ABC and CBS shows on Tuesday skipped Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman’s disclosure that, after a recent trip to Iraq, he saw "real progress" and argued against withdrawing troops. The NBC Nightly News merely gave Lieberman a brief soundbite. But on Wednesday’s Tonight Show on NBC, Jay Leno raised the perspective of the 2000 Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate with Howard Dean, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Leno characterized Lieberman’s position as one which “more or less agrees with the President” as he pressed Dean: “How about Joe Lieberman now? Obviously a prominent Democrat....He came back, and he's been there a few times to Iraq. And he more or less agrees with the President, correct?" Dean, who dismissed Bush’s speech as “repetitive dribble,” began his answer: “Everybody gets to march to their own drummer in this party...” (Transcript of the exchange follows.)

An excerpt from the top of a November 29 NewsBusters posting, “Broadcast Nets, Which Led With Murtha, Ignore Lieberman.”

Twelve days ago when Democratic Congressman John Murtha, who had long been critical of the Bush administration’s running of the war, advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all emphasized his importance and influence as they led with his press conference. CBS showcased Murtha’s attack on Vice President Dick Cheney’s lack of military service and ABC ran a 90-second excerpt of Murtha. But on Tuesday night, after the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed (“Our Troops Must Stay”) from the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman, in which he cited “real progress” in Iraq and argued against withdrawing troops, ABC and CBS didn’t utter a syllable about his assessment. The NBC Nightly News, at least, squeezed in a soundbite from Lieberman, though David Gregory also highlighted a puny protest as he relayed how “opposition to the war followed the President today to a Denver fundraiser, as more than a hundred angry critics met Mr. Bush's motorcade.” In his op-ed, Lieberman had bemoaned: “What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.”

ABC’s World News Tonight, which led with multiple stories from New Orleans on the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, held its coverage of Iraq to a brief item on “peace activists” taken hostage and anchor Elizabeth Vargas provided a 20-second preview of Bush’s Wednesday speech on his Iraq policy.

Snowstorms topped the CBS Evening News before David Martin provided a story on how Secretary of Defense “Rumsfeld rattled off signs of progress,” which Martin ran through. “For all the progress cited by administration officials,” Martin then ominously concluded, “one key factor shows no sign of improving: For the past two months, an average of three Americans has been killed each day in Iraq, and that's the highest since January." Anchor Bob Schieffer then turned to Lara Logan in Baghdad who said one of Rumsfeld’s assertions “simply isn't true” and undermined a couple of others.

END of Excerpt

As for newspapers, those which put Murtha on the front page, weren’t so excited about Lieberman’s position. FNC’s Brit Hume noted Wednesday night: “The Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today...ran not a word" on Lieberman.

The relevant exchange from the November 30 Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC:

Jay Leno: “Let's talk about some of the issues here. Bush's speech today. What did you think?”

Howard Dean: “Hmm. My job is I'm supposed to be tactful now. It doesn’t come easy.”

Leno: “Oh, no, forget that.”

Dean: “I thought it was his usual nonsense, and repetitive dribble that we've heard for the last two-and-a-half years.”

Leno: “Well, that's tactful.”

Dean: “Well, I mean, he didn't say anything new. He's defending a strategy that was built on things that weren't true, and, of course, we're in trouble. And I think staying the course is not a strategy, especially when you didn't tell the truth to get us there in first place.”

Leno: “Okay. Well, how about Joe Lieberman now? Obviously a prominent Democrat.”

Dean: “Now, I really have to be tactful.”

Leno: “Well, I mean, he came back, and he's been there a few times to Iraq. And he more or less agrees with the President, correct?”

Dean: “Everybody gets to march to their own drummer in this party. What we need to do is have a real strategy to make sure that we have the strategic redeployment. We need not to have 150,000 troops that are being attacked every single day in Iraq. We shouldn't have been there in the first place and the fact is, we've made a big mess over there. We've created more of a danger than there was in the first place, and probably one of the results is that we did something Iran couldn’t do, we helped them win their objectives within the Iran-Iraq war. So, we're in a lot of trouble in Iraq and John Murtha's right, we ought not to be hurting more Americans, and having more American wounded kids come home, and be in the kind of position they're in.” [cheers and applause from audience]

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