At a forum with President George W. Bush Wednesday at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, West Virginia, Gayle Taylor, the wife of a member of the military recently returned from Iraq, was drowned out by a standing ovation when she told Bush: "It seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus-" Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News found the criticism of the news media to be newsworthy. NBC's David Gregory instead decided to assert that “in a state he won twice...many here now wonder whether the sacrifice of American lives has been worth it.” NBC viewers then heard from one Mountain State resident, Donna Neptune, whom Gregory described as “a Republican." She maintained: “Those people don't want our help. Our people's being killed over there for nothing."
ABC's World News Tonight, however, was unique amongst the broadcast evening newscasts and highlighted the contention from the woman anchor Elizabeth Vargas described as “the wife of a military journalist who was just back from Iraq." Vargas set up the brief soundbite: “There has been criticism from the Bush administration and others that the media has been ignoring the good news in Iraq, distorting what's really going on there.”After the clip of Taylor, Vargas acknowledged that “it is certainly true that many of the stories from Iraq involve violence, and fear,” but she argued “it is also true that we cover all kinds of stories in Iraq. The last story Bob [Woodruff] filed before” the attack which severely wounded him, “was about a Baghdad ice cream parlor” and “when I was in Iraq in December, we spent time at this ballet school for children.” (Transcripts follow)
CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer held his coverage of the event to this short item:
"President Bush took his campaign to urge support for the Iraq War to West Virginia today. He told an audience there that it is time for the Iraqi government to unify the country and for the Iraqi army to defend democracy."
The article posted on the WashingtonPost.com, by Bill Brubaker, at 4pm EST, “Bush Defends Iraq Decision, Addresses WMD Intelligence," ignored Taylor's remark.
FNC's Carl Cameron highlighted Taylor during his taped piece on Special Report with Brit Hume. Cameron observed:
“Mr. Bush, having noted often recently that media coverage of the violence in Iraq often obscures progress, had to be pleased when the wife of a soldier just back from Tikrit complained that it's overly negative.”
Woman in audience, Gayle Taylor: “It seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good.” [loud applause and standing ovation]
Bush: “I know you're frustrated with what you are seeing, but there are ways in this new kind of age being able to communicate that you'll be able to spread the message that you want to spread.”
Cameron: “Mr. Bush specifically recommended using alternatives like the Internet, but made clear he was not criticizing or trying to mute the nation's free press.”
Bush: “We will never do that in America. I mean, the minute we start trying to suppress our press, we look like the Taliban.”
An AP dispatch posted on Yahoo provided this quotation of Taylor, without identifying her:
“Another standing ovation was prompted by a woman who asked Bush what could be done to keep the press from ignoring progress in Iraq. 'Our major media don't want to portray the good,' she said. 'If the American people could see it, there would never be another negative word about this conflict.'"
The story on the event posted Wednesday afternoon by the New York Times, “Bush Says 'It's Time' for Unity Government in Iraq,” by John O'Neil, provided this summary of the reaction Taylor generated:
“The questions were overwhelmingly friendly, and the crowd gave two questioners standing ovations. One was for a man with two sons in the military who declared, 'I thank God you are their commander in chief.' The other was for a woman married to an Army officer who had returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with a DVD showing reconstruction work that she wished she could have broadcast by the major networks. 'If the American people could see it, there would never be another negative word about this conflict,' she said, to cheers.”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the March 22 NBC and ABC stories:
Anchor Campbell Brown introduced Gregory's NBC Nightly News story:
"President Bush was in West Virginia today continuing his string of public events this week in support of his policies in Iraq. The President said he has told U.S. officials in Iraq that it is time for Iraqis to put aside their differences and form a unity government. He also said election year politics would have no impact on his decisions regarding how many U.S. troops need to be in Iraq. Now to this week's series on the Iraq War three years later. Tonight, the President's decision to stake his presidency on this war: What are the consequences of that decision? Here's NBC's chief White House correspondent David Gregory."
George W. Bush clip #1: "The best way to protect the American people is to stay on the offensive."
Bush clip #2: "Freedom in Iraq will make America safer-"
Bush clip #3: "The rise of a free and peaceful Iraq is critical to the stability of the Middle East."
David Gregory: "George W. Bush has defined his presidency by a war of his own choosing. His mission in the Middle East, built on a doctrine of preemption, has become the great gamble of his political capital."
Bush: "I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war."
Gregory: "After 9/11, the President's vision went beyond answering the terrorists in Afghanistan."
David Frum, former Bush speechwriter: "Is he going to keep the war on terror central to his understanding of what he was trying to accomplish as president? That was the real moment of decision."
Gregory: "Critics argue Mr. Bush had a vision with blinders. The war in Iraq was part of a larger struggle between good and evil -- a war effort of biblical proportions, says Kevin Philips, the author of American Theocracy. He writes that a majority of the President's supporters believes in prophecies of the Apocalypse and the second coming of Jesus Christ centered in the Middle East. The President, he added, didn't suffer from doubt."
Kevin Philips: "And we saw in Afghanistan and after 9/11, a religiously based certitude. When he was asked about the advice of his father, remember how he mentioned he took the advice of a higher Father."
Gregory: "But three years later, reality in Iraq has cost the President even his most reliable support as Mr. Bush's vision for democracy in that country now suffers from new fears of failure. Mr. Bush came to West Virginia today to face critics. In a state he won twice, and is known in part for its favorite daughter, former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch, many here now wonder whether the sacrifice of American lives has been worth it. Donna Neptune is a Republican."
Donna Neptune, West Virginia resident: "Those people don't want our help. Our people's being killed over there for nothing."
Gregory: "Was the war a mistake, the mission unmanageable? Or is success, as the President argues, still just a matter of time? Moments by which this President will always be judged. David Gregory, NBC News, New York."
Anchor Elizabeth Vargas began the coverage on ABC's World News Tonight:
"President Bush spent another day trying to convince Americans that things are not as bad as they seem in Iraq. The President met with military families in West Virginia today. There has been criticism from the Bush administration and others that the media has been ignoring the good news in Iraq, distorting what's really going on there. The President heard this from the wife of a military journalist who was just back from Iraq."
Gayle Taylor, wife of military journalist: "It seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus-" [applause and standing ovation]
Vargas: "It is certainly true that many of the stories from Iraq involve violence, and fear. This morning, for example, the second brazen attack in as many days on an Iraqi police station. Sixty insurgents stormed the station. This time, the attack was thwarted by Iraqi and U.S. forces. And it is true that the violence makes it increasingly difficult for reporters to travel the country in safety, to get out and see as much as they would like. Eighty-six journalists have been killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. Earlier this year, our colleagues, Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt, were badly injured in an attack on their convoy. They had been reporting on the capability of the new Iraqi security forces. But it is also true that we cover all kinds of stories in Iraq. The last story Bob filed before that attack was about a Baghdad ice cream parlor, a business that was flourishing in a very rough neighborhood."
Bob Woodruff: "An oasis here."
Vargas: "When I was in Iraq in December, we spent time at this ballet school for children. And we have reported from northern and southern Iraq, particularly for our occasional series, 'Where Things Stand,' about schools that have been built, about increased commerce. The news is sometimes good. It is sometimes bad. It is almost always complicated."
Next, ABC viewers saw a piece from Jake Tapper on a crew filming, on a Baghdad street, a comedy TV show who were devastated when they got a phone call telling them that their boss had been assassinated.
[UPDATE, 4:30pm EST, March 23. On the Thursday broadcast network morning shows, coverage matched the evening shows for CBS and ABC, but NBC's Today, unlike NBC Nightly News, highlighted Taylor. CBS's Early Show, the MRC's Michael Rule noted, didn’t run any soundbites from the Wheeling event, or even mention it. On ABC's Good Morning America, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, a piece from Dan Harris about the views expressed in postings on an ABCNews.com message board, included a clip of Taylor: "But the vast majority of postings echoed the sentiments of this woman in West Virginia, who shared her concerns with President Bush on Wednesday." Gayle Taylor: "And I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, for a solution to this because it seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus- (drowned out by applause.)” In a story from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, Today viewers saw a bite of Taylor: "Our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus-" O'Donnell related: "That military wife, Gayle Taylor, said positive stories her husband Kent, an Army journalist, brought home from Iraq are ignored by media here." O'Donnell, the MRC's Geoff Dickens observed, then played video taken by Taylor's husband, of men working on a building in Iraq, as a narrator explained: "Renovations to the complex will soon be finished then it will open for anyone who needs medical treatment."]