Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters
Brad Wilmouth is a former Media Research Center news analyst and an alumnus of the University of Virginia.
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During this week, NBC’s Tonight Show host Jay Leno took a couple of noteworthy jabs at the anti-Bush mainstream media in America, on Monday joking that the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush was "offered his own show on MSNBC," and on Tuesday quipping that "he was so anti-Bush, at first people just assumed he was an American journalist."
By contrast, CBS’s Late Show host David Letterman used the episode to jab Fox News as he cracked on Tuesday that the "hot head" Iraqi journalist with "poor journalistic skills" was "offered his own show on Fox News." Below are transcripts of the relevant comments from this week’s Tonight Show on NBC and the Late Show on CBS:
Tuesday’s The O’Reilly Factor on FNC showed a pre-recorded interview with CNN founder Ted Turner, in which O’Reilly got Turner to admit that he and Jane Fonda, who both opposed America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, had ignored the slaughter of millions by the Khmer Rouge communists in Southeast Asia after America’s withdrawal from the region. Turner: "You got me. I didn’t really think about it. You know, it didn’t make the news very much at the time."
The CNN founder, who was appearing to promote his biography, "Call Me Ted," readily admitted to "admiring" Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and expressed doubt when O’Reilly argued that Castro had murdered many people. Turner: "Well, I admire certain things about him. He’s trained a lot of doctors, and they’ve got one of the best educational systems in the developing world, and, you know, he’s still popular with a lot of people down there. He’s unpopular with a lot of people, too." After O’Reilly injected, "But he’s a killer. He’s a killer," Turner responded: "He’s not, that has never, to my knowledge, that’s never been proven."
But Turner only reluctantly praised President Bush after O’Reilly argued that Bush "has saved more lives, sent more money, and provided more medical care for the citizens of all the countries of Africa than any human being that’s ever lived." Turner: "I think he made a lot of mistakes, too, but you can’t, he did some good things, but I think you basically, he’s got a good heart."
On Friday’s The Situation Room on CNN, Jack Cafferty used his regular "Cafferty File" segment to attack Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives, citing Colin Powell’s recent words criticizing Limbaugh’s role in speaking for Republicans. After he quoted Powell’s remarks, Cafferty clarified that Powell was "talking about that gasbag Limbaugh," and posed the question for viewers: "Should Republicans stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?" Later in the program, all the viewer emails he read were harshly critical of Limbaugh, with one even comparing him and Sean Hannity to the Ku Klux Klan. Cafferty, reading email: "Connie in Chicago: ‘Yes! Limbaugh is a far-right agitator of the worst sort with a 1950's mentality of what values 21st century America should reflect. I expect him and other like-minded Sean Hannitys of the world to step out of their closet and display their white sheets and dunce caps. Limbaugh is a bad joke.’"
On Wednesday’s The O’Reilly Factor on FNC, during the show’s regular "Miller Time" segment, comedian Dennis Miller used humor to make a serious point about Barack Obama’s connections to corrupt and questionable characters in Illinois, and whether the President-elect was aware of the darker sides of his colleagues. Miller: "It’s just nice to know that my President-elect went through that entire system – all of these guys – Ayers, Blagojevich, Rezko, the Reverend Wright – and he didn’t notice any of them. At his worst, he is oblivious. At his absolute worst, he is disingenuous. He had to know something about some of these guys. ... We’re told that he’s the smartest guy on the planet on one hand. In the other hand, he never noticed any of this stuff. Come on, get the antenna up there, Barack. You got to wake up."
On Monday’s The Situation Room, CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre conveyed a dissenting view of whether retired General Eric Shinseki, Barack Obama’s choice for Veterans Affairs Secretary, can accurately be described as having advised the Bush administration to send more troops to occupy Iraq. McIntyre: "But Shinseki has his critics, too, who say, in fact, he never stood up to Rumsfeld, never pressed for more troops for Iraq, and, when asked in a private meeting of the Joint Chiefs if he had concerns about the war plans, never said a word, according to two people who were in the room. Asked by Newsweek two years ago to respond to the criticism he didn't press his concerns, Shinseki e-mailed back: ‘Probably that's fair. Not my style.’"
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann compared Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss’s 2002 campaign against then-Democratic Senator Max Cleland of Georgia to a "turkey-killing machine," as part of a segment with Bloomberg News’s Margaret Carlson, formerly of Time magazine, in which the duo mocked Sarah Palin’s part in a campaign rally for Chambliss. Olbermann: "What is the more grotesque event to be standing in front of and not paying attention to?
On Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show, host Matthews led the panel in a discussion over whether conservatives would choose to cooperate with the Obama administration in making "historic changes" to repair the economy, rather than stand in opposition to his programs. The premise of the discussion seemed to be that times are too serious for conservatives to dare dissent from Obama’s plans. At one point, David Ignatius of the Washington Post suggested that "thoughtful" Republicans will work with Obama as he referred to John McCain’s concession speech. Ignatius: "I thought that John McCain set the tone for thoughtful Republicans in his concession speech election night, where he reached out to Obama. He was remarkably generous. One of the best speeches he's ever made, in my book."
As he teased the show, Matthews seemed to wonder if Republicans would try to stand in the way of Obama accomplishing "great things," or if they would see the light and cooperate. Matthews: "Will the mountain of crises our country faces make Barack Obama do great things? And with all the crises, will even Republicans see historic steps are required?"
In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, Walters asked few questions that put the Obamas on the defensive, in contrast with her January 2001 interview, aired on 20/20, with then-President-elect Bush in which she challenged him on a number of fronts. Most notably, she seemed to chide Bush for choosing John Ashcroft as Attorney General because he "openly opposes abortion," and claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights." She asked Bush about reports that, as governor of Texas, he "spent relatively little time studying specific issues," and "only does a few hours of work" a day. The ABC host also challenged Bush from the left on the trade embargo against Cuba, and even asked Laura Bush if her more "traditional" plans for her time as First Lady would be a "setback for women." It is also noteworthy that Walters asked Bush about his plans for dealing with Saddam Hussein and cited "people in the know" who contended that the Iraqi dictator was "stronger than ever."
As CNN founder Ted Turner appeared as a guest on Sunday's Meet the Press, after NBC host Tom Brokaw expressed concerns about trying to deal with Vladimir Putin's Russia after what happened when President Carter tried to deal with former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, Turner compared the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan to America's invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Iraq invasion "naked aggression" by the United States. Turner even tried to argue that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was more defensible than America's invasion of Afghanistan because "at least it's on the border of the former Soviet Union." When NBC host Tom Brokaw took him to task for trying to "justify" the USSR's actions, Turner responded, "Why can't I try and justify it?" Turner also contended that the old Soviet KGB was "an honorable place to work" like America's FBI, and claimed that it gave Soviet citizens "an opportunity to do something important and worthwhile."
TED TURNER: Well, we invaded Afghanistan, too, and it’s a lot further, at least it’s on the border of the Soviet Union, or the former Soviet Union or Russia. A lot of these countries have changed names several times.
TOM BROKAW: But, Ted, don’t try to go there in terms of justifying that. I mean, it was, the fact is that the Russians, it was a naked aggression.
TURNER: Why can’t I try and justify it?
BROKAW: Well, it was naked aggression on the part of the Russians at the time.
TURNER: Well, going into Iraq was naked aggression on the part of the United States.
In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, there was an obvious contrast with Walters’s interview with then-President-elect Bush in January 2001. After having pressed Bush with complaints from liberals about his choice of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, as she claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights," Walters this time not only failed to challenge Obama from the right in any of her questions, but she actually pressed him from the left as well as she seemed to fret about how long America has to wait for him to raise taxes on the rich. Walters: "During the campaign, there was a central and consistent theme of yours to raise taxes on people earning over $250,000 a year. Now, it seems there’s a little waffling on that. When are you going to do it?"
While introducing Michelle Obama for the second half hour of the special, Walters invoked President Kennedy’s family as she effused: "The Obamas harken back to another First Family, with their youthful embodiment of style, substance, and hope." But earlier, at the top of the program, she had taken a shot President Bush as "one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history" and suggested that it is not "an exaggeration to say that the fate of the nation is riding on [Obama’s] shoulders." Walters: "In only 55 days, Barack Obama will replace one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history. He will inherit two wars and an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Tonight, as families across our country gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is a sense of unease and a hope that someone can restore confidence and leadership. Although Barack Obama insists we have only one President at a time, some say that fear and financial uncertainty have forced him into the unprecedented role of a shadow President, even before he has taken the oath of office. Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that the fate of the nation is riding on his shoulders."
The major broadcast networks have so far lavished praise on President-elect Barack Obama for his Cabinet choices, in contrast to the airing of complaints from liberals over President Bush’s choice of John Ashcroft as Attorney General eight years ago.
On the Saturday Early Show on CBS, President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet picks were presented positively as correspondent Kimberly Dozier referred to a "superstar Cabinet," and its members as "bold" and "inspired," while co-anchor Erica Hill called the Cabinet "star-studded." The terminology was similar to that employed by NBC's Andrea Mitchell on the previous night's Nightly News, as she referred to Obama's "all-star Cabinet."
During the 8:00 a.m. hour of the Saturday Early Show, as she filed a story regarding Obama’s choices of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State and Timothy Geithner, also from the Clinton administration, for Treasury Secretary, Dozier introduced her report: "Well, Obama’s Cabinet picks are coming one by one, and they’re calling it, in some cases, a ‘superstar Cabinet.’" After informing viewers that Obama may ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on, Dozier repeated the "superstar" label as she passed on praise from former Reagan Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein. Dozier: "Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff says Obama’s taking a page from his boss’s book, choosing a superstar team for their skills, not their political persuasion."
On Tuesday’s The O’Reilly Factor, FNC host Bill O’Reilly showed clips from the Kalb Report show in which moderator Marvin Kalb, a veteran of both CBS and NBC News, interviewed O’Reilly. During the interview, which was recorded on September 27, O’Reilly managed to embarrass Kalb as the liberal host seemed to criticize President Bush for ordering American troops into war after the President himself "avoided military service," but he seemed to forget that Bill Clinton, who ordered a war against Serbia, dodged the draft and avoided military service altogether while Bush did at least serve in the National Guard. Kalb posed the question: "Do you believe that a President who avoided military service himself should be sending young men and women to fight in what are called ‘wars of choice’?"
After O’Reilly flippantly asked Kalb if he was talking about Bill Clinton and pointed out that Bush served in the National Guard, Kalb claimed that "Bill Clinton did not start a war such as the Iraq War." After mentioning that Clinton ordered war against Serbia, O’Reilly charged that Kalb was asking "another left-wing question," and took a jab at the moderator: "You wanted to hit Bush, and then I hit you with Clinton, and you were going, ‘Uh-oh, I forgot about him.’ Come on."
On Thursday’s Countdown show on MSNBC, New York Times columnist Frank Rich charged that it looks "morally bad" and "idiotic" that Republicans have not elected a black candidate to federal office in six years. The Republican party also seemed to remind Rich of South Africa’s racist Apartheid policy of the past: "The fact is, this isn`t South Africa 25 years ago, this is a major political party that is essentially all white. And the hierarchy of it is definitely white. There hasn`t been a new black Republican elected to federal office, I think, in six years.
On Thursday’s The O’Reilly Factor, FNC’s Megyn Kelly filled in viewers on the current voter fraud controversy in Ohio involving ACORN, and Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s refusal to comply with a federal court ruling in spite of clear evidence of fraudulent voter registrations. Kelly: "She's required by federal law to have her state database linked up to the DMV, and to the Social Security Administration, so that she's got two ways of checking people's registration to make sure they're legit. ... And she's required to keep a list of the discrepancies.
On Sunday’s Reliable Sources, CNN host Howard Kurtz seemed to question whether the media are unfairly hyping inflammatory words from audience members at John McCain rallies that are of the kind one would expect to sometimes see at political rallies to make them fit into the narrative of the McCain campaign fueling anger at Barack Obama. Kurtz: "I've gone to a lot of rallies where a lot of crazy things have been said. Why are the media this week pumping up this story about McCain’s and Palin's crowds as if it is their fault if there's a bit of ugliness that breaks out?" Speaking to Politico.com’s Roger Simon, he later added: "It seems that the press has kind of adopted this theme that McCain and Palin are stoking the anger."
Simon responded with his view that McCain was indeed "stoking the anger." Simon: "Well, it may be that McCain and Palin are stoking the anger. It seems to me that John McCain is riding a tiger, and he's trying not to fall off that tiger and get eaten by it. When your vice presidential running mate goes around the country saying Barack Obama is ‘palling around with terrorists,’ and when you run ads that say, you know, he's a liar, he's not telling the truth about this unrepentant terrorist, and then you wonder why people in the crowd shout out ‘terrorist’ when you mention the name Barack Obama. This anger is coming from somewhere. It is being ginned up by a campaign, and it is logical, I think, to assume that these people are only responding to what they have heard from the candidate's mouth. And it's fair game, and it's, in fact, responsible for us to report how the crowds are reacting."
On Saturday’s Good Morning America, ABC ran an unusual report that placed some of the blame for the Great Depression’s length on government intervention by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as Herbert Hoover, and concluded by questioning whether the current plans could do harm. After an unidentified economist contended that "the government from Hoover to Roosevelt made it worse by intervening too much and too arbitrarily," correspondent Bill Blakemore concluded: "And now, is the Bush government intervening too much arbitrarily with its $700 billion bailout?
It was eight years ago this week that France 2 TV introduced the world to Mohammed al-Dura, the Palestinian boy who was allegedly shot and killed during a gunfight between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen, in a video whose authenticity has increasingly been called into question years after it inspired anti-Semitic violence around the world. The American news media not only highlighted the story -- as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening and morning newscasts collectively aired the video at least 28 times between September 30, 2000, and June 30, 2003 -- but the networks also showed other clips depicting Palestinians involved in fighting, supposedly with Israelis, that have been challenged by some media analysts, calling into question how many of the scenes shown by American media during times of Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be faked video that were passed off to international media as genuine. ABC's Good Morning American notably seems to have ignored the al-Dura story.
Boston University Professor Richard Landes has been a leader in delving into the practice by some Palestinian cameramen of staging scenes of violence to be used as propaganda against
When the latest installment of Saturday Night Live parodied Friday’s presidential debate, the NBC comedy program gave attention to Barack Obama’s connections to convicted criminal Tony Rezko, corrupt Chicago politics, and Obama’s recent attempts at "playing the race card," which notably are all matters that the mainstream news media have given little attention to. While the show also took a number of shots at John McCain, several times having him propose a bizarre gimmick like challenging Obama to a pie-eating contest for example, the Illinois Senator also received several noteworthy jabs. One line involved McCain’s character, played by Darrell Hammond, referring to Obama, played by Fred Armisen, as making an earmark request titled "Tony Rezko Hush Money." Obama’s character also bragged that his tax cut plan would benefit Chicago politicians and city employees "because my plan would not tax income from bribes, kickbacks, shakedowns, embezzlement of government funds, or extortion."
The Obama character later promised that he would "play the race card" against dictators like North Korean President Kim Jong Il if necessary to guilt-trip them into dismantling their nuclear programs, as he would accuse Kim of refusing to cooperate with him because "I’m not like the other guys on the $5 and $10 bills."
During a phone interview with FNC anchor Megyn Kelly, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who already voiced disapproval of Barack Obama's attempt to suggest that Kissinger would agree with his intention to meet personally with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, on Saturday elaborated on his disagreement with Obama, and clarified his views on how America should negotiate with Iran. The segment began with a soundbite of Obama from the debate trying to lecture McCain about Kissinger’s views. Obama: "Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisors, who, along with five recent Secretaries of State, just said that we should meet with Iran, guess what, ‘without precondition.’ This is one of your own advisors."
Asked by Kelly if he supported having a President "meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions," Kissinger responded: "No, I don’t. I have argued that, at some point, negotiations with Iran are important. But it is my view that they should be on the working level, and that the President should not be involved until we know that we are close to an agreement, or that we know what the nature of the agreement is." Kelly soon sought clarification: "So, in other words, you favor negotiations at the lower level, perhaps all the way up to the Secretary of State, but you do not believe an American President should sit down without preconditions, as Barack Obama says he would like to do." Kissinger: "That is correct."