Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC
Kyle Drennen is the Media Research Center's Senior News Analyst and a Contributing Editor to NewsBusters. He is the co-author of the 2014 Media Reality Check study, TV News Blacks Out This Year’s Bad Election News for Democrats.
In 2009, he captured the infamous comment from then-Newsweek editor Evan Thomas comparing President Obama to God. Later that same year, he exposed for MSNBC deceptively editing video footage of a Tea Party rally to conceal the racial identity of an African American participant, forcing the liberal network to respond to criticism and explain its actions.
His media analysis has been cited by nationally syndicated radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, as well as media outlets including Fox News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.com, The Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Politico, National Review, among others.
Kyle joined the MRC in 2007 after graduating from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science. Prior to that, he interned at the MRC in the summer of 2005. He lives in Northern Virginia and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest from Kyle Drennen
Near the end of Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show" there was a taped segment of co-host Julie Chen talking to the executive producer of the CBS reality show "Big Brother," Allison Grodner, who previewed some of the contestants in the show’s new season: "Dan is a Catholic school teacher from Michigan. He really doesn't think women are equal. And he felt really strongly, especially, about the possibility that Hillary Clinton would have become president. He said he would have left the country. And he was dead serious about that."
After describing the stereotypical conservative white male, Grodner went on to describe an Obama supporter on the show, a young Afircan-American woman: "Libra is the rebel mom and strong opinions, very liberal. She's the Obama girl in Bush country." Just prior to that description of the "rebel Obama girl" a clip was played of the conservative Dan explaining his opposition to Obama: "My only concern is Barack Obama is wildy charismatic, has a huge aura around him. Which, if you're not very educated, you may vote for him just because, you know, he's more charismatic."
"Big Brother," which is hosted by Chen, seems to be taking a political angle this season. Watch video of cast preview here.
Over the Fourth of July weekend I took a trip to the media’s shrine to itself in downtown Washington D.C., known as the Newseum, and was troubled by the fact that the exhibit on journalistic ethics took up less space in the seven floor building than the gift shop. Given the $20 admission fee, one might expect a little more attention paid to journalistic principles than to souvenirs like Newseum boxer shorts.
The exhibit featured various interactive computer displays that challenged visitors to test their judgement of real life ethical scenarios by choosing between different options of how to report a story. After answering, a screen would appear, showing percentages of how the general public answered versus how journalists responded.
In general, journalists tended to be more willing to take the questionable ethical course of action. However, one scenario was particularly disturbing. A picture was shown of an infant child in Africa lying on the ground starving, with a vulture a few feet away. The question was do you just report the story or do you try to help the child? About 70% of the general public responded by saying they would help the child, the same number of journalists, about 70%, said they would report the story without intervening.
While the Newseum deserves credit for a moving exhibit giving tribute to September 11 and one commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, the lack of representation given to journalistic ethics definitely detracted from the overall experience. Though the front of the museum proudly displays the First Amendment etched in stone, it would do well to remember the responsibility that comes with that freedom.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to John McCain supporter Carly Fiorina and Barack Obama supporter Senator Claire McCaskill about the respective economic plans of the presidential candidates: "Bear market blues. Wall Street returns from the holiday as gas prices set another new record. Can either candidate calm America's fears?" At one point, Smith asked Fiorina: "How do we do all of this stuff? And we're not making more money, the tax rolls are not growing, the coffers are not full. We're just talking about deficit -- if nobody's going to get taxed, isn't this just going to be deficit city?" (audio available here)
While Smith did not feel the "coffers" were "full," at least not full enough for him, in reality, government tax revenue has tripled since 1965 and since the Bush tax cuts took effect in 2003, corporate income tax revenue has reached its highest level in over 20 years.
Smith began the segment by touting a new CBS poll: "The economy remains a major issue for voters as we head into the fall elections. In fact, a recent CBS News poll shows 78% of Americans think the economy is in bad shape." Considering the "Early Show’s" declaration of a recession last week it’s easy to understand such poll results.
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith teased an upcoming segment on John McCain giving Republican strategist Steve Schmidt greater control of his campaign: "John McCain shakes up his campaign again. Is this the jump start he needs to get him to the White House?" Later, co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased the segment this way: "Up next here for us, John McCain shakes up his struggling presidential campaign. We're talking with Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican campaign strategist."
The segment began with a report by correspondent Chip Reid, who declared:
For months, top Republicans have been urging John McCain to make changes in his campaign after a series of missteps...One example, the night of the final Democratic primary. Both Barack Obama and McCain gave speeches as their party's nominees...But compared to Obama's speech, McCain's fell flat with a small crowd and an ugly green back drop. It was a cry for change.
However, a major "misstep" by the Obama campaign this week, Obama supporter Wesley Clark degrading John McCain’s military record, was only given two news briefs during Tuesday’s "Early Show," totaling 90 seconds. Considering Clark’s comments were made on CBS’s "Face the Nation," one would expect a bit more coverage. In contrast, Thursday’s segment on McCain’s "struggling" campaign received nearly three and a half minutes.
On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an interview with actress Elizabeth Perkins from Showtime’s ‘Weeds’: "We're going to see what she thinks about weed. Not the show, the plant." Later, Chen offered yet another tease: "You know her from 'Weeds' on Showtime. Elizabeth Perkins. We're going to find out if she thinks marijuana should be legal."
Later during the segment Chen eagerly asked the question: "Since it is 'Weeds' it seems like a natural question. As a person...as Elizabeth Perkins, do you believe marijuana should be legalized?" Predictably, Perkins replied: "Oh, yeah, absolutely...Alcohol is legal. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me why marijuana's not. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me." Chen’s only response was to laugh and declare: "In the name of the show."
Chen followed up by referring to Perkins’ moralist anti-drug character on the show, Celia Hodes: "And Celia Hodes would say?," Perkins replied: "Oh, put them all in jail." Chen interjected: " I know...she's so self-righteous." Earlier in the segment, Chen explained that Perkins’ character on the show was an alcoholic "hypocrite." Perkins went on to explain that: "Well Celia's probably the only character on the show who's never smoked marijuana." Chen wondered: "Is she going to cave?" After Perkins said no, Chen pressed: "Oh, you never know, we still have a few episodes left-" At that point Perkins explained: "Never cave with marijuana because that's the 'evil drug,' according to her." Chen laughed.
On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on global warming by fretting: "...are penguins sending us warning signs about global warming?" Later, correspondent Debbye Turner talked to biologist Dee Boersma, who claimed that "Well, penguins are the canaries in the coal mine. Penguins are telling us, as marine sentinels, that our southern oceans are changing."
Boersma, who according to newsmeat.com donated $1,000 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, went on to condemn a wide range of human activity that she felt was harming global penguin populations: "Penguins are affected not only by climate variation and climate change, but they're affected by lots of activities that we do from moving oil around, because we spill oil, from plastics that we dump into the oceans, to fishing that takes away their food."
Earlier in the segment, Turner lamented: "We've all seen pictures like these. Polar bears in danger because global warming is literally melting their habitat. But they are far from the only animal affected by climate change." She later discussed the dire situation facing penguins: "Academy award winning documentary March of the Penguins chronicled the Emperor Penguins amazing struggle to reproduce and survive. Experts say because of soaring temperatures and decreasing ice that the day could come that they make their final march."
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to foreign correspondent Lara Logan about the situation in Afghanistan and she declared: "So seven years later we have more troops in the country than we have ever had. And yet no one is admitting the fact that we are facing strategic defeat in a country that wanted us there. Unlike Iraq, they actually wanted us there."
Smith introduced the segment by proclaiming: "U.S. officials say attempts to root out Al Qaeda and the Taliban are failing. And for the second straight month in June, militants killed more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq."
During the segment, Smith displayed his foreign policy credentials in reference to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border: "I've been reading lightly about these tribal areas. I was there about 20 years ago. I described it to a friend of mine, it's like the Star Wars bar. You can't trust anyone there. You don't know who's loyal to who." So Afghans and Pakistanis are like strange-looking aliens?
Showing the kind of intrepid journalism that morning news is known for, on Monday’s CBS "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith led a panel discussion about some recent celebrity divorces, when publicist Marvet Britto observed: "...men are, you know, patting each other on the back when philandering happens. Sad as it may be...You know, look at Bill Clinton. It's not like he's -- you know, we're walking down the street thinking, ‘oh, look what he did.’"
The topic came up when Smith and the other panelists, divorce attorney Raoul Felder and clinical psychologist Robi Ludwig, were discussing Christie Brinkley’s divorce from her husband, who had an affair. In response, Smith awkwardly laughed and quickly moved on.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to economic analyst Mark Zandi about the state of the economy and asked: "Oil's up, gasoline's up, food prices up, stocks, way, way, way, way down. Home owner -- home values are down. Is there an end in sight to all of this bad news?" Zandi replied: "You just made me depressed. No. It's just bad news. It really is...It's just a really tough time for many Americans."
Later, Smith commented on how all the bad economic news seems to contribute to bad economic events: "It just seems like we're in this cumulative cycle that, you know, once one threshold of bad news gets reached, we reach to yet another one." That comment sparked this exchange with Zandi:
ZANDI: Yeah, it's a self re-enforcing negative cycle. You know, that's what happens during recessions, and that's what we're in the middle of right now.
SMITH: Whoa, is this a recession?
ZANDI: You know that -- that's a debate among economists and policy makers. But in the minds of the average American household I think there's no debate, this is a recession. I mean they're worth less today than they were a year ago, they're purchasing power is lower. I mean, for most people that's the definition of recession. So, economists can debate it but I think most people think this is a recession.
On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair about global warming: "Also ahead this morning, we'll talk about a disturbing new report from some scientists in Colorado who say that there is the very real possibility that for the first time we will see the ice in the North Pole melt away completely during the summer."
Rodriguez elaborated as she later introduced the segment:
On Wednesday’s CBS "Evening News," political analyst Jeff Greenfield suggested that Barack Obama was becoming more moderate: "...a relentless march to the center. He's determined not to be defined as Dukakis was and as John Kerry was, as outside the mainstream." Greenfield cited examples of Obama’s move to the middle by describing how: "His compromise on warrant -- on how you can wiretap foreign nationals with the FISA compromise, I think, was one example. He's saying maybe his anti-free trade rhetoric was a little overblown."
Greenfield even went so far as to bizarrely claim that Obama’s flip-flop on public financing was somehow evidence of his more moderate positions: "And by abandoning public financing, which he pledged to, he's saying ‘If I got more money than the other guy, I'm going to use it. I want to win.’"
The segment began by anchor Katie Couric declaring: "...the polls of summer. For now the heat is on the Republicans...Barack Obama's getting quite a bounce in the polls." Greenfield continued to tout Obama’s "bounce in the polls" by proclaiming: "It's an early summer blizzard, of polls that is, most of them gladdening Democratic hearts and furrowing Republican brows. Senator Barack Obama is up by 6 points in a USA Today/Gallup Poll, 12 in an LA Times/Bloomberg survey. Newsweek has the spread at 15 points nationally." However, it has been clearly demonstrated that the L.A. Times and Newsweek polls were outliers.
On Tuesday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric reported on Zimbabwe’s opposition leader dropping out of an election against the nation’s socialist dictator, Robert Mugabe, and lamented how: "The fear and danger that now pervades the streets of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe is a tragic departure from the hope and promise that began with his landslide victory nearly 30 years ago." File footage of an unidentified reporter covering Mugabe’s 1980 election followed: "A self-described Marxist has won the right to form the first government of the new state of Zimbabwe."
Couric continued to describe Mugabe’s promising rise to power:
When Robert Mugabe was first elected in 1980, he was a hero. He was seen as one of Africa's most promising black leaders...The son of a carpenter, the revolutionary and former school teacher said he had, quote, "inherited the jewel of Africa." A country rich in resources, Zimbabwe claimed independence from Britain in 1965 when it was known as Rhodesia. During the '80s, Zimbabwe's government received international support...at a time its neighbor, South Africa, practiced apartheid. The country's economic condition and public health improved. But in the '90s, Mugabe became more authoritarian. This one-time revolutionary squashed all opposition and faced charges of cronyism and corruption.
On Monday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric teased an upcoming segment remembering controversial comedian George Carlin: "...he was a comedy legend who made us laugh and think." During the segment, correspondent Jim Axelrod followed the same theme: "George Carlin made lots of us laugh...But his genius was making us think." Immediately following that observation a clip was played of Carlin declaring: "This country was founded by a group of slave owners who told us that all men are created equal. That is what's known as being stunningly, stunningly full of [expletive]."
Later in the segment, Axelrod again praised Carlin: " But what Carlin loved best was using irreverence to force us to re-exam what we'd long stopped thinking about." That statement was followed by Carlin ranting: "Here's another question I have: How come when it's us it's an abortion and when it's a chicken it's an omelet? Are we so much better than chickens all of a sudden?" One wonders, when Couric and Axelrod say Carlin "made us think," who exactly is "us"?
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show, " co-host Julie Chen lead the show with a depressing segment on the economy: "...with the economic woes hitting the nation, we have your complete guide to surviving the big squeeze." Chen proceeded to highlight high gas prices, then explain how "...the crisis in the housing market is also a drag on the economy," and finally, "Completing this perfect storm of economic woes, the devastating floods in the Midwest and how they will directly impact food prices."
When discussing the housing crisis with correspondent Thalia Assuras, Chen asked in desperation: "Thalia can you tell us anything good? Is there any relief in sight?" Assuras then offered a small glimmer of hope: "Well, the Senate toady is actually going to consider a foreclosure prevention plan or rescue plan of looking at the numbers here. It's going to provide $300 billion in new cheaper mortgages for high risk homeowners." However she then made it clear that Bush Administration would soon crush such hope: "But you know Julie, there's going to be a lot of squabbling and the White House has threatened a veto."
Following Chen’s report, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to financial advisor Dave Ramsey and took the same pessimistic tone: "So with all this economic volatility, what are we supposed to do?...if there was ever a time to panic, is this it? It sounds pretty gloomy." In contrast, Ramsey was having none of it: "Absolutely not. I'm sorry I'm not with Chicken Little and we're not handing out helmets. There -- it is not a time to panic, there's lots of good things going on in our economy and for most people this may represent opportunity."
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Jeff Glor did a report on "five things you should know about John McCain" and highlighted details such as: "Number four, a maverick even back in high school, John McCain was nicknamed ‘the punk’...A reputation that followed him to the naval academy." During the segment, USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro added: "John McCain graduated five slots from the bottom of the Annapolis class of 1958."
Contrast those bits of information with the hard-hitting facts revealed about Barack Obama during a similar segment on last Wednesday’s show: "Number four -- in addition to enjoying basketball and cycling during down time, Obama loves to play Scrabble...Obama's job as a teenager was at a Baskin Robbins and to this day he does not like ice cream." The segment on Obama also described how he and Michelle met and where he buys his suits.
Meanwhile, on Monday’s show, Glor also focused on McCain being born in Panama: "Number five, McCain was not born in any of the 50 United States...His father had been stationed there by the Navy, creating an eventual source of controversy." Shapiro added: "The Constitution says a president has to be a natural born citizen." Glor also questioned McCain’s skill as a pilot: "Number three, when McCain was not down in Vietnam, it was not his first. It was not his second. But his third plane crash as a pilot." Finally, Glor got to number one: "...when he first ran for Congress he was charged with being a carpet bagger."
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez described the Catholic Church’s refusal to allow filming on Church property of a movie prequel to "The DaVinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, this way: "...the battle between Tom Hanks and the Vatican. You know he's in Rome filming the prequel to 'The Da Vinci Code,' 'Angels and Demons,' and the Church there is up in arms, they're barring them from filming in churches. They believe the film, like the book, is sacrilegious."
On Wednesday, ABC’s "Good Morning America" featured a story on the controversy in which correspondent Nick Watt declared: "When the might of Rome clashes with a literary behemoth, expect some colorful language. 'An offense against God,' is what a diocese of Rome spokesman just called this book." Watt then later proclaimed: "The Dan Brown express will not be stopped," to which GMA co-host Diane Sawyer replied: "Yes, Nick, I mean that's the irony, isn't it? The more the Church complains, probably the better it is for the business."
Meanwhile, on Thursday’s "Early Show," correspondent Allen Pizzey explained: "Fans of the book, 'Angels and Demons,' keep streaming into the churches in Rome where the plot unfolds. But the film crew turning it into a movie has been banned from them and any other Church property. The plot is not overly anti-Church, but some of the most graphic scenes are not something with which the Church wants to be associated."
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an upcoming segment on Michelle Obama appearing on ABC’s "The View": "Also this morning, like Cindy McCain did this past spring, Michelle Obama co-hosted 'The View' yesterday. We're going to see how comfortable she was with the women of 'The View' and what she had to say on everything from sexism in politics to who does the housework in the Obama home."
Later, correspondent Tracy Smith reported: "Perhaps hoping she'd give her husband a bump in the polls, Michelle Obama played co-host on 'The View' yesterday. Tackling topics from panty hose...to political attacks." A clip was then played of "View" co-host Joy Behar asking Obama: "Do you feel there was any sexism in the media?," with Obama replying: "I -- there is -- yes, there's always a level of -- people aren't used to strong women."
Smith later explained appearances by both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama on "The View" by touting a CBS News poll from April: "58% of voters were undecided on how they felt about Michelle Obama. 75% were undecided about Cindy McCain." Smith then credited Bill Clinton with beginning the trend of presidential candidates, and their wives, making guest appearances on popular shows: "In 1992, then candidate Bill Clinton got attention by playing the sax on Arsenio...Since then, guest spots on entertainment shows have become a political rite of passage." Smith remarked how: "McCain traded barbs with Letterman. And Obama got his groove on with Elllen."
On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an upcoming segment on Barack Obama: "...during the long primary season, we all learned a lot about Barack Obama. He is a Senator. He's a Harvard grad. He's a husband. And he is a father. But this morning, you're going to learn five things you probably don't know about Barack Obama." Later, in David Letterman style, correspondent Jeff Glor introduced the story: "...here are the top five things you likely don't know about Barack Obama."
Among those things, were important facts such as "Number four -- in addition to enjoying basketball and cycling during down time, Obama loves to play Scrabble." In addition to the top five, Glor later added: "Now one more thing we learned that didn't quite make our list, Julie. Obama's job as a teenager was at a Baskin Robbins and to this day he does not like ice cream." Chen responded: "So rocky road is like his Kyrptonite?" While Glor and Chen focused on Obama trivia, earlier in the show, co-host Russ Mitchell offered a mere one sentence news brief on the Illinois Senator’s opposition to a Republican plan to allow offshore oil drilling.
In his report, Glor also described how: "...many people know Obama made history at Harvard by becoming the first African-American president of the Law Review. But did you know it was the conservative students who gave him the victory?" Glor then played a clip of Obama’s communications director, Robert Gibbs, explaining that: "I think it would be a surprise for some people today that the conservative faction, along with another group, threw its support to Barack Obama because he believed they'd give him -- he'd give everyone a fair shake."
On Monday’s CBS "Evening News," correspondent Lara Logan touted what was essentially a press release from a key terrorist leader in Afghanistan: "Afghan warlord Gulbeddin Hekmatyar spoke exclusively to CBS News about the state of the insurgency in Afghanistan in this interview smuggled out of his secret hiding place." Logan went on to offer a translation of the video: "‘The resistance is spreading in all directions,’ he says. ‘It's becoming stronger and more powerful.’"
Logan went on to repeat more of Hekmatyar’s propaganda:
‘Although I'm confined to one bunker and a village which is under the threat of American warplanes all the time, I sleep very peacefully at night, while George Bush cannot sleep in the White House without the help of sleeping pills,’ he says. Hekmatyar mocks President Bush as a warmonger and blames him for Iran's meddling in Afghanistan. He says the Iranians are pouring money and weapons into the fight that's destroying his country.
On CBS’s "Sunday Morning," correspondent John Blackstone reported on the beginning of legal gay marriages in California starting Monday: "Even for people used to earthquakes, the California Supreme Court's decision last month to legalize same-sex marriage was a jolt. But even as gay couples make plans to wed this week...Opponents say tradition should and will be restored."
Blackstone went on to talk to one such opponent: "Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage is confident Californians will vote to again ban same sex marriage. On the ballot, in November...Brown says the state supreme court improperly overturned the will of the people. In 2000, California voters approved a measure declaring that only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in California."
Out of a total of 8 minutes and 50 seconds of coverage during the show, 2 minutes and 14 seconds was given to highlight opponents of gay marriage. By Sunday’s "Evening News" the total coverage had shrunk to 2 minutes and 35 seconds with 27 seconds given to opponents. Total coverage on Monday’s "Early Show" was 5 minutes and 12 seconds, however, time given to opponents of gay marriage was only 41 seconds, with no mention of Brown or his organization.