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 email@example.com.
Latest from Kyle Drennen
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased a segment on Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps caught smoking marijuana: "Also, so far there seems to be little fallout for Michael Phelps following publication of that photo showing him inhaling -- what looks like to be inhaling from a marijuana pipe. Should there be outrage?" When he later introduced the segment, Smith argued: "So far there hasn't been much negative reaction to the photo showing Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps smoking what appeared to be marijuana. A few years ago, it might have ruined his career. Maybe it's a sign of changing attitudes."
Correspondent Randall Pinkston reported on Americans’ "changing attitudes": "The seeming lack of outrage may reflect America's changing attitudes towards marijuana...While a majority of Americans still oppose legalization, a new CBS News poll shows a big swing in opinion in recent years. 27 percent supported legalization in 1979. 41 percent support it today." Pinkston even touted the drug use of Democratic presidents as proof: "Even attitudes from the nation's leaders have changed. While Bill Clinton famously said he tried it but never inhaled, President Obama has acknowledged he did try marijuana while in high school."
At the end of Sunday’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer commented on former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee: "So it was that the party of Lincoln, which had freed the slaves, but in the process had become the party of mainly white people, came full circle and turned to an African-American Moses to lead it out of the political wilderness."
Schieffer started his commentary by explaining how the Republican Party came to be the party of "mainly white people": "When Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he told a fellow Democrat 'we have lost the south for a generation,' and he was right. Richard Nixon capitalized on southern anger brought on by that act, developed a southern strategy, which emphasized states' rights, won the presidency twice, and a region where there had been few Republicans since the Civil War became the base of the reborn Republican Party."
CBS’s Sunday Morning celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first broadcast in 1979 with host Charles Osgood citing CBS/New York Times poll numbers to demonstrate how American attitudes have changed over the past 30 years: "The majority of us now think homosexual relations between adults aren't wrong. That's a reversal from 30 years ago. As for sexual relations before marriage, the minority who disapprove is growing smaller. More people now support the legalization of marijuana than did 30 years ago. But still short of a majority. Views on abortion have hardly changed at all."
In addition to cultural issues, Osgood also explained how Americans are now ready for socialized medicine: "On the matter of health insurance, nearly half of all Americans now want the government to provide it for all problems. That's up from just over a quarter of us in 1979." Osgood also claimed: "Just one American in eight thinks the nation is more powerful today than it was ten years ago. In 1979, it was one in five." Apparently Americans were more optimistic about American power at the end of the Jimmy Carter era than at the end of the Bush era.
At the top of the show, correspondent Rita Braver did a similar look back at the last 30 years: "Three decades of change in our culture. Our communications, our politics." At that moment, a video clip of a gay marriage ceremony appeared on screen. After describing the end of apartheid in South Africa, Braver declared: "And the social order changed in this country, too." Braver spoke with Harvard history and economics professor Niall Ferguson and asked: "It does seem that white men are no longer calling all the shots." Ferguson replied: "Well, you're asking a white man if America-" Braver interrupted: " I know that, I'm asking you to fess up."
During a news brief on Monday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reported on the 30th Anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution: "At a musical gala, a choir sang revolutionary songs. Beneath a full-scale replica of the plane that brought Ayatollah Khomeini back to Iran from exile in 1979.
Showing that Barack Obama is fighting for the common man, on Friday’s CBS Early Show correspondent Jeff Glor reported on the President’s reaction to big bonuses on Wall Street: "For a man who prides himself on being cool, this was a rare flash of anger, if planned. A tongue-lashing directly from the Oval Office, which is indicating now they will look to change the rules if Wall Street doesn't itself."
Glor explained: "...firms gave out $18.4 billion in bonuses to New York-based employees last year, the same year the Dow Jones caved in 33%. And yes, a lot of the bonus money came from T.A.R.P. government bailout funds, taxpayer dollars." There was no mention of the fact that then Senator Obama was a strong supporter of the bailout.
At the top of the show, co-host Julie Chen declared: "Target Wall Street. An angry President Obama lashes out at bonuses worth nearly $20 billion." Co-host Harry Smith introduced Glor’s report in a similar fashion: "In our series ‘Red, White, and Greed,’ President Obama chastising Wall Street for paying itself big bonuses while the economy and the banking industry tanked."
On Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith played the role of amateur theologian as he interviewed disgraced evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, who had an affair with a gay prostitute, asking: "You believe that gays are sinners?...You think God hates homosexuals?" Haggard ultimately replied: "Jesus proved his faithfulness to me more than ever. You know, he said he came for the unrighteous, not for the righteous...so I don't fit into the religious righteous crowd anymore. He really came for me. I'm the chiefest of sinners." Haggard’s wife, Gayle, also added: "And I think the teachings of Jesus are forgiveness and love. And what he tells us not to do is judge." Smith liked that non-judgmental response, saying to Ted: " She says is better than you do, I'm sorry."
Throughout the segment, Smith preached moral relativism over "fundamentalist" Christian beliefs. At one point, Haggard explained why he waited so long to seek counseling: "I wish I'd done it 20 years ago, but I think the culture that I was in kept me from being able to do that." Smith replied: "Having grown up in a fundamentalist church and an evangelical background, there's -- everything is very black and white." Haggard agreed: "Very black and white." Smith then attacked Haggard’s former church: "You've spent your life building this church. This church is really, literally, your community. And your church says you have to leave this day...you have to go away. And in the best New Testament sense, isn't that the point at which the church should be embracing you?"
During the 3PM hour on MSNBC, anchor Norah O’Donnell derided Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for attending the annual Alfalfa dinner in Washington, D.C., declaring: "Sarah Palin is coming to D.C. she ran as a maverick this whole campaign, wanted nothing to do with people in Washington, the anti-establishment candidate, and now she's coming to the most exclusive dinner in Washington, to hobnob with perhaps the president, ambassadors, senators, all the people she derided during the campaign. What's up with that?"
O’Donnell spoke with Republican strategist John Feehery and Democratic strategist Morris Reid and played a clip of Palin explaining why she was attending the dinner: "Alfalfa dinner, yes. In fact, that's because President Obama is scheduled to be there. And how often will I have an opportunity to have dinner with the president. I will take up that offer to do so, yeah." O’Donnell then turned to Reid and asked: "Didn't she call him a terrorist on the campaign trail?" O’Donnell was referring to Palin’s comment that Obama was "palling around with terrorists," like his long-time Chicago associate and former domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers.
While discussing Rush Limbaugh’s opposition to the Obama administration’s massive spending bill on Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked author Ann Coulter: "But don't you think that right now is not -- it behooves the Republicans to be a little bit more in the middle? I mean, what are -- they're not -- their voices aren't going to be heard anyway, as we saw with this economic stimulus plan...So doesn't it behoove them to be more bipartisan and meet in the middle?" Coulter did not feel "behooved": "I think it's just the reverse. I mean, we just ran John McCain, we are so sick of being in the middle."
The segment actually began with co-host Harry Smith trying to offer a fair assessment of Limbaugh’s comments about wanting President Obama to "fail": "I think if you listen to what Rush Limbaugh has said, 'I want him to fail,' he wants big government to fail...He wants certain things that are especially involved in this stimulus package to fail. I don't think he's sitting there saying 'as an American citizen, I want the presidency and the country to fail.’" Coulter agreed: "That's exactly right. In fact, I put it sort of the reverse way. I said, yes, of course, I want him to succeed, but that means he'll govern as a conservative...I sort of admire Rush's verve for switching it around that way." However, co-host Julie Chen wondered: "Oh, you admire that he put it that way? Don't you think it's a little bit irresponsible for him to put it that way?"
At the end of Sunday’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer declared: "Hubert Humphrey once said the 1964 Civil Rights Act was America's single most effective foreign policy initiative. It had nothing to do with foreign policy, but it told the world who we were and what we stood for and that our system was about fairness and equal treatment and that it worked.
On Tuesday’s CBS ‘Early Show,’ embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was interviewed over the course of two segments, totaling 10 minutes, and was never described as a Democrat. Co-hosts Maggie Rodriguez, Harry Smith and Julie Chen all spoke with the governor at some point and none mentioned his political party. The only acknowledgment of the governor’s party affiliation was in an on-screen graphic that featured a ‘(D) Illinois’ label. A mention of Blagojevich’s political party was similarly lacking on Thursday’s Good Morning America on ABC.
In addition to Early Show hosts failing to note that Blagojevich was a Democrat, none of them asked the governor about any discussions he had with President Obama or other administration officials about filling Obama’s vacant Senate seat. In the second segment in the 7:30AM half hour, Blagojevich declared: "I want to bring Congressman Rahm -- president's chief of staff, my congressman, Rahm Emanuel...I want to bring Valerie Jarrett, who's a high-ranking official in the Obama administration." However, there was no follow-up question to clarify the connection those Obama administration officials had with Blagojevich. Despite such a lack of journalist curiosity, Julie Chen exclaimed at the top of the show: "Blago live. He's faced Larry and Barbara, but his toughest interview is ahead this morning."
Less than a week after suggesting Republicans had "lost their cojones" after confirming Hillary Clinton for secretary of state, on Monday, MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell wondered: "Does President Barack Obama finally have the cojones, that some Democrats haven't had in the past, in saying to other Republicans ‘you don't have to listen to Rush Limbaugh?’" Democratic strategist Penny Lee agreed with O’Donnell and replied: "Enough with this politics of personal destruction. Let us get back to business and you don't have to listen to the extremes on either side."
O’Donnell also spoke with Republican strategist Phil Musser and asked: "...what out does it give the Republican Party to have Rush Limbaugh out there saying, who is the voice of many conservatives, that he hopes the president fails. I mean, that's kind of lame, isn't it?" Musser responded: "He is raising some legitimate issues in the context of what some would characterize as maybe impolitic language, but that's his business." However, he later attacked Limbaugh: "...the Republican Party is now the minority party and in a lot of ways, we're back to throwing the bombs from the sidelines... And that's one of the things that I think Rush Limbaugh is stepping up to try to capitalize on."
Later in segment, O’Donnell attempted to portray Obama’s comments about Limbaugh as political savvy:
O’DONNELL: But isn't this exactly the kind of fight that Obama wants to have? Don't fight with the Republicans in the House, don't fight with the Republicans in the Senate, because you have to work with them. But find somebody like a Rush Limbaugh, who they can argue is on the fringe, and fight with him, score points with your base and not lose out with the Republicans that you need?
At the end of Sunday’s 60 Minutes on CBS, commentator Andy Rooney did some of his usual thinking out loud, praising Barack Obama: "I've lived through the election of a lot of American presidents -- more than ten, I think -- and about half the people I knew at the time hated one or the other of the two candidates...Maybe I'm reading the wrong newspapers and listening to the wrong people, but I'm not hearing anyone who hates Barack Obama." Perhaps Rooney should stop listening to his own network’s fawning Obama coverage and consult the 46% of the country that did not vote for the Democratic president.
Rooney touted some of the president’s early decisions: "I think we've got ourselves a really good president with a funny name...Obama has frozen the salaries of people in the White House who are making more than $100,000...Obama has put limits on lobbyists who infest Washington. He reversed Bush's policy of making it hard to get information out of our government through the Freedom of Information Act." Rooney concluded his fawning by declaring: "Obama just looks good every time he does anything."
On Sunday’s ‘60 Minutes’ on CBS, anchor Bob Simon reported on the spread of Jewish settlements and at one point described the situation this way: "Demographers predict that, within ten years, Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Without a separate Palestinian state, the Israelis would have three options...They could try ethnic cleansing...they could give the Palestinians the vote...or they could inflict apartheid -- have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians. But apartheid regimes don't have a very long life." In April 2008, Simon interviewed an Israeli Air Force pilot and remarked: "You don’t look like a killer."
Simon spoke to a Palestinian doctor and former presidential candidate, Mustafa Barghouti, who declared: "Unfortunately, and I have to say to you that apartheid is already in place." Simon asked: "Apartheid is already in place?" Barghouti replied: "Absolutely." Simon then made Barghouti’s argument: "Apartheid? Israel is building what it calls a security wall between the West Bank and Israel. The Palestinians are furious because it appropriates 8% of the West Bank. Not only that, it weaves its way through Palestinian farms, separating farmers from their land. They have to wait at gates for soldiers to let them in. Settlers get a lot more water than Palestinians, which is why settlements are green and Arab areas are not."
In a rare instance of critical coverage of the Obama administration on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman about Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay: "I'm not sure if you've seen the New York Times this morning. On the front page there is an article that reveals that a terror suspect released from Guantanamo a few months ago...is now heading up Al Qaeda in Yemen. I'm wondering if this makes you less inclined Representative Harman, to support closing down the prison?"
Harman actually doubted the credibility of the usually left-wing newspaper: "Not at all. Obviously, if that allegation is true and if this fellow has now become a key Al Qaeda operative, that's shocking and disappointing." Harman went on to argue: "But there is really no justification, and there was no justification, for disappearing people in a place that was located offshore America so it was outside the reach of U.S. law. As President Obama said two days ago, there's a false choice between our safety and our values." Rodriguez then turned to Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra: "It all sounds great, but Representative Hoekstra you said yesterday that's placing 'hope ahead of reality,' right?"
Thursday’s CBS Early Show focused on an important aspect of the Obama Administration as co-host Julie Chen declared: "...in a meeting yesterday with senior White House staffers, President Obama showed a lot of love. That's right. The president is a man hugger. We counted nine man-to-man hugs." Co-host Maggie Rodriguez added: "Nothing wrong with that."
Chen then asked co-host Harry Smith: "Man of the show, Harry, how do you feel about the man hug?" Smith replied: "I think it's real." Rodriguez asked Smith: "Did he [Obama] ever man hug you?" Smith then recounted: "You know, I got one about a year ago in Wilmington, North Carolina. We were waiting for an interview, we had, you know, really great access. And he came in -- I have never told this story on the air before -- he came in, and he gives me one of these [Smith grasped Rodriguez’s hand and place his other hand on top]...and he says, ‘Harry Smith, how you doing, my brother?’" Rodriguez was touched: "Awww...He had you."
After being nominated for an academy award on Thursday for his role in the movie ‘Milk,’ actor Josh Brolin appeared on the CBS Early Show, where co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked: "...you played 'W.' You were here on the show talking about it. How did it feel to see him at the inauguration? Did you feel bad for him at all?" Brolin responded: "I don't know, personally? No, I think personally, I do. You know, watching him take off in the helicopter. But then I was also part of the, you know, the group that waved good-bye happily politically." Rodriguez and fellow co-host Harry Smith both laughed at the remark.
Earlier, Smith asked about Brolin about his role in ‘Milk,’ about the first gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk, and his murder: "Playing this San Francisco supervisor. This is the guy who ends up killing Harvey Milk. You were so -- you make such a commitment in this role. You made this guy real." Brolin explained his desire to be in the movie: "When I read it, I thought it was a really important film...And then the timeliness of it because of Prop 8, I think it's an incredible movie, I'm glad that there's so much notice for it." On December 10, Smith declared the movie, which also stars left-wing actor Sean Penn, was "...a must-see for everybody."
On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith aired an interview he did with photojournalist Scout Tufankjian, who has followed Barack Obama since 2006: "Two years and some one million photographs later, Tufankjian's first book, 'Yes We Can.' She was the only independent photojournalist to cover the Obama campaign from start to finish."
Smith asked Tufankjian: "And had you ever met anybody like him before?" Tufankjian responded: "No. You can be so sick of him, and, you know, having heard the same speech and you're tired, you haven't slept, and I haven't seen my boyfriend in six weeks, and I haven't had a decent meal in ages, and I'm crabby and I'm angry and he smiles at you and it just kind of knocks you over."
Tufankjian also explained her motivation for the book: "For people, years from now, I want them to see this is -- this is what this moment in history was like this is how it felt. This is how I saw it...[Obama supporters] thought this guy's going to be president, he's going to change my life, he's going to change my kids' life, he is going to change the country."
On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Shelia Macvicar declared: "Playing on television sets around the world, the inauguration of this U.S. president became an extraordinary global event. From his father's ancestral homeland in Kenya, where celebration mixed with expectation...Newborn babies now bear the names of the first couple, Barack and Michelle."
From there, Macvicar went to France: "In the splendor of a grand hall in Paris, emotion overwhelmed." One French woman exclaimed: "Martin Luther King say that we shall overcome. We did today." Finally, to the Middle East: "In Gaza, they've seen presidents come and go and not much change, but, still, maybe this really is something new." A Palestinian man explained: "This is good. This is what we are looking for." Macvicar concluded: "As this president begins work, he has been greeted with an abundance of good will, and the burden of even greater expectations."
Following Macvicar’s report, co-host Julie Chen described a trip to Paris just prior to the election: "That was on October 31st. Everyone I ran into on the trip, they were calling it then the Obama election. Not the election, the Obama election." Co-host Harry Smith added: "Well, we were very fortunate yesterday, because both of us were on the Mall during the -- during the speech and during the swearing in and thereafter. And it really -- I have to say it was one of -- a remarkable experience." Co-host Maggie Rodriguez also chimed in: "Yeah. People were jumping up and down, weeping, strangers embracing. It was a beautiful thing."
At the end of Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith reflected on Barack Obama’s inauguration: "Politics, and patriotism, and the presidency. It is the place where the secular and the religious merge. And one of the sacraments of our national religion is the inauguration...So it was that as many as 2 million pilgrims made their way to Washington and the Mall to witness this most sacred event."
Smith continued to use religious language throughout the report: "As the oath was recited, as the speech was delivered...emotions were laid bear. Tears were shed...An inauguration is a renewal of faith...A confirmation that the republic, and our belief in it, endures."
Smith later concluded the segment by hoping: "And the agenda and the problems, you just hope that some of the momentum, some of the inspiration of yesterday, can continue to filter through the culture." Co-host Maggie Rodriguez agreed: "I thought the same thing. I was standing there with everyone, thinking back to the last time that I was on the Mall watching an inauguration. It was 1989 and I was a college student here in Washington. And there I was yesterday, older, not quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and yet, more optimistic, because you couldn't help but get caught up in that euphoria and that optimism and that hope. And waking up this morning, you just hope, you know, you have your fingers crossed that it continues."
During live coverage of President Bush leaving on the presidential helicopter immediately following the swearing in of Barack Obama, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric got reaction from liberal historian Douglas Brinkley, who observed: "Keep in mind, a lot of Americans are thinking it's pretty cool that he's leaving, too. A lot of Americans didn't take him as the real president after the Gore election in 2000. He's been very controversial. And a lot of people voted to get rid of Bush policies. So, and for some people are cheering the helicopter leaving, because they felt stuck for eight years." Couric agreed: "Right. Some people cheer in support, and some people, as Doug said, cheer because he's getting out of town."
Later, Couric asked Brinkley about Bush’s farewell press conference, particularly about the president’s defense of his response to Hurricane Katrina: "Doug Brinkley, you wrote a book all about Katrina and I was just curious to get your reaction to how the president assessed his performance vis-a-vis that disaster in that last news conference." Brinkley went on a left-wing rant:
He created a fairy tale for himself. Everybody knows the Bush Administration did not do a good job during Katrina. In fact, August, 2005, is the turning point. Even the national media -- which had been intimidated by the Rove White House for a while -- they changed. I was in New Orleans for the storm and the media was so angry at the seemingly lackadaisical response of the federal government and then the fact that the President of the United States did a flyover, didn't put his boot heels on the ground in Louisiana or Mississippi, didn't touch the flood waters. Many people I talked to remembered Hurricane Betsy in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson went there in the dead of night with a flashlight in his face saying 'this is your president.' Our president was AWOL during Katrina and it's, I think, probably going to be one of the hardest parts of his legacy to somehow fix by writing it -- changing it in a memoir or something.