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Thursday's NBC Nightly News led, yes led, with how, as anchor Brian Williams put it, President Bush had that morning conducted “a staged event" via satellite with ten U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi soldier in Iraq. “Today's encounter was billed as spontaneous,” Williams intoned. “Instead, it appeared to follow a script.” Andrea Mitchell warned that “the troops were coached on how to answer the Commander-in-Chief” and, indeed, not until two minutes into her three-minute story -- after showing clips of how a DOD official had told the soldiers the questions Bush would ask -- did Mitchell note how “the White House and at least one of the soldiers says the troops weren't told what to say, just what the President would ask." So, the answers were not staged. The soldiers, naturally nervous about appearing on live TV with the President of the United States, were simply told who should answer which question and to “take a breath” before answering. Scandalous! Over video of Bush on the aircraft carrier, Mitchell went on to remind viewers of how “this isn't the first time this administration used troops to help sell the Iraq war.” But she also admitted a media double-standard: “Many administrations, Democrat and Republican, stage-manage events and often the news media ignore the choreography.”

ABC's World News Tonight also devoted a full story, though not the lead, to the media-generated controversy. Terry Moran contended that “the fact that this was so carefully choreographed...shows just how urgently the White House wants not just a success on the ground in Iraq, but a PR success at home for this embattled President." Over on the CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer opined that “unfortunately for the President, after satellite cameras caught administration aides rehearsing the soldiers beforehand, Democrats dismissed the whole thing and said the troops deserved a lot better.” Lara Logan managed to cover other material in her story and uniquely showcased a soldier who told CBS: "The truth is that everything that was said was meant to be said, though it may have sounded scripted in some places. Nerves kick in, for one. Two, everyone puts their thoughts together. You put it down, you go over and over it a hundred times."

MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann also led Thursday with the “staged” event and the AP distributed a story breathlessly headlined, “Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged.” But on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume noted complaints the event was "not entirely spontaneous" before Carl Cameron pointed out that Bush posed an unplanned question to the Iraqi soldier. In the panel segment, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon recalled how when “back in December” a soldier asked Rumsfeld about armor, a question that “had been planted by a reporter, I didn't hear any outcry from the press.” (UPDATE with CNN coverage and transcripts follow.)



     For the media, Hurricane Katrina has been a story of zeroes – the more, the better. While reports before the hurricane’s landing incorrectly warned of tens of thousands of deaths, one prediction that has panned out is the gargantuan cost of the storm. Katrina wrought tens of billions of dollars in destruction and set in motion a $250-billion rebuilding effort.


At today's White House Press Briefing, Helen Thomas wanted to know what a 'total victory' meant in Iraq. As Scott McClellan was answering the question to her dissatisfaction, she interrupted and tried to trip him up again. Scott, tired of her anti-War rhetoric, came right out and said she was against the War on Terror. Helen responded and said that the Middle East knows we invaded Iraq and ended her remarks with "I'm opposed to preemptive war".



Washington Post columnist Tina Brown today took the opportunity to mark the 80th birthday of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, with a scathing attack on Harriet Miers.

In, "You've Come a Long Way, Ladies," Brown begins:



Cam Edwards, a talk-radio host at NRANews.com, drew out CBS Public Eye facilitator Vaughn Ververs on the subject of "60 Minutes" star Mike Wallace appearing at a $250-a-pop fundraiser (and birthday party for political humorist Art Buchwald) for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Ververs took that question to Wallace and CBS senior vice president for standards Linda Mason.



Search as you may, it will still be difficult for you to find much good news about anything taking place in either Afghanistan or Iraq. It isn’t that positive news is in short supply. It is the “If it bleeds It leads” mentality of the mainstream media that keeps death and bombings in the headlines and relatively uplifting accomplishments banished to the inside pages of publications and almost always omitted from radio and television newscasts.



Bruce Thornton has a good article at JewishPress.com about journalists who raise a fuss and then ask people what they think of the fuss they've created.

Imagine that you started receiving letters in the mail accusing your neighbor of being a child molester. Occasionally you receive photographs or even a video showing the neighbor with a child on his lap or dressed up like a clown at a children`s party.


NBC's Tim Russert proclaimed, "It's a year away but the Democrats are feeling almost giddy this morning," as he ran down the negative news from NBC's own poll. Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show with a teaser for the Russert political analysis segment: 



The Times gives Democrats room for hope to take over Congress in 2006. Was the Times as enthusiastic about Republican prospects in 1994?

Robin Toner's Page One New York Times story ("Democrats See Dream of '06 Victory Taking Form") begins: "Suddenly, Democrats see a possibility in 2006 they have long dreamed of: a sweeping midterm election framed around what they describe as the simple choice of change with the Democrats or more of an unpopular status quo with the Republican majority."


Here is an interesting item linked to by Matt Drudge. London's Daily Mail reports that 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone will star in a new Rocky movie and a new Rambo movie.


Josh Rushing served as a Pentagon spokesman in Doha in 2003, during the first months of the invasion of Iraq. Now he is joining an all-English network owned by Al Jazeera. The new network, Al Jazeera International, is set to launch next year.

Joining him will be BBC veteran journalist Sir David Frost.

Rushing will report from the bureau in Washington and Frost will be in London.

Rushing was featured in "Control Room," a documentary about American efforts to create a positive image during the early stages of the war.



Ever wonder where the media find those people for the heart-wrenching personal interest stories used to illustrate a point? Me too.

The Today show aired a doozy this morning, and used it to make a hair-raising prediction that pointed the finger at insufficient government welfare spending.

The topic was increasing fuel prices, and in particular the rising cost of home heating.



On Wednesday night, viewers of MSNBC's Countdown got to see host Keith Olbermann elaborate on his latest conspiracy theory during a segment entitled "The Nexus of Politics and Terror," in which Olbermann outlined 10 of what he referred to in the segment's introduction as "13 similar coincidences -- a political downturn for the administration, followed by a terror event, a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning." After plugging this special segment on his show for the last couple of nights, the Countdown host devoted 24 minutes of his hour-long sh




Tonight on Countdown was the "Nexus of Politics & Terror" segment that Keith Olbermann has been hyping for several days. Olbermann uses far-out conspiracy theories to attempt to make it look like the Bush administration uses fake terror alerts when bad news is reported about them.

Number 3: Olbermann tries to make the comparison: Anti-war marches = a fake terror alert. There have been several anti-war marches since the start of The War in Iraq, however there hasn't been a terror alert for each and everyone. This is just a coincidence.

Number 5: Olbermann tries to equate a fake terror alert to the Chief UN Weapon resigning. So apparently every time someone important in the War on Terror resigns, we must have a terror alert. Why there wasn't one when Tom Ridge resigned or heck when Michael Brown (head of FEMA) resigned?

DOWNLOAD and view video here.



The results of the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were released last night, and pressrooms around the nation appeared to be pleased. “NBC Nightly News” reported it this way (video link to follow):

Tim Russert: Brian, not good news for George W. Bush's second term thus far. Only 39% of Americans approve his job. 54% disapproval. That 39% approval is the lowest in the five years of his presidency. And Brian, listen to this: Only 2%, 2% of African Americans in the United States approve of George Bush's handling of the presidency. The lowest we've ever seen in that particular measurement.