The day after Al Gore endorsed Barack Obama in Detroit, MSNBC kept repeating the allegedly big news with the on-air question "Will Gore Help or Hurt Obama?" Left out of that question: Who cares? Does Gore’s endorsement matter at all?
Pundits usually declare in today’s media-saturated world that endorsements from major politicians or movie stars just don’t have much impact. A Who’s Who of the Beautiful People in Hollywood endorsed and actively campaigned for John Kerry – and had no impact.
With Al Gore it’s the same thing. He doesn’t bring a single vote Obama doesn’t already have. He could have participated in the process but he waited until the primary challenge from Hillary was over. Now he supports Obama. Where in the world is the news there?
With Gore's words on screen, NBC's Lee Cowan trumpeted live from the venue in Detroit:
He says he'll do whatever he can to make sure that Barack Obama gets elected President. He announced his decision today on his blog, e-mailing a very deep list of supporters telling them to get behind this ticket both with a little elbow grease and with a little money as well. “I've never asked members of AlGore.com to contribute to a political campaign before,” he said, “but this moment and this election are too important to let pass without taking action.”
On Wednesday's Countdown show, during the show's regular "Worst Person in the World" segment, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who rarely hits liberals during the segment while he often targets conservatives, turned his ire toward CBS News anchor Katie Couric for her recent charges that some media figures were guilty of anti-Clinton, or pro-Obama bias. Olbermann accused Couric of taking out of "context" comments by NBC correspondent Lee Cowan, who, as he covers the Barack Obama campaign, has said he finds it "hard to be objective," as she, not naming him, suggested he "find another line of work." Olbermann, who has attacked Hillary Clinton on several occasions while being softer on Obama, declared Cowan's reporting to be "utterly objective and accurate," and castigated Couric for "her own promulgation of the nonsense that Senator Clinton was a victim of sexism." (Transcript follows)
PAT BUCHANAN: That brings up the question of the substance of what Clinton said when he talked about the media coming down on Hillary and they're working for Obama, and all the rest of it. Obviously there's real bitterness on the part of Clinton. But is there not, as there was, and the reporters admitted it after 1960, hasn't there been sort of a melding between a lot of journalists and this enthusiastic Obama campaign?
The first African-American president, he's young and he's fresh. And all the journalists admitted later: yeah, we were for Jack Kennedy. We loved the guy. We didn't like Nixon. Isn't there some truth, in other words, behind his bitterness?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, you know, Pat, I think, um, that, eh, yeah. I think there is some truth to his bitterness. Um, you know, it's hard to, let's remember: reporters are human. And reporters are covering both these campaigns. And it's hard not to get swept up, I would think, into the enthusiasm and the drama and the excitement behind one of those huge Obama rallies.
Monday provided a great example of a network correspondent advancing Barack Obama's political cause by treating him as a victim of a nefarious GOP attack, thus allowing him to appear virtuous in his reply, an answer the other networks then highlighted to enhance the victimization theme. ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night showcased Obama's scolding of the Tennessee Republican Party for posting a video on You Tube contrasting Michelle Obama's February admission that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” with people declaring their pride in the U.S.
(As detailed, with video, in the earlier NewsBusters posting by Scott Whitlock, on Monday's Good Morning America ABC's Robin Roberts asked if he is “prepared” for “more and more” such attacks. Obama called the ad “low class” and ominously warned his opponents should “be careful” in making his wife an issue “because that I find unacceptable.”)
Monday night, ABC's David Wright reported that “Obama tried to subtract one potential issue from the general election -- his wife.” But without playing the February Michelle Obama soundbite to remind viewers what she said, Wright asserted “certain Republicans have already questioned her patriotism.” As if the concern is baseless. On CBS, Dean Reynolds played the February clip before relaying how Barack Obama “blasted a Republican Internet ad which uses a controversial statement she made about her husband's campaign to question her love of country.” Lee Cowan, on NBC, related Obama's “Rule Number One: lay off his family. When asked on ABC's Good Morning America about this Republican ad criticizing his wife for saying that 'this was the first time' that she'd been 'proud of her country,' he fired back.”
CBS's Dean Reynolds presumed Obama had caught McCain in a flip-flop: “Obama called McCain a hypocrite for backing Bush, and pointed to an earlier statement McCain had made about Hamas, which runs the Gaza strip.” After the “they're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another” McCain soundbite, Reynolds reported that “today McCain clarified,” as if he had to adjust his earlier view. On NBC, Lee Cowan highlighted how “Obama pointed to this interview two years ago when the Arizona Senator seemed to hint that eventually talking with Hamas might well be a political necessity.” Following the clip, Cowan allowed: “McCain says, though, that quote was taken out of context.”
Brian Williams asked Tim Russert: “Do you think this stops the damage?” Similarly, CBS's Katie Couric wondered to Jeff Greenfield: “Is today's repudiation enough to kind of control the damage?” Echoing NBC's Lee Cowan, ABC's David Wright relayed how Obama is “hoping it will finally put the Wright controversy behind him.”
NBC aired a clip of Obama maintaining “I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago,” but Cowan did not challenge that premise. At least CBS's Dean Reynolds pointed out that “yesterday's wording did not differ markedly from the sermons Wright delivered in the past” and ABC anchor Charles Gibson noted Wright “really didn't say anything different than he said in some of those sermons that have been played over and over again.”
The Politico, in an April 18 headline, stated the obvious "Obama’s secret weapon: The media," though it’s not much of a "secret" weapon. John F. Harris and Jim Vandehei noted the backlash against ABC for daring to ask the tough questions, and many mainstream journalists rallying behind Obama after the debate.
The following was adapted from the Media Research Center's April Fools Day Media "Reality" Check. The quotes are all fabrications written by the imaginative News Analysts at the MRC.
Panicked by the success of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" — urging conservatives to vote for Hillary Clinton in upcoming primaries to keep the Democrats in disarray — liberal reporters are becoming even more outspoken in praising the man they regard as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, Barack Obama.
CBS's Harry Smith sounded like a teenage groupie on the April 1 Early Show: "Obama's rock star status is reaching historic levels. His rallies attract more fans than a Hannah Montana concert and seats are impossible to get. Believe me I've tried." Over on ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman didn't want either liberal to lose: "Think of the race as a pro wrestling match between Martin Luther King and Eleanor Roosevelt. Whoever loses, it will be America that winds up feeling bruised."
It seems as though NBC is now expanding its bias to include paid supplements. In a print promotional distributed by NBC News, reporter Lee Cowan enthused, "When NBC News first assigned me to the Barack Obama campaign, I must confess my knees quaked a bit." This is the same journalist who in January famously confessed to "Nightly News" host Brian Williams that it's "almost hard to remain objective" when covering the "infectious" energy surrounding the Illinois senator. [Updated below fold with embed video from January]
Cowan's latest quote appeared in a NBC advertising section entitled "The Peacock." The first person article, which recounts Cowan's excitement over covering the Obama campaign, also featured the correspondent bubbling, "The task seemed daunting. Not only would the Illinois senator land me square in the center of rough and tumble presidential politics, but his campaign was truly historic. I wondered if I was up to the job. I wondered if I could do the campaign justice. I wondered if the experience would swallow me whole."
(The eight page spread, which featured several articles on or from NBC News personnel, appeared as a supplement to the March 23-29 edition of American Profile, a magazine distributed with newspapers across the country.) Cowan described Obama as "a whirlwind of activity, and being caught in that tornado is a challenge every day."
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage of Barack Obama's speech, in reaction to the furor over the racist, paranoid and America-hating remarks of his long-time pastor, not by focusing on what it says about Obama's true views and judgment but by admiring his success in “confronting” the issue of “race in America” in an “extraordinary” speech. Indeed, both ABC and CBS displayed “Race in America” on screen as the theme to their coverage, thus advancing Obama's quest to paint himself as a candidate dedicated to addressing a serious subject, not explain his ties to racially-tinged hate speech. NBC went simply with “The Speech” as Brian Williams described it as “a speech about race.”
In short, the approach of the networks was as toward a friend in trouble and they wanted to help him put the unpleasantness behind him by focusing on his noble cause. “Barack Obama addresses the controversial comments of his pastor, condemning the words but not the man,” CBS's Katie Couric teased before heralding: “And he calls on all Americans to work for a more perfect union.” On ABC, Charles Gibson announced: “Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on, and says it's time for America to do the same.” Reporting “Obama challenged Americans to confront the country's racial divide,” Gibson hailed “an extraordinary speech.”
NBC's Lee Cowan admired how “in the City of Brotherly Love, Barack Obama gave the most expansive and most intensely personal speech on race he's ever given,” adding it reflected “honesty that struck his rival Hillary Clinton.” On NBC, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart asserted “it was a very important speech for the nation. It was very blunt, very honest” and so “a very important gift the Senator has given the country.” [Updated with Nightline]
Ask an obvious question . . .
Amy Robach this morning asked the most rhetorical question in contemporary media: does the MSM have a thing for Barack Obama?
The weekend Today co-anchor didn't need guests Pat Buchanan or Rachel Maddow for the answer. She could have kept things in-house with NBC's own Lee Cowan, who has acknowledged “it's almost hard to remain objective” about Obama.
But pose the question Robach did, and Pat Buchanan gave her a colorful answer.