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.)

On yesterday's The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty made an over the top statement comparing the upcoming Miers confirmation hearings to a train derailment.

(transcript via Radio Blogger)

Wolf: James Dobson's claims about Harriet Miers making it into the Cafferty File today. Jack is in New York, and he's smiling, as only Jack can do.

Jack Cafferty: I love this. I mean, I...this is just going to be one of the great shows, unless she backs away, one of the great shows we've seen in a while. If the Miers nomination to be a Supreme Court justice wasn't in trouble before, it is now. And by the way, it was in big trouble before. With evangelical leader Dobson hinting he might have secret information about Miers' views on such issues as abortion, and with his acknowledgment that he talked with Karl Rove at the White House about her nomination, Miers' opponents have been handed a loaded gun. Even if Dobson is called before the Senate Judiciary Committee and actually testifies, there'll always be a suspicion that we're not getting the whole story on her. Nevertheless, all that being said, I can't wait for the hearing. I mean, I wish they'd start this afternoon. Here's the question. Should evangelical leader James Dobson have to testify, be subpoenaed and be forced to testify at Harriet Miers' confirmation hearings...I hope he does. And I hope she does, and I just...I mean, I just can't wait. This is going to be a dream for people like me.

WB: You might have to wait until early December for those hearings, though, Jack.

Jack Cafferty: Yeah, but I mean, you know, this is going to be like watching those super trains that go from the Tokyo airport into downtown Tokyo, go off the tracks at maximum speed. I mean, you just won't see anything better than that.

So let me get this straight .. the pain, suffering, and death of hundreds of people is equal to the Judiciary Committee's questioning of Harriet Miers? Jack never ceases to amaze me.

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Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s “The Situation Room,” had Angelina Jolie on yesterday. After a discussion on the Katrina disaster and her reaction to the newly discovered “poverty” there, the topic shifted to her relief work in Africa and HIV/Aids issues, and eventually, of course -- to funding. Wolf Blitzer, jumping on an opening, had the following line ready to go [emphasis added] - brief disussion followed:

As reported by Brent Baker in today’s CyberAlert, Wolf Blitzer was taken aback by CNN founder Ted Turner’s defense of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his treatment of the North Korean people.

On CNN’s The Situation Room last evening, Wolf Blitzer adroitly set up Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean with questions surrounding racism in Hurricane Katrina rescue and prevention efforts:

Reading viewer email at the bottom of 4:00 hour of CNN's "Situation Room," Jack Cafferty dismissed a call from a viewer "try to be 'fair and balanced'" in his commentary segments, deriding the audience member's suggestion as a "thinly veiled reference to the F-word network."

Full transcript:

And finally, John writes: Cafferty, your liberal opinions are not appreciated by a majority of the viewers. Your smart remarks about our President and Vice President are not welcome. If at all possible, try to be "fair and balanced."

I think that was a thinly veiled reference to the F-word Network, Wolf. What do you think?

Video Excerpt: Real or Windows

On this evening’s The Situation Room, CNN’s Jack Cafferty ran a poll asking the following question concerning ongoing rescue efforts in New Orleans:  What should be done with the people who refuse to leave? 

 “Officials want everybody out of town because the health risks of the contaminated water are  simply too great.  But not everybody wants to leave.”

This raises an interesting question that seems to be eluding media representatives like Mr. Cafferty:  If a large percentage of people don’t want to leave now as the health risks in the water that is surrounding them are mounting and obvious, why should we be surprised that a similarly large percentage of the New Orleans population didn’t leave prior to the hurricane making landfall?

Refuse To Evacuate Video

On last evening’s The Situation Room, CNN’s Ed Henry did a report on the politicization of Hurricane Katrina.  One of the first segments was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with some rather unkind words about our president:

“He chose someone with absolutely no credentials. You know what? When I said to the president that he should fire Michael Brown, he said why would I do that? I said because of all that went wrong with all that didn't go right last week. He said what didn't go right. 

“Oblivious, in denial. Dangerous.”

And that was just the beginning of Ed’s report.  It gets even better.

Video Link

Extended Pelosi Link

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon repeatedly prodded reluctant Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans. Blitzer asked Cummings on The Situation Room: “Do you believe, if it was, in fact, a slow response, as many now believe it was, was it in part the result of racism?” When Cummings demurred from such a blanket accusation, Blitzer wouldn’t give up: “There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?"

Later, on CNN’s NewsNight, Aaron Brown took up the same agenda with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones: “What I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans?” When she wouldn’t take the bait, Brown lectured: “Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there, is a matter of race and/or class?”

Opening the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams predicted that the "catastrophic hurricane strike, and the U.S. government response to it, will in the years or decades to come, perhaps necessitate a national discussion on race, on oil, politics, class, infrastructure, the environment and more.” ABC’s Ted Koppel charged on Nightline that “the slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina has led to questions about race, poverty and a seemingly indifferent government.”

Transcripts follow.

Today during CNN's "Situation Room," anchor Jack Cafferty suspected the Bush administration had turned the timing of the help sent to New Orleans into a political stunt.

CAFFERTY: Do you suppose, Wolf, that the arrival of the relief convoys and the political photo ops on the Gulf Coast happening at the very same time were a coincidence today?
BLITZER: Well, I'm sure our viewers have some thoughts on that as well.

From CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Thursday, September 1, 2005, covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: (audiotape on file, emphasis mine)

BLITZER: "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals, as Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold."

Two days after CNN's Jack Cafferty demanded to know, as detailed in a Tuesday NewsBusters item, “Where's President Bush? Is he still on vacation?”and snidely suggested that “based on his approval rating in the latest polls, my guess is getting back to work might not be a terrible idea,” on Thursday's Situation Room Cafferty took off after Bush again. At about 3:30pm EDT during his “Cafferty File” segment, he suddenly found the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader very wise and quoted approvingly from their Wednesday editorial: “'A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource....The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months following 9/11, has vanished.'” He piled on with how a New York Times editorial excoriated Bush “for 'appearing casual to the point of carelessness.'”

Cafferty soon launched a rant: “I have never, ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans. Where the hell is the water for these people? Why can't sandwiches be dropped to those people that are in that Superdome down there? I mean, what is, this is Thursday. This is Thursday. This storm happened five days ago. It's a disgrace.”

Cafferty ignored a Thursday Union Leader editorial which castigated Louisiana's Governor, Kathleen Blanco: “Louisiana Gov’t Fails Its People.”

Video: Real or Windows Media. Full transcript follows.