ABC and CBS Fret If Hussein Can "Get Justice" or a "Fair Trial?" --11/29/2005
2. Wallace Saw "Chaos," Reveals Rather Didn't Watch Memogate Story
3. Olbermann Distorts Cheney, Labels Media Bias Complaints Vitriol
More fretting from some television journalists about whether Saddam Hussein can get a "fair trial?" ABC's Charles Gibson opened Monday's Good Morning America: "Breaking news this morning. Saddam Hussein in court, defiant, massive security and the question: Can the former dictator get justice?" The subsequent story, however, didn't raise the fairness issue. The night before, on Sunday's CBS Evening News, Lara Logan contended from Baghdad that a foiled assassination attempt against the judge who had prepared charges against Hussein, "plays into the hands of those who say it's impossible for Saddam Hussein to get a fair trial when security concerns surrounding it are so grave."
The Wednesday, October 19 CyberAlert recounted: ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up a Tuesday World News Tonight story, about Saddam Hussein's trial set to start Wednesday, by noting how "many Iraqis are eager to see him in the docks, finally held accountable for atrocities committed by his regime." But then came the inevitable "but," as in: "But already, human rights groups are worried about the fairness of the trial." In the subsequent story, reporter Jim Sciutto in Iraq devoted most of his piece to how Iraqis are angry at Hussein and glad he's going on trial. Sciutto quoted one man who argued that "he should be tortured the same way he tortured the people." Sciutto, however, ended with the concern earlier highlighted by Vargas: "Human rights groups doubt the former dictator will get a fair trial, with five inexperienced judges unable to resist pressure for swift justice, and his legal team with little time to answer the charges." For more, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
Back to Sunday, November 27, CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts asked Logan, after her preview of the trial set to reconvene Monday: "This assassination attempt against the chief investigative judge, is at least the second time he's been targeted. Do you think that this is going to have any kind of a chilling effect on the other participants in the trial?"
Contradicting earlier reports that he and Rather got into an argument at a urinal, Wallace maintained that "I had a pleasant, sensible discussion with Dan. I said everybody who was involved with you in this thing, everybody got fired. Why didn't you go with them?" Wallace soon resisted Bill O'Reilly's characterization of the Memogate story as a "fiasco."
Moving on to Iraq, Wallace contended that "Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam" and asserted that "we should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods." Wallace, however, suggested Bush may not really have been in charge and thus may not be to blame: "Now, whether the President was sold a bill of goods or whether Dick Cheney was sitting in the chair at that time, I don't know."
Earlier in the day, Wallace appeared in a taped segment on MSNBC's Hardball, but Chris Matthews didn't raise Memogate.
[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
The June 1, 2004 MRC CyberAlert recounted, with an accompanying RealPlayer clip: Mike Wallace, at a Smithsonian Institution "National World War II Reunion" event on Friday shown later by C-SPAN, denounced the war in Iraq. "This is not, in my estimation, a good war," Wallace declared a panel event, on "World War II veterans as journalists," held in a tent on the Capitol end of Mall the afternoon before the dedication of the World War II Memorial. "I don't know how we got into a position where our present Commander-in-Chief and the people around him," the 60 Minutes correspondent lamented, "had the guts to take our kids and send them on what seems to be -- it sure is not a noble enterprise."
For more and to watch the video, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
Bill O'Reilly: "Mary Mapes. I had her on the broadcast. Did an extensive interview with her. Millions of people watched it. She came off as very unsteady. Her main thesis was well, they haven't proved the documents about Bush National Guard weren't real, were not real. That was her thesis. I said as an investigative reporter, you've to use the same threshold you use in a court of law. Beyond a reasonable doubt. If there's one doubt, you can't put them on the air. How do you feel about it?"
On his Countdown show Wednesday night (November 23), MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted much of one segment to criticizing Vice President Cheney's November 21 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a speech in which the Vice President took exception with how the Associated Press characterized his attacks on Democratic Senators who have accused President Bush of lying about pre-war intelligence. Even though Cheney's original speech on November 16 at the Frontiers of Freedom Institute made clear his comments were directed at "some U.S. Senators," rather than anti-war critics in general, the AP ran the headline, "Cheney says war critics dishonest, reprehensible," which gave the false impression Cheney was calling all opponents of the Iraq War "dishonest" and "reprehensible." Cheney's November 21 statement that "I do have a quarrel with that headline" so offended Olbermann that he characterized Cheney's well-founded, and relatively polite, complaint as "vitriol" toward the media. The Countdown host proceeded to distort Cheney's words himself to prove his contention that the Vice President's complaints were unfounded.
[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
In Cheney's November 16 speech, the Vice President's much-quoted attacks were clearly directed at a select few politicians who have accused the Bush administration of lying about the rationale for the Iraq invasion. As evidenced by a thorough reading of Cheney's speech, the Vice President started by identifying three Senators by name, and later referred to "some U.S. Senators," "a few opportunists," and "certain politicians," in referring to those at whom this special criticism was directed. Cheney even paid homage to the principle that politicians can disagree agreeably, prefacing his comments by saying that in Washington, "you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of a political debate."
Olbermann took exception to Cheney's complaint about the mis-characterization of his words in the media. After a segment on administration plans to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq next year, Olbermann set up the next segment, "The news about the intended, if not precisely planned, troop withdrawals may, in fact, explain the increase in vitriol from the administration towards the media lately. You got to make it look like you are not caving in to your critics, whether the elected ones or the electronic ones. Case in point, the Vice President again this week, while scaling back the administration's attack on the Vietnam vet and Congressman Jack Murtha, he turned on a far easier target. Guess who?" After playing a clip of Cheney's November 21 criticism of the AP headline, the Countdown host then played a clip from Cheney's November 16 speech, which Olbermann oddly believed contradicted Cheney's criticism of the AP headline:
Olbermann, missing Cheney's point that he was not attacking war critics in general, but only a select number of Senators, mocked the Vice President: "Not only sounded like the words '€˜dishonest' and 'reprehensible' were there, but also with context and everything." The Countdown host then brought aboard MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford, who contended that "to suggest that quoting him accurately in a headline is somehow a bias...is a little bit of a stretch." Crawford also commented that Cheney's "old rhetorical tricks...are beginning to ring hollow."
After failing to discern that the point of Cheney's comments was not to deny using the words "dishonest" and "reprehensible," but to convey that his comments were specifically directed at "some U.S. Senators," the Countdown host then proceeded to overanalyze a portion of Cheney's speech in which the Vice President argued that baseless charges that the President lied run the risk of damaging the war effort. Because of Cheney's choice of words, Olbermann suggested that Cheney's wording was a "ploy" because Cheney was too timid to make the criticism more directly. As Cheney remarked at one point in his November 21 speech, "One might also argue that untruthful charges against the Commander-in-Chief have an insidious effect on the war effort itself. I'm unwilling to say that only because I know the character of the United States Armed Forces, men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts."
Olbermann took exception to Cheney's use of the words "I'm unwilling to say that," and in quoting him, cut out the rest of Cheney's sentence and argued that by using the words, "I'm unwilling to say that," Cheney was using a "ploy" of distancing himself from the accusation. One could debate about why Cheney chose that specific wording. Perhaps he was just conveying the point that baseless attacks on America's government threaten to demoralize the troops, while at the same time wanting to convey a sort of pep talk to the troops, as in saying "we know you won't let the critics demoralize you." Considering some of the blunt words Cheney had already used in both speeches to attack certain critics, it seems unlikely Cheney was too timid to say what he means. At any rate, however one interprets these words, the fact that Olbermann's quote of Cheney cut the Vice President off in mid-sentence deprived the viewer of some of the context the viewer might have used to judge what Cheney's words meant.
Today's examples are not the first time Olbermann has distorted Cheney's words to attack the Vice President. As recounted in the October 7, 2004 CyberAlert, Olbermann argued that Cheney had claimed Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks and used edited clips from Cheney's appearances on Meet the Press to make it falsely appear that Cheney had, in fact, made such a claim. See: www.mrc.org
Below are more detailed quotes from Cheney's November 16 speech that help convey the point that the Vice President's criticisms were directed at a select number of politicians, after which is a transcript of relevant portions of Olbermann's November 23 Countdown show:
Cheney began his November 16 speech on a note of humor by taking a jab at three Democratic Senators who have been prominent in attacking the White House: "I'm sorry we couldn't be joined by Senators Harry Reid, John Kerry, and Jay Rockefeller. They were unable to attend due to a prior lack of commitment. I'll let you think about that one for a minute."
Cheney later remarked, "And the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. Senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
Discussing American soldiers fighting in Iraq, the Vice President later said that "back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie."
He also declared that, "The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their backbone, but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of Olbermann's segment with Crawford, in which Cheney's speech was discussed, from the November 23 Countdown show:
Keith Olbermann: "The news about the intended if not precisely planned troop withdrawals may, in fact, explain the increase in vitriol from the administration towards the media lately. You got to make it look like you are not caving in to your critics, whether the elected ones or the electronic ones. Case in point, the Vice President again this week, while scaling back the administration's attack on the Vietnam vet and Congressman Jack Murtha, he turned on a far easier target. Guess who?"
-- Brent Baker