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ABC and CBS Fret If Hussein Can "Get Justice" or a "Fair Trial?" --11/29/2005


1. ABC and CBS Fret If Hussein Can "Get Justice" or a "Fair Trial?"
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 justice 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."

2. Wallace Saw "Chaos," Reveals Rather Didn't Watch Memogate Story
In a taped interview aired Monday night on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor, Mike Wallace of CBS's 60 Minutes, agreed that the Bush National Guard story should not have aired if the memos could not be authenticated "beyond a reasonable doubt," revealed that the weekend Mapes and her colleagues were putting the story together "was chaos" inside the 60 Minutes offices and that Dan Rather has "acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air." 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. Listen to MP3 audio clip.

3. Olbermann Distorts Cheney, Labels Media Bias Complaints Vitriol
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.


ABC and CBS Fret If Hussein Can "Get
Justice" or a "Fair Trial?"

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?"
Logan, in Baghdad: "Well, this whole trial has been heavy with intimidation, John, and not just threats. Two of the defense lawyers have already been executed. So people are watching this very closely. And it 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, John?"

Wallace Saw "Chaos," Reveals Rather Didn't
Watch Memogate Story

In a taped interview aired Monday night on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor, Mike Wallace of CBS's 60 Minutes, agreed that the Bush National Guard story should not have aired if the memos could not be authenticated "beyond a reasonable doubt," revealed that the weekend Mapes and her colleagues were putting the story together "was chaos" inside the 60 Minutes offices and that Dan Rather has "acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air."


Listen to MP3 audio clip

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

I corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of most of the interview, taped off-site from FNC, which Wallace sat down for to promote his new book, Between You and Me: A Memoir.

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?"
Mike Wallace: "I think you're right. Simple as that."
O'Reilly: "Did you tell her that?"
Wallace: "Did I tell her that? I had nothing to do with it."
O'Reilly: "No, but you're in the same building over there at 60 Minutes."
Wallace: "Never met her."
O'Reilly: "Really?"
Wallace: "Never met Mary Mapes."
O'Reilly: "She's been at CBS for 28 years."
Wallace: "I know that. Me, I've been there since 1963. I have never met her. She lives in Texas. I've read a couple of things about it. Look, I was there the weekend they were putting it together. It was chaos."
O'Reilly: "Chaos?"
Wallace: "Yeah, it was. I didn't know what they were doing, but it was -- they didn't want us to know what they were doing. Dan Rather is my friend, remains my friend. I have nothing but respect for him. Nonetheless, truth to tell, he has acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air."
O'Reilly: "Is that right? Too busy?"
Wallace: "Yeah. Busy. One thing or another."
O'Reilly: "But in a report that's going to denigrate the President of the United States, you would think that you would want to see it."
Wallace: "That's your view."
O'Reilly: "You would want to see it, would you not?"
Wallace: "Damn right."
O'Reilly: "Did you tell Rather that he screwed it up?"
Wallace: "I wondered -- 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? Or did it never occur to you along the way?"
O'Reilly: "You said that to Rather?"
Wallace: "Of course. Everybody, everybody got fired. And Dan didn't. Okay. He had a contract, whatever. And I told this to Dan. Perhaps if you had said, 'hey, if they go, I go,' the whole thing would have been perceived as somewhat different."
O'Reilly: "You think he could have saved all those people?"
Wallace: "I don't know about that."
O'Reilly: "Do you think he should have been fired?"
Wallace: "You don't fire a man like Rather who's been with the company forever and has done extraordinary things forever, no."
O'Reilly: "Bottom line, the whole thing was a fiasco, the Bush National Guard story and CBS News, just a fiasco."
Wallace: "That's your view."
O'Reilly: "Is it yours?"
Wallace: "I don't know enough about the piece, honest."
O'Reilly: "But if they cannot prove the documents were real and they can't, isn't that the definition of a journalistic fiasco?"
Wallace: "Well, apparently, I've not -- as I say, I've never met Mary Mapes."
O'Reilly: "You're dancing."
Wallace: "I am dancing a little bit."
O'Reilly: "You're doing the lambada here, Mike."
Wallace laughs: "Look, if I'd been there, I wouldn't have gone on the air unless I was certain."
O'Reilly: "Beyond a reasonable doubt."
Wallace: "Yeah."
O'Reilly: "Is Iraq Vietnam?"
Wallace: "Say again?"
O'Reilly: "Is Iraq Vietnam?"
Wallace: "Well, you know, 58,000 people were killed in Vietnam. It's a mere -- can you imagine, Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam. We should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods. 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."
O'Reilly: "Well, it was Bush who made the decision. Cheney encouraged it."

Olbermann Distorts Cheney, Labels Media
Bias Complaints Vitriol

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:
Dick Cheney, dated November 16: "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."

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?"
Dick Cheney, dated November 21: "Within hours of my speech, the report went out on the wires under the headline, quote, 'Cheney says war critics dishonest, reprehensible,' end quote. Now, one thing I've learned in the last five years is that when you're vice president, you're lucky if your speeches get any attention at all. But I do have a quarrel with that headline. And it's important to make this point at the outset. I do not believe it is wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof."
Olbermann: "The media misrepresented his stance. Well, he referred to the wires. That would be the Associated Press. He also referred to himself as 'Cheney' (pronounced as chee-nee) there. Leaving aside the fact that the Vice President went on in that same speech to add 'corrupt' and 'shameless' to the adjectives 'dishonest' and 'reprehensible,' here's what he had actually said five days ago which produced that original headline:"
Cheney, dated November 16: "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 prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
Olbermann: "Not only sounded like the words 'dishonest' and 'reprehensible' in there, but also with context and everything. Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst and Congressional Quarterly contributing editor Craig Crawford. Good evening, Craig."
Craig Crawford: "Ah, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
Olbermann: "Exactly. What's different about this one than about any of the other stuff we've seen or you and I have talked about or you have written a book about?"
Crawford: "Yeah, I'm ready to write another chapter just out of this speech almost. It was quite a bell ringer for me. I mean, to suggest that quoting him accurately in a headline is somehow a bias, I suppose he's saying, is a little bit of a stretch, to say the least. I mean, it's a new standard of bias, a malicious direct quotation, I guess."
Olbermann: "When you hear people talk about the mainstream media, folks who watch Fox News think the mainstream media is everybody else but Fox News. People who listen to Air America think the mainstream media is Fox News. But you never hear people talk about the Associated Press. And that's who he's referring to. They're like the electric company. Whatever we might do with the electricity, most of it still comes from them. There's nothing more mainstream in the news world. Is it smart for anybody to attack the Associated Press?"
Crawford: "Well, I do think this one rang so hollow. I think a lot of the old rhetorical tricks that were so evident in this fairly short 19-minute speech are beginning to ring hollow. As far as, I mean, the wires and the Associated Press, in particular, you know, right down the middle when they do analysis. They label it. But, of course, Cheney knows that any attack on the media finds a home because there's a receptive marketplace out there for turning the tables on the press."
Olbermann: "But is the Vice President getting more desperate when he attacks reporters? Because when he said this, '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-' I mean, Craig, the old Dick Cheney, he wouldn't have tried the 'I'm not saying this, but some people say' ploy. I mean, wouldn't he have just had the guts to come out and say, 'You're wrong!'?"
Crawford: "Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I think he is becoming aware of his, of the low approval ratings with the public, and may be a little bit gun shy. But he still got a few zingers in there. I mean, that was quite a, that is a classic old, old trick in politics, Keith, you know, to take a personal slam against somebody and try to make it seem more high-minded because you're quoting someone else and distancing yourself from it. The President actually did that in China in one of his remarks. He said that 'I heard somebody say that it's unpatriotic to criticize me. I reject that.' I don't know who he was quoting, who he claims had said that. But that is a classical trick, to get a message out without being the messenger."
Olbermann: "Yeah, it's also a classic media trick. I don't know how many times that I've heard a question asked-"
Crawford: "Very true."
Olbermann: "-exactly that same way."
Crawford: "Yeah, very true."

-- Brent Baker