ABC and NBC Treat Ohio Vote Protest by Democrats as Credible --1/7/2005
2. New Favorite "Even Republican"; Promote Graham's Hit on Gonzales
3. Michael Moore So Enthralled Couric She Awarded Him a 2nd Segment
Two network anchors treated as a noble cause, not as an unworthy publicity gimmick without any factual basis, the move by a few far-left cranks in the House and Senate to object to the certification of the Electoral College vote in Ohio in favor of President George W. Bush. ABC's Peter Jennings noted that "the Democrats knew that it was a pretty ceremonial objection," but he stressed how they "regarded it as important." Brian Williams, from Singapore, teased Thursday's NBC Nightly News by assuming facts not in evidence as he presumed there were "problems" in Ohio, "Protesting the vote: Congress forced to interrupt its ceremonial counting of the electoral votes because of problems on Election Day in Ohio." NBC's Chip Reid proceeded to relay, without citing any evidence, how "the objectors cited irregularities in Ohio from alleged intimidation of minority voters to too few voting machines."
Peter Jennings held his January 6 World News Tonight coverage to this short item: "In the Congress today, they officially certified the results of the presidential election. It was not without incident. One Democratic Senator joined a Democrat from the House in objecting to the results from Ohio, which forced reconsideration in both houses. The Democrats knew that it was a pretty ceremonial objection, but regarded it as important."
With Brian Williams in Singapore for the tsunami, Campbell Brown co-anchored from New York and set up the January 6 story on the vote protest: "NBC News 'In Depth' tonight, one more installment in our election series, 'Making Your Vote Count.' On Capitol Hill, today was the day of the ceremonial counting of the electoral vote, which President Bush won. But the count was interrupted by a protest over voting problems in Ohio on Election Day. Will it make any difference in how people vote next time? 'In Depth' tonight, here's NBC's Chip Reid."
Reid began, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "It's an elaborate ceremony repeated every four years."
A new congressional session and a new favorite contrarian Republican for journalists to tout under the lead-in of "even Republicans..." In a Thursday night story on hostility from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee toward Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales, based on how memos he wrote supposedly led to "torture," NBC's Pete Williams highlighted how "even some Republicans today said the memos led to a climate of abuse that endangered U.S. troops and hurt America's reputation." He then ran a clip from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Over on ABC, Linda Douglass set up Graham's wisdom: "A Republican suggested that abusing prisoners debases all Americans."
On the January 6 NBC Nightly News, Pete Williams explained, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Senate Democrats pressed him on two memos prepared in 2002, one he wrote saying the protections of the Geneva Convention don't apply to al-Qaeda prisoners and some of its provisions are, quote, 'quaint,' and another from the Justice Department that said bans on torture apply only to treatment that causes the 'kind of pain that comes with serious physical injury, organ failure or death.' That definition has since been withdrawn, but even some Republicans today said the memos led to a climate of abuse that endangered U.S. troops and hurt America's reputation."
On ABC's World News Tonight, after a clip from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and multiple soundbites from Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, Linda Douglass got to the other side, but not really: "A Republican suggested that abusing prisoners debases all Americans."
Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore was awarded seven and a half minutes of air time in the 7:30 half hour of Thursday's Today show to offer his political analysis of why the Democrats failed to oust Bush. Katie Couric felt that wasn't enough, so she invited him back an hour later for another eight minutes and forty seconds of air time, or 16 minutes, 10 seconds overall. While Couric tried to suggest that maybe Hollywood liberalism hurt the Democrats (and even noted the "vitriol...you seem to embody"), she also inaccurately promoted Moore's latest book as "new" and "currently on many bestseller lists" when it came out in October and on Thursday was ranked #1,547 on Amazon.com.
[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
Couric began the January 6 session: "Love him or hate him, there's no denying Michael Moore's influence. His highly critical film of the Bush administration, Fahrenheit 9/11, is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. Now Michael Moore is out with a new book, Will They Ever Trust Us Again? It's a compilation of letters from soldiers in Iraq and their families and it is currently on many bestseller lists. Michael Moore, welcome back."
Unfortunately for NBC, that's inaccurate. Moore's latest book came out from Simon & Schuster in October of last year, and was only on the New York Times best-seller list for three weeks (October 24, October 31, November 7). The Washington Post's local best-sellers list only listed the Moore book once (October 24). On Thursday, the book was ranked #1,547 on Amazon.com.
Couric asked if it was true Moore stayed in his pajamas for three days after the election. He said no. Then she tried to draw him out as a pundit: "What, in your view, if you had to do a post-mortem on this election, why do you believe George Bush was re-elected and John Kerry lost?" Moore insisted Republicans keep selling a fictional tale of a dangerous world: "I think the Republicans were very good at instilling fear in the American people, and fear works. They had a very good story to tell, even though it was a story of fiction. It was a story about how it's a dangerous world, and you may die at any moment, and if you vote for me, you won't die. And you know, I think that's very powerful for a lot of people."
Couric noted that former Clinton Chief-of-Staff Leon Panetta decried the "Michael Moore Syndrome, which basically means you galvanized the Republican base by becoming a symbol of the cultural elite that is out of touch with most people in this country." Moore protested: "First of all, obviously, people who know me know I'm not a member of the cultural elite." Couric failed to bring up Moore's multi-millionaire income, or his fat speaking fees in the waning days of the presidential election, including a foiled plan for a $35,000 speech at George Mason University in the week before the vote.
But the cultural elitism surfaced about two minutes later, after Moore called President Bush, a "sort of a bumbling, stumbling Gilligan." Couric then read a long excerpt from his Web site about protesting the inauguration, with the words on screen, and then asked: "Is part of the problem, though, is the Democratic Party talking more about what they're against and was John Kerry's candidacy talking too much negative? About negative things with the Bush administration and not enough about what they're for, what they represent, and what they mean to the American people? Anecdotally, when I talk to people who were kind of on the fence about this election they said, 'We never quite understood what John Kerry stood for and what he would do differently.' And I think people were turned off by the vitriol that frankly you in many ways embody."
Moore then put on the artistic airs, although he didn't really answer the issue of his vitriol: "Well, no. What I embody -- I, among many artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Pearl Jam to the Russell Simmons and hip-hop community -- all the people who were out there energizing the base of the Democratic party, getting young people out to vote, which is what we did, and look, if anything, the Democrats have been too weak-kneed." He then touted how on Thursday, black members of Congress would aggressively object to the election certification in Ohio as an example of what the Democrats should do. Couric then asked Moore to "stick around" for another interview segment.
When Couric returned to Moore for the almost nine-minute segment in the 8:30 half hour, they talked for quite a while about how the Democrats need to put up a "star" instead of a "wonk" for the Democratic nomination. To Moore, Bill Clinton is a "star" and not a wonk, as is Hillary. He also touted potential candidates like Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as Democratic stars.
The only noteworthy exchange of the second long segment was discussing Moore's next film project attacking the pharmaceutical industry. Couric asked: "Do you give the drug companies any credit for, for doing some good things, for developing new drugs, for helping solve disease in this country? I mean do you see them as pure enemies of the, you know, of the people?" Moore said: "Yes, pure. (Laughs) Pure and absolute enemies, absolutely. First, health care should be a human right. It should not have anything to do with profit."
For a reminder of how kooky Moore sounded at the end of his film Fahrenheit 9/11, see: www.mrc.org
For more on how Moore's profitable campus speaking tour got upended at George Mason last fall, see: www.washingtonpost.com