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CBS Distorts Halliburton Case Into Cheney-Led "War Profiteering" --1/26/2004


1. CBS Distorts Halliburton Case Into Cheney-Led "War Profiteering"
Halliburton, a front page story in Friday's Wall Street Journal reported, admitted that two of its staffers took kick-backs from Kuwaiti firm for deals involving reconstructing Iraq, and the company repaid the money to the Army Material Command, but the CBS Evening News on Friday night, after having ignored just two weeks ago another front page Wall Street Journal story about how Halliburton was cleared of any wrongdoing in charges CBS had earlier touted as its lead story, distorted this latest development in order to turn it into some sort of Dick Cheney-related scandal. CBS carried the words "War Profiteering?" on screen beneath a pile of cash. John Roberts asserted: "The allegations cast another shadow over the administration's handling of post-war Iraq" and passed along how "Democrats called the alleged kickbacks traitorous war-profiteering at its worst."

2. Olbermann Salivates Over a "Watergate Junior" Scandal for Bush
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann salivated on Friday night for a Bush administration scandal or scandals. Stringing together a series of stories at the top of Friday's Countdown, with "ANOTHER WATERGATE" on screen, Olbermann wondered: "Are any of these Watergate, Junior? We'll ask Carl Bernstein." One of his items: "The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case about Vice President Cheney's energy task force and then Cheney goes hunting with Justice Scalia." Despite Olbermann's repeated prodding, Bernstein wouldn't equate anything on Olbermann's list with Watergate which involved trying to undermine the Constitution.

3. Brokaw Adopts Liberal Spin: Health Insurance Based on Luck
The vast majority of Americans have health insurance, but adopting the liberal spin of some Democratic presidential candidates, on Friday night NBC's Tom Brokaw referred to "the lack of it" and "the expense for those lucky enough to have it" -- as if hard work and responsibility have nothing to do with it.

4. Couric Pleads: "Let's Hope" Jokes Will "Soon Be Over for Dean"
On Friday, Today's Katie Couric and Al Roker expressed exasperation with how comedians won't stop making fun of Howard Dean's scream. After furthering publicity for the outburst by playing clips of a couple of Jay Leno jokes about it, Couric pleaded: "Let's hope all the jokes are going to soon be over for Howard Dean." Roker chimed in: "Hopefully, today."

5. CNN's Aaron Brown: Dean "More Moderate than Ultra-Liberal"
Aaron Brown aware of his own liberal bias as he conveys it. On Thursday's NewsNight, Brown conceded that he thinks Howard Dean "is more moderate than ultra-liberal and so do a lot of other people but," he realized, "I'll probably get in trouble from conservatives for saying that."

6. CNN Taps Head of Its Most Liberal Show to Be New DC Bureau Chief
CNN has picked David Bohrman, the Executive Producer of its most liberal program, NewsNight with Aaron Brown, to be its new Washington Bureau Chief with expanded responsibility over shows such as Inside Politics.

7. The Stars of The Reagans Lose Out in Golden Globe Awards
Some good news. The stars of The Reagans, the derogatory look at Ronald and Nancy originally set as a CBS mini-series, but which was bumped to Showtime following outrage at its distorted portrayal, did not win Golden Globe Awards at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual ceremony presented Sunday night on NBC.


CBS Distorts Halliburton Case Into Cheney-Led
"War Profiteering"

Halliburton, a front page story in Friday's Wall Street Journal reported, admitted that two of its staffers took kick-backs from Kuwaiti firm for deals involving reconstructing Iraq, and the company repaid the money to the Army Material Command, but the CBS Evening News on Friday night, after having ignored just two weeks ago another front page Wall Street Journal story about how Halliburton was cleared of any wrongdoing in charges CBS had earlier touted as its lead story, distorted this latest development in order to turn it into some sort of Cheney-related scandal.

CBS's Dan Rather With the words "War Profiteering?" on screen beneath a pile of cash, a map of Iraq and shots of Halliburton logos on tankers and helmets, Dan Rather intoned: "Tonight: War bucks. Halliburton accused of another ripping-off of U.S. taxpayers."

Rather led the January 23 program by arguing that "the Halliburton company, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been a frequent target of critics of White House Iraq policy. And these latest disclosures drew sharp new accusations of unconscionable, if not outright illegal, war-profiteering, as CBS's John Roberts reports." Roberts asserted: "The allegations cast another shadow over the administration's handling of post-war Iraq" and passed along how "Democrats called the alleged kickbacks traitorous war-profiteering at its worst."

CBS's story was prompted by a front page article in that morning's Wall Street Journal, by Neil King Jr., headlined: "Halliburton Tells the Pentagon Workers Took Iraq-Deal Kickbacks"

That two column wide headline ran just below the fold on the right side of page -- the very same location as a January 6 article which the CBS Evening News ignored: "Army Corps Clears Halliburton In Flap Over Fuel Pricing in Iraq."

As reported in the January 7 CyberAlert, back in mid-December, the CBS Evening News twice led with stories about "war-profiteering" by Halliburton for the price of gas it sold inside Iraq, with Vice President Cheney's name linked prominently. One night, over a full screen graphic of Cheney's head next to video of Halliburton trucks and employees, CBS's Dan Rather asserted: "Tonight, did politically-connected Halliburton gouge U.S. taxpayers with war profits?" Rather proceeded to charge that "Pentagon auditors have found evidence of possible price-gouging and unusual war profiteering by the Halliburton company..."

But three weeks later, when a January 6 front page Wall Street Journal story revealed that the Army Corps of Engineers had cleared Halliburton of any wrongdoing in its pricing, the CBS Evening News, which had earlier touted a concern of "Pentagon auditors," ignored the development. Yet CBS's January 6 newscast had time for full stories, totaling nearly seven minutes, on Princess Diana, plastic garbage swirling in a portion of the Pacific Ocean and how, as anchor John Roberts put it, the Howard Dean campaign "offers America new love." That was a two-minute plus piece by Richard Schlesinger on how young people are using Dean's "meet-ups" as an opportunity to find a mate. Roberts segued to it from an item on former Senator Bill Bradley's endorsement of Dean: "Bradley said the Dean campaign quote, 'offers America new hope.' The Dean campaign also, apparently, offers America new love as CBS's Richard Schlesinger reports."

For more on January 6 coverage and links to CyberAlert items on CBS's December hype about Halliburton: www.mediaresearch.org

Back to Friday night, January 23, Rather opened the CBS Evening News, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening. The Halliburton company is again being investigated for possibly overcharging U.S. taxpayers many millions of dollars for its no-bid contract work in Iraq. This time the overcharges may have involved kickbacks paid by a Halliburton subcontractor. The Halliburton company, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been a frequent target of critics of White House Iraq policy. And these latest disclosures drew sharp new accusations of unconscionable, if not outright illegal, war-profiteering, as CBS's John Roberts reports."

Roberts began: "The allegations cast another shadow over the administration's handling of post-war Iraq. Halliburton recently told the Pentagon that not only might it have been overcharged some $6 million for support services to the U.S. military, but in a statement today admitted that two Halliburton employees may have accepted improper payments. In other words, pocketed taxpayer money intended for Iraq. Democrats called the alleged kickbacks traitorous war-profiteering at its worst, and demanded the White House immediately terminate all contracts with Halliburton."
Tom Daschle, Senate Minority Leader: "For the life of me, I can't understand why we'd reward corporations, organizations of any kind, that now have admitted fraud, corruption."
Roberts: "Already under investigation by the Pentagon for a suspected overcharge of $61 million on another contract to ship fuel into Iraq, Halliburton claims it was acting responsibly by bringing the second suspected overcharge to the government's attention, and late today paid the money back. And it says the two employees suspected of taking kickbacks are no longer with the company, though sources say they left before the problem was discovered and were not fired.
"The scandal threw new suspicion on Iraq contracts, many of which were awarded with no competition, and the relationship between Halliburton and the White House. Dick Cheney insists the administration has given his former company no favorable treatment, and in a recent radio interview charged that politics is behind the Democratic criticism."
Dick Cheney on Fox News Radio: "They try to make it personal. They come after allegations that somehow I am manipulating contracts for Halliburton. I don't have anything to do with the contracting process and wouldn't know how to manipulate the process if I wanted to."
Roberts concluded by assuming Halliburton is guilty despite how the company admitted the problem and repaid the money: "White House officials said today that if there were kickbacks, those responsible should go to jail. But there appears to be no effort at this point to seek fines or charges against Halliburton or cancel any of their existing contracts with the Pentagon."

In contrast to CBS, ABC and NBC did not hype the latest development into some kind of major scandal, though they made sure viewers realized Cheney's past tie to the company:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charles Gibson read this short item: "Vice President Cheney's former company, Halliburton, says one of its subcontractors over-billed the Pentagon $6 million for supplies for U.S. troops in Iraq. Halliburton told the Pentagon of the problems earlier his month, a day before the Pentagon gave the company another billion dollar contract in Iraq."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw noted: "One more note involving Iraq tonight: More trouble for the giant energy company Halliburton, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Two of its employees have been fired for allegedly taking kickbacks from a Kuwaiti company, a subcontractor supplying U.S. forces in Iraq. Halliburton said tonight it will pay the Pentagon $6.3 million for overcharges. The Pentagon has an ongoing formal investigation into Halliburton's Iraq contracts."

Olbermann Salivates Over a "Watergate
Junior" Scandal for Bush

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Friday's Countdown MSNBC's Keith Olbermann salivated on Friday night for a Bush administration scandal or scandals. Stringing together a series of stories at the top of Friday's Countdown, with "ANOTHER WATERGATE" on screen, Olbermann wondered: "Are any of these Watergate, Junior? We'll ask Carl Bernstein." One of his items: "The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case about Vice President Cheney's energy task force and then Cheney goes hunting with Justice Scalia."

The other developments Olbermann yearned to become Watergate-like: "Two Halliburton employees take $6 million in kickbacks on a contract to supply U.S. troops in Iraq," how "Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee hack into the computer files of Democratic staffers" and the old standby, the Joe Wilson case.

Despite Olbermann's repeated prodding, Bernstein wouldn't equate anything on Olbermann's list with Watergate: "I would not compare these stories to Watergate. These stories are indicative of perhaps a sleazy atmosphere among certain people. And that's quite different than what Watergate was about, which was a criminal President of the United States who didn't believe he was subject to the law, who undermined the Constitution. This is different."

With "ANOTHER WATERGATE?" on screen and "Halliburton, Hunting & Hacking" below it, Olbermann began the January 23 Countdown show at 8pm EST with a plug for what would be his #2 story in his top five stories of the day: "School for scandal. Two Halliburton employees take $6 million in kickbacks on a contract to supply US troops in Iraq. The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case about Vice President Cheney's energy task force, and then Cheney goes hunting with Justice Scalia. And Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee hack into the computer files of Democratic staffers. Are any of these Watergate, Jr. We'll ask Carl Bernstein."

Olbermann later set up the segment, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The illegal income intrigue infiltration. Our second story on the Countdown tonight: Politics, business and funny business perhaps as usual. Three separate controversies arising, led by an admission of bribe-taking at Halliburton, the company formerly run by Vice President Cheney. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Halliburton has notified the Pentagon that two of its officials, Halliburton's that is, accepted over $6 million in kickbacks from a Kuwaiti company contracted to supply US troops in Iraq. Halliburton says the two men have been fired and it will pay the money back to the Pentagon -- $6.3 million. The revelation comes on the heels of another company controversy in Iraq when the Halliburton subsidiary -- Kellogg, Brown and Root -- charged the U.S. Army twice as much for gas brought in from Kuwait than for fuel brought in from Turkey."
"Vice President Cheney is at the center of another controversy, one that involves not his old colleagues but his current ones. Last week, Cheney and longtime buddy Antonin Scalia went on a duck hunting trip in Louisiana. Problem is that is the same Antonin Scalia who is on the Supreme Court. And that is the Supreme Court that had, just before the trip, agreed to review a lower court ruling that the White House must identify the members of Vice President Cheney's energy task force. Democratic Senators Joe Lieberman and Patrick Leahy have written to Chief Justice William Rehnquist asking about the appearance of impropriety about whether Scalia should recuse himself from the case and whether or not he could be disqualified from it."
Olbermann: "And then there's something that may sound eerily familiar -- Republican gaining access to the private communications of Democrats. The Boston Globe reporting GOP staffers from the Senate Judiciary Committee exploited a glitch in a shared computer server. The bug granted them access to the files of Democratic staffers. The Senate sergeant-at-arms has already interviewed about 120 people. He has seized computers and inquired as to how 15 Democratic memos made their way into and onto conservative newspapers and Web sites. Republicans today argued its staffers did not break any laws or Senate rules by accessing that information. In other words, to update Barry Goldwater for the high-tech age, everybody accesses everybody else. With these three stories plus the news last night that the grand jury in the Joe Wilson case has already started hearing testimony, we have a menu of controversies, any or none of which might evolve into genuine scandal. The try to assess the political atomic weight of each, it's an honor to be joined by author and journalists Carl Bernstein, who with his partner Bob Woodward, broke open that which history knows as Watergate."

Olbermann pressed Bernstein: "I don't want to reduce this to a wagering pool, but do any of those four controversies seem to you to have the potential for genuine importance."
Bernstein: "I think that you got to start by judging the arrogance is not a crime and that I think what we're looking at here on its face is an awful lot of arrogance, particularly by the Vice President of the United States, beginning with his secret meeting with people in the energy business at the beginning of the administration, and his refusal to acknowledge who those people were. This incident with Justice Scalia, it's about the appearance. I don't think that, certainly I've never seen evidence that our Vice President is a crook. But he's also, it seems to me, the appearance of an ethical time bomb. And these kinds of conflicts are needless and they come from an atmosphere of arrogance, I believe."
Olbermann: "Are we seeing in the Cheney and Scalia story and Cheney and Halliburton story, a breaking down of that thing that we used to have that maybe only protected us a little bit every once in a while, but it was called the appearance of conflict of interest. Does that just not matter anymore to the majority of the public?"

Olbermann soon proposed: "And as if I have to tell you this, no less an authority and on scandals and on perjury that Richard Nixon said it isn't the crime that does you in, it's the cover-up. As it regards the Vice President, wouldn't a lot of this go away if he were a little less secretive. I mean, the man actually yesterday said that Halliburton was being treated badly by dent of its past association with him."
Bernstein cautioned: "Well, I think you do have to be careful of guilt by association. And I certainly don't want to engage in it. At the same time, it seems to me that you want an open administration, and this administration has been anything but open when it comes to its dealing with business. And it has given the appearance of a presidency that is of the rich, by the rich, for the rich, and there's some evidence to back that up. And it certainly comes into play with the Vice President and his dealings with his former employers and with his former colleagues in the energy sector."
Olbermann: "Mr. Bernstein, I imagine that given the labyrinth that you negotiated in Watergate, it must fascinate you that the Joe Wilson case goes directly through the columnist, Robert Novak, and now this Senate Judiciary computer case also tracks to Robert Novak. The Democrats believe that their computer notes about the filibusters they were going to have against the judicial nominees had been filched by the Republicans and delivered to Robert Novak."
Like Olbermann, Bernstein found a leak he didn't like: "Well, I'm against investigations into leaks, even into Bob Novak's leaks. It seems to me, though, that Bob Novak really did a terrible thing in the case of naming the wife of Joe Wilson as a CIA agent. And what he did is he was a water boy for the White House. He carried the White House water. The real story there was that the White House was trying to kneecap and cut the legs off of a political opponent who, in fact, was telling the truth and the White House was lying about the situation that Joe Wilson was deputized to go to Niger, find out if there was a connection between Niger and Saddam Hussein' s supposed weapons of mass destruction, he found out definitively there was not, he reported back negatively, and the White House didn't like that, so they leaked it to Bob Novak. Well, Novak should have written a story that said the White House is out to undermine both the truth and to out, as it were, a CIA official in violation of the law. That was the real story, and Novak's to blame for that."
Olbermann ironically asked about the danger of what he was doing himself, not waiting to find out the truth: "A final, sort of sum-up point here, has journalism -- and I mean this both as practitioners of it and also as consumers of it -- has it sped up so quickly that we no longer have patience for the kind of investigative reporting that unraveled Watergate and that none of these stories nor any others that are likely to come up this year are likely to get people's attention long enough to actually be exposed fully."
Bernstein: "Never forget that people didn't pay attention to our stories in Watergate for a few months, and that things have a momentum of their own, and we'll have to see how these stories develop. I would not compare these stories to Watergate. These stories are indicative of perhaps a sleazy atmosphere among certain people. And that's quite different than what Watergate was about, which was a criminal President of the United States who didn't believe he was subject to the law, who undermined the Constitution. This is different. And at the same time, it's important because of what it tells us about an atmosphere of just sort of easy playing with ethical problems that ought to have a kind of hands-off sign of warning that's not being heeded by the principals in this administration."

Brokaw Adopts Liberal Spin: Health Insurance
Based on Luck

The vast majority of Americans have health insurance, but adopting the liberal spin of some Democratic presidential candidates, on Friday night NBC's Tom Brokaw referred to "the lack of it" and "the expense for those lucky enough to have it" -- as if hard work and responsibility have nothing to do with it.

Brokaw set up a January 23 NBC Nightly News story: "Three of the Democratic contenders -- Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich -- were are a forum in Manchester New Hampshire today talking to voters about health care, the lack of it. And the expense for those lucky enough to have it."

Couric Pleads: "Let's Hope" Jokes Will
"Soon Be Over for Dean"

On Friday, Today's Katie Couric and Al Roker expressed exasperation with how comedians won't stop making fun of Howard Dean's scream. After furthering publicity for the outburst by playing clips of a couple of Jay Leno jokes about it, Couric pleaded: "Let's hope all the jokes are going to soon be over for Howard Dean." Roker chimed in: "Hopefully, today."

MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught the yearning at the top of the 8am half hour on the January 23 Today:

Couric: "You probably know the late night comedians have been having a ball at Howard Dean's expense for his raucous caucus night speech on Monday. Well, last night, Dean went on Letterman to poke a little fun at himself but it didn't stop Jay Leno from having some more fun."
Jay Leno, on Tonight Show: "I had a nightmare last night Kev. Oh man, I woke up, I was sweating. I dreamed that Howard Dean had somehow gotten ahold of a weapon of mass destruction."
Second Leno joke: "Let's see what's going on with Doctor Dean and Mr. Hyde as they're calling him the campaign trail. Howard Dean's staff is doing everything they can to try to mellow him out after that shouting incident in Iowa. In fact today, I understand they gave him a tennis ball to chew on [Leno growls to imitate rapid dog digging into a tennis ball.]"
Couric: "Ouch. Anyway, let's hope all the jokes are going to soon be over for Howard Dean."
Al Roker: "Hopefully, today."
Lester Holt: "The scream heard around the world, huh?"

CNN's Aaron Brown: Dean "More Moderate
than Ultra-Liberal"

Aaron Brown aware of his own liberal bias as he conveys it. On Thursday's NewsNight, Brown conceded that he thinks Howard Dean "is more moderate than ultra-liberal and so do a lot of other people but," he realized, "I'll probably get in trouble from conservatives for saying that."

I'd suggest Brown is a lot more biased than balanced, and so do a lot of other people.

During the morning papers segment, during which he holds up large veloxes of the front pages of some newspapers, he showcased a story set to appear on the front page of Friday's Dallas Morning News. On the January 22 Newsnight, Brown observed:
"The Dallas Morning News leads politics. 'A New Dean or the Old One? Candidate's Ultra-liberal Label May Peel Back to Reveal Moderate Bent.' In fact, I think Dr. Dean is more moderate than ultra-liberal. And so do a lot of other people, but I'll probably get in trouble from conservatives for saying that."

Indeed, the January 23 Dallas Morning News featured the article plugged by Brown. An excerpt from the top of the piece by Michelle Mittelstadt:

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Howard Dean rose to the top of the Democratic heap with a relentless anti-war, Bush-baiting, corporate-bashing, anti-establishment message.

Now, needing a quick rebound in New Hampshire to counter his surprisingly anemic showing in Iowa, Dr. Dean is toning down his populist fervor, saying he'll focus on domestic policy issues such as health care, balanced budgets and education.

Political conversion or return to his roots?

A look at Dr. Dean's nearly 12 years as Vermont's governor reflects a fiscally conservative, socially liberal record that can't be neatly pigeonholed.

In Vermont's tiny capital, Dr. Dean is remembered by Democrats and some Republicans as a budget-balancing governor who spent more time fending off spending demands from his party's left wing than fighting with GOP lawmakers.

"He would often turn to the Republicans to stop the wide-eyed liberals," said Republican state Sen. Vincent Illuzzi. "Moderate is the word that comes to mind."

Even Dean allies acknowledge, though, that what passes for centrist in liberal Vermont -- the state of same-sex civil unions and a socialist congressman -- may be perceived otherwise elsewhere.

Republicans have worked to affix the "ultraliberal" label. An ad aired in Iowa by the conservative Club for Growth called the Dean campaign a "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show."

Democrats in Vermont consider that a caricature.

"It's really funny he's being tagged a leftist," said Montpelier bookstore owner Doug Shane. "Karl Rove may want to tar him with that brush, but that's not the right brush," he said, referring to President Bush's political guru.

Dr. Dean's record is replete with fiscal austerity, efforts to attract businesses and an unwillingness to increase income taxes to boost social spending, Dean watchers note....

END of Excerpt

For the Dallas Morning News article in full: www.dallasnews.com

CNN Taps Head of Its Most Liberal Show
to Be New DC Bureau Chief

CNN has picked David Bohrman, the Executive Producer of its most liberal program, NewsNight with Aaron Brown, to be its new Washington Bureau Chief with expanded responsibility over shows such as Inside Politics.

In a January 24 Washington Post story, Jennifer Frey reported: "CNN General Manager Princell Hair announced a reorganization of the network's Washington bureau yesterday, replacing bureau chief Kathryn Kross with David Bohrman, who had been producing NewsNight With Aaron Brown out of New York.
"Bohrman, whose promotion is effective immediately, will take over an expanded role in Washington, with his new position -- officially vice president of news and production/Washington bureau chief -- putting him over both the bureau's newsgathering staff and its production side. The latter, which was not under Kross's supervision, includes Washington-based shows such as Crossfire, Wolf Blitzer Reports, Inside Politics and The Capital Gang."

Romenesko has posted Hair's memo to the CNN staff about his reorganization plan: poynter.org

The Stars of The Reagans Lose Out in
Golden Globe Awards

Some good news. The stars of The Reagans, the derogatory look at Ronald and Nancy originally set as a CBS mini-series, but which was bumped to Showtime following outrage at its distorted portrayal, did not win Golden Globe Awards at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual ceremony presented Sunday night on NBC.

Judy Davis, who played a snarly Nancy, was nominated for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television" and James Brolin, who played a buffoonish Ronald, was nominated for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television."

Meryl Streep and Al Pacino won those categories, both for their roles in another liberal fantasy film which took some shots at Ronald Reagan: HBO's Angels in America.

# Dennis Miller's show debuts tonight on CNBC at 9pm EST/8pm CST/7pm MST/6pm PST, with a repeat at 12am EST/11pm CST/10pm MST/9pm PST.

-- Brent Baker