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CBS Evening News Executive Producer Denounces CyberAlert Stories --9/23/2005


1. CBS Evening News Executive Producer Denounces CyberAlert Stories
Declaring that the Media Research Center "is a much more biased organization than any institution in the MSM," CBS Evening News Executive Producer Jim Murphy, on the CBS News "Public Eye" blog on Thursday, criticized two MRC CyberAlert articles I wrote. Public Eye Editor Vaughn Ververs asked Murphy to comment on a September 21 CyberAlert item, "CBS: Air-Conditioned Bush Should 'Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.'" Murphy seemed befuddled by the article: "Please explain to me what's WRONG with pointing out the President spoke from an air-conditioned tent, which to most people on the gulf would be a more than welcome relief from their existence. It was not gratuitous, it was an interesting note" and the CBS reporter's "use of the well-known phrase, 'wake up and smell the coffee,' was attributed to the restaurant owners as THEIR feeling, NOT hers. It's just good, colorful, pointed writing." Murphy was similarly flummoxed by the September 22 CyberAlert article, "CBS Trumpets Carter's Criticism of Bush Administration," contending that "we simply reported it because the former President SAID it." But Murphy's reasoning is a tautology.

2. CBS Discounts Global Warming as Culprit, Notes Big Storms in '50s
A day after NBC's Matt Lauer asked on Today, "why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame?" and Robert Bazell ominously concluded an NBC Nightly News story by asserting that "many experts say" hurricane-fueling global warming "results partly from humans releasing greenhouse gases possibly creating even more violent storms in the future," ABC and CBS aired stories which largely dismissed global warming as a culprit. On Thursday's World News Tonight, ABC's Ned Potter featured a soundbite from National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield, who in little-reported congressional testimony Tuesday, discounted global warming as a factor. CBS's Russ Mitchell, on The Early Show, featured a scientist who "says hurricane activity comes in cycles that can last several decades. It seems Mother Nature has mood swings." Mitchell explained that "hurricane cycles are primarily driven by rainfall patterns in Africa and the Amazon basin." As for hype about hurricanes on the rise, Mitchell admonished: "The experts will tell us back in the '50s and '60s we saw some monster hurricanes, but we just have very short memories."

3. Alec Baldwin: Bush Let in "Hooligans" to "Plunder" the Government
Actor Alec Baldwin, on Thursday night's Too Late with Adam Corolla on Comedy Central, denigrated President Bush as "the little guy that snuck into the theater and he popped the window open so that all these other hooligans could come in and just rape and rip off and plunder the government." Baldwin's attack on Bush followed his explanation that the only reason he can't be President himself is that "to do that would mean to give up what I'm doing now. And I've said this a few times over the last couple of years is that I don't know whether I'm ready to give up what I'm doing now."


CBS Evening News Executive Producer Denounces
CyberAlert Stories

Declaring that the Media Research Center "is a much more biased organization than any institution in the MSM," CBS Evening News Executive Producer Jim Murphy, on the CBS News "Public Eye" blog on Thursday, criticized two MRC CyberAlert articles I wrote. Public Eye Editor Vaughn Ververs asked Murphy to comment on a September 21 CyberAlert item, "CBS: Air Conditioned Bush Should 'Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.'" Murphy seemed befuddled by the article: "Please explain to me what's WRONG with pointing out the President spoke from an air-conditioned tent, which to most people on the gulf would be a more than welcome relief from their existence. It was not gratuitous, it was an interesting note" and the CBS reporter's "use of the well-known phrase, 'wake up and smell the coffee,' was attributed to the restaurant owners as THEIR feeling, NOT hers. It's just good, colorful, pointed writing."

Murphy was similarly flummoxed by the September 22 CyberAlert article, "CBS Trumpets Carter's Criticism of Bush Administration," contending that "we simply reported it because the former President SAID it."

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To offer your comment, go to this node: newsbusters.org ]

But Murphy's reasoning is a tautology. I was criticizing the judgment of CBS News on what is news. Other outlets did not choose to highlight Bush's air-conditioned surroundings, how one woman at a French Quarter restaurant assailed him for not experiencing their suffering or what Jimmy Carter said. Carter makes comments nearly every day. CBS chose to report this particular comment on this day. CBS decided that the restaurant owner's comment was more newsworthy than any number of other soundbites they could have run. The story reflected an agenda. By Murphy's reasoning, my articles should be beyond criticism since they accurately quoted what CBS reported.

Public Eye Editor Ververs conceded the piece on Bush had a point about CBS's "attitude."

Ververs described the MRC as "a centerpiece in what has become an entire industry of partisan media criticism," but he soon pointed out how "that's not to say there isn't occasionally some validity to their gripes. In this case, they have a small, but overblown, point to make in my view (which, of course, is also subjective). Television is about more than words, it's about images of course but also tone, attitude and emotion."

On featuring Carter in the September 21 CBS Evening News story, Murphy asserted: "I'd like to say one more thing about MRC. Look at its website today. It has one headline saying 'CBS Promotes Carter's FEMA Criticism.' Another says 'CBS Lauds Carter's Criticism of Bush Administration.' CBS News didn't LAUD or PROMOTE anything Jimmy Carter said. We simply reported it because the former President SAID it. That's what we DO -- report to viewers what is happening on a given day and what people are saying on a given day. The MRC chooses to like or dislike what is REPORTED based on how it FEELS. That is simply, purely, BIAS."

Those headlines did go beyond the headlines I wrote to go above the NewsBusters and CyberAlert postings (as well as what CyberAlert e-mail subscribers saw), but focusing on them is like me judging a CBS Evening News story based on a teaser or plug line for an upcoming story.

For the September 22 Public Eye posting, "The Bias Debate: Evening News Exec Producer Defends Piece To Conservative Critics," go to: www.cbsnews.com

The September 21 CyberAlert item, "CBS: Air-Conditioned Bush Should 'Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,'" recounted: CBS on Tuesday night delivered a sarcastic look at President Bush's visit to the Gulf coast. After reciting a list of problems people are having in New Orleans, reporter Sharyn Alfonsi jumped to a soundbite of Bush in Mississippi, declaring: "Every time I come back here, I see progress." Alfonsi gratuitously pointed out that Bush was "speaking inside an air-conditioned tent" and noted how "he toured a Folgers plant in Louisiana" but, she stressed, "small business owners say this kind of progress is the exception." Then, over video of a row of damaged and abandoned store fronts in New Orleans, she countered: "This is the reality." Alfonsi made it personal, holding Bush responsible for the frustrations of a French Quarter restaurant owner: "After five visits in three weeks, they want the President to wake up and smell the coffee." (That cute line ran over video of Bush, in a sweat-soaked shirt, shaking hands at the coffee plant.) Restaurant owner Arly Questa demanded: "Hang out, no air-conditioning, eat some MRE's every day, and then you might really understand what it's been like down here in New Orleans." www.mediaresearch.org

The September 22 CyberAlert article, "CBS News Trumpets Carter's Criticism of Bush Administration," related: In a Wednesday CBS Evening News story on shortcomings in FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina, reporter Randall Pinkston cited "frustrations that reached as far away as the state of Maine, where officials received ice that was supposed to go to the Gulf Coast." Pinkston touted how "former President Jimmy Carter, who created FEMA, criticized the Bush administration's decision to strip the agency's independence." Viewers then saw a clip of Jimmy Carter from a Tuesday night forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta: "This obviously lowered FEMA's status so that they would have to go through four or five levels of bureaucracy even to reach the President, whereas FEMA used to deal directly with the President." Of course, that decision -- good or bad -- had bi-partisan support in Congress. Go to: www.mediaresearch.org

For CBSNews.com's picture and bio of Murphy: www.cbsnews.com

CBS Discounts Global Warming as Culprit,
Notes Big Storms in '50s

A day after NBC's Matt Lauer asked on Today, "why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame?" and Robert Bazell ominously concluded an NBC Nightly News story by asserting that "many experts say" hurricane-fueling global warming "results partly from humans releasing greenhouse gases possibly creating even more violent storms in the future," ABC and CBS aired stories which largely dismissed global warming as a culprit. On Thursday's World News Tonight, ABC's Ned Potter featured a soundbite from National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield, who in little-reported congressional testimony Tuesday, discounted global warming as a factor. CBS's Russ Mitchell, on The Early Show, featured a scientist who "says hurricane activity comes in cycles that can last several decades. It seems Mother Nature has mood swings." Mitchell explained that "hurricane cycles are primarily driven by rainfall patterns in Africa and the Amazon basin." As for hype about hurricanes on the rise, Mitchell admonished: "The experts will tell us back in the '50s and '60s we saw some monster hurricanes, but we just have very short memories."

(Viewers of ABC's PrimeTime Thursday, however, heard more hyperbolic lunacy on global warming as Barbra Streisand exclaimed to Diane Sawyer: "We are in a global warming emergency state and these storms are going to become more frequent, more intense, there could be more droughts, dust bowls, you know it's amazing to hear these facts, I mean, the Andes have no ice caps on the mountains in winter. The glaciers are melting. I mean, for the United States not to be part of the Kyoto treaty is unforgivable.")

The September 21 and 22 CyberAlerts had items on NBC's Wednesday stories. For the September 21 CyberAlert article on the Today show: www.mediaresearch.org

For the September 22 CyberAlert item on the NBC Nightly News story: www.mediaresearch.org

With "Stronger Than Ever" as the on-screen hype, World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the September 22 "A Closer Look" segment, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
"Two hurricanes for the record books in less than a month. We're going to take 'A Closer Look' now at what might be causing this destructive weather pattern. A new analysis in the magazine Science shows monster hurricanes are on the rise. The number of category four and five storms off our shores has nearly doubled over the past 30 years."

[On screen: Cat 4 or 5 hurricanes; 1975-1989: 16; 1990-2004: 25]

Ned Potter reported: "If warm water is what fuels a hurricane, the hurricanes this season have had extraordinary amounts of fuel. In recent weeks, the water temperatures in parts of the Gulf of Mexico have topped 90 degrees. That's helped make Katrina, and now Rita, into very powerful storms."
Prof. Menas Kafatos, Center for Earth Observing: "The Gulf waters have been getting warmer. In fact, in this past August, 2005, we saw the highest temperatures in the Gulf of the last 25 years."
Potter: "Menas Kafatos is a climate scientist at George Mason University. He says hurricanes build up strength from the steamy water below them. The warm vapor gives them energy, meaning faster winds. And the extra moisture means more rain, more flooding. Katrina and Rita started in the Atlantic, but became strongest once they entered the Gulf of Mexico."
Kafatos: "It was the Gulf waters, which are appreciably warmer, that fed the two monsters and made them so strong."
Potter: "But the earth's climate is wildly complex, and scientists say there are even larger forces at work. Over the last 30 years, two groups of researchers say while the number of storms has not been rising, their strength has."
Prof. Peter Webster, Georgia Tech climatologist: "The total number of storms that are reaching category 4 and 5, and the number of days that they're staying as category 4 and 5, which has increased substantially."
Potter: "Some researchers say we may be seeing global warming at work. Others say we're at the crest of a regular cycle, that hurricanes go up and down in number over a period that lasts for decades. They're not sure why. They say there was a quiet period going until about ten years ago."
Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center, before a congressional committee on Tuesday: "Then in 1995, it's just like somebody threw a switch here. And we've had a lot more hurricanes, not a record number of major hurricanes, but close."
Potter: "This hurricane season is already one of the very busiest in the last century, and it won't end for another month. Ned Potter, ABC News, New York."

A Tuesday AP dispatch relayed: "Under questioning by members of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on disaster prevention and prediction, he shrugged off the notion that global warming played a role, saying instead it was a natural cycle in the Atlantic Ocean that fluctuates every 25 to 40 years." For the AP story: news.yahoo.com

The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught Russ Mitchell's piece on Thursday's Early Show. Quad-host Julie Chen introduced his segment: "Just weeks after Hurricane Katrina savaged the Gulf Coast, another monster storm is on the way. That has plenty of people wondering what's going on? Are the number and strength of hurricanes on the rise? The Saturday Early Show's Russ Mitchell has some answers. Good morning, Russ."

Mitchell, in studio with Chen: "Good morning to you, Julie. We are in fact seeing more hurricanes today than we did a decade or two ago, but for many folks it's no surprise. For years now, experts have been saying we've entered a period of increased hurricane activity that may last a long time."
Doctor Gerry Bell, NOAA: "We're now in a very active hurricane era. Last year was very active, the year before that was very active. This active hurricane era began in 1995. Since 1995, nine of the last 11 hurricane seasons have been above normal."
Mitchell, narrating taped segment: "Doctor Gerry Bell is a NOAA seasonal hurricane forecaster. He says hurricane activity comes in cycles that can last several decades. It seems Mother Nature has mood swings."
Bell: "The previous active hurricane era was the 1950s and 1960s, and then we were pretty inactive for about a 25-year period from 1970 to 1994 and now we're back in an active hurricane era."
Mitchell, over map showing dates and names of huge hurricanes in the 1950s and 1960s: "For example, in the '50s and '60s, the Gulf Coast was hit hard and often as storms like Audrey, Donna, Betsy, and Camille came ashore. In the 70s and 80s, that same region had only one major hurricane, Frederic. But since 1990, the number of big hurricanes in the Gulf is up again, and there's no end in sight."
Bell: "We can expect continued high levels of hurricane activity and high levels of hurricane landfalls for the next decade or perhaps even longer."
Mitchell: "Why? Bell says hurricane cycles are primarily driven by rainfall patterns in Africa and the Amazon basin."
Bell: "Turns out that those rainfall patterns tend to last for 20 to 30 years at a time. As a result, so do the wind and pressure patterns over the Atlantic that control hurricane activity."
Mitchell: "But there are other factors as well, like warm water, which hurricanes feed off. Sea surface temperatures have gone up but scientists point out those temperatures go through cycles as well, and right now, we're in a warm cycle. Still, many in the field believe global warming may at least be a contributing factor to increased temperatures."
Michael Schlacter, Weather 2000 meteorologist: "The water temperature is quite essential to the strength of a hurricane. It actually only takes maybe two to four degrees fahrenheit to be the difference between able to support a Category III hurricane and a Category V hurricane. So whether it's global warming, the cycles, or just a hot summer, those little bit of increases in temperature can mean a big difference in how severe these storms are."
Mitchell: "If I live in one of these areas that are susceptible to hurricanes, how concerned should I be in the next 10, 20 years?"
Schlacter: "I would be very concerned. And as far as Americans love being near the beach, and as far as we have severe weather that's constantly threatening these coastlines, it's kind of a teeter totter that we'll be living with for some time."
Mitchell, back live in studio with Chen: "Rita is the 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, making this the fourth busiest season on record, and Julie, the most active hurricane season ever was back in 1933."
Chen: "So it's not like it's worse now?"
Mitchell: "No, it seems that way. The experts will tell us back in the 50s and 60s we saw some monster hurricanes, but we just have very short memories. The bottom line is, as we said in the piece, Mother Nature is rather fickle, it has mood swings."
Chen: "Thanks, Russ. Absolutely."

Alec Baldwin: Bush Let in "Hooligans"
to "Plunder" the Government

Actor Alec Baldwin, on Thursday night's Too Late with Adam Corolla on Comedy Central, denigrated President Bush as "the little guy that snuck into the theater and he popped the window open so that all these other hooligans could come in and just rape and rip off and plunder the government." Baldwin's attack on Bush followed his explanation that the only reason he can't be President himself is that "to do that would mean to give up what I'm doing now. And I've said this a few times over the last couple of years is that I don't know whether I'm ready to give up what I'm doing now."

Baldwin appeared on the midnight EDT/PDT show to promote his role on the season debut next week of NBC's Will & Grace sit-com. The Internet Movie Database's bio page for Baldwin: www.imdb.com

Opening the second segment of the half-hour show which airs Monday through Thursday nights, Comedy Central displayed on screen this un-dated quote from Baldwin: "I wanted to be President of the United States. I really did. The older I get, the less preposterous the idea seems."

Baldwin then revealed that he seriously thinks he could be President if we wanted to run: "Well, you know, to do that would mean to give up what I'm doing now. And I've said this a few times over the last couple of years is that I don't know whether I'm ready to give up what I'm doing now."

A bit later, Baldwin delivered his take on the current President: "I think that, I had this analogy once where the President now, this particular President, is like remember when you were a kid and you wanted to go to a party and you couldn't get into the party? Like your friends were having a party they wouldn't let you in?"
Corolla quipped: "What do you mean a kid? I'm an adult and I'm not getting into parties."
Baldwin: "I remember when I was a kid you always had somebody that we called the little guy. And the little guy was the guy that when you wanted to burglarize the house he'd climb up on the roof and jimmy his way through the little attic window. Or he'd like go and, he'd sneak into the theater and then pop the back door open so we could all sneak into the theater."
Corolla, referring to Baldwin's younger brother: "Stephen."
Baldwin: "Exactly. That's Bush. Bush is the little guy that snuck into the theater and he popped the window open so that all these other hooligans could come in and just rape and rip off and plunder the government."

-- Brent Baker