CBS Sets Out to Show Bush Just as Much a "Flip-Flopper" as Kerry --9/24/2004
2. "Is Anybody Here from CBS?" But Only CBS Not Showing Press Conf
3. ABC, With Jennings Off, Showcases Allawi's "Thank You America"
4. Sawyer: Rather Opposed CBS Hiring Me Because of Work for Nixon
5. Brokaw Takes Shot at Bloggers and Paints Dan Rather as a Victim
6. "Top Ten Messages Left on Cat Stevens' Answering Machine"
Reacting to poll numbers which show more Americans think John Kerry than George W. Bush says what people want to hear and that many more see Bush over Kerry as decisive, CBS set out to prove that Bush is really just as much of a flip-flopper. Jim Axelrod acknowledged on Thursday's CBS Evening News that "while Senator Kerry has certainly supplied some raw material for this characterization," but he countered that "the President is not without his own, shall we say, changes of mind." Axelrod cited "everything from gay marriage to steel tariffs to the constantly shifting rationale for the war in Iraq." Viewers then were treated to clips of Bush justifying the war on the basis on al-Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction and freedom for the Iraqis, but Axelrod failed to note that through all of that, unlike with Kerry, Bush's policy position on Iraq never changed. Axelrod consulted a Democratic pollster who contended Bush delivers a simplistic "candidacy for the fast food age, whereas Kerry is more like a long dinner party."
CBS's story matched the theme of a Thursday Washington Post story, "Despite Bush Flip-Flops, Kerry Gets Label," which also pivoted off of a new Bush campaign anti-Kerry ad which uses video of Kerry sailboarding back and forth to symbolize his flip-flops.
Going into an ad break, CBS asked on screen "Flip-Flop Fair?" beneath a shot of the ad with Kerry on a sailboard.
[Web Update: Forgot about this when writing up this CyberAlert article: This wasn't the first time the CBS Evening News tried to undermine the Bush campaign's effort to paint Kerry as a flip-flopper on Iraq. Back on September 7, John Roberts devoted an entire story to the quest. "Kerry has consistently said holding Saddam accountable was and remains the right thing to do. And he's been just as consistent in his opposition to the way President Bush went to war," Roberts declared before he rationalized Kerry's vote against the $87 billion to fund troops in Iraq as only happening after he voted for it "on condition it be paid for by rescinding a portion of the President's tax cuts." So "when that provision failed, and seeing no new plan in the bill to win the peace, he turned thumbs down in protest." Roberts then tried to equate Bush and Kerry as he lectured: "And something you won't hear President Bush mention on the campaign trail is that he threatened to veto a version of that bill because he didn't like it." But he only threatened to veto it, he didn't do what Kerry did and oppose it in the end. "So the big problem for John Kerry, say some analysts," Roberts empathized, "is not his record, it's allowing the Bush campaign to control the message." See: www.mediaresearch.org]
Rather set up the September 23 story: "Forty days before the election, a CBS News poll shows President Bush holding on to an eight-point lead over Senator Kerry nationally [49 to 41 percent in CBS News poll]. More than half of voters polled say they believe the President usually says what he believes [55 percent says what he believes to 42 percent for says what people want to hear]. On the other hand, two out of three believe Senator Kerry usually says what he thinks voters want to hear [30 to 65 percent]. Based on the record, which man, if either, is more likely to switch positions on an issue? CBS's Jim Axelrod looked into that and gives you the 'Inside Story.'"
Axelrod began, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "If the polls are right, John Kerry's got some gaps to close in the next six weeks."
Translation: If only people were smart enough, they'd realize Kerry makes more sense.
"Is anybody here from CBS?" President Bush wondered in generously trolling for a question, from a network which did a political hit job on him using forged documents, during his Thursday noontime EDT hour joint press conference in the Rose Garden with Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. But, as FNC's Brit Hume later noted, "that gesture was lost on CBS's audience at the time because unlike NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox News Channel, CBS was not carrying the news conference. Instead, CBS showed Elliot confessing his love to Jill and Phyllis promising to deal with Alex on The Young and the Restless." Indeed, CBS News dropped out shortly before 12:30pm EDT after just one question had been posed and answered, though anchor Anthony Mason made time for a little q and a with Bill Plante at the White House before signing off.
Bush's plea elicited a question from CBS's John Roberts about how Bush has "been accused on the campaign trail in this election year of painting an overly optimistic portrait of the situation on the ground in Iraq." ABC's Terry Moran and NBC's David Gregory similarly posed questions which presumed things in Iraq are much worse than either Bush or Allawi would admit.
In the "Grapevine" segment of his FNC show, Hume observed: "In what might have seemed a conciliatory gesture to a network that had wronged him, President Bush went out of his way to call on CBS at his news conference with Allawi in the Rose Garden. That gesture, however, was lost on CBS's audience at the time because unlike NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox News Channel, CBS was not carrying the news conference. Instead, CBS showed Elliot confessing his love to Jill and Phyllis promising to deal with Alex on The Young and the Restless."
The questions posed by the correspondents for the Big Three networks, as tracked down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
-- NBC's David Gregory: "Mr. President, you say today that the work in Iraq is tough and will remain tough, and yet you travel this country, and the central theme of your campaign is that America is safer because of the invasion of Iraq. Can you understand why Americans may not believe you?"
-- George W. Bush: "Is anybody here from CBS? Roberts, there you are, please."
-- ABC's Terry Moran: "Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, I'd like to ask about the Iraqi people. Both of you have spoken for them today, and yet over the past several months there have been polls conducted by the Coalition Provision Authority, by the Oxford Institute and other reputable organizations, that have found very strong majorities do not see the United States as a liberator but as an occupier, are unhappy with American policy, and want us out. Don't the real voices of the Iraqi people themselves contradict the rosy scenarios you're painting here today?"
ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, but without Peter Jennings, actually displayed "Thank You America" text on screen over a shot of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi at the House podium as fill-in anchor Charles Gibson teased the newscast by touting how "the man in charge of Iraq says 'thank you America' and says look beyond the bloodshed while the President claims if we don't stay the course, the Iraqi insurgents could attack here." No other network delivered such an upbeat spin on Allawi's speech and the joint press conference with President Bush.
While every network showed a clip of Allawi, in his appearance before a joint session of Congress, saying "thank you, America," ABC's Terry Moran featured two soundbites from Allawi not played on the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News or CNN's NewsNight: "We Iraqis are grateful to you Americans for your leadership and your sacrifice for our liberation and our opportunity to start anew." And: "The world is better off without Saddam Hussein."
Though ABC had Martha Raddatz check in with a fact check on the Allawi/Bush claims, CBS and NBC devoted full field reports from Iraq to how things are really much worse than Allawi and Bush claimed. NBC's Tom Brokaw, for instance, charged: "Allawi's claims that many Iraqi cities are now secure and that the Western media are overemphasizing the violence don't match what others are seeing and experiencing in Iraq."
The CBS Evening News, in a piece from John Roberts, featured just this one clip from Allawi's speech before Congress: "Thank you, America." Barry Petersen in Iraq filed a story which showcased an Iraqi woman who maintained: "We want peace in Iraq, but here, nowadays the present situation is more miserable than before."
On the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory played this soundbite from Allawi's speech to Congress: "From my people to yours, thank you, America." Then Richard Engel in Iraq detailed how the people don't buy Allawi's upbeat assessment as he ran through the deteriorating situation.
MSNBC managed to bring up Vietnam. On Countdown, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, Keith Olbermann played a clip of Allawi's claim that "the foreign media have lost interest and left." Olbermann then asked Rod Nordland of Newsweek to respond to Allawi's contention that the U.S. media are too negative in covering Irag. From Baghdad, Nordland fired back:
The leads of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Thursday, September 23, followed by a full transcript of Engel's NBC piece, the most negative of the night:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Following the tease quoted above, Gibson opened the newscast: "Good evening. We start tonight in Washington and the first visit to that city of the man now running the Iraqi government. The message from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi: Things are better in his country than they are portrayed, the insurgency is small, Iraq is ready for and will have elections, and his country is grateful to the U.S. Which leaves the question: Did he paint an accurate picture of what's going on in Iraq? Or was he just putting the best face on a bad situation? First at the White House, ABC's Terry Moran."
-- CBS Evening News. Rather teased, over video of explosions in Iraq and the words "Hopes and Fears" on screen: "Tonight, two leaders paint an optimistic picture of Iraq's future. Will elections happen in Iraq? Our man on the scene will give you a 'Reality Check.'"
Dan Rather opened his broadcast: "Good evening. The interim Prime Minister of Iraq went before the United States Congress and said thank you to America for ousting Saddam Hussein. Then, Iyad Allawi joined President Bush in predicting a bright and democratic future for the Iraq people. President Bush warned that violence in Iraq is likely to escalate between now and elections set for January but insisted that terrorists will, quote, 'suffer a dramatic defeat. CBS's John Roberts begins our coverage."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw teased: "Raising the stakes. President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi say things are getting better in Iraq. John Kerry insists the facts tell a different story."
Brokaw began: "Good evening. President Bush and Iraq's interim Prime Minister today offered a determined, upbeat message on Iraq. Their plan is working, they said, and they will not back down. The President and Iyad Allawi said the violence could get worse before it gets better, but they're sticking to the schedule of elections in January. For President Bush, it was his longest exchange with reporters about Iraq in some time, and the Rose Garden appearance brought a swift response from his Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry. Here's NBC's David Gregory at the White House tonight."
Brokaw set up the second story: "Allawi's claims that many Iraqi cities are now secure and that the Western media are overemphasizing the violence don't match what others are seeing and experiencing in Iraq. Here's NBC's Richard Engel tonight in Baghdad."
Richard Engel: "Iraqis tonight at this Baghdad café were skeptical of their prime minister's speech."
Dan Rather's animus toward working with those linked to Republicans goes back to the Diane Sawyer days, she revealed on Wednesday's Larry King Live. As reported in Thursday's New York Times, the appointment of Richard Thornburgh to be one of two investigators to look into why CBS used forged memos in a hit job on President Bush, "upset Dan Rather" who "considers Mr. Thornburgh a confounding choice in part because he served two Republican Presidents, Mr. Bush's father, and Richard M. Nixon..." Sawyer confided on King's show that Rather told her that "'I didn't think you should be hired. I fought your being hired and I wanted you to hear it from me before you heard it from anybody else,' because I had worked in the Nixon administration." Sawyer also recalled that Rather regularly pressed her: "Have you checked the facts?" That's some advice he could use himself.
For more on the New York Times story, see the September 23 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
On the same King show, as recounted in a Thursday Media Reality Check distributed as a CyberAlert Special, Sawyer praised Rather as "a towering journalist." She elaborated: "We all know this. We live and die by headlines, all of us here. But let us never forget he's the guy who gets up out of the anchor chair and goes to Afghanistan. He's the guy who could have the cushy assignment, but he goes to the hurricane. He is an honest-to-goodness reporter. If anybody is hard on themselves, it is him first. And he is a giant in this business and I know he operates without fear or favor."
For the September 23 Media Reality Check, "Lining Up in Dan Rather's Valley of Forgery: Geraldo Feels Sorry for Rather, Helen Thomas Says He's 'Magnificent,' Diane Sawyer Finds 'A Giant,'" see: www.mediaresearch.org
Prompted by a tip from the MRC's Rich Noyes, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd checked, against CNN's transcript of the September 22 Larry King Live, these earlier Sawyer comments about Rather:
NBC's Tom Brokaw expressed the hope that the CBS News controversy "doesn't spread the stain across to NBC News" and, on Thursday night's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Brokaw took a shot bloggers and talk radio hosts critical of Dan Rather: "This is not something I am persuaded that he's out to do deliberately despite what some bloggers will say or radio talk show hosts will say." Brokaw portrayed his fellow anchor as a victim: "I think he was really trying to get at a big story about the President's National Guard service. And they got stung by some documents." Really, officer, the tree jumped in front of my car.
Immediately after Brokaw sat down on the September 23 Late Night show on NBC, Conan O'Brien asked him to comment on the Dan Rather situation. The MRC's Geoff Dickens took down Brokaw's reply:
From the September 23 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Messages Left on Cat Stevens' Answering Machine." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "We at Iraqi Airlines heard what happened, so we'd like to offer you 20,000 frequent-fatwa miles."
9. "I've been waiting to pick you up at Dulles for three days. Where you at?"
8. "Hi, this is Hall and Oates. How can we go about joining Al-Qaeda?"
7. "It's Johnnie Cochran. Without a trial in court, you must not deport. Call me."
6. "I'm calling from CBS News to confirm reports of a cat that can fly a plane."
5. "It's Britney. Sorry you couldn't make it to my fake wedding."
4. "I must have the wrong number--I was looking for Steven Katz."
3. "Dude, It's Osama. I have an extra ticket to see James Taylor. You in?"
2. "It's Casey Kasem. Good news! You're on the Jihad Top 100."
1. "It's Sean Penn and Michael Moore. Wanna triple date with the Dixie Chicks?"
-- Brent Baker