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CNN's Cafferty Exploits Bridge Collapse to Stigmatize Iraq War --8/3/2007


1. CNN's Cafferty Exploits Bridge Collapse to Stigmatize Iraq War
CNN's Jack Cafferty on Thursday exploited the Minneapolis bridge collapse tragedy to take a shot at the Iraq war as he proposed the money "pouring into Iraq" could be better spent "at home," and featured an e-mailer who complained spending on infrastructure is "a drop in the bucket compared to $450 billion wasted in Iraq." Cafferty's question during the 7pm EDT hour of The Situation Room: "In light of the Minnesota bridge collapse, how could the U.S. better spend the $2 billion a week that we're pouring into Iraq here at home?" Cafferty later decided to showcase an e-mail response from Steven in Hawaii who sarcastically suggested: "Just identify all of America's infrastructure as Taliban, or Islamic extremists or gay marriage proponents and presto all the money in the federal budget will be thrown at it to 'attack' the problem!" AUDIO&VIDEO See & Hear the Bias - Audio & Video Clip Archive

2. Couric Presumes Taxes Must Be Raised to Repair Infrastructure
Neglecting any thought about cutting spending anywhere within the federal budget, for instance some of the soaring entitlement spending, CBS's Katie Couric on Thursday night wondered if taxpayers are "ready to spend" the "trillions" needed to repair the nation's infrastructure. Just the night before, Couric's newscast illustrated why entitlement spending keeps rising faster than inflation and population growth, as she aired a sympathetic look at "getting medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it," a plan which would hike spending by $50 billion over five years. Couric's assumption about higher taxes came as she introduced an August 2 CBS Evening News story from Nancy Cordes on the estimate by the American Society of Civil Engineers, a group obviously in favor of additional public works project spending, that it will cost $1.6 trillion to address infrastructure needs. Live from Minneapolis, Couric asked: "Experts have been warning for years that this country's infrastructure is crumbling. But are taxpayers ready to spend the billions, maybe trillions, it would take to fix all the pipelines, tunnels and bridges?" AUDIO&VIDEO See & Hear the Bias - Audio & Video Clip Archive

3. MSNBC Host Grumbles Over Impediments to Tax Hikes to Fix Bridges
On Thursday's Hardball, Mike Barnicle, substitute-hosting for Chris Matthews, used the tragedy of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis to grumble about the impediments to raising taxes and to call for bigger government as he wondered: "Does this help the Democrats?" Throughout the show, Barnicle repeatedly pressed his guests to call for an increase in the size of government and at one point even demanded: "Government's gotta get bigger!" Barnicle fretted about how "we're into a presidential campaign and in state after state, primary after primary, each and every candidate, each and every campaign is forced to respond to this litmus test of 'No New Taxes.' How are we gonna get taxes passed when you can't get anything done in the Congress it seems?" With guest Tom Ridge, Barnicle reached back 19 years to find a culprit: "You're a Republican and yet your old pal, the President's father, became famous or infamous at the convention in 1988, 'Read my lips, no new taxes.' How are we gonna pay for this stuff?"

4. Bridge to Bias: 1989 Earthquake Collapse Blamed on Conservatives
Journalists blaming a bridge collapse on cheap Republicans and conservatives who like tax cuts is nothing new. In 1989, after a memorable San Francisco earthquake, part of the Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed and killed hundreds. Media figures demanded new taxes, and some, such as ABC's Ted Koppel, even suggested California's property tax-limiting Proposition 13 ballot initiative may have caused unnecessary deaths.

5. Couric Denounces Hillary-Cleavage News Coverage as 'Disgraceful'
In one of her one-minute "Katie Couric's Notebook" talks on her Katie & Co. blog, CBS anchor Katie Couric came lecturing to Hillary Clinton's defense over Robin Givhan's Washington Post fashion review of Clinton's cleavage as caught by C-SPAN2, but she never mentioned the Post, just how the story "dominated cable news for days, and it's disgraceful." She sounded the feminist alarm: "By focusing on this display of decolletage, it seems we've plunged to a new low. What's next? Studying a candidate's too-tight jeans?" She said this election was too important for trivia: "If we focus on the issues, we could judge the candidates not on the color of their clothes, but on the content of their character." She acknowledged some fashion issues were "fair game," when the targets were men: The John Edwards $400 haircuts and how "Dick Cheney was slammed for wearing a parka when he visited a concentration camp."

6. NBC's Today: Ban on Trans Fats Good, Ban on Bottle Feeding Bad
On Thursday's Today show, NBC's Meredith Vieira and Dr. Nancy Snyderman became born-again libertarians in their opposition to New York City's ban on bottle feeding babies. Vieira called the measure, banning the use of baby formula in all public hospitals because of the health advantages of breast-feeding, "drastic" and Snyderman urged, "not so fast." The ban even inspired Today to coin a new series segment called "Nanny State." However, back in 2006, when New York City infringed on another right -- the right to eat fatty foods, Snyderman struck a different tone, as she gravely warned about the dangers of trans fats.


CNN's Cafferty Exploits Bridge Collapse
to Stigmatize Iraq War

CNN's Jack Cafferty on Thursday exploited the Minneapolis bridge collapse tragedy to take a shot at the Iraq war as he proposed the money "pouring into Iraq" could be better spent "at home," and featured an e-mailer who complained spending on infrastructure is "a drop in the bucket compared to $450 billion wasted in Iraq." Cafferty's question during the 7pm EDT hour of The Situation Room: "In light of the Minnesota bridge collapse, how could


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the U.S. better spend the $2 billion a week that we're pouring into Iraq here at home?" Cafferty later decided to showcase an e-mail response from Steven in Hawaii who sarcastically suggested: "Just identify all of America's infrastructure as Taliban, or Islamic extremists or gay marriage proponents and presto all the money in the federal budget will be thrown at it to 'attack' the problem!"

Cafferty outlined the 7pm EDT hour "Cafferty File" question:
"The total outlay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so far, over $600 billion. Think for a minute about what we could do with that money here at home, not only to improve our own infrastructure, but for other domestic needs that go wanting. Here's the question: In light of the Minnesota bridge collapse, how could the U.S. better spend the $2 billion a week that we're pouring into Iraq here at home?"

Presumably, he meant "how could the U.S. better spend at home the $2 billion a week that we're pouring into Iraq?"

At the end of the 4pm EDT hour of The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer interviewed Senators Chris Dodd and Chuck Hagel, who pointed out it's difficult to find the "hundreds of billions of dollars" needed to repair infrastructure. Blitzer then went to Cafferty for the e-mail replies to his "Cafferty File" question of the hour, but Cafferty first interjected: "I think the number of dollars that we have spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is right at $600 billion."

Cafferty's question for that hour: "In light of the fact that proper maintenance of our roads and bridges has been neglected for years, how do we get our government to do the right thing?" Amongst the answers Cafferty chose to highlight: A woman who described $200 billion, apparently the amount spent in some time period on infrastructure, as "a drop in the bucket compared to $450 billion wasted in Iraq" -- Cafferty suggested "I think it's actually more than that" -- and a man who proposed that "the solution is simple. Revive Roosevelt's National Recovery Act. Begin putting people to work rebuilding our country."

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Cafferty at 4:59pm EDT with the replies to his August 2 question for the 4pm hour:

I'm not a mathematician, but I think the number of dollars that we have spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is right at $600 billion. The question, in light of the fact that proper maintenance of our roads and bridges has been neglected for years is: How do we get our government to do the right thing? Now, there's something to get your arms around.

Nina writes: "Jack, we haven't invested in infrastructure in this country since Lyndon Johnson's time, actually. Then, it was guns and butter. Now it's just guns, no butter. The butter seen as fat is our bridges, roads, and rails."

Karen in Indiana: "Bush and our Congress fiddle, while our infrastructure fails us. $200 billion, a drop in the bucket, compared to $450 billion wasted in Iraq" -- I think it's actually more than that -- "some of it on their infrastructure. Vote for anybody, except the ones currently in office."

James in Tennessee: "In the early '90s, I sat on the Highway Users Federation board. One of our missions was to get the feds to release funds slated for the maintenance of the federal highway and bridge system. I retired before anything positive happened in that respect. And I have been out of the loop ever since. You might look into how much unreleased funding is presently available and what it's being used for, if it's not being used for the purposes intended."

Stan in Hays, Kansas: "Congress is spending billions each month to rebuild infrastructure in Iraq. Can't they find a few bucks for the folks in Minnesota and the rest of this country that's falling apart?

Jim in California: "The solution is simple. Revive Roosevelt's National Recovery Act, begin putting people to work rebuilding our country. So many of the infrastructure elements in this country were developed in the '30s and '40s under Roosevelt, and then left to rot in front of our smoke-filled eyes. The country is 80 years behind the curve."

And Jeanne writes my favorite letter: "On this question and almost every question you have asked in the longest while, there is but one answer. Vote out and each and every elected official each and every election year. You need to run this e-mail daily on your show until we start thinking about it. If we would do that, the officials in government would begin to listen to us."

Jeanne, I think you might be on to something.

Couric Presumes Taxes Must Be Raised
to Repair Infrastructure

Neglecting any thought about cutting spending anywhere within the federal budget, for instance some of the soaring entitlement spending, CBS's Katie Couric on Thursday night wondered if taxpayers are "ready to spend" the "trillions" needed to repair the nation's infrastructure. Just the night before, Couric's newscast illustrated why entitlement spending keeps rising faster than inflation and population growth, as she aired a sympathetic look at "getting


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More See & Hear the Bias

medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it," a plan which would hike spending by $50 billion over five years. See the August 2 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

Couric's assumption about higher taxes came as she introduced an August 2 CBS Evening News story from Nancy Cordes on the estimate by the American Society of Civil Engineers, a group obviously in favor of additional public works project spending, that it will cost $1.6 trillion to address infrastructure needs. Live from Minneapolis, Couric asked: "Experts have been warning for years that this country's infrastructure is crumbling. But are taxpayers ready to spend the billions, maybe trillions, it would take to fix all the pipelines, tunnels and bridges?"

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

To put the $1.6 trillion in some perspective, in 2006 the federal government distributed $1.4 trillion in entitlements, up approximately 60 percent from 1990 in inflation-adjusted dollars. In just the one single year of 2006 that means entitlement spending consumed about 50 percent of the $2.6 trillion total budget which included $227 billion in interest and $248 billion as the deficit, leaving about $1 trillion for everything else. PDF of a Heritage Foundation package of budget tables: www.heritage.org

And a June Heritage analysis estimated that the Senate immigration reform bill would cost taxpayers $2.6 trillion: "Although it is difficult to provide a precise estimate, it seems likely that if 10 million adult illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. were granted amnesty, the net retirement cost to government (benefits minus taxes) could be over $2.6 trillion." See: www.heritage.org

MSNBC Host Grumbles Over Impediments
to Tax Hikes to Fix Bridges

On Thursday's Hardball, Mike Barnicle, substitute-hosting for Chris Matthews, used the tragedy of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis to grumble about the impediments to raising taxes and to call for bigger government as he wondered: "Does this help the Democrats?" Throughout the show, Barnicle repeatedly pressed his guests to call for an increase in the size of government and at one point even demanded: "Government's gotta get bigger!" Barnicle fretted about how "we're into a presidential campaign and in state after state, primary after primary, each and every candidate, each and every campaign is forced to respond to this litmus test of 'No New Taxes.' How are we gonna get taxes passed when you can't get anything done in the Congress it seems?" With guest Tom Ridge, Barnicle reached back 19 years to find a culprit: "You're a Republican and yet your old pal, the President's father, became famous or infamous at the convention in 1988, 'Read my lips, no new taxes.' How are we gonna pay for this stuff?"

[This item is adapted from a Thursday night posting, by Geoffrey Dickens, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

First up, Barnicle asked the liberal Barney Frank where he would find the money to pay for bridge repair. After Frank responded that he would "end the war in Iraq" and raise taxes to improve America's infrastructure, Barnicle took the Congressman's cue to advance the tax hike/big government theme for the entirety of the show.

The following are just some of the exchanges as they occurred on the August 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

Mike Barnicle: "Welcome back to Hardball. Minnesota's tragic bridge collapse is raising new questions about our country's infrastructure and how much we're investing to keep it safe. Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts is the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Congressman, every city in this country, or nearly every city in this country, people go to work, they use the subways, they drive along highways that have been built, been there for 40, 50, 60 years. Bridges that have been there, perhaps longer. The Golden Gate, San Francisco, Verrazano-Narrows, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Tobin Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts. Where are we gonna get the money that everyone is talking about, today, to repair this infrastructure?"
Rep. Barney Frank: "Well we're gonna get it from taxation and one way we can do that, frankly, in my judgment, is end the war in Iraq. I, when I proposed spending more on some of these things, people say to me, where am I gonna get the money? I was in Congress on September 10th, 2001 and I know, factually, there was no money in the, in the budget at that time for the war in Iraq and since then we've found $500 billion. So, sometimes, I think I should go find the guy who found that $500 billion and ask him if he can find some of that for us here. I mean we're a very wealthy country. We can afford it as a country. The question is, how do we allocate it? And we've got this odd view that some people have been holding, which is that any time you cut government it's a good thing. And I have colleagues who say, 'It's the taxpayers' money not the government's money. Let the taxpayer keep the money.' Well, of course it's the taxpayers' money. Sensible taxpayers know they have two sets of needs. Some are best done individually but some we have to pool our resources. I can give you the biggest tax cut in the world, you can't fix a bridge."
Barnicle: "Yeah but you know Congressman, you say sensible taxpayers and I agree with you, there are, there are huge numbers of sensible taxpayers out there in this country and yet we are already, not even on the edge of a presidential campaign, we're into a presidential campaign and in state after state, primary after primary, each and every candidate, each and every campaign is forced to respond to this litmus test of 'No New Taxes.' How are we gonna get taxes passed when you can't get anything done in the Congress it seems?"

...

Barnicle: "So, I mean to stick with the political, on this evening when nearly everyone in America is preoccupied with, with the natural disaster in, in Minneapolis, does this help the Democrats? Does it help you? This sort of a disaster? I mean people at, at street-level, at side-walk level, no matter what they think about the growth of government, whether they want to restrain it, reduce it, get it to grow, they know that volunteerism isn't gonna rebuild this bridge or any other bridge in this country."

...

Barnicle to Tom Ridge: "So I mean you're a Republican and yet your old pal, the President's father became famous or infamous at the convention in 1988, 'Read my lips, no new taxes.' How are we gonna pay for this stuff?"

Barnicle, again to Ridge: "Government's gotta get bigger to help, to help governors in, in various states."

Barnicle to Sen Chris Dodd: "So Senator Dodd, let me ask you now, you're gonna introduce this bill, it's gonna go on to the Senate floor and what do say on the Senate floor and on talk shows all across this country when you are confronted with people who say, 'No, no, no. Government's too big. We gotta keep government out of our lives. We need smaller government.'"

Bridge to Bias: 1989 Earthquake Collapse
Blamed on Conservatives

Journalists blaming a bridge collapse on cheap Republicans and conservatives who like tax cuts is nothing new. In 1989, after a memorable San Francisco earthquake, part of the Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed and killed hundreds. Media figures demanded new taxes, and some, such as ABC's Ted Koppel, even suggested California's property tax-limiting Proposition 13 ballot initiative may have caused unnecessary deaths.

A reprint of an article in the November 1989 MediaWatch, a monthly newsletter the MRC published at the time:

As aftershocks rumbled through the San Francisco Bay area, media figures began calling for more taxes. On the October 18 Nightline, Ted Koppel asked an agreeable Democratic politician from California: "We all remember a few years ago Proposition 13 which rolled back taxes. And at the same time the point was made you roll back the taxes, that's fine, but that means there are going to be fewer funds available for necessary projects. Any instances where the money that was not spent because of the rollback of Proposition 13 where money would have made a difference?"

The Wall Street Journal took time to study the facts. An October 24 editorial noted: "California's roads and bridges aren't funded by property taxes but by state and federal gasoline taxes. Both have been raised at least 30 percent in recent years, even while the price of gasoline has fallen. Dragging Prop. 13 into this story is a pretty long stretch."

Insomniacs watching Nightwatch on CBS were treated to Jack Nelson, Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, in the wee hours of October 24: "One of the things it definitely means politically is that you're going to have to do something in California about Prop. 13, which put a cap on real estate taxes, and you're going to have to do something about the Gann limit that put a limit on spending in California. There's no question but you're going to have to do that. And I think you're going to have to do something about taxes. My guess is...that you're going to have a real momentum now for a gasoline tax increase, and maybe not just in California, but I would think at the federal level."

CBS had beaten the drum over the weekend with an October 22 Evening News salvo from reporter Norman Robinson. "The Democrats say what they have already learned about the damage is enough to warrant tacking on a user tax to shore up the nation's roads and bridges, a large number of them said to be in serious disrepair." Robinson wrapped up the CBS story: "The administration today stressed that the President can find the money to pay for damages from existing revenue, and that he can keep his promise of no new taxes. Democrats are warning that in the face of a mounting deficit problem, that may not be realistic."

END of Reprint

That's online at: www.mrc.org

Then there was this October 18, 1989 exchange on CNN's Crossfire:
Michael Kinsley: "If they had spent the money, which they are now planning to spend to fix the Bay Bridge, beforehand, which they didn't, in part because of Proposition 13 and other Republican budget-cutting programs, that bridge wouldn't have collapsed, there would be people alive today."
Pat Buchanan: "The California budget is about two and a half times what it was in 1978. What are you talking about?...Why don't you blame it on Reagan? That would be consistent."
Kinsley: "I'm blaming it on Reagan, you, and all the other cheap Republicans who don't understand the good things government does."

Couric Denounces Hillary-Cleavage News
Coverage as 'Disgraceful'

In one of her one-minute "Katie Couric's Notebook" talks on her Katie & Co. blog, CBS anchor Katie Couric came lecturing to Hillary Clinton's defense over Robin Givhan's Washington Post fashion review of Clinton's cleavage as caught by C-SPAN2, but she never mentioned the Post, just how the story "dominated cable news for days, and it's disgraceful." She sounded the feminist alarm: "By focusing on this display of decolletage, it seems we've plunged to a new low. What's next? Studying a candidate's too-tight jeans?" She said this election was too important for trivia: "If we focus on the issues, we could judge the candidates not on the color of their clothes, but on the content of their character." She acknowledged some fashion issues were "fair game," when the targets were men: The John Edwards $400 haircuts and how "Dick Cheney was slammed for wearing a parka when he visited a concentration camp."

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The complete text of Couric's August 1 commentary:

The cost of a college education has tripled in the last 20 years. That's what Hillary Clinton was discussing last week on the Senate floor, but not what the media reported. You see, she wore a V-neck blouse revealing more skin than usual. This dominated cable news for days, and it's disgraceful. Okay, some things are fair game: Dick Cheney was slammed for wearing a parka when he visited a concentration camp, and John Edwards was mocked for his $400 haircut. But body parts? By focusing on this display of decolletage, it seems we've plunged to a new low. What's next? Studying a candidate's too-tight jeans? This is a critically important time in our nation's history, and Election Day's 15 months away. As for the ensemble that launched a thousand quips, Andrea Mitchell said, 'Sometimes a blouse is just a blouse.' If we focus on the issues, we could judge the candidates not on the color of their clothes, but on the content of their character. That's a page from my notebook. I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.

To watch it: www.cbsnews.com
Maybe Couric didn't mention Givhan because the CBS show Sunday Morning aired a puffy profile of her on May 14, 2006: www.cbsnews.com

But Couric probably shouldn't play media critic without research. Is the attack on cable news accurate, that it "dominated" coverage for days? That it was a 24/7 topic, like Princess Diana's car crash?

I tried a quick Nexis check of CNN, since Nexis only has parts of MSNBC and FNC coverage. I only found six mentions, all on July 29 and 30 -- all after Hillary Clinton's campaign made the cleavage story an issue and a fundraising ploy, something Couric leaves out of her Ann Lewis-echoing commentary. The first segment on the 29th came on Howard Kurtz's journalism show Reliable Sources. Another of those mentions was a fleeting joke on the Glenn Beck show, which isn't even on main CNN, but on Headline News. Then consider the tone of some of the actual CNN coverage on July 30:

- On The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer held a discussion with two female pundits, Democrat Stephanie Cutter and Republican Leslie Sanchez. Cutter denounced the story, strangely insisting against all evidence that "the best way to stop a news story from being covered again is to use it as a fund-raising tool." Sanchez sharply insisted that the Clinton campaign wanted to use this fluff to divert people from her liberal record.

Later, Carol Costello did a light report (including a liberal blogger from Feministing.com), but said the story was either "incredibly demeaning or, as The Washington Post asserts, sassy." Blitzer led with the critics: "A lot of people though suggesting that this is different, that this is really sexist, the whole notion, the basis of the article." Costello replied: "You are right. A lot of people are saying that. But Givhan says Clinton's cleavage is news because it is out of the ordinary and says something about the way that people want to be perceived."

- On Lou Dobbs Tonight, it came up in passing when liberal talk show host Joe Madison carped "there's just so many non-issues. I mean Hillary Clinton's cleavage?" Dobbs agreed: "That is about as dumb as it gets."

- On Paula Zahn Now, it also came up in passing, in an anguished discussion about why America is still so backward it hasn't had a black or female President yet. One guest was Kenneth Arroyo Roldan, author of Minority Rules: Turn Your Ethnicity into a Competitive Edge. He suggested it was a metaphor for sexism: "Look at Hillary's neckline, for God's sake, as it relates to issues that still are quite pervasive in the marketplace." Zahn replied: "We had not planned on talking about her cleavage tonight, but you took us right there. Judith, let's not sugarcoat this, though, because we have seen electorates overwhelmingly put women in office. We have seen it in Chile. We have seen it the U.K. We have seen it India. We have seen it Germany. Why hasn't it happened here? There certainly are a lot of qualified females out there."

So how does this display make Katie Couric look for denouncing it all as "disgraceful"? None of these CNN snippets sound critical of Hillary (except for GOP pundit Sanchez). As for Cheney being "fair game," it should be noted that while CNN took nine or ten days to notice Givhan's Hillary critique, CyberAlert reported back in January of 2005 that CNN arrived on the Cheney "parka" story (again, with a dismissive tone) on the same day -- no ten-day wait on that one. The January 31, 2005 CyberAlert recounted:

The Washington Post on Friday plastered, across the entire width of the top of the front page of the "Style" section, an opinionated critique of Vice President Dick Cheney's attire. "Dick Cheney, Dressing Down: Parka, Ski Cap at Odds With Solemnity of Auschwitz Ceremony," read the headline over the article by Robin Givhan who complained that at the Thursday ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp, Cheney "was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." She explained his transgression: "Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood." The AP and Reuters soon picked up the story as well as CNN's Inside Politics, PBS's Washington Week and MSNBC Countdown on which Alison Stewart hyped it as "the fashion faux pas that's becoming an international incident." See: www.mrc.org

NBC's Today: Ban on Trans Fats Good,
Ban on Bottle Feeding Bad

On Thursday's Today show, NBC's Meredith Vieira and Dr. Nancy Snyderman became born-again libertarians in their opposition to New York City's ban on bottle feeding babies. Vieira called the measure, banning the use of baby formula in all public hospitals because of the health advantages of breast-feeding, "drastic" and Snyderman urged, "not so fast." The ban even inspired Today to coin a new series segment called "Nanny State." However, back in 2006, when New York City infringed on another right -- the right to eat fatty foods, Snyderman struck a different tone, as she gravely warned about the dangers of trans fats.

[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

First up, Vieira opened the bottle feeding ban segment on the August 2 Today: "And now we're gonna move on to something we call 'Nanny State.' First there was smoking and then trans fats and now baby formula? New York City health officials recently took what many see as a drastic step. Dr. Nancy Snyderman is NBC's chief medical editor. Good morning, Nancy. What is going on?"

Dr. Nancy Snyderman: "Well, hi Meredith. This is one that I think is going to cause a lot of conversation today because it's always been a divisive topic among parents, whether to give the breast or bottle. But in New York it may be the government that's stepping in to make the choice for new mothers. It's one of the touchiest turf battles in parenting, bottle versus breast. And it's gaining new steam."

Then Vieira and Snyderman, offended at the infringement of a woman's right to breast feed, concluded the segment, quite exasperated:

Snyderman: "Yeah, you know breast feeding sounds so easy but for any of us who've done it, it's a little bit tougher than people give it credit for. And I really resent the fact that there are men telling women what to do and that it's the government and it's going way beyond just health. This is gonna be controversial but I think it makes a lot of us go, uhh, just take a breath. Maybe not so fast."
Vieira: "Yeah, take a step back..."
Snyderman: "Yeah."

However, back in 2006, when it came to regulating the restaurant industry in New York, Snyderman was singing a different tune. NBC's chief medical correspondent seemed to endorse the trans fat ban, as seen in the following excerpts from her October 30, 2006 Today report.

[On screen graphic: "Health Alert, Trans Fats: The New Tobacco?"]

Snyderman: "Hey Matt when it comes to your health and you and I talk about this a lot, it's very important to remember that what you eat is what you are. And if you eat foods that are high in trans fat well you better pay attention because the harm they do is very real. Want a donut, a French fry, potato chips? They are all popular American foods but they may not be for long. Trans fat, a critical ingredient in all of them has suddenly become public health target number one. California attorney Steven Joseph launched the crusade in 2003 filing the Oreo lawsuit, which resulted in Kraft Foods eliminating trans fats from Oreos and reducing it in 650 other products. Since then Tiburon, California became America's first trans fat-free city and now New York, Chicago and Boston are proposing to do the same. "
[Woman #1: "We need to have things taken off our plate because a lot of times we, we don't have the discipline to do that."]
[Woman #2:" Look around there are a lot of obese people."]
Snyderman: "Why is trans fats suddenly up there with tobacco and alcohol on the list of threats to public health? Because these man made fats, which give foods a longer shelf life, are proving deadly."

...

Snyderman: "How does trans fat take its toll? Imagine this pipe is your artery and this grease is trans fat. Over time the liquid hardens and clogs the pipe and in your arteries that means a greater risk for heart attacks and stroke. With one million Americans dying from heart disease each, heart disease each year doctors believe that removing trans fats is a no-brainer. And I think, Matt, the easiest way to think about it is that trans fats do to your insides what bacon grease does to your sink."

...

Snyderman: "Well the food, the food industry is reacting quickly and Kraft was the first to do it because the trial attorneys are circling. Fat is the new tobacco. There are going to be lawsuits. And there is some research that perhaps fat is addictive in some way. So doctors have been crying about this for a while. Now as you know the politicians involved, the lawyers are circling, the fast food industry is going to respond."

The following is the entire "Nanny State" segment as it occurred at 8:22am on the August 2 Today show:

Meredith Vieira: "And now we're gonna move on to something we call Nanny State. First there was smoking and then trans fats and now baby formula? New York City health officials recently took what many see as a drastic step. Dr. Nancy Snyderman is NBC's chief medical editor. Good morning, Nancy. What is going on?"

Dr. Nancy Snyderman: "Well, hi Meredith. This is one that I think is going to cause a lot of conversation today because it's always been a divisive topic among parents, whether to give the breast or bottle. But in New York it may be the government that's stepping in to make the choice for new mothers. It's one of the touchiest turf battles in parenting, bottle versus breast. And it's gaining new steam."
Alan Aviles, NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation: "We're trying to do everything we can to promote breast feeding."
Snyderman: "On Tuesday, New York City health officials announced a ban on the use and promotion of baby formula in all 11 of its public hospitals in favor of an across-the-board breast-feeding initiative."
Aviles: "Because the evidence is so clear that there are significant health benefits to mother and child."
Snyderman: "A spokeswoman for the formula industry argues it's good intent, gone wrong."
Mardi Mountford, International Formula Council: "We don't believe that it's appropriate for the government to make this decision for moms. It, it should be the moms who are making the decision based on the best available information that is out there."
Snyderman: "Currently about 24 percent of women who deliver at New York City public hospitals breast feed, exclusively. Officials want to triple that number by the year 2010, putting what many view as a personal decision on to a very public stage."
Nisha Bhandari, new mother: "Well I think it has to be a choice but it has to be like an educated choice."
Vieira: "You know, Nancy, breast feeding is obviously healthier for the baby and, and cheaper, then what is the controversy?"
Snyderman: "I think the controversy is not lifestyle but maternal choices. I mean you and I know there's so much pressure to be sort of, the perfect mom, and I'm not taking anyway, anything away from breast feeding. We all know that it's healthier. But if you start to strip formula out of the city hospitals where women of color go, they may not have the support system. You don't allow moms to stay in the hospital very long and you say breast feeding is it, I think it's gonna be harder."
Vieira: "Putting them in a bad situation, yeah."
Snyderman: "Yeah, you know breast feeding sounds so easy but for any of us who've done it, it's a little bit tougher than people give it credit for. And I really resent the fact that there are men telling women what to do and that it's the government and it's going way beyond just health. This is gonna be controversial but I think it makes a lot of us go, uhh, just take a breath. Maybe not so fast."
Vieira: "Yeah, take a step back..."
Snyderman: "Yeah."
Vieira: "Dr. Nancy Snyderman, thanks so much for joining us."
Snyderman: "You're welcome."

-- Brent Baker