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CyberAlert -- 10/05/2001 -- Rooney to Apologize to Bush

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Rooney to Apologize to Bush; Gumbel Pushed Guest for Criticism; West Wing's Liberal Points; Brokaw Broaches Blaming the U.S.

1) On Sunday night Andy Rooney will apologize to President Bush for denigrating him as "not too smart" for saying terrorist "harbors won't be safe" when Afghanistan is "landlocked." Rooney realized, "upon reflection," that Bush "was probably speaking metaphorically." A letter-writer suggested: "Andy must think 'wildlife preserves' are breakfast jams."

2) Nightline needs to "fact check" itself. John Donvan used a clip of Ari Fleischer to show how he threatened free speech by decrying Bill Maher's "coward" comment. But minutes later Ted Koppel scolded the rest of the media: "Seen in it's entirety...it does not sound like a warning from the White House or a threat. Ari Fleischer got a bum rap on that one."

3) When a British columnist was insufficiently anti-Bush and Blair, CBS's Bryant Gumbel scolded him: "You're soft peddling your words this morning...you've also said, for example, that 'playing the world's policeman is not the answer to the catastrophe, it's what led us into this.' That 'America and Great Britain must draw in its horns and stop propping up favored states.'"

4) NBC's The West Wing, devoted to staffers discussing terrorism with a group of high schoolers, gave air time to some pretty conventional liberal points. Characters raised the "black list," blamed "abject poverty" for terrorism and argued that "is the same as it is right here" where gangs "give you a sense of dignity." They also worried about "the patriotism police."

5) Tom Brokaw skated close to the line of blaming the U.S. for the terrorist attacks as he hoped "we'll think more carefully about how" the U.S. "relates to other people who have a good deal less than we do." Earlier, Brokaw argued against reporters wearing flag pins because it's "a sign of solidarity toward whatever the government is doing, and that is not our role."

6) Another rant from Adam Clymer who angrily referred to a Senate employee, who cleared the galleries after Strom Thurmond collapsed, as "a bureaucratic hack." Clymer found Tom Daschle's acquiescence "outrageous."


1

Sunday night on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney will retract his attack on President Bush as "not too smart" when it was Rooney who wasn't very smart himself.

USA Today's Peter Johnson reported Thursday that Rooney "will apologize for noting in his commentary two weeks ago that President Bush didn't sound too swift when he said that America's enemies in Afghanistan think their 'harbors are safe. But they won't be safe forever.'" On the September 23 60 Minutes Rooney had countered: "Afghanistan is landlocked. It doesn't have a harbor."

Johnson relayed the content of some of the letters Rooney received: "'If you didn't know the meaning of 'safe harbor' you probably thought the 'underground railroad' had tracks.' Said another writer: 'If he really thought Bush meant seaports, Andy must think 'wildlife preserves' are breakfast jams.'"

Johnson explained Rooney's realization: "Upon reflection, Rooney said Wednesday that he realized that Bush -- or whoever wrote the speech for him -- was probably speaking metaphorically, not literally. And that he, Andy Rooney, was wrong."

"Upon reflection"? It was obvious to everyone in the world in the first place except to Rooney, or whoever wrote that commentary for him.

On Sunday night, Johnson reported, Rooney will concede: "Look. George W. Bush is your president and he's my president. I feel bad about what I said, and I apologize for saying it."

Rooney's foolishness is not news to CyberAlert readers. The September 28 edition asked: "Andy Rooney: Mean-spirited cheap shot, bad humor or, after he questioned President Bush's intellect, is he not too bright himself? Last Sunday on 60 Minutes Rooney showed a clip of President George Bush declaring that 'this is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe, but they won't be safe forever.' Rooney claimed that demonstrated Bush is 'not too smart' since 'Afghanistan is landlocked, it doesn't have a harbor.'"

For a complete transcript of Rooney's September 23 commentary, and a RealPlayer video clip of the portion in which he mocked Bush's intellect, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010928.asp#3

What's really amazing is how Rooney's idiocy got onto the air. Apparently no producer saw anything off-base about his comments.

2

Nightline needs to "fact check" itself. For the last couple of weeks the now hour-long Nightline has ended each show with a "fact check" in which anchor Chris Bury or Ted Koppel corrects a rumor circulating the Internet or elsewhere. But Wednesday night's "fact check" corrected an error which Nightline itself had made earlier in the very same show, though Koppel did not acknowledge his own program's goof.

In a piece on how voices of dissent are being suppressed, reporter John Donvan used as an example the reaction to Bill Maher's "we are the cowards" remark. Donvan then repeated the common assertion, that in reaction to Maher, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer had issued a threat to free speech: "It's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. The reminder is to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that. It never is."

At the end of the program, however, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that, without noting Donvan's interpretation, Koppel read Fleischer's remark in full and concluded: "Seen in it's entirety, in context, it does not sound like a warning from the White House or a threat. Ari Fleischer got a bum rap on that one."

Koppel had set up the October 3 report from Donvan: "In times of crisis, times like these, we narrow the range of opinions that we would like to hear. We trumpet the virtue of our freedoms even as some, in the name of patriotism, move to restrict them."

Donvan held up Maher as a victim, playing this clip from Maher on the September 17 Politically Incorrect: "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, not cowardly. You're right."
Donvan reported: "Immediately Maher's sponsors, Sears and Federal Express, pulled their advertising. Seventeen stations dropped the program, including the ABC station here in Washington, which wrote to The Washington Post, 'The First Amendment also gives WJLA the right to broadcast what it deems appropriate.' Bill Maher went out and apologized."

Donvan later added: "Bill Maher's remarks on Politically Incorrect caused one kind of controversy. Here were some others. Jerry Falwell blaming the terrorist attack on American morals....And on radio, Louisiana Congressman John Cooksey's views on foreigners."
Rep. Cooksey: "I don't care what their race is or what their religion is, but I can tell you this. If I see someone that comes in, that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt around his diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and checked."
Donvan: "All three of these incidents achieved scandal proportions and it wasn't long before the White House was asked to comment. On Cooksey."
Ari Fleischer: "The President was very disturbed by those remarks."
Donvan: "On Falwell, the White House called his remarks inappropriate, and on Bill Maher."
Fleischer: "Assuming the press reports are right, I mean, it's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. The reminder is to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that. It never is."

At the end of the show, Koppel made just what Donvan did the subject of his "Fact Check" segment: "It sounded just a little nasty, even alarming. Here was the President's Press Secretary Ari Fleischer being asked at a White House briefing about Bill Maher's comment, especially the part about the U.S. having been the cowards for lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. The part of Fleischer's response that got most of the attention was this: quote, 'The reminder is to all Americans that they need to watch what they say,' end quote. Well, here's the Fact Check.
"Earlier in that same briefing, Fleischer had been asked about the comment of Republican Congressman John Cooksey of Louisiana ....What did the President think about that, Fleischer had been asked. And it was in the context of both those comments, Cooksey's and Bill Maher's, that Ari Fleischer gave this response: quote, 'I'm aware of the press reports about what he [Maher] said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself, but assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say and it's unfortunate. And that's why there was an earlier question about 'has the President said anything to people in his own party?'"

Koppel interjected: "That would be the reference to Cooksey." Koppel continued quoting Fleischer: "'The reminder is,' Fleischer went on, 'to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and that this is not a time for remarks like that. It never is.'"

Koppel assessed: "Seen in it's entirety, in context, it does not sound like a warning from the White House or a threat. Ari Fleischer got a bum rap on that one. And that's our Fact Check and our report for tonight."

So, it's inappropriate to say Americans should "watch what they say" and not call the U.S. military and political leaders "cowards," but it's perfectly fine to call for restricting speech that impugns an ethnic group? Sounds like Koppel is just drawing the anti-free speech line, which he and Donvan were condemning, at a different place.

3

Not critical enough of George W. Bush and Tony Blair to satisfy Bryant Gumbel. Thursday's The Early Show on CBS brought aboard, via satellite from London, a former Member of Parliament who in columns for the Times of London has rebuked the Bush/Blair policies.

But when he failed to lash out at Bush and Blair, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed that Gumbel became disappointed: "You're soft pedaling your words this morning...you've also said, for example, that 'playing the world's policeman is not the answer to the catastrophe, it's what led us into this.' That 'America and Great Britain must draw in its horns and stop propping up favored states.'"

Gumbel never identified the party to which his guest belonged, nor the paper for which he writes, but I found his columns on the Times of London Web site and in one he said he belongs to the Conservative Party.

Gumbel introduced the October 4 interview: "Matthew Parris is a British columnist who has been very critical of the stated coalition's intention to stamp out terrorism. He's in London. Mr. Parris, good morning...What's wrong with the stated goals of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush?"
Parris replied: "The stated goals of the Prime Minister and the President have reduced considerably since the days immediately after the attack. Immediately after the attack there looked like the distinct possibility of a violent and angry response taken more in anger than after careful thought. I think a lot of careful thought has gone on and, in fact, nothing much has happened yet. And I have little yet with which to differ from either the Prime Minister or the President. But there are voices in Britain who are worried about this thing spinning out of control, and we're still worried about it spinning out of control. It hasn't yet done so, and as long as it doesn't do so we're with the Prime Minister."

That wasn't the response Gumbel was hoping for: "Well, you say you have little to differ with them but I'm looking at some of your words and you've called current moves, your words again, 'dangerous babble, bawling nonsense.' To whom does that apply?"

Parris maintained he was only concerned about the "barrage of nonsense" about "wiping people out" that was enunciated shortly after the attacks.

Gumbel decided to read his own words back to him: "You've said the talk about crushing terrorism, again, I'm looking at your words, is 'nonsense' and that going after Osama bin Laden would only create 20 more like him. Why do you think that?"

Parris answered that getting one terrorist won't solve the problem and the world must separate mad extremists from the softer core which sympathizes with their cause but does not support their methods.

A frustrated Gumbel pressed again: "You're soft peddling your words this morning, Mr. Parris, but I mean, I'm looking at them right here. Your words are pretty inflammatory, I mean, you've also said, for example, that 'playing the world's policeman is not the answer to the catastrophe, it's what led us into this.' That 'America and Great Britain must draw in its horns and stop propping up favored states.' Are you suggesting they withdraw support of Israel?"

Parris agreed that he U.S. and British role in the Middle East has "inflamed things."

To read columns by Parris, go to the "Comment" section of The Times of London: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/section/0,,262,00.html

From a drop down menu you can select past columns by all of their columnists.

4

NBC's special The West Wing on Wednesday night, devoted to White House staffers discussing terrorism with a group of visiting high school students, gave air time to some pretty conventional polemical points of the Hollywood Left.

Characters found it quite natural for students to compare the Islamic terrorists to the Christian Right, though they were corrected, raised the 1950s "black list" as an example of what can happen when people perceive an outside threat, blamed "abject poverty" for fueling terrorism and illustrated the point by arguing that "is the same as it is right here" where inner-city gangs "give you a sense of dignity." Plus, in a possible reference to Bill Maher, one character warned about "somebody getting lynched by the patriotism police for voicing a minority opinion."

The plot of the October 3 West Wing, written by Aaron Sorkin after the September 11 terrorist attack, had a group of high school students visiting the White House when a security lock down is enacted because the FBI has learned a terrorist, who tried to enter the U.S. through Canada, had as an associate a man by the same name as a staffer in the White House complex. The employee of Arab descent is assumed guilty and is grilled by the Secret Service about his background and political views. The outcome of this subplot was obvious as the FBI soon located in Germany the terrorists' real accomplice, giving the employee a chance to rail against prejudice against Muslims and forcing "Chief-of Staff Leo McGarry" to apologize.

Meanwhile, "Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh Lyman," played by Bradley Whitford, had escorted the students into the cafeteria where he and other main characters discussed terrorism with the students. There's too much here to fully analyze and I don't know enough about 7th century Muslims to check it, but a few exchanges stood out to me:

-- Josh Lyman: "Islamic extremist is to Islamic as blank is to Christianity."
Student: "Christian fundamentalists."
Another student: "Jehovah's Witnesses?"
Josh: "Guys, the Christian Right may not be your cup of tea but they're not blowing stuff up."

The answer: the KKK.

-- Josh: "Right or wrong, and I think they're wrong, it's probably a good idea to acknowledge that they do have specific complaints. I hear them every day. The people we support, troops in Saudi Arabia, sanctions against Iraq, support for Egypt. It's not that they just don't like Irving Berlin."
"Donna Moss," Lyman's assistant: "Yes it is."
Josh: "No it's not."
Donna: "I don't know about Irving Berlin, but your ridiculous search for rational reasons why somebody straps a bomb to their chest is ridiculous."

-- When "Press Secretary C.J. Craig" defends the CIA and says we need more spies with more power, "Communications Director Toby Ziegler" argues: "During times of great crisis and threat America has used draconian measures before and I think maybe you've forgotten just how effective they've been. Can you name some?"
Student: "The black list."
Toby: "I want her to name them."
C.J.: "The Black list."
Toby: "Thank you."
C.J.: "Look, I take civil liberties as seriously as anybody, okay. I've been to the dinners. And we haven't even talked about free speech yet and somebody getting lynched by the patriotism police for voicing a minority opinion. That said, Tobis, we're going to do some stuff. We're going to have to tap some phones and we're going to have to partner with people who are the lesser of evils..."

(Recall that during the September 17 Politically Incorrect Bill Maher had raised the prosecution of West Wing producer Aaron Sorkin: "We can't afford to be fighting wrong and silly wars: the Cold War, the drug war, the culture wars -- busting television producers at the airport for taking funny mushrooms to Las Vegas while the terrorist-looking guys with the knives get right on. We have to outgrow childish and antiquated stuff real fast.")

-- Asked where terrorists come from, "Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn," played by Rob Rowe, contends: "Everywhere. Mostly they come from exactly where'd you'd expect: Places of abject poverty, despair. Horribly impoverished areas as an incubator for the worst kind of crime."
"Charlie," the personal aide to the President, chimes in: "Which is the same as it is right here. The same as it is here. I live in Southeast DC. If you don't know the area, think Compton or South Central LA, Detroit, the South Bronx. Dilapidated schools, drugs, guns and what else?"
Student: "Gangs?"
Charlie: "Gangs. Gangs give you a sense of belonging and usually an income. But mostly they give you a sense of dignity. Men are men and men will seek pride. Everybody here's got a badge to wear. I'm the Deputy Communications Director, I made Presidential Classroom, I know the answer, I'm going to Cornell. You think bangers who walk around with their heads down saying 'oh man I didn't make anything out of my life. I'm in a gang'? No man. They walk around saying 'I'm in a gang, I'm with them.'"

To match the above characters with faces, go to: http://www.nbc.com/The_West_Wing/bios/index.html

5

On NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien Tom Brokaw skated very close to the line of blaming U.S. policies for the terrorist attacks as he hoped "we'll think more carefully about how" the U.S. "relates to other people who have a good deal less than we do." A few days earlier, Brokaw argued: "I don't think a journalist ought to be wearing a flag because it does seem to be...a sign of solidarity toward whatever the government is doing, and that is not our role."

Appearing on the NBC late night show on Wednesday evening, the NBC Nightly News anchor outlined how he hopes the nation will change in the wake of the terrorist attacks:
"I wrote a piece in the New York Times, on the op-ed page, reflecting on when I was a young reporter and John Kennedy was killed and I knew then that we would change but I had no idea how. That set off a chain reaction: Vietnam and the social upheaval of the '60s and led to Watergate and a lot of other things. We hope that this will be more beneficial in terms of change, that we'll, that we'll have a greater faith in our political system, that we will take more seriously these threats that exist in the world and that we'll think more carefully about how this great country -- and it is the greatest country -- but how it relates to other people who have a good deal less than we do in terms of the protections that we have and the material wealth that we have and how we fit into their vision about what their place is in the world."

An October 2 story in Northwestern University's Daily Northwestern, highlighted by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews, (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/), related the content of an October 1 conference call Brokaw had with Medill Graduate School of Journalism students. Reporter Justin Ballheim relayed:
"Brokaw said he came home at 2 a.m. on Sept. 12 and had 'a couple of stiff drinks.' Moments later, he found himself breaking down in what he called 'a cathartic exercise.'
"'I would hate to think that I've lost so much of any personal feelings that I could go on and report something like this without being affected by it,' he said.
"At the same time, Brokaw said journalists should not be overly influenced by the recent surge of American patriotism.
"'I wear the flag in my heart,' he said. 'I'm a patriot, and I think being a patriot means: Love your country but think you can always improve it. And part of my role as a journalist is to ask questions and to examine the issues that will lead to some improvement of the country. I don't think a journalist ought to be wearing a flag because it does seem to be, to me at least, a sign of solidarity toward whatever the government is doing, and that is not our role.'"

On Conan O'Brien's show he identified his "stiff drink" as scotch.

Brokaw also promised the Medill students: "We will not broadcast anything that will jeopardize American lives."

For the Daily Northwestern article in full, go to: http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/daily/issues/2001/10/02/campus/nu-brokaw.shtml

6

Adam Clymer is back in the news for becoming irate that he and other reporters were removed from the Senate gallery when Senator Strom Thurmond collapsed on the floor on Tuesday.

The MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me to a story in the October 4 Roll Call, a twice-weekly newspaper about Capitol Hill, which quoted from a Clymer rant. An excerpt from the report by Mark Preston:

Congressional reporters are crying foul about a news blackout imposed by the U.S. Capitol Police and Senate officials after Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) fell ill on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.

Within minutes of Thurmond being helped to the floor after complaining of lightheadedness, the viewing galleries were shuttered, television cameras controlled by the Senate were turned off, and a security perimeter was established, forcing reporters to vacate the second-floor hallways and restricting their movements on the East Front plaza....

Reporters waiting on the East Front plaza for Thurmond to be brought to the ambulance were pushed back by police officers enforcing the emergency perimeter, causing some scribes to question why they were being denied the right to do their jobs. Inside, two Capitol Hill veterans squared off over the press's right to report the news.

Adam Clymer, a New York Times correspondent, accused Robert Petersen, the director of the Senate Daily Press Gallery, of failing to look after reporters' interests.

"Anyone who closes the gallery and keeps the press from doing its job shouldn't be working in the press gallery," Clymer said moments after butting heads with Petersen at a media stakeout over the issue of access to the galleries. "He is a bureaucratic hack."

"Daschle went along with it," Clymer continued, "and that is outrageous."

Petersen refused to comment on the argument except to say, "He asked me 'Do you think the gallery should be cleared?,' and I said, 'Well, common decency is if a man was dying, you wouldn't want an audience.'"

END Excerpt

For the entire story, go to: http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2001/10/news1004b.html

Hard to imagine why anyone would call Clymer a "major league asshole." Maybe Daschle would now agree with Dick Cheney's "big time" endorsement of George W. Bush's observation. -- Brent Baker


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