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DeLay Hits Vieira: 'I Didn't Know You Spoke for American People' --3/21/2007


1. DeLay Hits Vieira: 'I Didn't Know You Spoke for American People'
When Today co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday hit former House Majority Leader Tom "The Hammer" DeLay over public opposition to the Iraq war, The Hammer hit back: "I didn't know you spoke for the American people." Appearing on the Today show to promote his new book, DeLay didn't receive the kid glove treatment NBC's Meredith Vieira usually reserves for Hillary Clinton, as Vieira repeatedly questioned DeLay on his ethics and, picking up on his comment that demanding a set date for withdrawal from Iraq will aid the enemy, she lectured: "In a poll taken last week, sir, 59 percent of Americans say they agree that troops should be removed from Iraq by the fall of 2008. So does that mean that more than half of Americans are unpatriotic, that they're, they're abetting the enemy?" As Vieira deigned to interpret opinion polls on Iraq, she piously proclaimed: "Well I think they are saying though, sir, not to beat a dead horse here, but I think they are saying they want American troops out by the fall of 2008." To which DeLay hammered back: "I didn't know you spoke for the American people."

2. Salivating Press: 'Does This Bring Back Memories of Watergate?'
Some journalists are starting to project parallels between the media-fueled controversy over the Bush administration replacing eight of 93 U.S. attorneys and Watergate, what many reporters see as their glory days of the early 1970s. A brief video snippet in David Gregory's story on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News showed Fred Fielding, Chief Counsel in the Bush White House who worked in the counsel's office during the Nixon administration, walking down a Capitol Hill hallway as a male voice off-camera, presumably a reporter, asked: "Does this bring back memories of Watergate?" NBC didn't play Fielding's reply. And that most likely took place before President Bush's address at 5:50pm EDT in which he promised to turn over more documents, have Justice officials testify before Congress and to allow Senators to interview Harriet Miers and Karl Rove. Bush's offer only antagonized a couple of media figures. On MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann proposed that "the President sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate." Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter readily agreed: "That is a great point. You know if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate."

3. GMA Uses Stack of Paper as Visual Aid to Highlight Gonzales Case
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, news reader Chris Cuomo used a none-to-subtle visual aid to continue the program's campaign to have Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired over the Justice Department's dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. Early in the 7am hour, co-host Robin Roberts introduced Cuomo, who stood at the news desk with stacks of paper, meant to represent the 3,000 pages of documents released on the case, piled half way to his shoulders: "You see this stack of paper? Very relevant today. Good morning to you and good morning, everyone. The number of the day is 3,000. That's how many pages, just like this, the Justice Department handed out overnight. They offer an up-close look inside the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors." The subsequent news story featured an on-screen graphic wondering if the documents represented a "smoking gun," the third time in less than a week that GMA used such a phrase.

4. Another GMA Town Meeting to Promote Hillary -- Just as in 1999
On Tuesday morning's Good Morning America, ABC co-host Robin Roberts announced they would be airing a special town hall meeting about health care and veterans care with Hillary Clinton next Monday, March 26. In 1999, as First Lady Hillary Clinton prepared to run for the Senate, GMA handed over most of their broadcast to gun control and kids on June 4. This special included 45 minutes with Bill and Hillary talking to high-schoolers town hall-style about the horrors of school violence. Hillary's Senate opponents, Rudy Giuliani and then Rep. Rick Lazio, were never awarded comparative feasts of free air time.


DeLay Hits Vieira: 'I Didn't Know You
Spoke for American People'

When Today co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday hit former House Majority Leader Tom "The Hammer" DeLay over public opposition to the Iraq war, The Hammer hit back: "I didn't know you spoke for the American people." Appearing on the Today show to promote his new book, DeLay didn't receive the kid glove treatment NBC's Meredith Vieira usually reserves for Hillary Clinton, as Vieira repeatedly questioned DeLay on his ethics and, picking up on his comment that demanding a set date for withdrawal from Iraq will aid the enemy, she lectured: "In a poll taken last week, sir, 59 percent of Americans say they agree that troops should be removed from Iraq by the fall of 2008. So does that mean that more than half of Americans are unpatriotic, that they're, they're abetting the enemy?" As Vieira deigned to interpret opinion polls on Iraq, she piously proclaimed: "Well I think they are saying though, sir, not to beat a dead horse here, but I think they are saying they want American troops out by the fall of 2008." To which DeLay hammered back: "I didn't know you spoke for the American people."

For a look at Vieira's December interview with Hillary Clinton, in which she touted Clinton's ten year old book as "even more imperative now" and urged her to run for President, check the December 19 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

Of course Vieira didn't just go after DeLay on Iraq but also hit him with charges of corruption, as she charged: "In your book you say that one of the reasons Republicans lost control of the Congress was because of a general perception of Republican incompetence and lack of principles. But many critics say that you were part of that problem."

[This item is adapted from a posting, by Geoff Dickens, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org The MRC's Brad Wilmouth helped with the transcript.]

The following are all of Vieira's questions to Tom DeLay during the first half hour of the March 20 Today show:

Meredith Vieira: "Tom DeLay knows all about the bare-knuckle brawls in the Beltway, the former House Majority Leader was known as 'The Hammer,' when he served in Congress and now he's written a book called, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight. Mr. Delay, good morning to you."
[Tom DeLay]
[On screen headline: "DeLay's American Fight, Has The GOP Lost Its Way?"]
Vieira: "When we were listening to Norah's report just then you turned to me and said, 'Only the beginning.' What did you mean by that?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "What would you advise Mr. Gonzales to do if you still had a position in Congress?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "Fight?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "You say to fight but, and you, the name of your book is No Retreat, No Surrender but didn't you give up your battle?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "Well but in essence you did, you stepped aside."
[DeLay]
Vieira: "Let me talk about that a little bit because it's not just Republicans in the White House that are in trouble, it's the Republican Party in general and in your book you say that one of the reasons Republicans lost control of the Congress was because of a general perception of Republican incompetence and lack of principles. But many critics say that you were part of that problem. That you were cited by the House Ethics committee numerous times, indicted on campaign finance, finance related charges and that two of your top aides pled guilty in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. So what responsibility do you think you bare?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "Where do you disagree?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "So you don't feel you bare any responsibility for this perception of Republicans being corrupt?"
DeLay: "I haven't done anything wrong. I haven't done anything wrong. This is, this was a strategy, a concerted strategy by the Democrats announced 12 years ago by the campaign committee and Pat Kennedy. That they were gonna demonize Tom DeLay. It was on their Web site. And so-"
Vieira: "It worked."
DeLay: "It worked. Unfortunately."
Vieira: "I want to switch gears for a minute and talk about your appearance on Meet the Press on Sunday where you were part of a panel discussing the war in Iraq, and you had harsh words for those who support a date for troop withdrawal from Iraq. Let's take a look at this."
DeLay, on Sunday's Meet the Press: "When you tell the enemy what your strategy is, that's aiding and abetting the enemy because they can use that strategy to come back and harm your soldiers."
Vieira: "In a poll taken last week, sir, 59 percent of Americans say they agree that troops should be removed from Iraq by the fall of 2008. So does that mean that more than half of Americans are unpatriotic, that they're, they're abetting the enemy?"
DeLay: "No, no. That is much different. When you give a date certain and you telegraph to the enemy what your plans are and what your strategies are, the enemy can design his own strategy in response."
Vieira: "How is that different? The American people, 59 percent are saying they want the troops out by the fall of 2008."
DeLay: "For what reason? And when?"
Vieira: "Because they think that it's not working."
DeLay: "No. A lot of it has to do with the American people are frustrated, as I am, as the President is, that it's not going as well as you'd like to have it, and you'd like to be out. But it's not a matter of setting a date. When you set a date, you're aiding and abetting your enemy."
Vieira: "Well, I think they are saying though, sir, not to beat a dead horse here, but I think they are saying they want American troops out by the fall of 2008."
DeLay: "Well, I don't, I didn't know that you spoke for the American people."
Vieira: "No, I'm not. I'm speaking for the poll, actually. I'm just relating the poll to you, 59 percent say that. I just want to make sure that I understand you when you say that those people are not unpatriotic for taking that position."
DeLay: "People can take a position at all, what I'm saying is when you set a date, it gives the enemy comfort to know what you're going to do so that they can plan their attacks on their own."
Vieira: "You said that President Bush, last question, is a, is a compassionate man but not really a conservative. Who do you think is going to be the rising voice of the Republican Party come 2008 in the elections? Of the candidates you see."
[DeLay]
Vieira: "But among the candidates that are out there now. Is there one that, that, in your mind, seems to be the best one to replace the President?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "You don't have a favorite?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "You miss the Hill?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "Had enough?"
[DeLay]
Vieira: "Tom DeLay, thank you very much for joining us this morning. The book is called No Retreat, No Surrender."

Salivating Press: 'Does This Bring Back
Memories of Watergate?'

Some journalists are starting to project parallels between the media-fueled controversy over the Bush administration replacing eight of 93 U.S. attorneys and Watergate, what many reporters see as their glory days of the early 1970s. A brief video snippet in David Gregory's story on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News showed Fred Fielding, Chief Counsel in the Bush White House who worked in the counsel's office during the Nixon administration, walking down a Capitol Hill hallway as a male voice off-camera, presumably a reporter, asked: "Does this bring back memories of Watergate?" NBC didn't play Fielding's reply. And that most likely took place before President Bush's address at 5:50pm EDT in which he promised to turn over more documents, have Justice officials testify before Congress and to allow Senators to interview Harriet Miers and Karl Rove.

Bush's offer only antagonized a couple of media figures. On MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann proposed that "the President sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate." Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter readily agreed: "That is a great point. You know if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate."

Earlier, Alter reminded viewers of the special "bond" between Bush and Gonzales: "Remember that it was Gonzales who saved Bush's career when he was called for jury duty as Governor of Texas. Gonzales used a technicality to avoid public disclosure of Bush's arrest for drunk driving."

A bio of Fielding: www.911commission.gov

Bush's remarks: www.whitehouse.gov

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

The Watergate exchange on the March 20 Countdown:

Keith Olbermann: "This statement he made tonight upon returning to Washington, talking about free exchange of ideas being thwarted, being quashed inside a White House. He sounded, the President sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate and I can't be the only one to have made that comparison. Is that really a comparison he wants to invoke if the subpoenas come? Would it not be better to blink than look like you're covering up -- especially when it may be covering up makes this look bigger, perhaps, than it really is?"
Jonathan Alter: "That is a great point. You know if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate. Look, this idea that somehow presidential aides don't have to go up and testify under oath on Capitol Hill -- this is a very modern and really Nixonian notion. If you go back, say, to the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt's top aide Louie Howe, there were irregularities in the New Deal Congress wanted to know about, they called him up on Capitol Hill, a Democratic Congress interestingly, they grilled him. There wasn't even the slightest suggestion that somehow he shouldn't be required to testify. So this is a new idea. It will be shades of Watergate if they want to go to court to test it."

Newsweek's page for Alter's columns: www.msnbc.msn.com

GMA Uses Stack of Paper as Visual Aid
to Highlight Gonzales Case

On Tuesday's Good Morning America, news reader Chris Cuomo used a none-to-subtle visual aid to continue the program's campaign to have Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired over the Justice Department's dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. Early in the 7am hour, co-host Robin Roberts introduced Cuomo, who stood at the news desk with stacks of paper, meant to represent the 3,000 pages of documents released on the case, piled half way to his shoulders: "You see this stack of paper? Very relevant today. Good morning to you and good morning, everyone. The number of the day is 3,000. That's how many pages, just like this, the Justice Department handed out overnight. They offer an up-close look inside the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors." The subsequent news story featured an on-screen graphic wondering if the documents represented a "smoking gun," the third time in less than a week that GMA used such a phrase.

[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Reporter Pierre Thomas, who last week hyperbolically described the Attorney General as "hunkered down with his closest advisors," and in "a fight for survival," reported on the March 20 story.

The 7:01am tease. Diane Sawyer: "Overnight news, too."
Robin Roberts: "Yes. Three thousand new e-mails released by the Justice Department. A trail showing just how far reaching the concern was inside the Justice Department over those firings of U.S. Attorneys. More bad news for the Attorney General."

7:03am. Sawyer: "But let's begin the morning's news with Chris Cuomo at the news desk."
Roberts: "Look at all that you have there, Chris." [Roberts points to a huge stack of papers that Cuomo has piled his news desk.]
Chris Cuomo: "You see this stack of paper? Very relevant today. Good morning to you and good morning, everyone. The number of the day is 3,000. That's how many pages, just like this, the Justice Department handed out overnight. They offer an up-close look inside the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors. Pierre Thomas joins us from the Justice Department now. Pierre, tell us about it."
ABC Graphic: "New Docs in Atty Firings: Is There a Smoking Gun?"
Pierre Thomas: "Hi, Chris. Those e-mails provide some insights into why those U.S. Attorneys were fired. But it is unclear whether they will help the Attorney General keep his job. Late last night, roughly 3,000 pages of Justice Department documents about the firing of U.S. Attorneys were provided to congressional investigators. The e-mails show one of the men at the center of the controversy appeared very concerned about Senators wanting to investigate the matter. Kyle Sampson, the Attorney General's former chief of staff, allegedly wrote this e-mail about whether fired U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins should testify before Congress. Cummins was replaced as a U.S. Attorney in Arkansas by an associate of White House advisor Karl Rove. Sampson wrote, 'I don't think he, Cummins, should testify. How would he answer? Did you resign voluntarily? Were you told why you were being asked to resign?' The documents suggest Gonzales was generally aware of the plan to remove U.S. Attorneys, but he maintains he was not intimately involved."
Norm Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute: "The Attorney General was in a position where either he lied directly about his involvement or he was clueless about what his own chief of staff was doing right underneath his own nose."
Thomas: "The e-mails also make clear that, at least initially, the fired U.S. Attorneys were given no justification for their dismissals. Margaret Chiara, the U.S. Attorney for the Western district of Michigan, at one point wrote, 'I need to know the truth to live in peace with the aftermath.'"
Victoria Toensing, fmr. Assistant Deputy Attorney General: "To mess this up by smearing the reputations of people who have dedicated a certain amount of years to public service is inexcusable."
Thomas: "Justice officials say the e-mails show that the firings were legitimate. But sources say the documents also show that some prosecutors were ranked based on loyalty to President Bush."

Another GMA Town Meeting to Promote Hillary
-- Just as in 1999

On Tuesday morning's Good Morning America, ABC co-host Robin Roberts announced they would be airing a special town hall meeting about health care and veterans care with Hillary Clinton next Monday, March 26. In 1999, as First Lady Hillary Clinton prepared to run for the Senate, GMA handed over most of their broadcast to gun control and kids on June 4. This special included 45 minutes with Bill and Hillary talking to high-schoolers town hall-style about the horrors of school violence. Hillary's Senate opponents, Rudy Giuliani and then Rep. Rick Lazio, were never awarded comparative feasts of free air time.

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

Roberts promoted their new broadcast gift to Hillary: "And we want to tell everybody about a special event on Good Morning America that's coming up this Monday. It's the first in our series of GMA town hall meetings leading up to next year's election. And Senator Hillary Clinton will be here live to answer questions about health care and veterans care in a live town hall meeting that actually will be held in Des Moines, Iowa. That's next Monday, only on GMA."

"First in a series." Does that mean it's first in a series of rotating candidates with the people on ABC's airwaves? Or the first in a series of Hillary Clinton campaign promotions? Because Hillary's opponents didn't get equal time last time around. As the June 4, 1999 CyberAlert Extra recounted:
"ABC's Good Morning America broadcast live from the White House this morning, presenting a two hour special titled 'Kids & Guns: Is There a Solution?' The show dropped many ad breaks to allow more time with the Clintons. For 45 uninterrupted minutes from about 7:30am to 8:15am ET Bill and Hillary Clinton, with Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer hosting, talked in the Roosevelt Room with a group of high school students."

It wasn't all fun and games: Charlie Gibson hounded Bill Clinton to crack down on gun owners until the President grew peevish. But this is another example of how it's ironic for the media to leave themselves out of the regulatory schemes called "campaign finance reform" to make elections more "competitive." In fact, in that same election cycle, GMA gave the lion's share of its free air time on the Republican side to....John McCain, Captain Campaign Reform. In a Media Reality Check, we noted that over a six-month period of late 1999 and early 2000, Steve Forbes appeared once, Alan Keyes once -- and John McCain was awarded eleven interviews. The irony was that even after Forbes and Keyes finished second and third behind Bush in the Iowa caucuses, GMA only invited McCain to the show -- even though he'd skipped competing in Iowa. See: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker