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Hell to Freeze Over? Jennings Less Anti-Bush Than CBS and NBC --9/18/2003


1. Hell to Freeze Over? Jennings Less Anti-Bush Than CBS and NBC
We know the hurricane is approaching the New York City headquarters of ABC News, but is Hell about to freeze over too? On Wednesday night, Peter Jennings was not nearly as condemnatory of President Bush as were CBS and NBC in reporting on how Bush declared that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th." While CBS and NBC devoted full stories to blaming Bush for having long let stand the mis-impression that Hussein was involved and characterized Bush's comment as contradicting Vice President Cheney's recent remarks, Jennings refrained from a full story, did not suggest Bush was culpable for long misleading people and portrayed the Cheney comments as in line with Bush's new assertion.

2. CNN's Brown Wonders If We Can Afford Prescription Entitlement
A network anchor, CNN's Aaron Brown, actually challenged a politician on the advisability of creating a massive new entitlement program. While Brown didn't doubt the value of such a program, interviewing new Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Wednesday's NewsNight, Brown wondered whether "the country right now can afford prescription coverage under Medicare?" Brown had set up the segment with Clark, who through the war served as an on-air expert for CNN, by conceding that he was "the cable news equivalent of a foxhole buddy."

3. CBS's Storm Cues Clark About Oil Company "Gouging" on Gas Prices
The morning show sessions on Wednesday with new Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark mainly stuck to pressing him about his low name ID, lack of money and organization, lack of political experience and then posed open-ended questions about what he'd do about the Bush tax cut and health care, but CBS's Hannah Storm served him up some loaded questions from the left. Storm wanted to know what he'd do to "fix that mess" in Iraq and on gas prices she wondered: "Do you think that oil companies are gouging Americans and what would you do to lower gas prices?"

4. Gumbel Denies Liberal Bias, Yet Sees Conservative Bias on FNC
In denouncing FNC's conservative bias, on PBS's Flashpoints USA on Tuesday night, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter conceded "there has been some liberal bias" in the past at other outlets but, he insisted, "the point of those news organizations is not to advance a particular political agenda." Bryant Gumbel mocked conservative concerns about bias: "Conservatives have claimed liberal media for so long some of them have actually come to believe it." Gumbel, the poster child of liberal bias, also had the chutzpah to try to impugn FNC in this characterization that he could better have directed at himself: "Can a news outlet pursue a political agenda without their news, by definition, being less credible as a result?" Plus, Gallup found that by three-to-one the public sees the news media as "too liberal" over "too conservative."


Hell to Freeze Over? Jennings Less Anti-Bush
Than CBS and NBC

ABC's Peter Jennings We know the hurricane is approaching the New York City headquarters of ABC News, but is Hell about to freeze over too? On Wednesday night, Peter Jennings, who usually is the most hostile to Bush's Iraq policy and the most enthusiastic about highlighting criticisms of it, was not nearly as condemnatory of President Bush as was CBS and NBC in reporting on how President Bush declared that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th."

While CBS and NBC devoted full stories to blaming Bush for having long let stand the mis-impression that Hussein was involved and characterized Bush's comment as contradicting Vice President Cheney's recent remarks, Jennings refrained from a full story, did not suggest Bush was culpable for long misleading people and portrayed the very same Cheney comments on Meet the Press, which NBC and CBS saw Bush as contradicting, as in line with Bush's new assertion.

Dan Rather declared on the September 17 CBS Evening News: "The President is now trying to blunt criticism that he, his Vice President, and others in his administration overplayed, overstated their case against Saddam Hussein." CBS's John Roberts stressed how "critics charged the White House was making the connection to build support for a costly occupation, one a new CBS News poll finds Americans increasingly skeptical about." Roberts' story was so one-sided that Rather felt compelled to add afterward: "You may want to note that the Bush administration says that the occupation of Iraq is succeeding."

Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw asked David Gregory at the White House: "Why did the President feel it was necessary to correct Cheney's statement?" Gregory explained that "the administration is trying to quiet critics who charge that the White House deliberately tried to blur the lines between 9-11 and Saddam." Gregory charged that "prior to the war...Mr. Bush deliberately linked al-Qaeda to Iraq and when talking of the war against Saddam 9-11 was always mentioned."

Gregory contended that "Vice President Cheney added to the suspicion this Sunday when asked of a connection by Tim Russert on Meet the Press. 'We don't know,' Mr. Cheney said."

But to Jennings, that very Cheney comment was an example of the administration making clear there is no 9-11 tie to Hussein and that Cheney was in sync with Bush. Jennings announced on World News Tonight:
"Many polls, including a recent one by ABC News, have found over time that nearly 70 percent of the American public believes there's a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 attacks. This week the Bush administration has been saying that this is not true. Yesterday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said, 'I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.' On Sunday, Vice President Cheney said, 'we don't know.' And this was the President today:"
Bush, in cabinet room: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th."

End of ABC's story. That's not quite the hyperbolic approach delivered by CBS and NBC. Those stories in full:

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather: "Turning now to the ongoing war in Iraq, which President Bush has often linked to the war on terror worldwide which began with the 9-11 attacks. A new CBS News poll indicate Americans' enthusiasm for the Iraq war is slipping at least some and, as John Roberts reports, the President is now trying to blunt criticism that he, his Vice President, and others in his administration overplayed, overstated their case against Saddam Hussein."
John Roberts checked in from the White House: "President Bush today moved to silence critics who claim he's blurring the lines between Iraq and 9-11, most recently on Sunday when his Vice President described Iraq as the quote, 'geographic base for the terrorists who attacked America.'"
Bush, in cabinet room: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th. Now, what the Vice President said was that he has been involved with al-Qaeda."
Roberts: "Critics charged the White House was making the connection to build support for a costly occupation, one a new CBS News poll finds Americans increasingly skeptical about. Fully two-thirds [66 to 26 percent] say the U.S. should not spend the $87 billion President Bush today asked Congress for on Iraq. Once more, the majority of Americans [64 to 22 percent] think the administration has no plan to re-build there and more people now say the war wasn't worth it than say it was [yes: 43 percent, no: 47 percent]. The sagging poll numbers came on the same day new questions were raised about the justification for war. Former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told an Australian radio station he now thinks Iraq destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction 12 years ago. If true, then the burdens of a costly occupation will weigh even more heavily on the President says former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who served in Iraq under the first President Bush."
Wilson, former Deputy Chief of U.S. Mission to Iraq: "The President's credibility depends on the success both of our finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction or their programs, but more importantly whether we succeed in this occupation phase and we're not succeeding."
Roberts concluded: "Our poll also found that nearly two-thirds of Americans would happily hand over substantial control over Iraq's future to UN countries willing to put up reconstruction costs, a notion President Bush has so far rejected, Dan."
Rather added: "Live from the White House, John Roberts. You may want to note that the Bush administration says that the occupation of Iraq is succeeding."

For the poll results: www.cbsnews.com

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw: "On the Iraq front tonight, President Bush now has joined Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Rice in saying there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9-11. All of this follows and appearance Sunday on Meet the Press by Vice President Dick Cheney. When asked by Tim Russert if there is a connection, Cheney said 'we don't know.' NBC's David Gregory at the White House tonight. David, why did the President feel it was necessary to correct Cheney's statement?"

Gregory answered: "Well, there's nobody here saying directly that's what the President was doing, but Tom it certainly was no accident that the President came out with his statement today. The administration is trying to quiet critics who charge that the White House deliberately tried to blur the lines between 9-11 and Saddam. The question is now more than two years old: Did Saddam have a hand in the 9-11 attacks? A recent Washington Post poll found nearly seven in ten Americans think so [69 to 28 percent] and the President, some White House officials conceded, has done little to convince Americans otherwise. Until today."
Bush: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th."
Gregory: "Prior to the war, however, Mr. Bush deliberately linked al-Qaeda to Iraq and when talking of the war against Saddam 9-11 was always mentioned."
Bush, May 1 on aircraft carrier: "The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United and war is what they got."
Gregory: "Vice President Cheney added to the suspicion this Sunday when asked of a connection by Tim Russert on Meet the Press. 'We don't know,' Mr. Cheney said, but added that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq that he claims the war ended."
Cheney on Meet the Press: "We will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years but most especially on 9-11."
Gregory: "But this week other key administration officials appeared to close the window the Vice President had opened. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Rice saying there is no evidence to support an Iraq/9-11 connection. And the President adding his voice today. But Mr. Bush was also careful to back up his Vice President on another point by saying he too believes in a al-Qaeda/Saddam connection when it comes to operations or training, but Tom, not 9-11."

CNN's Brown Wonders If We Can Afford
Prescription Entitlement

Hell to freeze over, second example. A network anchor, CNN's Aaron Brown, actually challenged a politician on the advisability of creating a massive new entitlement program. While Brown didn't doubt the value of such a program, interviewing new Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Wednesday's NewsNight, Brown wondered whether "the country right now can afford prescription coverage under Medicare?"

Brown's question in full to Clark, who appeared via satellite from Little Rock: "As you noted in your talk today, in your speech today, the country is running in dollar terms record deficits. Do you believe given the current state of the economy, the federal budgets and the projections that the country right now can afford prescription coverage under Medicare?"

Clark replied: "We have to do something to address the prescription drug needs of our seniors and we need to produce health insurance for all Americans. We'll take a look at how soon we can do that and how."

Brown also pressed Clark: "Do you think the world and the region, perhaps more particularly, is a better place because Saddam Hussein has been overthrown?"

Clark's bottom line was no at the end of this meandering answer: "Well, all things being equal, yes. But all things are never equal. And this is a case where there are, there are pluses and minuses on this. Certainly, the Iraqi people now have an opportunity to grasp for freedom. And we've uncovered some of the horrendous excesses and depredations of the Iraqi regime and brought them to light. On the other hand, personal security, economic security is down in many places in Iraq. There is terrorism in Iraq that wasn't there before. We have charged up the al-Qaeda recruiting machine. I guess we could have done even a better job of reinforcing Osama bin Laden had we invaded Saudi Arabia. But next to Saudi Arabia, going into Iraq was a pretty good thing for al-Qaeda. It put a U.S. and British force on the ground in an Arab country and gave them all the ammunition they needed to raise the intensity of hatred against the West. So these things balance out. And it's really too soon to say. I would say, at best, it's a net wash. It may be negative for U.S. security on the whole."

Brown had set up the September 17 segment with Clark, who through the war served as an on-air expert for CNN, by conceding that he was "the cable news equivalent of a foxhole buddy." Brown explained:
"We understood a boss' concern the other day about how NewsNight would cover the expected presidential candidacy of Wesley Clark. General Clark has been both a friend of the program and during the war the cable news equivalent of a foxhole buddy. So, on those terms the General is tops in our book but when it comes to Wesley Clark, the presidential candidate, we and he and you are just getting acquainted..."

CBS's Storm Cues Clark About Oil Company
"Gouging" on Gas Prices

The morning show sessions on Wednesday with new Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark mainly stuck to pressing him about his low name ID, lack of money and organization, lack of political experience and then posed open-ended questions about what he'd do about the Bush tax cut and health care, but CBS's Hannah Storm served him up some loaded questions from the left.

Storm wanted to know what he'd do to "fix that mess" in Iraq and on gas prices she wondered: "Do you think that oil companies are gouging Americans and what would you do to lower gas prices?"

A rundown of Storm's questions on the September 17 Early Show, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:

-- "Why is now the perfect time for a military man to run this country?"

-- "Well you might so you're not a military man, but of course you're a four star general, you presided over NATO and you opposed the war in Iraq. The war did happen, it's a situation you would inherit if you took office, what would you do differently than the Bush administration is doing now to fix that mess?"

-- "General, you don't have any political experience, you're going to be pressed for a domestic agenda, so I want to ask you about the economy, which is the number one concern of most Americans. It's something that impacts people personally and that's gas prices. Do you think that oil companies are gouging Americans and what would you do to lower gas prices?"

-- "What would be your first step to fix the economy? Where would you start?"

-- "How would you create jobs, particularly, let's say jobs in manufacturing, a sector which has lost a lot of jobs?

-- "I want to quickly ask you about your fellow Arkansas native former President Bill Clinton who called you one of the two stars of the Democratic party. Did he urge you to run?"

Clark didn't get quite as generous a welcome from ABC or NBC. On Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, Charlie Gibson began: "Why do you run for President of the United States? You've raised no money, you have scant organization, you're a political neophyte, people don't know you very well. Why get in?" Gibson followed up: "Are you qualified? You've never held political office. From what I read about you, you haven't even voted regularly."

Gibson moved on to press Clark about whether he would have gone to war in Iraq (no), what he'd do about the Bush tax cuts and health care policy and his stand on same-sex marriage and civil unions (against and for).

NBC's Matt Lauer, on Today, wondered: "You're getting a late start here and a lot of people are questioning General whether you can get the organization in place in the key states that you'll need and that whether you can raise the kind of money you're going to need. Some political experts are saying the money that's out there is already committed and without that cash you're gonna have a hard time in, in New Hampshire and Iowa. How do you respond to that?"

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens also noticed how Lauer asked: "What about political experience? I mean we've got, you're running against congressmen, senators, former governors. What's your political experience. And, and I know you think that, that heading NATO categ-, or, or qualifies as political experience but a lot of experts say it's just apples and oranges."

Lauer soon ran through Clark's stands on abortion, affirmative action, gays in the military and on the tax cuts: "You've called the economic recovery a jobless recovery, you've said you're opposed to President Bush's package of tax cuts. Give me, give me a specific tax cut that you would repeal or lower if you were President of the United States?"

Gumbel Denies Liberal Bias, Yet Sees
Conservative Bias on FNC

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter In denouncing FNC's conservative bias, on PBS's Flashpoints USA on Tuesday night, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter conceded "there has been some liberal bias" in the past at other outlets but, he insisted, "the point of those news organizations is not to advance a particular political agenda."

Segment host Bryant Gumbel mocked conservative concerns about bias: "Conservatives have claimed liberal media for so long some of them have actually come to believe it." Gumbel, the poster child of liberal political advocacy and deriding of conservatives during his years at NBC and CBS, also had the chutzpah to try to impugn FNC in this characterization that he could better have directed at himself: "Can a news outlet pursue a political agenda without their news, by definition, being less credible as a result?"

Picking up on the preview of the September 16 show as outlined on its Web site, the September 16 CyberAlert reported: In the second quarterly edition of PBS's Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill, which is set to air at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT tonight (Tuesday, September 16) on most PBS stations, an episode titled "The Media Today: Truth or Lies?", PBS displays great concern for the media's corporate concentration while ignoring the subject of liberal political bias.
A poll taken for the show, for instance, asked respondents to decide whether news organizations "have too many business conflicts of interest and lack independence" or "can be independent from big business interests." The "resources" page on the program's Web site features a bunch of left-wing groups, but not any conservative media watchers: www.pbs.org

For the September 17 CyberAlert item with more poll results and highlights of Gumbel's interview with Tom Brokaw about flag lapel pins: www.mediaresearch.org

Indeed, most of the program was devoted to the dangers of corporate ownership of the media, but in looking at the threat posed to journalistic integrity by FNC, the program did briefly address liberal versus conservative media bias.

The announcer intoned at the top of the show: "Fox News Channel: Fair and balanced or rant and rave?" Following a look at Bill O'Reilly, with Times Square at night in the background. Gumbel sat down, with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley, to discuss FNC's impact on other media outlets.

Alter contended of FNC: "They have a consistent conservative agenda. They can say they don't, but they do. Now, are there some examples of liberal bias that people have found over the years on issues like abortion? Of course. Anybody who tries to deny that hasn't looked closely enough. There has been some liberal bias. But the point of those news organizations is not to advance a particular political agenda. It's not to say 'we're for George Bush beating Al Gore.' That's what Fox consistently was clearing intending and hoping for in the 2000 election."

(It's always humorous when reporters like Alter concede that there once was some liberal bias, but it is no more. No doubt that in a few years Alter or a colleague will argue there was some liberal bias back in 2003, but no more now.)

With no sign of self-awareness about how he was describing himself, Gumbel inquired in an attempt to undermine FNC: "Can a news outlet pursue a political agenda without their news, by definition, being less credible as a result?"
Alter: "No. If the political agenda is your first objective, you're already in trouble."

A bit later, Gumbel mocked conservatives: "Tony, conservatives have claimed liberal media for so long some of them have actually come to believe it. Why do you think the radio airwaves in particular are dominated these days by conservatives? Is it the message or is it the messengers?"

Blankley suggested that if we had 30 years of media domination by conservatives then we'd now have liberal talk radio.

Gumbel may not believe there's any liberal bias, but by more than three-to-one the public at large sees it that way. So found a poll result posted earlier this week by Gallup (www.gallup.com), but now only accessible to Gallup subscribers. The firm's September 8-10 survey of 1,025 adults discovered that when asked what they "think the news media is?", 45 percent replied "too liberal," compared to a piddling 14 percent who said they see the media as "too conservative." And 39 percent expressed the view that the news media are "just about right."

# If there's no CyberAlert tomorrow, it means the hurricane wiped us out, or at least that our power went out.

-- Brent Baker