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Jennings Cites Hussein's "Alleged" Weapons of Mass Destruction --9/16/2003


1. Jennings Cites Hussein's "Alleged" Weapons of Mass Destruction
Peter Jennings on Saddam Hussein's "alleged" weapons of mass destruction. On Monday's World News Tonight, after recalling how "thousands of Iraqi Kurds" were "reportedly killed in 1988 by Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons," Jennings announced how "David Kay is finalizing his report on the search for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction." But in the subsequent story, Martha Raddatz made clear that while Kay had determined that during the 1990s Hussein destroyed all his WMD, "officials say the Kay report will detail Iraq's efforts to maintain the capability to produce weapons, an effort that one congressional source called 'robust, active and ongoing.'"

2. Amanpour: Scribes Too Pro-Bush/FNC, Burns: No, Too Pro-Saddam
Two journalists, two different views on how the media failed to do their jobs in the months prior to the invasion of Iraq. On CNBC last week, CNN's Christiane Amanpour railed about the Bush administration's arguments for invading Iraq, branding it "disinformation at the highest levels" and she scolded journalists "intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News." But a new book quotes John Burns, the New York Times reporter stationed in Baghdad during the war, expressing outrage toward Western reporters who helped conceal the awfulness of Saddam's despotic tyranny in order to protect their access to the Iraqi capital, calling it "corruption" and "a gross abdication of responsibility."

3. ABC on Tax: "Who Could Say No to an Extra Dime to Help Kids?"
NBC News recognized a tax hike advocate as a liberal, but not ABC News. In a Monday night story on a referendum in Seattle to impose a tax of ten cents per cup of espresso, ABC's Neal Karlinsky failed to apply an ideological label the proponent of the "attempt to save child care programs for 7,000 needy kids left underfunded by the state's $2.5 billion budget shortfall." Karlinsky also relayed the befuddlement of tax supporters: "They wondered who could say no to an extra dime to help kids?" NBC's Roger O'Neill, however, managed to recognize the ideology behind the idea: "John Burbank, with a liberal Seattle think tank, came up with the 'tax my latte' plan."

4. CBS's Smith Assumes Kerry Just Entered the Presidential Race
Houston to Harry Smith. For Monday's Early Show, Smith traveled to Iowa over the weekend where he expressed what seemed to be the genuine belief that John Kerry entered the presidential race a mere couple of weeks ago. Smith described Kerry's campaign as "barely two weeks old" and asked: "Did Kerry wait too long to get in the hunt?" Smith marveled at how "Howard Dean has gotten out to an amazing lead in terms of momentum and press," and pressed Kerry: "Did you wait too long to announce your candidacy?" Of course, though Kerry made his candidacy official on September 2, he's been campaigning for months.

5. Gumbel's Show Avoids Liberal Bias, Brokaw Justifies No Flag Pin
In the second quarterly edition of PBS's Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill, which is set to air an episode tonight titled, "The Media Today: Truth or Lies?", PBS displays great concern for the media's corporate concentration while ignoring liberal political bias. During an interview with Gumbel, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw admitted that back in the 1960s conservatives "had a hard time getting on the air," yet he maintained that's "just as a liberal does now." A poll for PBS found that Brokaw is out of touch on refusing to wear a flag pin, but Brokaw remained unapologetic. And by more than two-to-one, respondents "like" seeing "TV news reports that use words 'our side' or 'us' when referring to U.S. troops."


Jennings Cites Hussein's "Alleged" Weapons
of Mass Destruction

Peter Jennings on Saddam Hussein's "alleged" weapons of mass destruction. After recalling how "thousands of Iraqi Kurds" were "reportedly killed in 1988 by Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the north," on Monday's World News Tonight Jennings seconds later announced how "David Kay is finalizing his report on the search for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction." Jennings emphasized how "the U.S. has not yet presented evidence proving they existed."

But in the subsequent story, Martha Raddatz made clear that Hussein's possession of WMD was more than just "alleged." She reported that Kay had determined that during the 1990s Hussein had WMD but destroyed all his biological and chemical weapons and the "officials say the Kay report will detail Iraq's efforts to maintain the capability to produce weapons, an effort that one congressional source called 'robust, active and ongoing.'"

More details about Jennings' reporting on the September 15 World News Tonight.

Jennings noted: "Overseas today, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has finished his visit to Iraq. He attended a memorial service for thousands of Iraqi Kurds reportedly killed in 1988 by Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the north."

Jennings proceeded to a related story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The civilian in charge of the hunt for illegal arms, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is returning to Washington this week. David Kay is finalizing his report on the search for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has not yet presented evidence proving they existed, as we know. Our national security correspondent, Martha Raddatz, tonight has an early look at the Kay report."

Raddatz began her story: "Officials tell ABC News the draft report provides no solid evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. launched its attack in March. Stacks of documents have been uncovered, hundreds of sites have been inspected, and, as David Kay told Congress last July, dozens of Iraqi scientists have been interviewed."
David Kay, Iraq Survey Group Special Adviser, back on July 31 in Washington, DC: "I think it's important that people understand we are gaining the cooperation, the active cooperation of Iraqis who were involved in that program."
Raddatz undermined Jennings' "alleged" maligning of the idea Hussein had WMD: "Officials tell ABC News that several scientists have told the U.S. team that Saddam Hussein had all existing stocks of biological and chemical weapons destroyed beginning in 1991 after the Gulf War, continuing in 1996 and 1997 after the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, and finally in 1998 when pressure from inspectors was mounting. But officials say the Kay report will detail Iraq's efforts to maintain the capability to produce weapons, an effort that one congressional source called 'robust, active and ongoing.' Officials say scientists told the Americans that those who had been working on the programs were kept together, as were the files needed to start up the programs."

Raddatz concluded: "Administration officials caution, Peter, that this is just an interim report, and that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction is not over yet."

Amanpour: Scribes Too Pro-Bush/FNC, Burns:
No, Too Pro-Saddam

CNN's Christiane Amanpour Two journalists, two different views on how the media failed to do their jobs in the months prior to the invasion of Iraq. On CNBC last week, CNN's Christiane Amanpour railed about the Bush administration's arguments for invading Iraq, branding it "disinformation at the highest levels" and she scolded journalists "intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News," which led to "a climate of fear and self-censorship."

New York Times reporter John Burns But in a new book excerpted Monday on the Web site of Editor & Publisher magazine, John Burns, the New York Times reporter stationed in Baghdad during the war, expressed outrage toward Western reporters who helped conceal the awfulness of Saddam's despotic tyranny in order to protect their access to the Iraqi capital, calling it "corruption" and "a gross abdication of responsibility."

Amanpour made her allegations during a taped appearance last Wednesday night on CNBC's 10pm EDT Topic A with Tina Brown, where she sat alongside liberal author Al Franken and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

USA Today's Peter Johnson, who first reported Amanpour's charges, included this humorous reaction from Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti: "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."

For Johnson's September 15 story: www.usatoday.com

[Rich Noyes, the MRC's Director of Research, reviewed the tape of the CNBC hour to confirm Johnson's quotes and add to them, and then he drafted this item for CyberAlert.]

On the September 10 edition of the monthly CNBC program, Amanpour repeated the charge that many liberals have promoted about how the media were too subservient to the Bush administration: "I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."

Brown prompted Amanpour to be more specific: "Was there, was there any story that you couldn't do?"

Amanpour responded: "It's not a question of couldn't do it, it's a question of tone. It's a question of being rigorous. It's really a question of really asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."

Clarke jumped in to reject Amanpour's thesis: "It's categorically untrue. I cannot speak for-"
But the CNN correspondent quickly interrupted to backtrack a bit on her accusation against the Bush administration: "When I say 'disinformation,' I mean that we were all duped, everybody." She later clarified: "I said the intelligence, I said all of us did not ask the right questions."

(Amanpour has quite a lot of chutzpah to accuse the Bush team or anyone of disinformation when her boss, Eason Jordan, admitted in a New York Times op-ed in April that CNN for years withheld knowledge they had of Saddam Hussein's brutality, including later fulfilled death threats against two of Hussein's sons in law, a murder plot against CNN staffers in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq, fingernails and teeth pulled out of Iraqis and the threats of imprisonment or death for journalists and Iraqis working for them, such as translators, if they reported something the regime wanted kept quiet. For details: www.mediaresearch.org )

While Amanpour was wishing for tougher coverage of the Bush administration, New York Times reporter John Burns was critical of the media's weak coverage of Saddam Hussein's atrocities. The veteran war reporter was interviewed by Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson for their book, Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, an Oral History, which is being published this week.

Jim Romenesko's Web page (poynter.org) on Monday linked to an excerpt in Editor & Publisher from the book's presentation of war recollections from Burns.

Burns offered several anecdotes showing the depravity of those who served Saddam Hussein and how one reporter went so far as to advertise himself to the dictatorship as a useful tool: "A correspondent actually...printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper."

Burns chastised: "Editors of great newspapers, and small newspapers, and editors of great television networks should exact from their correspondents the obligation of telling the truth about these places. It's not impossible to tell the truth....We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. They rationalized it away."

Burns, who the Iraqis tried to arrest a few days before the collapse of Baghdad, made a similar charge in the weeks after the liberation of Baghdad, in the pages of the Times on April 20 and on CNN's NewsNight ten days later, where he included himself in the ranks of those who failed to give the outside world an accurate portrait of life under Saddam: "Anybody who told you that he was able to tell everything without restraint would not be telling you the truth. All of us wanted to, to be here for the war. Nobody wants to come in, have one trip for 10 days, and never come back. On the other hand, I think the parameters of what was possible were considerably wider than some reporters chose. Some of those people from some parts of the world -- the Arab world, in particular -- I think came never really willing to tell the truth."

For more on that CNN interview, and to see a picture of the bearded Burns: www.mrc.org

For more on Burns' post-war Times story on how "any Iraqi voicing an opinion other than those approved by the state would be vulnerable to arrest, torture and execution. But these were facts rarely mentioned by many reporters," see: www.mediaresearch.org

For his phone-ins to the CBS Evening News during the war, the MRC named Burns the "best" Baghdad reporter in our "Grading TV's War News" Special Report. For that section: www.mediaresearch.org

Now, a longer excerpt of Burns' comments as run in the September 15 Editor & Publisher:

Without contest, I was the most closely watched and unfavored of all the correspondents there because of what I wrote about terror whilst Saddam Hussein was still in power.

Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance. CNN's Eason Jordan's op-ed piece in the New York Times missed that point completely. The point is not whether we protect the people who work for us by not disclosing the terrible things they tell us. Of course we do. But the people who work for us are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq. So why not tell the story of the other people of Iraq? It doesn't preclude you from telling about terror. Of murder on a mass scale just because you won't talk about how your driver's brother was murdered....

Editors of great newspapers, and small newspapers, and editors of great television networks should exact from their correspondents the obligation of telling the truth about these places. It's not impossible to tell the truth. I have a conviction about closed societies, that they're actually much easier to report on than they seem, because the act of closure is itself revealing. Every lie tells you a truth. If you just leave your eyes and ears open, it's extremely revealing.

We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. They rationalized it away. I cannot tell you with what fury I listened to people tell me throughout the autumn that I must be on a kamikaze mission. They said it with a great deal of glee, over the years, that this was not a place like the others.

I did a piece on Uday Hussein and his use of the National Olympic Committee headquarters as a torture site. It's not just journalists who turned a blind eye. Juan Antonio Samaranch of the International Olympic Committee could not have been unaware that Western human rights reports for years had been reporting the National Olympic Committee building had been used as a torture center. I went through its file cabinets and got letter after letter from Juan Antonio Samaranch to Uday Saddam Hussein: "The universal spirit of sport," "My esteemed colleague." The world chose in the main to ignore this.

For some reason or another, Mr. Bush chose to make his principal case on weapons of mass destruction, which is still an open case. This war could have been justified any time on the basis of human rights, alone....

There is corruption in our business. We need to get back to basics. This war should be studied and talked about. In the run up to this war, to my mind, there was a gross abdication of responsibility. You have to be ready to listen to whispers.

END of Excerpt

For the rest of the article, go to: www.editorandpublisher.com

The book in which Burns' comments appear, Embedded, The Media at War in Iraq, is based on more than 60 interviews with journalists who covered the war. It was written by Bill Katovsky, a former researcher at the Brookings Institute and Timothy Carlson, who has reported for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and TV Guide. Amazon's page for it: www.amazon.com

ABC on Tax: "Who Could Say No to an Extra
Dime to Help Kids?"

NBC News recognized a tax hike advocate as a liberal, but not ABC News. In a Monday night story on a referendum in Seattle to impose a tax of ten cents per cup of espresso, ABC's Neal Karlinsky failed to apply an ideological label the proponent of the "attempt to save child care programs for 7,000 needy kids left underfunded by the state's $2.5 billion budget shortfall." Karlinsky also relayed the befuddlement of tax supporters: "They wondered who could say no to an extra dime to help kids?"

NBC's Roger O'Neill, however, managed to recognize the ideology behind the idea: "John Burbank, with a liberal Seattle think tank, came up with the 'tax my latte' plan."

Karlinsky began his September 15 World News Tonight story on the proposition Seattle voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide: "The town is feeling a little edgy over the proposed espresso tax, an attempt to save child care programs for 7,000 needy kids left underfunded by the state's $2.5 billion budget shortfall. John Burbank is pushing the idea of adding ten cents to any drink containing at least a half ounce of espresso."
Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute: "We figured that if you can pay three dollars for a tall double mocha, which I just did, you'd be willing to pay ten cents if you that that was going to early learning for kids."
Karlinsky: "They wondered who could say no to an extra dime to help kids? Everyone from Starbucks to thousands of rabid coffee drinkers and te Seattle Chamber of Commerce, that's who..."

Over on the NBC Nightly News, Roger O'Neill included a label: "John Burbank, with a liberal Seattle think tank, came up with the 'tax my latte' plan."
Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute: "This money will provide high-quality pre-kindergarten for kids in poverty who are not getting it now."

A check of the Economic Opportunity Institute's Web site proves their liberal-sounding agenda. Their mission statement: "The Economic Opportunity Institute develops new public policies to create ladders for low-income people to move into the middle class and to plug holes so that middle-class families do not fall into poverty. EOI is an activist, progressive, and majoritarian institute. We pursue our work through media outreach, public dialogue, and policy initiatives that address the shared economic security concerns of middle-class and low-income workers."

For the EOI's Web site: www.econop.org

CBS's Smith Assumes Kerry Just Entered
the Presidential Race

Houston to Harry Smith. For Monday's Early Show, Smith traveled to Iowa over the weekend where he expressed what seemed to be the genuine belief that John Kerry entered the presidential race a mere couple of weeks ago.

Smith described Kerry's campaign as "barely two weeks old" and asked: "Did Kerry wait too long to get in the hunt?" Smith marveled at how "Howard Dean has got out to an amazing lead in terms of momentum and press," and pressed Kerry: "Did you wait too long to announce your candidacy?"

Of course, Kerry has been an active candidate since last year and has been campaigning all of this year, including participation in debates, though he only made his formal announcement on September 2 in South Carolina.

After a hurricane update at the top of the 7:30 half hour on the September 15 Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed that Smith announced: "The next presidential election is nearly 14 months away so there is still plenty of opportunity and optimism for each of the nine Democrats hoping to challenge President Bush next fall."

In a taped piece, Smith proceeded to recount his weekend in Iowa following around Kerry interspersed with questions to Kerry about how to beat Howard Dean. Smith soon surmised: "The presidential elections are more than a year away, but out here it feels closer and the Democratic party faithful believe President Bush is vulnerable."

Smith observed: "Kerry and most of the other candidates showed up Saturday for Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's 26th annual steak fry. Kerry's followers were noisy, energized and organized, not bad for a campaign barely two weeks old. But did Kerry, wait too long to get in the hunt?"

The CBS story then cut to Smith proposing to Kerry: "Howard Dean has got out to an amazing lead in terms of momentum and press, did you wait too long to announce your candidacy?"

Kerry rejected the premise but didn't point out how he'd been campaigning for months.

Senator John Edwards, who also has been actively campaigning for months, will make his race official this morning (Tuesday). Will Smith soon suggest that Edwards took too long to get into the race?

Gumbel's Show Avoids Liberal Bias, Brokaw
Justifies No Flag Pin

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 15) 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

The poll discovered that 65 percent trust half or less of what they "hear, read and see in the news" and because of the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times most are "less confident about all news reporting."

During an interview with Gumbel, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw admitted that back in the 1960s conservatives "had a hard time getting on the air," yet he maintained that's "just as a liberal does now."

The poll found that Gumbel and Brokaw are out of touch, but Brokaw remained unapologetic. By 48 percent to 10 percent, those surveyed said they "liked" having reporters wear flag pins. And by more than two-to-one, 45 percent to 19 percent, respondents "like" seeing "TV news reports that use words 'our side' or 'us' when referring to U.S. troops."

Gumbel raised the flag lapel pin issue with Brokaw who stood by his concern that wearing one would convey a "suggestion that you're somehow aligned with the government," and he went on to say he "wasn't crazy" about MSNBC displaying a flag in the corner of the screen during the war.

(Last July on MSNBC Phil Donahue jeered Brokaw's refusal to wear a flag pin. On Donahue's old show on July 25, Donahue proclaimed: "Let me tell you what is impressive. You're not wearing a flag. Well, I don't want to damn you with my praise, but I say hip-hip-hooray for that, and I think you gave the right answer when you spoke at Northwestern University. Remember what you said? Did somebody ask you, say 'why didn't you wear a flag?'"
Brokaw: "Right. I said, you know, I wear a flag in my heart, but I think if you wear a flag, it's a suggestion somehow that you're endorsing what the administration is doing at the time. And I don't think journalists ought to be wearing flags."
Donahue: "And I say hear, hear.")

From the PBS Web site, some highlights of the Brokaw interview to be played tonight and the poll results:

# Gumbel interview of Brokaw:

Gumbel: "You chose not to wear a flag pin... why? Inappropriate for journalists?"
Brokaw: "I do think it is. I think it's a suggestion that you're somehow aligned with the government, whoever is in power -- Republicans, Democrats or Independents, at some point I suppose. I think we have to work hard at having that position of neutrality, symbolically as well as editorially."
Gumbel: "Well, MSNBC during the invasion of Iraq..."
Brokaw: "Flag down the corner."
Gumbel: "Flag in the corner, heroic shots of George Bush, flag waving..."
Brokaw: "Yeah, I wasn't crazy about that."
Gumbel: "Inappropriate?"
Brokaw: "That's the cable world. Um, I'm not sure that the flag in the corner was utterly inappropriate. I would have toned it down a little more. I do think there was the impression given that we were cheerleading in some fashion for the war. On the other hand you don't want to pretend that there's not an emotional component when there's something like a war going on. So it's always striking just the right balance."

A bit later, Gumbel asked: "Why, why then do you think an increasing number of Americans who are polled seem to express not only a low opinion of journalists but a low opinion of what they do?"
Brokaw replied, in part: "I do think that as the liberals in the early part of the 1960s defined what was politically correct, the conservatives are now and they've been very successful at it and it's been to their advantage. But we are not to forget that there was a time in America, like when you and I first met, that if someone raised a conservative voice during the 1960s they had a hard time getting on the air just as a liberal does now."

Liberals have a hard time getting on the air! And he's saying this in the midst of a prime time hour hosted by Bryant Gumbel.

For the posted transcript of the interview: www.pbs.org

# Some highlights from the poll conducted August 26-28 of 1,000 people by Ipsos-Public Affairs:

-- Do you trust what you hear, read and see in the news?
All or most of time: 34%
Half the time: 46%
Less than half or never: 19%

-- Look for news organizations that:
Are neutral: 86%
Share my values: 11%

-- Because of The New York Times scandal:
Less confident about all news reporting: 56%
Makes no difference: 43%

-- News anchors wearing U.S. flag pins:
Like: 48%
Dislike: 10%

-- TV news reports that use words "our side" or "us" when referring to U.S. troops:
Like: 45%
Dislike: 19%

For the full poll results: www.pbs.org

Home page for the hour-long quarterly program which will air, in most markets, tonight during the second hour of prime time: www.pbs.org

# Another chance to see Tommy Franks. On Wednesday night (September 17), CBS will re-run the September 3 Late Show with David Letterman on which retired General Tommy Franks was the featured guest for most of the hour.

-- Brent Baker