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Jennings Implies Army Concedes Video Shows It Bombed a Wedding --5/25/2004


1. Jennings Implies Army Concedes Video Shows It Bombed a Wedding
Following the distribution of a video, given to the AP, which supposedly showed a wedding celebration hours before the U.S. bombed the site killing 40 Iraqis, including children, U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt on Monday showed picture of weapons, explosives and drugs they found at the scene and so, he observed, "the activities that we saw happening on the ground were somewhat inconsistent with a wedding party." But while CBS, CNN and NBC accurately conveyed what the Army found on scene and what Kimmitt meant by "inconsistent," ABC's Peter Jennings didn't mention the weapons found and implied that Kimmitt admitted that the video undermined the Army's claims: "A U.S. spokesman does acknowledge there are inconsistencies between its own reporting and what we see on the video."

2. GMA's Mantra: Wedding Video a "Public Relations Disaster"
ABC's Good Morning America on Monday morning delivered a mantra about how the video, of the wedding party in Iraq, which ABC presumed was an accurate depiction of an innocent celebration hours before the U.S. mistakenly bombed the site and killed 40 Iraqis, was "a public relations disaster" for Bush and the U.S. Co-host Charles Gibson touted at the top of the May 24 broadcast: "A public relations disaster now for the White House -- new video which reportedly shows an Iraqi wedding that the U.S. [is] accused of attacking last week." Reporter Dave Marash insisted that the video is "creating yet another public relations disaster for the United States." And interviewing White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, Gibson proposed: "You may have another public relations disaster on your hands."

3. Jennings Cites Bush's Low Approval, Not How He's Even with Kerry
On Monday night ABC's Peter Jennings highlighted how a new ABC News/Washington Post found that most of the public thinks America is bogged down in Iraq, that the administration lacks a clear plan for Iraq and how, "for the first time, fewer than half of the Americans we talked to, 47 percent, approve of Mr. Bush's overall job as President." But Jennings didn't mention how John Kerry is still unable to capitalize on Bush's troubles as Bush is still trusted more on honesty, strong leadership and consistency and to handle Iraq and terrorism. Plus, with Ralph Nader in the race Bush and Kerry are tied at 46 percent each.

4. CBS Skips How By 10-1 Public Thinks Prisoner Abuse Over-Covered
The CBS Evening News on Monday night relayed seven findings in a new CBS News poll, including how John Kerry has an eight-point lead over President Bush and how most think a President can change the price of gas. But though four different stories cited numbers from the poll, CBS ignored how ten times more of those surveyed feel the prisoner abuse story has been over-covered as under-covered. Asked if the media have spent "too much" or "too little" time on the abuse scandal, 61 percent said "too much" compared to a mere 6 percent who answered "too little." That's an even greater disparity than CBS found two weeks ago when the split was 49 percent to 8 percent -- a finding CBS skipped then too.

5. CNN & USA Today Spike Poll Showing Journalists Lean Way to Left
CNN and USA Today spiked how a new poll documented how the biggest and most influential national media outlets are packed with liberals. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey, released on Sunday, of reporters, editors, producers and executives for national media outlets, found five times more identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent, with another 54 percent claiming to be moderate. But in citing the poll on Monday's Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff ignored the finding about the ideologies of journalists and in a 400-word USA Today article, Peter Johnson didn't find it worth mentioning either, though he made space to summarize a left-wing group's study which claimed that NPR is conservative.


Jennings Implies Army Concedes Video
Shows It Bombed a Wedding

Following the distribution of a video, given to the AP, which supposedly showed a wedding celebration hours before the U.S. bombed the site killing 40 Iraqis, including children, U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt on Monday showed picture of weapons, explosives and drugs they found at the scene and so, he observed, "the activities that we saw happening on the ground were somewhat inconsistent with a wedding party." But while CBS, CNN and NBC accurately conveyed what the Army found on scene and what Kimmitt meant by "inconsistent," ABC's Peter Jennings didn't mention the weapons found and implied that Kimmitt admitted that the video undermined the Army's claims: "A U.S. spokesman does acknowledge there are inconsistencies between its own reporting and what we see on the video."

In contrast, CBS's David Hawkins played Kimmitt's "inconsistent" soundbite and then relayed how "Kimmitt produced more evidence, pictures of weapons, explosives and drugs that he says suggests there was a lot more going on there than singing and dancing." Later, on CNN's NewsNight, Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr played scenes from the video, then noted how Kimmitt said what they found was "inconsistent with a wedding party." She pointed out how the tent and musical instruments seen on the video were not found at the scene but, nonetheless, Army officials are looking at "whether it is possible there was a wedding at a fighter's safe house. As one official said, bad guys get married too."

A fuller rundown of the May 24 evening newscast coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC:

-- Jennings announced, on the May 24 World News Tonight, with video of men and kids dancing inside a tent beginning mid-way through his brief report: "The U.S. command in Iraq still says it believes a raid by U.S. forces last week in the desert near the Syrian border was on a base used by foreign fighters and not a wedding a celebration, despite amateur video obtained by the Associated Press which allegedly shows the wedding party just before the U.S. attack. A U.S. spokesman does acknowledge there are inconsistencies between its own reporting and what we see on the video."

-- Over on the CBS Evening News, David Hawkins in Iraq began by asserting that the video "challenges the U.S. military's claim that it did not attack a wedding party last week." He showed video of a bride arriving, guests dancing and a man singing and then noted how all but one are now dead. Viewers saw a clip of the organ player alive and then other video showing him dead along with a quick shot of a dead child. "But," Hawkins cautioned, "the new video raises new questions: When and where was it taken? Was this the same place the U.S. military insists was a safe house for terrorists?"
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt at the daily briefing: "The activities that we saw happening on the ground were somewhat inconsistent with a wedding party."
Hawkins: "Today Lieutenant General Mark Kimmitt produced more evidence, pictures of weapons, explosives and drugs that he says suggests there was a lot more going on there than singing and dancing."

-- NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw reported, over video of people singing and dancing followed by Kimmitt during the daily briefing: "New video, of Iraqis celebrating at a wedding party in West Iraq, has raised still more questions about a controversial U.S. air strike last week that killed 40 Iraqis. U.S. Army General Mark Kimmitt today questioned the video and denied that a U.S. gunship fired on a wedding party. He showed materials the United States says it gathered at the site, including weapons and drugs, saying they were quote 'inconsistent with a wedding celebration.' The Army continues to investigate that incident."

For a transcript of the May 24 briefing by Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations, go to: www.defenselink.mil

One exchange:

Question: "Steven Grey from the Sunday Times of London. Can you tell us, General Kimmitt, what the latest is on the investigation into the attack on the alleged wedding party last week?"
Kimmitt: "Yeah. As we have talked about over the last three press conferences, there are inconsistencies between what we saw in those videos and what we found on the ground. We have started an investigation. Let me offer some more photos of what we found on the ground..."

GMA's Mantra: Wedding Video a "Public
Relations Disaster"

ABC's Charles Gibson ABC's Good Morning America on Monday morning delivered a mantra about how the video, of the wedding party in Iraq, which ABC presumed was an accurate depiction of an innocent celebration hours before the U.S. mistakenly bombed the site and killed 40 Iraqis, was "a public relations disaster" for Bush and the U.S. Co-host Charles Gibson touted at the top of the May 24 broadcast: "A public relations disaster now for the White House -- new video which reportedly shows an Iraqi wedding that the U.S. [is] accused of attacking last week."

Reporter Dave Marash soon narrated a full story recounting all of what the video showed, before he concluded: "A debate about the authenticity of this tape will continue, but many people in this part of the world are already accepting it at face value, creating yet another public relations disaster for the United States."

And interviewing White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, Gibson proposed: "You may have another public relations disaster on your hand [sic]. Last week, there was an air raid on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and the military has denied throughout that what was hit was a wedding party, but there is now video to indicate that that may be exactly what was hit."

Gibson pressed Bartlett to agree that the President's approval ratings "are at the lowest they have ever been...because of Iraq and that the country is now disgusted?"

Gibson announced up top, over scenes from the video of people dancing and singing: "President Bush will make a prime time speech tonight during an avalanche of bad news coming out of Iraq. What can he do to turn it around? Among the items of bad news: A public relations disaster now for the White House -- new video which reportedly shows an Iraqi wedding that the U.S. [is] accused of attacking last week."

News reader Robin Roberts set up a full story on the video: "Meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to insist last week's air strike in northern Iraq hit a safe house for foreign fighters. But a home video obtained by the Associated Press shows the wedding party witnesses say was targeted by U.S. forces. Here's ABC's Dave Marash."
Marash explained from Iraq: "More controversy over the American military attack in the western desert near the Syrian border that witnesses said was on a wedding party. Associated Press Television News, APTN, is distributing today what it calls amateur video of the wedding taken the day before the overnight raid of May 19th. APTN says it got the tape from a trusted local source and that the tape seems to show a wedding singer known to have been killed in the attack wearing what looked like the same clothes he was seen in dead in the aftermath of the attack. The APTN video also shows what appears to be his speaker system, fragments of which were found at scene in the aftermath of the attack, which killed upwards of 40 Iraqis."
Marash concluded that the truth really doesn't matter: "A debate about the authenticity of this tape will continue, but many people in this part of the world are already accepting it at face value, creating yet another public relations disaster for the United States."

In his very first question to Bartlett, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed, Gibson raised the "public relations disaster" of the video: "We're going to turn again now to President Bush's speech on Iraq tonight, the first of a series of speeches he will give about turning control of Iraq over to Iraqis, and as the speeches begin, the bad news from Iraq continues. But this speech will be about turning control of Iraq over to Iraqis in just 37 days, but with so much violence the question is how does he do it? We turn to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. Dan, I'll get to the President's speech in a moment, but you may have another public relations disaster on your hand [sic]. Last week, there was an air raid on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and the military has denied throughout that what was hit was a wedding party, but there is now video to indicate that that may be exactly what was hit."

Gibson's other questions, all aggressive, for Bartlett who appeared via satellite from the White House lawn:

-- "Let me turn to the speech that the President will give today. His approval ratings, Dan, are at the lowest they have ever been. Is it the feeling at the White House this is because of Iraq and that the country is now disgusted?"

-- "But elections are for the future. On June 30th, we have said we will turn over sovereignty to Iraqis. Is he going to tell us in the next few days to whom, specifically to whom we will give sovereignty?"

-- "Dan, in the last few days, a number of former commanders of U.S. forces in the Middle East have said we're in deep trouble in Iraq -- talking about General Zinni, General Hoar. I just want to play for you what they've said."
Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni, on Sunday's 60 Minutes: "This course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course."
Ret. Gen. Joseph Hoar: "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss."
Gibson: "When even the commanders are saying we're in deep trouble, aren't we?"

It didn't take the word of some retired commanders to turn the media against the war.

Jennings Cites Bush's Low Approval, Not
How He's Even with Kerry

On Monday night ABC's Peter Jennings highlighted how a new ABC News/Washington Post found that most of the public thinks America is bogged down in Iraq, that the administration lacks a clear plan for Iraq and how, "for the first time, fewer than half of the Americans we talked to, 47 percent, approve of Mr. Bush's overall job as President." But Jennings didn't mention how John Kerry is still unable to capitalize of Bush's troubles as Bush is still trusted more on honesty, strong leadership and consistency and to handle Iraq and terrorism. Plus, with Ralph Nader in the race Bush and Kerry are tied at 46 percent each.

Without Kerry, it's still a statistical tie, at 49 percent for Kerry and 47 percent for Bush.

In fewer words than Jennings used, Tuesday's Washington Post headlines managed to convey both falling approval for Bush's handling of Iraq as well as how he remains tied with Kerry. "Bush Poll Numbers on Iraq at New Low," declared the front page headline. The headline, however, on the jump page: "Despite Slippage on Iraq, Bush Runs Even With Kerry in Poll."

Jennings opened the May 24 World News Tonight by citing the latest poll: "A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that nearly two-thirds [65 percent] of Americans think the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq. Nearly six in ten [58 percent] say the administration lacks a clear plan. And for the first time, fewer than half of the Americans we talked to, 47 percent, approve of Mr. Bush's overall job as President; 50 percent disapprove."

Jennings cited no more poll numbers, and neither did any other reporters in subsequent stories, but the poll rundown, by ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer, posted on ABCNews.com, provides a look at how Bush is still ahead of Kerry in many areas as the race remains a dead-heat. An excerpt:

Kerry draws just modest benefit from Bush's difficulties. He's got a scant five-point lead over Bush in trust to handle the economy, and it's Bush +6 in trust to handle Iraq and Bush +13 in trust to handle terrorism. But Bush did somewhat better against the Democratic candidate on all these a month ago.

Bush continues to be better rated than Kerry in honesty, strong leadership and consistency; he's also much better rated in trust to handle a crisis and making the country more secure. However, 57 percent think Bush doesn't understand the problems of average Americans -- an important measure of empathy that, when present, can shield a president when the chips are down. And just 49 percent think Bush is "willing to listen to different points of view." Kerry does better on both of these, particularly the latter; 69 percent say he will listen to differing viewpoints.

Like views of his handling of the war on terrorism, Bush's rating on making the country "safer and more secure" may be crucial to his re-election prospects; these are the wellsprings of his support. And there's trouble here for the president: Last fall 63 percent said he's made the country safer and more secure; today 52 percent say so.

At the same time, this is another area where Kerry has not capitalized. Fewer, 39 percent, think he would make the country safer.

Dead Heat

In a three-way matchup among registered voters, Bush has 46 percent support, Kerry 46 percent and Ralph Nader 4 percent; it was a similar 48 percent-43 percent-6 percent last month. Two-way it's also tied, 47 percent for Bush to 49 percent for Kerry, also about the same as last month.

There is something of a shift in the nature of Bush's support: Fewer Bush voters -- 77 percent, down from 86 percent -- are mainly "for" him rather than "against" Kerry. Most Kerry voters, though, remain mainly "against" Bush.

One possible reason Kerry's having trouble with traction is that his positions are much less well-known than Bush's. Two-thirds of Americans feel they have a good handle on Bush's positions on specific issues; for Kerry, this falls to 42 percent. As in any incumbent election, the basic question is whether Kerry, as he becomes better known, can stand as an acceptable alternative for those who're disenchanted with Bush....

END of Excerpt

For ABCNews.com's rundown of the poll: abcnews.go.com

Jennings' morning colleagues have been sure to highlight poll results showing Kerry in the lead but not polls which put Bush ahead. The April 21 CyberAlert documented: Kerry leading is news, but not when Bush moves ahead? In early March, when an ABC News/Washington Post poll put Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry ahead of President George W. Bush by 48 to 44 percent amongst registered voters, ABC's Good Morning America highlighted the finding in two morning news updates. Six weeks later, however, when a new ABC News/Washington Post poll put Bush ahead of Kerry by five points amongst registered voters, 48 to 43 percent, with Ralph Nader at 6 percent, GMA cited some findings in the poll, but not the Bush versus Kerry number. See: www.mediaresearch.org

CBS Skips How By 10-1 Public Thinks Prisoner
Abuse Over-Covered

The CBS Evening News on Monday night relayed seven findings in a new CBS News poll, including how John Kerry has an eight-point lead over President Bush and how most think a President can change the price of gas. But though four different stories cited numbers from the poll, CBS ignored how ten times more of those surveyed feel the prisoner abuse story has been over-covered as under-covered.

Asked if the media have spent "too much" or "too little" time on the abuse scandal, 61 percent said "too much" compared to a mere 6 percent who answered "too little." That's an even greater disparity than CBS found two weeks ago when the split was 49 percent to 8 percent.

Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News spiked that finding too, as documented in the May 13 CyberAlert: Rather trumpeted how a new CBS News poll found "public support for the war in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level yet" and "the President's overall job approval rating in the latest poll is at a new low, 44 percent." But Rather skipped how the survey discovered that a majority don't want any more prisoner abuse pictures to be released and 49 percent believe the media have spent too much time on the prisoner abuse story, compared to a mere 6 percent who think it's been under-covered. See: www.mediaresearch.org

Those who felt the media were giving the "right amount" to the prisoner abuse matter fell from 41 to 32 percent.

For the CBSNews.com rundown of the poll: www.cbsnews.com

Back to Monday night, May 24, and Rather's other priorities. He opened the CBS Evening News: "With the election just over five months away, President Bush is trying to stop his major slide in the polls before it's too late. A CBS News poll out tonight finds his job approval rating at an all-time low of 41 percent [52 percent disapprove]. And Democratic challenger John Kerry has now opened an eight-point lead among registered voters. One big reason for the Bush slide, a growing perception that Iraq is out of control and headed in the wrong direction with faulty planning and strategy...."

On screen, CBS displayed side-by-side photos of Kerry, with 49 percent, and Bush, at 41 percent.

John Roberts previewed Bush's speech and cited two more poll findings: That 61 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq and that 65 percent believe the U.S. is headed on the "wrong track."

Next, Byron Pitts looked at how John Kerry is addressing Iraq. Pitts noted how 32 percent believe the situation in Iraq will get better if Kerry wins, 27 percent if Bush does. Pitts also pointed out how 29 percent of those who support Kerry "strongly favor" him while 35 percent do so "with reservations" and 34 percent back Kerry because they "dislike Bush."

Finally, in a story on rising gas prices, Anthony Mason noted how when asked in the poll, "Are gas prices something a President can do a lot about?", 58 percent answered yes, 33 percent no.

Rather's decision to publicize the Kerry beating Bush number at least makes him fairly consistent in almost always noting when Kerry is in the lead. As recounted in the April 29 CyberAlert:
When a CBS News poll puts President George W. Bush ahead in comparison to Senator John Kerry, the CBS Evening News this year has ignored the result, but when it finds Kerry in the lead, the program almost always highlights the outcome, as Dan Rather did on Wednesday night. So far this year, five polls by either CBS News or CBS News/New York Times, have tested Bush versus Kerry head-to-head comparisons. Four times the polling put Kerry ahead and on three of those occasions the CBS Evening News spotlighted the numbers, but the one time when the survey found Bush beating Kerry, the show didn't utter a word about it. See: www.mediaresearch.org

CNN & USA Today Spike Poll Showing Journalists
Lean Way to Left

CNN and USA Today spiked how a new poll documented how the biggest and most influential national media outlets are packed with liberals. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey, released on Sunday, of reporters, editors, producers and executives for national media outlets, found five times more identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent, with another 54 percent claiming to be moderate.

But in citing the poll on Monday's Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff ignored the finding about the ideologies of journalists and in a 400-word USA Today article, which was accompanied by a table with some results, Peter Johnson didn't find it worth mentioning either, though he found space to summarize a left-wing group's study which claimed that NPR is conservative because it interviews more Republicans than Democrats and a lot of white men -- as if white men can't be liberal.

Monday's Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz recited the liberal v conservative percent of journalists, as did Mark Jurkowitz's Boston Globe story. On his FNC show Monday night, Brit Hume devoted a "Grapevine" item to the ideology of the journalists and he focused a panel segment on the subject.

But that wasn't Judy Woodruff's interest, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed. On the May 24 Inside Politics, she asserted: "Television journalists working for local and national media outlets appear somewhat divided about how reporters are treating the Bush administration. In a new Pew Research Center poll, more than half of the national journalists say White House coverage has not been critical enough, while only one-fourth of local reporters agree. Only eight percent of national journalists say the press has been too critical of the President, while 25 percent of local reporters say the media have been too critical."

"Survey: Profit pressures worry most journalists," read the headline over Peter Johnson's "Media Mix" article in Monday's USA Today in which he skipped over the documented ideological skew. An excerpt:

Journalists are increasingly concerned that bottom-line pressure is hurting the quality of news coverage, says a new Pew study of 547 national and local reporters, editors and executives.

Though journalists at national print and electronic news organizations have a gloomier view of the business than their local brethren, both groups indicate rising concern about the effect of profit pressures. Concern rose from 41% of national journalists in 1995 to 49% in 1999 and 66% polled in March. Local: 33% in 1995, 46% in 1999 and 57% now.

One dissent came from executives at national news organizations: 57% feel increased profit pressures are ''mostly just changing the way news organizations do things'' rather than undermining quality....

The poll found that journalists believe the media pay too little attention to complex issues and show increasingly timid coverage: 55% of national journalists and 37% of local ones say coverage of President Bush, for example, has not been critical enough.

Although journalists are concerned over factual errors in news reports, there is no indication that recent reporter scandals at The New York Times and USA TODAY are dimming journalists' views of their profession....

Cynicism -- a constant knock against the press -- is waning, journalists say. Just 37% of national reporters and 40% of local ones view the press as too cynical, down from 53% and 51%, respectively, in 1999. Among Internet journalists, just 24% view the press as too cynical, down from 48% five years ago....

END of Excerpt

The second of Johnson's two "Media Mix" items: "NPR: Going 'Right'?" That article began: "National Public Radio, which conservatives have long labeled 'liberal,' relies on largely the same range of sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, airing more Republican than Democratic voices, and with male sources outnumbering female sources by nearly four to one."

For both of Johnson's May 24 stories: www.usatoday.com

For the May 24 CyberAlert item with more findings from the Pew poll, along with links to the full rundown of the survey: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Brent Baker