Jennings Promotes Protest Leaders, Laments "Quiescent" Campuses -- 03/22/2003 CyberAlert
2. Pentagon Reporter to Rumsfeld: "We'll Be Seen as the Bully"
3. Rumsfeld Chides Those Comparing Baghdad Bombing to Dresden
4. U.S. Bombing Will Either Kill or Starve Iraqi Civilians
5. Smith Treats Daschle as Aggrieved One Since Patriotism Doubted
>>> "2003 Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters." CyberAlert subscribers can get tickets for $150, $25 off the regular price, for the Thursday, March 27 event in Washington, DC. For all the info and how to buy tickets:
Another night of prime time war coverage on ABC, another night of Peter Jennings promoting the cause of anti-war protesters and making sure viewers know that the U.S. once supported Saddam Hussein.
Jennings rued to David Gergen that the administration has a "tendency" to "pretend" anti-war protests are not happening. Gergen agreed and then worried that since "Iraq is putting up so little resistance," the U.S. will appear to "have been a bully."
Jennings devoted much of the 10pm EST hour to anti-war activists, featuring three taped pieces on dissent, with one on a Jordanian man who wishes to attack America, and multiple interview segments, including about eight minutes devoted to two organizers of far-left anti-war protest groups, neither of which Jennings labeled. Instead he largely tossed them softballs, such as: "Why do you feel so strongly about this war?" And Jennings saw an inadequate level of college activism: "The college campus appears rather quiescent to some -- quiet."
Following a taped piece of Barbara Walters interviewing three Iraqi women who now live in the U.S., about how Hussein has women tortured and raped as punishments for minor slights and as a way to punish their husbands, Walters recalled how one woman was involved in an anti-Hussein revolt in 1991, a memory which prompted Jennings to suggest Iraqis have good reason to hate America: "The United States enabled Saddam Hussein to stay in power for a very long period of time."
Jennings, who anchored in the afternoon and then returned at 6:30pm EST, didn't relinquish his anchor chair on Friday night until 1am EST. But ABC News continued its coverage for another two hours.
Other networks on Friday night: CBS went to NCAA basketball at 7pm EST, though Dan Rather returned a bit before 1am EST and delivered just over an hour of coverage ending at 2am EST. NBC ran a live Dateline special at 8pm EST followed by back-to-back Law & Order re-runs and at 11:35pm EST NBC followed its usual schedule and put on the planned Tonight Show repeat.
Now, the details about ABC's Friday night, March 21, prime time coverage:
-- At about 8:45pm EST Jennings proposed to David Gergen, a flak in the Ford, Reagan and Clinton White Houses, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC dedicated the 10pm EST half hour and into the 10:30 half our to anti-war dissent. Some of the highlights:
From Amman, Dan Harris reviewed protests in the Middle East and segued into a profile of a Jordanian couple with a young daughter playing on a computer who are "angry" at America's war. Harris warned: "Today this father of two, who live happily in the United States for four years, told us because of the war on Iraq even he could now imagine attacking America."
Talking to Jennings, we learn from Harris that the guy lived in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Jennings proceeded to discuss with analyst Yousseff Ibrahim why Arabs dislike American policy and then ABC carried another protest story, this one about marches in the U.S., before Jennings introduced the leaders of two far-left protest groups: Max Uhlenbeck, student organizer for United for Peace and Justice, and Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org. Both groups push the "no blood for oil" line, but Jennings failed to demand that they prove such a scurrilous allegation.
Jennings first tossed this softball to Uhlenbeck: "Why do you feel so strongly about this war?"
Jennings followed up: "Do you think that the activism, that we either see or don't see, and it's a mater of debate on American college campuses today is directed at this administration, is it directed at this war, does it have, as it appears to on some campuses, have to do with the Israeli-Palestinian issue? What do you think it's really about?"
Moving on to the MoveOn.org guy, Jennings expressed admiration for the group before forming a semi-challenging question which did not assume non-leftists were accurate: "I know MoveOn.org and a number of people have paid attention to it and found it an effective way to participate, at least emotionally against the war. Why are you against this war, and can I ask you a question which I'm sure some people in the country are asking you tonight: Do you feel disloyal in undermining individual Americans whose lives are at danger in the Middle East tonight?"
Pariser passed along the spin that they are supporting the safety of servicemen by getting them home sooner.
Jennings returned to cuing up the talking points: "I do know that you've been protesting this war for some time before it happened. Now that it's begun, do you think, what affect do you think protest will have now?" (Answer: "It's about the rule of law.")
Jennings then rued the pathetic state of campus protest: "As best as you can and as realistic as you can, what would you say is the state of protest on the American college campus today? It does appear to some, the college campus appears rather quiescent to some -- quiet."
Back to Uhlenbeck, Jennings gave him an opportunity to counter a criticism: "A lot of people in the country will say to you, surely you know about Saddam Hussein, surely you will regard this as a righteous opportunity for the United States to liberate a people. What's your answer to that argument?" (Answer: The U.S. supplied bio-chem weapons to Hussein.)
Uhlenbeck's group had a protest planned for Manhattan on Saturday, leading Jennings to give him another opportunity to repeat his anti-Bush blitherings: "Now however many people turn out at the demonstration in New York tomorrow, what do you think it will accomplish?"
-- Barbara Walters joined Jennings at about 10:45pm EST to play a tape of an interview session she conducted with four women from Iraq, who now live in the U.S., talking about Hussein's cruel measures: Raping wives to punish husbands, imprisoning and using electrical shocks on 16-year-old girl for saying something against regime and feeding live political prisoners in a meat grinding machine. Walters concluded the taped piece by getting all the women to agree that Iraqis will be "rejoicing when he Americans arrive."
Back on live with Jennings, Walters recalled: "One of these women took part in the uprising in 1991 and waited for help, the help did not come, and she finally escaped to this country. So she has somewhat mixed feelings, you know don't ask us to rise up and then not help us."
Jennings empathized with the woman's distrust of the U.S.: "Yeah, I think, you know, who's to guess the future, but I think a lot of Iraqis have some mixed feeling. It's often been said by the Iraqis, we'll be greeted by bullets, the U.S. forces, that the U.S. thinks it will be greeted by flowers. But the truth is the United States enabled Saddam Hussein to stay in power for a very long period of time, led the campaign to keep sanctions on him for a long period of time which hurt the Iraqi people and when there was the uprising to which you refer in 1991, the United States, at least in their mind, encouraged them to go and then didn't support them as they had anticipated. So these are issues for the future."
The U.S. as a "bully." David Gergen isn't the only member of the Washington press corps who thinks that if the U.S. overwhelms the Iraqi military we'll look like a "bully" (see item #1 above). At Friday's Pentagon briefing a reporter challenged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "You keep talking about this overwhelming force that we're prepared to use. I'm wondering, are you concerned at all that we will be seen as a bully?"
At the same briefing, another reporter argued that going after "hundreds of military target" makes "it more likely there'll be civilian deaths."
During the 2pm EST hour session, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Tom Bowman of the Baltimore Sun contended: "Doesn't it make it more likely there'll be civilian casualties if you're going after hundreds of military targets even though you have precision weapons? And I think a lot of people would say in this country, and particularly in Baghdad, why not make it more targeted bombing against particular sites as opposed to hundreds of sites?"
Later, a reporter whom I did not recognize, a white guy with a receding hairline, saw the U.S. coming out on the losing side, perception-wise: "It seems to me that we're moving relatively freely toward Baghdad, you, General Myers, talked about we're 100 miles inside, there's reports of surrenders, and that with the attack on Wednesday that we degraded Saddam's capability of communicating with his commanders. Yet, we keep talking about this overwhelming force that we're prepared to use. I'm wondering, are you concerned at all that we will be seen as a bully?"
Which, apparently, some reporters have managed to do.
Without naming him, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld chided MSNBC's Brian Williams for comparing the precision missile attacks on Baghdad targets with the indiscriminate carpet-bombing of Dresden and Japanese cities during World War II.
At about 1:12pm EST on Friday as MSNBC showed live video of explosions in Baghdad, several MRCers noticed and Geoffrey Dickens tracked down, Williams asserted: "That vista on the lower-left looks like Dresden, it looks like some of the firebombing of Japanese cities during World War II. There's another one. Still going on. You hear them overhead. Either jet aircraft or cruise missiles but yet another explosion."
Just before taking questions at the Pentagon briefing barely an hour later, Rumsfeld scolded: "Just before coming down, after the air campaign began in earnest about on 1pm, I saw some of the images on television and I heard various commentators expansively comparing what's taking place in Iraq today to some of the more famous bombing campaigns of World War II. There is no comparison. The weapons that are being used today have a degree of precision that no one ever dreamt of in a prior conflict -- they didn't exist. And it's not a handful of weapons; it's the overwhelming majority of the weapons that have that precision.
U.S. bombing will kill civilians and if they survive that they'll die of starvation. So were the ominous worries expressed at Friday's White House press briefing by ABC's Terry Moran and NBC's Campbell Brown.
Moran wanted Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to tell him if he's heard President Bush "talk about this other responsibility which may weigh on him heavily today, and that is for the death of innocents, for Iraqi moms and dads and children who may, despite our best efforts, be killed?"
And Brown, without any U.S. forces yet in Baghdad, nonetheless demanded to know what the administration is "planning to do when the sun comes up" to alleviate food shortages which she assumed the bombing exacerbated.
The questions in full at the March 21 White House briefing:
Moran wanted to know: "The President has spoken many times of the special burden and the special responsibility he has as Commander-in-Chief of sending young Americans into harm's way. And has he ever spoken of -- he's also talked about liberating the Iraqi people from this brutal regime. But have you heard him talk about this other responsibility which may weigh on him heavily today, and that is for the death of innocents, for Iraqi moms and dads and children who may, despite our best efforts, be killed?"
Minutes later, Brown demanded: "There was a humanitarian crisis in Iraq even before the bombing began, in terms of food shortages. After what we saw today, this massive attack on Baghdad, that situation is clearly going to be much, much worse beginning tomorrow. What, specifically, is the administration planning to do when the sun comes up?"
Daschle the victim, continued. Though it was Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle who scurrilously suggested President Bush's diplomatic "failure" will cause the deaths of U.S. servicemen, on Friday's The Early Show on CBS, quad-host Harry Smith treated him as the aggrieved party: "Did you feel along the way...that some Republicans were actually questioning your patriotism?"
Over on NBC's Today, co-host Katie Couric played the clip of Daschle from Monday and a soundbite of Daschle maintaining he stands by the President. She then simply wondered: "Why the change of heart Senator?"
But at least Friday's Today, after having on Wednesday skipped over it, let viewers hear Daschle linking Bush's "failure" to the expected deaths of servicemen.
CBS's Smith ignored that incendiary charge from Daschle as he asked just this one question about the anti-Bush speech: "You were under a certain amount of criticism especially directly from the White House as the day before the war actually began you talked about the failure of diplomacy. Did you feel along the way, and especially in the hours after that, that some Republicans were actually questioning your patriotism?"
Over on NBC's Today, Couric reminded Daschle, as transcribed by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd: "You began this week openly criticizing President Bush on the failure of his diplomatic efforts. Let me just remind folks of what you had to say earlier this week."
Previous CyberAlert items from this week on Daschle's Monday speech and how the networks portrayed him as the victim and/or ignored his most incendiary claim:
-- As NBC's Campbell Brown did the night before, on Wednesday's Today, David Gregory portrayed Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle as the victim of White House attacks instead of the perpetrator of inappropriate castigations of a President in the time of war. And, matching Brown, Gregory also failed to inform viewers of Daschle's most incendiary claim -- that President Bush's policies will be the cause for the deaths of U.S. servicemen. See:
-- Tom Daschle, the victim of "harsh words" from Republicans who are "going after" him as part of "a pre-emptive strike, orchestrated by the White House, to try to intimidate" critics.
On Monday, Daschle abandoned the norm of not delivering mean-spirited attacks on the President in a time of war which could undermine his moral authority, but instead of portraying Daschle as the one who had acted unwisely, ABC and NBC painted him as the victim of White House attacks. Only CNN's Aaron Brown portrayed Daschle as the one violating protocol. See:
> If I can stay awake long enough to find material and write one, I may be back with another CyberAlert on Sunday if coverage warrants. -- Brent Baker