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Since Memo, ABC Does Twice as Many Fact Checks on Bush as Kerry --10/13/2004


1. Since Memo, ABC Does Twice as Many Fact Checks on Bush as Kerry
ABC News "fact check" corrections for President Bush now at four-to-two over those for Senator Kerry since ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin's memo last Friday calling upon his colleagues to hold Bush more accountable since "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done." After Friday's debate, ABC corrected two Bush claims but just one Kerry allegation and, in the first "fact check" since then, Tuesday's World News Tonight corrected two supposed Bush misstatements in a campaign speech, but just one Kerry charge. ABC's fresh corrections of Bush were for marginal misstatements at best, such as how Bush claimed Kerry "earned his ranking as the most liberal member of the United States Senate" when that rating was just for 2003 and over his career Kerry actually ranked as the "11th most liberal Senator." Peter Jennings also failed to correct his own inaccurate Friday night correction of Bush.

2. Shows Ignored or Denounced Swifties Now Upset by Sinclair
The decision of the Sinclair Broadcast Group to center a prime time hour around an anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor, continues to upset media outlets which long ignored and/or tried to discredit Vietnam vets upset by Kerry's accusations that they committed war crimes. "The sparks are flying this morning about what's fair in TV and politics," rued ABC's Diane Sawyer on Tuesday's Good Morning America three weeks after the program devoted a full segment to a pro-Kerry author and filmmaker without mentioning Kerry's claims about atrocities committed by Vietnam vets. "A big Republican contributor," Sawyer stressed, "Sinclair has decided to preempt its regular programming and have its stations play a documentary, fiercely critical of Senator John Kerry, in prime time two weeks before the election." The CBS Evening News aired its second story in three nights and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann characterized Sinclair's affiliates as "a string of right-wing TV stations."


Since Memo, ABC Does Twice as Many Fact
Checks on Bush as Kerry

ABC's Fact Check ABC News "fact check" corrections for President Bush now at four-to-two over those for Senator Kerry since ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin's memo last Friday calling upon his colleagues to hold Bush more accountable since "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done." After Friday's debate, ABC corrected two Bush claims but just one Kerry allegation and, in the first "fact check" since then, Tuesday's World News Tonight corrected two supposed Bush misstatements in a campaign speech, but just one Kerry charge.

ABC's Fact Check ABC's fresh corrections of Bush were for marginal misstatements at best: How Bush claimed Kerry "earned his ranking as the most liberal member of the United States Senate" when that rating was just for 2003 and over his career the same publication actually ranked Kerry as the "11th most liberal Senator" -- as if that means he's not liberal -- and how Bush charged that in Kerry's health plan eight of ten people covered will be added to a government program when it's really a mere 6.5 in ten.

Fact Check Peter Jennings on Tuesday also failed to take advantage of the "fact check" slot to correct his own inaccurate Friday night correction of Bush. Jennings had scored Kerry correct and Bush incorrect on whether Bush owned an interest in a "timber company," but FackCheck.org, Kerry's source, noted the day after the debate that "the Lone Star Trust now owns 50 percent of the tree-growing company, but didn't get into that business until two years after the $84 in question" which Kerry had cited as Bush's income from a timber company. FactCheck.org acknowledged: "So we should have described the $84 as coming from an 'oil and gas' business in 2001, and will amend that in our earlier article."

For FactCheck.org's September 23 posting modified on October 9: www.factcheck.org

FactCheck.org's post-debate rundown of candidate errors, with their earlier misstatement noted: www.factcheck.org

After Friday's debate, Jennings asserted: "First of all, there was this question of the President being accused by Senator Kerry of owning a timber company, or having a part interest in a timber company and taking $84 in a tax rebate. Mr. Bush looked up and said, 'I own a timber company?' We all sort of looked at one another and said who was right? Well, it turns out Senator Kerry was right and here's how he figured it out, that under the Republican definition and based on the President's federal income tax returns of 2001, he reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. He shifted it in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as royalties on a different tax schedule."

ABC's Jake Tapper ABC's Jake Tapper then corrected Bush's claim that 75 percent of al-Qaeda operatives had been captured and Kerry on how General Shinseki lost his job after he criticized the Bush policy on Iraq and called for more troops to be used.

For more about Halperin's memo and a full rundown of ABC's "fact check" corrections after Friday's debate, see the October 9 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

Fast forward to Tuesday's World News Tonight, and Jennings brought Tapper back aboard for another session:
"Couple things the President said today made us want to get in touch with our fact-checking team. We asked them to check on Senator Kerry, too. Here's ABC's Jake Tapper."
Tapper: "It has become one of the President's favorite lines."
George W. Bush, in Tuesday campaign speech: "My opponent has shown why he earned his ranking as the most liberal member of the United States Senate."
Tapper: "That remark is based on rankings given by the non-partisan National Journal magazine, which says the President has his facts wrong."
Patrick Pexton, Deputy Editor of the National Journal: "The Bush campaign has been misleading in the way it's used our vote ratings. John Kerry was the most liberal senator in 2003, a year when he missed many votes because he was on the campaign trail. But over his lifetime, he's only among the most liberal Senators."
Tapper: "The 11th most liberal, to be exact. The President was using a different study when he made that claim about Senator Kerry's health care plan today."
Bush: "The facts are eight out of ten people who get health care under Senator Kerry's plan would be placed on the government program."
Tapper: "The Bush campaign says that figure is based on a study by the Lewin Group. What does the Lewin Group say?"
John Sheils, Lewin Group: "It's not eight out of ten people."
Tapper: "The Lewin Group says it's closer to 6 and a half out of 10, not 8. Those are mostly people near the poverty line moved from no insurance to Medicaid. Senator Kerry yesterday unleashed a new line of attack against the President on why gas prices are so high."
John Kerry: "And one big reason is because of President Bush's gross mismanagement and miscalculation regarding the war in Iraq."
Tapper: "A check of the facts:"
Seth Kleinman, PFC Energy: "There are a host of other reasons at play here. There's issues in Russia. There's rampaging Chinese demand growth. There's a lack of tankers. There's a shortage of refinery capacity. So it's not exactly accurate to lay all of the blame for expensive gasoline on the war in Iraq."
Tapper: "It's often said that facts are stubborn things. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington."

ABC treated the Lewin Group as an expert source to discredit a Bush claim, but ABC never picked up on how the Lewin Group also countered a Kerry claim. One of FactCheck.org's post-Friday debate items:
"Kerry closed by saying 'I have a plan to provide health care to all Americans.' He doesn't. His plan would extend coverage to between 24 and 27 million Americans who don't have it now, depending on which estimate one chooses. But none of the estimates predict 'all' would be insured. A study by the independent Lewin Group, for example, projects that 92% would have coverage, up from just under 86% in 2003."

Shows Ignored or Denounced Swifties Now
Upset by Sinclair

The decision of the Sinclair Broadcast Group to center a prime time hour around an anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor, continues to upset media outlets which long ignored and/or tried to discredit Vietnam vets upset by Kerry's accusations that they committed war crimes. "The sparks are flying this morning about what's fair in TV and politics," rued ABC's Diane Sawyer on Tuesday's Good Morning America three weeks after the program devoted a full segment to a pro-Kerry author and filmmaker without mentioning Kerry's claims about atrocities committed by Vietnam vets. "A big Republican contributor," Sawyer stressed, "Sinclair has decided to preempt its regular programming and have its stations play a documentary, fiercely critical of Senator John Kerry, in prime time two weeks before the election."

On Tuesday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who in August denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads as a new "low" in politics and proceeded to try to discredit them, led with how "the Democrats prepare for war over an anti-Kerry film to be shown on a string of right-wing TV stations," though they are mainly small market Fox, WB and UPN affiliates with little, if any, news programming, and he soon asked a guest: "Is this still political discourse at this point or has it moved closer to Lyndon LaRouche or the American Nazi Party demanding air time?"

And, for the second night in three days, the CBS Evening News, which in August refused to report the substance of the charges of the swift boat veterans and instead relayed how John McCain denounced their ad, on Tuesday devoted a story to the Sinclair Broadcast Group's decision, in the words of CBS's Jim Axelrod, "to air what amounts to an extended attack ad inside two weeks of election day." CBS should know something about that since they used forged documents, provided by a well-known Bush-hater, to run multiple CBS Evening News stories and two 60 Minutes pieces aimed at discrediting a President up for re-election.

Axelrod at least acknowledged media bias: "Liberals say Fox News and talk radio spin the news to the right. Conservatives say the mainstream press and the networks, including this one, spin it to the left." Axelrod proceeded to argue that Sinclair's decision could alienate their viewers.

-- ABC's Good Morning America. The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught Diane Sawyer's October 12 segment. Sawyer introduced it in the 7am half hour reserved for the most important news of the day:
"The sparks are flying this morning about what's fair in TV and politics. The Sinclair Broadcast Group runs the nation's biggest chain of TV stations, 62 of them, covering several key swing states. A big Republican contributor, Sinclair has decided to preempt its regular programming and have its stations play a documentary, fiercely critical of Senator John Kerry, in primetime two weeks before the election. The film, 'Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal,' targets John Kerry's anti-Vietnam war statements."

GMA gave the film its first ABC air time four months after the show ran a long clip from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.
Man #1, in documentary: "We were held captives longer because of the anti-war people, from the Kerrys to the names of Fonda and Hayden, the ones we knew over there. They encouraged the enemy to hang on."
Man #2: "It took the anti-war movement to help them win what they had to win. So those people that participated in that anti-war movement, they delayed the war, they caused additional American casualties, and as an incidental, by the way, they kept me in jail longer, none of which I appreciate."

Back on live, Sawyer continued: "Well, needless to say, the Democratic National Committee is going to battle to try to stop this from happening. Joining us now from Hunt Valley, Maryland, Sinclair Broadcast Group Vice President Mark Hyman and from Chicago, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of 18 Democratic Senators calling for government action to prevent it, and we thank you both for being with us. Okay, Senator Durbin, Sinclair has said, 'Look, this is a news documentary. These are former POWs that have a right to express the truth that they see.' So what's wrong with their running it?"
Durbin: "Sinclair Broadcasting is not dedicated to the public interest, they're dedicated to a political agenda..."
Sawyer: "Mr. Hyman, your response, because as you heard Senator Durbin say, and a lot of people think this is just pushing a political agenda and a broadcast owner should not be doing that."
Hyman: "Well, let me first state up front that we haven't even decided on a final format. We're still waiting for John Kerry. We're hopeful that he's going to agree to participate with us because, frankly, if this issue wasn't raised today, we wouldn't even be talking about these Vietnam POWs, men who suffered horrific abuse and unspeakable torture for many, many years in captivity. They, more than anyone else, have earned the right to speak, and most of them ended 31 years of silence to reply to comments made by John Kerry. They have a right to be heard and we think this is an issue that's very newsworthy..."
Sawyer: "But back to this question for a second about an owner of stations pre-empting programs to do this. I think some people have argued, it's one thing to do it in newscasts as news, and the issue has been covered. It's another thing to pre-empt programming to do it."
Hyman: "Oh, that's absolutely nonsense to suggest otherwise. The broadcast industry, both network and local TV, have been accused by many advocacy groups of shirking their responsibilities of discussing political debates, discussing political issues. We've been accuse as an industry of shuffling these issues off to paid political advertisements. I think it's irresponsible for us to expect that people should get all their information from advertisements..."
Sawyer: "I just want to say, again, I tried to check on what ABC, what had happened at ABC on that end, and was unable to find the person who had done that, if you say that's the case. But let me just turn to you, Senator Durbin. What about this? If Senator Kerry appears and responds, isn't this just more debate and in America, debate's a great thing?"
Durbin: "Listen to Mr. Hyman and you can understand the arrogance of a media giant that has decided in the closing days of the campaign they can call it news so long as they invite Senator Kerry to attend. And understand what this is: This is a scurrilous documentary put together by a man who used to work for the Washington Times, a right-wing publication, a man who prepared a biography of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who thinks he's the second coming of Christ. Now that's the man who put this together and Mr. Hyman now believes the American voters are entitled to hear this and the Bush campaign's entitled to this free air time. It's an illegal corporate contribution."
Sawyer: "But Senator, do you want the FCC, in effect, to censor them, to prevent this, to block this?"
Durbin: "Well, this clearly is not in the public interest, and I must remind Mr. Hyman, like it or not, he has the right to use America's airwaves because the government has licensed him and his company. He doesn't own the airwaves, and for him to decide to use them for one political campaign is, frankly, wrong and violates the FEC rule against corporate contributions to the Bush campaign."
Sawyer: "Mr. Hyman, if the FEC says don't do it, are you going to not do it?"
Hyman: "Diane, there's two points here. First of all, one, I don't know what part of this is considered scurrilous: that these men were Vietnam veterans, that they were prisoners of war, that they suffered abuse and torture? Is that what's scurrilous? The second part is it's sort of an old tactic, that if you can't discredit the message, attack the messenger, and in the case of the producer, 33 years of service, including Gannett where he won a Pulitzer prize, a Peabody in television, he won several Emmys, he's worked for television stations, he worked for CNN. A 33-year career, and Senator Durbin pulls out the less than one year he worked for a particular newspaper to try attack this particular man. It's 'shoot the messenger because we don't like the message.' That's a tactic that, frankly, the American public should look past..."

Good Morning America has already promoted one side's partisan screed film. On June 22, GMA spent about seven minutes showcasing Fahrenheit 9/11's highlights of how after President Bush was informed a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, he stayed in front of elementary school kids for another seven minutes. "Was valuable time wasted?" asked Charlie Gibson at the top of the June 22 show. Diane Sawyer imparted great meaning to the time passage: "It was seven minutes in the life of a President, seven minutes in the history of the nation, it's seven minutes a lot of people are using as a kind of Rorschach test." See: www.mediaresearch.org

And the September 28 CyberAlert recounted: While ABC's Good Morning America has avoided interviewing anyone from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, including a snub of John O'Neill, author of the bestseller, Unfit for Command, or any other anti-Kerry veterans spokesmen, Monday's show featured an interview with pro-Kerry filmmaker and friend George Butler, a session geared around promoting Butler's hagiographical book, John Kerry: A Portrait. GMA built a special set for the interview so Butler and Charlie Gibson could sit in front of five-foot high black and white photos of Kerry taken by Butler in the 1960s and 1970s. Though Butler sat behind Kerry when Kerry testified about alleged war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, Gibson didn't ask about that as he preferred to toss softballs at Butler and admire Butler's "prescience" in seeing in 1964 Kerry's presidential capabilities. Gibson concluded the session: "You have a pretty good eye, both as a photographer and in terms of spotting talent to come." See: www.mediaresearch.org


-- MSNBC's Countdown. Keith Olbermann's teaser: "And the Democrats prepare for war over an anti-Kerry film to be shown on a string of right-wing TV stations while Michael Moore has something just as nasty ready for election eve."

Olbermann soon asserted, as caught by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Controversy tonight over the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group's 62 TV stations in 39 different cities and their plan to cut out the middleman and broadcast an anti-Kerry film at various times between now and Election Day. The film is called 'Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal.' Featuring many of the figures in the Swift Boat ads, it alleges that Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony was used by North Vietnamese interrogators against American POWs.
"The Democratic National Committee has already filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission claiming that showing the film on what are largely WB and Fox stations from Syracuse to Sacramento is a, quote, 'illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush/Cheney campaign.' Eighteen Democratic Senators today asked the FCC to investigate the possibility that it was also an improper use of public airwaves.
"Something tonight for everybody. Something there that will honk off the Senator's supporters and something else that will frost the beer steins of the President's people. How about 'Fahrenheit 9/11' on Pay-per-View Television? That's Michael Moore's latest plan to cablecast his film along with interviews of celebrities for $9.95 between 8:00 and 11:00 P.M. Eastern time on Monday November 1. That's right, the eve of the election. Moore says there is no deal in place -- yet. So now you know the real difference between the two parties. One is Pay-per-View, and the other is the WB. Inside the jokes obviously is a serious gray area between news and party politics. Joining me now to again discuss the implications of this, Mort Zuckerman."

Olbermann's first question: "Is the Moore thing less of a danger zone journalistically here because you have to buy it, you have to go out and actually agree to watch it, and he's not presenting it as news, but the airing of 'Stolen Honor' is being presented over the air and served up as essentially unadulterated fact?"
Mort Zuckerman, New York Daily News, Publisher: "Well, I'm not sure how the latter is being presented. I don't think we know that yet, whether it's being presented as a point-of-view or as unadulterated fact. Certainly, Michael Moore's documentary, so-called, is not unadulterated fact either. So I think what we're in for, and it's just the beginning, we're going to have a lot more partisanship on both sides of this particular aisle, and it's going to feed its way through the media no matter what anybody wants and no matter what anybody thinks."
Olbermann: "The question of a balance between these two things, the Sinclair people had offered a form of rebuttal here, offering to let Senator Kerry come on, and they said they would then ask him tough questions about his military record. But today their vice president, who's also the chief political commentator, said that the broadcast networks should have covered this film as news, they should have done news stories about it, and because they didn't, quote, referring to the networks, 'They are acting like Holocaust deniers.' Is this still political discourse at this point or has it moved closer to Lyndon LaRouche or the American Nazi Party demanding air time?"
Zuckerman: "I have to tell you, I think that language is outrageous. Comparing that to the Holocaust is like comparing sumo wrestling to finger exercises....If it is political propaganda, it deserves to be rebutted. We're going to have a lot of political propaganda between now and the next 21 days."
Olbermann: "But would it be better in either case if it were just political or just philosophical? I mean, Sinclair, in particular, has been petitioning the FCC to ease the restrictions on crossover ownership between newspapers and TV in a city and the volume of station ownership limits and all sorts of other things that a Democratic FCC Chairman would never let happen in a million years. They have a business interest essentially in how this election turns out."
Zuckerman: "Well, I think we have a public interest in this ridiculous concentration of ownership of media...."
Olbermann: "And you see how it feeds back on itself in examples like the one we're talking about tonight."

Back on August 5, Olbermann was more interested in ridiculing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth than in exploring their charges. As recounted in the August 6 CyberAlert: Olbermann repeatedly, and one must assume deliberately, misstated the name of the group behind the ads, calling it not "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," but three times referring to "Swift Boat Veterans for Bush." Olbermann lamented: "The ads of campaign 2004 just stepped up to a new level today -- or down to one -- with the release of an anti-John Kerry commercial that immediately brought the condemnation not merely of the Kerry campaign, but also of Republican Senator John McCain, and even generally and at a distance, the White House. Our fifth story on the Countdown, Swift Boat Veterans for Bush..."
Olbermann, after going on at length about how those featured in the ad did not serve on Kerry's boat (though they were in the same division with him), asked Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly: "Well, why is this one worse than any other misdirecting unsubstantiated attack ad that is conveniently not directly traceable to the other candidate's campaign?" Crawford charged: "Well, as lies go, it's just another lie, I suppose..." For more, see: www.mediaresearch.org


-- CBS Evening News, October 12. Dan Rather announced: "In the presidential campaign, there's a whole new twist tonight to negative campaigning on television. CBS's Jim Axelrod reports in this case, the broadside is being delivered at the behest of a well-connected major broadcaster."
Axelrod began: "If you ask the people at Sinclair Broadcasting, one of the nation's largest owners of television stations."
Unidentified man in Stolen Honor video: "This man committed an act of treason."
Axelrod: "Showing this documentary critical of John Kerry's Vietnam record is a simple matter of free speech and good journalism."
Mark Hyman, Sinclair Broadcasting, Vice President: "He raised Vietnam as a campaign issue. That's the foundation of his campaign run, and certainly if he's discussed it, everything ought to be open to scrutiny, and this is one of those issues."
Axelrod: "But when you own or operate 62 television stations, reaching just about one quarter of all U.S. households, and when you want to air what amounts to an extended attack ad inside two weeks of election day, maybe it's not so simple."
Mike McCurry, Kerry campaign: "What they're doing is they're taking political propaganda and trying to present it as news. That's not impartiality, one of the hallmarks of journalism, and I think it's fair to be called on that."
Axelrod: "Picture, if you will, what would happen if a liberal group of station owners preempted their prime time schedule to show the anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 two weeks from election day."
Tom Rosenstiel, Project for Excellence in Journalism: "I think what Sinclair has decided to do is demonstrate that they're really a conservative company whose news programs should be looked on with suspicion, but they're really not fair and balanced."
Axelrod: "Let's face it. Objectivity is in the eye of the beholder. Liberals say Fox News and talk radio spin the news to the right. Conservatives say the mainstream press and the networks, including this one, spin it to the left. But there's another agenda at play that could influence things: Money."
Rosenstiel: "I think there's a risk of really alienating a lot of potential viewers."
Axelrod: "So it could be this controversy will not be so good for business, and advertisers could pull commercials. Sinclair says it'll stand on principle, but don't underestimate either side, when politics and profits end up in conflict. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, Santa Fe, New Mexico."

Here's how the August 5 CBS Evening News treated the swifties, in full: Anchor John Roberts intoned, "A harsh new television ad that attacks John Kerry is being denounced as quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable' by a Bush supporter, Republican Senator John McCain. [Roberts talks over video of ad] The ad features Vietnam veterans who question Kerry's war record, patriotism, and fitness to lead. McCain, himself a Vietnam POW, said the White House should condemn the ad put out by a veterans' group [end of ad video]. A presidential spokesman chose not to condemn the ad today, but emphasized that the Bush campaign had nothing to do with it, and does not question Kerry's war record."


-- Previous CyberAlert items on the Sinclair matter:

# October 11 CyberAlert. The chutzpah of CBS and ABC. On Sunday night, both networks decried how the Sinclair Broadcast Group has told its owned and operated televisions stations to run an anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal. On the CBS Evening News, reporter Kelly Cobiella noted how "Sinclair has given the lion's share of its political contributions to Republican candidates. This year, the company's CEO wrote out the largest personal check allowed by law to President Bush's re-election campaign." ABC anchor Terry Moran stressed how "Democrats decry this move as a political smear and yellow journalism" before Geoff Morrell relayed how "Sinclair's owners have donated $58,000 to re-elect President Bush." The stories failed to inform viewers how ABC and CBS have given free air time to the anti-Bush screed from Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 911, or how the corporate chieftains at both networks are Democrats and/or large donors to Democrats, including the Kerry presidential campaign. To say nothing of CBS using forged documents for a prime time hit piece aimed at destroying President Bush's credibility. See: www.mediaresearch.org

# October 12 CyberAlert. Ongoing liberal bias at the networks and major print outlets isn't of much interest to CNN's Aaron Brown, but the decision by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of mostly small market WB and UPN affiliates reaching fewer than one-fourth of U.S. homes, to show on their stations a film about the anger at Kerry from Vietnam POWs, annoys Brown so much that he devoted 13 minutes of Monday's NewsNight to what he and others in the mainstream media see as so controversial. NewsNight ran a taped piece from Howard Kurtz, followed by Brown quizzing a Sinclair representative and then Brown talked to two guests disturbed by Sinclair's programming, former FCC Commissioner Reed Hundt and former CBS News reporter Marvin Kalb who also seemed to have suddenly discovered bias as he fretted about "the growing politicization of the media." Brown expressed contempt for those who see liberal bias in the media: "This segment is really for everyone else, for those who worry about fairness in media." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Brent Baker