Moore Blasts Jennings On "Deserter" Bush, Nets Undermine Charge --2/3/2004
2. Resignation to Protest Award to Hume, But Not When Libs Honored
George W. Bush "AWOL" or a "deserter"? Michael Moore put the subject back into play when, at a Wesley Clark rally in New Hampshire, he previewed a Clark versus Bush race as pitting "the General versus the Deserter." At the January 22 Democratic presidential debate Peter Jennings raised the incident with Clark, describing it as "a reckless charge not supported by the facts." On Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, though he maintained he was just joking around in introducing Clark, Moore lashed back at Jennings: "For Peter Jennings to say that it was 'a reckless charge,' it's reckless for Peter Jennings and ABC not to investigate this."
Moore's wish became ABC's command as both ABC on Sunday, following DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe on This Week maintaining that he's looking forward to a debate in which "John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard," and CNN on Monday, looked into the charge and found it baseless.
To his credit, given his personal involvement in Bill Clinton obfuscation in 1992, on This Week George Stephanopoulos challenged McAuliffe: "So how do you answer then people who would say, wait a second, Democrats all defended Bill Clinton back in 1992 despite the questions about his draft record? Isn't this hypocrisy here?"
On Sunday's World News Tonight, Geoff Morrell undermined the criminal claims made by Moore and McAuliffe about Bush supposedly not showing up for Guard duty for a few months in 1972/73, four years into a six year hitch: "In the 2000 campaign, Democrats tried to make an issue of George W. Bush's service in the National Guard, but their nominee never went so far as to accuse him of being absent without leave, a serious charge subject to court-martial. Reporters investigating Mr. Bush's military career found that, while he missed some weekends of training, he later made up for them and was eventually honorably discharged."
CNN reporter Jennifer Coggiola, on Monday's Wolf Blitzer Reports, noted that "according to military code, President Bush can't technically be labeled AWOL or a deserter. Only active-duty soldiers in the U.S. military who don't appear for 30 days qualify for that."
In the meantime, Moore isn't exactly apologetic. A letter posted last week on his Web site begins: "I would like to apologize for referring to George W. Bush as a 'deserter.' What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants. In fact, he shot a man in Tucson 'just to watch him die.'" For the rest of his screed: www.michaelmoore.com
I guess that's humor in the same vein as seeing Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" as edgy entertainment.
Moore appeared on Bill Maher's January 30 HBO show, via satellite from Lansing, and as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Maher got Moore to repeat his unsubstantiated charges:
Maher: "So, you are here once again in the role of a newsmaker, which is what you seem to be, because you, I guess a couple of weeks ago, you were introducing Wesley Clark, and I know this was a joke, you were saying if he ran against Bush it would be 'the General against the Deserter.' Okay, so the media went ape shit, saying this was a reckless charge. I have been having a hard time finding whether this is a reckless charge or not. Why don't you tell me what you know are the facts. What are the facts? Because a lot of publications have come out against you and said these are not facts. What do you know is a fact about Bush's war record?"
Web site for Maher's weekly show: www.hbo.com
In Monday's CNN story, Coggiola summarized what those Boston Globe stories, cited by Moore, reported: "Here's what's known about President Bush's military service. After George W. Bush graduated from Yale in 1968, he joined the Texas National Guard as a fighter pilot and, over the next four years, based in Houston, served the equivalent of 21 months on active duty. Then, in 1972, Bush moved to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign, where he says he continued to fulfill his Guard service on the weekends.
The May 23, 2000 story by Boston Globe reporter Walter Robinson put the events in contemporaneous event context:
Neither this May 23 story, or a follow-up October 31 story, is online, but those are the dates if you have access to Nexis or want to pay to see them via the Globe's archive.
The stories do not paint a flattering picture of Bush's commitment to the Guard after four years of service, but they also show how he fulfilled his commitment about a year later and was honorably discharged -- and the stories make clear that the terms "AWOL" or "deserter" to not belong in any sentence with George W. Bush.
Which of these journalists practices "ideologically connected journalism" and does not have a "quest for objectivity"? Dan Rather, Nina Totenberg, Ken Burns, Ted Turner, Howell Raines or Brit Hume? If you answered any of the first five names, you aren't concerned about the real right-wing media bias as is Geneva Overholser, the Editor of the Des Moines Register in the early 1990s who became the Washington Post's Ombudsman in the mid-1990s and now runs the University of Missouri's Washington journalism program. She resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation, USA Today reported on Monday, to protest an upcoming award to be bestowed upon FNC's Hume.
As USA Today's Peter Johnson noted, "past recipients of the group's Sol Taishoff award include TV newscasters David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg."
(Totenberg, CyberAlert veterans will recall, made this non-ideological wish about Senator Jesse Helms on the July 8, 1995 Inside Washington: "I think he ought to be worried about what's going on in the Good Lord's mind, because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.")
Other past winners of the award Hume is to receive: Cokie Roberts, Bob Schieffer, Peter Jennings, Judy Woodruff, Sam Donaldson, Dan Rather, Bernard Shaw, Ed Bradley, Ken Burns, Ted Turner and Ted Koppel. Award winners listing: www.nationalpress.org
A decade ago, Overholser actually advocated more opinionated news coverage, so even if FNC and Hume are guilty of it as she claims, why does it bother her? She probably assumed the opinion she was advocating, in this comment quoted in the November 28, 1992 edition of Editor & Publisher magazine, would be more agreeable to her left-wing sensibilities: "All too often, a story free of any taint of personal opinion is a story with all the juice sucked out. A big piece of why so much news copy today is boring as hell is this objectivity god. Keeping opinion out of the story too often means being a fancy stenographer."
An excerpt from "Brit Hume honor triggers protest Board member quits over award," a February 2 USA Today story by Peter Johnson:
....Geneva Overholser, former ombudsman of The Washington Post, has resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation because it plans to honor Fox News anchor Brit Hume at its annual dinner in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19.
Past recipients of the group's Sol Taishoff award include TV newscasters David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg.
Hume, the ABC White House correspondent who joined Fox in 1996 and anchors a nightly newscast, doesn't deserve the award because he and Fox practice "ideologically connected journalism," Overholser says.
"Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is 'fair and balanced,'" she says. "That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity."
She says groups such as the foundation, before lauding Fox or its lead news anchor, should debate whether the way Fox reports news is good for journalism....
Overholser, the former editor of The Des Moines Register who now runs the University of Missouri's Washington journalism program, quietly resigned from the board of the foundation three weeks ago.
"I would welcome a discussion about whether objectivity really exists, which media seem the least fair and balanced, whether objectivity is desirable, whether it wouldn't be better to have a more European-like model -- in which media were straightforwardly ideologically aligned," she wrote in an e-mail to fellow board members. "All of those could be helpful to American journalism.
"And I can applaud Fox for all sorts of things, but being deceptively ideologically aligned -- being hypocritical about it -- far from contributing to such discussions, makes them impossible to have. (Fox News president Roger) Ailes has constructed the perfect trap: you question him, and the finger of accusation comes back at the questioner. One can marvel at his cleverness. But one should not confer journalistic laurels upon it."
END of Excerpt
For the USA Today story in full: www.usatoday.com
The National Press Foundation's announcement that Hume would receive its "Broadcaster of the Year" honor also noted that some liberal icons will be honored, though it didn't call them liberal and honoring them apparently doesn't bother Overholser: "NYTimes.com, the online website of The New York Times, will receive the fourth annual Online Journalism Award," Sandra Mims Rowe, "editor of The Oregonian in Portland, who will receive the George Beveridge Editor of the Year Award" and "Benjamin C. Bradlee, former Executive Editor of The Washington Post and currently the paper's Editor At Large, will receive the W.M. Kiplinger Distinguished Contributions to Journalism Award." See: www.nationalpress.org
At the February 20, 2003 event, Raines railed against anyone who dares accuse the media of liberal bias: "Our greatest accomplishment as a profession is the development since World War II of a news reporting craft that is truly non-partisan, and non-ideological, and that strives to be independent of undue commercial or governmental influence....
For the National Press Foundation's page on the 2003 awards: www.nationalpress.org
-- Brent Baker