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Move on From Berger, Give Equal Weight to Timing as Substance --7/22/2004


1. Move on From Berger, Give Equal Weight to Timing as Substance
Sandy Berger a one-day story? A night after running stories on the revelation the FBI is investigating Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger for improperly taking copies of secret memos assessing the Clinton administration's reaction to the millennium terrorist threat, the broadcast networks on Wednesday night largely moved on. And those stories which did air in the morning and evening gave equal weight to complaints about the timing of the leak as to the substance of Berger's actions. The CBS Evening News, which on Tuesday night tried to discredit the story as Dan Rather insisted "this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence," didn't utter a word about Berger on Wednesday night while ABC's Peter Jennings just read a brief item about how President Bush refrained from comment about "the allegations which the White House has been aware of for several months." NBC's Andrea Mitchell highlighted how "Democrats claim the story was leaked just in time to distract from the 9/11 report." On GMA, Charles Gibson sought confirmation: "Is the timing of this leak suspicious?"

2. Brokaw & Rather Fairly Tough on Kerry, CBS Touts "Candid Kerry"
Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw were fairly tough with John Kerry in excerpts of taped interviews with him run on their Wednesday night newscasts, with Rather prompting him to react to Bush campaign attacks on him and raising process questions about Ralph Nader while Brokaw offered the more substantively serious questions of the two. Brokaw wondered whether there has also been a "failure of the United States Senate as well in its oversight of those agencies, the FBI and the CIA?" and he countered a bit of Kerry mantra on Iraq: "I've talked to a lot of European leaders and officials at the United Nations. Their resistance to getting involved is firm and deep, and it doesn't have to do just with George Bush." CBS's on-screen plug: "Candid Kerry." Rather teased: "John Kerry blasts President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and the war on terror." Rather prompted Kerry to describe himself "in three to five words." Kerry asserted: "Incredibly loyal. A fighter. Passionate. Caring."

3. More Listen to O'Reilly Than Franken, Reuters Says Opposite
The latest Arbitron radio ratings showed Rush Limbaugh beating both Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly in New York City with O'Reilly's audience slightly larger than Franken's in the one hour they go head-to-head, 2-3pm. The Reuters headline, as posted by Yahoo: "Al Franken Beats O'Reilly in NY Radio Matchup." The July 21 Washington Post slapped this headline over the same Reuters dispatch which focused on the 25-54 year-old age bracket: "Franken Trumps O'Reilly in N.Y.C. Ratings."


Move on From Berger, Give Equal Weight
to Timing as Substance

Sandy Berger Sandy Berger a one-day story? A night after running stories on the revelation the FBI is investigating Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger for improperly taking copies of secret memos assessing the Clinton administration's reaction to the millennium terrorist threat, the broadcast networks on Wednesday night largely moved on. And those stories which did air in the morning and evening gave equal weight to complaints about the timing of the leak as to the substance of Berger's actions.

Time magazine's Joe Klein may have best reflected the attitude of the Washington press corps when, on CNN's Paula Zahn Now on Tuesday night, he presumed Berger could not be guilty of anything nefarious. The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught this quote from him on the July 20 CNN program: "Now, that's semi-'Absent-Minded Professor' plausible. But what I was going to say was the notion that he would do something mortally sinful is about as likely as Brent Scowcroft or George Shultz or name your foreign policy priesthood member. This is a very solid, decent guy. I'd be shocked if there was something really terrible that he did here."

The CBS Evening News, which on Tuesday night tried to discredit the story as Dan Rather insisted "this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence," didn't utter a word about Berger on Wednesday night while ABC's Peter Jennings just read a brief item about how President Bush refrained from comment about "the allegations which the White House has been aware of for several months."

On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell highlighted how "Democrats claim the story was leaked just in time to distract from the 9/11 report," and after a clip of former Clinton White House Chief-of-Staff John Podesta making that charge, Mitchell backed it up: "The White House acknowledged that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had been given advance notice of the investigation but denied leaking it."

Tom Brokaw set up a preview of the 9/11 Commission report by noting how "the Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee just announced his intention to investigate allegations that former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger took sensitive terrorism documents from a secure reading room at the National Archives, this just hours before the 9/11 Commission publicly releases its final report. And there will be plenty of blame to go around for Republicans and Democrats as well as U.S. intelligence. Tonight, as NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports, the political spin is already under way."

Andrea Mitchell portrayed the commission as a victim of politics, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Leaders of the bipartisan commission, who briefed the White House today and then Congress, had hoped to avoid election year politics. No chance of that. Not after the leak that former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, an advisor to John Kerry, is being investigated for allegedly removing classified documents critical of the Clinton administration."
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) on the House floor: "We should question Senator Kerry's judgement for placing him in a key position in his campaign."
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA): "Well, folks, here we go again. Any time the heat is on the Republican, the Bush administration, they leak something out and try and smear somebody."
Rep. Candace Miller (R-MI): "My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been so dismissive of this gross violation of our national security."
Mitchell: "Berger has stepped down from the Kerry campaign, but that didn't stop the sniping. Democrats claim the story was leaked just in time to distract from the 9/11 report."
John Podesta, Clinton White House Chief of Staff: "I think that a lot of people are skeptical that this wasn't engineered by people some place in the government."
Mitchell: "The White House acknowledged that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had been given advance notice of the investigation but denied leaking it."
Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary: "I know of no one in the White House that is aware of how this story came about."

Over on the July 21 World News Tonight, Peter Jennings announced: "The President said that the Justice Department investigation of the former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger is a serious matter, beyond that the President says he will not comment on allegations that Mr. Berger, who worked for President Clinton, removed classified documents from the National Archives. Certainly other Republican officials have been very willing to talk about the allegations which the White House has been aware of for several months. Mr. Berger says he made an honest mistake."

In the morning on Wednesday, Today co-host Matt Lauer opened the program: "What a mess over this Sandy Berger situation. One Republican is saying that this whole thing could lead to national security crisis. So the war of words, at least, has escalated."
Couric then gave equal weight to the timing issue: "That's right because meanwhile, Matt, Democrats who support the former Clinton national security adviser say this is all a game of leaks to divert attention from the 9/11 commission's report which is due out tomorrow. This morning we'll talk with Sandy Berger's attorney."

Indeed, Couric soon interviewed Lanny Breuer and gave him a chance to shoot down Republican charges about his client. The day before, on Tuesday, Today brought aboard Berger friend and defender David Gergen, so Today has yet to put on a detractor, but at least Today has conducted interview sessions about Berger. Other than a discussion Wednesday with their own George Stephanopoulos, ABC's Good Morning America has not carried any interview segments about Berger and neither has CBS's Early Show. None of the programs did this morning, Thursday, either.

ABC's Linda Douglass, in a story on Wednesday's Good Morning America, framed the subject around "Republican charges." The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught this wording: "Well, that war of words will continue on Capitol Hill today, and Sandy Berger himself stepped forward last night to defend himself against Republican charges that he stole classified documents and endangered national security. Berger said he meant no harm when he took home classified documents to prepare his testimony before the 9/11 Commission."

A bit later, Charles Gibson prompted George Stephanopoulos: "Is the timing of this leak suspicious?"
Stephanopoulos agreed: "Every single Democrat I talked to raised this issue. They say 'Come on, six days before the Democratic Convention, two days before the 9/11 Commission report, seven months after the investigation begins, we're only finding out about it now?' And some are even suggesting that maybe Attorney General John Ashcroft was behind it."

Neither Gibson nor Stephanopoulos mentioned how Stephanopoulos worked in the White House with Berger. Gibson plugged Stephanopoulos: "Joining us now to help make some sense out of all this firestorm over Sandy Berger, This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos. George, what's going on here? The Republicans are all so solemn looking and saying, 'This is really serious,' and Democrats say, 'Hey, the timing, it's political.' What's up?"
Stephanopoulos: "A little bit of both. Everybody played their part yesterday, didn't they? I mean, you see it in that attack right there. We followed the ritual of scandal yesterday. There is a serious underlying charge here, stealing classified documents out of the National Archives, but the FBI has been investigating this for nine months now, seven months now and still haven't brought charges, and as recently as a few days ago they told Sandy Berger's lawyer that he wasn't a target of the probe, just a subject."
Gibson: "Is the timing of this leak suspicious?"
Stephanopoulos: "Every single Democrat I talked to raised this issue. They say 'Come on, six days before the Democratic Convention, two days before the 9/11 Commission report, seven months after the investigation begins, we're only finding out about it now?' And some are even suggesting that maybe Attorney General John Ashcroft was behind it."
Gibson: "Alright, the critical question, because some Republicans did raise it yesterday, is whether he took this document, which is wrong, and then shared it with anyone else. That would really be serious if indeed he'd shared it. I talked to his lawyer earlier today, who said emphatically no one ever saw it and it was inadvertent that he took the document."
Stephanopoulos: "That was the charge raised by every single Republican yesterday. They said 'Listen, it can't be a coincidence that John Kerry is raising this issue of port security, airline security, and maybe, maybe, maybe they got that information from Sandy Berger, who after all is a key advisor, was a key advisor up until yesterday to the Kerry campaign. Yet, they haven't been able to prove this connection. As you say, the Kerry camp is adamantly denying it so far. They say that John Kerry's been working on port security for an awful long time, and unless the Republicans can make that connection, I think this is likely to blow over."
Gibson: "Alright, there's the colorful aspect to all this as well, which is that Berger, when he took these documents out of Archives, may not have just put them in a briefcase, which is what you'd picture, but may have stuffed them in pockets. Somebody from Archives is saying may have stuffed them in his pants and may have stuffed some of the documents in his socks. Now, his lawyer in Washington is a man named Lanny Breuer and I asked him about that."
After a clip of Gibson asking Breuer about it and Breuer's denial, Gibson told Stephanopoulos: "So no papers stuffed in the back of the pants, no papers sticking out of the back of his coat."
Stephanopoulos: "You know what? Every story like this needs that juicy detail, the visual, and that's what gave this the legs yesterday. Part of it is that it's about the War On Terror, and part of it is Sandy Berger's position in the campaign, and part of it is the timing. But without those socks, this wouldn't have taken off like it did yesterday."

Brokaw & Rather Fairly Tough on Kerry,
CBS Touts "Candid Kerry"

Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw were fairly tough with John Kerry in excerpts of taped interviews with him run on their Wednesday night newscasts, with Rather prompting him to react to Bush campaign attacks on him and raising process questions about Ralph Nader while Brokaw offered the more substantively serious questions of the two. Brokaw wondered whether there has also been a "failure of the United States Senate as well in its oversight of those agencies, the FBI and the CIA?" and he countered a bit of Kerry mantra on Iraq: "I've talked to a lot of European leaders and officials at the United Nations. Their resistance to getting involved is firm and deep, and it doesn't have to do just with George Bush."

"Candid Kerry" read the on-screen graphic as Rather teased his upcoming segment with Kerry which he plugged: "John Kerry blasts President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and the war on terror." Rather prompted Kerry to describe himself "in three to five words." Kerry asserted: "Incredibly loyal. A fighter. Passionate. Caring." To which, Rather countered: "When I talked to someone in the White House and I said you think John Kerry can't win. Why? And they said, these are the words they used: 'He's aloof, he's distant, sometimes even cold.' Does that describe John Kerry in some ways?"

Rather also highlighted how "at the core of a attack against you is that you are, quote, 'Senator flip flop.' Does or does not the record indicate that you have indeed been on several sides of most issues, or at least a lot of issues, over the years?" Rather then gave Kerry time to reject the charge that voting for the war but against money to fund it represented any inconsistency.

Both Brokaw and Rather, but not ABC's Peter Jennings, broadcast their July 21 shows from Boston. Brokaw stood outside with a cityscape backdrop; Rather stood inside Fanueil Hall.

Now, all the questions posed in the excerpts shown of the two sit-downs with Kerry which avoided any mention of Kerry's liberalness:

# NBC Nightly News:

-- Brokaw: "Tomorrow the 9/11 Commission will make its report. We've already heard that the commission will say both the Clinton and the Bush administration failed to respond effectively to the threat of terrorism. Does that remove blame for the 9/11 attacks as a campaign issue in this election?"
Kerry: "I'm not looking to cast blame. I'm looking to take America to a safer place..."

-- Brokaw: "Has this also been a failure of the United States Senate as well in its oversight of those agencies, the FBI and the CIA?"
Kerry: "It is the President's job to administer correctly, to do the job of implementation..."

-- Brokaw: "If you're elected and if Sandy Berger clears his name in time, will he have a prominent part in your administration?"
Kerry: "I'm not playing a guessing game of who would get a role..."

-- Brokaw: "Did you know that he was under investigation?"
Kerry: "I didn't have a clue."
Brokaw: "He didn't share that with you?"
Kerry: "I didn't have a clue."

-- Brokaw: "Let me ask you about Iraq. The insurgents obviously are going after the interim government and the idea of sovereignty. If this interim government comes to the United States and says, 'Look, we're in danger of being toppled here, we're going to need more American troops on the ground in Iraq,' would you support that idea?"
Kerry: "Not in a vacuum..."

-- Brokaw: "What are the circumstances that there would be more American troops, acceptable to you, in Iraq?"
Kerry: "Tom, I think that's the wrong way to come at the question. The question is how do we maximize the ability to succeed in not having a failed state in Iraq? And the way to maximize that is to bring other nations to the table."

-- Brokaw: "Senator, with all due respect, I've talked to a lot of European leaders and officials at the United Nations. Their resistance to getting involved is firm and deep, and it doesn't have to do just with George Bush. What makes you think that they'll be more responsive to you as president than they would be to George Bush who went to NATO and asked for help and got less than a full loaf?"
Kerry: "Everybody who has been part of the effort over the last years, who has had any kind of engagement with those countries, Tom, will tell you that this administration has not invited them in a way that gives them the prospect of success and shares with them the responsibility for decision-making. Essentially, it has been a hey, come on in, we want you to help us, but by the way, we're going to make sure Halliburton and our companies are going to do the reconstruction and we're going it make sure that we're the ones calling the shots on everything that happens..."

# CBS Evening News. Rather teased: "Tonight, one-on-one with a man who would be President. John Kerry blasts President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and the war on terror." On screen: "Candid Kerry"

Rather opened his show: "Good evening from historic Faneuil Hall, in the city that will host the Democratic National Convention next week. Senator John Kerry, the man who will officially accept the party's presidential nomination one week from tomorrow, joined me here a short while ago for a one-on-one sit-down interview. We talked about key issues facing the nation, and he had blunt criticism of President Bush's policy on Iraq, but not for keeping U.S. forces there after Saddam was ousted."
Kerry: "I think that just to run or leave would be a tragedy. And it's because of the arrogant way in which this administration approached this war, got itself into the war, and pushed other people away. I think we need a new President..."

-- Rather: "You use the word arrogance. Too strong?"
Kerry: "No. No. When you miscalculate what will happen in the aftermath of a successful invasion, as they did, the height of that miscalculation is absolutely stunning. I've never seen anything like it in modern times. And I think that word is not too strong at all."

-- Rather: "Many people don't feel they know who you are. Let's talk about that for a moment. Describe yourself in three to five words."
Kerry: "Incredibly loyal. A fighter. Passionate. Caring."

-- Rather: "When I talked to someone in the White House and I said you think John Kerry can't win. Why? And they said, these are the words they used: 'He's aloof, he's distant, sometimes even cold.' Does that describe John Kerry in some ways?"
Kerry: "No, it doesn't describe me at all. It describes the person they'd love me to be, but I'm not."

-- Rather: "Have you or any member of your campaign talked to Ralph Nader about withdrawing from the race?"
Kerry: "No."
Rather: "Not at all?"
Kerry: "No."
Rather: "When you spoke the last time did you talk to him about that?"
Kerry: "No."
Rather: "Do you expect him to withdraw?"
Kerry: "No."
Rather: "In a close race couldn't he be the difference, or could he?"
Kerry: "My hope is that in the course of this campaign, that John Edwards and I will speak to people in the country who once supported Ralph Nader or found a reason for his candidacy. I hope people will not waste their votes, because a vote for Ralph Nader will be a vote for George Bush."

-- Rather: "But at the core of a attack against you is that you are, quote, 'Senator flip flop.' Does or does not the record indicate that you have indeed been on several sides of most issues, or at least a lot of issues, over the years?"
Kerry: "Not a one. Ask me."
Rather: "Voted for the war but didn't vote for the money-"
Kerry: "That's not a flip flop....I voted to hold Saddam Hussein accountable in order to make sure he disarmed, and I voted to do it with the stipulations of the President who said he would build an international coalition, go to war as a last resort after exhausting the remedies of the UN. He did none of the above..."
Rather: "You don't think it's a flip flop?"
Kerry: "It is not in the least. I think we have to be in Iraq. What have I flipped on? I just think we ought to do it right."

Rather wrapped up: "Senator Kerry also told me he hopes by the time the Democratic convention is over next week, people will come to know him."

How nice.

Brokaw promised more excerpts on Thursday's Today and on Thursday and Friday's Nightly News.

Thursday's The Early Show on CBS re-played the same excerpts as shown on the Evening News.

More Listen to O'Reilly Than Franken,
Reuters Says Opposite

The latest Arbitron radio ratings showed Rush Limbaugh beating both Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly in New York City with O'Reilly's audience slightly larger than Franken's in the one hour they go head-to-head, 2-3pm. The Reuters headline, as posted by Yahoo: "Al Franken Beats O'Reilly in NY Radio Matchup." The July 21 Washington Post slapped this headline over the same Reuters dispatch which focused on the 25-54 year-old age bracket: "Franken Trumps O'Reilly in N.Y.C. Ratings."

An excerpt from the July 20 article by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles:

Despite the rocky start of his liberal Air America radio network, political humorist Al Franken surged past conservative nemesis Bill O'Reilly in the first quarterly ratings matchup between the two in New York City.

But before liberals can claim a victory in the battle for ears of listeners in America's biggest city, consider this: Veteran conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh beat them both.

"The Al Franken Show," airing weekdays on WLIB-AM, more than doubled O'Reilly's "The Radio Factor" on WOR-AM among listeners aged 25 to 54 -- the group advertisers prize most -- during the only hour when the two go head to head in New York, Arbitron Inc. reported on Tuesday.

According to its April-to-June survey, the first since Air America's debut, Franken posted a 2.6 share from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., compared with a 1.1 share for O'Reilly in the 25-54 demographic.

An Arbitron share is an average quarter-hour measure of listenership that combines audience size with the amount of time people are tuned in.

O'Reilly did slightly better than Franken in the broader demographic of all listeners aged 12 and up. But they were each eclipsed by Limbaugh in both demographics....

With a new group of executives in charge and investors committing more capital, [Air America] network insiders have said the venture is bouncing back. Air America now claims 17 stations nationwide, plus a presence on the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks.

END of Excerpt

For the article in full: news.yahoo.com

-- Brent Baker