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Nixon's Denigration of Fred Thompson Newsworthy to ABC --10/10/2007


1. Nixon's Denigration of Fred Thompson Newsworthy to ABC
The news media have hardly been admirers of Richard Nixon, but ABC News found new respect Tuesday for Nixon's assessments now that old tapes show how during Watergate he ridiculed future GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson as "dumb as hell." On the day of Thompson's debut at a GOP presidential debate, both Good Morning America and World News featured stories from Brian Ross, who in the World News version boasted that "we spent weeks going through the hours of Nixon Oval Office tapes." But though Ross reported nothing not posted two months ago on ABCNews.com, he claimed to have discovered "a tantalizing inside look at how Thompson was regarded by the President and his inner circle." Ross reported that "when Nixon's aides told him of Thompson's appointment [to the Watergate committee], the President was less than impressed." ABC then played audio from May 14, 1973 of Nixon denigrating Thompson: "He's dumb as hell." For expert analysis of Thompson's complicity with Nixon, Ross turned to "author" John Dean who maintained Thompson saw it as "his duty...not necessarily to find the truth, but to find out what would be best for Richard Nixon." Of course, viewers of MSNBC's Countdown know Dean as one of Keith Olbermann's favorite guests and author of such books as Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush and Conservatives Without Conscience.

2. GMA Gleefully Plays Watergate Tapes Attacking 'Dumb' Thompson
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, ABC contributor Brian Ross chose the day of Fred Thompson's first debate to slam the 2008 candidate for his work as a lawyer on the Watergate hearings 34 years ago and also play clips questioning the then-attorney's intelligence. The investigative correspondent intoned that although Thompson has touted his role in the hearings, "a much different, less valiant picture of Thompson emerges from listening to the White House audiotapes made at the time as President Nixon plotted strategy with his aides in the Oval Office." Ross proceeded to play several clips of Richard Nixon calling Thompson "dumb as hell" and of administration associates alleging that the lawyer will help the White House.

3. In GOP Debate Chris Matthews Advances 'No Blood for Oil' Agenda
Chris Matthews couldn't help himself during the GOP debate in Michigan, as he returned to his "No blood for oil," rant, when he essentially asked Republican candidates if they thought the U.S. would have invaded Iraq if it didn't need the oil. On CNBC's live 4-6pm EDT carriage of Tuesday's Republican debate, the Hardball host asked Ron Paul: "Congressman Paul would you, would we have gone to war in Iraq if we weren't so dependent on Middle East oil?" Matthews then repeated that same question to Sam Brownback.

4. CNN's Dobbs Blasts Couric and Moyers Over Patriotism & Flag Pins
On Monday's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs took aim at Katie Couric and Bill Moyers for "silly public statements" they've made regarding the practice of wearing an American flag lapel pin: "CBS's Katie Couric, of all people, taking exception to an American journalist saying 'we,' when referring to the United States....I'm sorry, Katie Couric, but who could possibly be offended by acknowledging those troops who have sacrificed so much for us and ours? PBS's Bill Moyers says the flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. Oh, please, Bill Moyers, you're too smart for this kind of babble."

5. NBC: 'It Hotter than Rush Limbaugh's Scrotum in Polyester Pant!'
"It hotter than Rush Limbaugh's scrotum in polyester pant!" For an episode focused on prostitutes, robbery, and bowling, NBC still managed to insult conservative Rush Limbaugh. Last Friday's episode of Las Vegas had the casino spa's manicurist, an Asian character named "Polly," known for her racy sexual commentary, taking a yoga class. Her instructor warns her against drinking too much water, and the writers seemed to feel that the only way to accurately describe the heat in the room was to take a cheap political shot.

6. 'Top Ten New Fall Shows on Al-Jazeera'
Letterman's "Top Ten New Fall Shows on Al-Jazeera."


Nixon's Denigration of Fred Thompson
Newsworthy to ABC

The news media have hardly been admirers of Richard Nixon, but ABC News found new respect Tuesday for Nixon's assessments now that old tapes show how during Watergate he ridiculed future GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson as "dumb as hell." On the day of Thompson's debut at a GOP presidential debate, both Good Morning America and World News featured stories from Brian Ross, who in the World News version boasted that "we spent weeks going through the hours of Nixon Oval Office tapes." But though Ross reported nothing not posted two months ago on ABCNews.com, he claimed to have discovered "a tantalizing inside look at how Thompson was regarded by the President and his inner circle." Reminding viewers that Thompson was the Republican counsel on the Senate committee investigating Watergate, Ross reported that "when Nixon's aides told him of Thompson's appointment, the President was less than impressed." ABC then played audio from May 14, 1973 of Nixon denigrating Thompson: "He's dumb as hell."

Cuing up a bite of Nixon asking, "He isn't very smart, is he?", Ross relayed: "By June 1973, Thompson was still being described in the Oval Office as not very smart, but at least beginning to play ball with the White House behind the scenes." For expert analysis of Thompson's complicity with Nixon, Ross turned to "author" John Dean who maintained Thompson saw it as "his duty...not necessarily to find the truth, but to find out what would be best for Richard Nixon." Of course, viewers of MSNBC's Countdown know Dean as one of Keith Olbermann's favorite guests and author of such books as Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush and Conservatives Without Conscience.

Amazon's page for Dean's books: www.amazon.com

Ross did conclude by suggesting that maybe Thompson wasn't the dumb one after all: "Two months later, Nixon would resign in disgrace, and the man he called 'dumb as hell' would go on to become a United States Senator, a successful actor, and now a candidate for President."

The Ross pieces, obviously timed to hit Thompson on his big day, hardly provided any fresh information. As the MRC's Scott Whitlock points out in item #2 below the Ross story on Good Morning America, which largely featured the same Nixon quotes but otherwise was quite different with alternate reporting by Ross and showcasing soundbites from those not in the World News version, Ross didn't really plow any new ground from an early August piece by ABC's Jake Tapper.

Tapper's August 7 ABCNews.com posting, "The Fred Thompson Watergate Myth: Was GOP Candidate More Friend Than Foe to Nixon?", carried this photo caption: "In newly released Nixon tapes, the President calls then-Watergate prosecutor Fred Thompson 'dumb as hell' but 'friendly.'" The headline over the Tuesday posting by Ross on his The Blotter blog: "Nixon on Thompson: 'Dumb' but 'Friendly.'" See page 3 of the Tapper post for the "dumb as hell" quote and page 4 for the "he isn't very smart, is he?" quote.

Tapper's posting: abcnews.go.com

The Blotter: blogs.abcnews.com

Tapper's page 4 also included this 1973 evaluation of Thompson by then-Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, a quote that didn't make it into either Ross story: "He's terribly smart."

[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided this transcript of the October 9 World News story:

CHARLES GIBSON: Well, as we said a moment ago, today was Fred Thompson's first debate. Thompson came to prominence in 1973 when, just 30 years old, he became the Republican counsel to the Senate committee investigating Watergate. Which is why our Brian Ross spent some time listening to secret recordings made at the Nixon White House, as the President and his aides talked about Thompson. Brian is joining us now.

BRIAN ROSS: Charlie, we spent weeks going through the hours of Nixon Oval Office tapes stored in the National Archives. And what emerges is a tantalizing inside look at how Thompson was regarded by the President and his inner circle. Thompson's job on the Watergate committee was to lead the Republican side of the investigation. When Nixon's aides told him of Thompson's appointment, the President was less than impressed.
RICHARD NIXON AUDIO, DATED MAY 14, 1973: Oh, sh--, he's dumb as hell. Fred Thompson? Who is he? Who is he?
ROSS: Nixon told White House Counsel John Dean he was worried that Thompson's Democratic counterpart, Sam Dash, would outsmart Thompson.
NIXON AUDIO, DATED MARCH 16, 1973: Dash is too smart for that kid.
JOHN DEAN AUDIO: Sure. Runs circles around him.
ROSS: By June 1973, Thompson was still being described in the Oval Office as not very smart, but at least beginning to play ball with the White House behind the scenes, helping to defend the President.
FRED BUZHARDT AUDIO, DATED JUNE 6, 1973: Our approach is now, we've got pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson. He came through fine for us this morning.
NIXON audio: He isn't very smart, is he?
BUZHARDT: Not extremely so, but-
NIXON: But he's friendly.
BUZHARDT: But he's, but he's friendly.
NIXON: Good.
ROSS: A few days later, White House aides tell the President Thompson has secretly agreed to help undercut the credibility of John Dean, who by then had become a key witness against Nixon.
NIXON AUDIO, DATED JUNE 11, 1973: Does he realize that Dean has some problems?
BUZHARDT AUDIO: Oh, yes, sir. Quite a few. He is willing to work with us.
ROSS: Thirty-four years later, Dean, now an author, says he remembers it well.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT NIXON: Fred Thompson is a direct link to the White House. He hopes the worst isn't going to come out, and that's his, as he sees his duty, is not necessarily to find the truth, but to find out what would be best for Richard Nixon.
BUZHARDT audio, dated June 11, 1973: He's willing to go, you know, pretty much the distance now. And he said he realized his responsibility was going to have to be as a Republican increasingly.
ROSS: Two months later, Nixon would resign in disgrace, and the man he called "dumb as hell" would go on to become a United States Senator, a successful actor, and now a candidate for President.

GMA Gleefully Plays Watergate Tapes Attacking
'Dumb' Thompson

On Tuesday's Good Morning America, ABC contributor Brian Ross chose the day of Fred Thompson's first debate to slam the 2008 candidate for his work as a lawyer on the Watergate hearings 34 years ago and also play clips questioning the then-attorney's intelligence. The investigative correspondent intoned that although Thompson has touted his role in the hearings, "a much different, less valiant picture of Thompson emerges from listening to the White House audiotapes made at the time as President Nixon plotted strategy with his aides in the Oval Office." Ross proceeded to play several clips of Richard Nixon calling Thompson "dumb as hell" and of administration associates alleging that the lawyer will help the White House.

As all of this information is old news, the Ross report is clearly timed to injure Thompson on the day of his big debate. The New York Times reported the same allegations way back on August 27. The article, by Jo Becker, used many of the same Nixon quotes. (And, in fact, a report by ABC's own Jake Tapper preceded the NYT article and also mentioned Nixon's "dumb as hell" line.) Ross closed his October 9 segment by snidely noting: "We tried to get a response from Thompson but his staff did not return our phone calls and he walked right by us when we tried to put the question to him in person." However, the ABC reporter also referenced other Thompson associates, such as former Senator Howard Baker, who appointed Thompson to the Watergate investigation. And although Baker is very much still alive, did Ross seemed unable to find anyone of that era who would go on record and say something positive about Thompson. Tapper's August 7 post: abcnews.go.com

[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

GMA co-host Robin Roberts introduced the segment with a tone that suggested new information was about to be revealed. She breathlessly asserted: "And ABC News spent several months digging some revealing tapes out of the national archives, shedding light on Thompson's role as a young lawyer, investigating the Watergate scandal."

However, as noted earlier, both The New York Times and ABC have previously reported many of the key quotes. Ross played this clip during his October 9 segment:

Alexander Haig: "He's talking to Fred Thompson. I said you're not-"
Richard Nixon: "Oh, [Bleep]. He's dumb as hell. Fred Thompson. Who's-- Who's he? He won't say anything."

The August 27 New York Times reported it this way: "Moreover, new transcripts from the Nixon White House tapes reveal that the Nixon administration regarded Thompson as a useful idiot -- 'dumb as hell,' in President Nixon's words, but 'friendly.'"

For entire New York Times article: www.nytimes.com

Also, it should be noted that this is the second time in less than a week that GMA has used Richard Nixon as a club to attack conservatives. On October 5, David Wright defended Barack Obama's decision not to wear a U.S. flag lapel pin by pointing out that Nixon wore one while "he told the American people he had nothing to do with Watergate." See the October 8 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

A transcript of the segment, which aired October 9 at 7:10am:

ABC Graphic: "The Fred Thompson Files: Watergate Tapes Reveal Nixon's Thoughts"

Roberts: "All eyes will be on former Senator Fred Thompson when he walks on the stage for the Republican debate tonight, his first debate since he joined the presidential race. And ABC News spent several months digging some revealing tapes out of the national archives, shedding light on Thompson's role as a young lawyer, investigating the Watergate scandal. ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is here with more. Very enlightening, Brian. Good morning."

Brian Ross: "Good morning, Robin. Fred Thompson's made much of his role 30 years ago as a young Senate lawyer, helping to lead the investigation of Watergate and President Richard Nixon. But a much different, less valiant picture of Thompson emerges from listening to the White House audiotapes made at the time as President Nixon plotted strategy with his aides in the Oval Office. Thompson's job on the Watergate committee was to lead the Republican side of the investigation. Appointed by his mentor, Senator Howard Baker, of Tennessee. When Nixon's aide, H.R. Haldeman told him of the Thompson's appointment, Nixon was less than impressed."
H.R. Haldeman: "Baker has appointed Fred Thompson as minority counsel."
President Richard Nixon. "Oh, [Bleep]. That kid."
Haldeman: "I guess so."
Ross: "Nixon worried that Thompson's Democratic counterpart, Sam Dash, would outsmart Thompson."
Nixon: "Dash is too smart for that kid."
John Dean: "Sure. Runs circles around him."
Ross: "As the investigation picked up speed, Nixon grew increasingly concerned about Thompson standing up to the Democrats, speaking here with his then chief of staff Alexander Haig."
Alexander Haig: "He's talking to Fred Thompson. I said you're not-"
Nixon: "Oh, [Bleep]. He's dumb as hell. Fred Thompson. Who's-- Who's he? He won't say anything."
Ross: "Weeks later, Thompson was still being described in the Oval Office as not very smart but, at least, beginning to play ball."
Fred Buzhardt: "Our approach is now, we've got pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson. He came through fine through for us this morning."
Nixon: "He isn't very smart, is he?"
Buzhardt: "Not extremely so-
Nixon: "But he's friendly."
Buzhardt: "But he's, he's friendly."
Nixon: "Good."
Ross: "A few days later, White House aides are heard saying that Thompson will be even more helpful than his boss, Senator Baker. And that Thompson agreed to secretly help undercut the credibility of white house whistle blower John Dean."
Buzhardt: "They've finally got him under oath. Thompson will work with us so that-"
Ross: "Does he realize that Dean has some problems?"
Buzhardt: "Oh, yes, sir, quite a few. He is willing to work with us. He is also now willing to work with us on shifting some focus to the Democrats. He's finally made up his mind he's got to start look at some of their stuff."
Scott Armstrong (Fmr. Investigator, Senate Watergate Cmte): "It was the equivalent of two prosecutors, because supposedly this was bipartisan, knowing about something and one of them going behind the scenes to tell the person being accused what the witnesses were saying about him."
Buzhardt: "He's willing to go, you know, pretty much the distance now. And he said he realized his responsibility was going to have to be as a Republican increasingly."
Ross: "Two months later, Nixon resigned and Thompson would later take credit for helping to reveal the secret White House taping system that led to Nixon's downfall. We tried to get a response from Thompson but his staff did not return our phone calls and he walked right by us when we tried to put the question to him in person."
Roberts: "All right, Brian. And again, many anxious to see how he'll do tonight in his first presidential debate."
Ross: "Big moment for him."

In GOP Debate Chris Matthews Advances
'No Blood for Oil' Agenda

Chris Matthews couldn't help himself during the GOP debate in Michigan, as he returned to his "No blood for oil," rant, when he essentially asked Republican candidates if they thought the U.S. would have invaded Iraq if it didn't need the oil. On CNBC's live 4-6pm EDT carriage of Tuesday's Republican debate, the Hardball host asked Ron Paul: "Congressman Paul would you, would we have gone to war in Iraq if we weren't so dependent on Middle East oil?"

Matthews then repeated that same question to Sam Brownback: "Do you believe that, Senator Brownback, that we would've gone to war in Iraq if we weren't so dependent on Middle East oil?"

[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

For his part, Matthews' co-moderator, CNBC Washington bureau chief, John Harwood, went after Big Oil when he asked John McCain: "Senator McCain, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Conoco-Phillips this past year earned a combined $72 billion in profits. Is that too much? Should the oil industry pay higher taxes or should it be required to use some of those profits to help solve our energy problems?"

To see more of Matthews charging that the U.S. invaded Iraq for its oil, read the September 18 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

CNN's Dobbs Blasts Couric and Moyers
Over Patriotism & Flag Pins

On Monday's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs took aim at Katie Couric and Bill Moyers for "silly public statements" they've made regarding the practice of wearing an American flag lapel pin: "CBS's Katie Couric, of all people, taking exception to an American journalist saying 'we,' when referring to the United States....I'm sorry, Katie Couric, but who could possibly be offended by acknowledging those troops who have sacrificed so much for us and ours? PBS's Bill Moyers says the flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. Oh, please, Bill Moyers, you're too smart for this kind of babble."

[This item is adapted from a Tuesday evening posting by Matthew Balan on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Dobbs's comments, which came about 45 minutes into the 6pm Eastern hour of his program, occurred on his second day back after an extended absence due to a tonsillectomy. It was during this absence that Couric expressed her discomfort over the "whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying 'we' when referring to the United States" after 9/11. After his criticism of Couric, Dobbs mentioned Barack Obama's decision to not wear such a lapel pin.

The September 28 CyberAlert item, "Couric 'Uncomfortable' with Post-9/11 Patriotic Fervor," recounted:

The wearing of flag lapel pins and saying "we" when referring to the United States in the days after 9/11 made Katie Couric "uncomfortable," she revealed at a Tuesday forum in which she also fretted that "corporate America owning a lot of media outlets" dissuaded questioning of "this inevitable march toward war." She claimed that "anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic." On Iraq, she declared: "People in this country were misled in terms of the rationale for war." Couric's politically-charged comments came during a "Kalb Report" interview conducted at the National Press Club that aired Wednesday night on C-SPAN2.

For much more on Couric's remarks: www.mrc.org

But Dobbs reserved his strongest words for Moyers, and cited the PBS host's words from 2003. "PBS's Bill Moyers says the flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. Oh, please, Bill Moyers, you're too smart for this kind of babble."

This March 3, 2003 CyberAlert item features a complete transcript of what Moyers said on PBS's Now: www.mediaresearch.org

For a streaming Real video clip of the February 28, 2003 rant from Moyers, check the MRC's 2004 "DisHonors Awards." Scroll down a bit on this page: www.mediaresearch.org

After this attack on Moyers, Dobbs's concluding words included a rebuke of all journalists who choose not to wear an American flag pin for reasons of "neutrality" and "objectivity." "If others -- and journalists, certainly, by some tortured reasoning -- believe the absence of the pin suggests neutrality, and that gives them the pretense of objectivity, let me assure you, you couldn't be more wrong."

The full transcript of Dobbs's commentary from the October 8 Lou Dobbs Tonight:

Lunacy among our public figures in this country certainly didn't subside over the weeks that I've been away from this broadcast. I've been no less than astounded, in fact, by the incongruity, the contradiction, the specious and silly public statements by some of our public and political figures over something like a flag pin worn on one's lapel, like this one that I wear on my lapel. I started wearing this lapel pin, by the way, after September 11th. I did so out of respect for those killed in the terrorist attacks, and in recognition of this country's war on radical Islamist terror.

It turns out that some journalists and some presidential candidates are actually upset about flags on lapels. And over the past few weeks, they have actually adopted some rather superior and supercilious views on the subject. For example, CBS's Katie Couric, of all people, taking exception to an American journalist saying 'we,' when referring to the United States -- or as I say each night on this broadcast, our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm sorry, Katie Couric, but who could possibly be offended by acknowledging those troops who have sacrificed so much for us and ours? Senator Barack Obama has decided not to wear a flag pin on his lapel. Senator Obama says his words will be a testament to his patriotism. That's fine. PBS's Bill Moyers says the flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. Oh, please, Bill Moyers, you're too smart for this kind of babble.

All of you, please stop the nonsense -- liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. Wear our flag proudly on your lapel or not. But for crying out loud, what is there in each of you that cannot support others wearing it proudly out of respect for the values this flag stands for, and America's national values -- freedom of choice among those values. I choose to wear this pin on my lapel. But if others -- and journalists, certainly, by some tortured reasoning -- believe the absence of the pin suggests neutrality, and that gives them the pretense of objectivity, let me assure you, you couldn't be more wrong. And politicians of any political party on any part of the political and ideological spectrum who believe their words could ever rise to the level of the national values this flag represents are sadly arrogant and horribly mistaken. And no one who does wear this flag, for whatever reason, should ever confuse support for this flag as an adequate expression of patriotism for this nation. True patriotism requires far more.

NBC: 'It Hotter than Rush Limbaugh's
Scrotum in Polyester Pant!'

"It hotter than Rush Limbaugh's scrotum in polyester pant!" For an episode focused on prostitutes, robbery, and bowling, NBC still managed to insult conservative Rush Limbaugh. Last Friday's episode of Las Vegas had the casino spa's manicurist, an Asian character named "Polly," known for her racy sexual commentary, taking a yoga class.
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Her instructor warns her against drinking too much water, and the writers seemed to feel that the only way to accurately describe the heat in the room was to take a cheap political shot. The exchange:

TRAINER: If you drink any more water, Polly, you're gonna throw up. Do you wanna throw up?
POLLY: No, but it hotter than Rush Limbaugh's scrotum in polyester pant!

The MRC's Krstine Looney caught the lines and posted an item, with video, on the MRC's blog. The Real and Windows Media video, as well as MP3 audio, will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert. But to watch or listen in the meantime, go to: newsbusters.org

'Top Ten New Fall Shows on Al-Jazeera'

From the Late Show with David Letterman, a "Top Ten" list edited for time out of the October 8 show but mistakenly posted on the program's Web site, the "Top Ten New Fall Shows on Al-Jazeera." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. "The Love Goat"

9. "Third Rock from the Sunni"

8. "Jihadin' With the Stars"

7. "Bionic Camel"

6. "Two and a Half Mullahs"

5. "Betty Who May or May Not Be Ugly As She's Concealed By a Burqa"

4. "Wings"

3. "The Abdul Van Dyke Show"

2. "Lets Rob Cat Stevens"

1. "Pimp My Turban"

-- Brent Baker