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Olbermann: Terror Threat a Ruse to Get Tom Ridge on Morning TV --5/27/2004


1. Olbermann: Terror Threat a Ruse to Get Tom Ridge on Morning TV
The terror threat announcement all a ruse to get onto the Today show? MSNBC's Keith Olbermann rolled out quite a conspiracy theory on Wednesday night, suggesting that "if you are of a suspicious mind, you will already have noticed the timing of today's announcement in the context of developments in Iraq and the President's declining poll numbers." That, he conceded, "is all speculative" but, he insisted, "one timing question may be a lot more substantial." Olbermann proceeded to make much of how after the morning shows on Tuesday afternoon turned down Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge's request to appear on them on Wednesday morning, "the leak about the credible threat hit the wires early Tuesday evening, and the Secretary wound up on the morning shows this morning."

2. CBS & NBC Find "Deepening" and "New" Questions on Prisoner Abuse
Prisoner abuse, the story the networks just can't let go. CBS and NBC on Wednesday night managed to find ways to justify full reports on the subject. CBS's Dan Rather boasted about how "the Iraq prisoner abuse story" was "first exclusively reported by CBS News on 60 Minutes II" and, he insisted, it "is deepening still." NBC's Tom Brokaw trumpeted "exclusive pictures and new questions in the Iraqi prison abuse investigation."

3. Harvard Launches Web Site to Push Reporters Further to Left
Three days after the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released its survey which found that five times more national outlet journalists identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent, Harvard University's Nieman Foundation launched a new Web site, "NiemanWatchdog.org," which claims to be dedicated to encouraging "watchdog reporting by drawing on authorities in various fields to suggest questions for the press to ask." But judging by its content the site, run by a former Washington Post editor and reporter, presumes that journalists are not liberal enough. Its "questions" pursue a liberal agenda.

4. Russert Claims He's Not Shown Any Bias Since Campaigning for JFK
Complaining that "every time I ask a politician about deficits resulting from tax cuts," that some charge that "I'm pushing a personal agenda, that I don't like tax cuts," NBC's Tim Russert insisted to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in a Sunday magazine interview: "I don't have a view on tax cuts." But Russert's subsequent explanation of how he understands "both sides" in the tax cut debate illustrated his hostility to them. Russert also recalled how in 1960 he stuffed Kennedy campaign flyers into the Buffalo News he delivered as a paper boy, maintaining, "that's the last time I showed my bias."

5. Letterman Takes Shot at CBS for Airing Sit-Coms Over Bush Speech
During his monologue on Tuesday night, David Letterman took a shot at his own network for its priorities in sticking with sit-coms, such as Yes, Dear, instead of carrying President Bush's Monday night address on plans for turning over authority in Iraq.


Olbermann: Terror Threat a Ruse to Get
Tom Ridge on Morning TV

Desperately seeking Matt, Charlie, Harry, Steve and Bill? MSNBC's Keith Olbermann rolled out quite a conspiracy theory on Wednesday night about the terrorist threat announcement, suggesting that "if you are of a suspicious mind, you will already have noticed the timing of today's announcement in the context of developments in Iraq and the President's declining poll numbers." That, he conceded, "is all speculative" but, he insisted, "one timing question may be a lot more substantial." Olbermann proceeded to make much of how after the morning shows on Tuesday afternoon turned down Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge's request to appear on them on Wednesday morning, "the leak about the credible threat hit the wires early Tuesday evening, and the Secretary wound up on the morning shows this morning."

Here's another take on the dealings by Ridge's staff with the morning shows, assuming Olbermann's tale is accurate, which is in some doubt since his source does not support his contention: In a time when we are living with the genuine threat of mass-murder terrorist attacks, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security requests air time, to discuss threats and public safety, and the television networks turn him down so that they can spend more time talking about American Idol and pre-Memorial Day weekend offering barbecuing tips.

Shouldn't that be what earns outrage from Olbermann?

On the May 26 Countdown with Keith Olbermann, just after a story about the press conference by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller and their request for help in locating terrorist suspects and cautions about potential attacks on major events this summer, Olbermann lectured, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
"If you are of a suspicious mind, you will already have noticed the timing of today's announcement in the context of developments in Iraq and the President's declining poll numbers. That is all speculative. But one timing question may be a lot more substantial. Though he was not at the Mueller-Ashcroft news conference this afternoon, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge had already taken center stage this morning, fielding questions about the new alert on all the major talk shows. But during the mid-day White House news conference, news briefing rather, one reporter had noted that the Secretary had yesterday attempted to get himself booked, unsuccessfully attempted to get himself booked as a guest on those very morning shows. Whether or not the logical fallacy is in play here, the chronology is unquestionable. The morning shows turned Mr. Ridge down Tuesday afternoon. The leak about the credible threat hit the wires early Tuesday evening, and the Secretary wound up on the morning shows this morning."

I checked the posted transcript of Wednesday's White House press briefing with Press Secretary Scott McClellan, however, and found nothing remotely like what Olbermann claimed, no reference by any reporter, or McClellan for that matter, to Ridge being turned down. The White House transcript of the May 26 session: www.whitehouse.gov

I also did a search in Nexis and could not find any story about Ridge being turned away by the television networks.

(Those names up top, the networks hosts whom, if I recall correctly, were the one who handled the Ridge interviews on Wednesday morning: Matt Lauer on NBC's Today, Charlie Gibson on ABC's Good Morning America, Harry Smith on CBS's Early Show, Steve Doocy on FNC's Fox & Friends and Bill Hemmer on CNN's American Morning.)

CBS & NBC Find "Deepening" and "New"
Questions on Prisoner Abuse

NBC's Tom Brokaw Prisoner abuse, the story the networks just can't let go. CBS and NBC on Wednesday night managed to find ways to justify full reports on the subject. CBS's Dan Rather boasted about how "the Iraq prisoner abuse story" was "first exclusively reported by CBS News on 60 Minutes II" and, he insisted, it "is deepening still." NBC's Tom Brokaw trumpeted "exclusive pictures and new questions in the Iraqi prison abuse investigation."

Rather introduced the May 26 CBS Evening News piece: "The Iraq prisoner abuse story, first exclusively reported by CBS News on 60 Minutes II, is deepening still. A U.S. Army survey of prisoner abuse reportedly shows a widespread pattern of mistreatment that, according to the New York Times, began in Iraq shortly after Baghdad fell. But CBS's David Martin reports tonight, questionable interrogation methods for prisoners were sanctioned by top U.S. officials months earlier."

On the NBC Nightly News, Brokaw intoned: "In Washington tonight, exclusive pictures and new questions in the Iraqi prison abuse investigation. Congress wants to know why critical pages are missing from the Pentagon's secret report, pages that may contain information about who knew what about abuses at Abu Ghraib."

Jim Miklaszewski proceeded to show the "exclusive" pictures of U.S. Army soldiers and intelligence officers standing around some naked Iraqi men, photos not much different from many already widely seen. For MSNBC'com's online version of Miklaszewski's story, with his "exclusive' pictures: www.msnbc.msn.com

Harvard Launches Web Site to Push Reporters
Further to Left

Three days after the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released its survey which found that five times more national outlet journalists identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent, Harvard University's Nieman Foundation launched a new Web site, "Nieman Watchdog.org," which claims to be dedicated to encouraging "watchdog reporting by drawing on authorities in various fields to suggest questions for the press to ask." But judging by its content the site, run by a former Washington Post editor and reporter, presumes that journalists are not liberal enough. Its "questions" pursue a liberal agenda.

An excerpt from the May 26 press release announcing the "NiemanWatchdog.org" site which carries a tag line of, "Questions the press should ask"

....The Web site, www.NiemanWatchdog.org, offers reporters and editors the expertise that resides at Harvard and other centers of learning and information, including the professions, activist groups, politics and government.

Barry Sussman, editor of the new Web site, said, "Independent experts are often eager to help journalists identify what is important. They'll provide questions, show why their questions are important, and serve as sources for reporters who choose to follow up and do stories."

"Probing questions are essential to informed reporting," said Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation. "Those with authoritative knowledge of issues in the news often can identify angles the press has missed, and can suggest questions that will give the public a fuller understanding."

On its first day, NiemanWatchdog.org offers questions for stories on the military, the environment, the economy, taxes, terrorism, education, prisons and other aspects of the criminal justice system, voting disenfranchisement and problems with voting machines, health care disparities, opinion polls and other subjects. In addition, it has commentary and examples of showcase (best practices) watchdog reporting.

The Web site is targeted at concerned citizens as well as at print, broadcast, and online reporters and editors, and encourages comments and contributions from users. It is an outgrowth of the Nieman Foundation's Watchdog Project, created in 1996 with funds given by Murrey Marder, a retired diplomatic correspondent of The Washington Post and a Nieman Fellow in 1950....

END of Excerpt

For the press release in full: nieman.harvard.edu

Okay, so what kind of "questions" do the Web site's operators think journalists need to ask? Judge for yourself. Below is the entirety of the list of questions/topics listed on the Nieman Watchdog home page at of 7pm EDT on Wednesday (ellipses as on home page). In my judgment, 6 of the 8 issue items encourage reporters to pursue liberal lines of questioning:

- COMMENTARY | May 11, 2004
Watchdog journalism keeps people in power accountable to the public. That's a vital function in a democracy, and asking astute questions is at the heart of it. This Web site connects reporters and editors with experts, at Harvard and elsewhere, who can help frame probing, penetrating questions in various fields, and then serve as sources. We encourage your participation and feedback...

- Russian missile test. (AP)
Aren't hair-trigger nuclear missiles a target for terrorists?
ASK THIS | May 10, 2004
Q. True or false: Since they are no longer enemies, and haven't been for years, the United States and Russia no longer have launch-ready nuclear missiles pointed at each other. Answer: way false, and isn't this worth reporting on every now and then?

- Time is running out for covering the environment
ASK THIS | April 05, 2004
The eminent scientist Edward O. Wilson writes on questions reporters should be asking candidates on global warming, water shortages and other vital issues.

- Disgrace behind bars | Abu Ghraib aside; where is the reporting on U.S. prisons?
ASK THIS | May 21, 2004
America was once a model for humane punishment but not any longer...

- Economy | Missing the Story of Structural Change
ASK THIS | May 21, 2004
Economics professor and blogger Brad DeLong says reporters aren't getting to the bottom of the defining economic story of the past four years: a boom in the productive potential of the economy.

- Tiger Force | How The Toledo Blade came to win a Pulitzer for a story that was 37 years old
SHOWCASE | May 08, 2004
Q&A with executive editor Ron Royhab on atrocities in Vietnam that the Army had kept hidden...

- Iraq | Missing before the war: Journalism 101 questions
COMMENTARY | May 07, 2004
With a few exceptions, tough reporting was nonexistent in the months leading to the invasion

- Measuring up | What's the progress with 'leave no child behind?'
ASK THIS | May 05, 2004
Is it a great idea or a sham and how is it working in your area?

- Readers ask | What geniuses decided that celebrity bunk is news?
DISCUSSIONS | May 01, 2004
Some people want more than a distraction from their news media...

END Reprint of Nieman Watchdog home page content. For the Nieman Watchdog home page: www.niemanwatchdog.org

The "Time is running out for covering the environment" item links to an article with this gem of wisdom:
"What is the present status of global warming? This seems a no-brainer, but many Americans still think it is a controversy, e.g., the 1000+ scientists of the IPCC vs. Rush Limbaugh." See: www.niemanwatchdog.org

The Editor of the NiemanWatchdog.org site is Barry Sussman, a Washington Post editor and reporter for 22 years who co-founded the Washington Post/ABC News Poll. At the Post, according to his online bio, he held "the positions of city editor, special Watergate editor, special projects editor/national, pollster and public opinion analyst and columnist for the Washington Post National Weekly Edition." See: www.niemanwatchdog.org

The Deputy Editor is Dan Froomkin, "a veteran reporter and editor. From 2000 to 2003, Froomkin was second in command of editorial operations at washingtonpost.com, and currently he writes washingtonpost.com's 'White House Briefing' column."

For CyberAlert's May 26 rundown of the Pew poll: www.mediaresearch.org

Russert Claims He's Not Shown Any Bias
Since Campaigning for JFK

Complaining that "every time I ask a politician about deficits resulting from tax cuts," that some charge that "I'm pushing a personal agenda, that I don't like tax cuts," NBC's Tim Russert insisted to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in a Sunday magazine interview: "I don't have a view on tax cuts." But Russert's subsequent explanation of how he understands "both sides" in the tax cut debate illustrated his hostility to them. Russert also recalled how in 1960 he stuffed Kennedy campaign flyers into the Buffalo News he delivered as a paper boy, maintaining, "that's the last time I showed my bias."

The May 23 Washington Post Magazine cover story was pegged to the release of a new book by the moderator of Meet the Press, Big Russ and Me, a look at his relationship with his father.

(Back on May 10 in an appearance on NBC's Today to plug the book, Russert, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, may have revealed why he has his other obsession -- besides denigrating tax cuts -- protecting the imaginary Social Security "Trust Fund." Russert recalled what his father complained to him about following interviews with Presidents Clinton and Bush:
"When I interviewed the, first President Clinton a few years ago and then President Bush in the Oval Office, both times he called me on Monday morning. 'What a country! I can't imagine the thought of my kid sitting there, toe-to-toe with the President of the United States.' Then he says, 'By the way, why didn't you ask him about my Social Security?!'")

"The Interrogator" declared the Washington Post Magazine cover headline over a shot of Russert in front of his Meet the Press set. Inside, "In the Hot Seat," read the headline over this subhead: "Tim Russert on his ego, his bias, his father worship and what he really thinks about tax cuts."

Two brief excerpts from the lengthy article in which Kurtz turned the tables on Russert and quizzed him (ellipses as in original):

-- Q. I was shocked to discover that you once got in trouble delivering the Buffalo Evening News. Did you have no concept of journalistic fairness? Explain what happened.

A. Billy Clouden had a paper route, and he would pay me 10 cents if I would deliver half of it. And it was the 1960 presidential race, John Kennedy against Richard Nixon. Our neighborhood was Irish Catholic, and everyone was for John Kennedy because he was Irish Catholic. We didn't know he was rich; we thought he was just like us.

And every house had a Kennedy sign, and there were Kennedy fliers all over the place. And so I took a Kennedy flier and put it inside of each newspaper and delivered it. And there was one Nixon supporter on the block who obviously called the Buffalo News, and the superintendent drove to Billy's house. And [Billy] said, "What did you do?" I said, "Oh, I just saw these fliers, and I thought, rather than have to do the paper one day and then the flier the next day, it's one-stop shopping." And it was a very rude awakening of the notion of a free press and objective journalism, and that's the last time I showed my bias.

END of first of two excerpts

Russert went on to recount the thrill of shaking President Kennedy's hand during a 1962 campaign visit to Buffalo by Kennedy.

-- An excerpt from an earlier portion of the article, picking up as Russert recalled complaints about him quizzing Howard Dean on the number of personnel the armed forces have in uniform:

Russert: One of the fiercest critics of my comments about Dean was someone who believes very deeply that there should be more tax cuts, not fewer, and that every time I ask a politician about deficits resulting from tax cuts, that I'm pushing a personal agenda, that I don't like tax cuts. I don't have a view on tax cuts...

Q. You don't have a view on tax cuts? Or you don't let your personal views affect the kind of questions you ask?

A. I don't have a view on tax cuts, I really don't. What I've tried to do in my life is come to a point where I know both sides of the issues so well that I almost confuse myself, and I can see the merit of both sides. Okay, if you want to do tax cuts, you can stimulate the economy, and, okay, if you go too far on tax cuts, you're going to create deficits. I understand both sides.

END of second of two excerpts

"If you want to do tax cuts, you can stimulate the economy, and, okay, if you go too far on tax cuts, you're going to create deficits. I understand both sides."

That's not "both sides." The opponents of tax cuts don't want them since they want the government to have more money and blaming tax cuts for deficits adopts the assumption that they, not ever soaring spending, are primarily to blame.

For Kurtz's piece in full: www.washingtonpost.com

As for Russert's attitude on tax cuts, the February 9 CyberAlert reported how during his session with President Bush, even after Bush brought up Medicare prescription coverage, instead of pouncing on that huge program, Russert, true to his record of being much more concerned with undoing tax cuts than in cutting spending, saved his scoldings for the tax cuts. Russert lectured Bush: "Every President since the Civil War who has gone to war has raised taxes, not cut them....Why not say, I will not cut taxes any more until we have balanced the budget?" Russert assumed all money belongs to the government, not people who earn it, as he bemoaned: "Why do you keep cutting taxes and draining money from the treasury?" Russert recommended: "How about no more tax cuts until the budget is balanced?"

For more extensive quotes from that interview: www.mediaresearch.org

Earlier CyberAlert items on Russert's obsession with tax cuts over soaring spending:

-- September 15, 2003 CyberAlert: Don't cut other spending, rescind the tax cut to pay for Iraq. On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC's Tim Russert once again displayed his obsession with blaming tax cuts, not spending hikes, for any deficit. Picking up on a liberal proposal pushed by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Russert proposed to Vice President Dick Cheney: "If you froze the tax cut for the top one percent of Americans, it would generate enough money to pay for the $87 billion for the war." A bit later, when Cheney blamed the economic slowdown and 9-11 for the rising deficit, Russert interjected: "And tax cuts." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- July 21, 2003: On Sunday's Meet the Press, Tim Russert scolded House Speaker Dennis Hassert for allowing the deficit to grow so large and suggested that in retrospect it would have been better for the tax cuts to have been smaller, but then he wanted to know if Hastert would support a Senate effort to "correct" the non-inclusion of low-income non-taxpayers in the expanded child credit and pressed Hastert to agree with a plan to hike spending on AmeriCorps by $100 million. Russert preposterously described the far-left Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a group "which consists of Democrats and Republicans." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- April 10, 2003: Victory in Iraq means Bush's plans for a tax cut should be withdrawn. Barely two hours after celebrating Iraqis toppling the Hussein statue, NBC's Tom Brokaw admired a "quite a powerful piece in the New York Times on the opinion editorial page...saying this is not the time for the tax cut" because rebuilding Iraq "is gonna cost a lot of money." Tim Russert gleefully chimed in: "And it's not a partisan issue any longer, Tom. Republican John McCain has stepped forward and said that we have to see how much this war costs before we determine the size of a tax cut." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- From the December 16, 2002 CyberAlert, an excerpt of a compilation of instances of Russert's anti-tax cut advocacy:

If it's Sunday, as any regular CyberAlert reader knows, it's time for Tim Russert to overlook spiraling spending and push his guests to advocate rescinding or suspending the rollout of the Bush tax cuts. This Sunday [December 15, 2002], Russert read aloud from a Concord Coalition ad which recommended rescinding the tax cuts and not enacting a prescription drug program, but in pressing his guests, Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican Senator Rock Santorum, Russert worried more about the tax cuts.

Skipping the admonition about a costly new entitlement program, Russert asked Santorum: "Should we freeze or postpone prospective tax cuts and avoid any new tax cuts until we are sure we have the money to pay for the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq?"...

Russert soon turned to Levin and included a prescription drugs program in his list, but put a higher priority on the danger of the tax cuts: "Senator Levin, can we afford to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, have more tax cuts, pay for the war on terrorism, pay for the expected war in Iraq and have a new prescription drug program, and still have no deficits?"
Levin: "No. That doesn't add up. Friedman pointed out it doesn't add up. He was right then, and I hope he stays to his position." Russert: "So what do we you do? You raise taxes in the middle of a recession?"

Other than raising with John Kerry on December 1 [2002] President Kennedy's rationale for a tax cut, over the past several months Russert has been pounding away at guests over postponing or repealing the Bush tax cuts. Examples from past CyberAlerts:

-- To South Carolina Democrat Alex Sanders: "Would you consider freezing or postponing the Bush tax cut in order to have the revenues so we don't tap into Social Security and have the revenues to pay for the potential war in Iraq?" Russert treated Republican Lindsey Graham as an oracle of wisdom, reminding him how he had warned Bush's tax cut would "eat up all the surpluses" and was "not fiscally responsible." Russert praised his foresight: "You were prescient, prophetic about the Bush tax cut." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Russert's October 6 target: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Russert hoped: "Would you be in favor of postponing the Bush tax cut, the implementation, in order to have money to pay for the war and also reduce the deficit?" For details: www.mediaresearch.org

-- During a Colorado Senate debate segment, to Democratic candidate Ted Strickland: "Would you be supportive of freezing or postponing the Bush tax cut in order to raise revenues to help fight the war in Iraq?" To Republican incumbent Wayne Allard: "How are you going to pay for the war in Iraq without, would you suggest, holding off on the tax cut?" Details: www.mediaresearch.org

-- In a span of just over five minutes, eight times on the Labor Day [2002] weekend edition of Meet the Press Russert urged that the Bush tax cuts be rescinded: "Would it be better to freeze, postpone, the Bush tax cut?....Why not freeze the tax cut rather than spend the Social Security surplus?....How did they squander it? With the tax cut?....As part of a budget summit, would you be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?....You did come to office with a $5.6 trillion surplus, and it's gone, and a third of that can be directly attributed to the tax cut." For details: www.mediaresearch.org

-- The MRC's Rich Noyes documented Russert's tilt over the first seven months of 2002. See his July 30, 2002 Media Reality Check: "A Bias Blind Spot for Meet the Press Host; One-Sided Questioning: Russert Pushed Both Friends and Foes of Bush Tax Cut to Suspend Its Benefits." To read it: www.mediaresearch.org

END Excerpt of Previous CyberAlert

It's safe to say that Russert has been biased since 1960.

Letterman Takes Shot at CBS for Airing
Sit-Coms Over Bush Speech

During his monologue on Tuesday night, David Letterman took a shot at his own network for its priorities in sticking with sit-coms, such as Yes, Dear, instead of carrying President Bush's Monday night address on plans for turning over authority in Iraq.

One of Letterman's jokes at the beginning of the May 25 Late Show: "How many of you saw President Bush's explanation speech last night about Iraq? How many of you? I think it was on about 8 o'clock last night and some television outlets carried it. CBS did not carry President Bush's address last night. [smattering of applause] The network feels that the war in Iraq is important, however not as important as the season finale of Yes, Dear. So they couldn't be bothered."

If you've never heard of Yes, Dear, here's CBS's page for it: www.cbs.com

# Scheduled to appear Friday night on the Late Show with David Letterman: Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

-- Brent Baker