Perfect Storm of Anti-Conservative News Dominates Networks --10/3/2003
2. CBS News Finds Republican Unsure of Voting for Bush Again
3. ABC Puffs Poll on Desire for Special Prosecutor But 32% Unaware
4. Media Hype Anti-Arnold Expose, ABC Adds How He "Admired"
5. Brokaw's Hypocrisy: Jumps on Arnold, But He Ignored Broaddrick
6. Outlets Weren't So Interested in Broaddrick or Troopers
7. Koppel: Limbaugh "Offensive" and Not a "Good and Decent Man"
A perfect storm of anti-conservative news items led and dominated the network newscasts on Thursday night as ABC, CBS and NBC all featured the same subjects, with only the sequence varying. CNBC's The News with Brian Williams and CNN's NewsNight also followed the same news agenda.
The anti-conservative news agenda: A last-minute, October Surprise hit at the most viable Republican candidate in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, with sexual impropriety charges going back to 1975, David Kay not being able to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the "expanding" investigation into the already media exaggerated "leakgate" controversy and jumping on a National Enquirer story (euphemistically called "published reports") about illegal drug purchases by Rush Limbaugh.
For a flavor of the October 2 newscasts, the opening teases from the top of the ABC, CBS and NBC broadcasts:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings: "On World News Tonight, the frontrunner in the California Governor's race has a rough day. Arnold Schwarzenneger apologizes for past behavior. The country's most popular talk show host has a rough day. The controversy involving Rush Limbaugh. The investigation into who leaked a CIA officer's name to the press is expanding. And the government's top weapons inspector says no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. The Bush administration says it needs $600 million more to look."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather: "Tonight in a new poll the American people indicate declining confidence in President Bush on the economy and Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction search comes up empty, but the hunt goes on. Arnold Schwarzenegger admits behaving badly after new accusations of his past with women. And Rush Limbaugh losing a job and now facing new accusations about drugs."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw: "Hide and seek. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: Where are they? The chief U.S. inspector before Congress today. Arnold's apology. Charges of misconduct and then today a stunning development: Schwarzenegger admits he's behaved badly with women and says he's sorry. Rush and race. Rush Limbaugh resigns from his new ESPN job after comments about a black quarterback. And now more trouble: Reports of drug abuse."
On the WMD in Iraq, NBC, like the other networks, failed to note how politicians of both parties, and intelligence agencies around the world, believed Iraq possessed WMD. Instead, they focused solely on the Bush team. Brokaw began Thursday's Nightly News:
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz on Friday picked up on conservative anger at the liberal media for its obviously slanted agenda in hyping the stories of the CIA leak, Limbaugh's drug use and Schwarzenegger's past indiscretions. "For the Right, Bad News Day Or Media Bias?" read the "Style" section headline over this subhead: "Conservatives See More Than Coincidence in Recent Scoops." See: www.washingtonpost.com
CBS led Thursday night by featuring a new poll showing declining support for President Bush on a wide-range of issues and then going to Ohio to showcase a supposed Republican who is now unsure about voting again for Bush.
Rather introduced his lead story on the October 2 CBS Evening News: "A CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight indicates President Bush has increasing problems with public confidence in his leadership. With the economy struggling, jobs hard to come by and American soldiers in Iraq dying almost every day, support for the President, trust and belief in the job he's doing, are falling."
The "economy struggling"? Third quarter GDP was a very robust 3.3 percent.
John Roberts proceeded to run through the numbers: Bush's approval down to a pre-9/11 51 percent, a "new low" of 50 percent saying he has no ability to handle a foreign crisis, "56 percent of Americans now lack confidence in the President's economic decision-making," and "56 percent now say the country is on the wrong track, a bad trend heading into an election year." Speaking of the election, Roberts asserted that "President Bush has lost what was a commanding lead. Voters are now evenly split -- 44 percent to 44 percent -- between Mr. Bush and an un-named Democrat, though more voters [50 to 35 percent] believe the President will win re-election."
Roberts did allow as to how "President Bush's strongest marks are on leadership. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think he's a strong leader. But in another troubling sign, the majority believes that leadership isn't focused on priorities that matter to them."
For CBS's poll numbers: www.cbsnews.com
On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, ABC and the other networks pounded on the White House for allegedly leaking the name of a CIA staffer back in July, a frenzy set off by a front-page story in Sunday's Washington Post. On Tuesday night, the Post and ABC teamed up in conducting a poll that -- surprise, surprise! -- self-servingly validated their obsessive coverage.
But neither cited the very loaded wording of the poll which skewed the results, nor mentioned that nearly a third of those interviewed had not even heard of the allegations. And back in 1997 ABC ignored it when an ABC News/Post poll found public preference for in independent counsel to pursue Clinton's White House coffees and other questionable fundraising.
[Rich Noyes, the MRC's Director of Research, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
"More than 70 percent of Americans polled say it is at least somewhat likely that someone inside this White House leaked classified information," ABC's Kate Snow trumpeted on Thursday's Good Morning America, as if the public's suspicion had not been fed by the way reporters framed the story over the preceding days.
Like Peter Jennings on Wednesday night, Snow also highlighted news that "seven in ten Americans say they would rather see a special prosecutor, a special investigator, rather than the Justice Department, look into these allegations."
CBS also deemed ABC's poll newsworthy, as Bill Plante explained on Thursday's Early Show: "There's a new poll this morning that shows that 7 in 10 Americans believe that this should be investigated not by the Justice Department but by an outside special prosecutor. That would be a headache for the White House but maybe one that they will have to endure."
Thursday's Post put the poll on the front-page, under the headline: "Outside Probe of Leak is Favored." In addition to the numbers cited by the networks, the Post story by Dana Milbank and Mike Allen also noted that "the survey found that 81 percent of Americans considered the matter serious."
But neither the Post nor ABC mentioned that nearly a third of those interviewed had not even heard of the allegations until they were called by the pollster. According to a detailed report published on the Post's Web site, people were read a summary of the story and then asked: "Have you heard or ready anything about this situation, or not?" Thirty-two percent of those contacted admitted they had not heard anything about it, but that apparently stopped few from giving their opinions and speculating about whether or not someone in the White House was involved in improper activity.
The question posed by the pollsters was pretty leading, describing Joe Wilson simply as "a former diplomat," his wife as an "undercover CIA agent" when her real role is unclear and relaying Wilson's claim that "this was done to punish him for criticizing U.S. policy on Iraq." The question: "The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether someone in the White House broke the law by identifying a former diplomat's wife as an undercover CIA agent. The former diplomat claims this was done to punish him for criticizing U.S. policy on Iraq. Have you heard or read anything about this situation, or not?
For full details on the poll: www.washingtonpost.com
For the rest of their story: www.washingtonpost.com
But the Post story on October 15, 1997 -- the day after Janet Reno had once again decided not to name an independent prosecutor -- was shunted to page six, not the front page, and though the Post headlined its piece "Public Favors Independent Counsel," ABC's World News Tonight and Good Morning America ignored the public's demand an independent counsel when they reported on other aspects of the poll.
To refresh your memory about that story, you can read the Post's story online at: www.washingtonpost.com
A 3,700-word last-minute Los Angeles Times story, "Women Say Schwarzenegger Groped, Humiliated Them," prompted stories Thursday morning and evening on all the broadcast networks and then and in between on the cable news channels, but none of the ABC, CBS or NBC stories made any suggestion about anything being wrong with the timing of the story, dealing with claims going back 28 years, coming less than a week before the California gubernatorial recall vote.
The media seem to have no self-awareness of how they are serving as conduits for political hits.
ABC on Thursday night uniquely added another October Surprise hit on Arnold Schwarzenegger. Linda Douglass quoted from a 1970s book manuscript which attributed this to Schwarzenegger: "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it." Following that and a soundbite from a women whose breast Schwarzenegger supposedly touched inappropriately in 1975, Douglass concluded: "In the final days of his campaign, Schwarzenegger may be battling yet another opponent: his past."
More like the media are his most dangerous opponent.
(See item #5 below for Tom Brokaw's hypocrisy on this subject.)
Peter Jennings introduced the October 2 World News Tonight story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "So two of the most famous men in the country have had very bad days. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rush Limbaugh. We'll get to Mr. Limbaugh in a moment. In California today, Mr. Schwarzenegger, who is clearly leading in the race to be governor if the current governor is recalled, woke up to some ugly headlines. Here's ABC's Linda Douglass."
Douglass began her recitation: "In a front-page story, the state's largest newspaper quotes six women who claim Arnold Schwarzenegger groped or made sexually offensive remarks to them. One told ABC News she encountered Schwarzenegger in the 1970s when he was a bodybuilder."
For the LA Times treatise: www.latimes.com
Tom Brokaw's hypocrisy. Back in 1999 when his own colleague, Lisa Myers, landed an interview with Juanita Broaddrick, who accused President Clinton of raping her 20 years earlier (1978), Brokaw refused to report it on the NBC Nightly News. But on Thursday night, Brokaw jumped right on the Los Angeles Times story about Arnold Schwarzenegger's inappropriate sexual advances, going back to 1975, three years before the Broaddrick claim, and which fell far short of rape.
In 1999 February of 1999 Bill Clinton was not facing an election, while Schwarzenegger is facing one less than a week away and that, you'd think, would make the media more reticent to bring up events from decades ago.
Back in February of 1999, Brokaw only allowed Broaddrick's name onto his show as part of a brief plug for the Myers interview on Dateline and he could muster nothing stronger that referring to her "controversial accusations." As recounted in the February 26 CyberAlert about the February 24 NBC Nightly News and Dateline:
Fast forward to Thursday night and Brokaw didn't hesitate to jump on the charges against Schwarzenegger forwarded by another media outlet: "A graphic article on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times detailing the allegations of a half dozen women. They told the paper Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger sexually groped and humiliated them in actions that supposedly took place over three decades."
From Costa Mesa, Campbell Brown summarized the allegations: "Among the claims: That he groped their breasts, made lewd sexual suggestions and tried to remove one woman's bathing suit in an elevator." Brown helpfully added how "a campaign aide to Democratic Governor Gray Davis called Schwarzenegger's actions a crime meriting charges."
Brown concluded by giving credibility to another allegation she had no ability to verify: "The Schwarzenegger campaign had hoped the candidate's apology would out the issue to rest, but at Schwarzenegger's very next campaign event Democratic protesters showed up with a young women who made yet another claim that Schwarzenegger had harassed her too."
NBC followed up with a piece from George Lewis on the impact, on female California voters, of the article.
Tom Brokaw (see item #5 above) is not the only journalist or outlet to demonstrate a double standards and some hypocrisy in jumping on the allegations about Arnold Schwarzenegger's inappropriate sexual advances when those same journalists and outlets delayed or downplayed the more serious Juanita Broaddrick charge that Bill Clinton raped her and, in late 1993, the Arkansas troopers' claims about procuring women for Bill Clinton -- stories which both broke no where near election time and, therefore, the media should have been less reticent to report than a charge raised days before balloting.
It was the Los Angeles Times, in fact, which in December 1993 was the first mainstream media outlet to report the recollections of the troopers, but the networks didn't find that anywhere near as newsworthy as this week's LA Times story on Schwarzenegger.
Brit Hume recalled the LA Times' hypocrisy, reporting in the "Grapevine" segment of his October 2 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC: "The LA Times today ran a front page article, accompanied by two pages inside, on the accusations now lodged against Arnold Schwarzenegger for making unwanted advances years ago. Not until the tenth paragraph of that story do readers get a response from the Schwarzenegger camp. But, four years ago when then-President Clinton was being accused by Juanita Broaddrick -- remember her? -- of a brutal sexual assault 20 years earlier the LA Times buried that story on page 13 under a headline that read quote, 'Clinton Camp Denies Alleged Sex Assault.' And he article began with a denial from Mr. Clinton's lawyer.
Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, passed along this summary of past media resistance to touching initial allegations against Bill Clinton:
While the Los Angeles Times laid out its investigation of Arnold Schwarzenegger's alleged sexual harassment, the Times isn't always interested in running last-minute exposes that have the potential to derail a political campaign. In 1999, the New York Times recalled allegations that Gov. Bill Clinton may have raped Juanita Broaddrick: "The allegation was passed on to reporters for the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times in the waning days of the 1992 presidential campaign. Regarding it as the kind of toxic waste traditionally dumped just before Election Day, both newspapers passed on the story."
For more on that story see the February 24, 1999 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
For its part, the Times also dismissed the Broaddrick story in 1999 with a media navel-gazer by Josh Getlin and Elizabeth Jensen, with the subheadline "Whether a woman's allegation of sexual assault by Clinton in 1978 is true is secondary to competitive pressure." In the story, Times national editor Scott Kraft sniffed Broaddrick can "almost certainly not be proved or disproved today."
For more on how outlets who leapt to cover Anita Hill's unproven allegations vs. Juanita Broaddrick's, see this MediaWatch article:
ABC's Ted Koppel on Thursday night described Rush Limbaugh as "frequently offensive" and rejected the notion that he's "a good and decent man," saying that calling Limbaugh "hateful" may be "going a little too far," but that "he says and does things on the radio that are so disparaging of homosexuals, African-Americans, the homeless. As I say, I think it's clearly part of the act, but it's not gentlemanly, it's not kind."
Earlier, on World News Tonight, in a story which like Nightline looked at how Limbaugh has supposedly said worse things on radio than he did on ESPN, Dean Reynolds cited the far-left, but naturally unlabeled, Al Franken as an expert on Limbaugh: "Al Franken wrote a book denouncing the bombast, but acknowledges it has an appeal."
Reynolds also tried to suggest Limbaugh is a racist by recalling how "he once reportedly said of black Americans, 'They're 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?'" But in picking out one comment, without any context of reaction to a caller, from tens of thousands of hours of air time, Reynolds failed to explain that his source was an eight-year-old book from a far-left group and it cited as its source for the quote an even earlier book titled, Flush Rush.
I can never imagine trying to prove the liberal bias of Peter Jennings or Dean Reynolds by citing one ten-year-old quote I read about somewhere else, but never heard or saw myself and therefore have no idea if accurate. But that's the pathetic standard of ABC News.
-- Nightline, October 2. Ted Koppel devoted his show to exploring why Limbaugh lost his TV job for saying something milder than he utters regularly on radio.
Koppel opined, in setting up the show, that while Limbaugh appeals to those interested in conservative politics, there's another more nefarious element:
As opposed to how liberal in the mainstream media don't disparage conservatives? As Koppel did in this very show!
Koppel brought aboard three guests: former NFL player Randall Cunningham, who admitted he has never heard Limbaugh's radio show, Washington Post columnist/ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon and radio talk show host G.Gordon Liddy.
When Liddy asserted, in reference to the new story that Limbaugh has bought pain killers illegally, that Limbaugh is "a good and decent man," Koppel countered:
I must not listen as much as Koppel, but I think Koppel mentioned homosexuals more often than Limbaugh. To say nothing of how Limbaugh does not disparage the homeless, but mocks liberal concern for them which does more harm than good. And how has Limbaugh ever disparaged "African-Americans" as a group?
-- World News Tonight aired a piece on the fallout from ESPN and the new drug charges, and then a second story to look at how Limbaugh's said worse on the radio.
Peter Jennings set up the second story: "We're going to take 'A Closer Look' and listen at controversy in context tonight. Rush Limbaugh resigned from his part-time job at ESPN last night after he accused the media, liberal media to be precise, of unduly praising a black quarterback in the NFL. Many people thought he was offensive. Many did not. Whatever the case, Limbaugh has made many more controversial statements than that -- on radio. Here's ABC's Dean Reynolds."
Reynolds began, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "For Rush Limbaugh, language is conservative and often combustible."
I tracked down that "They're 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?" quote on the 1995 book for the far-left FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) by Steven Rendall, Jim Naureckas and Jeff Cohen with a forward by Molly Ivins, The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error. The quote has no date and is simply attributed to an earlier anti-Limbaugh screed, a book titled Flush Rush.
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-- Brent Baker