Personal Attack Double Standard: Richards' 'Fun-Loving Spirit' --9/15/2006
2. Nets Delight in Showing 'Silver Foot' Insult from Ann Richards
3. NBC to Broadcast from Cuba's 'Interesting' Summit of U.S. Enemies
4. No Liberal Bias at NYTimes, Insists Asst Managing Editor Berke
5. Sean Penn: Bush Caused 'Enormous Damage to Mankind,' Fascism Too?
For a media that likes to complain about the incivility and personal attacks that Republicans have supposedly injected into our politics over the past generation, the networks' reactions to former Texas Governor Ann Richards underscore journalists' partisan approach to what is fair and what is foul. In 1988, then-Texas state treasurer Richards laced her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention with a series of nasty, mocking attacks on then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. Instead of deploring her descent into the "politics of personal destruction" -- as they might have if the speechmaker were a conservative Republican and the target was a liberal Democrat -- the media elite swooned, with then-CBS anchor Dan Rather admiring her "scalpel-style attack" on the Republican presidential candidate.
Remembering Ann Richards Thursday morning, all three broadcast network shows re-visited her ridicule of Bush, admiring it as "biting wit" and "fun-loving spirit," with ABC's Diane Sawyer touting Richards as the "sassy, funny homemaker who became Texas governor." ABC, CBS and NBC all played the same sarcastic soundbite of Richards from 18 years ago: "Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver-foot in his mouth!"
[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted late Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
But when some Republicans in 2004 mocked Democratic nominee John Kerry as a wealthy out-of-touch wind-surfing flip-flopper, the same networks sniffed at the bitter partisan attacks against the liberal Massachusetts Senator.
Personal jabs aren't anything new in politics, but while attacks on liberals are deplored as mud-slinging, Richards' attacks earned her a dedicated media fan club. "Her acidic, plain-spoken keynote address was one of the year's political highlights," Rick Lyman claimed in Thursday's New York Times obituary of Richards: www.nytimes.com
MRC analysts Megan McCormack, Geoff Dickens and Michael Rule transcribed this morning's media farewells to Richards, as all three broadcast networks praised Richards' Bush-bashing "wit."
# ABC's Good Morning America began their show by teasing: "Silver-haired legend Governor Ann Richards. The sassy, funny homemaker, who became Texas governor, loses her battle with cancer."
ABC newsreader Chris Cuomo, the son of another Democratic convention keynote speaker celebrated by the media, praised Richards: "Former Texas Governor Ann Richards has died. Richards lost her battle with esophageal cancer at her home in Austin last night, just six months after being diagnosed. This morning she's being remembered as a pioneer with a rare wit. She was a larger-than-life figure with Texas charm and a sharp tongue. Richards burst onto the national political scene in 1988 at the Democratic convention, where she blasted then-Vice President George Bush."
After running the "silver foot" soundbite plus another shot at Bush from 1988, Cuomo celebrated how after she thrilled the media with her Bush-bashing speech, "the homemaker turned politician rode her popularity all the way to the governor's mansion."
For ABC's 8am news update, Cuomo said of Richards: "She's being remembered this morning as a larger than life figure. Richards was known for her fun-loving spirit and sharp wit. She only served one term, but her contribution to politics was far greater. Richards championed women's rights and was a trailblazer for women and minorities. Ann Richards was 73."
After noting Richards' passing, news anchor Ann Curry said the ex-governor "is perhaps best remembered for one line at the Democratic National Convention in 1988 about the then Vice President George Bush." After the soundbite, Curry noted: "She also said she got into politics because she wanted to open government to women and minorities and didn't want her tombstone to read that she quote, 'Kept a really clean house.' Ann Richards was 73."
After noting Richards comments on Social Security, Rather underscored the Democrats' pleasure at the Bush-bashing: "Ann Richards now hears ringing in her ears the applause, rhythmic applause, and 'The Eyes of Texas,'" referring to the song blaring in the background.
In an interesting exchange, Rather a few moments later told then-political reporter Bruce Morton, "This was a very populist approach to a keynote address."
Morton's reply suggested the Democrats have been victims of nasty spin: "Well, no one is a liberal anymore. They've taken to calling that the 'L' word -- everyone is a populist or a progressive now....This is a party which for 20 years has been tarred as squishy soft or kooky or flaky or wild or soft on communism or whatever, special interest party now. Here is this mainstream lady talking about tossing a ball back and forth with her granddaughter and what a wonderful America she hopes that child will have. That's the least 'special interest' little girl you're ever going to find."
If you were a partisan Democrat in 1988, you undoubtedly thought Richards' attacks were an enjoyable political spectacle. But the enthusiasm that persists to this day among political reporters shows they're not really offended by personal invective or hardball tactics. They just get offended when their liberal friends are the ones on the receiving end of those attacks.
Matching the news judgment of the broadcast network morning shows (see #1 above), the network evening newscasts on Thursday all highlighted the late Ann Richards' sarcastic insult, for the conditions he was born into, of then-Vice President and GOP presidential candidate George Bush at the 1988 Democratic convention. CBS anchor Katie Couric even put it into her up front tease: "Remembering Ann Richards: One of the most colorful women in American politics." Viewers then heard and saw her infamous line: "Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!" CBS reporter Morley Safer led his obituary of her with her derisive slam: "Ann Richards' leapt from obscurity took place at the 1988 Democratic convention when she lit into George Bush, the Republican presidential candidate."
ABC anchor Charles Gibson highlighted how "with her Texas twang and sharp tongue, she became an instant celebrity at the 1988 Democratic convention with a speech that poked fun at the first President Bush." Over on NBC, Brian Williams announced before the media's favorite clip: "She was no friend to the Bush family. In fact, she is best remembered for this, the night her pistol went off at the 1988 Democratic convention when she took on the first President Bush." Williams and Couric described her as "colorful" while Gibson praised her as "an original voice."
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
As Rich Noyes noted in the rundown (in item #1 above) of the morning shows on Thursday, "Instead of deploring her descent into the 'politics of personal destruction' -- as they might have if the speechmaker were a conservative Republican and the target was a liberal Democrat -- the media elite swooned."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down the September 14 broadcast network evening show coverage of Ann Richards, who went on to become Governor of Texas and then lose in 1994 to the son of the man she ridiculed, who passed away in Austin:
# CBS Evening News:
Katie Couric, in opening teaser: "And remembering Ann Richards: One of the most colorful women in American politics."
Couric set up the subsequent full story from Morley Safer:
Morley Safer: "Ann Richards' leapt from obscurity took place at the 1988 Democratic convention when she lit into George Bush, the Republican presidential candidate."
(Back in 1999, the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, Katie Couric hosted Richards at a forum at the 92nd St. Y in Manhattan. Couric joined with Richards to bemoan how the right-wing is "alienating so many moderate Republicans in this country" and how "the climate that some say has been established by religious zealots or Christian conservatives" led to the James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard murders. See the April 6, 1999 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org )
Brian Williams: "Tonight, Texans are mourning a former governor, and one of the most colorful figures in modern American politics tonight has left scene. Ann Richards was born near Waco, Texas. As a girl, she listened to FDR on the radio and was told by her own father that she could be anything she wanted to be. She became a school teacher and later went into politics, she said, to help women and minorities. She was indeed elected governor of Texas. She was a pistol. She was no friend to the Bush family. In fact, she is best remembered for this, the night her pistol went off at the 1988 Democratic convention when she took on the first President Bush."
Charles Gibson: "And we want to note tonight the passing of an original voice in American politics, former Texas Governor Ann Richards. With her Texas twang and sharp tongue, she became an instant celebrity at the 1988 Democratic convention with a speech that poked fun at the first President Bush, and also celebrated women."
Checking in from the so-called Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana, on Thursday's NBC Nightly News Andrea Mitchell relayed: "Well, at times, Brian, this looks like a reunion of the Axis of Evil, George Bush's worst nightmare." Following Mitchell's brief report, which mainly dealt with Fidel Castro's status, anchor Brian Williams told Mitchell and viewers: "We will join you there tomorrow evening when this broadcast will originate from Cuba." Why? On MSNBC.com's "Daily Nightly" blog, Williams described those gathering at the meeting, which was held in the hardly unaligned Cuba in 1979, as [ellipses and parentheses in original] "basically all those who didn't want to be our friend or the Soviet Union's (with exceptions, of course) back in the 60s. What an interesting gathering...how often do all of this nation's enemies gather in the same hotel ballroom, after all? The fact that it's happening 90 miles off the coast of Florida makes it all the more interesting."
In her "Daily Nightly" blog posting, Mitchell trumpeted how excited the Cuban regime is about the arrival of Williams, as if that's anything of which to be proud: "Brian will be anchoring from here tomorrow night, which is a very big deal. Cuba TV -- part of the government here -- has already talked about his anticipated arrival." She soon adopted Williams' favorite word for the event: "Why are we all Here? For one thing, Havana is always interesting." As for how Cubans feel about Castro, "this is our first chance to talk to Cubans about how they view this change after a half century of Fidel's rule. We've found some unease, but less than you might think." Indeed, Mitchell touted how one "visitor described Castro as looking like Don Quixote, especially after losing so much weight since his surgery."
Mitchell did, however, at least note in her blog entry: "Cuban officials tell me the point is not to attack America, but many of the billboards here tell a different story: they portray President Bush with fangs, call him an 'assassin' and even compare him to Adolf Hitler."
The brief coverage on the September 14 NBC Nightly News:
Brian Williams: "There is a worldwide gathering under way tonight in Cuba, with more than 50 heads of state arriving in Havana for a summit meeting, and some of the names on the guest list read like an enemies list of the United States. We are joined now from Havana by our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell. Andrea, set the scene for us."
Andrea Mitchell is in Havana for the summit of non-aligned nations... meaning basically all those who didn't want to be our friend or the Soviet Union's (with exceptions, of course) back in the 60s. What an interesting gathering... how often do all of this nation's enemies gather in the same hotel ballroom, after all? The fact that it's happening 90 miles off the coast of Florida makes it all the more interesting.
That's online at: dailynightly.msnbc.com
HAVANA, Cuba -- This city is festooned with signs and banners welcoming foreign leaders to a gathering that looks like a reunion of President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil." Cuban officials tell me the point is not to attack America, but many of the billboards here tell a different story: they portray President Bush with fangs, call him an "assassin" and even compare him to Adolf Hitler. (The Castro government is accusing the U.S. of harboring a man known here as the Osama bin Laden of Cuba -- a Cuban exile now jailed in Texas on immigration charges, but accused in Havana of terror plots. It's part of the backdrop for the angry rhetoric against the U.S.)
Brian will be anchoring from here tomorrow night, which is a very big deal. Cuba TV -- part of the government here -- has already talked about his anticipated arrival.
WHY ARE WE ALL HERE?
For one thing, Havana is always interesting, and Cuba has not permitted any foreign journalists in since Fidel Castro turned over power -- he said temporarily -- to his brother Raul and a triumvirate of officials on July 31st. This is our first chance to talk to Cubans about how they view this change after a half century of Fidel's rule.
We've found some unease, but less than you might think. It's clear that Fidel prepared well for a succession....
Of course, we are also here to cover the summit, a meeting of so-called "non-aligned nations." It is an artifact of the Cold War, of countries seeking power for themselves outside either the East or the West. When they first gathered in Belgrade in 1961, Fidel Castro was 35, a revolutionary leader admitting that he was a communist. In 1979, at the peak of the Cold War, he hosted the annual gathering. Now 80 and ailing, Castro was supposed to be greeting the 50 heads of state arriving here today to talk about world poverty and criticize U.S. policy. Instead, he's in his hospital room, but his aides say he is recovering and giving orders by phone. That said, there is a real sense here of the passing of an era. No one in government says Castro will be back in charge. Friends, like an Argentinian author who visited him yesterday, are trying to perpetuate the legend. This visitor described Castro as looking like Don Quixote, especially after losing so much weight since his surgery. Another visitor today -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez -- described Fidel as looking like the Man of La Mancha, but "victorious and invincible" (unlike Cervantes' dreamer).
Buoyed by billions in oil revenues which have helped Cuba offset the crippling affects of the U.S. economic embargo, Chavez was greeted as a hero when he arrived today. With Castro offstage, Chavez is asserting himself as the next leader of the movement. But he isn't the only focus of attention: Iran's President Ahmadinejad is also in Havana and will likely get an endorsement for his nuclear standoff with the West....
END of Excerpt
That's online at: dailynightly.msnbc.com
For a Thursday Washington Post preview of the conclave, "Summit Is Stage for Anti-U.S. Sentiment: Non-Aligned Movement Leaders Head to Havana," go to: www.washingtonpost.com
A key New York Times figure, Assistant Managing Editor Richard Berke, defended his paper this week from a reader's charges of liberal bias: "I bet you don't believe me, but it's the truth: Reporters are driven by digging out the news, not by pressing partisan opinions." Back in 2000, when he was a reporter in the Washington bureau, Berke fell for a Gore campaign maneuver and generated a baseless mini-scandal about how in an anti-Gore ad from the Bush campaign, "RATS" part of "bureaucrats" appeared on-screen for a fraction of a second.
A reprint of a Wednesday posting on the MRC's TimesWatch site, dedicated to documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of the New York Times, by Clay Waters:
Richard Berke, Assistant Managing Editor for news at the Times, is answering questions from readers online, including one on the Times' liberal bias:
"Articles in the NYT always seem to be overwhelmingly hostile to President Bush and Republicans, while almost fawning toward Democrats like Eliot Spitzer. This is not new, with the liberal agenda going back decades, but it does seem to have gotten a lot worse over the past few years. This news bias obviously affects your reputation for integrity; the NYT is now a punch line for jokes about the left-wing news media.
"Why can't the NYT at least try to present a 'down the middle' approach to news coverage? I would guess you'd sell more papers and become more of a legitimate news source." -- Bill Nojay, Rochester, N.Y.
The relevant part of Berke's reply:
"I simply don't accept the notion that there's any partisan agenda in the way we cover the news. Our reporters and editors are painstaking in trying to be fair. Many of us learned long ago that you can't be in the newspaper business and also make everyone happy. Sure, we're criticized for being tough on the Republicans. But some Democrats attack us for being too easy on Republicans. The White House thinking we're hostile? What else is new?
"We're a punch line for Republicans? Well we're also a punch line for Democrats. The press is inevitably in an adversarial relationship with any president, no matter the party. Our job is to be a watchdog, not to engage in public relations. I remember being humiliated by a smiling President Bill Clinton in front of 2,000 people in a ballroom in Washington when he expressed mock outrage that I had uncovered the scandal of all scandals: that his vice president, Al Gore, had designs on the oval office. That's what happens when you cover a president for The New York Times, Republican or Democrat.
"I bet you don't believe me, but it's the truth: Reporters are driven by digging out the news, not by pressing partisan opinions."
If the only anger that Clinton expressed to Berke was "mock outrage," then Berke's example of Democrat hostility doesn't really make the case he thinks it makes.
END of Excerpt
For the TimesWatch article online: www.timeswatch.org
For the "Talk to the Newsroom" where Berke made his claims: www.nytimes.com
Berke has a record of being a dupe for a liberal's campaign. A reprint of an item in the Monday, September 18, 2000 CyberAlert:
New York Times reporter Rick Berke denied any nefarious political agenda in the decision by his paper to plaster across page one his "dispassionate" story on the "RATS" ad. On PBS's Washington Week in Review Friday night he conceded he was more than spoon-fed the story by the Gore team as he was so slow on the up take "it took me several viewings" of the ad played in slow motion by a Gore operative "to notice the RAT" frame of it. But, a female editor supposedly noticed it at regular speed.
Moderator Gwen Ifill asked Berke: "I have to ask you about your role in this Rick because you, you personally have come under attack from other news organizations, and certainly by the Republicans, as having been a tool of the Gore campaign in this."
In defending himself Berke indicted himself as to how much he relied on a Gore operative: "Well, let me tell you how it came about. The Gore people called me last week and they said we want you to view this tape of a commercial. We don't want to tell you anything more about it. Judge for yourself. So they showed it to me, I'm looking at it, I don't notice anything unusual about it. Then they slow it down and I still don't notice it [points finger at head]. It takes me a while sometimes, you know, go figure. It took me several viewings to notice the RAT.
"And then, they were, 'isn't this incredible?' and I said 'well wait a minute, I don't know what we're going to do with this.' So what I did is, I started calling around, calling experts, saying is this unusual and they said yes it is. And I also showed it to people at my office. I showed it to one editor and I said 'look, there's something unusual about this commercial.' She picked it up immediately at a regular speed. She said 'my gosh, there's RATS there.' So I simply wrote the story in a dispassionate way, giving all sides, and let people judge what they will about it."
If the "no-blink" editor caught it so quickly why hadn't she noticed it before?
At least one colleague was not impressed with how the media at large were so enamored with the story. On Inside Washington over the weekend liberal syndicated columnist Jack Germond wondered: "What's wrong with the press? We think it's a big deal if some guy, a hired hand for Bush -- Bush himself didn't put the word '€˜rats' in this -- does this. Why is it a big story? Why are we paying so much attention to it?"
END of Reprint
For a streaming Real clip of Berke's remarks, check the September 18, 2000 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
Clearly referring to President Bush, a smirking Penn recalled: "Well, in 1932 Huey Long said something very interesting. It was, 'Fascism will come to America, but likely under another name, perhaps anti-fascism.'" Later, Penn fulminated about how "party clowns like Don Rumsfeld could be described as, as far as I'm concerned, except for the enormous damage he's done this country and mankind -- and our President -- and saw that they're getting out there and they're beating this drum, to drown out, as they did in 2002, to drown out other -- in that case it was Enron. Now we have another situation, so it's this war on terror, boom, boom, boom. Drown out the reality of what's really happening." Penn also argued: "No Democrat that doesn't have a plan to get our troops out of Iraq should be voted for."
[This item was posted, with video, late Thursday night on the MRC's NewsBusters blog. The audio/video will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert, but in the meantime, to watch the Real or Windows Media video, or MP3 audio, go to: newsbusters.org ]
James Carville, a Louisiana native, is one of the Executive Producers of All the King's Men, which will open on September 22. Sony's site for the film: www.sonypictures.com
About 27 minutes into the interview aired on September 14, Larry King proposed:
A couple of segments later, King brought up Iraq (following matches posted video clip):
King: "All right. Some other things. Iraq. Getting any better? The military now controls itself."
-- Brent Baker