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Rather, Brown and Even Jennings Acknowledge Coalition Success -- 04/03/2003 CyberAlert


1. Rather, Brown and Even Jennings Acknowledge Coalition Success
The U.S. forces have even won over Peter Jennings as he led Wednesday's World News Tonight by espousing coalition success and mocking the Hussein regime's claims of victory: "At one point on Iraqi television today a government official read a statement, allegedly from Saddam Hussein, which said 'victory is within our reach.' It doesn't look like it on the battlefield." Dan Rather provided an upbeat assessment on CBS: "Tonight there is major progress and a stunning battlefield victory to report." CNN's Aaron Brown decided: "The end game is on." NBC's Tom Brokaw provided the most dour assessment of where the war stands.

2. ABC Paints Iraqi Support for U.S. as Reluctant and Novel
While NBC's Dana Lewis noted how Iraqis "waved American flags" as "people just came out of their homes, gave the thumbs up to U.S. soldiers, and tried to touch them or shake their hands," ABC treated Iraqi support for U.S. troops as a reluctant and novel event. Peter Jennings painted the U.S. not as good, but as only the lesser of two evils: "In at least one Iraqi city today, at Najaf, when given the choice between irregulars and the Americans, much of the local population seemed to be with the Americans."

3. On ABC, Richard "Peter Arnett" Engel: Iraqis Enraged at U.S.
Richard "Peter Arnett" Engel relayed on Wednesday's World News Tonight how "6,000 Arab and Muslim volunteer suicide bombers" have arrived in Baghdad. Arnett had a "baby milk factory," Engel has a "maternity hospital." He asserted: "Iraqis are growing increasingly enraged by the mounting damage to civilian sites -- including this maternity hospital." Engel went to the streets to gather public opinion: "I asked this man if he thinks the war is about liberating him from Saddam's brutal regime. 'Liberation?' he asked me. 'Who asked for America to liberate us?'" Peter Jennings suggested that the Iraqi claim of "almost 700 civilians killed in the country since the U.S. invaded" last month "may be low."

4. Williams Realizes Bombing of Baghdad Not Like Dresden
Brian Williams versus Brian Williams. The day the bombing of Baghdad started, NBC/MSNBC/CNBC's Brain Williams claimed the scene "looks like Dresden, it looks like some of the firebombing of Japanese cities during World War II." But on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Williams stressed the difference with World War II: "The fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo in World War II were meant to kill civilians and then terrorize survivors. Here we've seen the opposite happen."

5. Bernard Shaw: This War is "Vital to America's Security"
A CNN journalist in favor of the war, but he no longer works there. Former CNN reporter and anchor Bernard Shaw told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister that he thinks the war on Iraq is "vital to America's security" because Iraq is run by a "despotic" leader of "a rogue state who possesses weapons of mass destruction and can share that technology with terrorist groups out to harm the United States."

6. Pew Shows that All Polls Find Public Backs War Overwhelmingly
"Public attitudes toward the war in Iraq have been remarkably consistent through the first two weeks of the conflict," the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press observed on Wednesday in compiling a table listing several polls. "There is broad support for the war, and Americans are upbeat -- though not overwhelmingly so -- about progress to date."

7. FNC #1 Cable for War Coverage, But ABC Soars Too in Ratings
The Fox News Channel last week beat CNN and MSNBC for allegiance during war coverage and came in second only to TNT during prime time, though number one in homes carrying both TNT and FNC, as cable news channel ratings soared during the first full week of war. ABC's World News Tonight made the greatest gain amongst the broadcast network evening shows.

8. Washington Post's Different Takes on Supreme Court Protests
The Washington Post has differing news standards on black education protests at the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, with the Supreme Court having heard on Tuesday two cases about the admissions at the University of Michigan, pro-quota protesters drew large, one-sided stories on the front page of both the Style section and the Metro section, as well as a photo on the front page. But when hundreds of black parents and school children protested lawsuits against the Cleveland school-choice program last year, there were no Style or Metro stories.

9. "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Kicked Out of Iraq"
Letterman's "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Kicked Out of Iraq."


Rather, Brown and Even Jennings
Acknowledge Coalition Success

The U.S. forces have even won over Peter Jennings as he led Wednesday's World News Tonight by espousing coalition success and mocking the Hussein regime's claims of victory: "At one point on Iraqi television today a government official read a statement, allegedly from Saddam Hussein, which said 'victory is within our reach.' It doesn't look like it on the battlefield."

Jennings soon cautioned, however: "But this is the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and it has been a stronghold for Saddam Hussein. So it is still...the great unknown."

Dan Rather provided an upbeat assessment on CBS: "Tonight there is major progress and a stunning battlefield victory to report."

At 10pm EST, at the top of his four-hour block, CNN's Aaron Brown announced the beginning of the end: "The end game is on...There's no guarantee that the end will come quickly, and certainly the end is filled with uncertainty and great risk, but the beginning of the end seems to be where we are."

Comparatively, NBC's Tom Brokaw provided the most dour view: "After an unexpectedly difficult ground war on the way to Baghdad, American and coalition forces are within 19 miles of the Iraqi capital." But, he warned, "now the very difficult assignment, taking on Baghdad with the Saddam Hussein regime showing no signs of folding anytime soon."

Now, details about how ABC, CBS and NBC on Wednesday night, April 2, evaluated the status of the war:

-- Jennings teased his broadcast: "On World News Tonight, with U.S. forces closer Baghdad faster than they thought, the Republican Guard is being pounded from the air."

Jennings opened the program: "Good evening everyone. At one point on Iraqi television today a government official read a statement, allegedly from Saddam Hussein, which said 'victory is within our reach.' It doesn't look like it on the battlefield. Today the march on Baghdad by the U.S. Army and Marines was described from the scene as easier than anticipated. The Pentagon says tat two Republican Guard divisions were pretty much obliterated. U.S. forces are now successfully across the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers at points which enable them to get onto pretty good roads that run right into the capital. Baghdad is about 20 or 30 miles ahead.
"But this is the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and it has been a stronghold for Saddam Hussein. So it is still, as John McWethy reports from the Pentagon tonight, the great unknown."

McWethy cautioned: "As U.S. forces close in, concerns mount that the Iraqi regime might take desperate measures, like use of nerve gas."

Ted Koppel, traveling with the Army, declared: "3rd infantry division is now on Saddam's doorstep."

-- Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News: "Good evening. As the war against Iraq heads into a third week, tonight there is major progress and a stunning battlefield victory to report. The U.S. military says two key Republican Guard divisions protecting Baghdad have been beaten so badly they are, quote, 'no longer credible forces.' They were pummeled by U.S. forces now closing in on the capital from two side. To the east, advancing U.S. Marines are now within 30 miles or less of the outskirts of Baghdad. To the West, lead elements of the Army's third infantry are within 20 miles or less."

Jim Axelrod, with the Army, suggested a similarity with Vietnam, at least terrain-wise: "This afternoon was not like this morning. For starters, the terrain. The familiar desert war looked more like the jungles of Vietnam, and this time Iraqi opposition was fierce. Finally, the Iraqis wee beaten back enough for U.S. troops to start their trip over the river."

Axelrod concluded that by the end of the day the unit was exhausted, "but exactly where they intended to be when they started their day: On Baghdad's doorstep."

John Roberts, with the Marines, revealed: "For the first time in a week, the word 'cakewalk' has resurfaced in the Marines' vocabulary."

But, he noted, there are "broad fears that Saddam could unleash chemical weapons if he senses he's going down."

At the Pentagon, David Martin concluded on an ominous note: "As for chemical weapons, none were fired today. But the Iraqis can be overheard on their radios talking among themselves about using them."

-- Tom Brokaw refrained from sweeping generalities about success as he began the NBC Nightly News, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Good evening. The war against Iraq began two weeks ago tonight with a strike at a Baghdad residence where Saddam Hussein and his sons were believed to have been staying. Now, 14 days later, after an unexpectedly difficult ground war on the way to Baghdad, American and coalition forces are within 19 miles of the Iraqi capital. And some very heavy fighting and a dramatic rescue in the last 24 hours.
"Here is an overview of what we'll be covering tonight. The outer rim of Baghdad's defenses is under attack tonight. As one U.S. official put it, 'the circle is closing.' In An Nasiriyah, NBC's Kerry Sanders is traveling with the First Marines Second Battalion with details of the dramatic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch. North, near Al Kut, where NBC's Chip Reid is with the First Marines Third Battalion, following a fierce battle with a Baghdad division of the Republican Guard. To the Shiite holy city An Najaf, where NBC's Dana Lewis is with the 101st Airborne Division fighting in and around mosques and land mines. And somewhere around Karbala, David Bloom takes us into the battle with the Third Infantry Division on the road to Baghdad.
"A lot of progress for the United States and the allies in the last 24 hours. But now the very difficult assignment, taking on Baghdad with the Saddam Hussein regime showing no signs of folding anytime soon."

ABC Paints Iraqi Support for U.S. as
Reluctant and Novel

While NBC reporters on Wednesday night recounted how Iraqis placed an anti-aircraft gun in a playground and Dana Lewis, with the Army, noted how Iraqis "waved American flags" as "people just came out of their homes, gave the thumbs up to U.S. soldiers, and tried to touch them or shake their hands," ABC treated Iraqi support for U.S. troops as a reluctant and novel event.

Peter Jennings painted the U.S. not as good, but as only the lesser of two evils: "In at least one Iraqi city today, at Najaf, when given the choice between irregulars and the Americans, much of the local population seemed to be with the Americans."

Don Dahler, with the Army's 101st Airborne, relayed how "residents seemed eager to help. In this case, warning of car bombs on a bridge." Actually, bombs for cars, as in land mines. But then Dahler suggested it was the first day the populace actually greeted coalition troops warmly: "And for perhaps the first time in this war, Iraqis happily welcomed the invading forces."
ABC showed video of a man yelling, in something approaching English, something like: "Saddam is enemy for me!"
Dahler observed: "It was, for the soldiers, a brief reward for a day full of accomplishments."

NBC's Dana Lewis, however, with the very same 101st Airborne, saw a more enthusiastic Iraqi public and didn't see it as a first time ever event. Over video of Iraqis waving U.S. flags, Lewis reported: "As U.S. forces pushed into the center of the city, suddenly quiet streets became filled with hundreds and hundreds of people welcoming them. Some waved American flags. Most people just came out of their homes, gave the thumbs up to U.S. soldiers, and tried to touch them or shake their hands."

Earlier on the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid with the Marines near Al Kut, pointed out: "At the village school, Marines made a disturbing discovery, an anti-aircraft gun in a playground."
1st Lieutenant Alex D'Amico, U.S. Marine Corps: "We knew that he wasn't going to fight fair, but it's pretty low to put anti-aircraft guns in schoolyards."

On ABC, Richard "Peter Arnett" Engel:
Iraqis Enraged at U.S.

Richard "Peter Arnett" Engel. Peter Arnett may no longer appear on an American television network, but the freelancer in Baghdad picked up by ABC, Richard Engel, acts like Arnett's protege.

ABC's Richard Engel In a piece ABC found credible and newsworthy enough to justify time on Wednesday's World News Tonight, Engel relayed how "6,000 Arab and Muslim volunteer suicide bombers" have arrived in Baghdad and he showed video of a 150 of them being "paraded by Iraqi information officials around the hotel where journalists are staying."

Arnett had a "baby milk factory," Engel has a "maternity hospital." He asserted: "Iraqis are growing increasingly enraged by the mounting damage to civilian sites -- including this maternity hospital." After the obligatory video of an injured child, Engel went to the streets to gather public opinion: "I asked this man if he thinks the war is about liberating him from Saddam's brutal regime. 'Liberation?' he asked me. 'Who asked for America to liberate us?'"

Engel soon acknowledged that "those who may want to take a stand against the regime are kept silent by the thousands of armed men from Saddam's ruling Ba'ath party who are watching for any sign of coalition troops or civil unrest." But then that undermined everything that went before, so why relay views that cannot have been freely formed?

A bit later, anchor Peter Jennings suggested that the Iraqi claim of "almost 700 civilians killed in the country since the U.S. invaded" last month "may be low."

Jennings set up the April 2 World News Tonight story: "As we have pointed out before, it is so hard to tell what is really on people's minds. Inside Baghdad today, ABC's Richard Engel reports that there is quite a bit of very visible anti-American sentiment."

Engel affirmed from Baghdad, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Peter, Iraqi television aired footage today of a smiling Saddam Hussein in a room that was almost bunker-like. The government says there are now 6,000 Arab and Muslim volunteer suicide bombers, including this group of 150 from Yemen [video of men in green walking through hotel lobby], paraded by Iraqi information officials around the hotel where journalists are staying. 'Bush, just wait and see what happens,' they cheered.
"Iraqis are growing increasingly enraged by the mounting damage to civilian sites -- including this maternity hospital, smashed up by a bomb that exploded nearby. [video of burned adults, one bandaged kid] Several people were killed, even though patients had been evacuated at the start of the war."
Over video of himself walking down the middle of a street, Engel maintained: "Walking through the streets of Baghdad today, it's clear that this war is not popular. I asked this man if he thinks the war is about liberating him from Saddam's brutal regime. 'Liberation?' he asked me. 'Who asked for America to liberate us?' [Engel sitting with several men leaning in to talk to him]
"We were interrupted by a pair of jets streaking overhead. Their smoke trails visible against a backdrop of thick, black smoke from oil fires. People here who are only told by their government that the war is a seemingly inexhaustible series of Iraqi military victories, hardly seem to notice that some coalition troops are now only miles from the city. And those who may want to take a stand against the regime are kept silent by the thousands of armed men from Saddam's ruling Ba'ath party who are watching for any sign of coalition troops or civil unrest."

If that's so, then Engel's whole story is made up of irrelevant and probably inaccurate claims.

A couple of minutes later, Jennings passed on more Iraqi propaganda. Over video of an injured child followed by numbers on screen matching his words, Jennings intoned: "The Iraqis took reporters to the town of Hilall (sp?) today where they say many civilians have been killed during U.S. attacks. The International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday that it was a horror. Using Iraqi government figures, which we cannot verify -- they may be high or they may be low, we do not know -- almost 700 civilians have been killed in the country since the U.S. invaded."

The on screen graphic:
"Iraqi government claims
677 civilians killed"

Who else but Jennings would take seriously the possibility that the Iraqi regime would underestimate their claims about the number of supposedly coalition-caused deaths?

Williams Realizes Bombing of Baghdad Not
Like Dresden

Brian Williams versus Brian Williams. The day the bombing of Baghdad started, NBC/MSNBC/CNBC's Brain Williams claimed the scene "looks like Dresden, it looks like some of the firebombing of Japanese cities during World War II." But on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Williams stressed the difference with World War II: "The fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo in World War II were meant to kill civilians and then terrorize survivors. Here we've seen the opposite happen."

At about 1:12pm EST on Friday, March 21, as MSNBC showed live video of explosions in Baghdad, Williams asserted: "That vista on the lower-left looks like Dresden, it looks like some of the firebombing of Japanese cities during World War II. There's another one. Still going on. You hear them overhead. Either jet aircraft or cruise missiles but yet another explosion."

Fast forward to the April 2 NBC Nightly News and the MRC's Rich Noyes noticed how Williams outlined the efforts taken to avoid civilian casualties:
"Civilians used to be intentional military targets. The fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo in World War II were meant to kill civilians and then terrorize survivors. Here we've seen the opposite happen. U.S. forces have more than once been the targets of civilian attacks and could be forced into killing coerced human shields despite all attempts to avoid it."

Bernard Shaw: This War is
"Vital to America's Security"

A CNN journalist in favor of the war, but he no longer works there. Former CNN reporter and anchor Bernard Shaw, who was in Baghdad with Peter Arnett and John Holliman when the bombing began in 1991, told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister that he thinks the war on Iraq is "vital to America's security" because Iraq is run by a "despotic" leader of "a rogue state who possesses weapons of mass destruction and can share that technology with terrorist groups out to harm the United States."

Romenesko's media news compilation page for the Poynter Institute highlighted the April 2 story. Romenesko is online at: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=45

Shister related her conversation with Shaw. An excerpt:

Though still a news junkie, Shaw says he needs to cut back on his six hours' daily consumption of war coverage -- including six newspapers, radio and, yes, CNN -- because it's depressing him.

"All of it can become very oppressive. It affects my mood swings strongly, because of war's ugliness. War is death. You become overly saturated with the story."

Still, Shaw labels the war "vital to America's security."

"You've got an unstable, despotic, killer president of a rogue state who possesses weapons of mass destruction and can share that technology with terrorist groups out to harm the United States."

The coalition will prevail, Shaw says, "because of its might, its plan, its power, its conviction and its motivation." That victory, however, will take months and will cost "many, many" lives.

END of Excerpt

Read Shister's April 2 column in its entirety, in which Shaw recalls his 1991 experience.

Pew Shows that All Polls Find Public Backs
War Overwhelmingly

"Public attitudes toward the war in Iraq have been remarkably consistent through the first two weeks of the conflict," the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press observed on Wednesday. "There is broad support for the war, and Americans are upbeat -- though not overwhelmingly so -- about progress to date."

The Pew group has posted an informative table listing a whole bunch of recent polls by all the major media polling units. Pew noted: "What is striking is the similarity of the results, regardless of question wording."

The Pew authors explained: "Nearly all major national survey organizations have shown support for military action in the 70% range. Only the Newsweek poll, conducted March 27-28, found a lower level of support (63%). But that is largely because the Newsweek question focused on the timing of the war, and asked respondents whether the U.S. should have 'waited longer to try to achieve its goals in Iraq diplomatically.' Significantly, the two surveys that explicitly mentioned removing Saddam Hussein from power as a goal of military action found higher levels of support than did other polls (CBS News/New York Times, Fox News/Opinion Dynamics)."

See the table listing several polls and their results on support for the war.

FNC #1 Cable for War Coverage,
But ABC Soars Too in Ratings

The Fox News Channel last week beat CNN and MSNBC for allegiance during war coverage and came in second only to TNT during prime time, though number one in homes carrying both TNT and FNC, as cable news channel ratings soared during the first full week of war. ABC's World News Tonight made the greatest gain amongst the broadcast network evening shows.

To put the cable numbers in perspective, the total prime time viewership of FNC, CNN and MSNBC combined was still smaller than one-fourth the audience attracted in total by the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows.

The MRC's Liz Swasey alerted me to the ratings rundown provided by a Hollywood Reporter story posted on Yahoo. An excerpt of the story by Andrew Grossman:

By the thinnest of margins, Fox News Channel became the first news network to win a quarterly cable ratings race since the 1991 Persian Gulf War as news viewership soared in March with the onset of another U.S.-led war in Iraq.

All news outlets have seen a spike in viewership since the war began March 19, but Fox's growth spurt has been the most impressive. For the quarter ending March 30, Fox soared to an average of 2.165 million viewers, an 83% gain from first quarter 2002, in primetime viewership while CNN climbed 75% in viewers to an average of 1.57 million. Coming off of the lowest viewership base, MSNBC grew 96% to an average 666,000.

Through Sunday, Fox has averaged 3.4 million viewers, compared with 2.95 million for CNN and 1.51 million for MSNBC. Fox leads among adults 25-54 with 1.67 million viewers, compared with 1.55 million for CNN and 836,000 for MSNBC.

And there's little sign of that audience abating, at least for Fox. Fox's 4.85 million viewership in primetime Monday was its highest since March 25, though CNN's viewership has slipped in recent days as the amount of breaking news has waned. CNN's 3.09 million-viewer total in primetime Monday was its second-lowest since March 19. MSNBC's viewer numbers are also slipping, with Monday's tally of 1.15 million proving the lowest since the war began.

On the broadcast side, NBC's "Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" posted its strongest quarterly numbers in five years with an average of 11.67 million viewers. ABC's "World News Tonight" was a close second, coming in just 780,000 viewers behind NBC, marking ABC's best quarter since early 2000, when the presidential primaries fueled ratings. CBS was third with 9.03 million viewers.

Overall, viewership of the Big Three's nightly newscasts for the quarter soared to an average of 31.59 million, the highest total in 12 quarters....

Much of the real action for broadcasters is happening on the morning news programs, where aggregate viewership of NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America" and CBS' "Early Show" jumped 14% -- to 16.02 million for the week ending March 21 -- over the comparable week last year.

In the broader cable ratings competition, Fox News Channel and TNT were in a tight race for primetime bragging rights for the quarter. Fox earned a 2.01 household rating, a hair above TNT's 1.99 rating, with the numbers applying to their respective universes (Fox News Channel is available in nearly 82 million cable/satellite homes, while TNT is distributed in more than 86 million). TNT, with its broader distribution, claimed more viewers with 2.33 million, compared with 2.165 million for Fox News.

END of Excerpt

The story is posted online.

Washington Post's Different Takes on
Supreme Court Protests

The Washington Post has differing news standards on black education protests at the Supreme Court, the MRC's Tim Graham observed in filing this item for CyberAlert:

On Wednesday, with the Supreme Court having heard on Tuesday two cases about the admissions at the University of Michigan, pro-quota protesters drew large, one-sided stories on the front page of both the Style section and the Metro section, as well as a photo on the front page. But when hundreds of black parents and school children protested lawsuits against the Cleveland school-choice program last year that were ultimately overruled by the top court, there were no Style or Metro stories and not a single protester was quoted.

Splashed across the top of the April 2 "Style" section was the headline, "An Affirming Action," and a large photo, and a subheadline under the photo reading: "Students from Black Colleges Rally Outside the Supreme Court." Reporter Natalie Hopkinson's story quoted seven pro-quota black college students, but no one opposed to quotas. Two words were not present in the story, "liberal" or "quota."

That was even true of paragraph two, which elaborated on who attended the protests: "Let's see, there was labor and the LaRouche cluster. The NAACP, Jesse Jackson and the ever-well-coiffed Reverend Al [Sharpton]. Michigan's black alumni and yes, the Angry White Guys for Affirmative Action."

Read the Style story in full.

At the top of the "Metro" section were two photos and the headline, "A Defense Team of Thousands: Diverse Crowd Urges High Court to Protect Affirmative Action." Reporters Debbi Wilgoren and Manny Fernandez also avoided any ideological labeling, or the word "quota." The "diverse" crowd may have referred to the part of the story where the reporters noted protesters also "jeered the President...for framing the war in Iraq as a campaign to bring democracy and opportunity to Iraqis." In the midst of quoting nine quota proponents at length, Wilgoren and Fernandez did note how "two young white men in suits" held up signs saying: "Affirmative action breeds incompetence."

Read that story in its entirety.

But on February 21, 2002, when hundreds of black parents and school children protested lawsuits against the Cleveland school-choice program that were ultimately overruled by the top court, there were no Style or Metro stories and not a single protester was quoted. The story by Supreme Court reporter Charles Lane appeared on page A3, split with arguments on the death penalty. Although he mentioned "hundreds of chanting demonstrators," he quoted arguments inside the court, and no one outside. Lane's story from inside the Court yesterday appeared on A1 -- aka the front page.

"Top Ten Things That Will Get You Kicked
Out of Iraq"

From the April 2 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Kicked Out of Iraq." See the Late Show Web page.

10. Replacing giant mural of Saddam with a giant mural of you

9. Addressing all the officers as Cap'n Crunch

8. Teaching captured Iraqi soldiers to sing Kenny Rogers ballads

7. Giving precise coordinates of Wolf Blitzer's beard

6. Closing each report with "Bless our enlightened ruler Saddam Hussein, may he reign for 1,000 years"

5. Distributing leaflets telling Iraqi citizens how to save money by dialing 10-10-220

4. Senior officer asks to see you at 0400 hours; you show up 400 hours later

3. Your name is Geraldo Rivera

2. Your name is Saddam Hussein

1. Bringing your videophone into the shower

But, unfortunately, not if your name is Peter Arnett.

Then again, keep him there.

-- Brent Baker