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Rather Has Chutzpah to Tag FBI Problem as "Major Embarrassment" --1/14/2005


1. Rather Has Chutzpah to Tag FBI Problem as "Major Embarrassment"
Takes an embarrassment to know one? Four days after the CBS panel report documented CBS's embarrassing lack of concern for basic journalistic standards in using forged memos to try to take down President Bush, and how Dan Rather hurled unsubstantiated accusations that those who realized CBS's duplicity were "partisan political operatives," Rather had the chutzpah on Thursday night to lead with what he described as "a major embarrassment for the FBI: An expensive new component of its war on terror doesn't work." CBS reporter Bob Orr soon echoed Rather in calling the failed computer system "another embarrassment for the FBI."

2. Ex-CBS News Chief Chides Net's "Unremitting Liberal Orientation"
A CBS News veteran has acknowledged the liberal bias at the network division he once ran. In an op-ed in Thursday's Los Angeles Times, Van Gordon Sauter, the President of CBS News in the first half of the 1980s who also put in a stint as Executive Vice President of the CBS Broadcast Group, revealed that he "stopped watching" CBS News "some time ago" because "the unremitting liberal orientation finally became too much for me."

3. Downs: Reporters Liberal Because They're "Liberated" & Informed
Journalists are liberal because they are "liberated," better informed and "more in touch," former NBC Today and ABC 20/20 co-host Hugh Downs contended Monday night on MSNBC's Scarborough Country. Downs denied liberal bias played any part in the CBS News scandal and argued that "people tend to be more liberated in their thought when they are closer to events and know a little more about what the background of what's happening" and so "in that respect, there is a liberal, if you want to call it a bias" because "the press is a little more in touch with what's happening."


Rather Has Chutzpah to Tag FBI Problem
as "Major Embarrassment"

CBS's Dan Rather Takes an embarrassment to know one? Four days after the CBS panel report documented CBS's embarrassing lack of concern for basic journalistic standards in using forged memos to try to take down President Bush, and how Dan Rather hurled unsubstantiated accusations that those who realized CBS's duplicity were "partisan political operatives," Rather had the chutzpah on Thursday night to lead with what he described as "a major embarrassment for the FBI: An expensive new component of its war on terror doesn't work." CBS reporter Bob Orr soon echoed Rather in calling the failed computer system "another embarrassment for the FBI."

ABC's World News Tonight also led with the abandonment of the FBI's major new computer system, but refrained from using the term "embarrassment."

Rather teased the January 13 CBS Evening News: "Tonight, a major embarrassment for the FBI: An expensive new component of its war on terror, doesn't work."

At least FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed the media on Thursday about the problems. On Monday, Dan Rather avoided his audience and since he showed up Tuesday he has yet to comment, either on the CBS Evening News or 60 Minutes, about the panel's rebuke of his behavior in misleading his viewers.

With "Costly Failure" as the on-screen graphic, Rather set up his lead story: "Good evening. How can this be? More than three years after the 9/11 terror attacks, the FBI is still trying to complete the upgrade of a badly-outmoded computer system. The latest attempt to replace the software has turned out to be a huge bust. And CBS's Bob Orr in Washington reports, it's going to cost you, the taxpayers, a fortune."

Orr concluded from in front of the FBI building: "Even without this high-tech program agents are a bit better off than they were four years ago, but information gaps remain. It's another embarrassment for the FBI and taxpayers are stuck with a big bill."

Ex-CBS News Chief Chides Net's "Unremitting
Liberal Orientation"

Former CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter A CBS News veteran has acknowledged the liberal bias at the network division he once ran. In an op-ed in Thursday's Los Angeles Times, Van Gordon Sauter, the President of CBS News in the first half of the 1980s who also put in a stint as Executive Vice President of the CBS Broadcast Group, revealed that he "stopped watching" CBS News "some time ago" because "the unremitting liberal orientation finally became too much for me."

Sauter, until recently the Chairman of the California Boxing Commission, hardly has conservative credentials. In 1990-91, for instance, he served as Co-Executive Producer of the short-lived weekly syndicated Voices of America with Jesse Jackson.

Sauter toiled as President of CBS News from 1981 until moving up to Executive Vice President of the CBS Broadcast Group in 1983. From 1985 to late 1986 he also held the CBS News President title again.

Oh, and at a birthday party for him during his CBS tenure, Dan Rather kissed another male CBS News executive. More on that below.

(The posted version of this CyberAlert will feature a still shot of the bearded Sauter during his Monday appearance, from his Idaho home, on MSNBC's Lester Holt Live.)

An excerpt from Sauter's January 13 op-ed, "What's Ailing CBS News? Let's Make a Not-So-Little List." The LA Times' subhead: "The division's ex-boss decries a lefty bias and lost credibility."

What's the big problem at CBS News?

Well, for one thing, it has no credibility. And no audience, no morale, no long-term emblematic anchorperson and no cohesive management structure. Outside of those annoyances, it shouldn't be that hard to fix.

Personally, I have a great affection for CBS News, even though I was unceremoniously shown to the door there nearly 20 years ago in a tumultuous change of corporate management.

But I stopped watching it some time ago. The unremitting liberal orientation finally became too much for me. I still check in, but less and less frequently. I increasingly drift to NBC News and Fox and MSNBC.

This week, when CBS News announced that four employees would lose their jobs in connection with the George Bush National Guard story, I was struck by how the network had become representative of a far larger, far more troubling problem: A large swath of the society doesn't trust the news media. And for many, it's even stronger than that: They abhor the media and perceive it as an escalating threat to the society.

If it's not stopped, the erosion of a centrist organizing principle for the media will soon become a commercial issue. Partisans will increasingly seek their news from blogs and websites and advocacy publications. And the majority -- those readers and viewers most comfortable in the center -- will try to find something...in the center....

For CBS News, the only path back to anything near first place will require a compass setting based in objectivity and quality.

Or it can sulk and feel victimized and drift even further into a partisan milieu with an even smaller but highly dedicated audience.

I'd bet on the former. The stockholders bought into broadcasting. Not narrowcasting. The market will prevail.

In this case, that's a good thing. For CBS and for the news business.

END of Excerpt

For Sauter's piece in full: www.latimes.com

Of course, CBS News delivered an "unremitting liberal orientation" under Sauter's leadership twenty years ago. But it is nice that after a couple of decades he's able to recognize the bias.

And now time for Dan Rather's same-sex kiss. From Prime Times, Bad Times, a 1988 book by Ed Joyce, President of CBS News between, I believe, Sauter's two stints, a description of Dan Rather's arrival at a birthday party for Van Gordon Sauter:
"As he [Rather] approached us I heard him mumble 'Hello, Tom,' without actually looking at Brokaw. Nervously he went over to Kathleen [Sauter] and kissed her on the cheek, then to Maureen [Joyce] for another kiss. Coming toward me, he was watching Brokaw out of the corner of his eye. I stuck out my hand and said 'Hello, Dan.' He shook hands and leaned toward me in a daze. I felt a wet kiss on the side of my face."

By the standards applied by NBC's Today to Abraham Lincoln, that's enough to justify a story on how Dan Rather is gay. See the January 12 CyberAlert for an explanation: www.mediaresearch.org

Downs: Reporters Liberal Because They're
"Liberated" & Informed

ABC's Hugh Downs Journalists are liberal because they are "liberated," better informed and "more in touch," former NBC Today and ABC 20/20 co-host Hugh Downs contended Monday night on MSNBC's Scarborough Country. Downs denied liberal bias played any part in the CBS News scandal and argued that "people tend to be more liberated in their thought when they are closer to events and know a little more about what the background of what's happening" and so "in that respect, there is a liberal, if you want to call it a bias" because "the press is a little more in touch with what's happening."

The rationale applied by Downs is similar to the case Walter Cronkite has made. In 2003, for example, he maintained that most reporters "are on the humane side, and that would appear to many to be on the liberal side." Cronkite insisted that journalists "see the problems of their fellow man" and "that is interpreted by some less-sensitive people as being liberal."

In his "Best of the Web" column Thursday for OpinionJournal.com ( www.opinionjournal.com ), James Taranto highlighted the Downs comment uttered on the January 10 Scarborough Country, the night the CBS panel released its scathing report. (I heard the segment with Downs and noted his comment, but must admit I forgot all about it.)

Joe Scarborough cited the Pew poll numbers about how many more journalists identify themselves as liberal than conservative, and then asked Downs: "Is there a liberal bias in the media or is the bias towards getting the story first and getting the highest ratings, therefore, making the most money?"
Downs, via satellite from a living room setting, replied: "Well, I think the latter, by far. And, of course, when the word liberal came to be a pejorative word, you began to wonder, you have to say that the press doesn't want to be thought of as merely liberal. But people tend to be more liberated in their thought when they are closer to events and know a little more about what the background of what's happening. So, I suppose, in that respect, there is a liberal, if you want to call it a bias. The press is a little more in touch with what's happening."

Taranto observed: "So you see, it's not that journalists are biased, it's just that they know more than everyone else and thus are 'more liberated in their thought'! Don't you feel silly for thinking they were arrogant elitists?"

For MSNBC.com's transcript of the entire Monday Scarborough Country: www.msnbc.msn.com

The thinking expressed by Downs matching that espoused by Walter Cronkite. Two examples:

-- Cronkite to Time magazine's Richard Zoglin in an interview published in the magazine's November 3, 2003 edition: "I think they [most reporters] are on the humane side, and that would appear to many to be on the liberal side. A lot of newspaper people -- and to a lesser degree today, the TV people -- come up through the ranks, through the police-reporting side, and they see the problems of their fellow man, beginning with their low salaries -- which newspaper people used to have anyway -- and right on through their domestic quarrels, their living conditions. The meaner side of life is made visible to most young reporters. I think it affects their sentimental feeling toward their fellow man and that is interpreted by some less-sensitive people as being liberal."

-- Cronkite in his debut as a syndicated columnist, a column he since stopped writing, August 6, 2003: "I believe that most of us reporters are liberal, but not because we consciously have chosen that particular color in the political spectrum. More likely it is because most of us served our journalistic apprenticeships as reporters covering the seamier side of our cities -- the crimes, the tenement fires, the homeless and the hungry, the underclothed and undereducated.
"We reached our intellectual adulthood with daily close-ups of the inequality in a nation that was founded on the commitment to equality for all. So we are inclined to side with the powerless rather than the powerful. If that is what makes us liberals, so be it, just as long as in reporting the news we adhere to the first ideals of good journalism -- that news reports must be fair, accurate and unbiased."


-- Brent Baker