Terrorist Arrest & Guantanamo Conditions Disturb Jennings -- 02/21/2003 CyberAlert
2. Cokie Roberts Admonishes Journalists: "It's 'Our' Country"
3. Janeane Garofalo: Bush and Hussein Both "Threaten World Peace"
>>> Prompted by Jane Pauley's decision to not renew her contract with NBC News after it expires in May, on Thursday the MRC's Tim Graham put together a Media Reality Check featuring some of her most biased comments from her years on Dateline: "Jane Pauley's 'Unusual Empathy' for Liberals: NBC Host Won't Renew Contract, But She Leaves a Legacy of Promoting Controversial Women." The MRC's Mez Djouadi has posted it at:
ABC's Peter Jennings treated an accused terrorist arrested in Florida on Thursday as the victim of an over-aggressive Justice Department as ABC failed to report how the man once wished "death" upon America, while CBS, NBC and CNN all delivered more straight forward reports while still including the man's insistence that "it's all about politics."
Jennings opened World News Tonight with the arrest of computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian as a result of what Jennings described as "the government's aggressive campaign in the U.S. against people it accuses of supporting terrorism." In the next sentence Jennings again separated himself from the claim as he referred to how eight were charged "with helping what the government calls a terrorist group overseas." Jennings insisted the arrests were "indeed controversial."
In the subsequent story, ABC's Pierre Thomas highlighted how Al-Arian's "attorneys say the government has hounded Al-Arian for years" and Thomas featured a soundbite from a legal expert who agreed that "there's a concern that he's been singled out for his political activities. But what is lacking is any evidence showing that he was involved in any of those terrorist activities."
ABC ignored or only briefly touched on two damaging bits of evidence which were reported by CBS, CNN and NBC. First, ABC spiked how Al-Arian once proclaimed: "Let us damn America, let us damn Israel, and their allies until their death." Second, ABC only vaguely referenced what those indicted did to support the terrorism in Israel. But as CBS's Jim Stewart explained more fully, the indictment "alleges they chatted with terrorist operatives after several of the attacks, asking questions like how much the bomb cost, what type of explosive was used, and then raised money back in the U.S. for family members of the suicide bomber responsible."
Stewart, in fact, taking a tack far different than Jennings, noted that "the only real surprise is that this indictment took so long."
NBC's Lisa Myers reported: "In 1994, this suicide bombing in Israel killed seven. The government cites a note, faxed soon after by Al-Arian, in which he allegedly 'announced his pride in the recent attack by the PIJ,' Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and 'he asked that God bless the efforts of the PIJ and accept their martyrs.'" Myers also allowed NBC's terrorism analyst, Steven Emerson, to point out how "the indictment shows conversations in which Al-Arian is specifically raising money for the Palestine Islamic Jihad terrorist group knowing intentionally that the monies will be used for terrorist operations."
None of that detail made it into the ABC story and Jennings followed up by fretting about the conditions of terrorist suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay as he relayed how "we learned today that three more prisoners being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have attempted suicide." Jennings proceeded to assert that "at least two human rights organizations are seeking information about the interrogation techniques" and he bemoaned how though many prisoners "have been held for more than a a year, we know almost nothing about them because the government allows no access to them."
In the NewsNight story on CNN, reporter Mike Brooks managed to link President George W. Bush to the lead suspect. Over blurry photo outside of a bunch of people with Laura and George next to Al-Arian, who is holding a female child, Brooks noted: "Al-Arian has been a high-profile figure in Florida campaigning among Arab-Americans for George W. Bush's presidential bid."
When Brooks finished his report, anchor Aaron Brown reminded viewers: "Allegations are one thing, evidence is another and we need to hear the evidence."
Now, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, a full rundown of the stories aired Thursday night, February 20, on ABC, CBS and NBC so you can see how ABC's approach was markedly different than that of CBS and NBC:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings' opening teaser: "On World News Tonight, the government charges a controversial professor with helping terrorists. He says they haven't got a case."
Jennings led the broadcast: "Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin tonight with the government's aggressive campaign in the U.S. against people it accuses of supporting terrorism. Today the Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Bush administration is charging eight people, four of them in the U.S., with helping what the government calls a terrorist group overseas. The most prominent of the accused is a controversial professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. ABC's Pierre Thomas covers this story from Washington today, and it is indeed controversial, Pierre."
Thomas began: "Peter, today's indictment was meant to serve notice that the government's war on terror is not just focused on al-Qaeda, but other terrorist organizations as well. Sami Al-Arian was arrested this morning in Florida. He says the government has no case against him."
Jennings then launched a lecture about the mistreatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay: "We learned today that three more prisoners being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have attempted suicide this week and when asked, the President, beg your pardon, the Pentagon said a total of 19 prisoners have tried to kill themselves. At least two human rights organizations are seeking information about the interrogation techniques. There are 650 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay now and many of them have been held for more than a year. We know almost nothing about them because the government allows no access to them."
And if the government did Jennings, no doubt, would be more interested in their mistreatment and victimhood than in the cases of those who committed or aided terrorism.
-- CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts announced about halfway through the program: "On the terror trail in this country, federal authorities today accused a university professor and seven other people of, in effect, operating an international terror cell from a college campus in South Florida. Some suspects are still being sought tonight. CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart is on the case."
Stewart began: "The men were picked up before dawn on a 121-page indictment that's been in the works for over two years. It charges them with being members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group which has killed more than 100 people in Israel and the occupied territories, mostly by suicide bombers. It accuses them of supporting, financing and relaying messages for the group. But most damning, it also alleges they chatted with terrorist operatives after several of the attacks, asking questions like how much the bomb cost, what type of explosive was used, and then raised money back in the U.S. for family members of the suicide bomber responsible."
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Tom Brokaw stated from Kuwait: "And in the war on terror, arrests tonight. Attorney General John Ashcroft made the announcement. Eight people, four of them American, one a controversial college professor in South Florida, charged with helping to run a violent Palestinian terrorist group. The professor is claiming that his arrest is political. Here's NBC's senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers."
Myers started her piece: "Arrested at his home in Tampa before dawn, Professor Sami Al-Arian is charged with being the U.S. leader of one of the Middle East's deadliest terrorist groups, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As he entered the court house in handcuffs, the professor belittled the charges."
Just hours after ABC anchor Peter Jennings separated himself from the U.S. government as he referred to "people it accuses of supporting terrorism" and "what the government calls a terrorist group overseas" (see item #1 above), ABC News veteran Cokie Roberts admonished a group of journalists about how "we're all in this together."
Being honored at the National Press Foundation's awards dinner on Thursday night, Roberts told the audience she's "never understood" the argument against using "the first person plural when talking about 'our country.'" She contended: "It's our country. And yes it's 'we' in the United States of America. I don't get that argument. And it will be 'our' soldiers who go to war."
Just before New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines accepted the award for "Editor of the Year," Roberts, who until last September was co-host of This Week, gave her acceptance remarks after receiving the "Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism."
C-SPAN2 carried the February 20 dinner live from the Washington Hilton and I took down a portion of her comments in which she scolded those of her journalistic colleagues who see themselves as journalists first and Americans second.
She began her remarks by asking about the role of the press during the war on terror: "How critical can we be?" She argued that journalists will be "patriots for asking the critical questions" since that's what the founders wanted.
But, she soon cautioned, "We're all in this together. I think that it was wonderful that we had, beginning this night, the honor guard and the National Anthem, because it shows we as an institution of journalism and the press are in this together. I've never understood this argument about the use of the first person plural when talking about 'our country.' It's 'our' country. And yes it's 'we' in the United States of America. I don't get that argument. And it will be 'our' soldiers who go to war. And when they go to war they will be doing their job and we will be doing our job and our job is to raise the questions, to point out the flaws and foibles, as well as the great successes and victories, and in the appropriate spaces to make the critical judgments because that's how we exercise our patriotism."
Roberts' view seems to conflict with the reasoning behind ABC News President David Westin's ban on ABC personnel wearing a flag pin while on the air. During a January 17 Nightline/Viewpoint special, Westin argued:
That split in opinion just might explain why you don't see much of Roberts on the air anymore even though she's successfully come through her cancer treatments.
For more about what Westin said:
(Thursday night Roberts was wearing a strapless dress and so had no place for a flag pin even if she wanted to wear one.)
For more about the National Press Foundation and its awards:
To a Hollywood celebrity, President George W. Bush is just as big a "threat to world peace" as is Saddam Hussein. Asked by Mike Barnicle on MSNBC late Thursday afternoon about whether she considers Bush or Hussein as "a bigger threat to world peace?", actress/comedienne Janeane Garofalo maintained: "I say at this point, for different reasons, they are both very threatening to world peace and to deny that is to be incredibly naive."
The exchange occurred during MSNBC's 5pm EST Nachman, with New York Daily News columnist Mike Barnicle filling in for Jerry Nachman who is out on medical leave. Garofalo appeared via satellite from Los Angeles to promote new anti-Bush Iraq policy TV ads by Artists United to Win Without War which star Martin Sheen.
After Garofalo had railed at some length against the supposed catastrophe the Bush policy for Iraq would cause, Barnicle wondered: "Who do you regard as a bigger threat to world peace: George Bush, or Saddam Hussein?"
Garofalo is probably best-known for her time on Saturday Night Live and for her roles in HBO's Larry Sanders Show and as co-star of the movie The Truth About Cats & Dogs. For a picture of her and a full rundown of her roles, see her bio on the Internet Movie Database Web site: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Garofalo,+Janeane
To see a video, in any one of four formats, of the new Martin Sheen ad promoting a "virtual march on Washington," go to:
Scroll down to the page and you can play an earlier ad which featured Garofalo.
The group's home page: http://www.artistsunitedwww.org/
An excerpt of the policy statement from Artists United to Win Without War:
....a preemptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests. Such a war will increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy, and undermine our moral standing in the world. It will make us less, not more, secure.
We reject the doctrine -- a reversal of long-held American tradition -- that our country, alone, has the right to launch first-strike attacks.
The valid U.S. and U.N. objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved through legal diplomatic means. There is no need for war. Let us instead devote our resources to improving the security and well-being of people here at home and around the world.
END of Excerpt
The group is co-chaired by actor Mike Farrell. Amongst the signatories to the above statement, a long list of Hollywood celebrities. The most recognizable names:
For a picture of any of them and for a list of their TV and/or movie roles, go to: http://us.imdb.com and, using the search option in the top left of the page, select "people" from the pull-down menu and enter the name.
> Ann Coulter will be amongst the guests on Friday night's debut of Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. The new hour-long, weekly show hosted by the anti-conservative ranter will air at 11:30pm EST on HBO East and 11:30pm PST on HBO West. -- Brent Baker