Appearance Alert!
MRC President Brent Bozell to appear on FNC's Kelly File at 9:20 p.m. EST

Williams Calls Claim of Pro-Obama Bias 'Ridiculous,' But... --1/11/2008


1. Williams Calls Claim of Pro-Obama Bias 'Ridiculous,' But...
Barely 24 hours after Brian Williams devoted a Monday NBC Nightly News story to a glowing look at Barack Obama in which Williams showed Obama the Newsweek with the Democratic candidate on the cover and wondered, "How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way....Who does it make you think of? Is there a loved one?", Williams took to his blog to call "ridiculous" the suggestion, fueled by an NBC News reporter's admission "it's almost hard to remain objective" in covering Obama, that NBC has any "bias." But NBC and MSNBC have been actively promoting Obama's candidacy. Back in 2006, Today's Meredith Vieira called him "electrifying" and "a rock star in politics" who has "touched people" and pushed him to run: "If your party says to you, 'We need you,' and, and there's already a drumbeat out there, will you respond?" Last summer, the Today show uniquely showcased a union's stunt with Obama playing a health care worker. Lee Cowan served up this softball: "What does it say about the state of our health care that you've got a 86-year-old man being taken care of by a 61-year-old woman and you put the two of them together and they probably don't have a living wage?" Chris Matthews hailed Obama: "So much of what you say just grabs people like me, because it sounds like Bobby Kennedy. It sounds like the '60s at its absolute best."

2. CBS Takes Jabs at GOP Tax Plans, Reports Dem Plans Sans Criticism
Thursday's CBS Evening News took a look at the economic and tax plans for some of the candidates from both parties, but while Democratic plans were reported without any references to criticism, correspondent Chip Reid took jabs at Republican tax cut plans, labeling that of Mitt Romney, who "made a fortune in business," as being "right out of the playbooks of Ronald Reagan and George Bush." Reid further suggested that Mike Huckabee's plan for a national sales tax contradicts his "populist" message of "protecting the middle class," as the CBS correspondent neglected to mention that Huckabee's "fair tax" plan would also abolish the federal income tax and provide rebates to those with lower incomes.

3. After Total Silence, ABC Finally Investigates Obama Land Deal
After completely ignoring the story, ABC investigative correspondent Brian Ross finally featured a segment on a questionable real estate deal by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. On Thursday's Good Morning America, the reporter looked at the Illinois senator's relationship with Tony Rezko, a political operator who raised cash for candidates. Rezko, who will go on trial in February for charges related to bribes and extortion, played a role in a house purchase by Obama. Although local Illinois media outlets, such as the Chicago Sun Times, have been covering the story for much of 2006 and 2007, a Nexis search found only one mention on ABC, prior to the Ross report on Thursday. (On May 13, 2007, This Week host George Stephanopoulos briefly quizzed Obama on the subject.) Ross's investigations of Republicans often include a sneering, sarcastic tone that was lacking in his segment on Obama. In October of 2007, he claimed that after listening to 1973 Watergate tapes of 2008 Republican candidate Fred Thompson, a "much different, less valiant picture of Thompson emerges."

4. CBS's Smith Wonders If Tape of U.S.-Iran Naval Conflict Was Fake
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith questioned the authenticity of an audio tape of the confrontation between U.S. and Iranian ships on January 6: "We're going to try to re -- to deconstruct the Pentagon tapes just released of that hostile incident in the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian speedboats taunting a U.S. ship. A tape the Iranians are calling a hoax. There's something strange about the audio." In the later segment on the issue, Smith talked to international security expert, Jeff McCausland, and again wondered if the Iranian hoax accusation had merit: "Iranian officials are calling this video a hoax, saying those voices sounded like they were recorded someplace else...As you have looked at this tape, listened to -- especially the English coming from the Iranians, does it ring authentic to you? Does it seem real?"


Media Appearance Alert: MRC President Brent Bozell is scheduled to appear Friday morning at 7:45 AM EST (6:45 CST, 5:45 MST, 4:45 PST) on FNC's Fox & Friends to discuss NBC's bias in favor of Barack Obama. See item #1 below for the evidence and what started the controversy.

Williams Calls Claim of Pro-Obama Bias
'Ridiculous,' But...

Barely 24 hours after Brian Williams devoted a Monday NBC Nightly News story to a glowing look at Barack Obama in which Williams showed Obama the Newsweek with the Democratic candidate on the cover and wondered, "How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way....Who does it make you think of? Is there a loved one?", Williams took to his blog to call "ridiculous" the suggestion, fueled by an NBC News reporter's admission "it's almost hard to remain objective" in covering Obama, that NBC has any "bias." But NBC and MSNBC have been actively promoting Obama's candidacy. Back in 2006, Today co-host Meredith Vieira called him "electrifying" and a "a rock star in politics" who has "touched people" and pushed him to run: "If your party says to you, 'We need you,' and, and there's already a drumbeat out there, will you respond?" Last summer, the Today show uniquely showcased a union's stunt with Obama playing a health care worker. Reporter Lee Cowan served up this softball: "What does it say about the state of our health care that you've got a 86-year-old man being taken care of by a 61-year-old woman and you put the two of them together and they probably don't have a living wage?"

During a debate on MSNBC last June, Chris Matthews hailed Obama: "So much of what you say just grabs people like me, because it sounds like Bobby Kennedy. It sounds like the '60s at its absolute best."

Last week Matthews declared that a Barack Obama victory would send the message to the world that a "despised" America was truly ready to "change....No more dictating a war-Americana. No more, 'our way or the highway.' No more Bush doctrine. No more Bush." On the night of the Iowa caucus, Matthews predicted an Obama victory would be "the shot heard 'round the world. This is Lexington and Concord with the target being not King George but President George this time." Matthews also hailed Obama as "not a 'Our way or the highway' sort of person at all. Very much a member of the world community. And I think the world will be very happy to hear this."

Tuesday on MSNBC Williams revealed: "I interviewed Lee Cowan, our reporter who covers Obama, while we were out yesterday and posted the interview on the Web. Lee says it's hard to stay objective covering this guy. Courageous for Lee to say, to be honest."

In that January 7 backstage discussion at an Obama event, Cowan conceded: "From a reporter's point of view it's almost hard to remain objective because it's infectious, the energy, I think. It sort of goes against your core to say that as a reporter, but the crowds have gotten so much bigger, his energy has gotten stronger. He feeds off that..."

To watch that video of Williams and Cowan: www.msnbc.msn.com

Tuesday night on his "Daily Nightly" blog, Williams responded to those who cited Cowan's words as an admission of bias:
"He's referring to what all of us who have covered campaigns have felt from time to time: it's impossible to get the long view...the view from 40,000 feet...while operating at sea level, and inside the bubble.
"Lee was talking about the swirl of excitement that has hit the Obama campaign after Iowa -- the crowds, the hoopla -- all of it. Today we learned that rival political efforts were spinning this as some kind of 'bias' on the part of either Lee, or me, or this News Division, and that's just ridiculous. My response is as it always is in these situations: look at it again, listen to what's being said, and judge us by the quality and fairness of our journalism."

For that January 8 posting: dailynightly.msnbc.msn.com

Okay, let's take Williams up on his challenge and judge NBC News "by the quality and fairness" of their "journalism," by looking at some highlights of past CyberAlert articles gathered with the help of the MRC's Rich Noyes:

# Today Show Groupies Swoon Over 'Rock Star' Barack Obama:

Senator Barack Obama got NBC's Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer and even Al Roker in a tizzy as he made this Thursday's Today show his latest book tour stop. Vieira hailed the freshman Democratic Senator from Illinois as "electrifying" and a "rock star" and never once threw a tough question his way, even getting him to call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. She cued him up: "Well if you were President now, when would you start that withdrawal? Immediately?" Recalling his 2004 Democratic convention speech, Vieira swooned: "Many people, afterwards, they weren't sure how to pronounce you name but they were moved by you. People were crying. You tapped into something. You touched people. What did you tap into that, that was missing?" On to promote his book and Democrats in the mid-terms, Obama received fawning treatment on the October 19th Today show, complete with Vieira offering guest musical performer Vince Gill as an incentive for Obama to announce his presidential candidacy.

For the October 20, 2006 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org


# Today Showcases Union Stunt of Obama Playing Health Care Worker:

On Thursday's Today show it was a tale of two candidates who have fallen behind in the polls. One was eulogized and left for dead, the other one was glowingly profiled. Can you guess which one was a Democrat and which one was the Republican?

First, Sen. John McCain sat down on the Today set and had to endure NBC's David Gregory burying his campaign in a set-up piece that was so tough Today co-host Matt Lauer awkwardly apologized: "It's always strange for me to be sitting here with a guy and we're running a tape that's a little bit like a political obituary there."

In contrast, NBC's Lee Cowan showcased Sen. Barack Obama playing health care worker for a day as he swept cobwebs from ceilings and fixed breakfast for an elderly man as part of a labor union staged photo-op meant to highlight the inability of health care providers to earn "a living wage." Cowan served up this softball: "What does it say about the state of our health care that you've got a 86-year-old man being taken care of by a 61-year-old woman and you put the two of them together and they probably don't have a living wage?"

For the August 10, 2007 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org


# Williams Slobbers Over Obama; Couric Counters McCain on Surge:

In interviews aired Monday night, NBC's Brian Williams slobbered over Barack Obama while CBS's Katie Couric told John McCain the surge in Iraq has not been a success and pressed Mitt Romney to apologize for his negative ads. Riding on a bus in New Hampshire the day before the Granite state's primary, Williams showed Obama the Newsweek with the Democratic candidate on the cover and wondered: "How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way, all the publicity? Who does it make you think of? Is there, is there a loved one?"

This week's Newsweek cover has a picture of Obama with an Obama quote: "Our time for change has come." The headline over the cover story by Richard Wolfe, a frequent guest of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann: "Inside Obama's Dream Machine." The subhead hailed Obama as "an icon of hope." Echoing that theme, Williams later observed how "in his stump speech, he now says 'we' instead of 'I.' The implication: What happened in Iowa was the start of a movement."

For the entire January 8 CyberAlert article: www.mrc.org


# Senator Barack Obama: "Let's roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, let's make certain that those resources go to the people who need it....We're not going to solve it by pretending that issues of poverty and struggle among working families are just going to go away magically because the stock market is going up."

Moderator Chris Matthews: "So much of what you say just grabs people like me, because it sounds like Bobby Kennedy. It sounds like the '60s at its absolute best."

-- Exchange at AFSCME Democratic candidates forum shown live on MSNBC, June 19, 2007. See: www.mediaresearch.org


# Matthews Offers Speech for Obama Use to Hit Hillary from Left:

Chris Matthews got his start in politics by writing speeches for Jimmy Carter and on Monday night the Hardball host returned to his roots when he espoused an anti-war screed he urged Barack Obama to use as a way to attack Hillary Clinton from the left: "Here's what I think Obama should say, starting tomorrow night, at the big MSNBC debate in my hometown of Philly. Quote: 'This country is in a rut. A rut that leads to endless war in Iraq, that leads to inevitable war with Iran. The American people and not just the Democrats want to get our country out of this rut. The great majority of them want this election to take us to a new place, not just led by someone smarter along the same rut. I promise to take us to that new place. Senator Clinton is smart, she's hard-working, she's serious but every vote she has cast, every word she has spoken says yes to the status quo...'"

For the October 30, 2007 CyberAlert item in full: www.mrc.org


# Matthews: Obama Win Sends Message 'Despised' U.S. Ready to Change:

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses (Wednesday, January 2), Chris Matthews seemed to be issuing marching orders to Democratic voters as he declared that only a Barack Obama victory would send the message to the world that a "despised" America was truly ready to "change." In the event of an Obama win, Matthews offered, on Wednesday's Hardball, the following preview of his election night spin: "If I sit here tomorrow night reporting that he has won the Iowa caucuses the world will hear it and the world will be stunned because the United States of America, despised by so many, for lording it over the world these days, for dictating regional solutions by virtue of our military power will be saying, 'No more.' No more of invading countries. No more dictating a war-Americana. No more, 'our way or the highway.' No more Bush doctrine. No more Bush."

For the entire January 3 item: www.mrc.org


# Obama Win: 'Shot Heard 'Round the World...Lexington and Concord':

Anchoring MSNBC's live Thursday night (January 3) coverage of the Iowa caucuses, Hardball host Chris Matthews couldn't contain his excitement for Barack Obama. Even before the results came in Matthews predicted an Obama victory would be "the shot heard 'round the world. This is Lexington and Concord with the target being not King George but President George this time." Matthews also claimed Iowa Democrats delivering a win for Obama could only be seen as a "rebuke" of Bush: "There's no doubt about it. And there's no way to read it except as a rebuke to President Bush." Matthews also hailed Obama as "not a 'Our way or the highway' sort of person at all. Very much a member of the world community. And I think the world will be very happy to hear this."

Before the night's coverage ended Matthews even tipped his hand as to he's voting for when he announced: "You know I'll bet there's not a Peace Corps volunteer in the country who served in the Peace Corps in the '60s, '70s, '80s, 90s or recently that won't vote for this guy. He is so emblematic of our attempt, I think, to rejoin the world." It should be noted Matthews himself served in the Peace Corps.

For the January 4 CyberAlert item in full: www.mrc.org

CBS Takes Jabs at GOP Tax Plans, Reports
Dem Plans Sans Criticism

Thursday's CBS Evening News took a look at the economic and tax plans for some of the candidates from both parties, but while Democratic plans were reported without any references to criticism, correspondent Chip Reid took jabs at Republican tax cut plans, labeling that of Mitt Romney, who "made a fortune in business," as being "right out of the playbooks of Ronald Reagan and George Bush." Reid further suggested that Mike Huckabee's plan for a national sales tax contradicts his "populist" message of "protecting the middle class," as the CBS correspondent neglected to mention that Huckabee's "fair tax" plan would also abolish the federal income tax and provide rebates to those with lower incomes.

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

After leading with a story on the possibility of a recession developing this year, Katie Couric introduced the night's second story: "Of course, for the next 53 weeks, the economy is President Bush's problem, but voters want to know what the candidates who may succeed him would do about it. Here's Chip Reid to tell us."

Reid began by contending that for most Republican candidates, "the answer to every question about the economy begins with cutting taxes." Then, as Reid relayed Romney's plan to "cut corporate taxes and keep tax cuts for the wealthy," the CBS News correspondent mentioned that Romney "made a fortune in business," possibly suggesting that his motives may be of self-interest: "Mitt Romney, who made a fortune in business, wants to cut corporate taxes and keep tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts he says will stimulate the economy and create jobs."

Reid then referred to cutting taxes as being "right out of the playbooks" of Reagan and Bush, which could be interpreted as suggesting the plan is primarily one of political strategy: "It's a plan right out of the play books of Ronald Reagan and George Bush -- an approach also being followed by Rudy Giuliani, who this week unveiled what he calls his multi-trillion dollar tax cut, which includes slashing corporate tax rates by 10 percent."

After mentioning that John McCain wants to cut federal spending, Reid moved to Huckabee's plan for a national sales tax. But instead of describing Huckabee's "fair tax" plan to abolish the federal income tax, the potential benefits of taxing consumption instead of income, or the plan to provide rebates to those with lower incomes to make the sales tax progressive, Reid characterized the plan as contradicting Huckabee's desire to "protect the middle class" as he vaguely cited the opinions of "many economists."

CHIP REID: "Mike Huckabee sounds like a populist, someone who's all about protecting the middle class, recently taking this swipe at Mitt Romney.
MIKE HUCKABEE: People are wanting to elect a President that reminds them of the guy they work with, not the guy that laid them off.
REID: But Huckabee wants a national sales tax, which many economists say would increase taxes on the middle class and cut taxes for the rich.

Reid went on to report economic plans of Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards without mentioning any potential down sides to raising the minimum wage or to raising taxes on the wealthy: "The Democrats' economic game plan is dramatically different. ... They say what's needed is help for the middle class, not for corporations and the wealthy."

Below is a complete transcript of the story filed by Chip Reid from the Thursday, January 10 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Of course, for the next 53 weeks, the economy is President Bush's problem, but voters want to know what the candidates who may succeed him would do about it. Here's Chip Reid to tell us.

CHIP REID: For most of the Republican candidates, the answer to every question about the economy begins with cutting taxes.
MITT ROMNEY: I want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
REID: Mitt Romney, who made a fortune in business, wants to cut corporate taxes and keep tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts he says will stimulate the economy and create jobs. It's a plan right out of the playbooks of Ronald Reagan and George Bush -- an approach also being followed by Rudy Giuliani, who this week unveiled what he calls his multi-trillion dollar tax cut, which includes slashing corporate tax rates by 10 percent. John McCain also holds himself out as a disciple of Ronald Reagan -- not so much on taxes but on cutting spending.
JOHN MCCAIN: He used to say, "Congress spends money like a drunken sailor, only I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of Congress."
REID: For years, McCain has argued that cutting the deficit is one of the keys to economic health. Mike Huckabee sounds like a populist, someone who's all about protecting the middle class, recently taking this swipe at Mitt Romney.
MIKE HUCKABEE: People are wanting to elect a President that reminds them of the guy they work with, not the guy that laid them off.
REID: But Huckabee wants a national sales tax, which many economists say would increase taxes on the middle class and cut taxes for the rich. The Democrats' economic game plan is dramatically different.
HILLARY CLINTON: I think the economy is slipping toward a recession.
REID: They say what's needed is help for the middle class, not for corporations and the wealthy.
BARACK OBAMA: Opportunity and bottom-up economic growth is what the President should be fighting for.
REID: All three Democrats call for tax cuts for the middle class, eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy, and a big boost in the minimum wage. But they differ in the details. Hillary Clinton proposes tax credits for savings accounts, Barack Obama wants automatic payroll deductions for retirement savings, and John Edwards wants the rich to pay more taxes.
JOHN EDWARDS: Is it good for working middle class Americans? That's the question.
REID: And with the economy becoming such a huge issue in this campaign, how voters respond to those various economic plans could very well make the difference in which candidate makes it all the way here to the White House.

After Total Silence, ABC Finally Investigates
Obama Land Deal

After completely ignoring the story, ABC investigative correspondent Brian Ross finally featured a segment on a questionable real estate deal by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. On Thursday's Good Morning America, the reporter looked at the Illinois senator's relationship with Tony Rezko, a political operator who raised cash for candidates. Rezko, who will go on trial in February for charges related to bribes and extortion, played a role in a house purchase by Obama.
Although local Illinois media outlets, such as the Chicago Sun Times, have been covering the story for much of 2006 and 2007, a Nexis search found only one mention on ABC, prior to the Ross report on Thursday. (On May 13, 2007, This Week host George Stephanopoulos briefly quizzed Obama on the subject.) Ross's investigations of Republicans often include a sneering, sarcastic tone that was lacking in his segment on Obama. In October of 2007, he claimed that after listening to 1973 Watergate tapes of 2008 Republican candidate Fred Thompson, a "much different, less valiant picture of Thompson emerges."

In December of 2007, while filing a report on GOP contender Mike Huckabee and the his record on crime, Ross leveled charges of hypocrisy. (For a re-cap of these charges, see the December 6, 2007 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org )

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The ABC reporter introduced his investigation of the Illinois Senator this way: "Senator Obama says no lobbyist would be permitted to work in his White House...All of which makes his relationship with an accused Illinois political fixer and influence peddler all the more unusual." But his report lacked the usual snarky tone. The case relates to the role that Rezko role played in helping Obama secure the purchase of a new home in Chicago. Ross explained the details:
"It emerged that Rezko had quietly played a role in Obama's purchase of a new home. Obama bought the house on Chicago's south side in June, 2005, after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate. According to Obama, the owner wanted to sell the house together with a next door vacant lot which Obama apparently did not want. Instead, Rezko's wife bought the empty lot for full price. 625,000. And according to Obama, he bought the house paying $1.65 million, for $300,000 under the asking price, all on the same day. Obama says the price was dropped because the house had been on the market for some time."

In contrast, during another piece on Thompson, Ross looked into the criminal past of an advisor to the Republican candidate. He complained that "Thompson has been traveling in style." These types of verbal swipes were noticeably missing from the discussion of Obama and Rezko.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:13am on January 10:

DIANE SAWYER: And we're going to turn now to a question facing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama this morning. The Illinois senator has said that he regards it as one of his mistakes that he had a relationship on the purchase of his home with a political operative who is facing multiple counts of wire and mail fraud, among other charges. Well, this week, a judge vaulted the name of that operative into the news and ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross decided to look into it. Brian?
ABC GRAPHIC: Investigating Senator Obama: What's His Relationship With Indicted Man?
BRIAN ROSS: Good morning, Diane. Senator Obama says no lobbyist would be permitted to work in his White House. And as a state senator in Illinois, and now in Washington, he has pushed new ethics reforms laws. All of which makes his relationship with an accused Illinois political fixer and influence peddler all the more unusual. His name is Tony Rezko, known in Illinois politics as a back-room operator who did favors and raised campaign money for politicians and benefited in return. Rezko will go on trial next month to face charges growing out of a three-year long undercover FBI investigation involving bribes, kickbacks and extortion.
PATRICK FITZGERALD (U.S. Attorney): Today, we unsealed two indictments against Anton Tony Rezko, both involves efforts to illegally obtain millions of dollars. ROSS: There was no mention of Senator Obama in Rezko's indictment. But as he sought to post bail, it emerged that Rezko had quietly played a role in Obama's purchase of a new home. Obama bought the house on Chicago's south side in June, 2005, after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate. According to Obama, the owner wanted to sell the house together with a next door vacant lot which Obama apparently did not want. Instead, Rezko's wife bought the empty lot for full price. 625,000. And according to Obama, he bought the house paying $1.65 million, for $300,000 under the asking price, all on the same day. Obama says the price was dropped because the house had been on the market for some time. But even civics groups that praise Obama's record on ethics were troubled by his involvement with a man of Rezko's reputation.
CYNTHIA CANARY (Illinois Campaign for Political Reform): Our only concern has been the timing and our wish that the senator had been a little bit more sensitive to the emerging dark cloud over Mr. Rezko's head.
ROSS: For his part, Obama has given a series of various explanations about the deal. First, he told the Chicago Tribune that he didn't recall what his conversations were with Rezko. Four days later, he told the Chicago Sun Times that he did recall telling Rezko about the property. Last May, as a candidate for president, Obama acknowledged to George Stephanopoulos that Rezko could become an issue, even though everything had been above board and legal.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: But, it raised the possibility that here was somebody who is a friend of mine who is doing me a favor. And I said, it was a bone-headed mistake.
ROSS: Senator Obama told one paper that he knew Rezko was under investigation at the time. But the Washington Post says Obama told them he had no idea of Rezko's brewing trouble. The first answer was more accurate. We found more than a hundred stories in the Illinois papers in the preceding five months, detailing allegations that Rezko was a corrupting influence in Illinois politics, including a Sunday editorial in the Chicago Tribune, ten days before the house purchase, focusing on Rezko and his behind the scenes connection to the Illinois governor. By our count, Rezko and people in his circle have given Obama more than $120,000 for his U.S. and state senate campaigns. A spokesman for Obama says the Senator has donated the 44,000 of that to charity since the indictments in Chicago. And the senator insists no favors were asked of him by Rezko and none was granted.

CBS's Smith Wonders If Tape of U.S.-Iran
Naval Conflict Was Fake

At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith questioned the authenticity of an audio tape of the confrontation between U.S. and Iranian ships on January 6: "We're going to try to re -- to deconstruct the Pentagon tapes just released of that hostile incident in the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian speedboats taunting a U.S. ship. A tape the Iranians are calling a hoax. There's something strange about the audio." In the later segment on the issue, Smith talked to international security expert, Jeff McCausland, and again wondered if the Iranian hoax accusation had merit: "Iranian officials are calling this video a hoax, saying those voices sounded like they were recorded someplace else...As you have looked at this tape, listened to -- especially the English coming from the Iranians, does it ring authentic to you? Does it seem real?"

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Smith's questioning of whether or not this audio was "real," was reminiscent of left-winger Rosie O'Donnell on ABC's The View in March of last year describing the Iranian capture of British Soldiers this way: "Gulf of Tonkin, Google it." Smith also sounds similar to a contributor to the left-wing Huffington Post, who today said of the January 6 incident: "On Tuesday, the Navy released video footage and an audiotape to back its claims that the Iranian boats acted in a threatening and provocative manner, but neither the video nor the audio are particularly convincing as proof that Iran had hostile intentions."

Read about Rosie O'Donnell's comments in the March 27, 2007 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

Check Read the Huffington Post article here: www.huffingtonpost.com

Already sounding like a liberal conspiracy theorist, Smith continued to question the tape: "Right. The thing is though, you hear this Iranian voice saying basically 'we're coming to get you, we're going to blow you up.' You don't hear the sound of the -- of the motors on the boats. You don't hear the wind -- the boats look like they're going at least 20 knots. Could it have been broadcast from someplace else? And -- and if you're on the deck of a ship like this and this comes in, how do you determine if it's real or not?"

McCausland brought some sanity to the segment as it concluded: "Well, in terms of the allegation by the Iranians that the Navy fabricated their particular video, I think we have to understand to begin with, that would be obviously illegal. I think furthermore, we've got to think about is who would benefit from ratcheting up tensions right now in the Gulf. As we've seen over the last few weeks and months, there's been some attempts, by the United States at least, to reduce tensions. In Iran there has been periodically attempts to ratchet up tensions largely, I think, to benefit them internally and politically."

Here is the full transcript of the January 10 segment:

7:01AM TEASER, HARRY SMITH: We're going to try to re -- to deconstruct the Pentagon tapes just released of that hostile incident in the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian speedboats taunting a U.S. ship. A tape the Iranians are calling a hoax. There's something strange about the audio.
UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN SAILOR: I am coming to you.
SMITH: That is just ahead.
7:09AM SEGMENT, HARRY SMITH: There are new developments and building tensions in an encounter between U.S. naval ships and Iranian speedboats. The Pentagon has now released video of the incident that happened Sunday. Three U.S. warships were passing through the Strait of Hormuz when five small Iranian boats sped toward them, dropping unidentified white boxes in the water. The Pentagon says there was this warning from the Iranian boat.
UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN SAILOR: I am coming to you. You will explode in a couple minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN SAILOR: He says you will explode after a few minutes.
SMITH: Iranian officials are calling this video a hoax, saying those voices sounded like they were recorded someplace else. Jeff McCausland is a former U.S. Army colonel and international security affairs expert who has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, he's also visiting professor at the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. Good morning, sir.
JEFF MCCAUSLAND: Good morning to you sir.
SMITH: As you have looked at this tape, listened to -- especially the English coming from the Iranians, does it ring authentic to you? Does it seem real?
MCCAUSLAND: Well, it's possibly real, Harry, but, of course, this whole incident lasted about 20 minutes. And the only thing we see in the Iranian video is frankly how close these particular Iranian ships were operating to the U.S. Navy vessels. And second of all, it seems to underscore the fact that the U.S. Navy ships were in fact operating in international waters, something so far, at least, the Iranians have not disputed.
SMITH: Right. The thing is though, you hear this Iranian voice saying basically 'we're coming to get you, we're going to blow you up.' You don't hear the sound of the -- of the motors on the boats. You don't hear the wind -- the boats look like they're going at least 20 knots. Could it have been broadcast from someplace else? And -- and if you're on the deck of a ship like this and this comes in, how do you determine if it's real or not?
MCCAUSLAND: Well, in terms of the allegation by the Iranians that the Navy fabricated their particular video, I think we have to understand to begin with, that would be obviously illegal. I think furthermore, we've got to think about is who would benefit from ratcheting up tensions right now in the Gulf. As we've seen over the last few weeks and months, there's been some attempts, by the United States at least, to reduce tensions. In Iran there has been periodically attempts to ratchet up tensions largely, I think, to benefit them internally and politically.
SMITH: Jeff McCausland, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.
MCCAUSLAND: My pleasure.

-- Brent Baker