Walters Asks Castro's Opinion of Bush's Iraq Policy; Jennings Not Upset ABC Skipped Bush Speech, Concedes Bias; NBC Uses Sniper Shootings to Hype Moore's Anti-Gun Movie; Bernard Goldberg Tells Donahue He's "Delusional" on Media Bias
1) Cuba has "very high literacy" and "you have brought great health to your country," Barbara Walters effused to Fidel Castro in a preview on Thursday's World News Tonight of her interview with the dictator set to air on 20/20 tonight. Walters also treated Castro's view of Bush's Iraq policy as relevant. Walters sought confirmation: "You oppose an attack against Iraq, yes?"
2) Asked if he wished ABC had covered Bush's Iraq speech live in prime time, on Wednesday's Daily Show on Comedy Central Peter Jennings replied: "Not particularly." He noted that entertainment show ratings play a role and he echoed the views of opponents of Bush's Iraq policy, insisting the public is "very anxious....I think they're still uncertain about what it is the President's goals are, what will we do on day three?" As for liberal bias, Jennings maintained that "when I started in this racket, to go off and save the world and tell the truth was a liberal instinct."
3) NBC this week has taken advantage of the sniper shootings to help publicize left-wing film maker Michael Moore's anti-gun movie. On Thursday, CNBC's Brian Williams wondered: "As a sniper spreads fear...the question: Whatever happened to the gun control debate in the United States?" Williams praised Moore's prescience. On Tuesday's Today, Katie Couric trumpeted Moore's insights: "He looks at how easy guns are to buy and how often they are used in violent crime....A reality brought home again this week by the unsolved deadly shootings in the Washington, DC, area."
4) Phil Donahue went on a lengthy harangue on his MSNBC show Thursday night about how conservatives control the media and suppress liberal views because journalists have "white male Republican boardroom attitudes." To which Bernard Goldberg retorted that Donahue thinks that "because you're delusional on this matter."
Cuba has "very high literacy" and "you have brought great health to your country," Barbara Walters effused to Fidel Castro in a preview on Thursday's World News Tonight of her interview with the dictator set to air on 20/20 tonight.
How many people go to Cuba to take advantage of the "great" health care system?
While she did ask about Cuba "sabotaging" the U.S.'s anti-terrorism efforts and freedom of the press, in the segment highlighted on the October 10 World News Tonight Walters also treated Castro's view of Bush's Iraq policy as relevant. Walters sought confirmation: "President Castro, you oppose an attack against Iraq, yes?" And Walters wondered: "In your view, is Saddam Hussein a good leader for the people of Iraq?"
One dictator grading another.
Anchor Peter Jennings set up the preview, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "There is going to be an unusual collection of Americans in Cuba this week, some of them the key figures in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 40 years ago. Tomorrow night we'll have a report on what we learned from newly-declassified documents. Tonight an exclusive interview with the man who was the leader of Cuba then and now -- Fidel Castro. Barbara Walters last interviewed him in 1977. He remembers the night very well."
ABC began the interview excerpt by showing the dictator and Walters trying to charm each other. Fidel Castro, through a translator: "You don't look like 25 years have passed. You look exactly the same."
A longer version of the interview will air on the October 11 20/20.
Castro's decision to grant his only U.S. television interview to Walters caused CBS and NBC to cancel broadcasts from Cuba. CBS had planned to have Dan Rather interview the despot and NBC had planned to broadcast Today from the island today centered around Matt Lauer's interview with Castro.
Asked if he wished ABC had covered President Bush's speech live in prime time on Monday night, on Wednesday's Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central Jennings replied: "Not particularly." Jennings explained that "we play a game with the White House all the time, or they play a game with us. They want the time on the network, they just don't want to ask us for it."
Jennings conceded that entertainment show ratings play a role: "I think on any network it is probably easier to get a news program on the air, including a political speech by the President or a presidential speech, if the ratings are not so good. If the entertainment program -- I know NBC has found this in the past -- if the entertainment program is really good and has a huge audience you're reluctant to give it away to something for which there may be a smaller audience. Those are the laws of business."
Showing the pervasiveness of the idea that there is a liberal media bias, even Stewart raised the problem with Jennings who conceded that liberal crusading motivated journalists since "when I started in this racket, to go off and save the world and tell the truth was a liberal instinct."
Echoing the views of liberal opponents of Bush's Iraq policy, Jennings asserted that after spending a few days in California and elsewhere in the country lately, he's found: "People are very concerned. People are very anxious. People clearly don't want the United States to go if we go alone. I think they're still uncertain about what it is the President's goals are, what will we do on day three?"
MRC analyst Brian Boyd transcribed the exchanges on the October 9 show about carrying Bush's speech and whether there is a liberal bias.
Later, Stewart raised liberal media bias: "How do you think the press is handling the Republican presidency? Do you think there's a liberal bias? That's, the big accusation is that the major press, the media elite so to speak, has a liberal slant. Do you think that is an actual problem or do you think that's a perception?
NBC this week has taken advantage of the sniper shootings in the Washington, DC to help publicize left-wing film maker Michael Moore's anti-gun movie, Bowling for Columbine, featuring him on both CNBC's The News with Brian Williams and NBC's Today. In both appearances the NBC interviewers let him spout at length with little, if any, challenge. Both shows tried to buck up Moore's credibility by touting how he's a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
(A few weeks ago, Moore was the featured guest for most of the hour on MSNBC's Donahue, giving Moore an NBC network appearance trifecta.)
On Thursday night, CNBC's Brian Williams wondered: "As a sniper spreads fear in the suburbs of Washington, the question: Whatever happened to the gun control debate in the United States?"
Williams didn't react when Moore claimed that "since the Reagan era," the NRA has "really been a front for a right wing agenda." Williams also praised Moore's prescience: "Let's talk about your sense of timing. The last time...you were on this broadcast, you were promoting a book that was about to come out at the time called Stupid White Man....And we've seen enough guys let out of big Fortune 500 firms to now know you were right. It's almost perverse that you've picked another issue, here it is our lead story again tonight, a person or persons with a rifle driving around Washington. What does that say?"
More like what does it say about Williams that he is so impressed with a liberal advocate's point of view.
Tuesday morning on Today, Katie Couric trumpeted Moore's insights: "He looks at how easy guns are to buy and how often they are used in violent crime, and questions ordinary citizens, corporate leaders, even the National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston about the troubling realities. A reality brought home again this week by the unsolved deadly shootings in the Washington, DC, area."
While Couric did note he is a left-winger that some will dismiss, she also prompted him with softballs: "Tell me about your thesis going into this, Michael, and, and if it was borne out, as a result of the work you did." And: "So why do you think Canada has such a better track record" on gun control "than the United States?"
She did point out that "people who don't like you and your ilk would say, 'Well, why doesn't this guy just move to Canada?'" To which Moore urged: "Maybe we should aspire to be more Canadian-like."
Some more detail about the two promotional segments this week for Moore's political movie:
> During the October 10 News with Brian Williams on CNBC, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Williams teased before ad breaks: "And later on, whatever happened to the gun debate in the United States? Tonight, the documentary film maker who took on GM turns his attention to guns, when the news continues."
And: "Later, as a sniper spreads fear in the, in the suburbs of Washington, the question: Whatever happened to the gun control debate in the United States? The News continues after this."
And a third one: "When we come back, less than three weeks from election day in this country, will the sniper attacks outside Washington reignite the debate over gun control in the United States? The News continues after this."
Still not done. Leading into the second half hour: "Tonight, is gun control about to make a late appearance on the 2002 campaign trail because of the sniper targeting innocent civilians in Capitol Hill's home district? Tonight, how the tragedy that is all over television has the potential to blow up into a political hot button."
Finally, getting to the actual segment, Williams announced: "Beneath the dome that marks the geographic center of Washington, D.C., they talk policy and law. Outside in the suburbs, the people in and around Washington are talking about one thing -- the sniper randomly killing citizens, seven of them so far. The question tonight: When does this sniper story, the issue of guns and their availability, collide with policy, especially with an election three weeks off? We begin our special look at this tonight with NBC News correspondent Pat Dawson."
Lawson's piece looked at how politicians of both parties are staying away from the gun control issue in this campaign. But not NBC. Williams teased again: "When we come back, we'll look at the issue that a popular American populist has taken up now in his next film, when the News continues."
To begin the interview Williams played a clip of the movie showing Michael Moore opening an account at a bank that gives a free rifle to its new customers. Williams observed: "Makes you wonder what ever happened to toasters. That is film maker Michael Moore in an edited clip of his latest film, Bowling for Columbine...It's a documentary that provides a sometimes humorous, sometimes rather horrifying look at America's gun culture. It was the talk of this year's Cannes Film Festival and opens in theaters across this country tomorrow. Michael Moore -- producer, director, and, we should mention, long-time member of the NRA -- is with us tonight from Los Angeles."
After some joking about the bank giving away rifles, Williams wondered: "Well, how do you square the gun issue as an NRA member yourself? You grew up with guns around as a kid. I assume you shot with your dad. And now seeing as a, an author, documentarian, kind of a social critic what they have done in this country."
Williams did semi-challenge Moore: "And yet there's that bromide that everyone uses to counter gun control, and that is if you're really intent on doing something bad, on killing someone with a gun, if you really wanna do something, you're gonna find a way to do it."
Williams heralded Moore's prescience: "Let's talk about your sense of timing. The last time, I recall, you were on this broadcast, you were promoting a book that was about to come out at the time called Stupid White Man, and you said in your remarks on the broadcast, you know, 'Just you wait, this'll be the new trend in America.' And we've seen enough guys let out of big Fortune 500 firms to now know you were right. It's almost perverse that you've picked another issue, here it is our lead story again tonight, a person or persons with a rifle driving around Washington. What does that say?"
Williams moved to another of Moore's favorite topics: "When you first came to public consciousness with Roger and Me, it was in sticking up for, quote, 'the little guy.' That was in your beloved state of Michigan. Do you think the need to stick up for the little guy today even after the Wall Street boom and people generally, they tell us, doing better, do you think the need is as acute today as it was then?"
> Today, October 8. Couric's questions after the intro quoted above, and portions of some of Moore's answers, as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- "I have to ask you first of all, what up with this title, 'Bowling for Columbine?'"
-- Couric: "Now what, what prompted your interest, Michael, in doing a whole documentary on this? Because I thought it was fascinating that you are a member of the, a card-carrying member of the NRA. Is that right? You won a marksmanship award in high school."
-- "You're somebody who says he really likes and enjoy guns. Well, I don't know if enjoy is right but you use them or you've used them in the past."
-- Couric: "So, so why do you think Canada has such a better track record than the United States?"
-- "You partially blame the media and you praise enlightened politicians in Canada."
-- "People who don't like you and your ilk would say, 'Well, why doesn't this guy just move to Canada?'"
-- Couric: "Tell me about your thesis going into this, Michael, and, and if it was borne out, as a result of the work you did."
-- "At one point you take two of the boys from Columbine to K-Mart and, and, to protest the selling of bullets similar, or like the ones that they were wounded by....Tell me what happened when you did that."
-- "Throughout the film I know you emphasize how, how easy it is to get guns in this country. And we're gonna, and, how, how American is the, the right to bear arms. We're gonna take a quick look at a clip and then talk some more."
-- "You also interview Charlton Heston?...How did that go?"
-- Couric: "A lot of people watching this are going to say, 'Why should we watch this?' Granted, Time magazine called it, 'rambunctious, disturbing and often hilarious.' But people, they also describe you as 'the lefty perp of 'Roger and Me.' But might, people might say, 'Listen, this guy has such a strong left-wing point of view. You know, he's not even open to arguments.'"
I'm not sure Canadians would want this guy. Then again, maybe we could trade him with Peter Jennings.
MSNBC finally booked an interesting, non-leftist guest for Donahue and he realized Phil Donahue is "delusional." The live guest via satellite on Thursday's show: Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS News reporter who last year penned Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.
To which Goldberg retorted: "Well, that's because you're delusional on this matter."
The October 10 segment began with Donahue listing the many conservatives in the media. Goldberg pointed out how all he listed are commentators and suggested to Donahue: "The only people I think at this late date who don't think there's a liberal bias in the news are people who are even further to the left than the media elites are."
Goldberg soon reiterated his point: "Here's the problem. People like you -- and I don't mean people like you in a bad way -- but people like you don't even understand what liberal bias is about because-"
An astonished Goldberg jumped in: "Let me ask you this, Phil. Are you suggesting, are you suggesting there's a conservative bias in the news?"
After a bit of crosstalk, Goldberg offered another option: "Well, let me give you a third choice."
Liberals don't advocate taxing and spending?
Donahue elaborated, but his characterization of the liberal stereotype didn't sound that far from the reality of how liberals, at least as personified by Donahue, really do behave:
Indeed Donahue is "delusional" if he thinks the mainstream national news media are biased to the right.
But no more delusional than the MSNBC executives who have the very left-wing Donahue touted as "fiercely independent." Going into an ad break after Goldberg's appearance, the MSNBC announcer promised that "the fiercely independent Phil Donahue will be right back."
When did he arrive? -- Brent Baker