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Peter B. Collins
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November 30, 2005
Although Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson have lambasted what they see as a "secular" "war on Christmas," Fox News' own online store advertises "Holiday" ornaments rather than "Christmas" ornaments, as apparently first noted on the weblog Daily Kos. The items are grouped under the category "Holiday Ideas."
O'Reilly, host of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, has recently waged a campaign against corporations that greet customers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." For his part, Gibson, the host of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, has published a book titled The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, October 2005).
Despite O'Reilly's specific criticism of those who use the term "holiday tree" instead of "Christmas tree," an O'Reilly Factor ornament for sale at the Fox News store features this tagline: "Put your holiday tree in 'The No Spin Zone' with this silver glass 'O'Reilly Factor' ornament."
CLIPS: Smerconish: Public prayer by Muslims "wrong" and "a game" to remind audience of terrorist attacks
On the November 23 broadcast of Fox News' The Radio Factor, guest host Michael A. Smerconish took issue with a recent decision by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to provide a designated prayer area at Giants Stadium. The decision was in response to a September 19 incident involving the FBI's detention and questioning of five Muslim men who were observed praying near the stadium's main air duct during a New York Giants football game. Smerconish stated: "I just think that's [the men's public praying] wrong. I just think they're playing a game of, you know, mind blank with the audience. And that they should know better four years removed from September 11."
In a November 2 article, the Associated Press reported that FBI spokesman, agent Steven Siegel, said the men had aroused suspicion because they were congregating near the main air intake duct. Also, security was on higher alert because former President George H. W. Bush was in the stadium that night as part of a fundraising campaign he and former President Clinton are leading for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The AP quoted Siegel as follows:
You had 80,000 people there, Bush 41 was there, and you had a group of gentlemen gathering in an area not normally used by the public right near the main air intake duct for the stadium, and a food preparation facility. It was where they were, not what they were doing.
The men were later released without charge and have since claimed that their detention was evidence of racial profiling. The FBI denies these charges.
Smerconish said that the Giants' designation of a new prayer area "just seems like a form of capitulation in this instance to -- well, frankly -- to the Arab community ... I think that it's fundamentally unfair that five Arab guys, Muslim men in their twenties, get together in full view of 80,000 folks and engage in prayer." Smerconish added:
SMERCONISH: Tolerance means I've gotta tolerate that -- the practitioners of the Muslim faith -- but they've gotta be tolerant of my reasonable concerns about terrorism four years post-9-11. And their tolerance of me necessitates that they not gather in prayer when there are 80,000 people in the house for a football game.
From the November 23 broadcast of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
SMERCONISH: September 19, the Giants hosted the New Orleans Saints. The game was also the site of a Hurricane Katrina fund-raiser. Did you hear about this? As a matter of fact, number 41 was in the house. Meaning George Herbert Walker Bush, past president and father, of course, of W [President Bush]. Eighty-thousand folks were in the house for the Giants and the Saints and the Katrina fund-raiser.
In an area near food preparation, in an area near air duct work and venting, folks saw five apparently Muslim men in their 20s praying. Let me just sort of freeze-frame right there and ask The Radio Factor audience: Had you been in Giants Stadium that day, you know that it's the Giants and the Saints, you know that it's a Hurricane Katrina fund-raiser, perhaps you know that number 41 is in the house, you certainly know that you're a stone's throw away from Ground Zero; what, if anything, would you have done if you had seen five apparently Muslim men in their 20s engaged in prayer?
Maybe you would do absolutely nothing. But you can call me on that issue as I tell you the rest of the story. It's 1-877-9-NOSPIN. Me, I'd drop the dime. And somebody in this case did drop the dime. And well, you can see, I'm sure, where this thing is headed.
Before long, it became a focal point in a civil liberties debate. The Council on American-Islamic Relations got involved -- CAIR -- C-A-I-R is their acronym. Turns out the guys were just five Giants fans, not up to anything terrorism-related, but that didn't quell the controversy.
And now, today, comes the news that at Giants Stadium, they will be setting aside an area for groups to pray. I wonder how you see this. See if you had told me -- in Philadelphia, we've got Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, home of the former, you know, National Football Conference champion Eagles, although I won't be able to say that this season. If you'd said to me in Lincoln Financial Field or in Giants Stadium, they have set aside an area -- you know, non-denominational area -- for prayer. You go in there and pray for [Eagles quarterback Donovan] McNabb and T.O. [Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens] to patch up their wounds or whatever the case might be, I would have no problem with it.
In much the same fashion that, in just about every hospital in which I have been, there is an area set aside for prayer. My beef in this particular case is knowing the history. I mean to me it just seems like a form of capitulation in this instance to -- well, frankly -- to the Arab community. I'm not afraid to say it.
And I have another thought. And the other thought is that I think it was fundamentally unfair, you're not going to believe I'm going to say this, but this is my view. I think that it's fundamentally unfair that five Arab guys, Muslim men in their 20s, get together in full view of 80,000 folks and engage in prayer. I just think that's wrong. I just think they're playing a game of, you know, mind blank with the audience. And that they should know better four years removed from September 11.
WISSAM NASR (Council on American-Islamic Relations): Well, you know, whether it is or isn't, it's up to the individual person's perception. I live around Muslims so it's not uncommon for me -- for me to see that. And you know we just want to basically -- the moral of this story is, is that we want people to take this as an opportunity to understand that, hey, this is the Muslim way of praying. We do it five times a day. It only takes a couple of minutes, but sometimes we have to pray just about -- you know -- wherever we are. Some people are just that devout.
SMERCONISH: See, I can't buy that. I think you can be devout at home, you know, on game day. You know I think that you ask too much in a post-9-11 world to expect non-Muslims to just walk on by with 80,000 folks around if five guys are engaged in prayer. That's my view. And now, you know the end of the story. The end of the story is that at Giants Stadium they will set aside an area for prayer, prayer of any kind. It will be non-denominational in focus and so forth. And as I said, I have no problem whatsoever with a non-denominational location for prayer. Frankly, I think it would be fine in a public school, that's my view of the world.
But I just don't like the way this one came about.
CALLER: From '92 to '93, I was in Denver, Colorado. And there's a heavy Muslim community there. And I transported people back and forth to the new airport out there when it opened up. And many, many, many cab drivers of -- Muslims would stop, put their rugs out, and would stop to pray. And I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. Their religious belief says that it needs to be done at a certain time and they shouldn't be held back from doing that.
And I think that we need to think back when this whole thing started. We were told to live our lives as we normally did. And they're living their lives as they normally do. And, yes, we should be more tolerant, a little more understanding. And I guess unless they've got a bomb wrapped around them, we need to just kind of look the other way and let them perform their duty. After all, isn't that what we do when we go to our services on Sundays?
SMERCONISH: Okay, but wait a minute. Just so I'm clear, because I think tolerance is a two-way street. Tolerance means I've gotta tolerate that -- the practitioners of the Muslim faith -- but they've gotta be tolerant of my reasonable concerns about terrorism four years post-9-11. And their tolerance of me necessitates that they not gather in prayer when there are 80,000 people in the house for a football game. Or you think I'm wrong?
CALLER: They set out to raise some questions. And I can understand the motivation, because there are Arab Americans who are absolutely, you know, pointed out and it's racial profiling. And there are bad things that happen to these people on a daily basis. But situations like this do not help the cause.
SMERCONISH: Agreed. And they had -- look, what you're saying is they had to know what they were doing.
SMERCONISH: They had to know -- I can't say it on a family radio program, but they were -- they were fooling with folks, you know what I'm saying?
From the November 29 broadcast of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: The same people -- Paul Krugman, the New York Times people, all that -- who are saying, "Oh, we need to pull out now for the good of the troops, the good of the country," as soon as we leave, they'll say, "Bush lost the war." That's what they want. They're not -- I don't believe Paul Krugman gives a fig about the troops. And he's -- I'm picking on him because I don't like him. I don't. I mean, you know, obviously if you saw me and him on CNBC last year, I took him apart.
He's a Princeton professor who writes for The New York Times. I don't believe a word he says about anything. I think he's a socialist who hates the country. And, you know, when I see his byline, I just go, "Oh, next."
NY Times downplayed Medicare drug plan's deference to private insurers in limiting choice for seniors
A November 27 New York Times editorial declared the Medicare prescription drug benefit, set to take effect in 2006, "a promising beginning." The Times' editorial board endorsed the plan when it became law in 2003, writing in a November 19, 2003, editorial: "Despite its shortcomings, the Medicare prescription drug bill heading for a vote in Congress is worthy of passage." The editorial added that "the bill is strongest when it comes to the most important target groups: elderly people with low incomes or very high drug bills." But both editorials ignored a component of the law that gives insurers the power under certain circumstances to make changes to beneficiaries' policies on 60 days' notice -- including restricting coverage and increasing co-payments and out-of-pocket costs -- while beneficiaries can switch plans only once per year during a limited period.
In the November 27 editorial, the Times also dismissed other drawbacks associated with the plan -- which its news pages have detailed -- including its complexity, limited choice due to pharmacy participation, and potentially abusive marketing by private insurers, stating that such problems, "while irksome, can be remedied later." Under Medicare's new drug benefit, beneficiaries select coverage from dozens of plans provided by private insurers with some variation by region.
In the same editorial, the Times touted the flexibility that the plan reportedly offers beneficiaries. Asserting that "no decision is irrevocable," the editorial explains that "beneficiaries can change plans once a year." What the Times didn't mention was that insurers can alter their coverage on 60 days notice, which means that beneficiaries can be stuck for several months with new terms -- including higher costs and restricted coverage -- that they had not previously agreed to.
Under Medicare guidelines, an insurer can change the cost tier placement of a drug, affecting the out-of-pocket cost to the beneficiary, if the insurer receives new information about the drug. If, for example, the Food and Drug Administration rules that one drug is preferred over another for treatment of the same condition, the insurer might opt to provide less coverage for the non-preferred drug, or the insurer might elect to cease covering the drug altogether. In addition, according to a June 15 article by New York Times reporter Robert Pear, insurers typically seek to cover fewer drugs for various conditions in order to reduce costs with large-volume discounts.
Such changes can be sought by insurers once per month beginning in March 2006. If approved, they can produce higher co-insurance costs and out-of-pocket expenses for seniors. As the Times itself reported in a January 22 article by Pear: "Beneficiaries who sign up with a drug plan are generally locked in for a year. Insurers can end coverage for a particular drug, or increase the co-payment, if they give 60 days' notice to patients and the government."
As Pear also reported in a November 13 article, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that just 35 percent of seniors polled reported that they understood the plan. Moreover, the article noted that because pharmacies can refuse to participate, beneficiaries in certain areas might have very limited options for obtaining medication.
A separate Times article by Pear, published the same day as the November 27 editorial, reported that Medicare has already received more than 100 complaints concerning aggressive marketing tactics employed by insurers; enrollment in the plan began November 15, 2005, and continues through May 15, 2006. Alleged violations reported thus far include door-to-door solicitation and misrepresentations of products. According to the complaints, some companies have requested personal information, including credit card, financial institution and social security numbers, from potential beneficiaries.
Nevertheless, the Times raised but dismissed the plan's "drawbacks" at the beginning of the November 27 editorial: "Many of the critics [of the plan] are right," but the problems "can be remedied later."
From the November 27 New York Times editorial:
The enrollment period for Medicare's new prescription drug benefit opened this month amid complaints about its complexity, its drawbacks and its seemingly irrational structure. Many of the critics are right. But the new program is still an important new benefit - the largest expansion of Medicare in decades and a vital step to bringing Medicare into the modern era. The problems, while irksome, can be remedied later.
All elderly Americans can use software on the Medicare Web site to help pick the best plan for them.The Web site may be daunting to those who are inexperienced with the Internet, but it should offer their computer-savvy friends and advisers a valuable tool to sort through the options. No decision is irrevocable - beneficiaries can change plans once a year.
Beneficiaries can type in such data as the drugs and dosages they use, the pharmacies they patronize, and the premiums and deductibles they would prefer. Presto, they get a list of plans that meet their criteria, the estimated annual cost of those plans, and, with another click of the mouse, suggestions on how to cut costs further by picking cheaper drugs.
From the November 19, 2003, New York Times editorial:
Despite its shortcomings, the Medicare prescription drug bill heading for a vote in Congress is worthy of passage. Fears that the legislation contains seeds that will ultimately destroy the traditional Medicare program strike us as overblown. Our own chief qualm is that the country, with deficits looming as far as prognosticators can see, cannot afford a program that will cost, at a minimum, $400 billion over 10 years.
Millions of middle-income Americans will get only modest help from the program, and they will have to cope with a crazy-quilt pattern of benefits. But fortunately, the bill is strongest when it comes to the most important target groups: elderly people with low incomes or very high drug bills.
If the prescription drug bill is passed, Congress will have created not one but two fiscal train wrecks several years down the line. Some legislators will vote for the drug plan and figure that when the bills ratchet up after 2006, future Congresses will have to give up on some of the current tax cuts when they expire. Others will vote for the drug bill with the idea of taking the political gain now and hoping that the monster deficits over the horizon will force cutbacks on entitlements later in the decade.
Our own choice would be to rescind the Bush administration's reckless tax cuts for the wealthy to pay for drug coverage of benefit to all. But any lawmakers who voted for the tax cuts cannot in good conscience support the drug bill unless they are ready to stand up and explain what should happen when the train wrecks occur.
From Pear's November 13 New York Times article:
In a survey issued this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, only 35 percent of people 65 and older said they understood the new drug benefit. Those who said they understood it were more likely to have a favorable impression of it.
The new prescription drug plans, though heavily subsidized by Medicare, are marketed and administered by private insurers like Aetna, Humana, PacifiCare and UnitedHealth Group.
The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress chose this approach for two reasons. They firmly believe that competition among private plans will hold down costs, and they do not want the government to specify which drugs will be covered.
But that does not mean that a person's local pharmacy will be in every plan.
''In some rural areas,'' Ms. [Suzi] Lenker [who coordinates insurance counseling for the Kansas Department on Aging] reported, ''beneficiaries say: 'There are 40 Medicare drug plans to choose from, but my pharmacy takes only one or two plans. How does that give me choice?' ''
From Pear's November 27 New York Times article:
Bush administration officials say they have received scores of complaints about the aggressive tactics used by some insurance companies and agents to market Medicare's new prescription drug benefit.
The officials said they would take disciplinary action if they found that the tactics had broken federal rules.
Possible violations reported to Medicare officials in the past few weeks include uninvited door-to-door solicitation of business and misrepresentation of insurance products.
Federal officials have issued rules and a 53,000-word set of guidelines for marketing the drug benefit. The guidelines allow use of insurance agents, including independent agents who represent more than one company, but stipulate that insurers are responsible for the conduct of their agents.
Christopher Eisenberg, director of health plan accountability at the federal Medicare agency, said the federal government had received ''more than 100 complaints concerning misconduct by independent agents'' marketing Medicare products.
''This is developing into a major compliance concern,'' Mr. Eisenberg said, and ''it appears to be growing.''
Part of the problem is that the federal government and the states share responsibility for regulating the sale and marketing of Medicare drug plans, and the division of labor is not always clear.
Insurance agents are generally licensed and regulated by state government agencies. But the federal government regulates prescription drug plans and managed care plans, known as Medicare Advantage plans. When insurers sign contracts with Medicare, they promise to comply with all federal standards.
In some cases, Mr. Eisenberg said, when the federal government tried to investigate complaints, insurers said they had little control over the agents. ''We are not receptive to that argument,'' he said.
From Pear's June 15 New York Times article:
Hundreds of insurers -- more than initially expected -- have filed applications with the government to provide Medicare drug coverage, which they see as a potentially profitable new line of business. With so many companies seeking a piece of this potentially vast market, Medicare officials can be more aggressive in setting terms and conditions to prevent discrimination against sick people with high drug costs.
In requiring coverage for a wide range of drugs, officials said, they are following ''best practices'' used in the private sector and for Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. And they noted that under the 2003 Medicare law, formularies cannot discriminate against any beneficiaries.
In reviewing prescription drug plans, federal officials have been lobbied from all sides. Beneficiaries generally want as many drugs as possible on each formulary, and the drug companies stand to benefit if more of their products are covered.
But insurers and pharmacy benefit managers typically want to limit the number and types of drugs, so they can obtain large-volume discounts from manufacturers. The challenge for Medicare officials is to balance these competing goals.
O'Reilly, guest falsely accused ACLU of supporting child's "constitutional right to have sex with adults"
Discussing the Kansas Supreme Court's recent reversal of Matthew Limon's 2000 conviction, which had resulted in Limon's being sentenced to 17 years in prison for engaging in sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy, host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed, on the November 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) "filed a brief arguing that the molestation of the 14-year-old handicapped boy was not a crime because the child has a constitutional right to have sex with adults." Wendy Murphy, a frequent O'Reilly Factor guest and the former assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, Massachusetts, agreed, saying of the ACLU: "[T]hey don't want any laws on the books ... that make it a crime for a child to be abused by an adult." O'Reilly's and Murphy's comments misconstrued the charges against Limon and falsely described the ACLU's involvement, which was limited to arguing that Kansas law unconstitutionally imposed a higher penalty for sexual conduct between same-sex partners.
According to O'Reilly, the Kansas case involved "a 14-year-old handicapped boy [who] was molested by an 18-year-old boy [Matthew Limon] in a group home." In fact, at the time of the incident, both teenagers were attending a Kansas residential school for the developmentally-disabled and engaged in consensual sexual relations. Because both Limon and the 14-year-old were male, Limon was charged with criminal sodomy instead of being charged under Kansas's "Romeo and Juliet" law (KSA 21-3522). That law carries a far lighter 15-month maximum prison sentence but addresses only "[u]nlawful voluntary sexual relations" between members of the opposite sex.
One day after the U.S.. Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas, the Limon case was remanded to the Kansas courts. On October 21, the Kansas State Supreme Court reversed Limon's sodomy conviction, ruling that the "Romeo and Juliet" law's applicability only to heterosexual sex was unconstitutional under Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas sodomy law:
The Romeo and Juliet statute suffers the same faults as found by the United States Supreme Court in Romer [v. Evans] and Eisenstad [v. Baird]: adding the phrase "and are members of the opposite sex" created a broad, overreaching, and undifferentiated status-based classification which bears no rational relationship to legitimate State interests. Paraphrasing the United States Supreme Court's decision in Romer, the statute inflicts immediate, continuing, and real injuries that outrun and belie any legitimate justification that may be claimed for it. Furthermore, the State's interests fail under the holding in Lawrence that moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate governmental interest.
O'Reilly falsely asserted that the ACLU "filed a brief arguing that the molestation of the 14-year-old handicapped boy was not a crime because the child has a constitutional right to engage in sex with adults." He then asked Murphy: "Is this ACLU policy?" Murphy confirmed that it "appears to be their policy" and explained the ACLU position as follows:
MURPHY: [L]et's celebrate their constitutional right to engage in sex with adults even as young as age 13. In other words, they don't want any laws on the books ... that make it a crime for a child to be abused by an adult.
However, the ACLU brief merely argued that Limon should receive the same legal treatment he would have received if the other party involved had been a 14-year-old female. The ACLU objected only to the "Romeo and Juliet" law's exclusion of same-sex activity and the resulting far higher sentence. In the brief, the ACLU argued:
The Constitution guarantees that all citizens are supposed to be treated equally, but Matthew Limon is set to be in prison until he is 36 years old, while he would have been released before turning 20 if he were heterosexual ... We're not saying the state shouldn't punish those who break the law. We are only asking that the state do the right thing and treat gay teenagers the same as it does straight teenagers.
From the November 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Now, a case in Kansas where a 14-year-old handicapped boy was molested by an 18-year-old boy in a group home. And the ACLU -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- filed a brief arguing that the molestation of the 14-year-old handicapped boy was not a crime because the child has a constitutional right to engage in sex with adults. Is that true?
MURPHY: Yeah, you gotta love it when they're waving the flag of constitutional rights around for kids so they can have sex with adults. They actually wrote --
O'REILLY: Yes, but I just want to know is this policy? Is this ACLU policy?
MURPHY: It appears to be their policy.
O'REILLY: -- that children -- that children of any age have a right --
MURPHY: Thirteen. As young as 13.
O'REILLY: -- have a constitutional right to have sex with adults? That's their policy?
MURPHY: That's right, and that we should -- absolutely, let's celebrate their constitutional right to engage in sex with adults even as young as age 13. In other words, they don't want any laws on the books --
MURPHY: -- that make it a crime for a child to be abused by an adult.
O'REILLY: But you're sure this is their policy? You're sure this is ACLU policy?
MURPHY: All I can tell you is that they put it in an amicus brief, which is to say that's an expression of their position on this issue, and they did it in the Kansas Supreme Court, so one has to assume that that is their position in general, not unique to Kansas.
O'REILLY: Yeah, if they made it a brief and it's in the court record in Kansas, then it is.
CLIPS: Radio host Smerconish: Educating women means "they're not going to be around to instill these lessons in their kids"
On the November 23 edition of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, guest host Michael Smerconish interviewed Soo Kim Abboud, author of Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers -- and How You Can Too (Penguin, 2005). Smerconish asserted that "if everyone follows Dr. Abboud's prescription ... you're going to have women who will leave the home and now get a great-paying job, because you will have gotten them well educated." He continued, "But then they're not going to be around to instill these lessons in their kids. In other words, it occurs to me that perhaps you've provided a prescription to bring this great success to an end."
From the November 23 edition of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
SMERCONISH: By the way, this is Dr. Soo Kim Abboud, and the book is called Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers -- and How You Can Too. One final question: It occurs to me that if everyone follows Dr. Abboud's prescription, right, would we all crank out these high achievers? You're going to have women who will leave the home and now get a great-paying job because you will have gotten them well educated --
SMERCONISH: But then they're not going to be around to instill these lessons in their kids. In other words, it occurs to me that perhaps you've provided a prescription to bring this great success to an end.
The November 28 edition of Scarborough Country presented a skewed panel to discuss the media leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and the recent revelation of the CIA's alleged secret prisons in Eastern Europe. The group consisted of host and former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, and Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III, each of whom made false or misleading claims.
Writing in a November 28 post on the weblog TPMCafe, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson reported that he had been "contacted by an MSNBC booker" to appear on that evening's edition of Scarborough Country, but was ultimately not invited to appear on the program. In recent weeks, Johnson has written about and discussed those topics and would presumably have addressed the numerous dubious claims made by Scarborough and his guests.
For example, Scarborough twice claimed that it was "a liberal who hates this war" who "leaked the existence" of the secret prisons. No one offered a contrary view. But in his TPMCafe post, written before Scarborough Country aired, Johnson wrote: "[T]he leak to [Washington Post staff writer] Dana Priest came in part from CIA officers who were concerned that the effort by the Vice President and [CIA] Director [Porter] Goss to allow a torture loophole would discredit and destroy the CIA's future effectiveness." On November 2, Priest first broke the story of the secret prisons.
Similarly, Johnson would have likely challenged Carlson on his claim that "the CIA in fact did an internal assessment of the damage done" by outing Plame and "found not very much at all." Appearing on the October 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Johnson told host Wolf Blitzer that while the CIA has "not delivered any written report to Congress," he had heard that the CIA's "postmortem" determined that "serious damage did occur":
BLITZER: I think what everyone wants to know is, was there serious damage done to U.S. national security? And I have been trying to find out if the CIA actually did a postmortem, a damage assessment. You have been looking into that as well.
JOHNSON: Now, CIA did a postmortem. There's no way that they could not have. They have not delivered any written report to Congress, to the House or Senate Intelligence Committees. But what they had done with this report, they had to do it internally.
BLITZER: Do you know whether or not they concluded that serious damage did occur?
JOHNSON: I have heard that serious damage did occur.
BLITZER: In terms of lives lost, agents, foreign agents, U.S. allies?
JOHNSON: To that extent, I don't know. But what I do know for certain is, we're not just talking about Valerie Plame. We're talking about an intelligence resource, a United States national security resource that was destroyed by these White House officials that went out and started talking to the press about this. Reckless. And they have -- they have harmed the security of this country. They're trying to pretend no harm, no foul, and find lots of excuses.
When Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, on the October 27 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, made the same claim as Carlson -- that a CIA internal investigation had concluded that little or no damage resulted from the disclosure of Plame's identity -- Media Matters for America noted that his assertion was contradicted by an October 29 Post report that the CIA had not performed a formal damage assessment, which the Post reported is not typically done until the conclusion of legal proceedings. In addition, according to a report by CNN national security correspondent David Ensor on the October 25 edition of The Situation Room, the CIA has in fact conducted an initial examination of the leak and determined that it had damaged intelligence operations:
BLITZER: I know you've been looking into this question. The CIA -- does the CIA believe that there was damage done to U.S. national security as a result of Valerie Plame Wilson's name being leaked?
ENSOR: I'm told that in the day when it was leaked, there was a quick look done, as there routinely would be, at whether there was damage. Officials simply won't go into the details. But I did speak to one official who said, yes, there was damage. This woman had a long career. And she was posing as someone else. And all those people who saw her now know she wasn't the person they thought they were dealing with. So there was damage, yes.
For his part, Bozell contradicted himself on whether the secret prisons leak was significant. After stating that the leak about the prisons wasn't a real "story" because we already knew "since the beginning of this war" that "these places existed," Bozell argued that the leak was "far more serious" than the Plame leak, and bemoaned the "deafening silence" of the media for not sufficiently covering the prison story.
Next, Bozell chastised former President Jimmy Carter for suggesting that the revelation about the secret prisons was "a story detailing the corruption and the torture of the CIA, when none of that was reported at all in the story." In fact, Priest wrote in her November 2 Post article that CIA interrogators in such overseas prison facilities are legally permitted to use interrogation techniques that would otherwise violate international statutes on torture:
Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA's approved "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law. They include tactics such as "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.
As the Scarborough Country segment was coming to a close, Bozell issued one more oft-repeated conservative talking point: that a since-retracted Newsweek article in May (which alleged that U.S. interrogators had flushed a Quran down a toilet at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba) had caused widespread violence in the Arab world. But as Media Matters for America has noted, that claim was disputed by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that the violence in question was "not at all tied to the article in the magazine," and by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who said that the violent demonstrations were "not related to the Newsweek story."
From the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: [F]irst, Brent, we have been bombarded, bombarded for months, for years, regarding the CIA leak investigation on a desk jockey in Langley [CIA headquarters]. And, yet, when you have somebody, a liberal, I'm sure, that hates this anti-terror program in Eastern Europe, what kind of response do we get from the media?
BOZELL: It's just remarkable. You know, the Valerie Plame story broke when it was revealed that the CIA had referred the matter over to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. That was, what, a couple weeks after Bob Novak's story, whenever it was. Then everything exploded. And since September of '03, it has been Valerie Plame all day long, as far as the media were concerned, because they thought it was such a egregious act and such a violation of a CIA operative's covert identity.
Now you have got this case where The Washington Post runs another leak story about prisons around the world. And, by the way, let me stop for just a second. Since when was that a story? Haven't we heard since the beginning of this war that Al Qaeda and even Saddam Hussein himself were being held in undisclosed locations outside of Iraq? We know these places existed. But, anyway, the story comes out, OK, there are prisons around the world, CIA prisons around the world. That's not the point. The point is, it was another leak. Now the CIA turns around and refers this again to the Justice Department for another criminal investigation, because this one is far more serious. The head of the Senate, the speaker of the House, [J. Dennis] Hastert [R-IL], the majority leader of the Senate, also called for their various -- their two houses to conduct investigations into this. And you know what? There is just deafening silence from the press.
CARLSON: Look, I think both leaks are defensible. I like leaks. I want to know what my government is doing. I don't necessarily trust my government. I'm helping to pay for it. I think I have a right to know. So, I'm not against leaks. And the reporter who wrote this piece, Dana Priest, is a terrific journalist. And I'm glad I got to read the story. The point is one of logic and standards. And if you're going to make all this noise about the Valerie Plame leak being damaging to national security -- and, incidentally, there is evidence that it wasn't -- the CIA in fact did an internal assessment of the damage done and found not very much at all.
BOZELL: But even this story didn't talk about anything wrong. The only person who didn't understand that was, by the way, Jimmy Carter, who referred to this when it broke as a story detailing the corruption and the torture of the CIA, when none of that was reported at all in the story.
SCARBOROUGH: Here, you have now the head of the EU [European Union] talking about punishing countries that stuck their neck out on the line to support the United States in our war against terror. They are now going to be punished because some liberal -- and it is a liberal who hates this war, I'm sure -- some liberal leaked the existence of this program. And because they help us, they are now going to be punished. Doesn't that send a chilling, chilling message to other allies: Don't step out and don't stick your neck out for the United States of America, because it's going to get chopped off by a leak?
BOZELL: [T]he second point that needs to be made -- and no one is talking about this one -- where is the responsibility of The Washington Post? You know, when Newsweek ran a story about flushing Qurans down the toilet, and it turned out to be false, look at the mayhem and the death -- the death -- that story caused.
CLIPS: O'Reilly: "We will expose those media which pass along the vicious personal attacks" of "far-left smear sites"
During the November 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly decried what he described as the abandonment of the phrase "Merry Christmas" and called for "a coalition of the willing to fight against this secular movement." He accused financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis of being "the money men behind the secular curtain," because they "have financed a number of websites which routinely attack those with whom they disagree in the most vile ways." O'Reilly then threatened to "expose those media which pass along the vicious personal attacks." He predicted that "[t]he defamation pipeline that has been cleverly devised will collapse," and then stated, "This is what the culture war is all about."
O'Reilly made a similar threat in the wake of Media Matters for America's exposure of his remarks regarding the city of San Francisco. In discussing a resolution San Francisco voters passed on November 8 to discourage military recruitment on campuses of public schools and colleges, O'Reilly said: "[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." In response to the firestorm of protest against these comments, O'Reilly blamed "far-left smear websites" and "Internet guttersnipes" for reporting his statements. He stated: "[H]ere's what I'm going to do, ladies and gentlemen, every minion that does that, every one is going to be exposed on The Radio Factor, the television Factor, and on our website, BillOReilly.com. Every one who carries their water, I'm going to put their face up there, their name up there, and tell you exactly what they're doing. So you know in your town who's doing it."
Following up on his threat, O'Reilly has posted on his website a list of "media operations [that] have regularly helped distribute defamation and false information supplied by far left websites."
From the November 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: It is now time to draw the line, ladies and gentlemen. We must decide whether we value our heritage or not. Make no mistake about this. Merry Christmas is an emotional, but small, issue. The drastic change the secular progressive movement wants in this country is the big issue.
Those people want an America free from spirituality and judgments about personal behavior. And they may get it.
So "Talking Points" is putting together a coalition of the willing to fight against this secular movement. George Soros and Peter Lewis, the money men behind the secular curtain, have financed a number of websites which routinely attack those with whom they disagree in the most vile ways.
Most mainstream media avoid the far-left smear sites, but some help them. In the coming weeks, we will expose those media which pass along the vicious personal attacks.
We've already listed some of them on billoreilly.com. And we hope you steer clear of those organizations.
If traditional America rises up and punishes the mainstream media, which furthers the cause of Soros and the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], they will lose. The defamation pipeline that has been cleverly devised will collapse. If Christmas in America can be marginalized, any tradition can be, including marriage and the way you raise your kids. This is what the culture war is all about.
Over the course of a November 28 ABC World News Tonight segment on Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's (R-CA) November 28 resignation from Congress after he pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors, neither ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross nor anchor Elizabeth Vargas mentioned that Cunningham was a Republican. The only party identification ABC offered during the nearly three-minute report was four seconds of on-screen text that included "(R) California" underneath Cunningham's name. Because the Cunningham scandal is the latest in a series of ethics investigations concerning Republican political figures, his party affiliation is particularly relevant.
Throughout the otherwise hard-hitting World News Tonight report, Ross and Vargas described Cunningham merely as a "congressman from California" and "a powerful figure in Washington" (Cunningham held a position on the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee for defense and was the chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism and human intelligence.) During a video clip of Cunningham's statement to the press, ABC's on-screen text identified him as a Republican:
Cunningham's guilty plea follows an admission in an unrelated case by lobbyist Michael Scanlon, who pleaded guilty on November 21 to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials. Scanlon is a former aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who stepped down from his leadership post after being indicted for money-laundering and conspiracy to violate Texas campaign finance law. According to a November 22 New York Times article, the federal investigation into the alleged defrauding of Indian casinos by Scanlon and GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff may expand to members of Congress, such as House Administration Committee chairman Bob Ney (R-OH), who was reportedly identified (though not by name) in court papers regarding the case. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted for perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements in the investigation into the alleged outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is also under investigation by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission for initiating the sale of stock in HCA Inc., a hospital chain founded by his family, shortly before a weak earnings report caused the company's share price to plummet.
During the November 28 "Talking Points Memo" segment of his Fox News show, The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly decried those who avoid using the holiday greeting "Merry Christmas": "Anyone offended by the words 'Merry Christmas' has problems not even St. Nicholas could solve." He further asserted: "Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born."
From the November 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: What's happened is frightening. A legal assault by the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] combined with the media that blatantly promotes secularism has succeeded in convincing some Americans that the words 'Merry Christmas' are inappropriate while celebrating the national holiday of Christmas.
This, of course, is nuts. Anyone offended by the words 'Merry Christmas' has problems not even St. Nicholas could solve.
Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable; more than enough reason for businesses to be screaming Merry Christmas.
On the November 27 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Sen. John Warner (R-VA) if he "believe[d], in all honesty, that the administration took the very best spin they could get in order to help buttress or support the case for war." Citing the Bush family's "integrity and public service," Warner responded: "Our president would not intentionally take any facts and try to mislead the American public, in my judgment." But rather than challenge Warner's non-answer by pointing to mounting evidence indicating the Bush administration did intentionally withhold or distort intelligence, Russert instead grilled Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) on his vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
From the November 27 Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: Senator Warner, take the aluminum tubes that the administration talked about in terms of --
RUSSERT: -- being used for nuclear weapon development. The State Department was very, very clear about that; the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Department of Energy. And in the National Intelligence Estimate, there was a caveat which said, "We don't believe these tubes could be used for anything like that." Do you believe, in all honesty, that the administration took the very best spin on intelligence they could get in order to help buttress or support the case for war?
WARNER: You know, I've known the president quite well. I knew his father well. I actually knew his grandfather, met him. You remember, he served on the --
BIDEN: I only know the father and the --
WARNER: Well, anyway, the grandfather served on the Armed Services Committee as a senator. That's a family that's been known for its integrity and public service for generations. Our president would not intentionally take any facts and try and mislead the American public, in my judgment. What was before all leaders of the world at that time were facts that gave rise to the -- Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and some potential for nuclear weapons. When we went in, in '91, we underestimated how far he had proceeded in his programs. Now, we recognize he didn't have them, but he certainly had the infrastructure to which he was going to direct moneys, if he ever got it, to go back into the business of weapons of mass destruction, had not this invasion taken place.
Russert, however, failed to press Warner on the aluminum tube issue, in spite of evidence indicating President Bush may have intentionally distorted or withheld intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Iraq Survey Group both concluded that aluminum tubes sought by Saddam Hussein were likely intended for use in a conventional rocket program and not in uranium centrifuges, as Bush and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed in 2003. Specifically, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that "the information available to the Intelligence Community indicated that these tubes were intended to be used for an Iraqi conventional rocket program and not a nuclear program." In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush touted Saddam's pursuit of aluminum tubes, along with since-discredited reports of Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Niger, as evidence of an emerging Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
Also, in a November 22 National Journal article, journalist Murray Waas revealed that 10 days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush "was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda." A recently declassified 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document, released by the office of Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), indicates that the White House and the National Security Council were likely aware that DIA questioned the reliability of claims made by Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi -- an Al Qaeda operative captured in November 2001 -- that Al Qaeda had received chemical and biological weapons training from Iraq. In 2003, Bush and Powell touted al-Libi's claims as evidence of a supposed link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Bush often asserted a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda as justification for the invasion of Iraq, reportedly referencing al-Libi's claims in making that connection.
Russert might also have noted other evidence that Bush administration officials may have deliberately twisted or withheld intelligence and might also have asked Warner to comment on whether he believed Bush had access to the intelligence his subordinates were touting. Vice President Dick Cheney often referred to a supposed meeting between 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, Czech Republic, as evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, even though, as The New York Times reported on October 21, 2002, Czech president Vaclav Havel "quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohamed Atta, the leader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague." The 9-11 Commission concluded in 2004 that the Prague meeting never occurred. According to an October 3, 2004, New York Times article, experts at the Energy Department believed the disputed aluminum tubes "were likely intended for small artillery rockets." They had conveyed their assessment to then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice almost a year before she appeared on CNN's Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer and said the tubes were ''only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Also, the administration's declassified version of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate omitted a number of crucial dissenting views and caveats that undercut the certainty with which administration officials were presenting disputed pieces of intelligence.
Biden responded to Warner's answer by explaining how the administration may have "misled" regarding the aluminum tubes and referred specifically to Rice's CNN appearance:
BIDEN: Tim, I'm not talking about the president. Let's get that straight. We're talking about Cheney when I said they lied. Let's -- let --
RUSSERT: You said the president misled.
BIDEN: Yeah, misled. Now, here, let me be precise. Aluminum tubes -- remember that whole issue? Casey [sic: Cheney] said the tubes were "irrefutable evidence" of their nuclear policy. Rice said they were "really only suited for nuclear weapons programs." And Bush said there was "no doubt" about this. In fact, the Energy Department expert said, as you pointed out, the tube -- they were not for nuclear. The Intelligence Research Bureau agreed and said, "no compelling case that Iraq's currently pursuing an integrated, comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons." This is in 10/02. Now, this is evidence they had at the time. Yet they used words like "The weapons program is irrefutable."
Instead of pressing Warner using the mounting evidence, or even asking Warner to respond to Biden's explanation of how the administration may have taken "the very best spin" on the aluminum tubes to further the cause for war, Russert shifted his focus to Biden, whom he pressured to explain why he voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq:
RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you read the National Intelligence Estimate, at least the summary of it, it had a caveat in there from the State Department and the Department of Energy saying they did not believe the --
BIDEN: After the fact, Tim. Look, look --
RUSSERT: This was made available to senators before the vote. Only six read it.
BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no, no. That's true, that was before the vote.
RUSSERT: But you saw --
BIDEN: That was before the vote.
RUSSERT: You saw that information and you still voted for the war.
BIDEN: But remember -- no, remember what I voted for was for the president to be able to go to war, if, if -- I've got the resolution here -- if, in fact, it was to enforce the existing breaches that existed in the U.N. [United Nations] resolution, and if he could show there were weapons of mass destruction.
RUSSERT: Do you believe the Democrats and you were diligent enough in reading that National Intelligence Estimate and all the caveats and calling the president to task as to whether or not he was being candid about the intelligence and his interpretation?
BIDEN: Yes. And if I -- I'll leave with you because there's no time here all the statements I made at the time laying out my doubts about their assertions. But remember what the resolution said, Tim, it didn't say "go to war." It said, "Mr. President, if you can show these things, then you can use force."
NY Times article suggested that many pro-choice Democratic politicians are "afraid to be seen in church"
In a November 27 New York Times article, reporter Timothy Egan claimed: "In the Rocky Mountain West, where Democrats made their only real gains in last year's general election, the governors favor abortion rights, but are not afraid to be seen in church."
In fact, many Democratic politicians who "favor abortion rights" but do not represent Western states are also "not afraid to be seen" in houses of worship. Some examples include former President Bill Clinton (here and here), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT), Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD).
First O'Donnell, now Matthews: "Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs"
On the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews said: "Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left," adding, "I mean, like him personally." In fact, polling data reveals that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of President Bush, and his overall approval ratings hover from the high 30-percent range to the low 40s.
From the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: I like him. Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left -- I mean -- like him personally.
As Media Matters for America previously reported, MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell made a similarly unsupported statement on the November 27 broadcast of MSNBC's The Chris Matthews Show, claiming that Bush has retained his "authenticity" with the public.
One day after Ann Coulter wrote a column examining Rep. John P. Murtha's (D-PA) proposal to end military engagement in Iraq, she appeared on the November 25 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight to comment on it. In her November 24 syndicated column, she claimed, "There is no plausible explanation for the Democrats' behavior other than that they long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle." She also falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein sought "enriched uranium from Niger."
Coulter concluded the November 24 column with the following analysis of "Democrats' behavior":
The Democrats are giving aid and comfort to the enemy for no purpose other than giving aid and comfort to the enemy. There is no plausible explanation for the Democrats' behavior other than that they long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle.
They fill the airwaves with treason, but when called to vote on withdrawing troops, disavow their own public statements. These people are not only traitors, they are gutless traitors.
In her Lou Dobbs Tonight appearance (which was guest-hosted by correspondent Christine Romans), Coulter said: "I'm not only tired of the Democrats, I'm tired of anyone to the left of [Rep.] Jean Schmidt [R-OH] at this point." In a November 18 speech in the floor of the House on a Republican resolution to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq -- a resolution that followed a withdrawal plan proposed by Murtha -- Schmidt stated that an Ohio politician wanted "to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do." That politician, Danny Bubp, now denies ever saying that.
Coulter has in the past expressed similar controversial views: In August 2005, she stated her belief that New Yorkers "would immediately surrender" if terrorists invaded their city; in February 2005, she accused the Democratic Party of "support[ing] killing, lying, adultery, thievery, envy"; in January 2005, she labeled Bill Clinton "a very good rapist"; and in November 2004, she reminded Canada that it is "lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent."
Coulter's claim that Hussein solicited uranium from Niger has already been widely discredited. The Senate Intelligence Committee 2004's "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" indicated that there was no uranium deal in the works between Iraq and Niger and that Iraqi inquiries about a possible uranium purchase remain speculative. As Media Matters for America has reported, even national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley [The New York Times, 7/23/03] and former CIA chief George Tenet (in a public statement) have conceded that the now-infamous "16 words" ("the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa") should have been removed from President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.
Media Matters has also debunked, on several different occasions, a series of Coulter's claims on a wide range of topics: in October 2005, when she falsely accused Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) co-author and University of Chicago professor Steven Levitt of "defending" Roe v. Wade; in September 2005, when she peddled numerous falsehoods about Hurricane Katrina, and falsely suggested that an Arizona daily newspaper dropped her column to "keep conservatives out"; in August 2005, when she erroneously stated that a "majority of Hispanics" voted for California's Proposition 187; and in March 2005, when she falsely accused The New York Times of outing certain children of notable conservatives.
Coulter's particular brand of right-wing vitriol has led numerous other media outlets to dissociate themselves from her. MSNBC fired Coulter in 1997 after she insulted a Vietnam veteran while both were on the air. National Review dropped her column in 2001 after she suggested, in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks, that the United States "invade their [terrorists'] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." USA Today did the same in 2004 after hiring her to provide conservative commentary from the Democratic National Convention, which she labeled the "Spawn of Satan Convention."
Nonetheless, CNN continues to invite Coulter to appear on its various programs. Since 2004, she has appeared on the network on 10 occasions, including the November 25 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight.
Fox News, MSNBC devoted scant coverage to initial aftermath of Rep. Cunningham's guilty pleas, resignation
In the hours after Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and tax evasion and subsequently announced his resignation from the House of Representatives, Fox News and MSNBC devoted scant coverage to the unfolding story. A Media Matters for America review of the first four hours of the three cable news networks' coverage following Cunningham's pleas and resignation revealed that Fox News was the last to cover the story, mentioned it the fewest times, and devoted the least time to the story. MSNBC also offered limited coverage, reporting on the resignation only twice.
Cunningham entered his plea early in the afternoon and announced his resignation at a press conference held during the 2 p.m. hour. From 1 to 5 p.m. ET, CNN reported on the story five times, at least once per hour (1:49 p.m., 2:25 p.m., 3:31 p.m., 4:15 p.m., and 4:35 p.m.) for a total of 17 minutes of coverage. MSNBC reported on the story twice (at 2:32 p.m. and 3:16 p.m.) for a total of four minutes. Fox News covered the story only once (at 3:38 p.m.) for a total of three minutes.
Prior to his resignation, Cunningham sat on the House Appropriations Committee, occupying a position on the committee's Defense subcommittee. He pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for helping defense contractor MZM Inc. secure Department of Defense contracts.
While appearing as a panelist on Fox News' Fox News Watch, political analyst and Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton falsely claimed that former CBS producer Mary Mapes worked for Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-MA) 2004 presidential campaign. Mapes was fired from CBS over her role in the controversial 60 Minutes Wednesday report that presented unauthenticated documents as evidence that President Bush received preferential treatment during his tenure with the Texas Air National Guard. Pinkerton awarded his Fox News Watch "Turkey Award," in which panelists "name the biggest turkeys in the media," to Mapes, stating, "This year, she's written a book in which she makes her case [that the 60 Minutes National Guard story was accurate] once again, forgetting the fact that she'd worked for the Kerry campaign -- leaving that part out." In fact, there is no record of Mapes ever having worked for the Kerry campaign.
Mapes joined CBS in 1989 and worked there until January 20, 2005. From 1999 until her termination, she was Dan Rather's producer for 60 Minutes Wednesday (also known as 60 Minutes II). Mapes has since authored a book titled Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power (St. Martin's Press, November 2005) about her time with CBS. Media Matters for America found no evidence that she was ever employed by the Kerry campaign.
On September 8, 2004, CBS's 60 Minutes Wednesday aired an investigative report -- for which Mapes was the producer -- into whether President Bush received preferential treatment while serving in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Among other sources, the report relied on disputed documents purportedly written by Bush's squadron commander, Col. Jerry Killian, which raised questions into Bush's fulfillment of his military duties at the time. The documents alleged that Bush violated a direct order from his superior by failing to report to an ordered physical exam and that Killian was facing pressure from his superiors to "sugar coat" Bush's records. The documents came under immediate fire from conservatives who alleged they were forged. An independent investigation into the story, which resulted in Mapes's firing after its release, found that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece; the report noted evidence challenging the documents' authenticity, but offered no conclusion about whether the documents were forgeries.
While there is no evidence that Mapes ever worked for the Kerry campaign, she reportedly arranged a phone call between Kerry-Edwards '04 campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart and former National Guardsman Bill Burkett, who reportedly provided CBS with the disputed National Guard memos; Mapes said she arranged the call as a way to "gain favor" with Burkett. The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign claimed that the phone call showed "coordination" between the Kerry-Edwards campaign and 60 Minutes. Both Lockhart and Burkett have denied discussing the documents during their phone call, claiming they discussed strategy in responding to attacks on Kerry's military service by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
From the November 26 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch, hosted by Eric Burns:
ANNOUNCER: Now that you've finished your Thanksgiving bird, it's time to name the biggest turkeys in the media. The Fox News Watch Turkey Awards are next.
BURNS: And now, in honor of both the holiday just passed and the lapses of journalists at all times, Fox News Watch proudly -- I wonder if "proudly" should be there; well, let's see -- proudly presents the Fox News Watch Turkey Awards. Jim Pinkerton presents the first one.
PINKERTON: Well, my -- my turkey is Mary Mapes, who was responsible for the disastrous and wrong CBS special last year. This year --
BURNS: About Memogate.
PINKERTON: About Memogate.
BURNS: She was the producer.
PINKERTON: This year, she's written a book in which she makes her case once again, forgetting the fact that she'd worked for the Kerry campaign -- leaving that part out. Don't take my word for it. Redstate.org compared her to the Symbionese Liberation Army in terms of her craziness. The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, the American Journalism Review have all slammed her big time. But the most compelling proof that she's a turkey of turkeys is in her own book. She reveals an acronym that I had never heard: FEA. And it stands for F-apostrophe-E-M All. F'em all. That's what she thinks -- and that's what she and Rather would say to each other just before a show. That's what they really think about us out there in journalism viewerland. And that makes her not only a turkey, but a bad person.
BURNS: She's trying to get fired up to go on the air. Did she really do that? That's a -- wow. Obviously my ignorance. I haven't read the book.
On the November 27 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, Washington Post national political correspondent David S. Broder and Post associate editor and opinion columnist Eugene Robinson said that Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward's conduct in the Valerie Plame controversy has caused "[c]onsternation" at the Post. Woodward waited until October 2005 to disclose to Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. that a senior Bush administration official had told Woodward in June 2003 that Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, worked at the CIA. In discussing the "consternation" Woodward had caused at the Post, Broder also mentioned media appearances in which Woodward repeatedly criticized special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald and his inquiry into the Plame case, without disclosing his own involvement in the case.
On November 14, Woodward testified under oath that an administration official divulged Plame's identity to him in a conversation a month before syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak reported in his July 14, 2003, column that she was a CIA operative.
From the November 27 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:
TIM RUSSERT (host): Let me turn to the CIA leak investigation. Time magazine reports that Viveca Novak of Time magazine has now been subpoenaed to testify. David Broder, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, as you know, has testified before the, before Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel. What's going on at the Post, in light of that?
BRODER: Consternation, to be honest with you. I think none of us can really understand Bob's silence for two years about his own role in the case. He's explained it by saying he did not want to become involved and did not want to face a subpoena, but he left his editor, our editor, blindsided for two years, and he went out and talked disparagingly about the significance of the investigation without disclosing his role in it. Those are hard things to reconcile.
RUSSERT: Gene Robinson?
ROBINSON: I agree with David. Consternation, a certain amount of embarrassment. And, and, you know, the fact that we can't understand why Bob did what he did. You know, I think that's a very interesting question in this whole incident about confidential sources, about access, about the tradeoffs that we all make for access in granting anonymity to sources. And, you know, I think that's going to continue. I think people are looking at us skeptically.
NY Times repeated false claim that Hastert "simultaneously" praised Murtha while criticizing his proposal for Iraq withdrawal
A November 28 New York Times article by reporter Carl Hulse cited a false claim by a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL): that Hastert "expressed his strong respect" for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) "while simultaneously differing" with Murtha's call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. In fact, the two events were not simultaneous. Hastert initially responded to Murtha's proposal on November 17 by accusing Murtha of "prefer[ring] that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans." It was only a week later, on November 23, that Hastert praised Murtha as "a good man" while maintaining that he "disagreed" with Murtha's proposal.
The article marked at least the second time in less than a week that the Times mischaracterized -- or outright ignored -- a prominent Republican's dramatic change in tone toward Murtha, from initial attacks to praise.
Reporting that Hastert objected to Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) claim that Hastert had labeled Murtha a "coward," Hulse noted that Hastert had issued a written statement that "said that America 'must not cower' in fighting the war on terror and that Mr. Murtha and other Democrats 'want us to wave the white flag of surrender.' " Hulse then quoted Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean's claim that Hastert "expressed his strong respect for the Democratic lawmaker while simultaneously differing on Iraq policy" and noted that Hastert "wrote last week" that Murtha is "a good man."
But by uncritically reporting Bonjean's false assertion that Hastert's praise of Murtha and criticism of Murtha's resolution calling for withdrawal from Iraq were "simultaneous," Hulse ignored Hastert's abrupt shift in tone in discussing Murtha. In fact, Hastert initially responded to Murtha's resolution with an attack-laden November 17 statement, which was posted by Bonjean to the Speaker of the House's weblog:
I am saddened by the comments made today by Rep. Murtha. It is clear that as Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant on armed services, Rep. Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury, this is done while the President is on foreign soil.
Rep. Murtha and other Democrats want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world. It is unfortunate that this is all politics all the time. We need to have a strong consistent policy that will protect our men and women who are fighting to protect us overseas. We must not cower like European nations who are now fighting terrorists on their soil. This is the highest insult to the brave men and women serving overseas.
I have known John Murtha to be a long-term veteran of this institution. He has stood up for our troops and has helped to provide them with the right equipment to do their job. We all saw the same pained faces among Americans when terrorists slammed into the Twin Towers. Did he see the faces the rest of America saw when terrorists plowed into the Pentagon or when the plane that was headed for a Washington target went down in Pennsylvania? I saw the faces that day, and, Mr. Murtha, that was no illusion.
A week later, in a November 23 statement, Hastert softened his rhetoric towards Murtha, emphasizing that he "has the utmost respect" for Murtha even though he "disagreed with the pull out plan he [Murtha] announced last week":
As you know, last week, we rejected a resolution to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately. It was the right thing to do. I have said all along that I think we need to win in Iraq. We are winning. Progress is being made. The Iraqis now have a constitution and they are about to elect a government with participation by voters from all factions. We've got to stay on the offensive against these terrorists. None of us wants to see this fight occur here on U.S. soil.
But that said, I need everyone to understand that I have known Congressman (John) Murtha a long time. He's a good man. I have the utmost respect for him. In fact, I'm pretty sure he knows that. I disagreed with the pull out plan he announced last week.
Hastert's about-face from his previous attacks on Murtha recall a similar move by the White House, which the Times also ignored. As Media Matters for America has noted, a November 22 Times article quoted Vice President Dick Cheney commending Murtha as "a good man, a marine, a patriot" but omitted any reference to the Bush administration's initial assessment that Murtha was "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party."
From the November 28 Times article titled "Hastert Disputes Comments Kerry Made During Political Appeal":
"Dennis Hastert -- the speaker of the House who never served -- accused Jack Murtha of being a coward," Mr. Kerry said as he listed Republican attacks on Mr. Murtha.
[Kerry spokeswoman Jenny] Backus said that comment was based on news reports and the general tone of an initial statement released by the office of Mr. Hastert, Republican of Illinois. It said that America "must not cower" in fighting the war on terror and that Mr. Murtha and other Democrats "want us to wave the white flag of surrender."
But Mr. Bonjean noted that Mr. Hastert did not use the term directly about Mr. Murtha and expressed his strong respect for the Democratic lawmaker while simultaneously differing on Iraq policy. In his blog, Mr. Hastert wrote last week: "I need everyone to understand that I have known Congressman Murtha a long time. He's a good man."
On the November 27 broadcast of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, nearly half of the Matthews Meter -- a group of 12 journalists and commentators host Chris Matthews polls weekly on current political questions -- declared the 2008 presidential election decided, three years before any votes have been cast. Five of the 12 journalists and pundits polled said that if Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wins the Republican Party nomination, he will "inevitably" win the election, regardless of whom the Democrats nominate. The show did not disclose the identities of those who declared McCain unbeatable.
Matthews posed the following question to his panel of regular guests: "If McCain wins the nomination, will he inevitably win the general election, no matter who the Democrats run against him?" Despite the fact that Matthews found the five "yes" replies "surprising," he did not say, or indicate in the accompanying Meter graphic, which of the 12 members stated that McCain would prove unbeatable in 2008.
Two members of the Meter who voted in the poll -- MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell and BBC News host Katty Kay -- were also guests on the November 27 broadcast during which Matthews revealed the Meter poll's results. After revealing the results, Matthews initiated a discussion of possible nominees for the 2008 elections with O'Donnell and Kay. He did not indicate which way either voted, and did not ask for their opinion on the poll itself. However, later during the broadcast, Matthews asked his four guests, "Who's the most likely nominee in the Republican Party next time?" Three out of four -- including Kay, Time magazine Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy, and Washington Post columnist Terry M. Neal -- said McCain would be the nominee; O'Donnell picked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."
The 12 Matthews Meter members are:
Gloria Borger, CBS News contributor and U.S. News & World Report contributing editor
Campbell Brown, NBC News correspondent
Tucker Carlson, MSNBC host
Sam Donaldson, former ABC News anchor
Howard Fineman, Newsweek chief political correspondent
Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal opinion page editor
David Gregory, NBC News chief White House correspondent
Katty Kay, BBC News host
Joe Klein, Time magazine columnist
Norah O'Donnell, MSNBC chief White House correspondent
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune columnist
Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic and commentator
From the November 27 broadcast of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. The great male hope: John McCain wants to be president in 2008. Will it happen? Let's go to the Matthews Meter. Again we asked 12 of our regulars: If McCain wins the nomination, will he inevitably win the general election, no matter who the Democrats run against him? Seven say no, he's beatable. But a surprising five of our regulars say no matter who he opposes in the general election, McCain wins the White House. Question: but can he get the nomination?
MATTHEWS: Who's the most likely nominee in the Republican Party next time?
O'DONNELL: Condi Rice.
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