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February 15, 2006
Hume noted White House claim that "video news releases" are legal, ignored that GAO thinks otherwise
During a February 13 report on a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that found that the Bush administration has spent $1.6 billion on public relations contracts since 2003, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume noted that the "White House says the use of PR firms is legal and helps get important information to the public." But Hume failed to inform viewers that according to the GAO, the White House's use of such firms to produce video news releases (VNRs) -- prepackaged news stories promoting administration policies and programs -- violates federal law. The agency's repeated criticism of this practice even led the U.S. Senate to pass legislation in 2005 requiring the government to clearly inform viewers that such VNRs, which are often presented as unbiased news stories by local television news programs, were created by a federal agency.
On February 13, Democratic congressional leaders released a new GAO study that found that the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion on contracts with public relations firms, advertising agencies, media organizations, and individuals since 2003. As The Washington Post reported, "Democrats asked the GAO to look into federal public relations contracts last spring at the height of the furor over government-sponsored prepackaged news and journalism-for-sale."
On the February 13 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume briefly mentioned the study:
HUME: The Government Accountability Office, in a survey of seven of the 15 cabinet level departments, finds that the Bush administration has spent about one and a half billion dollars on public relations efforts in 2003, 4 and the first half of 2005. The bulk of the money was spent by the Defense Department.
Congressional Democrats requested the report after disclosures that a commentator had been paid to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, and that some federal departments had paid for video news releases that appeared to some viewers at least to be independent newscasts. The White House says the use of PR firms is legal and helps get important information to the public.
But in simply reporting that the "White House says the use of PR firms is legal," Hume presented only one side -- the White House's -- and ignored the GAO's conclusion that the administration's use of these firms to produce and distribute certain VNRs violates the law.
In May 2004, the GAO determined that the Department of Health and Human Services broke federal law by releasing VNRs that favorably depicted a new Medicare law supported by the administration without indicating that the government had created and paid for the video segments. On January 6, 2005, the GAO announced that the Bush administration had again violated the law by producing similar "news segments" about drug use, saying the segments "constitute covert propaganda" because the government was not identified as the source of the materials. The GAO added that the administration "made it impossible for the targeted viewing audience to ascertain that these stories were produced by the government."
In a letter dated February 17, 2005, Comptroller General David M. Walker explained that, in both of these cases, the prepackaged news stories violated the government-wide prohibition, first enacted in 1951, on the use of appropriated funds for purposes of "publicity or propaganda." (The GAO released a full report rebuking the administration for this practice on May 12, 2005.):
In neither case did the agency include any statement or other indication in its news stories that disclosed to the television viewing audience, the target of the purported news stories, that the agency wrote and produced those news stories. In other words, television-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government. We concluded that those prepackaged news stories violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition.
The GAO's conclusions were immediately met with resistance by the Bush administration. According to a March 13, 2005, New York Times article, numerous government agencies responded by simply instructing their various departments to ignore its findings:
Although a few federal agencies have stopped making television news segments, others continue. And on Friday [March 11, 2005], the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to ignore the G.A.O. findings. The memorandum said the G.A.O. failed to distinguish between covert propaganda and "purely informational" news segments made by the government. Such informational segments are legal, the memorandum said, whether or not an agency's role in producing them is disclosed to viewers.
The legality of the VNRs has since been a matter of debate in Congress. On April 14, 2005, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to a supplemental spending bill that prohibited, for one year, "the use of funds by any Federal agency to produce a prepackaged news story without including in such story a clear notification for the audience that the story was prepared or funded by a Federal agency." Congressional leaders have since continued their efforts to advance legislation requiring that the Bush administration's use of this public relations tool comply with the GAO's 2005 ruling.
Media find lying about illicit sex more newsworthy than lying about warrantless domestic wiretapping of Americans
Which is more newsworthy -- a president caught lying about an inappropriate sexual relationship, or a president caught lying about having spied on Americans without court orders?
Media Matters for America has completed a review of television coverage on CNN, Fox News, and the broadcast networks in the 66 days since White House press secretary Scott McClellan was asked during a December 20, 2005, press briefing to explain the apparent contradiction between President Bush's April 20, 2004, statement that "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order" and the recently revealed existence of the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic wiretapping program, The review found just 16 instances in which Bush's 2004 remarks were quoted or replayed. In contrast, over a similar period following President Clinton's August 17, 1998, acknowledgment of a relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the same outlets quoted or replayed 73 times Clinton's earlier January 26, 1998, statement denying such a relationship existed.
Media Matters did not review MSNBC's coverage because the Nexis database does not include MSNBC transcripts dating earlier than November 8, 1999.
Using the Nexis database, Media Matters compared the coverage by CNN, Fox News, and the three major broadcast networks of Bush's apparently false statement on warrantless domestic eavesdropping to the coverage these same news outlets devoted to Clinton's false denial of a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. A search* for the text of Bush's remarks from December 20, 2005 -- when a reporter first raised the issue at a White House press briefing -- through February 13 revealed 16 unique hits. But a search** for the text of Clinton's remarks revealed 73 hits from August 18, 1998, when Clinton admitted having a relationship with Lewinsky, through October 22, 1998 -- the same number of days included in the search for Bush's remarks. Searching the Nexis database for each outlet individually revealed more hits for Clinton's remarks than for Bush's remarks.
The data from Media Matters' Nexis searches follows:
Nexis hits for Clinton remarks,
Nexis hits for Bush remarks,
* any time you hear the united states government talking about wiretap or a wiretap requires a court order or when we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so and date(geq (12/20/05) and leq (2/13/06))
** i did not have sexual relations with that woman and date(geq (8/18/98) and leq (10/22/98))
*** excludes hits from CNN.com, which was not archived in the Nexis database during the 8/18/98-10/23/98 period
In recent days, media reporting on the delay between when Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot one of his hunting partners and the public disclosure of that information have overlooked unanswered questions and inconsistent accounts of how the incident was revealed to the press. Many media outlets have uncritically repeated the White House claim that the Vice President's Office was solely responsible for the delayed announcement of the accident, without noting that White House senior adviser Karl Rove discussed the accident with his longtime friend Katharine Armstrong, the host of the hunting expedition, the night before she disclosed it to a Corpus Christi, Texas, newspaper. Other media reported that Armstrong said she conferred with Cheney before disclosing the story but failed to note that this account conflicts with initial reports that Armstrong said Cheney was not aware that she was going to contact the local media.
Many news outlets uncritically reported Armstrong's claim that she obtained Cheney's approval before revealing the story to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on February 12, without mentioning that this version of events conflicts with initial reports that Armstrong said Cheney had been unaware that she was going to contact the local media about the accident. For example, a February 14 New York Times article reported that Armstrong "said Mr. Cheney participated in discussions on Sunday morning about disclosing the incident, agreeing that it should be made public but deferring to the Armstrong family on how to do so." A February 14 Washington Post article similarly reported:
In a telephone interview, Armstrong said that she, her mother and her sister, Sara Storey Armstrong Hixon, decided on Sunday morning after breakfast to report the shooting accident to the media. "It was my family's own volition, and the vice president agreed. We felt -- my family felt and we conferred as a family -- that the information needed to go public. It was our idea," Armstrong said.
As Media Matters for America has documented, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on February 13 that Armstrong "told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press." Malveaux challenged White House press secretary Scott McClellan to why Armstrong's account differed from that of the White House, which claimed that Armstrong had coordinated with Cheney before contacting the press. By contrast, National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote that day that Armstrong told National Review Online that "she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper," but later simply printed an "author's note" relaying the administration's account without indicating any attempt to resolve the apparent discrepancy. Media Matters also documented that CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash -- while reporting the White House claim that Armstrong went to the press only after conferring with Cheney -- failed to note the apparent contradiction her colleague Malveaux had identified.
Several outlets reported that White House officials acknowledged that Rove, widely seen as the Bush administration's public relations and political guru, discussed Cheney's hunting accident with Armstrong the night before Armstrong told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times about it. For example, The New York Times reported on February 14 that Rove "called Ms. Armstrong to ask about the incident," while The Washington Post reported the same day that Rove was "told of the shooting Saturday night but deferred to Cheney on providing information to the public, White House aides said."
Another report, citing unnamed Republican officials, suggested that Rove was indeed involved in discussing how information about the accident would be released but ultimately deferred to Cheney. In a February 13 Web exclusive report for Time magazine, White House correspondent Mike Allen cited unnamed "Republican sources" to report that Cheney "overruled the advice of several members of the White House staff" -- including Rove -- by "insist[ing] on sticking to a plan for releasing information about his hunting accident that resulted in a 20-hour, overnight delay in public confirmation of the startling incident."
Other evidence suggests that Rove had an established personal relationship with the Armstrong family before his call to Katharine Armstrong over the hunting flap. According to an article in the May 12, 2003, edition of The New Yorker, Armstrong's father, Tobin Armstrong, was "an early financier" of Rove's first business venture:
Rove had the imprimatur of Texas's Republican aristocracy from the beginning, through his connection to the Bush family and to [Governor Bill] Clements. An early financier of Karl Rove + Company was Tobin Armstrong, the owner of a Texas ranch (it was on land leased from Armstrong Rove and Bill Frist were planning to go hunting) and the husband of Anne Armstrong, a former Republican Cabinet officer.
Despite the fact that Rove -- who serves as President Bush's primary political adviser -- spoke with Armstrong before she notified the media of the shooting, many in the media have simply accepted the White House's claim that Cheney's office was completely responsible for determining when and how the press would be notified. For example, on the February 13 broadcast of CBS Evening News, White House correspondent Jim Axelrod neglected to mention Rove's involvement in the story while reporting that "the decisions affecting who knew what when" were "being made on the ground in Texas by the vice president," and that "the decision to have the ranch owner [Armstrong] call her local paper to let the general public know of the shooting, that was Mr. Cheney's choice as well."
CNN's Morton: Bush "likes to hunt quail"; Cheney "loves to hunt" -- but Kerry "spent time posing with guns"
During a report on hunting and politics on the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton commented that President Bush "likes to hunt quail with family and friends" and Vice President Dick Cheney -- who accidentally shot a member of his quail-hunting party on February 11 -- "loves to hunt," but Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) "spent time posing with guns" during the 2004 presidential campaign, and that "voters probably saw more of him pursuing exotic sports, windsurfing and so on." Morton's jab echoed language Cheney used during the 2004 campaign to attack Kerry as effete and elitist.
Kerry reportedly has been a hunter since the age of 12.
From the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
MORTON: Do politicians love to hunt? Well, some. Theodore Roosevelt went after big game, went exploring -- a genuine enthusiast. Dick Cheney loves to hunt. There's been story after story about his hunting trips, though none, fair is fair, quite as dramatic as this last one. Harry Truman? He'd rather have played poker. Dwight Eisenhower organized a partridge hunt in North Africa during World War II and hunted as president. But when he had his druthers, you'd find him on a golf course. John Kennedy? A biographer recalls that Lyndon Johnson bullied him into shooting a deer once on the LBJ Ranch. But he didn't like it, and didn't fish much either. Though, of course, he loved to sail.
MORTON: This president likes to hunt quail with family and friends, especially on New Year's Day. John Kerry, the man he beat, spent time posing with guns. But voters probably saw more of him pursuing exotic sports, windsurfing and so on.
As Morton spoke, CNN aired a photograph of Kerry's October 21, 2004, goose-hunting trip in Ohio, and then switched to video footage of Kerry windsurfing. CNN, however, had reported on October 21, 2004, that Kerry is a longtime hunting enthusiast:
FRANK BUCKLEY (CNN national correspondent): Well, there are sportsmen in many of the battleground states -- in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Missouri, in Florida, in West Virginia -- a number of the battleground states, people hunt. It's a common pastime among the people in all these states, and the point here is to say, look, John Kerry is like you in many ways that you may not know that he was the -- that you may not know that he is like this. You may not know that he hunts, that he's been hunting since he was 12 and 13 years old. That was the point of today's exercise. You're right, Wolf. It wasn't just that he happened to decide to go goose-hunting today. He went goose-hunting today for a political purpose, but that purpose was to say you may not know some things about John Kerry, and one of them is that he likes to hunt.
Moreover, Morton's comments were reminiscent of Cheney's attacks on Kerry during the 2004 election, such as this comment the vice president made at an October 28, 2004, "Q&A" in Schofield, Wisconsin:
CHENEY: I think there's no question but what in my mind he is not a firm believer in the Second Amendment, that the Second Amendment is a lot more than just a photo-op and that you'll find the President and I have records that go back for many, many years that are consistent with a strong, principled belief in the Second Amendment and the right of Americans to bear arms, and that we, two, aggressively support those measures that will enhance and encourage the capacity that so many of us enjoy in terms of hunting and fishing and taking advantage of the gifts that we're provided as Americans. We want to protect and preserve that. And frankly, I don't think John Kerry -- I think he's spent too much time windsurfing, instead of hunting and fishing.
Also, Cheney's "hunting" practices seem to differ from traditional hunting ethics and practices. University professor and hunter Scott Denham wrote in a February 14 Charlotte Observer column that Cheney's February 11 quail hunt "broke several basic rules" of hunting -- too many hunters, no dog, and hunting from a vehicle. Denham noted that Cheney himself "broke some of the most basic rules: shooting at a low bird and not being aware of the placement of his hunting party members." Also, as was widely reported in 2003, Cheney and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) took part in a controlled bird hunt on a Pennsylvania game reserve, in which farm-raised birds were released from nets right in front of the hunters. According to a December 28, 2003, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch article, Cheney alone shot at least 70 birds, and the entire 10-person hunting party shot 417 birds.
700 Club anchor touted global warming skeptics' petition reportedly signed by non-scientists, fictitious characters
On the February 9 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, anchor Lee Webb touted a petition he claimed was signed by "more than 17,000 scientists" that "says there is no scientific evidence that greenhouse gasses cause global warming." But the petition Webb cited is more than seven years old and was apparently signed by many people who lack credentials as climate scientists.
Webb promoted the petition during a report on a new initiative by 86 evangelical Christian leaders to fight global warming. The New York Times reported February 8 that the group -- including "the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller 'The Purpose-Driven Life' " -- signed a statement stating that "climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians." According to the Times, the statement also calls for, in the newspaper's words, "federal legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through 'cost-effective, market-based mechanisms.' " The Times also noted that a second group of 22 evangelical leaders, including "Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention," signed a letter "addressed to the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of churches and ministries, which last year had started to move in the direction of taking a stand on global warming. The letter from the 22 leaders asked the National Association of Evangelicals not to issue any statement on global warming or to allow its officers or staff members to take a position." In his report, Webb stated that the second group of evangelical leaders "point[s] out that more than 17,000 scientists have signed a statement of their own. It says there is no scientific evidence that greenhouse gases cause global warming."
As Media Matters for America has noted, there is broad scientific consensus that the dramatic global warming observed in recent decades is largely attributable to human-released greenhouse gases and other human activities.
According to an April 30, 1998, Associated Press article, the petition "surfaced shortly before the April 22  Earth Day." The petition was a project of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a group describing itself as "a small research institute" studying "biochemistry, diagnostic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine, and aging." According to the website PR Watch, OISM "also markets a home-schooling kit for 'parents concerned about socialism in the public schools' and publishes books on how to survive nuclear war." PR Watch reports that although "[t]he OISM website says it has 'six faculty members, several volunteers who work actively on its projects, and a large number of volunteers who help occasionally,'" OISM's "only paid staff person ... is biochemist Arthur Robinson, the Institute's founder and president." OISM's 2003 IRS Form 990 lists Zachary and Noah Robinson -- according to PR Watch, Arthur Robinson's sons -- as unpaid staff spending one half-hour per week working for the institute.
The petition is accompanied by a letter signed by Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and by a paper authored by Arthur and Zachary Robinson and two others. The letter accompanying the petition argues that the Kyoto Protocol -- an international agreement to reduce or limit net emissions of certain greenhouse gases signed in November 1998 by President Clinton but rejected by President Bush shortly after he took office -- is "based upon flawed ideas" and argues that "there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful." The paper argues that "increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide ... have produced no deleterious effects upon global weather, climate, or temperature" and that "the effect on the environment [of increased CO2 levels] is likely to be benign" because "[g]reenhouse gases cause plant life, and the animal life that depends upon it, to thrive." PR Watch reports that the paper -- titled "Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" -- "was printed in the same typeface and format as the official Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," creating "the impression that Robinson's paper was an official publication of the academy's peer-reviewed journal."
But in an April 20, 1998, statement, NAS clarified that "this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal." The statement added that "[t]he petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy."
The AP reported Robinson is "a physical chemist" who "acknowledges he has done no direct research into global warming," and PR Watch reported that "[n]one of the coauthors of "Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" had any more standing than Robinson himself as a climate change researcher." PR Watch also noted that "[Robinson's] paper had never been subjected to peer review by anyone with training in the field. In fact, the paper had never been accepted for publication anywhere. ... It was self-published by Robinson, who did the typesetting himself on his own computer."
PR Watch also noted that "[w]hen questioned in 1998, ... Robinson admitted that only 2,100 signers of the Oregon Petition had identified themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, or meteorologists, 'and of those the greatest number are physicists.' " The AP article reported the total number of signatures on the petition as of April, 1998 to be approximately 15,000. The AP reported that Robinson "acknowledged that little attempt was done to verify credentials of those who responded" to the petition, and though the names of the signatories are listed on the OISM website, many of the entries lack academic credentials, none lists a city of residence, and none lists an academic institution with which the signer is affiliated.
Moreover, the AP noted that although Robinson claimed the petition "includes thousands of people 'qualified to speak on this subject' including biochemists, geophysicists and climatologists," he also admitted that "questionable names were added to the petition by pranksters."
From the AP article:
Several environmental groups questioned dozens of the names: "Perry S. Mason" (the fictitious lawyer?), "Michael J. Fox" (the actor?), "Robert C. Byrd" (the senator?), "John C. Grisham" (the lawyer-author?). And then there's the Spice Girl, a.k.a. Geraldine Halliwell: The petition listed "Dr. Geri Halliwell" and "Dr. Halliwell."
Asked about the pop singer, Robinson said he was duped. The returned petition, one of thousands of mailings he sent out, identified her as having a degree in microbiology and living in Boston. "It's fake," he said.
"When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake," Robinson, 56, said in a telephone interview from Oregon.
A May 1, 1998, AP article reported that the petition also bore the signatures of "Drs. '[Maj.] Frank Burns' '[Capt. B.J.] Honeycutt*' and '[Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye"]Pierce'" -- three characters from the hit sitcom M*A*S*H.
A Media Matters for America review of the signatures on the petition revealed that the signatures of these fictitious persons appear to have been removed.
From the February 9 edition of CBN's The 700 Club:
WEBB: The evangelical leaders who oppose the global warming letter point out that more than 17,000 scientists have signed a statement of their own. It says there is no convincing scientific evidence that greenhouse gases cause global warming. Pat, what do you make of this?
ROBERTSON: Well, I make of the fact that some of the evangelicals are being used by the radical left to further their agenda. And if you look further in the agenda of some of the radical environmentalists, they want to shut America down. They just want to shut our industries down and put people out of work. And if need be, we'll have a long, cold winter where we'll all be freezing. As somebody said, ask the folks in up the Ukraine and in Russia how warm it is this year. I mean, it depends on where you live. But, of course, as evangelicals, we should take care of the environment. Of course, we should look after the streams and forests and wildlife and all these other things. But we should not become captives of a radical environmental group that have [sic] an agenda that's far beyond just helping the environment.
* The Internet Movie Database and the website of actor Mike Farrell, who played this character, spell this name "Hunnicut" and "Hunnicutt," respectively. Based on the May 1, 1998, AP report, it is not clear which spelling of the name appeared on the petition.
On the February 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) -- host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country -- asserted that "there is a shrillness in [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham Clinton (D-NY)] that comes out on TV whenever she gets excited about something." Referring to a speech given by Clinton "a year ago," Scarborough added: "[E]very time her voice goes up, she gets very shrill, very un-Clinton-like, if you're talking about Bill Clinton."
Scarborough's remarks echo those of Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who repeatedly described Clinton as "angry" on the February 5 broadcast of ABC's This Week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host): We're just about out of time, but before we go, I have to ask you a question about 2008 and the candidate that all the Democrats are talking about, Hillary Clinton. For the Republicans, is she the dream candidate or the Democrat you most dread?
MEHLMAN: George, one of the things I believe strongly in politics is when you run a derivative campaign, when you run a campaign saying it's not that person, you never win. We're going to focus on who our candidate's going to be, who's going to win. I'll say this, though. I don't think the American people if you look historically elect angry candidates. And whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger. And then when you look at the voting record, there's all this talk of a new Hillary Clinton. The fact is, 96 percent of the time she votes with the Democrats, voting on behalf of the Davos filibuster of [Supreme Court Justice] Sam Alito. I'm not sure that most Americans thought that made sense. Voting against [Chief Justice] John Roberts. I'm not sure most Americans thought that made sense. So there is a lot of talk about a new Hillary Clinton, but if you look at the record, it's a very left-wing record, it's a record where most Americans I don't think think reflects their values. And when you think of the level of anger, I'm not sure it's what Americans want.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've got your talking points ready.
Scarborough appeared as part of a "Hardball Hotshots" panel that also featured Rita Cosby, who hosts MSNBC's Rita Cosby Live & Direct, and Tucker Carlson, the conservative host of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson. The panel featured no progressives, and none of the participants disputed Scarborough's claims about Clinton's supposed "shrillness."
Hardball host Chris Matthews, who moderated the panel, also has a history of personal attacks on Clinton. For example, on the July 11, 2005, edition of Hardball, Matthews suggested that Clinton looked "more witchy" because she criticized the Bush administration's homeland security spending priorities the day after the July 7, 2005, London bombings.
From the February 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
SCARBOROUGH: You know, the thing is about Hillary Clinton, she is -- and just to follow up on what Rita said, she's a very interesting person. You know, conservatives love to hate her from a distance. I can tell you when I met her, she was a very charming person. Her husband, of course, extraordinarily charming, but there is a shrillness in Hillary that comes out on TV whenever she gets excited about something. We saw it this week when she was talking about the war on terror. We saw it, of course, when she was talking at the MLK rally at the church on Martin Luther King Day, and I remember that speech in Iowa she gave about a year ago at the Jackson-Jefferson dinner, where she was marching around, and every time her voice goes up, she gets very shrill, very un-Clinton-like, if you're talking about Bill Clinton, and she just doesn't translate the way her husband does. She doesn't compare favorably when she's standing next to him, and I think that will hurt her in the long run.
Milbank falsely suggested Barr was only attendee of conservative conference to criticize NSA spying program
In his February 11 Washington Post column, titled "Bob Barr, Bane of the Right?" Dana Milbank falsely suggested that former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) was the lone conservative critic of the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic surveillance program to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held February 9-11 in Washington, D.C. Focusing largely on the negative reaction of CPAC attendees to Barr's criticism of the warrantless spying program, Milbank called Barr "the skunk at CPAC's party this year," while omitting the fact that the chairman of CPAC's sponsoring organization and at least one other prominent conservative speaker at the CPAC event have also criticized the program.
Milbank compared the reception Barr received at the event with that of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsored the CPAC event, writing that it was "no surprise" that at the event's silent auction, lunch with Barr reportedly netted only $75 because "fellow conservatives, for the most part, don't want to hear" Barr's position that the NSA spying program is illegal. But in reporting that, by comparison, dinner with Norquist netted $300, while a hunting trip with Keene brought in $1,000, Milbank left out a key fact, the inclusion of which would have undermined his thesis: Keene and Norquist both have joined Barr and the group Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB), to urge "lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law." According to PRCB's January 17 press release:
"Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping." -- Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform
"The need to reform surveillance laws and practices adopted since 9/11 is more apparent now than ever. No one would deny the government the power it needs to protect us all, but when that power poses a threat to the basic rights that make our nation unique, its exercise must be carefully monitored by Congress and the courts. This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose constitutional concerns." -- David Keene, chairman, American Conservative Union
From Milbank's Feb. 11 Washington Post column:
As of midday yesterday, a silent auction netted $300 for lunch with activist Grover Norquist, $275 for a meal with the Heritage Foundation president and $1,000 for a hunting trip with the American Conservative Union chairman. But lunch with former congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.), with an "estimated value" of $500, had a top bid of only $75 -- even with a signed copy of Barr's book, "The Meaning of Is [Stroud & Hall, 2004]," thrown in.
No surprise there. The former Clinton impeachment manager is the skunk at CPAC's party this year. He says President Bush is breaking the law by eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants. And fellow conservatives, for the most part, don't want to hear it.
As Media Matters for America has noted, numerous other prominent Republicans and conservatives have questioned the legality of the NSA program or otherwise raised concerns, including Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), John Sununu (R-NH), and Sam Brownback (R-KS, who was scheduled to speak at the CPAC event but reportedly canceled), as well as Bruce Fein, former deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
You ask why our report did not discuss Clinton's first term, and you say that "perhaps it's because statistics from Clinton's first term do not support their ill-defined 'conclusion.' " Later, you call our study "intellectually dishonest." You seem to be suggesting that we analyzed the data from those years, decided it didn't fit the point we wanted to make, and thus excluded it from our public report. That would have been appallingly dishonest, and it is frankly offensive for you to suggest that we have done so. I have been asked in a number of interviews why there is an imbalance on the Sunday shows, and I am always careful to say that we ascribe no sinister intentions to the producers. It is unfortunate that you apparently couldn't bring yourself to extend us the same courtesy.
Let me be clear: We didn't examine the guests from those years, so we have no idea what doing so would have showed. We decided to go back only as far as the second Clinton term because there were gaps in the Lexis-Nexis data, and we had to stop somewhere. Gathering and analyzing the data for all the nine years was itself an enormous task. Since you seem to have a complete list of guests on Meet the Press available, if you send it to us, we would be happy to analyze the first Clinton term.
As for the numbers you provide, it is you who have mixed apples and oranges. You say that for the first Clinton term, the guest breakdown was 56 percent Democrats to 44 percent Republicans. Since you are speaking only of Democrats and Republicans, the relevant comparison in our data is not the overall guest list, which includes not only elected and administration officials but all guests, including journalists; the relevant comparison is the list of elected and administration officials. The numbers for Meet the Press during the years we covered are as follows (these can be found in the appendix of the report):
In addition, you write of your figure of 56 percent Democrats to 44 percent Republicans during Clinton's first term: "How different is that from the first term of President Bush? Well, it's basically the same -- according to Media Matters' own findings -- Republicans accounted for 58 percent of all guests on Sunday shows in President Bush's first term and Democrats accounted for 42% of appearances." But here you are comparing not just apples to oranges, but Granny Smiths to Clementines. Those figures -- 58 percent Republicans/conservatives to 42 percent Democrats/progressives during Bush's first term -- represent all guests on all shows, not simply Democrats and Republicans on Meet the Press. The figure for Republicans and Democrats on Meet the Press during Bush's first term, to repeat, was 62 percent Republicans to 38 percent Democrats, a difference of 24 percentage points, twice as large as the figure you offered for Meet the Press during Clinton's first term.
I would also like to point your attention to the question of journalist guests. Meet the Press regularly features roundtables made up of neutral reporters and conservative opinion writers without any progressives in sight. To take just one example, on October 30, 2005, your show featured a roundtable of David Broder, Judy Woodruff, William Safire, and David Brooks. I would be eager to learn just how you would consider such a panel "balanced." And this is an area in which Meet the Press actually did quite well during the second Clinton term. But as you can see from this table, progressive writers seem to have almost disappeared during the first Bush term:
In short, it appears as though including Clinton's first term would not have undermined our conclusions -- quite the contrary, in fact. I would once again urge you to consider whether Meet the Press is offering the kind of balanced debate that best serves the public interest.
On the February 10 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, Washington senior correspondent Paul Strand revived a dubious allegation advanced by conservatives -- that as a racial insult, Democrats threw Oreo cookies at then-candidate for Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele at a September 26, 2002, debate. Steele is now running for the U.S. Senate. But as Media Matters for America previously noted, this allegation remains unproven and is disputed by eyewitnesses to the debate at which the incident is alleged to have taken place. In initial news reports on the debate, eyewitnesses made no mention of Oreo cookies. In fact, the alleged story of the Oreo incident has evolved over time, originating well after the debate as a partisan talking point advanced by Steele's Republican allies and gradually gaining traction in the media. Moreover, in affirming the accounts of the alleged Oreo incident put forth by other conservatives, Steele himself has offered varying accounts of what occurred at the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial debate.
News accounts have referenced the alleged Oreo cookie incident as a racial slur of Steele, an African American conservative. In that context, Oreos represent, as the website of Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP noted, a "slur for being black on the outside and white on the inside." During a segment on four African American Republicans currently running for political office, Strand echoed reports of this alleged racial slur.
From the February 10 edition of the CBN's The 700 Club:
STRAND: Michael Steele is the only one of these four who's actually been hassled for being both African American and Republican. Some Maryland Democrats have thrown Oreo cookies at him, accusing him of being black on the outside but white on the inside. He says he's ignoring the noise to stay focused on his dream.
Steele himself has repeatedly referenced the alleged Oreo cookie incident in media interviews, affirming the allegations put forth by other conservatives. For instance, on the January 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity asked Steele to "tell the story of how you were attacked, and at different events, and who do you think was responsible? They were throwing Oreo cookies at you and the like." Steele replied, "Exactly," elaborating that "Oreo cookies went at our debate [sic] in 2002, with Governor [Robert L.] Ehrlich [Jr.], were tossed in our direction."
In fact, Steele has offered various accounts of what transpired at the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial debate. The Baltimore Sun reported November 13, 2005, that "Steele was quoted in two articles that appeared in the [September 27, 2002] newspaper talking about the pro-[Democrat Kathleen Kennedy] Townsend crowd [at the debate] and what he called race-baiting by her campaign, but he said nothing about cookies." Yet, according to a November 22, 2002, report by the Capital News Service, Steele later "said an Oreo cookie rolled to his feet during the debate [emphasis added]." The Associated Press reported on November 14, 2005, that according to Steele, "Oreo cookies were tossed in his general direction as he left the debate at Morgan State University [emphasis added]," including two that "rolled up" next to his shoe after "[t]hey fell on the floor." According to a November 15, 2005, article on WTOP's website, Steele claimed he had seen "one or two" Oreo cookies "at my feet" at the debate. But the same WTOP article quoted Steele saying that other accounts of the alleged incident -- such as The Washington Times' S.A. Miller's November 2, 2005, description of Democrats "pelting" Steele with cookies -- were exaggerated:
On Tuesday, Steele told WTOP that he was never hit with Oreos and said the incident has been exaggerated.
"I've never claimed that I was hit, no. The one or two that I saw at my feet were there. I just happened to look down and see them," Steele said.
During a November 16, 2005, appearance on Hannity & Colmes, Steele replied affirmatively when Hannity asserted that liberals had thrown Oreo cookies at him, although neither Steele nor Hannity specifically referenced the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial debate. Steele's January 18 description of Oreo cookies being "tossed in our direction" at the debate was similar to his November 16, 2005, account, but differed from descriptions he offered previously, which mentioned, alternately, no cookies at all, a single cookie rolling to his feet during the debate, multiple cookies tossed in his direction and rolling up next to his shoe as he left the debate, or "one or two" cookies appearing at his feet at the debate.
From the January 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Can you give us a status report on that and tell the story of how you were attacked, and at different events, and who do you think was responsible? They were throwing Oreo cookies at you and the like.
STEELE: Exactly. The long and short of it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, is still looking into this matter, with respect to the theft of my Social Security number from court documents and, ultimately, the theft of my credit report by two individuals from the Democratic Senatorial Committee that's headed up by Senator [Chuck] Schumer [D-NY].
So, they're still looking into that. Those employees were fired some 30 or 45 days after the fact was leaked out that this had occurred. But my experience in Maryland running statewide, you know, there was -- there are any number of folks, Democrats and others, who felt that --
HANNITY: Let me --
STEELE: -- "Well, this guy is a threat." And, you know, Oreo cookies went at our debate [sic] in 2002, with Governor Ehrlich, were tossed in our direction.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this.
STEELE: Those types of things are just ignorant.
HANNITY: It is ignorant, and it's sad that, in this day and age, that that happened. There is a reverse racism out there, Michael, and you've suffered under this.
STEELE: Yep. Yep.
HANNITY: And I've had friends of mine that have suffered there. Their only fault is they are conservative and they happen to be an African American. It's disgraceful.
Betsy Fischer, executive producer of Meet the Press, responds to our report:
Media Matters has produced an incomplete and misleading "report" on Sunday morning television. They somehow seek to compare Sunday morning guest appearances for the Bush administration versus the Clinton administration - but for some strange reason they happen to completely omit the first term of President Clinton? Why would they do so - perhaps it's because the statistics from Clinton's first term do not support their ill-defined "conclusion?" (The guest listings for Sunday morning television going back decades are a matter of public record - and readily available in numerous libraries and databases and from the shows themselves.). In fact, we ran the Meet the Press numbers this morning in a matter of hours and found the following:
- During the first two years of the Clinton Administration - when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress - the breakdown of ideological guests were as follows: 1993 (72 Democrats, 29 Republicans -or a ratio of (71% Dem to 29% GOP); in 1994 ( 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans - or a ratio of 60% Dem to 40% GOP). When both House of Congress shifted to Republican control in 1995 - the number Republican guest appearances also increased and resulted in almost an even number of Republican and Democratic appearances.
- In summary, for the first term of President Clinton (1993-1996), the ideological breakdown of guests on "Meet the Press" was as follows: 260 Democrats to 208 Republicans - for a ratio of 56% Dem to 44% GOP). How different is that from the first term of President Bush? Well, it's basically the same - according to Media Matters own findings - Republicans accounted for 58% of all guests on Sunday shows in President Bush's first term and Democrats accounted for 42% of appearances).
We'd respectfully request that if Media Matters wants to undertake an unbiased look at Sunday show appearances - they do just that - and include statistics from President Clinton's first term - and avoid comparing apples to oranges. Their study as presented is intellectually dishonest.
If It's Sunday, It's Conservative: An analysis of the Sunday talk show guests on ABC, CBS, and NBC, 1997 - 2005
The Sunday-morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are where the prevailing opinions are aired and tested, policymakers state their cases, and the left and right in American politics debate the pressing issues of the day on equal ground. Both sides have their say and face probing questions. Or so you would think.
In fact, as this study reveals, conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows. Media Matters for America conducted a content analysis of ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press, classifying each one of the nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton's second term, President George W. Bush's first term, and the year 2005 as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral. The conclusion is clear: Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows - in some cases, dramatically so.
Among the study's key findings:
In short, the Sunday talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are dominated by conservative voices, from newsmakers to commentators. The data from the Clinton years indicate that the disparity cannot be explained simply by the fact that Republicans currently control the government.
February 14, 2006
CNN's Bash ignored earlier CNN reporting and said that Armstrong's story on Cheney shooting agreed with McClellan's
On the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash uncritically reported the White House's claim that Katharine Armstrong, the host of Vice President Dick Cheney's February 11 hunting party, went to the press to report Cheney's shooting accident only after conferring with Cheney, a claim that directly contradicted what CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux had reported earlier. During CNN's coverage of the White House's daily press briefing on February 13, Malveaux questioned White House press secretary Scott McClellan over what she said was Armstrong's assertion that "she did not believe the vice president's office was aware that she was going to go to the local press." Malveaux then asked, "How do you square that with your account that they were coordinating?" McClellan, in response, insisted that his version of events was correct and offered no explanation for the discrepancy. But Bash's report omitted the controversy entirely and, despite Malveaux's questions at the press briefing, asserted that McClellan's version -- that Cheney and Armstrong met and decided that she should speak to the press -- agreed with "what we [at CNN] heard and are still hearing from Katharine Armstrong" and with what "we are hearing from the vice president's office yesterday."
As Media Matters for America previously noted, at the February 13 press conference, Malveaux told McClellan that CNN had spoken to Armstrong, and that Armstrong "said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the vice president's office was aware that she was going to go to the local press."
Yet Bash failed to note the discrepancy between what Malveaux said Armstrong had said on the one hand -- that the vice president was unaware she was going to the press -- and the White House's claim -- that Armstrong conferred with the vice president before going to the press -- on the other. Malveaux, by contrast, did ask McClellan about the discrepancy.
From CNN's coverage of the February 13 White House press briefing:
McCLELLAN: Suzanne, go ahead.
MALVEAUX: Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening [February 12]. She said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the vice president's office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account that they were coordinating?
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.
MALVEAUX: So, you're saying that she is lying? That her -- that her statement is not correct?
McCLELLAN: No. You ought to check with her.
MALVEAUX: Well, we did check with her. So, you're saying that's not correct?
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong, and they agreed that she would make the information public.
From the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: The White House press secretary Scott McClellan was pummeled with questions today about how and when details of the shooting were made public. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dana Bash. She has details. Dana?
BASH: Hi, Wolf. Well, I was here when the news broke, and I can tell you this was a controversial issue from the start. Exactly how the information got out and why it took about 24 hours for that to happen. Now, essentially what happened here at the White House, today, is what you described. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, did -- pummeled is a good word -- got pummeled with those questions today, and his answers were very much in line with what we are hearing from the vice president's office yesterday, and also what we heard and are still hearing from Katharine Armstrong. She is the private citizen of the owners -- one of the owners of the ranch that Mr. Cheney was shooting at, and also was the person that was in charge of getting this information out. That was agreed to by the vice president and Mrs. Armstrong on Sunday morning. The big question, one of many questions is, why didn't this information get out to the public on Saturday night? The answer that they're giving now is simply that they didn't talk about it. Their focus was on getting Mr. Harry Whittington, the man who Mr. Cheney shot with a bird shot from about 30 yards away, getting him medical treatment. But I can tell you, Wolf, that today, if you watch the White House briefing, which is very contentious, carefully, you heard Mr. McClellan, Scott McClellan, make it clear that he would have handled this differently.
McCLELLAN [clip]: I did not know who was involved in that hunting accident. It wasn't until very early Sunday morning that I found out that the vice president was involved in this accident, and of course, in a position like mine, I was urging that that information be made available as quickly as possible, and the vice president's office was working to get that information out.
BASH: Now, we also have a little bit more information, Wolf, about how the president and his staff were informed. It was actually Andy Card, the president's chief of staff, that first got word, and he initially, just as you heard Scott McClellan say, just heard that there was a hunting accident -- not exactly what happened -- that Mr. Cheney actually shot a man accidentally. That information was not confirmed to the president until about 8:00 on Saturday night; and again, that information not getting out to the public until Sunday morning. Along the lines of what Scott McClellan was saying, he was asked whether they've learned any lessons, and he did make clear, make a point to say that when the president was in an accident, for example, in Scotland last year, they told the press. They had a traveling press corps with them -- it was a little bit different -- but they told them right away to try to get the information out. I talked earlier today with Alan Simpson, who is a long-time friend of Dick Cheney, and he put it this way. He said: "He's always been tight-lipped with the media. He's never been expansive with the media." He says they didn't like it 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and they don't like it today. Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash at the White House. Thanks very much.
American Family Association opened its airwaves to advocate for executing gays, adulterers, abortion doctors
Far-right Christian author and American Vision president Gary DeMar was the guest on the February 2 broadcast of Today's Issues, a program of American Family Radio, a network of nearly 200 radio stations owned by the conservative American Family Association (AFA). DeMar denounced "the continual assault on all things religion and, in particular, Christian," and AFA president Tim Wildmon praised him as "one of the best writers out there in the Christian community and thinkers." In the past, DeMar has advocated the installation of a theocratic government in the United States in which homosexuals, adulterers, and abortion doctors would be executed.
Wildmon invited to DeMar to discuss "the assault on God in our popular culture." DeMar responded by criticizing two television shows on NBC with allegedly "anti-Christian" themes:
DeMAR: Well, of course, as you know, on television we saw the -- what is it The Book of Daniel that was on there? And I understand that there's gonna be something on Will & Grace. I've never seen Will & Grace, but I guess Britney Spears is gonna be on there, and she's doing some cooking show called "Cruci-fixins."
WILDMON: Yeah, that's right, Gary. Of course, The Book of Daniel is an NBC television program, extremely sacrilegious and anti-Christian, and now NBC has announced that an episode of Will & Grace over in April, I think, will feature Britney Spears the pop star --
DeMAR: I think it's pretty much around Good Friday.
WILDMON: Yeah, the day before Good Friday. And she's supposed to play the part of a conservative Christian. Of course, that's the show featuring a homosexual character. And the name of her show is gonna be "Cruci-fixin's," if you can believe how sacrilegious a network can be. "Cruci-fixin's." It's supposed -- you're supposed to laugh at that because it's a play on the word "crucifixion" obviously.
DeMAR: Right. And of course, we've seen with [the film] Brokeback Mountain and so forth, just this continual assault on things religious and, most specifically, Christian. I know the ADL [Jewish advocacy group, the Anti-Defamation League] has come out against, you know, prayers that mention Jesus' name in a city -- in Florida, and I know here just in Marietta [Georgia], they've done the same with, you know, no mention of any specific god in these prayers. I mean, I don't know who in the world they're praying to. And there's a video out that's making the rounds on the Internet: The God Who Wasn't There. So there's just a daily assault on everything mostly related to Christianity across the board, and Christians need to be prepared for these assaults, especially with their children as they go off to school and, of course, to college, and as they get further and further away from the home. We as Christians need to be vigilant in answering these rather ridiculous objections to the things of Christ.
NBC canceled The Book of Daniel January 25 after four episodes aired; AFA founder and chairman Donald E. Wildmon said, "This shows the average American that he doesn't have to simply sit back and take the trash being offered on TV, but he can get involved and fight back with his pocketbook." NBC claimed that the purported Will & Grace storyline of Spears serving as a Christian conservative hosting a cooking show called "Cruci-fixin's" came from "a press release mistakenly issued by the network," and that "neither a script nor story line for the episode in question has been written." The God Who Wasn't There is a film that, according to a Newsweek article, "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed."
Later in the broadcast, co-host Jeff Shambley told DeMar, "I should mention that I personally appreciate your work. The three-work set God and Government [American Vision, 1990] and Reformation to Colonization [American Vision, 1997] is used in our home school. And I know your work has blessed millions of people."
Tim Wildmon echoed Shambley's praise of DeMar, declaring, "Well, one of the best writers out there in the Christian community and thinkers is Gary DeMar."
DeMar is a leading promoter of an extremist theology called Christian Reconstructionism, also known as Theocratic Dominionism, which, according to journalist and author Frederick Clarkson, "argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life -- such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely 'social' or 'moral' issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion."
In his essay, "Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence," Clarkson stated that under a Christian Reconstructionist government, "[w]omen would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment beyond such crimes as kidnapping, rape, and murder to include, among other things, blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality."
As Americans United for Separation of Church and State documented, DeMar wrote in his book, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Principles for Government (Dominion Press, 1987): "The law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectually drives the perversion of homosexuality back into the closet." DeMar added: "The long term goal [is] the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty."
DeMar further articulated his views during an exchange on an Atlanta radio show in 1991 with liberal Christian activist Skipp Porteous and host Paul Gonzalez:
DeMAR: The definition of Christian Reconstruction is simply this: The Bible applies to every facet of life. That means not just the judicial aspects of life, such as civil government, church government, but business, economics -- every facet of society. The Bible has something to say about each area. For example, on homosexuals: We do not believe that homosexuals ought to be executed. The Bible doesn't say that homosexuals ought to be executed. What it says is this: If two men lie together like man and woman, they are to be put to death.
PORTEOUS: What the hell do you think that is?
DeMAR: Well, wait a minute. If a guy comes up to me and he says, "I'm a homosexual," that doesn't mean he's to be executed. If you understand the Scriptures, it says very clearly: If a man comes up to you and says, "I've murdered somebody," that doesn't mean that person ought to be executed.
GONZALES: Oh, so what you are saying, Gary, is, if you catch homosexuals in the act, then the Bible says to execute them.
DeMAR: The Bible lays forth the severest penalty, which would be capital punishment for two men who publicly engage in sodomy.
DeMar continued by stating his nominal support for the death penalty for adulterers and abortion doctors:
GONZALES: If, indeed, the Reconstructionist movement ever made it in America, would you advocate these biblical principles being carried out: the execution of the adulterer, the abortionist, and the homosexual?
DeMAR: I'm saying that they could be implemented, yes.
In September 2005, DeMar spoke at a symposium at The Chalcedon Foundation, a Reconstructionist think tank. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) called the symposium "a preview of a planned speaking tour of Reconstructionism's leading voices ... that will be traveling to non-Reconstructionist fundamentalist Christian churches around the country beginning this winter as part of the Chalcedon Foundation's missionary effort to 'convert' already conservative congregations to full-blown Reconstructionism."
DeMar's Marietta, Georgia-based think-tank and advocacy group, American Vision, which the SPLC lists as a hate group, claims to be "Equipping and Empowering Christians to Restore America's Biblical Foundation." In 2001, President Bush was expected to re-nominate former American Vision board member and longtime anti-union activist J. Robert Brame III to the National Labor Relations Board; Brame was forced to withdraw from consideration after media reports documented American Vision's advocacy of a right-wing Christian Reconstructionist theocracy.
On February 11, CNN became the most recent news outlet -- following Fox News, The Washington Times editorial page, and the Associated Press -- to adopt the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program. In a report on CNN Live Saturday, correspondent Brian Todd referred to it as the "terrorist surveillance program" without noting that the term is one promoted by the Bush administration to cast the program in a way most likely to secure the public's support.
Further, in a February 13 article, the AP again used the term without qualification; and in his February 10 column, Washington Times columnist Greg Pierce referred to the "government's terrorist surveillance program."
Bush first used the term publicly in a January 23 speech at Kansas State University in which he defended his authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications of U.S. residents without court warrants. He said of the NSA's activities, "It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program." The White House's first use of the term, however, came on January 22 when its press office released a backgrounder on the NSA program, in which the label appeared 10 times in reference to the domestic eavesdropping. The term appears to have originated on December 22 with the right-wing news website NewsMax.com, as Media Matters for America has noted.
On the February 11 edition of CNN Live Saturday, Todd used the term as he wrapped up a report on a recent lawsuit filed by intelligence expert James Bamford in an effort to halt the NSA's unwarranted eavesdropping:
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a current NSA spokesman said the terrorist surveillance program is highly classified and discussing it would compromise its effectiveness. He also would not comment on James Bamford's litigation. We also contacted the major telecom companies to ask them about their level of cooperation with the NSA. Neither AT&T, Sprint, nor Verizon would comment.
In previous instances when CNN reporters have used the term "terrorist surveillance program," they have indicated to viewers that it is a label promoted by the administration. For example, on the February 6 edition of CNN's American Morning, national security correspondent David Ensor referred to the "domestic surveillance program, which the administration calls the terrorist surveillance program." On the January 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, White House correspondent Dana Bash noted the new "label that the White House is using for this program, calling it the terrorist surveillance program." On the January 24 edition of The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer even remarked that the new term represented "smart strategy":
BLITZER: It's no longer domestic spying, warrantless surveillance. Its official new name is the terrorist surveillance program. Pretty smart strategy. Who could oppose a terrorist surveillance program?
From AP staff writer Jeff Douglas's February 13 article, "Bond: Attention is hurting surveillance effort":
The terrorist surveillance program could be destroyed if investigations and discussion by the media continue, Sen. Kit Bond said Monday.
The Missouri Republican and Senate Intelligence Committee member said he felt it was time to speak out before more details of the National Security Agency's program are released, potentially compromising it.
From Pierce's February 10 "Inside Politics" column:
President Bush's campaign to convince Americans that the government's terrorist surveillance program is essential to national security has had an effect: Last month, people disapproved, 56 percent to 42 percent. Now it's basically tied.
CNN's Jonathan Klein: Bennett "had explained himself very clearly and well" on controversial remarks
In a February 13 New York Times article on Jonathan Klein's "small victories" since becoming president of CNN's domestic operations 14 months ago, Klein asserted that recent CNN hire Bill Bennett -- who is also a radio host and former Reagan administration secretary of education -- "had explained himself clearly and very well" regarding his September 2005 comments, in which Bennett said that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." As Media Matters for America has noted, on the January 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room -- his first appearance since being hired by CNN -- Bennett defended himself by falsely claiming that the topic "was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."
As quoted in the Times article, Klein also described Bennett as "a guy who has some very evolved thoughts and is not afraid to express them."
The controversy began on September 28, 2005, when Bennett told a caller on his radio show that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett added it "would be ... a morally reprehensible thing to do," but nonetheless insisted "your crime would go down." In the initial defense of his remarks, Bennett claimed that his comments were taken out of context and that they were based on a 1999 Slate.com online discussion between Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005), and right-wing columnist Steve Sailer. Media Matters reported that, at the time, in the Slate discussion that Bennett cited, Levitt had actually said the opposite of what Bennett claimed: "None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable." In addition, Levitt specifically rebutted Bennett's claim that his remarks stemmed from Levitt's work. In a September 30, 2005, response, Levitt said: "Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that [co-author Stephen J.] Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics."
During the January 26 appearance, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer asked Bennett about his controversial comment. Bennett reiterated the same defense; though speaking more generally, he said that "this [controversial scenario on race, crime, and abortion] was a hypothetical, obviously, that was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."
From the February 13 article in The New York Times:
Among the reasons some CNN staff members had puzzled over the hiring of Mr. Bennett were his incendiary comments, on his radio show last fall, that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Mr. Bennett had also characterized such a proposal as "impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible." Mr. Klein said last week that Mr. Bennett, in responding to the controversy, "had explained himself very clearly and well," and was "a guy who has some very evolved thoughts and is not afraid to express them."
On February 13, MSNBC issued a correction of a falsehood previously documented by Media Matters for America. As Media Matters noted, on the February 10 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Alex Witt falsely claimed that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions" from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In fact, a Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of Abramoff's donations (here and here) shows that the lobbyist made contributions only to Republicans, not Democrats.
During the 3:00 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's February 13 Post-Olympics Show, anchor Amy Robach stated:
ROBACH: We want to correct some information we broadcast in a story on Friday concerning Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. We stated that Senator Reid has collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff over a period of nearly three years. Now, we should have said that, according to The Washington Post, the money in question came from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners, and clients -- not from Abramoff directly. MSNBC regrets that error.
On CBS, NY Times' Bumiller repeatedly questioned Dean about GOP depiction of Sen. Clinton as "angry"
On the February 12 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller repeatedly pressed Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean to respond to Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ken Mehlman's recent description of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as "angry." While Dean refused to comment directly on this characterization, he indicated that he agreed with Clinton's recent public criticisms of the Bush administration, to which Mehlman had responded by accusing Clinton of having "a lot of anger." But following this answer, Bumiller again asked Dean about the RNC chairman's comments, saying, "Let me just try to get you to talk about Mrs. Clinton." After he again refused to comment, she asked, "Do you think she's too angry? Do you agree with Mr. Mehlman?" Meanwhile, others in the media have said in recent days that the Clinton remarks Mehlman cited were, in the words of Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, not "particularly angry or outside the box" and that Mehlman's comments represent what Klein agreed was a "purposeful gender attack."
On the January 5 edition of ABC's This Week, Mehlman said that Clinton "seems to have a lot of anger" and claimed that this trait might prevent her from being elected to the White House if she were to run for president in 2008. According to a February 6 Associated Press article:
Mehlman cited the New York senator's remarks on Martin Luther King Day in which she called the Bush administration "one of the worst" in history and compared the Republican-controlled House to a plantation where opposing voices are silenced.
"I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates. And whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger," Mehlman told ABC's "This Week."
Bumiller joined host Bob Schieffer in questioning Dean on the February 12 edition of Face the Nation. At no point in the interview did she air or quote the Clinton remarks cited by Mehlman during his This Week appearance:
BUMILLER: Mr. Dean, let me ask you about Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican Party, said last week that Hillary Clinton was angry and -- too angry, and that Americans will not elect an angry candidate. What do you say to that?
DEAN: Well, first of all, I generally don't talk about 2008 because I have to be the referee in that race, and if I say anything about one of them, I've got to say something --
BUMILLER: Wait, we're just talking about what Mr. Mehlman said. We're not talking --
DEAN: I'm going to get to that in a minute.
DEAN: So I'm going to leave the question of Senator Clinton's remarks aside. If I recall, Senator Clinton said something to the effect that this was the worst presidency we've seen. Now, the facts are that they've bungled the response to Katrina, and they -- and there's more evidence now the president misled the nation about that as well, because this week we see evidence that, in fact, as he told the American people, he -- the opposite of what he told the American people -- he did, in fact, know how bad it was because the White House was told the night before. He misled the American people about Iraq.
BUMILLER: But let me just --
DEAN: He misled the American people about the cost of the drug benefits for seniors and made a mess of that --
BUMILLER: Let me -- -- let me just --
DEAN: What has this president done right?
BUMILLER: -- try to get you to talk about Mrs. Clinton. What -- how do you react to --
DEAN: Well, I'm not going to talk about Senator Clinton. She's running for re-election in --
BUMILLER: Do you think she's too angry? Do you agree with Mr. Mehlman?
DEAN: She -- I said I'm not going to talk about the 2008 race. What I do agree is that Senator Clinton has said a number of things about the president which are true and which Mr. Mehlman finds inconvenient because the president's list of accomplishments is incredibly short.
That same morning, on the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews aired Mehlman's comments on This Week, as well as some examples of Clinton's recent criticisms of the Bush administration, and asked a panel of journalists to comment on the story. None of them endorsed the RNC chair's characterization as legitimate. Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker drew a parallel between Mehlman's description of Clinton and the earlier characterizations of her as First Lady:
MATTHEWS: But Cynthia, the question on the table now: Have the Republicans tried or succeeded at putting her in a box?
TUCKER: Not yet, but they're certainly going to continue this strategy. You know, Chris, I remember when she was first lady, she was caricatured as being cold, distant and aloof. Now, all of a sudden, she's got an anger management problem. But this would be the difficulty that any woman who ran for president would find. If you're a woman, if you're tough, if you're strong, if you're ever angry, you get caricatured as being -- rhymes with itchy.
Klein agreed that Mehlman's comments represented a "purposeful gender attack" on Clinton. Moreover, he said that her recent criticisms of Bush were not "particularly angry or outside the box":
MATTHEWS: Is this a -- I get the point. Is this a purposeful gender attack on her --
TUCKER: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: -- that you wouldn't do against a man. OK, Joe -- Joe?
KLEIN: Oh, sure. First of all, none of the things she said were either particularly angry or outside the box. [Former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich [R-GA] used to talk about the liberal plantation in Congress all the time.
MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell compared Mehlman's treatment of Clinton with the Republican's attacks on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during the 2000 presidential primaries and on Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during the 2004 presidential campaign:
O'DONNELL: Are the Republicans trying to exploit and make this image early on that she's angry? Absolutely. That's part of the strategy. The Democrats say, "Not going to be as easy as what you did with John Kerry, because most people already have an opinion of Senator Hillary Clinton." They've already formed that opinion. However, this is not new. The Republicans did this with John McCain in South Carolina -- the Bushes did this. They said -- there was this silent campaign that went around. Remember, "He's got a temper, you know. Is this really the guy you want?" Kerry, he was the flip-flopper. He's the guy on the, you know, on the --
MATTHEWS: Norah, who do you know who doesn't have a temper? I keep trying to find this person. I have one --
KLEIN: You know, there's a simple answer --
O'DONNELL: But this is so important. This is so important because electing presidents is about their policy. But a lot of it, people have said, is about personality. And the Bushes have made a strategy out of making it a lot about personality to obscure some of the policies.
Further, on the same program in which New York Times columnist David Brooks said that the Democratic Party has "the blogs and the netroots, who are semi-nuts and who insist on a Stalinist line of discipline," Brooks also said that Clinton's remarks were "objectively not angry":
BROOKS: But there is one other issue with Hillary. To me, her problem is not anger. I agree with Joe that what she said is objectively not angry. It's trust.
In a February 13 New York Times article, reporter Neil A. Lewis noted that Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), appearing on the February 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, criticized the Bush administration for allegedly authorizing the leaking of classified information. Lewis failed to note, however, that Sen. George Allen (R-VA) also criticized the administration's leaking of classified information on the same program -- indeed, during the same segment.
Lewis's article dealt with the February 9 revelation from special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- currently under indictment for perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements related to Fitzgerald's investigation into the 2003 leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity -- testified that his superiors authorized him to leak classified information to the press to bolster support for the Iraq war.
In his article, Lewis noted:
The disclosure of portions of the intelligence estimate before it was declassified -- even if it did not deal with Ms. Wilson [Plame] -- produced other criticism. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, described more precisely than did Mr. Dean the nature of last week's news reports in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"I think it's inappropriate. I think it's wrong," Mr. Reed said. He added that the disclosure of the intelligence report should be part of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation.
Lewis failed to report, however, that immediately after Reed made these comments, Allen joined in criticizing the leaks. From the February 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (host): Well, there doesn't seem to be any legal issue here. The issue seems to be more of kind of a political issue as to how you feel about the possibility that the vice president, because he would seem to be the obvious superior who was authorizing Scooter Libby, was telling him to release information which, as far as we know, was at that point still classified.
ALLEN: I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch, or some underling in some bureaucracy.
Word first spread that Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally shot one of his hunting partners on February 12, nearly 24 hours after the incident occurred, when Katharine Armstrong -- the host of Cheney's hunting party -- passed the story on to her local newspaper, Texas' Corpus Christi Caller-Times. In a February 13 article, National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote that Armstrong "said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper." But when a spokeswoman for Cheney responded to the article by saying that, in fact, Armstrong and Cheney discussed specifically how the news would be disclosed to the public, York printed the White House response as an "author's note" at the bottom of the article, with no explanation for the discrepancy in Armstrong's and Cheney's reported accounts.
From York's article on National Review Online:
Katharine Armstrong said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper. If Armstrong had not made the call, it is not clear when, if ever, the vice president's office would have told the public about the incident. Asked what would have happened if the accident had happened another way -- if, for example, [Harry] Whittington [the Texas attorney that Cheney shot] had accidentally shot the vice president -- the administration source told NRO that it would have been handled in a similar fashion. "The priorities would have remained the same -- first medical care, then law enforcement alert," the source said. Still, in the case of Saturday's shooting, those matters were taken care of on Saturday, and the press was still not notified until after Katharine Armstrong made the decision to call her local paper.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After this story appeared, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride called NRO to say that Cheney and Katharine Armstrong did discuss telling the public about the incident. "The vice president was on the Armstrong ranch, and they were talking directly," McBride said. "The vice president and Mrs. Armstrong agreed that the media should be notified, and Mrs. Armstrong called her local paper."
The "author's note" raises the question of how the discrepancy occurred, which York gave no indication of trying to answer. There are at least three possibilities: (1) York misrepresented what Armstrong told him; (2) Armstrong did not tell the truth; or (3) the White House did not tell the truth.
York's description of Armstrong's account was similar to a report by CNN. During coverage of a February 13 White House press briefing, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux noted that Armstrong "told CNN that she did not believe that the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press." But Malveaux pressed White House press secretary Scott McClellan to explain the discrepancy between Armstrong's account and the Bush administration's line:
MALVEAUX: Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening [February 12] and she said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account, that --
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.
MALVEAUX: Are you saying that she's lying? That her --
McCLELLAN: No. You ought to check with her.
MALVEAUX: We did check with her. So you're saying that's not correct?
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong, and they agreed that she would make the information public.
On the February 12 edition of ABC's This Week, Washington Post columnist George F. Will called President Bush's controversial warrantless domestic spying program "a winner politically" because "[t]here's no question the country says, 'You're listening in? We don't care.'" However, polling shows that, depending on the wording of the poll question, a strong minority of the public or even a majority opposes the program.
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken February 7-8 with a margin of error of +/-3 percent found that 54 percent think the president should "have the power" to "monitor electronic communications of suspected terrorists" without a warrant even if one end of the call is in the United States, while only 40 percent say the president should not have that power. But when the polls don't ask about presidential powers and instead focus on this specific program, the results are mixed. A February 6-8 Associated Press/Ipsos poll with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent found that a 50-percent majority think the president should "be required to get a warrant from a judge before monitoring phone and Internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists." Similarly, a January 26-29 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent shows that while 51 percent approve of the administration's "approach" to wiretaps, 53 percent said that the administration should nonetheless be required to obtain a court order to conduct such electronic surveillance.
From the February 12 edition of ABC's This Week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host): OK, but then let me ask just one more question on this since you raised it. If you -- if you are right about the substance of this -- and clearly, now that we've been talking about the program for two months, if the terrorists didn't know beforehand, they certainly know now that they're gonna be monitored -- do you believe the administration will just hold the line all year long, even against these other Republicans, in order to have the issue?
WILL: Yes, for two reasons. Obduracy is their political philosophy. They simply are not going to give an inch on anything. It may be a weak person's idea of strength, but it's their idea. Second, it's a winner politically.
DAVID GERGEN (former presidential adviser): Exactly.
WILL: There's no question the country says, "You're listening in? We don't care."
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