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March 9, 2006


In his March 8 nationally syndicated column, Media Research Center (MRC) president L. Brent Bozell III attacked Katie Couric, co-host of NBC's Today, for being "so rough on Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, for being a Catholic." Citing specific questions Couric asked Monaghan during a March 3 interview, Bozell claimed that "Couric's performance on NBC was so harsh it was jaw-dropping," as opposed to Monaghan's March 3 interviews on ABC and CBS, which Bozell described as "calm." In fact, most of the questions Bozell cited as evidence of Couric's anti-Catholic bias were also posed to Monaghan during his "calm" CBS and ABC interviews.

According to a February 17 Associated Press article, Monaghan "has pledged more than $250 million" towards the construction of Ave Maria University -- a Catholic institution -- "and a surrounding town by the same name where planners expect to attract 20,000 residents." A March 3 AP article reported that Monaghan "backtracked" from "statements he made last year to a Catholic men's group in Boston that pornographic magazines won't be sold in town, pharmacies won't carry condoms or birth control pills, and cable television will carry no X-rated channels." On March 3, Monaghan and Paul Marinelli, president of Barron Collier Company, the development firm Monaghan has partnered with, appeared on Today, CBS' The Early Show, and ABC's Good Morning America.

Bozell wrote:

You'd think Katie Couric would aspire to be an anchorwoman for all the American people now that CBS appears to be wooing her for the Throne of Rather. So why did she have to be so rough on Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, for being a Catholic?


He poured millions upon millions of dollars into pro-life and Catholic philanthropy. Among other ventures, he founded Ave Maria University. After facing zoning problems with his first location in Michigan, Monaghan struck a deal in southern Florida, not to merely build a Catholic college, but a truly Catholic town, open to anyone aspiring to live in communion with traditional values.

That, of course, is when he earned the ire of Katie Couric. Monaghan and his developer partner Paul Marinelli appeared on the three network morning shows on March 3, but whereas ABC and CBS were calm, Couric's performance on NBC was so harsh it was jaw-dropping.


As NBC dutifully plastered the words "Catholic Town USA" on screen, Couric began pestering Monaghan about his hope that pharmacists would not sell contraceptives there. She asked about it four times. After four denials, she started dropping the bombs. "Some people," she claimed, think Catholic values might be "deemed wholesome, but in other ways, I think people will see this community as eschewing diversity and promoting intolerance." Marinelli refused to take the bait, instead calmly explained that this town was open to all people of all faiths with a "traditional family value perspective." Couric was unconvinced and shot back, "Does that mean you would welcome Jewish residents?" It was an ugly question with the veiled accusation of bigotry lurking just below the surface.

Bozell neglected to mention that Good Morning America anchor Bill Weir asked Monaghan and Marinelli essentially the same question: "Will Jews, Muslims, Baptists be welcome in this university in this town?" Early Show anchor Harry Smith asked a similar question: "Who's welcome? Who's going to be welcome then in Ave Maria? You say not just Catholics?"

Bozell went on:

And when she was done, she switched gears, clumsily dragging in words that suggest racism to the audience: "But do you think the tenets of the community might result in de facto segregation as a result of some of the beliefs that are being espoused by the majority of residents there?" What in the world was Couric imagining in Ave Maria, Fla. -- the great Catholic menace?

Again, Weir asked a similar question during the ABC interview: "Obviously, any time a like-minded group of people gets together in an idea to sort of isolate themselves from the rest of country, people are going to take umbrage with that. So, do you want to just do away with the perception that this will be an isolated community of Catholics, Catholics only?" As did Smith on CBS: "Well, then, that's where it gets complicated, then, because if you have public facilities in the town that has -- is supposed to be built on these kind of ideological principles, don't you then have to have it available, and have things open to it that would be available anywhere else in any other community?"

Bozell continued:

After pestering the Ave Maria duo about whether the cable TV system will be smutty enough, Couric returned to touting the "people" (and notice it's always "people" or "some people," never a source identified). "At the same time you can understand how people would hear some of these things and be, like, wow, this is really infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech and right to privacy and all sorts of basic tenets this country was founded on? Right?"

Couric asked Marinelli, "[w]hat about cable?" after Marinelli said: "It is going to be a town that we are not going to have adult bookstores and topless bars, OK? We don't think that they coincide with traditional family values." Once again, Bozell did not note that Smith asked Marinelli on CBS: "But would you say then, would -- is your suggestion then to the cable franchisee that you don't offer X-rated cable to -- to the -- to the people who live in this community?"

Categories: News

The New York Times, in the March 8 edition of the paper, issued a correction of a prior correction of an article about a measure co-sponsored by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to limit the control of U.S. seaports to companies meeting certain criteria. But the Times has yet to correct a similar falsehood about port-related legislation proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA).

As Media Matters for America documented, the Times' initial correction of its February 28 article about the controversial deal that would permit Dubai Ports World -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates -- to take over port operations in six U.S. cities purported to identify an error in the article, which was flagged by Media Matters, but it did so incorrectly. While the Clinton-Menendez measure would bar companies owned by foreign governments from controlling U.S. ports, the Times erroneously reported that the legislation would bar all foreign companies, whether government-owned or not. In its flawed correction, published March 2, the Times again misreported the nature of its initial error, incorrectly claiming that the error related to the article's suggestion that the Clinton-Menendez bill would apply only to companies owned by foreign governments when it would actually also impact any company controlled by a foreign government.

The day after publishing the flawed correction, a Times article misreported a description by Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, of legislation that he said he planned to introduce -- an error the Times has yet to correct. As noted by Media Matters, in that March 3 article, by Carl Hulse and Heather Timmons, the Times reported erroneously that Hunter said that his bill would ban only entities owned by foreign governments from operating installations critical to national security. As Media Matters noted when the Times made the error on March 3, the bill Hunter described and subsequently introduced on March 7 would bar all foreign-owned companies from operating U.S. seaport terminals. While still not publishing a correction, the Times accurately reported the substance of Hunter's bill in a March 8 article, also by Hulse.

From the March 8 edition of The New York Times (also appended to the online version of the original February 28 article):

An article on Feb. 28 about concerns raised by the Coast Guard over the deal with a Dubai company, DP World, incorrectly described legislation proposed by two Democratic Senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and a correction in this space on Thursday also described it incorrectly. The bill would ban companies owned by foreign governments from taking over operations at American ports. It would not ban foreign-owned private companies from doing so. (The Dubai company is controlled by the emir of Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.)

Categories: News

In a March 8 article on the recent agreement between the White House and Republican senators concerning the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, Associated Press staff writer Katherine Shrader referred to the operation as "terrorist monitoring." In doing so, she echoed the White House's preferred description of the controversial program -- "terrorist surveillance" -- terminology that Shrader has used in two previous articles. Moreover, Shrader waited until the end of the article to disclose why the program is controversial: It allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on U.S. residents without warrants, in apparent violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

It was not until the penultimate paragraph that Shrader first referred to the NSA surveillance program as "warrantless." This information was not specifically noted anywhere else in the article, despite its clear relevance to the widespread criticism of the program. She instead misleadingly referred to the NSA program as "terrorist monitoring" and wrote that it allows "the government to monitor suspected terrorists." In fact, as Media Matters for America noted in response to Shrader's prior use of the White House's preferred terminology in her articles, there is ample evidence that the NSA program goes far beyond merely monitoring terrorists or suspected terrorists. Reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post have described the program as monitoring the communications of thousands of people with no relationship to terrorist organizations.

Further, forgoing mention that the NSA surveillance is conducted without warrants until the end of the article obscured the substance of lawmakers' objections to the program Shrader had noted earlier in her story. Since the program became public in December 2005, Democratic lawmakers -- along with numerous Republicans -- have argued that it violates FISA, the law that requires a warrant be obtained to conduct domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes. Under the proposed legislation, agreed to by the White House and Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the administration would be allowed to conduct warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days. If it seeks to conduct this surveillance for a longer period, it would be required to either request a FISA warrant or explain to a newly formed, seven-member Senate subcommittee why it is necessary to continue eavesdropping without one.

At no point in the article did Shrader explicitly state that critics of the program argue it violates the law. Shrader noted the Democratic criticism of the committee's rejection of a proposal to fully investigate the NSA surveillance operations, but she again failed to provide the larger context for the opposition to the program or even note that it involves domestic surveillance without warrants:

Meanwhile, Democrats on the Intelligence Committee expressed outrage after a meeting Tuesday that senators voted -- along party lines -- to reject an investigation of the surveillance proposed by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's top Democrat.

"The committee -- to put it bluntly -- basically is in the control of the White House," a visibly angry Rockefeller said.


Rockefeller said he spent all of Friday at the NSA, seeking answers to more than 400 questions. He said it would take several visits to have a full understanding of the program, which allowed the administration to eavesdrop on international calls and e-mails of U.S. residents when terrorism is suspected.

By contrast, a March 8 Los Angeles Times article on the agreement laid out the substance of the larger controversy. It noted that the program involves domestic surveillance "without first obtaining a court order" and explained that members of both parties have "questioned its legality and asked whether it was necessary to bypass" FISA:

The House Intelligence Committee took a similar step last week, saying it would designate one of its existing subcommittees to examine and hold regular hearings on the operation, which involves intercepting the communications of Americans or others in the United States without first obtaining a court order.

The White House has defended the operation, saying it has been a crucial tool in fighting terrorism and that it only allows eavesdropping on individuals who are in contact with people overseas suspected of having ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

But critics have argued that Bush had no authority to start the program, and that it violates 1970s statutes that placed strict limits on domestic spying operations in response to abuses during the Nixon administration.

Bush's program has prompted an outcry even among some Republicans, who have questioned its legality and asked whether it was necessary to bypass a system that allows domestic eavesdropping as long as the government obtains the permission of a special foreign-intelligence court.

Categories: News

During a discussion of a controversial New Jersey high school class project involving the mock trial of President Bush for alleged war crimes, MSNBC host and former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) said: "This isn't about free speech. This is about slandering the commander in chief at a time of war." Later in the show, Scarborough added, "[I]t's not free speech. It's perverse. It's completely wrong."

Scarborough made his comments in response to Parsippany, New Jersey, township Councilman James J. Vigilante, who said on the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country that he was "not ashamed" of the Parsippany High School project, adding, "And I've got to say, from the comments of most of the kids in that class, although I don't agree with the lesson plan, myself, is the fact that they've exercised their right to free speech."

Scarborough responded: "The right to free speech? They're 16-, 17-year-old kids. And the mere fact -- I mean, that's like me saying, 'Well, why don't we have an experiment? And why don't we try you for the rape of a 6-year-old child?' "

Vigilante then asked: "But are you saying that 16- and 17-year-old kids shouldn't have the right to free speech?" To which Scarborough responded: "You have been slandered by the fact that we're even trying you for the rape of a 6-year-old girl. Just like the president of the United States has been slandered for this trial. This isn't about free speech. This is about slandering the commander in chief at a time of war. And you don't see a problem with taxpayers in your community paying for that?"

Vigilante answered: "I pay the same taxes everybody else does. I just think that, you know, I am sworn to uphold the Constitution of America as a reservist and also as a councilman in my town. And that is the right to free speech."

Following the panel discussion, Scarborough said of Vigilante: "[Y]ou've got people sitting back like the town councilman, who are saying, 'Hey, you know what? It's free speech.' No, it's not free speech. It's perverse. It's completely wrong."

A March 3 article in the Morristown, New Jersey, Daily Record noted that in addition to being a U.S. Air Force reservist, Vigilante is a Republican who identified himself as "a Bush fan."

From the panel discussion with Scarborough, Vigilante, and conservative author and columnist Ben Shapiro on the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

VIGILANTE: I'm not ashamed of what's going on. I think everybody has to take the focus off of, you know, Bush being on trial and the lesson was learned by the children. You are talking about 17-, 18-year-old children here. And I've got to say, from the comments of most of those kids in that class, although I don't agree with the lesson plan, myself, is the fact that they've exercised their right to free speech. And the comments the kids --

SCARBOROUGH: Wait a second. The right to free speech? They're 16-, 17-year-old kids. And the mere fact -- I mean, that's like me saying, "Well, why don't we have an experiment? And why don't we try you for the rape of a 6-year-old child? And we'll do that for a week. We'll put it in the newspapers and, hey, guess what? If people decide at the end of the week you didn't rape a 6-year-old boy, hey, it's a great learning experience." No, it's not.

VIGILANTE: But are you saying that 16- and 17-year-old kids shouldn't have the right to free speech?

SCARBOROUGH: You have been slandered by the fact that we're even trying you for the rape of a 6-year-old girl. Just like the president of the United States has been slandered for this trial. This isn't about free speech. This is about slandering the commander in chief at a time of war. And you don't see a problem with taxpayers in your community paying for that?

VIGILANTE: I pay the same taxes everybody else does. I just think that, you know, I am sworn to uphold the Constitution of America as a reservist and also as a councilman in my town. And that is the right to free speech.

SHAPIRO: Oh, boy.

VIGILANTE: And I don't think we need -- I don't think that we should censure them as government.

SCARBOROUGH: The right to free speech.

SHAPIRO: The right to free speech. I mean, I'd just like to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes and probably one of the most famous justices ever on the Supreme Court. And he said in 1892, look, there's a right to free speech, but, for instance, there's no right to be a policeman. And I think that same sentiment applies here with regard to a teacher. There's a right to free speech. There's is not a right to say whatever you want in a context being paid by the state to do a job. No one is arguing that these students can't say what they want to outside the classroom. No one's arguing they can't say what they want to inside the classroom. What we're arguing here is whether the professor, or the teacher, in this case, can pose a question in such a way as to slander the president of the United States on the taxpayer dollar.

SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about it. Thanks so much. I appreciate everybody on the panel being with us. Friends, let me tell you what I think. I think we've got a system here across America, where you've got school teachers, you've got liberal unions, you've got liberal principals. They're going in and they're polluting our children's mind, and guess who's paying them to do that. You're paying them to do that, and I'm paying them to do it. Meanwhile, you've got people sitting back like the town councilman, who are saying, "Hey, you know what? It's free speech." No, it's not free speech. It's perverse. It's completely wrong. I mean, why don't they try our Founding Fathers for crimes against African-Americans? Oh, wait. This teacher and this principal and this school district is doing that next. They're going to try our Founding Fathers for war crimes against humanity. They are a disgrace.

Categories: News

Host Chris Matthews claimed during the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball that voters gave control of the House of Representatives to Republicans in the 1994 elections because they were "tired of Hillary Clinton's, you know, 'I'm going to run the country' mentality, with a big health care plan." Moments later, during a discussion with Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and MSNBC political analyst and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, Matthews reiterated that "it was Hillary" who determined the outcome of the 1994 congressional elections.

Later, Matthews asked Buchanan why Clinton, now a Democratic senator from New York, "get[s] to people." Buchanan replied, "You know, I think it's the headband liberalism." When Matthews asked Buchanan to explain his characterization, Buchanan attributed it to "the Wellesley stuff, and every time she gets there, and that voice goes up." Clinton is a graduate of Wellesley College, a women's college in Wellesley, Massachusetts. For years, Clinton kept her hair swept back with a hairband. As Media Matters for America previously noted, radio host Rush Limbaugh also recently disparaged Clinton's voice, stating during the March 3 broadcast of his nationally syndicated show that she "sounds like a screeching ex-wife."

From the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Those ideologues are sort of out of power right now. Let me ask you about the political here. History tells us that the people vote with their vote. They only get one vote this coming November. It doesn't say "Bush" on it; it says "Democrat" and "Republican." If they didn't like Nixon, they didn't like Nixon/Ford. In '74, they voted straight Democrat -- screw you guys. Same thing in '94. They were tired of Hillary Clinton's, you know, "I'm going to run the country" mentality, with a big health care plan. They voted straight Republican.


MATTHEWS: I just saw a number here that's staggering: a 14-point generic advantage for the Democrats. In other words, 53-to-39, people are going to vote Democrat. It ain't because the Democrats are showing any shined shoes and a smile right now, it's because the Republicans look in trouble.

SHRUM: Well, and it wasn't the Republicans in '94 because the "Contract on America," which they only issued at the end --

MATTHEWS: No. No, it was Hillary.


MATTHEWS: Why does she get to people?

BUCHANAN: You know, I think it's the headband liberalism. It's the --

MATTHEWS: Yes, but that was 30, 40 years ago.

BUCHANAN: It's not. But that's all that's in the people's mind in the talk radio. All you've got to do is --

MATTHEWS: Where do you get these phrases, "headband liberalism"?

BUCHANAN: Well, you had your headband on, the Wellesley stuff, and every time she gets there, and that voice goes up --

Categories: News

On the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named radio host Rush Limbaugh the runner-up in his daily "Worst Person in the World" segment for saying that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "sounds like a screeching ex-wife." Olbermann added that Limbaugh should be familiar with the issue of ex-wives, as "Rush has three of them."

Limbaugh made his remark, as documented by Media Matters for America, during the March 3 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show.

From the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: The runner-up, speaking of wrecking balls, Rush Limbaugh, on radio discussing the, quote, "Hillary fear" that America should have a Clinton run or of a Clinton run in '08. Quote, "When she's genuine, she sounds like a screeching ex-wife. And, my friends -- and I don't say that -- there's nothing against ex-wives or women. I'm just trying to be descriptive here for you. Men will know what I mean by this."

Well, Rush would -- "men who have ex-wives." Rush has three of them.

Categories: News

On the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins baselessly claimed that "the majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life." In fact, recent polls asking that exact question show that a plurality -- or even a majority -- of Americans identify themselves as "pro-choice," not "pro-life." Host Chris Matthews did not challenge Perkins's assertion.

A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, conducted February 28-March 1, found that 49 percent of respondents identify themselves as "pro-choice," compared with only 41 percent who identify themselves as "pro-life." The poll's margin of error was +/- 3 percent. Similarly, in a January 6-8 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that asked the same question -- also with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent -- 53 percent of respondents said they consider themselves "pro-choice," compared with only 42 percent who said they are "pro-life."

From a March 7 discussion on Hardball of the recently-passed South Dakota law banning all abortions, except in cases in which a woman's life is endangered by a pregnancy:

PERKINS: We've been preparing the hearts of the people for 33 years and we see now that the majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life. I think for the Republican Party, it's time to fish or cut bait. Do they want to use this as a political issue or do they want to advance human life -- the protection of human life?

MATTHEWS: Are you going to hold them to that?

PERKINS: Absolutely.

Categories: News

Since its CNBC debut as Politics with Chris Matthews in 1996*, MSNBC's long-running Hardball with Chris Matthews has consistently attracted criticism from the right wing. For example, in January 2006, Don Irvine, chairman of the conservative Accuracy in Media, described Matthews as "[o]ne member of the liberal media"; in April 2005, L. Brent Bozell III, founder and president of the conservative Media Research Center, suggested that Matthews rename Hardball to Cuddles with Chris for the show's "liberal or radical guests."

Notwithstanding Matthews's Democratic roots (former speechwriter to President Jimmy Carter, aide to several Democratic members of Congress), during a 2003 episode of Hardball, Matthews told Republican pollster Frank Luntz, "I'm more conservative than people think I am. ... By the way, I voted for [President George W.] Bush. ... I like to surprise people." Matthews's praise for Bush has at times been effusive; in 2005, he said that Bush "glimmers" with a "kind of sunny nobility"; that "[e]verybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs"; and that, if he succeeds in creating a democracy in Iraq, Bush "belongs on Mount Rushmore."

In December 2005, after documenting dozens of examples of Matthews proffering conservative misinformation on Hardball, Media Matters for America crowned him "Misinformer of the Year" -- succeeding Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly. And as this brief study documents, the views expressed on Hardball are "more conservative than people think": Republican/conservative guests have dominated Hardball panels since 2006 began.

In February 2006, Media Matters released "If It's Sunday, It's Conservative," a study of guest appearances on the Sunday-morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC. The methodology used in the study identified each guest's general partisan or ideological orientation, rather than the substance of their comments on a particular show. Every guest on the three Sunday shows was coded as Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral (nonpartisan, centrist, or having no political orientation).

Employing the same methodology, Media Matters tallied all guests who appeared on Hardball during the first two months of 2006 and coded them based on party affiliation and ideology. (A list of the guests is here.) The data reflected in these charts show that the number of Republican/conservative guests has been significantly higher than the number of Democratic/progressive guests. In January, Republicans/conservatives led Democrats/progressives 55 to 38 -- a difference of 59 percent to 41 percent. By February, that advantage had increased: Republican/conservatives outnumbered Democrats/progressives 55 to 34, or 62 percent to 38 percent.

Not only did the right dominate the left overall, but Republicans/conservatives also outnumbered Democrats/progressives in other key categories. During January and February, there were more Republican Party elected officials and Bush administration officials than those from the Democratic Party. In this category, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 22 to 18.

In addition, conservative journalists and pundits outnumbered progressive journalists and pundits by a considerable margin. While most journalists/pundits were neutral reporters or consistently presented a centrist point of view, the data show that those who spoke from an ideological perspective were conservative far more often than progressive. Conservatives in this category outnumbered progressives 42 to 13 -- a ratio of more than 3-to-1.

Another area in which the right dominated on Hardball was the coveted solo interview. During January and February, Hardball featured 24 solo interviews with Democrats/progressives, while Republicans/conservatives had nearly twice as many: 44 solo interviews. In addition, eight of the twelve guests who were given the honor of multiple solo interviews during this time period were Republican officials. Only one Democrat, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), appeared in multiple solo interviews. The other centrist/neutral guests who were given multiple solo interviews on Hardball were Dick Sauber, attorney for Time magazine White House correspondent Matthew Cooper; Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report; and New York Times reporter James Risen.

Hardball panels frequently demonstrate an ideological imbalance; when they do, that imbalance usually tilts to the right. While the majority of panels were balanced, the number of right-tilted panels was significantly greater than the number of left-tilted panels, at a ratio of nearly 3-to-1. During January and February, 22 panels tilted right, while only eight panels tilted left. This can largely be attributed to the presence of frequent panelists -- and conservative MSNBC hosts -- Tucker Carlson of The Situation with Tucker Carlson and former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) of Scarborough Country. Both MSNBC hosts are given prominence on Hardball's journalist panels without a progressive to counter with an opposing point of view.

On January 20, Matthews premiered a "special new feature," dubbed "Hardball Hot Shots." The "hot shots" are three MSNBC hosts: Carlson, Scarborough, and Rita Cosby, host of Rita Cosby Live & Direct. Matthews described the now-weekly "Hot Shots" as follows: "We'll nail the winners and the losers, the heroes and the villains, the brilliant and the buffoonery from the past week." Two of the three panelists -- Carlson and Scarborough -- are avowedly conservative; the third, Cosby, evinces no particular partisan or ideological affiliation. The composition of the three-member "Hot Shots" panel ensures that it remains a forum for conservative opinions -- with no identifiably progressive counterpoint.

Every weeknight, Matthews tells an audience of 330,000 Americans "what I really think." But is he really playing Hardball? Some might argue that a show whose host once worked for Democrats should feature more Republican and conservative guests. But as Media Matters has shown here and in numerous previous items, Chris Matthews is hardly a progressive -- indeed, there are few television hosts more enthusiastic in their support of President Bush. The dominance of Republicans and conservative guests on Hardball is certainly in the interest of conservatives, the Republican Party, and the Bush administration; it's not, however, in the public interest.

* According to a September 1999 article in the now-defunct Brill's Content, titled "Chris Matthews Won't Shut Up," Matthews began his career as a TV pundit in 1991 doing political commentary for ABC's Good Morning America. In 1994, Roger Ailes -- currently chairman of the board, CEO, and president of Fox News -- hired Matthews for a show called In Depth on NBC's newly launched cable network America's Talking. In 1996, MSNBC took over America's Talking, and Ailes moved Matthews to CNBC to host Politics with Chris Matthews. In 1997, the program moved to MSNBC and was renamed Hardball with Chris Matthews.

List of Hardball guests in January and February 2006

Categories: News

On the March 6 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Gibson misrepresented a Washington Post article to baselessly claim that Democratic senators, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), are "teed up for lie detector tests" in an FBI investigation into the disclosure of the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. Focusing exclusively on a potential investigation of Senate Democrats, Gibson claimed that the Post article had reported that "senators and congressional staffers" could be "asked to take polygraph tests." In fact, the Post reported that the Bush administration's efforts to curb leaks have included "a polygraph investigation inside the CIA," not among members of Congress. Further, the FBI investigation into how the surveillance program was leaked to The New York Times has thus far focused on members of the Bush administration, not members of Congress, according to the Times, the Post, and various other news accounts.

Gibson introduced the segment saying "the White House has been on a mission to crack down on leakers since the president's terrorist surveillance program was spilled to the media" -- repeating the Bush administration's preferred terminology for the program -- adding that "according to The Washington Post, senators or congressional staffers who hold security clearances may be asked to take polygraph tests." Gibson was apparently referring to a March 5 Post article that reported that "the Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources." However, the Post article refers only to polygraph investigations "inside the CIA." Nowhere in the article does the Post mention that members of Congress or their staff will be subject to lie-detector tests.

Then, referring specifically to the White House mission to crack down on leaks as a result of the exposure of the domestic surveillance program, Gibson stated that it is "kind of shocking" that "teed up for lie-detector tests are Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois." Yet according to news reports, the FBI's investigation into the disclosure of the domestic surveillance program has not focused on Rockefeller, Durbin, or any other member of Congress, but rather, the Bush administration itself. For example, a February 12 Times article reported that the "Federal Bureau of Investigation team under the direction of the bureau's counterintelligence division at agency headquarters has questioned employees at the F.B.I., the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the office of the Director of National Intelligence." The Post similarly reported on March 5 that "dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field office" about the leak of the surveillance program and a separate leak about secret CIA prisons in Europe, according to "law enforcement and intelligence officials." Like the Times report, the Post article did not mention any efforts to investigate members of Congress. The Post mentioned polygraphs only in the context of CIA employees: "At Langley [the CIA's Virginia headquarters], the CIA's security office has been conducting numerous interviews and polygraph examinations of employees in an effort to discover whether any of them have had unauthorized contact with journalists."

Gibson's guest for the segment, American Spectator contributing editor Jed Babbin, has previously claimed that Rockefeller, Durbin, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) are under investigation for allegedly "blabbing about a highly-classified satellite program to the press" in 2004, a claim he repeated during the segment with Gibson.

From the March 6 edition of The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: The White House has been on a mission to crack down on leakers since the president's terrorist surveillance program was spilled to the media. Once the weapons [sic] in the fight could be lie detectors. According to The Washington Post, senators or congressional staffers who hold security clearances may be asked to take polygraph tests. Joining us now, Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration. I think what was kind of shocking about this, Jed, is teed up for lie-detector tests are Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Have we ever put a sitting U.S. senator on the polygraph before?

BABBIN: Not to my knowledge, John, but this is a long time coming. There is a pattern of leaks coming out of that committee going back practically all the way to 9-11. We have had several leaks that have damaged national security, not the least of which was the one that Rockefeller and Wyden and Durbin were already subjected to a criminal referral to the Justice Department back over a year ago. So this is a long time coming. It's really high time we got to the bottom of this.

Categories: News

In response to misleading questions from Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume on the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke accused Democrats of attempting to politicize the Senate Intelligence Committee, falsely asserting that the committee had already investigated allegations that the Bush administration "lied about weapons of mass destruction" in the run-up to the Iraq war. To date, no governmental entity, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, has investigated the administration's use of prewar intelligence.

Kondracke made his false claim during an "all-star panel" discussion about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) recent threat to restructure the "nonpartisan" Senate Intelligence Committee "so that it is organized and operated like most Senate committees." The intelligence committee's current rules give the minority more power than on most other Senate committees. For example, the ranking minority member of the intelligence committee occupies the position of "vice chairman" and has the power to issue subpoenas.

Appearing on the panel, Boston Globe Washington bureau chief Nina Easton explained that Frist "is concerned enough, or bothered enough" by a potential investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program that he is "threatening to remove that kind of power status for the minority" on the committee. Commenting on Frist's threat, Kondracke noted that Democrats "wanted to investigate the possibility that the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction." Hume then asked him: "But there had been previous investigations of all that, had there not? ... And including work by the intelligence committee itself on these issues?" Kondracke's answer was false: "Yes, indeed. But ... the Democrats wanted to go back and investigate it with a political edge."

While the Senate Intelligence Committee did release the results of the first phase of its Iraq intelligence investigation in its 2004 Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, that report dealt with the intelligence community's production of intelligence. The committee postponed until after the 2004 presidential election analysis of whether the Bush administration misused that intelligence, pledging to include it in the second -- as yet uncompleted -- phase of the report. The 2004 report specifically noted that among the issues to be addressed in "phase two" -- which, the report said, were "currently under review by the Committee" -- was the question of "whether public statements, reports, and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information."

Similarly, the Bush-appointed Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- commonly known as the Robb-Silberman Commission -- noted in its March 2005 Report to the President that it had been authorized by Bush to investigate the production, not the use, of intelligence:

Second, we were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community. Accordingly, while we interviewed a host of current and former policymakers during the course of our investigation, the purpose of those interviews was to learn about how the Intelligence Community reached and communicated its judgments about Iraq's weapons programs--not to review how policymakers subsequently used that information.

From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

EASTON: Frist, however, is concerned enough, or bothered enough, by this potential investigation [of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program] that he's threatening -- it sounds to me almost like when he was threatening to get rid of the filibuster -- he's threatening to remove that kind of power status for the minority. The danger, I think, in his -- political danger for him is this idea of partisanship being thrown back in his face, because, in fact, three senators, by my count, Olympia Snowe [R-ME], Chuck Hagel [R-NE], and Mike DeWine [R-OH], actually want to join with Democrats in having a public investigation.

KONDRACKE: Yeah. That's the way it looks to me, too, on the NSA spying issue. What [Sen.] Pat Roberts [R-KS] wanted to do --

HUME: Pat Roberts is the Republican chairman of the committee.

KONDRACKE: -- Pat Roberts being the chairman of the committee -- wanted to take the findings of the weapons of mass destruction investigation that they conducted and say, "Look, we've -- these -- this raises big issues about intelligence as to Iran and North Korea, future threats that the country might face. Let's investigate whether we're -- we've got good intelligence about that." The Democrats wanted something completely different, as you say. They wanted to investigate the possibility that the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction or that the [then-Iraqi National Congress leader] Ahmed Chalabi was, you know, influential in changing our --

HUME: But there had been previous investigations of all that, had there not?


HUME: And including work by the intelligence committee itself on these issues?

KONDRACKE: Yes, indeed. But they wanted ... but the Democrats wanted to go back and investigate it with a political edge. There's no question about it. NSA spying is another thing. Now they want to do Dubai as well. And their -- the difference is, it is politics -- it's obviously politics is what's at the bottom here. The Democrats want to use this as part of an opportunity to expose President Bush and win the next election and use the intelligence committee to do it.

Categories: News

On the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler uncritically repeated a false claim -- which he attributed to anonymous Bush administration "aides" -- that the reason President Bush has never vetoed a bill is that "Congress has always stayed below his spending limit." In fact, in August 2005, Bush signed into law a $286.4 billion transportation bill after initially threatening to reject any bill that cost more than $256 billion.

Goler repeated the administration's false claim during a segment on Bush's proposal for a "line-item veto," which would allow Bush to remove individual earmarks (commonly referred to by critics as "pork-barrel projects") from spending bills.

An August 4, 2005, Washington Post article noted: "In 2004, Bush demanded that no highway bill exceed $256 billion. Under pressure, he increased his limit to $284 billion this year." But even Bush's revised spending limit was more than $2 billion below the final bill's official price tag of $286.4 billion.

In addition, the six-year spending bill may actually cost $295 billion. As Media Matters for America has noted, the bill's $286.4 billion cost does not include an additional $8.5 billion counted separately under what the bill's opponents called an accounting "gimmick."

According to an August 11, 2005, Washington Post article, the bill contained a record 6,371 earmarks inserted by members of Congress.

From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

GOLER: Some lawmakers see earmarks as a way they can decide how to spend money their states are already due, like highway funds, and they won't give up the power easily. Meanwhile, aides say the president has never used his veto because Congress has always stayed below his spending limit, even if it added some things he didn't like.

Categories: News

On the March 3 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and the March 6 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, MSNBC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL) falsely claimed that, in a recently released videotape made shortly after Hurricane Katrina's landfall, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) "guaranteed" that New Orleans' levees "had not been breached," when in fact the levees had already broken. But contrary to Scarborough's assertions, the tape reportedly shows Blanco offering the tentative and qualified assessment that -- based on information available to her at the time -- the levees had not yet been breached, but "[t]hat could change."

Scarborough based his false claim on recent news coverage of the videotaped recording of an August 29 briefing attended by Blanco and members of the Bush administration. On the March 3 edition of Hardball, Scarborough falsely claimed that the videotape showed "Blanco telling everybody, 'Don't worry, the levees, they're not going to break.' " Similarly, in a March 6 Scarborough Country interview with former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown -- who attended the August 29 briefing with Blanco -- Scarborough told Brown: "She [Blanco] guaranteed you all at one point that the levees were OK, they had not been breached."

But news reporting on the content of the tape makes no mention of any "guarantee[]" by Blanco that the levees would hold, as Scarborough suggested. Rather, the reports show that Blanco said that although she did not believe the levees had yet been breached, "[t]hat could change," and water was reportedly already pouring over the tops of the levees.

The Associated Press, which first obtained the videotape, reported March 3:

In the hectic hours after Hurricane Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast, Louisiana's governor hesitantly but mistakenly assured the Bush administration that New Orleans' protective levees were intact, according to a new video obtained by the Associated Press showing briefings that day with federal officials.

"We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said shortly after noon on Aug. 29, according to the video that was obtained Thursday night.

"We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee. I think we have not breached the levee at this time."

In fact, the National Weather Service received a report of a levee breach and issued a flash-flood warning as early as 9:12 a.m. that day, according to the White House's formal recounting of events the day Katrina struck.


Blanco is not shown in the video but is heard speaking from an emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, La., to 11 people sitting around a table at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington.

She sounds uncertain about the reliability of her information and cautioned that the situation "could change."

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which obtained a transcript of the videotape days before the AP obtained the tape itself, gave a similar account of Blanco's qualified statements March 1:

Later in the call, White House aide Joe Hagin asks specifically about the condition of the levees. Gov. Kathleen Blanco tells him that no failures were confirmed -- yet.

"We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees," Blanco said. "I think we have not breached the levee. We have not breached the levee at this point in time. That could change, but in some places we have floodwaters coming in New Orleans East and the line at St. Bernard Parish where we have waters that are 8- to 10-feet deep, and we have people swimming in there, that's got a considerable amount of water."

From the March 3 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

SCARBOROUGH: There's one image I remember as somebody who was in the path of Hurricane Katrina when it was coming up, it was President Bush. I remember I was on my couch Saturday morning, Bush came on the TV, a remarkable Saturday press conference saying Hurricane Katrina is coming your way, basically said, "Get the hell out of Dodge."

So that's why it's no surprise to me. Bush knew this was going to be a huge storm. I've got to say the other tape though that's significant is the one that came out with Blanco telling everybody, "Don't worry, the levees, they're not going to break." This is three hours after the National Weather Service said, "The levees have broken! Get out of New Orleans!"

MATTHEWS: Well maybe her re-election campaign will have that remarked upon.

From the March 6 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

SCARBOROUGH: Speaking of blurring together, Katherine (sic) Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, seemed to be blanked out through the entire crisis. She guaranteed you all at one point that the levees were OK, they had not been breached.

And yet we find out now by looking at some of these tapes that have been released from Blanco, that actually she gave those assurances to you three or four hours after the National Weather Service had already warned people that there was flooding because the levees had been overrun.

Was Blanco clueless throughout this entire process?

BROWN: Well, bless her heart, you know, she's a really nice woman. But I think there was so much confusion, she had such a horrible decision-making process around her.

But I think it's important for Americans to understand this timeline. At 1:49 p.m., one of my staffers handed me her BlackBerry and I read on that BlackBerry from my person on the ground that the 17th Street Canal levee had broken. And I turned to her and said immediately, "I'm calling the White House."

And her testimony before Congress is, that I immediately gave her BlackBerry back and went back and called the White House. So, sometime between 1:49 and whenever I got that first call through, between 1 and 2 o'clock, we all knew that the 17th Street Canal levee had broken and that my worst fears were coming true.

Categories: News

March 6, 2006


Appearing on the March 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, author and Washington Examiner senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon misrepresented poll data to suggest that the public believes "the lion's share of the blame" for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina "falls on the local and state officials." Apparently citing a September 2005 Gallup poll (subscription required), Sammon stated that "the truth of the matter" was that only "[t]hirteen percent" of respondents "blamed the federal government" for the lackluster response. In fact, 31 percent of those surveyed said either that "George W. Bush" or "federal agencies" were "most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane," compared with 25 percent who assigned the most blame to "state and local officials."

The Gallup poll, conducted September 5-6, 2005 -- the week after Hurricane Katrina made landfall -- asked respondents, "Who do you think is MOST responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane?" Of the choices offered, 13 percent said Bush was most to blame; 18 percent chose the federal government; 25 percent blamed state and local officials; and, a plurality, 38 percent, felt "no one was to blame." Far from showing the public assigning "the lion's share of blame" for the weak response to state and local officials, as Sammon claimed, the poll suggests that more people (31 percent ) considered either Bush himself or "federal agencies" the "most responsible" for the problems that ensued during the aftermath of Katrina than held state and local officials most responsible (25 percent). The poll surveyed 609 adults and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Further, more recent polling data suggest that public opinion on the Katrina response has remained relatively steady. For instance, a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted February 22-26 found that 38 percent assigned the overall blame to federal officials -- FEMA, the federal government, or Bush -- while only 26 percent said they thought responsibility for the delayed response lie with state and local officials. Eleven percent blamed "the residents themselves."

From the March 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

SAMMON: It's worth repeating the obvious truth here, and that is, while there was a lot of blame to go around on Katrina, the lion's share of the blame falls on the local and state officials.

In fact, there was a poll at the time -- remember this? Gallup did a poll. Thirteen percent only, blamed the federal government. That's the truth of the matter.

Categories: News

Appearing on the March 5 edition of MSNBC News Live to discuss the suspension of Colorado high school teacher Jay Bennish, who linked President Bush and Adolf Hitler during an in-class lecture, host Contessa Brewer admonished right-wing activist David Horowitz for calling Citizens for Legitimate Government founder Michael Rectenwald -- appearing opposite Horowitz -- a "communist," "pro-terrorist," and "a menace." Brewer said: "All right. OK, here's what we're not going to do, is to call guests names on the air."

From the March 5 editon of MSNBC News Live:

HOROWITZ: This teacher [Bennish], in this 20-minute rant, also said that the victims of 9-11 deserved their fate. He's much in sympathy -- first of all, let me point out I explicitly said it would be just as wrong to have right-wing views inflicted in this way on high school students as these extremist left-wing views. Rectenwald -- Rectenwald believes that there's been a coup d'etat in the United States, we live under a dictatorship. His website calls for armed revolution --

RECTENWALD: That's not true.

HOROWITZ: This is -- it absolutely does --

RECTENWALD: No, it is not.

HOROWITZ: -- just go up there --

RECTENWALD: It is not true. You know, if you read you'll see that we --

HOROWITZ: I, look, I --

RECTENWALD: If you read what we say, we do not call for that --

HOROWITZ: You have no respect for any type of disagreement --

RECTENWALD: -- in fact, that's the thing we eliminate. We eliminate that possibility.

HOROWITZ: You have no respect for disagreement, like all totalitarians --

RECTENWALD: I'm sorry, you're the one that wants to get rid of difference --

BREWER: And just real quickly, Michael, I'll give you the last word on this teacher in Colorado.

RECTENWALD: Well, I mean, the teacher -- he's a young teacher, he needs more experience with bringing in various standpoints, but his standpoint is the most endangered one, and that's the one we need to protect --

HOROWITZ: This man is a communist. He is a pro-terrorist [sic], and he is a menace.

RECTENWALD: We need to protect unpopularity. That's what we need to protect in this country.

BREWER: All right. OK, here's what we're not going to do, is to call guests names on the air.

RECTENWALD: Thank you very much.

BREWER: That's not going to happen.

HOROWITZ: Yeah, all right, he called me a right-winger!

BREWER: David Horowitz, Michael Rectenwald --

RECTENWALD: Thank you very much.

BREWER: -- in a certainly lively discussion.

During the segment, Rectenwald never once called Horowitz a "right-winger."

Horowitz also appeared with Rectenwald on the March 2 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, during which Horowitz claimed that "[t]here are 50,000 professors" who are "anti-American" and "identify with the terrorists," as Media Matters for America noted. Rectenwald called Horowitz a "right-wing professor" during that appearance, while Horowitz claimed that Rectenwald and Bennish "are anti-American, they're radicals, they identify with the terrorists, they think of them as freedom fighters."

Categories: News

On the March 5 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Boston Globe Washington bureau chief Nina Easton attributed President Bush's failure to adequately respond to Hurricane Katrina to what she suggested was his desire not "to be an ambulance chaser, as he saw [President] Bill Clinton being" following the riots that broke out in Los Angeles after the acquittal of four white police officers charged with assault in the March 3, 1991, beating of Rodney King, an African-American. Easton cited Clinton's May 3, 1992, visit to Los Angeles following the riots that erupted April 29, 1992, as an example of Clinton's "ambulance chas[ing]."

Easton's label of "ambulance chaser" notwithstanding, Clinton went to Los Angeles four days after the riots erupted; Bush visited the Gulf Coast on September 2, 2005, four days after the hurricane made landfall.

In response to host Chris Wallace, who asked Easton to comment on "the political damage to this [Bush] administration that began with [Hurricane] Katrina," Easton stated that Bush "did suffer" damage following the hurricane, stressing that he "doesn't want to be an ambulance chaser, as he saw Bill Clinton being, somebody who goes in after -- post-riots in Los Angeles and so forth and wants to be there feeling everybody's pain." Easton contrasted Clinton's visit to Los Angeles with Bush's activities following the hurricane, stating: "On the other hand, he went off -- after Katrina hit, he went to San Diego. He went back to Texas. He gave speeches on other topics before he came back to Washington, before he ended up back on the ground on the Gulf, and that hurt."

From the March 5 edition of Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, which also featured Weekly Standard editor William Kristol:

WALLACE: Nina, I want to pick up on something that Bill said, and that is the political damage to this administration that began with Katrina. The Democrats immediately pounced on this, called for an independent investigation. Can they continue to get political mileage on Katrina?

EASTON: Yeah, I think Katrina is the gift that keeps on giving for the Democrats, absolutely. And I think the president did suffer from this. He doesn't want to be an ambulance chaser, as he saw Bill Clinton being, somebody who goes in after -- post-riots in Los Angeles and so forth and wants to be there feeling everybody's pain.

On the other hand, he went off -- after Katrina hit, he went to San Diego. He went back to Texas. He gave speeches on other topics before he came back to Washington, before he ended up back on the ground on the Gulf, and that hurt.

Categories: News

On the February 24 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment to responding to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's March 2 threat to turn over to "Fox security" the personal information of a caller to O'Reilly's radio show because the caller mentioned Olbermann's name. Describing the incident as evidence of O'Reilly's "trolley coming completely off the tracks merely when my name gets mentioned," Olbermann said, "Bill thinks he has his own police."

Olbermann also noted that O'Reilly's threat, made on the March 2 edition of the nationally syndicated Radio Factor and temporarily featured on the program's website, "has been expurgated, erased from the website." Olbermann was referring to the fact that, in an apparent effort to expurgate the threat, O'Reilly's website links to a audio file of the radio show purporting to represent the entire broadcast but is missing the section containing the caller who mentioned Olbermann. A Media Matters for America search turned up the unedited version on the site as well, but it can be found only by manually altering the URL of the edited version and is not linked anywhere on the site. These links are available only to "Premium Members" of

Olbermann concluded: "So, now I'm expecting that soon I'll be getting a visit from the Bill O'Reilly police, armed with loofahs," an apparent reference to O'Reilly's October 2004 sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former Fox News producer, in which the use of a loofah played a prominent role. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount of money, reportedly in the millions, on October 28, 2004.

As Media Matters has noted, Olbermann has repeatedly awarded O'Reilly with Countdown's "Worst Person" awards designation. O'Reilly has responded by asserting that MSNBC "is a true ratings disaster" and has launched a petition on his website calling for the reinstatement of Phil Donahue, who previously hosted a show on MSNBC in the same 8 p.m. ET time slot as Olbermann's show -- and also the same time slot in which O'Reilly's show airs on Fox News.

From the March 3 broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly is now threatening callers to his radio show, at least one of whom mentioned my name. Our third story on the Countdown -- oh, here we go. First, it was the warnings to NBC chairman Robert Wright, then the phone calls to NBC president Jeff Zucker, then the petition to get me fired and Phil Donahue brought back, then the erroneous ratings information he gave out. Even in that context, though, this is pretty special. Ted Baxter telling uncooperative listeners that he'll turn their phone numbers over to Fox security, and that Fox security will in turn contact the local authorities. Bill thinks he has his own police.

A caller got through to O'Reilly's radio show yesterday. He insists he used no foul language, that all he did was mention my name, compliment my show, and ask, "Why are you always smearing him, Bill?" And the host, using the dump button all talk radio shows have and the seven-second delay, cut him off. We're not certain what actually got on the air, but this was what was posted on O'Reilly's website as the air check for that part of the show.

O'REILLY (audio clip): Orlando, Florida. Mike, go.

CALLER: Hey, Bill, I appreciate your taking my call.


CALLER: I like to listen to you during the day. I think Keith Olbermann's show --

O'REILLY: There you go, Mike is -- he's a gone guy. You know, we have his -- we have your phone numbers, by the way, so if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number. And we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit.

E.D. HILL (co-host): Maybe Mike is from the mothership.

O'REILLY: No, maybe Mike's going to get in big trouble, because we're not gonna play around. When you call us, ladies and gentlemen, just so you know, we do have your phone number. And if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that, Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?

HILL: That's fair.

O'REILLY: So just -- all you guys who do this kind of a thing, you know, I know some shock jocks, whatever -- you will be held accountable. Believe it. We'll be right back.

OLBERMANN: Fox security: Hannity and Colmes come to your house with billy clubs. Now, there is a serious part to this. What do you mean, "We have your phone numbers"? What do you mean, "You'll be getting a little visit"? It's a radio show. Even if a caller swears, it's a radio show. Radio show over here, trip to Gitmo over there. Several of the callers now claim they have been contacted by someone identifying himself as the director of Fox News security. We'll get to the legalities in a moment with a former prosecutor. First, there's this giddying aspect of seeing the host's trolley coming completely off the tracks merely when my name gets mentioned. This is how bad it is. Go to the O'Reilly website now, and the call from Mike in Orlando has been expurgated, erased from the website.

O'REILLY (audio clip): We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: You're in the "no spin zone" with Bill O'Reilly.

OLBERMANN: Which raises one more thing. You may recall Shepard Smith on his afternoon newscast on Fox News on Monday:

SMITH (video clip): And take a live look at the back of the newsroom. The floor mat says, "The spin stops here." And look at that. O'Reilly is schooling somebody on his staff. Turn it over to Macada (ph), his longtime assistant. And now he's asking the cameraman, "You're not putting me on television, are you?" There is ang -- No, O'Reilly's angry. Where's Olbermann? Let's just throw something at Olbermann, Bill. See you in a minute. We love you, Bill. Thank God for you.

O'REILLY: She likes it, too.

OLBERMANN: I wonder if Bill got Shepard Smith's phone number and turned it over to Fox security. As we mentioned, this little trip into the parallel universe of Bill O'Reilly does underscore a fascinating point: he seems to think, or wants his listeners to think, that if they don't cooperate, they can get into some kind of legal trouble with Fox security. Joining me now, former Connecticut state prosecutor Susan Filan.


OLBERMANN: One last thing. We all know Mr. O'Reilly cannot stop himself from responding. Fail in this business for 25 uninterrupted years, then have a success, and you do wind up a mixture of paranoia and a Napoleonic complex. So I'm going to save him the trouble. I'm going to respond for him. Bill O'Reilly answering this story:

"The abuse of the airwaves is a critical problem with which the First Amendment -- MSNBC's ratings are a disaster. Nobody pays attention to them. I do. I watch, addicted, unable to change the channel. But they're a disaster. So don't pay attention to MSNBC. Nobody watch MSNBC. Nobody is watching MSNBC. If you watch, we have your phone number, by the way. I'll turn it over to Fox security. I told you I'd shoot, but you didn't believe me. Why didn't you believe me?"

OK. And just so we get this ratings thing cleared up, if you want to know what this is really all about: On the air, Billy called this the key demos, and Fox owners call it the money demo. Here are the official ratings, adults 25 to 54 for Wednesday night of this week at 8 p.m. Eastern. O'Reilly, 309,000; this program, 231,000; Nancy Grace Knows What You Did Last Summer [CNN Headline News' Nancy Grace], 131,000; [CNN's] Paula Zahn Now, 81,000. Our audience was 75 percent of Ted Baxter's. It ain't perfect. Then again, he's been on for nearly 10 years, and we're still a month away from our third anniversary. So, now I'm expecting that soon I'll be getting a visit from the Bill O'Reilly police, armed with loofahs.

Categories: News

In a March 3 article in The New York Times, reporter Eric Lichtblau suggested that only Democrats consider the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program to be illegal. But as noted in a number of Times stories -- including several by Lichtblau himself -- Republicans have also raised concerns about the program's legality.

In the article, Lichtblau wrote:

The developments reflected continued uncertainty in Congress over whether lawmakers should authorize the surveillance program, or seek to rein in an operation that Democrats contend is illegal.

But it is not only Democrats who contend the program is illegal, as the Times has previously reported. For example, a February 18 Times article stated:

Democrats and a growing number of Republicans say the program appears to violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Some Republicans are also skeptical of the Bush administration's assertion that it has the inherent constitutional authority to conduct the eavesdropping, and that Congress authorized the program when it passed a resolution after Sept. 11 giving Mr. Bush authority to use military force to defend the nation."

The following are other examples of reporting by The New York Times on Republicans who have taken issue with the legality of the domestic wiretapping program:

  • Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), February 17 (by Lichtblau and reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg):

But the DeWine proposal [a proposal by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) to explicitly authorize the wiretapping, without court warrants, but create small congressional subcommittees to oversee it] is unlikely to satisfy other critics of the program, including some Republicans, who say it must be brought within the scope of the intelligence court. Among them is Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is circulating legislation that would require the court to pass judgment on whether the wiretapping is constitutional.

''Unless they're prepared to have a determination on constitutionality as to their programs, window dressing oversight will not be sufficient,'' Mr. Specter said.

And also February 7 (by Lichtblau and reporter James Risen):

But while Democrats led the attack on the surveillance program, several Republican senators -- including Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham [SC], Sam Brownback [KS] and Arlen Specter -- also raised concerns. On the program's legality, Mr. Specter told the attorney general, ''You think you're right, but there are a lot of people who think you're wrong.''

And February 4:

Senate Republicans, too, are raising questions over the legal authority the White House has advanced to justify the spy program. Mr. Specter initially described the program as ''inappropriate,'' although he has softened his rhetoric in recent days.

And December 17, 2005 (by Lichtblau and Stolberg):

Mr. Specter and other lawmakers from both parties questioned the legality of Mr. Bush's executive order.

''The law prohibits this type of electronic surveillance,'' Mr. Specter said, ''and there are a lot of basic questions that need to be answered about how this program was authorized and used.''

''I want to know precisely what they did,'' he said. ''How N.S.A. [National Security Agency] utilized their technical equipment; whose conversations they overheard; how many conversations they overheard; what they did with the material; what purported justification there was -- and I use the word 'purported' to emphasize -- and we will go from there.''

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), February 8 (by Lichtblau):

A growing number of Republicans have called in recent days for Congress to consider amending federal wiretap law to address the constitutional issues raised by the N.S.A. operation.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for one, said he considered some of the administration's legal justifications for the program ''dangerous'' in their implications, and he told Mr. Gonzales that he wanted to work on new legislation that would help those tracking terrorism ''know what they can and can't do.''

''I think we do have to have judicial review,'' she said, adding, ''Whether it's the FISA approach or not I think remains in question, but it can't go on in perpetuity, and it can't be unfettered warrantless surveillance.''

  • Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), chairman of the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee, February 11:

Ms. Wilson said she decided to speak out this week because she had become increasingly "frustrated that the administration was not giving us the information we needed to do our job." With Mr. [Attorney General Alberto R.] Gonzales unable or unwilling to answer questions at the Senate hearing, she said, there was no way to determine whether the surveillance law needed to be updated.

"I think the argument that somehow, in passing the use-of-force resolution, that that was authorizing the president and the administration free rein to do whatever they wanted to do, so long as they tied it to the war on terror, was a bit of a stretch," she said. "And I don't think that's what most members of Congress felt they were doing."

Categories: News

On March 1, the Associated Press reported that videos and transcripts of briefings obtained by the AP indicated that "federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees." This evidence appears to prove false Bush's assertion, made days after the storm hit, that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." On March 3, the AP issued a clarification to the March 1 article which read, in part: "The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking." However, the AP's clarification, which echoed the Bush administration's explanation of why the AP videos do not contradict Bush's claim about not anticipating a breach of the levees, ignored key facts that undermine the administration's explanation.

The AP noted in its clarification:

The Army Corps of Engineers considers a breach a hole developing in a levee rather than an overrun. The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking.

The day before Katrina, Bush was told there were grave concerns the levees could be overrun.

It wasn't until the next morning, as the storm made landfall, that Michael Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Bush had asked about reports of breaches. Bush did not participate in that briefing.

The AP failed to note, however, that in the early morning of August 29, 2005, just before Katrina hit land, the Department of Homeland Security warned the White House that, based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) July 2004 "Hurricane Pam" planning exercise, Katrina could cause levees breaching as well as overtopping, as Media Matters for America noted. The fact that the administration concluded from a 2004 exercise that there was a serious threat of levees breaching in the event of a Category 3 hurricane in New Orleans starkly contradicts Bush's assertion two days after Katrina made landfall that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." In fact, many people in the administration anticipated the breach of the levees, including, apparently Bush himself. As the AP noted in its clarification, former FEMA head Michael D. Brown said in an August 29, 2005, briefing, even as the hurricane was pounding the Gulf Coast, that Bush asked whether the levees had been breached. But instead of noting that this fact appears to contradict the administration's explanation, the AP instead reported that its March 1 article "should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking."

Also, preliminary engineering findings from the National Science Foundation, Louisiana State University, and the American Society of Civil Engineers have stated that erosion from overtopping in fact caused many of the levee breaches.

Fox News' Washington managing editor Brit Hume seized upon the AP's flawed clarification to claim that "we learned next to nothing" from the Katrina briefing videos originally brought to light by the AP, that Bush "received no such warning" about New Orleans' levees breaching, and that the "frenzy" over the videos "ended up turning out to be totally bogus."

From the March 5 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE (host): So, Brit, what, if anything, did we learn this week from these government video conferences about what went wrong on Hurricane Katrina?

HUME: I would say we learned next to nothing. And what the Associated Press, which got all of this started, said we learned turned out not to be true, as the AP in itself finally acknowledged on Friday evening in a very grudging three-paragraph, quote, "clarification." Basically, the story line that came out of this video, by the way, of an event -- by the way -- which was open, at least in all relevant portions, open to the press, attended by Fox News and other news organizations -- in fact, when you look at the tape of this supposedly confidential video, you see news cameras in the background in a number of the shots.

Well, there were news cameras there most -- much of the time, and what the AP claimed we learned was that the president had been warned a day ahead of time that the levees stood a good chance of being breached. What, in fact, he was warned was that the levees could be topped, and the briefing on that, by the way, also said that all the models predicted that while this was a possibility, that they were predicting that New Orleans would get very little flooding, relatively speaking. Topping a levee means the water flows over the top. You get some flooding out of that. Breaching a levee means the whole levee gives way and water just comes pouring in, which is what happened in New Orleans.

So, he received no such warning. The AP couldn't tell the difference between topping and breaching. Much of the rest of the media fell for it hook, line, and sinker, forgetting the fact that they -- you know -- it had been covered at the time, and we had, you know, a two or three-day frenzy over something that ended up turning out to be totally bogus.

Categories: News

In reporting that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs rejected -- by a vote of 11-5 -- a proposal to create an independent Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics violations by members of Congress, March 3 articles by The New York Times and The Washington Post ignored Democratic support on the committee for the measure. Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg noted only that despite strong support for the proposal from committee chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and ranking member Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), support for the measure was "scant," and named only Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) -- a non-committee member -- as another senator who backed the proposal. Post staff writer Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reported simply that "Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure." In fact, more Democrats on the committee voted for the proposal than against it, while of the nine Republicans on the committee, Collins was the only one to support it.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has 16 members -- nine Republicans and seven Democrats. As The Hill newspaper reported on March 3, "Eleven committee members, including three Democrats, voted for an amendment offered by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), chairman of the Select Committee on Ethics, jettisoning the provision for the office." Therefore, four Democrats on the committee -- including Lieberman -- voted to establish the Office of Public Integrity, while Collins was the only Republican to do so.

The omission of Democratic support by the Times and the Post is particularly glaring, given that the bill owes its existence to Democrats. The bill was introduced by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), and its only two co-sponsors are Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

From Stolberg's March 3 Times report:

Senators backed away Thursday from expansive lobbying law changes for the second time this week, overwhelmingly voting down a proposal to create an independent office to investigate ethics abuses in Congress.

The plan for a new Office of Public Integrity was rejected, 11 to 5, by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


The measure was struck down despite the strong backing of the committee's chairwoman, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and its senior Democrat, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut. Support was so scant during the debate that as the discussion drew to a close, Senator Collins issued a half-joking plea for help.

"If there are any members of the committee who think there's some possibility that Senator Lieberman and I are right," Ms. Collins said, "I would love to hear them speak."

Instead, the panel adopted legislation that would strengthen disclosure rules for lobbyists, requiring them to report their activities more frequently and to do so electronically, in a format that could be easily searched by the news media and the public.


Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has been spearheading the bipartisan effort on lobbying law changes, said he would push for the full Senate to adopt the proposal for an independent ethics office. He complained that his colleagues had voted against the plan "because it puts teeth into things."

But opponents of the new office, including the Republican chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, said it would duplicate what that committee is already doing. "There is no need to reinvent the wheel," Mr. Voinovich said.

From Birnbaum's March 3 Post article:

A Senate committee yesterday rejected a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent office to oversee the enforcement of congressional ethics and lobbying laws, signaling a reluctance in Congress to beef up the enforcement of its rules on lobbying.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 11 to 5 to defeat a proposal by its chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), that would have created an office of public integrity to toughen enforcement and combat the loss of reputation Congress has suffered after the guilty plea in January of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure.

Categories: News

While introducing a segment on the 78th Annual Academy Awards on the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox News Live, anchor Gregg Jarrett noted that the films nominated in the Best Picture category dealt with themes such as "homosexuality; homicide bombings; political assassinations," and that Hollywood was "going with a lot of darker themes this year." As Jarrett spoke, onscreen text read: "Hollywood walks on the darker side."

From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox News Live:

JARRETT: They're the best movies of the year, allegedly. Most of us, though, haven't seen them. Films dealing with homosexuality; homicide bombings; political assassinations -- the list goes on and on. Hollywood, going with a lot darker themes this year, and they're courting some controversy.

Categories: News