May
01
2005

Soundbites

Expert Opinion

“Jim, you think he's with Jesus now? We only have 30 seconds.”

--Larry King, interviewing Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, on Pope John Paul II's death (Larry King Live, 4/3/05)

“The pope is above public opinion. His relationship is with God.”

--Phil Griffin, MSNBC vice president of primetime programming (New

York Times, 4/7/05)

Good and Bad Catholics

CNN host Wolf Blitzer introduced a discussion of John Paul II's death with Crossfire's co-hosts: “the conservative Robert Novak, the liberal Paul Begala, both good Catholics--I don't know if good Catholics--but both Catholics. I am sure Bob is a good Catholic. I am not sure about Paul Begala.” Not finding Blitzer’s "joke" funny, Begala noted that his eldest son is named John Paul after the pope, adding, “I am serious. Actually, that annoys me. I don't think anybody should presume that a liberal is not a good Catholic.” Blitzer’s response: “Don’t be so sensitive.”

I Got a Pulitzer From My Mom

When Sean Hannity (Hannity & Colmes, 3/21/05) brought on a doctor who had an unconventional take on Terry Schiavo's medical condition, he seemed very impressed that the doctor had been "nominated for a Nobel Prize in medicine." When Dr. Bill Hammesfahr said that Schiavo could “absolutely” be rehabilitated, Hannity proclaimed his astonishment: "How is it possible we're in this position if you have examined her, you were up for a Nobel Prize. This is mind-boggling to me.... This is your area of expertise that got you nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in medicine, the Nobel Prize." What Hannity didn't tell his viewers is that Hammesfahr had been "nominated" for a Nobel Prize by his member of Congress, Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R.-Fla.). The Nobel Committee accepts nominations for its medical prize from the Royal Swedish Academy and Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine, among others, but not from U.S. congressmembers.

Behind the Maple Curtain

Bashing Canadian healthcare is a popular sport in the U.S. press, but an Associated Press article (3/19/05) by Beth Duff-Brown had more than its share of patently dubious claims. For example, it asserted that "the average Canadian family pays about 48 percent of its income in taxes each year." According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, however, the total tax revenue of Canada is only 33.9 percent of Canadian GDP. The article went on to claim that "according to experts on both sides of the debate, Canada and North Korea are the only countries with laws banning the purchase of insurance for hospitalization or surgery." A few minutes searching online turned up a Canadian insurance company (Manulife Financial) offering supplementary hospitalization coverage, and other scofflaws offering to give sick Canadians money to spend however they please. Somebody should inform the Canadian secret police.

Consider the Source

Interviewed as an analyst on ABC World News Tonight (4/21/05), George Stephanopolous framed the controversy over U.N. ambassadorial nominee John Bolton as a partisan squabble. Asked by anchor Elizabeth Vargas, "Aren't we talking about a lot more than management style?" Stephanopoulos replied: “Democrats sure say so, Elizabeth. They say this is part of a pattern of Mr. Bolton bullying subordinates. They say he's made a career out of kissing up and kicking down. But Republicans say you have to consider the source of these allegations.” The problem with this framing: The source of the allegation that Bolton is “a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” is Carl Ford, the Bush administration's former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and a self-described “loyal Republican” (Chicago Tribune, 4/13/05).

The Customer Is Always Right

Business Week Online (4/6/05) allowed new FCC chief Kevin Martin to get away with some extreme disingenuousness. Justifying the FCC's anti-"indecency" crusade, Martin said: “We're reacting to what the consumer wants and expects of us.... We used to get a few thousand complaints a year. Then the next year it was 100,000, and last year it was a million.” What Business Week failed to point out is that virtually all of the new complaints—99.9 percent of them, according to the FCC's own estimate (MediaWeek, 12/6/04)—have come from one group, Brent Bozell's censorious Parents Television Council. Maybe “the consumer” is Martin's nickname for Bozell?

Bad News Is No News

Do reporters go out of their way to cover the negative in Iraq? Not according to an internal U.S. Army report acquired by the Washington Post (4/8/05). The report described U.S. forces taking an embedded reporter to a school near Mosul, where supplies were to be handed out to needy students. But when they arrived at the site they were, the report said, "surprised to find that no schoolchildren were present and that an Iraqi family was homesteading in the building." In the end, no school supplies were issued because no students could be found. So the journalist filed a story about how the Pentagon was boasting building a non-existent school? No. As the Army report put it: “Fortunately, the reporter elected not to cover the event, which could have made us look bad." The journalist, said the Army, “understood what had happened and had other good coverage to use...rather than airing any of this event." The report didn't mention the name or the outlet of this understanding reporter.