Journalistic Brown-Nosing: Then….
National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: Now you know I’m going to be sitting there waiting.
ABC‘s Barbara Walters: You’re so full of baloney. How can you be so marvelous, so fantastic, so interesting, so brilliant and so full of…. That’s the first question I’m going to ask you.
Kissinger: Only if you complete the sentence.
Walters (Laughter): I’m glad you’re back.
–Transcript of a conversation (2/21/73) discussing an upcoming interview (Chicago Tribune, 1/18/05)
Neil Cavuto, Fox News: But let me talk a little bit about what you think your message is leaving. Many people say that you broke down the barriers in communications, and brought on this new era of sort of boundless devices for wireless devices. How would you describe it?
FCC Chair Michael Powell: Well, I think you described it beautifully. And I’m proud to hear you say it that way.
—Your World With Neil Cavuto, 1/21/05
Passing the Buck
“It is for historians to judge how well Mr. Bush’s actions have fit, or may yet fulfill, his words,” wrote the New York Times‘ Todd Purdum (1/21/05) on the occasion of George W. Bush’s second inauguration. Funny–that’s what we thought journalists were for. Elsewhere in the same day’s Times, reporter Alessandra Stanley wrote: “Anchors and commentators were quick to warn that the few protests that rang out during the ceremony –and a snowball that hit the vice president’s car during the motorcade–should not be overemphasized. But they were slow to explain how any demonstrators–or ‘bohemian-type people,’ as reporter Molly Henneberg of Fox News put it–managed to get so close to the president under what the networks described as the tightest security in memory.” Apparently “security” has become officially synonymous with “suppressing dissent.”
On CNN‘s Lou Dobbs Tonight (1/11/05), correspondent Suzanne Malveaux said that George W. Bush’s first choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, former New York police chief Bernard Kerik, “withdrew his nomination after the White House vetting process raised questions.” Do they really have such short memories at CNN that they can’t remember that, just a few weeks earlier, Kerik was green-lighted by the White House vetting process? He withdrew his name on December 10 after he had been announced as Bush’s choice, saying that he had hired a nanny who was in the country illegally, and in the following days a slew of stories appeared about Kerik’s illegal gifts, abuses of power and ties to organized crime–none of which had apparently been noticed by that White House vetting process.
Promising to “cut through some of the political rhetoric and look at the reality” of Bush’s Social Security plan, ABC’s Good Morning America (1/11/05) examined the retirement future of a married couple in their 40s with “retirement 20 years off.” After noting that they each stand to receive a little more than $2,000 a month from Social Security, ABC‘s Claire Shipman explained that there’s a “catch”: “One thing everyone agrees on, the Social Security system as it exists now won’t be able to afford those payments for long after the Wilsons retire.” Actually, few people would agree with that: Many observers believe that Social Security is likely to be able to pay such benefits forever, and even the Social Security trustees, who use very pessimistic assumptions in their forecasts, predict that they will be able to pay full benefits until 2042, when the couple profiled on ABC are statistically likely be dead.
Man in the Right-Wing Street
A CBS Evening News report (12/9/04) featured one Tad DeHaven as a “poster child for Social Security reform”: He was described by correspondent John Roberts as “28 years old, a college graduate, in the work force for six years, getting married next May, expected to retire in 2042” (which Roberts called, inaccurately, “the year Social Security goes broke”). Roberts noted that DeHaven “is fully on board the plan to establish private accounts for Social Security” and “argues doing nothing is not an option.” But aside from an oncreen ID linking DeHaven to the “National Taxpayers Union,” there was no clue in the piece that DeHaven was not just a regular Joe. In fact, he’s a longtime conservative activist, an alum of pro-privatization groups like the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, and the co-author of Cato’s report “War Between the Generations: Federal Spending on the Elderly Set to Explode”(9/16/03). Presenting him as representative of his generation–as opposed to a representative of a right-wing, anti-Social Security advocacy group–did CBS‘s viewers a disservice.