QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
"[T]he Kerry campaign is not criticizing the president here. They're criticizing our troops."
-- FOX News Channel host Tony Snow
"Make no mistake: our troops are the best-trained and best-led forces in the world, and they have been doing their job honorably and bravely. The problem is the Commander-in-Chief has not been doing his."
-- Senator John Kerry
"[N]o matter how much you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"
-- Bush surrogate Rudolph Giuliani
Conservative pundits spent much of the week desperately spinning the bombshell news that 380 tons of explosives went missing in Iraq, arguing at various times that the explosives may never have existed; that if they did exist, they were evidence of the apparently mythical weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration based the Iraq war on finding; that they may have been missing before U.S.-led troops took control of Iraq; and that the buck stops not with the commander in chief, but rather with the American soldiers who risk their lives every day. (See examples here, here, here, here, and here.)
But all of those excuses and explanations ring hollow in light of new video that shows the explosives apparently did, in fact, go missing from Iraq while the U.S. controlled the country:
ABC News on Thursday showed video that appeared to confirm that explosives that went missing in Iraq did not disappear until after the United States had taken control of the facility where they were stored.
ABC said the video was shot by an affiliate TV station embedded with the 101st Airborne Division when members of the division passed through the facility on April 18, nine days after the fall of Baghdad.
ABC said experts who have studied the images say the barrels seen in the video contain the high explosive HMX, and U.N. markings on the sealed containers were clear.
The barrels were found inside locked bunkers that had been sealed by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency just before the war began, ABC reported.
After noticing CNN's tendency to report polls favorable to President George W. Bush and ignore polls more favorable to Senator John Kerry, even when the Kerry-favorable polls are more recent (see last week's Media Matters for details), Media Matters for America wrote to CNN asking for an explanation. We haven't gotten one yet, and until we do, we suggest taking CNN's poll reporting with a grain of salt.
After examining recent NBC Meet the Press panel discussions involving at least three participants, at least one of whom was a media figure, Media Matters for America found the following:
On October 24, NBC's Meet the Press continued the pattern of skewing its media roundtable discussions to the right (noted by Media Matters for America here and here). Of the last twelve Meet the Press media panels, seven were skewed to the right, pitting conservative columnists or pundits against nonpartisan journalists, with no progressive columnists or pundits; five were balanced and none skewed left.
The New York Times reported MMFA's criticism of Meet the Press's skewed panels (but not the examples we offered), then quoted "a spokeswoman for the program [who] called [it] 'absurd.'" That led Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting to note:
The [MMFA] posting in question, from October 25, actually documented the claim that Meet the Press often ''balances'' right-wing pundits with middle-of-the-road journalists, looking at panels going back three months. That this documented critique can be dismissed with one flippant word from an establishment colleague tells you all you need to know about how mainstream media marginalizes dissent.
Washington Post media critic and CNN host Howard Kurtz explained the problem with having journalists "oppose" conservatives on discussion panels:
KURTZ: I've always felt it is unfair to have working reporters fill the "liberal" slots on a panel against a conservative commentator. The reporters may or may not be left of center, but it's not their role, nor would they be comfortable, taking the liberal side of every argument.
But a look at Kurtz's own CNN program, Reliable Sources, shows that he frequently pits active conservatives against working reporters, as MMFA found. For instance, on October 17, reporters Dana Milbank of The Washington Post and Evan Thomas of Newsweek were joined on a Reliable Sources panel by conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, a former aide to Gary Bauer in the Reagan administration.
This week, Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock sent NBC News a letter asking the network not to feature right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh -- who hosted Vice President Dick Cheney as a guest on his October 29 show -- as an election-night commentator, as the network did in 2002. Limbaugh's continued extreme and hateful rhetoric, coupled with his blatant disregard for the truth, led Brock to conclude:
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and the conservative point of view should be represented in the media. There are plenty of conservative pundits who make tempered, intellectually honest arguments. I take issue, however, with Limbaugh's dishonesty and vitriol. His lies and hate speech have no place on your network and our public airwaves.
Imagine our chagrin, then, when we noticed that CNN's Paula Zahn Now frequently features Limbaugh's overheated ramblings. An MMFA review found:
In the last six weeks, CNN host Paula Zahn has aired audio clips from The Rush Limbaugh Show on Paula Zahn Now on five separate occasions; on three of those five occasions, she offered no counterpoint.
Maybe Zahn thinks she still works for FOX News Channel?
Tired of imbalanced political discourse on our airwaves? Media Matters for America has joined with Democracy Radio and the Media Access Project in calling on Congress to restore the Fairness Doctrine:
By restoring a diversity of fact and opinion to programming, Fairness Doctrine legislation restores a concept that has been lost since the 1980s -- that because the public owns the airwaves, the public is entitled to be adequately informed by the broadcasters of news and opinion. [Representative Louise] Slaughter's [D-NY] bill puts this fundamental issue as well as the responsibility of broadcasters back on the agenda: "A broadcast license confers the right to use a valuable public resource and a broadcaster is therefore required to utilize that resource as a trustee for the American people."
Learn more, and sign a petition in support of the Fairness Doctrine, at www.fairnessdoctrine.com.
FOX News anchor and radio host Bill O'Reilly, who repeatedly called himself "stupid" last week, apparently thinks his audience is as well. Why else would he tell them flat-out lies?
O'Reilly recently lied about President George W. Bush's opposition to the creation of the 9-11 Commission:
O'REILLY: They said they [9-11 widow Kristen Breitweiser, featured in the ad, and her late husband] voted for Bush [in 2000], but Bush opposed the 9-11 Commission -- which he didn't, by the way. He didn't oppose it. I mean, he had questions about it because he didn't want it politicized.
According to CBS News, the reason Bush opposed the establishment of an independent commission was that "the investigation should be confined to Congress because it deals with sensitive information that could reveal sources and methods of intelligence. Therefore, he said, the congressional investigation is 'the best place' to probe the events leading up to the terrorist attacks."