CBS chairman Moonves touts White House warming to network with Schieffer at helm

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

In the July 21 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Gail Shister quoted (registration required) CBS chairman Les Moonves: "That's not the end-all, be-all, but obviously the White House doesn't hate CBS anymore with [Bob] Schieffer in the anchor chair." But far from hating CBS, the White House has reason to embrace the network and its selection of Schieffer to serve as interim anchor following Dan Rather's departure as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Schieffer has previously described his "golfing friendship" with President Bush "during the 1990s" and has said, "It's always difficult to cover someone you know personally." Following the announcement that Schieffer would moderate the third and final presidential debate last year, Media Matters for America noted several statements Schieffer had made that raised questions about his objectivity.

Moreover, Shister wrote: "Moonves says Schieffer is looked upon kindly at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because his brother, John Thomas Schieffer, was ambassador to Australia (he was posted to Japan in February), and was partners with the future President Bush in the Texas Rangers."

In an effort reportedly intended to repair relations with the White House in the aftermath of CBS' publication of unauthenticated memos concerning President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS president Andrew Heyward met with then-White House communications director Dan Bartlett in January 2005. According to Broadcasting and Cable magazine: "Heyward was 'working overtime to convince Bartlett that neither CBS News nor Rather had a vendetta against the White House,' our source says, 'and from here on out would do everything it could to be fair and balanced.' "

The White House may also look kindly on CBS for other reasons. Media Matters has noted recent conservative misinformation on CBS, including:

  • Schieffer downplayed the costs of privatizing Social Security, both here in the United States and in Chile.
  • CBS correspondent Gloria Borger baselessly suggested that John G. Roberts Jr., Bush's Supreme Court nominee, said at his appeals court confirmation hearing that he would vote to uphold Roe v. Wade.
  • Borger also narrowed Bush's pledge to fire anyone involved in leaking former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity to include only those who broke the law.

In addition, in the three months after the 2004 election, the CBS Evening News featured Republicans and conservatives more often than Democrats on the program, as did the Schieffer-hosted Face the Nation. Also, reportedly as a result of the barrage of criticism aimed at CBS for broadcasting the unauthenticated memos, the network postponed a story critical of Bush's Iraq rationales, because, according to a spokeswoman, "it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the election."

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