As Senate Democrats debate two proposals regarding U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, news outlets have gone out of their way to frame the Democratic differences over how soon to redeploy forces as politically favorable for the Republicans while not reporting that the Democrats' position is shared by a majority of Americans, that the war supported by Republicans is deeply unpopular with the American public, and that the GOP's alternative plan appears to involve remaining in Iraq indefinitely.
Numerous news outlets -- including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC, and Fox News -- joined President Bush in highlighting a split among Democrats on the issue of the Iraq war. But in mentioning only the Democrats' disagreements, these outlets are promoting the false impression that there are not significant divisions among Republicans regarding the Bush administration's wartime policies.
In a weblog post, ABC News' Jake Tapper again misstated pledges by President Bush and his aides to fire anyone who disclosed the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Tapper's post included a thinly veiled -- and false -- attack on Media Matters for America.
In their coverage of Ann Coulter's attacks on the widows of 9-11 victims, both Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz and ABC's Jake Tapper denounced Coulter's inflammatory rhetoric while asserting that her underlying point -- that Democrats deliberately put forward "infallible" advocates in order to squelch honest debate -- is "valid" and "perfectly acceptable." But a closer examination of the specific examples of "infallible" advocates cited by Coulter turns up evidence that, in every case, these individuals have faced strong Republican opposition and, quite often, ad hominem attacks from conservatives.
On Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson claimed that Americans think Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is "too liberal," and "don't trust her," essentially misrepresenting the results of a May 15 ABC News/Washington Post poll on Clinton, a presumptive 2008 presidential candidate. A majority of those polled said Clinton is, in fact, "honest and trustworthy," while a minority thought she is "too liberal," with a majority saying her views are "about right."
On This Week, ABC News' Claire Shipman said of former Vice President Al Gore, "[J]ust look at his face. I don't think any of us watching your interview could take him at his word." Host George Stephanopoulos, who had interviewed Gore earlier, asked Shipman whether journalists should "take [Gore] at [his] word" about his statement, "I have no plans to be a candidate for president again."
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Reports on the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News Tonight noted treasury secretary nominee Henry M. Paulson's environmentally friendly outlook but failed to report that Goldman Sachs, the investment bank Paulson leads, and The Nature Conservancy, an organization where Paulson serves as board chairman, have both urged mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, a policy the Bush administration has categorically rejected.
ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper ignored the positive results of a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll focused on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Citing the poll, Tapper claimed that "a daunting 42 percent of all Americans say they will never vote for her," adding that "[s]ome think she's too liberal. Others think she's untrustworthy." But Tapper ignored the actual results of the poll that found that a majority of respondents said Clinton is, in fact, "honest and trustworthy" and that her views are "about right," while a minority thought she is "too liberal."
In reporting on a newly released ABC News/Washington Post poll on the favorability of presumptive 2008 presidential nominees Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John McCain, the Post and ABC's Good Morning America focused almost entirely on numbers that indicate Clinton is "polarizing" and on the percentage of respondents who "would definitely not vote for" her in 2008. In its article, the Post also included an assertion about how people view Clinton that was contradicted by the poll results.
In their reporting on the conviction of former Enron Corp. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling on fraud and conspiracy charges, the network news programs all failed to mention the ties between the fallen corporation and President Bush. Further, the Los Angeles Times ran six separate articles on the Enron verdicts on May 26, but not a single one noted Bush's connection to Enron and, in particular, his close personal and political ties to Lay.
On ABC's World News Tonight, George Stephanopoulos falsely claimed that 33 members of Congress "got campaign contributions from [former lobbyist] Jack Abramoff" and "wrote letters to the interior secretary" that were helpful to Abramoff's clients. In addition, by not noting that all the members of Congress who received contributions from Abramoff were Republicans, Stephanopoulos misleadingly implied that Abramoff gave money to members of both parties. In fact, Democrats received contributions from Abramoff's clients and associates but none from Abramoff directly.
In airing an interview with former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), ABC's This Week omitted a key segment in which Edwards provided context for remarks he made in the 2004 vice-presidential debate. During the debate, Edwards commended Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, for their response to their daughter Mary Cheney's coming out as a lesbian.
In reporting on the formation of the Iraqi cabinet, ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show, and NBC's Today each failed to note that three of most critical positions in the new government -- the heads of the defense, national security, and interior ministries -- remain vacant.
On ABC's Nightline, co-anchor Terry Moran characterized "the U.S. claim that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction" as "a total intelligence failure at the CIA." In fact, while much of the intelligence produced by the CIA before the Iraq war was indeed faulty, many of the Bush administration's most dramatic prewar claims had been called into question by the CIA or other intelligence agencies.
On ABC News' WorldNewser weblog, polling director Gary Langer purported to explain the disparate results of an ABC News/Washington Post poll and a Newsweek poll measuring public reaction to a National Security Agency (NSA) program that reportedly collects millions of Americans' phone records. Langer claimed that the polls' results -- the Newsweek poll showed much less support for the program than the ABC/Post poll -- might be explained in part by differences in their wording. Langer also touted the ABC/Post poll's assertion that the NSA program is intended "to identify possible terrorism suspects." In doing so, Langer uncritically accepted the Bush administration's rationale for the program, without noting reports that the Bush administration has engaged in the surveillance of others with no suspected terrorism links and reports that its efforts to identify possible terrorists have been highly ineffective.