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The Spin Never Stops

Reported by Nancy - December 30, 2004 -

On Special Report last night (12/29), Chris Wallace substituted for Brit Hume & the pro-Bush & pro-administration spin was much more evident. Wallace made no attempt to control the "Fox All Stars" & allowed Charles Krauthammer to monopolize that portion of the program. Kudos to Juan Williams for pointing out some of Krauthammer's "cheap shots".

The first half of the program included coverage of the aftermath of the tsunami in SE Asia, & was a pleasant contrast to the tripe aired earlier on FNL. For example, there was a sober & excellent 3-minute report from Sri Lanka, with extensive video of the situation on the ground, from Ashish Joshi, identified by Wallace as being with Fox's sister network, BSkyB [comment: that info was not given to viewers of FNL on 12/28, when Greg Jarrett interviewed Joshi via phone].

At 6:20pm (all times ET), Wallace interviewed USAID director Andrew Natsios. The whole interview was slanted to throw the best possible light on the Bush admin, rather than simply obtaining info about what USAID is actually doing right now. Wallace opened by noting that the "initial US reponse" was $35M & "Bush made it clear there will be more" so could USAID use $50M now? Natsios said they always do "rapid assessments" first, teams now focus on emergency needs, then field teams will tell them what else they need. Wallace then wanted to know when USAID might "bump against the $35M", to which Natsios sensibly replied that it "depends on what they tell us from the field", noting that "we've already spent some" & that "we're also working with the US military." Wallace next asked about the "disaster after the disaster", the "specter of disease", wondering if it was "a little overblown." Natsios said that "dead bodies do not carry disease", & while "they're a terrible reminder", "depressing" & they emit a "terrible odor," there is no health risk from unburied corpses. He pointed out that the main health risk now is dirty water & the effects of drinking dirty water (diarrheal diseases, cholera). He said if fresh water can be supplied, the risk diminishes enormously. Wallace mentioned the "remarks of a UN official" calling Western countries "stingy", displayed an excerpt from a table that showed the US last in giving as measured by % of GNP, then asked "is that fair?" Natsios said "no, it isn't fair," because "our GNP dwarfs all others," it's just "one indicator that makes us look bad." He then cited data from FY03 showing that the US govt provided 40% of all humanitarian relief funding worldwide, which doesn't include private giving [comment: he stayed right on message, echoing Bush's comments from earlier today; & it seems all these "compassionate Christians" are forgetting the parable of the poor widow who gave very little, but it was all she has, so she was deemed more generous than the rich man who gave a lot, because he didn't feel the loss at all]. Natsios ended with a paean to Bush: the "President has been very generous", "he has a big heart", "he cares about this stuff" & Wallace thanked Natsios for the "reality check."

The interview ended at 6:26pm, & as Wallace was going to an ad break, he read the following teaser: "Wait till you hear who has signed up to defend former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein."

At 6:30pm, Wallace did the standard "Grapevine" segment: former AG Ramsey Clark joins SH's legal team; JD Hayworth (R-AZ) failed 5 times to disclose use of skyboxes for political fundraisers; computers in Vienna got seismic info re tsunami early Sunday but all 300 workers were on vacation; Israeli search & rescue team headed for S Asia cancelled when Sri Lanka would not accept IDF personnel

This was followed by a series of short reports: 6:33pm - Jeff Goldblatt re refugees in US seeking asylum in Canada; 6:36pm - Steve Centanni re Senator Grassley (R-IA) introducing a bill to eliminate a tax loophole for wealthy homeowners; & 6:38pm - Wallace re Jamie Miscik to resign from CIA. At 6:39pm, as he was going to an ad break, Wallace read the following teaser: "President Bush defends US relief efforts in S Asia but is the US really doing enough? We'll ask the Fox All Stars."

Sure enough, the "All-Stars" segment opened with a clip of Bush ("the person who made that statement is misguided & ill-informed", the US "gave 40%" of all aid [comment: note how well Natsios stayed on-message]). Wallace opened the discussion by asking the panel (Juan Williams, Jeff Birnbaum, Charles Krauthammer) if the recent criticism of Bush [re his response or lack thereof to the tsunami disaster] was legitimate. Krauthammer immediately said "no" because "at the beginning you don't know" what's actually happened or what will be needed", "we're the only country on earth that has the military infrastructure to do the heavy lifting" & all the "whining about a random number [$35M]" isn't important, "what's important is what we're doing." Williams said that initially he "thought $15M was low," but he "never thought it would be the final amount." Birnbaum tried to lighten things up by saying there's a "tendency to nitpick" Bush on a slow news day. Williams brought up the "fellow from the UN" who "has since taken some of that back" because "GNP doesn't take into account" other giving; he felt that the "argument today was sparked by Bill Clinton saying" the US is more than Iraq, it's a "nation that stands tall with helping hand..." Wallace asked if it mattered whether Bush made a public statement about the tragedy "on Sunday or Wednesday". Krauthammer ignored that question & went off on a bash-Clinton rant, saying Clinton's remarks were "a cheap shot from a President who let millions die in Rwanda, didn't help the starving in Iraq ... " [comment: blah blah blah]. Birnbaum pointed out that it "would have been better" PR to "step out earlier" & it also would have been a good "gesture to the Muslim world." Williams started to respond to Krauthammer's attack on Clinton, saying that it was a "cheap shot at Clinton, he ousted Milosevic ..." but Krauthammer interrupted to say that "an ex-President abroad isn't a private citizen" so he can't speak freely, & "we're doing, saying is cheap." Fortunately, time was up at this point, or this might have degenerated into a brawl.

At 6:50pm, after an ad break, the panel discussed airline problems over the holiday weekend. Krauthammer predictably took the opportunity to bash "old airlines, old [business] model, union rules.".

General comment: If you're interested in how the radical reactionaries are distorting the alleged "stingy" comment, there's an excellent expose posted by The Gadflyer which shows how the alleged quote was originally fabricated by the Washington Times & instantly picked up by the GOP echo chamber & repeated by the usual suspects.