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The Beam in FNL's Eye

Reported by Nancy - January 10, 2005 -

FNL today (1/10) was predictably salivating & gloating over CBS actually living up to standards of ethics & journalism. All the reporters & anchors who participated in this coverage seem blissfully unaware of Luke's admonition in the New Testament ("You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother's eye.") But both Brigitte Quinn & David Asman got a little lesson, with interview subjects who didn't reinforce the official FNC line.

At 10:59am there was an ALERT to annouce that CBS had fired some staff over "Memogate" with Todd Connor reporting some of the details about who got fired or asked to resign.

At 11:01am Quinn, saying that CBS paid "great deference to Dan Rather" & showing a clip of Rather saying he's leaving current post, not leaving CBS, interviewed Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com). Quinn said Rather's statement might have been "disingenuous" but immediately followed with a disclaimer, saying "who am I" to criticize Rather. Jarvis said "news should be a conversation" & went into some detail about how traditional news sources need feedback from the public. Quinn noted that no one will call CBS biased, & Jarvis said "take out 'bias', say ... 'perspectives' " because everyone has a perspective. Quinn asked what Jarvis thought the "future of network newscasts" would be, & Jarvis said they'll be "smaller, marginalized ... cable & internet" can do it better & will take over. He then made the assertion that "news is a commodity now" [comment: it might be, in the view of the megacorporations that control the US news media, but it shouldn't be]. Quinn ended with a plug for foxnews.com . [Comment: where's the "balance"? By FNL standards, Quinn should have interviewed 2 alternative news sources, not just one blogger with a potential axe to grind.].

At 11:12am the teaser going to an ad break included a perhaps inadvertent admission by Quinn that FNL has a certain bias or "perspective." She said "We're keeping an eye on the President this morning ... we'll take you to the President when he speaks, of course" [comment: why "of course"?]. A similar teaser with slightly different wording aired at 11:19am [comment: to remind viewers to stay tuned for the daily dose of Bush PR].

At 11:15am Quinn said one of the big stories today is that "heads are rolling at CBS" over Memogate & interviewed Brad Blakeman (GOP, fmr adviser to Bush) & Jenny Backus (Dem strategist). Quinn opened by asking Blakeman "was this an attempt by CBS to attack" Bush. Blakeman said "absolutely" & gave a detailed critique of CBS's internal practices. When Quinn turned to Backus, she got a little more than she bargained for. Backus immediately pointed out the "double standard" being applied by radical reactionaries to CBS & the White House. She noted that CBS, in fact, instituted an internal investigation & asked for outside opinions, then implemented the recommendations, unlike the White House, which never addressed the underlying issues (Bush's alleged National Guard service). Quinn interrupted Backus to give Blakeman a chance to "rebut" what she was saying, but Backus asked again why Bush "never said where he was, never answered questions about special treatment." Blakeman tried to talk over Backus, & Quinn finally ended the shoutfest at 11:19.

At 11:22am there was an ALERT so Quinn could remind viewers that they were "moments away from hearing the President speak." Since Bush wasn't ready for his close-up, Mr DeMille, James Rosen killed some time "awaiting" Bush's remarks by noting a variety of Bush trivia, including that he "spoke out" on Palestinian elections (clip of Bush) & he's the "first president ever to hold an MBA degree." [Comment: since the first MBA degree awarded in the US was at Dartmouth about 100 years ago, this is not surprising; Rosen might equally have said Bush is the "first president ever to fail to find oil in Texas."]

At 11:25am Quinn noted GHWBush & BClinton (clip of Clinton) efforts re tsunami relief, then reminded viewers that the current Bush will be speaking shortly.

At 11:29am, Lauren Green read headlines: multiple attacks in Baghdad; OBL may be hiding in eastern Afghanistan; 57 die in bus crash in India; dramatic Los Angeles rescue ... At 11:30am FNL cut off Green in mid-sentence to go live to Bush's "press conference" [comment: I use the phrase advisedly, since his "press conferences" are scripted PR events]. At 11:45am, when Bush finished his prepared remarks, Quinn gave a brief recap of what Bush said. Asman, who had joined Quinn, went into greater length about how Bush has been "in front" with disaster relief, especially with "private NGOs" [comment: Asman clearly doesn't know what an NGO is. Would he define UNICEF as a "private NGO"? How about Hamas?].

At 12:00pm, Todd Connor essentially repeated his earlier report on CBS [comment: it was absolutely priceless to hear the phrase "responsible journalistic practice" being uttered by FNC staff]. At 12:02pm Asman interviewed Mort Zuckerman (US News & World Report) about the CBS story. Zuckerman didn't contribute any insights but faulted CBS for not living up to their own standards. [Comment: where's the "balance"? By FNL standards, Asman should have interviewed 2 competitors of CBS, one "pro" & one "con"].

At 12:15pm Asman interviewed Rep Chris Cox (R-CA) about CBS "Memogate" giving Cox nearly 4 full minutes to call for a "criminal" inquiry re forging govt docs & attempting to influence a federal election." [Comment: see above comment re "balance".]

At 12:27pm, teasers included: "CBS housecleaning -- could it go higher?" At 12:41pm, teasers included: CBS Memogate. At 12:48pm Asman promised to reveal the "real story of Bush's guard service" in an upcoming interview.

At 12:52pm, citing Les Moonves' statement, Asman interviewed Paul Burka (Texas Monthly). Asman opened by asking Burka "Whaddaya think of" that statement. Burka said "they made the call" & were "probably right." Asman noted that he had earlier interviewed Cox, who said the documents were "forged" & called CBS's actions a "violation of election law". Burke responded that allegations should be investigated. Asman was incredulous, asking if it was "still not conclusive that documents were forged?" Burka pointed out that there a "lot of hedging" & said that "something can be true & yet be forged." Asman interrupted this line of inquiry to ask "Did they source it enough?" Burka said "No ... the rule is 'tell what you know & know what you tell'." [Comment: so much for the "real story of Bush's guard service".]