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The Fine Art of Distraction

Reported by Nancy - March 8, 2005 -

FNL today (3/8) tried to use their usual wall-to-wall coverage of all things Bush to ignore & minimize the shooting incident that killed Nicoila Calipari & wounded Giulana Sregna. When that didn't quite work, they switched gears & went with wall-to-wall "coverage" of Bill Clinton's just-announced surgery scheduled for later this week. Of course the coverage of BClinton involved repeated references to both GHWBush & GWBush. Jamie Colby set a new personal record for snide, nasty remarks, & Carl Cameron got a case of the "uh"s.

When I tuned in at 11:00am (all times ET) Carl Cameron was standing in snow reporting on Bush talking about Syria (clip of Bush). Cameron said there's "some debate" whether Assad will "follow through with what internationall law requires" & said Bush said all countries need to begin to respect human rights (clip of Bush). Cameron said Bush "laid out a series of goals" today at the Defense University & "the advance of liberty has begun to take hold." Brigitte Quinn asked if the White House has said "what it might do if Syria doesn't comply" & Cameron replied that Bush & Rice both said "now is the time for diplomacy" but nothing is "off the table" & Bush has made it clear "he won't be satisfied with anything other than" full compliance.

At 11:03am Quinn said there were 200,000 pro-Syria demonstrators in Lebanon today, then Jennifer Griffin reported by videophone from Damascus that most TV stations in the region "broke away" from covering Bush & showed half a million pro-Syrian demonstrators organized by Hezbollah. Griffin noted there were "no guns, no militancy at this rally", only flags. She said that Syria leaving Lebanon would be the "death knell" for Hezbollah, that the demonstrators blamed UN SC Res 1559 on the US & Israel, & that posters at the rally showed Bush in a cowboy hat. After Griffin finished, Quinn said the number of demonstrators was "growing" [comment: only compared to her earlier, inaccurate statement].

At 11:25am, saying that GWBush spoke "to the people of Lebanon" this morning & showing yet another clip of Bush's speech, Quinn interviewed ByronYork (Natl Review mag) & Mark Mazzetti (LATimes) about Syria. York hit the official talking points (e.g., taking the fight to the terrorists, supporting democracy, this is about defending the US). When Mazzetti pointed out that we need to face "military realities" & with troops busy elsewhere the US is going to have to use non-military means to deal with Syria, Quinn opined that the US doesn't "want to take the military option off table" & York agreed, saying it's "time to observe Security Council resolutions" & acknowledging this phrase "sounded a lot like run-up to War on Iraq" when Bush "invoked" the UN every day. Quinn asked whether diplomacy would continue, & Mazzetti said he thinks it will because Assad "sees the writing on the wall."

At 12:08om James Rosen reported on GWBush's speech today at Ft McNair's Natl Defense Univ (clip of Bush). Rosen described some of what Bush had said re Israel & Palestine, then showed another clip of Bush. Rosen said Bush is meeting with the Czech President now & will meet with BClinton & GHWBush later today.

At 12:15pm, following yet another clip of Bush's speech today, Asman interviewed Sen John Ensign (R-NV) about the speech, Syria & Bush foreign policy in general. Ensign said the US "is the only force for freedom in the world" & "no one cares about other countries like we do."

At 12:23pm, following yet another clip of Bush's speech today, Asman interviewed Sami Khiyami (Syria's Ambassador to the UK) by phone. Asman opened not with a question, but a statement -- Bush is "making it crystal clear he doesn't think what Syria is doing is enough." Khiyan tried to point out the pro-Syrian demonstrations but Asman wanted to know about the "other demonstrators saying get out." Khiyan said Lebanon had "thanked" Syria for ending their civil war & added that "we all mourn Hariri" but said that mourning shouldn't be confused with anti-Syrian sentiment. Asman asked if Syria would be open to an international investigation & Khiyan said Syria is "not the only country that needs to be open to international ivestigation" but Asman interrupted, putting Khiyan essentially on hold so viewers could "listen" to BClinton making a statement. When they came back to the interview, Asman apologized & blabbered on about Clinton for a minute, then said that Bush "wants to push democracy" & asked Khiyan if that's a "good thing or not?" Khiyan said "absolutely" but also said "show us the reference", adding that "if the model is Israel, then thank you, no." Asman stated that Syria "has been pushing around" its own people, with a garbled reference to Alawites, & Khiyan said "never talk about minorities, that only takes us to conflict." Asman persisted -- again, not with a question but a statement -- saying "you have a minority in Syria controlling the majority." Khiyan offered some diplomatically phrased platitudes in response. [Comment: aside from the distraction caused by breaking for Clinton's statement, this interview was a good example of Asman's style, or lack thereof, with a non-GOP guest.]

At 12:33pm Uma Pemmaraju read headlines, leading off with GWBush's speech today, & adding LBush & CRice mark International Women's Day.

There was an ALERT at 11:09am to announce that BClinton needs surgery to remove scar tissue. FNL showed tape of him "touring with the current President's father, the first President Bush" & at the DNC last year, then Quinn interviewed by phone "our own Dr Izzy" (Dr Isidor Rosenfeld, Fox medical consultant). Rosenfeld explained some of the medical info for viewers.
At 11:19am a teaser promised more coverage of Clinton
At 11:23am there was an ALERT about Clinton's surgery, & Carl Cameron reported that "we expect to see the ex-presidents [GHWBush & BClinton]" later this afternoon, noting Clinton's "internatl globe-trotting schedule" & commenting that that in Indonesia the reputation of the US & of GWBush has improved.
[comment: Cameron said "uh" 10 times during this brief blurb; he's giving Wendell Goler a run for his money in the "Unprpared To Be On-Camera" dept]
At 11:29am there was another ALERT about BClinton to undergo a "somewhat minor" medical procedure procedure, with the additional info that he's been "touring" with GHWBush, tape of Clinton saying "I feel great" & a clip of Howard Dean saying that "I wish him well."
At 11:30am teasers include BClinton
At 11:33am there was another ALERT - Clinton to undergo surgery, noting that he had just arrived at the State Dept, will be at White House later today, & has been "touring" with GHWBush
At 11:39am David Asman joined Quinn & they speculated about BClinton for a while
At 12:01pm there was another ALERT re BClinton & Jamie Colby reported on details discussed earlier by Quinn & Rosenfeld. Colby snidely mentioned Clinton's liking for fast food & the occasional cigar, & said there were pix of him smoking cigars post-surgery. Asman corrected her, noting that the picture FNL had shown earlier was taken pre-surgery. Asman then interviewed Rosenfeld by phone again, focusing on "lifestyle changes". Rosenfeld said he's seen no evidence of Clinton still smoking cigars.
At 12:08pm Asman said that Howard Dean "learned about [BClinton] from us" & showed the clip of Dean again
At 12:23pm there was an ALERT so FNL could show viewers the podium where BClinton & GHWBush will appear, with a clip of Clinton from earlier today.
At 12:35pm there was yet another ALERT - BClinton leaving the State Dept (clip) & Jamie Colby reported about a press conf at NYPresbyterian Hosp & showed (yet again) the clip of Clinton saying he felt fine. Colby commented that "he was out in the cold without a coat & I don't know how smart that was."
12:42pm - teasers included BClinton

At 11:05am Quinn said that Berlusconi "doesn't quite agree" with the US military's version of events surrounding the incident that killed Calipari & wounded Sregna, then Greg Kelly reported from the Pentagon that there is "growing concern" about "yet another friendly fire incident" involving US & Bulgarian troops. He said that the investigation of that incident is "going forward." He added that the Pentagon "scoffs at the notion" of the Sgrena incident being intentional but admitted there are "some outstanding questions" & said Gen Casey is testifying before Congress today.
At 11:40am Asman interrupted for "another breaking news story" & FNL went live to Gen Casey's press conf at the Pentagon & stayed with Casey through his entire statement. Q&A began at 11:47am, & many of the questions were about the Sgrena incident. It got pretty testy by 11:56am & by 11:59am the questions were about Iraq (e.g., "how close" the US military is to defeating the "insurgents"). At that point, FNL went back to the studio, where Asman opined that "the general had to educate" the people in the press room.
At 12:38pm Greg Kelly reported on Casey's press conf. Asman said he'd already gotten a lot of emails about "snide smarmy press people" at the press conf. Kelly said that Casey "talked optimistically about Iraq" but the questions were about Sgrena, adding that Italians "will be invited to participate" in the investigation. He showed a clip of Casey & said that Casey's statement "seemed to step back from the press release" from the Third Inf Div about the speed of the car & whether warnings were given.

None of the Above:
11:07am - Quinn did a series of quick blurbs: a British aid worker was killed in Kabul; DNA found on a cigarette butt at the Lefkow home doesn't match "any known criminal" or the Lefkow family; the BTK killer is "freaking out" in jail [comment: this turned out to be a clip of someone named "David" who "came face-to-face with" Dennis Rader & said "whenever I look at him I see the serial killer"].
11:34am - RBlake jury resumes deliberations, with Quinn interviewing 2 attorneys
11:37am - Kathryn Herridge reported on a GAO report about the FBI letting terrorists buy guns in the US. 12:11pm - teasers included Pope John Paull II plans todeliver his traditional Easter blessing; Bush "progress report on ending tyranny"; Syria; Oil-for-Food.
12:14pm - ALERT so Asman could announce that gas prices are going up, on average to $2.15
12:19pm - teasers included: MJackson; "Czech supermodel" story of tsunami survival; Dan Rather - "can the network recover from Memogate?"
12:30pm - teasers included Sgrena, Lefkow, Czech model
12:33pm - headlines included terrorists assassinate Iraqi intel official in Baghdad; CAT scan reveals that King Tut may have died from an infection from a broken leg.
12:40pm - Claudia Cowan reported on closing libraries in Salinas CA
12:42pm - teasers included Dan Rather

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (FNL's coverage of any of the above items). O/T comments will be deleted. Please use the O/T category from the list at right to post unrelated comments. Thanks.