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Spin & Hype in the FNL Zone

Reported by Nancy - April 25, 2005 -

Today (4/25) on FNL Page Hopkins was in for Brigitte Quinn, but that didn't make much difference in the overall tone of the program. FNL, as usual, was overhyping the usual missing kids story -- this time a pair of toddlers in GA -- & Hopkins went the tabloid route on that. She used her political interview segments to inject personal opinion & ask highly partisan questions, as did David Asman -- but at least Hopkins actually allowed her guests to answer, in sharp contrast to Asman's usual habit of interrupting. With all the hype & spin, there was no time for The Asman Observer.

Nicole & Jonah Payne:
11:00am - missing toddlers in GA, with Jonathan Serrie reporting & Hopkins interviewing Greg McCrary (former FBI profiler), trying to get him to point to the mom as the prime suspect; McCrary stayed calm & refused the bait, instead talking in generalities about how investigatins like this should work & praising the efforts of local law enforcement.
11:10am - teasers included: missing toddlers in GA
11:13am - ALERT so Hopkins could repeat the same info, then interview John Bankhead (GA Bureau of Investigation). Hopkins again focussed on whether the mom is a suspect. Bankhead didn't play into this either, saying that all witnesses are interviewed. Hopkins persisted, asking directly whether Bankhead thinks the parents had anything to do with the abduction. Bankhead insisted that the "paramount effort" is to locate the kids, so Hopkins switched to asking whether there was a history of child abuse, citing a chemical burn on the girl's forehead. Bankhead said they'd look into that in any case, & they haven't ruled out anything yet.
11:25am - teasers: missing toddlers in GA
11:28am - ALERT - 41st hour of search for GA toddlers
11:42am - teasers: missing toddlers in GA
11:45am - Asman interviewed Patrick Brosnan (retired NYPD detective); Brosnan was quite happy to follow Asman's lead & speculate about how suspicious the mom is
11:58am - Asman read tops, including: missing toddlers in GA
11:59am - ALERT - missing toddlers in GA; Serrie essentially repeated his earlier report
12:09pm - teasers: missing toddlers in GA
12:12pm - ALERT - missing toddlers in GA
12:18pm - teasers: missing toddlers in GA
12:28pm - teasers: missing toddlers in GA; train crash in Japan
12:31pm - Jane Skinner read headlines: missing toddlers in GA
12:49pm - teasers: missing toddlers in GA
12:56pm - teasers: missing toddlers in GA
Comment: Yes, I know that the bodies have been found in the interval between the airing of the above & my post. Keep in mind that they hadn't been found while all this was going on. I'm reporting how Hopkins & FNL handled it at that point in time.

The train crash in Japan which was estimated at the time to have killed 57 people & injured many more, by contrast, got very little coverage -- but always with plenty of video of the aftermath:
11:06am - train crash in Japan
11:16am - teasers included: train crash in Japan
11:42am - teasers included: train crash in Japan
11:48am - teasers included: train crash in Japan
11:51am - ALERT - train crash in Japan (video courtesy GRN & Peter Crookes reporting by phone)
11:58am - Asman read tops, including: train crash in Japan
12:04pm - train crash in Japan


11:20am - Hopkins said "religious leaders" say "Democrats are against people of faith" which is why they held a meeting yesterday. She showed a clip of Sen Bill Frist's videotape shown at the meeting, then interviewed Joe DiGenova (GOP) & David Boies (Dem). Hopkins's first questions to both were relatively open (what did they think about the telecast & Frist's comments); DeGenova predictably started with some blah blah blah about how Frist has a "right" to "express views" to "constituents" (& no one challenged his assertions that a nationwide special telecast audience is Frist's constituency). While DiGenova was speaking, the lower-third graphics gave some background info about him, but as Boies began to speak those graphics changed to: "BATTLE OVER THE BENCH - Democrats use filibuters to block judicial nominees." This cuteness stayed on screen for much of the remainder of the interview. Eventually, Hopkins brought it down to the usual FNL level, claiming that if you talked to "most people" about filibutering judges they'd say "Just shut up & vote."
Comment: This "meeting" was called, inappropriately, "Justice Sunday" & was organized not by religious leaders but by Tony Perkins (former state legislator & candidate for insurance commissioner in Louisiana) & by James Dobson (a psychologist). If you want an excellent assessment of this "event", Frank Rich nails it.

11:31am - Hopkins noted that Bush is meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in Crawford, & interviewed Michael Isikoff (Newsweek) & Richard Murphy (former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia & Syria). Hopkins encouraged Isikoff to speculate about what Bush might say to Abdullah about oil & other topics (e.g., how can Bush "incentivize" the Saudis), & Isikoff complied. Both Isikoff (Saudis have been "crucial" re terrorism) & Murray ("no question" that Saudis are "on board" with us) praised the Saudis.

12:13pm - Asman used the dripping-blood graphic WAR ON TERROR to intro his interview with Col Joseph DiSalvo (2nd Birgade combat team) about the alleged recent increase in attacks by insurgents in Iraq. DiSalvo was well prepped by the Pentagon's PR staff: the insurgents are "now resorting" to attacks on civilians & will "go to any lengths to try to initmidate the poopulation" but it's "not gonna work" because "they've tasted the fruits of freedom". Asman interrupted this panegyric to ask: if the insurgents are changing their tactics, how do "we" change "our" tactics to cope. DiSalvo said the US military is getting better info & that more Iraqi security forces are executing operations successfully. Asman asked how many Iraqi security forces there are & how well trained they are, & DiSalvo said that in his area there are 1000-1200 "capable" plus another 1200 "in training" who will be ready in 30-60 days, adding that their functioning "gets better each day." Asman opined that sometimes the US media is "not too supportive" citing an article in the NYTimes today about marines unhappy with too few men, too little equipment. DiSalvo said "We have best equipment our government can offer" (which neatly sidesteps the question of whether that equipment is adequate, but Asman didn't follow up) & "equipment is not an issue." DiSalvo said the soldiers "all believe in what they're fighting for" which is "to help Iraqis" get freedom. Asman then asked what "folks out there" can specifically do "to help you guys out" & DiSalvo said "just general support" like letters "does wonders for morale" so Asman exhorted viewers to "keep those cards & letters coming."
Comment: Is cheerleading a requirement for all FNL on-air "personalities"? The article in the NYTimes that Asman & DiSalvo glibly dismissed is here. It focusses on Company E's experiences in Iraq, & could hardly be called "not too supportive" by anyone not engaged in Pentagon PR:

In all, more than one-third of the unit's 185 troops were killed or wounded, the highest casualty rate of any company in the war, Marine Corps officials say.

In returning home, the leaders and Marine infantrymen have chosen to break an institutional code of silence and tell their story, one they say was punctuated not only by a lack of armor, but also by a shortage of men and planning that further hampered their efforts in battle, destroyed morale and ruined the careers of some of their fiercest warriors.

The saga of Company E, part of a lionized battalion nicknamed the Magnificent Bastards, is also one of fortitude and ingenuity.

12:23pm - Asman said that Dems in Congress are "mounting targeted attacks" on DeLay & Bolton & interviewed Rich Lowry (National Review) & Ryan Lizza (New Republic). This was entirely predictable, with Lowry blaming Voinovich & Asman jovially wondering whether someone "took him [Voinovich] to the woodshed." When Lowry got a little too pompous ("attacks" on Bolton's temperament are "ENTIRELY opportunistic", & the intel charges are "entirely bogus"), Lizza challenged him, asking if Dems want to investigate "What's wrong with that?" Asman made no attempt at neutrality, instead openly siding with Lowry's version of events & asking "How much longer can they [Dems] go on switching gears?" Lizza could do little but repeat that facts are "worth invesitgating."

12:27pm - ALERT - so Asman could announce that Abdullah had just arrived in Crawford; Mike Emanuel reported on Bush & Cheney speaking with the press while waiting for Abdullah then greeting Abdullah

12:41pm - ALERT - so Asman could announce that Abdullah is in Crawford & show video of Bush & Cheney (or, as Asman called them, "two heavy hitters") talking to reporters. This went on for a few minutes, then at 12:44pm Bush stepped away to greet Abdullah but Asman said "Let's keep listening to the President as he meets Crown Prince Abdullah" so FNL showed another 2 minutes of this non-event (which even Asman admitted was simply a "photo op").

12:52pm - Asman interview Melissa Boyle Mahle (author of "Denial & Deception") about John Negroponte, the new Director of National Intelligence. Asman opened by asking if there had been a DNI in place, would 9/11 have happened. Mahle said "probably." Asman suggested that Negroponte "could have challenged" someone like Tenet saying "slam dunk" but Mahle would only go so far as "maybe", pointing out that he might not have had access to different opinions. She stated that they're "building counteranalysis capability" so now the President can see "both sides" of an issue (Asman didn't point out that there might be issues with more than two sides). She said that a "key challenege" for Negroponte will be to "control & command" but encourage dissent, which Asman characterized as "seeking out the naysayers."
Comment: Can you say "puff piece"?

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Hopkins's & Asman's interview "styles" as evidenced by these interviews). O/T comments will be deleted. Please use the O/T category from the list at right to post unrelated comments. Thanks.