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Two Minutes of Hate - Backing the President's Illegal Actions

Reported by Janie - May 16, 2006

Last night (5/15) on "Special Report with Brit Hume", Hume dedicated one small segment of his Two Minutes of Hate (AKA "Grapevine") to the USA Today/Gallup Poll that revealed 51% of Americans disapprove of the latest in the NSA saga: tracking phone calls made both in and out of the United States, while amassing one of the largest databases in history. This poll was unfavorable to Bush, so Hume attempted to paint the poll in an unfavorable light and raise doubts in the viewer, who would never dare to do independent research to check Hume's claims.

Hume said "Fifty-one percent of Americans now say they disapprove of the National Security Agency 's database of domestic phone calls, that according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

The number from a Washington Post poll taken last week, just after the story broke, in which 63% of Americans called the NSA program an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism.

The paper reports, USA Today reports that its findings "may differ because questions in the two polls were worded differently." They sure were.

USA Today's poll question does not mention that the NSA database program does not involve listening to or recording telephone conversations, while the Post poll did mention that."

Hume is technically correct. The wording of the questions are different, and the USA Today/Gallup poll does not mention that phone calls are not being monitored. However, the poll does not state that calls are being monitored, and gives a fair representation of the NSA program.

The question posed by USA Today/Gallup stated, "As you may know, as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism, a federal government agency obtained records from three of the largest U.S. telephone companies in order to create a database of billions of telephone numbers dialed by Americans. How closely have you been following the news about this?"

This question was followed by "Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?", to which 51% of respondents said they disapprove of the program.

Nothing in the description of the program was inaccurate, nor biased. As a matter of fact, the USA Today/Gallup poll did address the question of the government listening in to personal calls. Question 10 B in the poll asks, "How concerned are you that: Based on this program, the government would listen in on telephone conversations within the U.S. without first obtaining a warrant?" This question specifically leads the respondent to believe their calls are not being listened to, but asks if they are concerned it could happen (63% of respondents have concerns this could happen).

The response to this question was something that the right, in concert with Fox, were not expecting to hear. Hume actually had to attempt to discredit a poll that was unfavorable to the administration when there was, in fact, nothing wrong with the poll to begin with. Of course, the viewers that take Hume's word as gospel would not bother to look up the wording of the question themselves and were lead to believe the poll was biased, and therefore should be disregarded.

It is also interesting to note, that despite breaking news yesterday that could have a profound impact on the news industry, Hume did not once cover the revelation that the government is tracking the calls of journalists in an attempt to locate their sources. This assault on the first amendment was completely ignored by Hume, to again protect the President and the Republican party.

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