Friday, 09 March 2007


Ken Berwitz

Ok, I admit I'm exaggerating a bit on how many examples of media bias I've posted.  But, then again, how long has this blog been up and running?  Give me time, there's plenty to choose from.

The latest comes from CBS, those nice folks who gave us that noted non-partisan newsman Dan Rather (who used his time off from CBS to, among other things, speak at Democratic events). 

Rather was the fellow who reported those fake papers which "proved" President Bush was some kind of military deserter, just one month before the 2004 elections.  The ones that had a computer typeface which didn't exist when they were supposed to have been issued.  Yet, despite this, Rather STILL is incapable of admitting that the swill he reported was fake. 

Rather's foray into Lalaland made CBS so much of a laughingstock that they had to do something.  So they either convinced or coerced Rather to "retire" as anchor of their evening news show.  And, after Bob Schieffer's interim stint, they replaced him with a demonstrably more neutral anchor, right?

Er, no.

They replaced Dan Rather with Katie Couric, the former Today show personality who was famous for her slavishness to the Kennedy's and then the Clintons.  The same Katie Couric who came from a Democratic political family (e.g. Couric's sister Emily, until her untimely death from pancreatic cancer, was a Democratic state senator in Virginia). 

Their thinking apparently was that taking Couric from Today was like hitting for the daily double.  Not only would she boost CBS evening news' sagging ratings, but her absence the Today show would knock it down a few pegs and, they hoped, send some of those disaffected viewers to the CBS morning show.

Well, it's been over a half year since that move.  And, based on the CBS evening news ratings, maybe she should change her name to Katie Carwreck.  They're not only not up, they're down.

And to add insult to injury, while CBS' Early Show is up slightly, Today still almost doubles their total viewership.  Plus, Today gained the difference in paychecks between Katie and her replacement, Meredith Viera, which is approximately enough to rebuild New Orleans.

Obviously something more had to be done.  And this week CBS did it (apparently without consulting Ms. Couric, by the way, which I think we can safely assume is not sitting very well with her).  They have made Rick Kaplan the Executive Producer of CBS evening news.

How bad a selection is Rick Kaplan?  Read this editorial from today's Investor's Business Daily and see (normally I put the key parts in bold print, but since just about every word in this piece qualifies, please just read the whole thing):

Hillary's Shill At CBS

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, March 08, 2007 4:30 PM PST

Media Bias: After "60 Minutes" used fake documents to accuse President Bush of avoiding war service, how could CBS News possibly stoop lower? By hiring a longtime Clinton crony to rescue its evening news show.

Consider this quote, dating from a few months after Bill Clinton first took office: "If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, we'd take it right now and walk away winners."

Those are not the words of a campaign operative or grass roots fundraiser, but of then-CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather, speaking on behalf of himself and co-anchor Connie Chung via satellite to President Clinton during a May, 1993, CBS affiliates meeting.

Kaplan: To the rescue again.

Rather added, "tell Mrs. Clinton we respect her and we're pulling for her."

With Rather's retirement last year, CBS Evening News lost its big Clinton fan to sit in front of the cameras. With former first lady Hillary now running for president, however, the network has decided to place one behind the cameras instead as executive producer.

Rick Kaplan, who calls Dan Rather "the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to," has been a close friend and political adviser of the Clintons all the way back to the 1970s, when the future president was Arkansas attorney general and Kaplan was producing Walter Cronkite.

During the 1992 campaign, while he was executive producer of ABC News' "Nightline," Kaplan repeatedly advised Clinton on how to handle the revelation of the then-Arkansas governor's affair with Gennifer Flowers.

A Newsweek report found Kaplan, while he was CNN president, apparently assisting Al Gore during a debate rehearsal for the 2000 presidential campaign.

Golf with Bill, overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom, a personal two-and-a-half-hour tour of the White House by the president for his 21-year-old daughter are among the perks Kaplan has enjoyed. His response to press questions about the conflict of interest: "It's nobody's business." And CBS news viewers are now asked to believe it will have no effect on the former "World News Tonight" and "PrimeTime Live" producer's coverage of Hillary.

Kaplan, in fact, has long lacked professionalism and traded in bias:

CNN had to retract its 1998 "Tailwind" report in the very first edition of the Kaplan-created "NewsStand" news magazine show. The program claimed the U.S. military used nerve gas in a mission to kill American defectors in Laos during the Vietnam War.

In the 1993 Food Lion lawsuit against ABC's "PrimeTime Live," a jury demanded ABC pay the supermarket chain $5.5 million for fraud and that executive producer Kaplan personally pay $35,000. Food Lion had accused the show's producers of deceiving the public with "staged events and selective editing." (ABC successfully appealed the verdict.)

Vanity Fair reported in 1998 that Kaplan in October 1994 killed an ABC "World News Tonight" segment on the Clintons' Whitewater scandal featuring an exclusive interview with an Arkansas state trooper who claimed a Clinton aide had tried to silence him, and that Kaplan discouraged other Whitewater coverage.

It also revealed Kaplan advised Bill on how to bounce back from his disastrously tedious speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention, in which he was practically booed off the stage.

The magazine also reported that Kaplan even once hired Hillary "to work on coverage of the 1980 Democratic convention."

According to a CNN producer quoted in the Washington Monthly in 1993, Kaplan arranged for Bill to appear on New York's Don Imus radio program during the 1992 campaign.

CBS "Evening News" has become third in the network ratings since infotainer Katie Couric arrived as hostess. For some reason, CBS thinks having a bosom buddy of the Clintons turn it into a nightly commercial for Hillary's presidential campaign is the solution.

What is it with these people?  Why do they make these kinds of moves over and over again?  Why are they so comfortable with shredding and reshredding their integrity this way?

CBS used to be known as "The Tiffany Network" because of its news department.  What should we call it now?  The Crackerjack Box Network?

It was highly unrealistic to expect Katie Couric's CBS evening news to be non-partian before this move.  Now, with Kaplan in charge, even that slight hope is ended.

On the other hand, let's try to be fair.  It is possible that, albeit belatedly, CBS will realize what a blunder they've made and get rid of Kaplan quickly.  Maybe they can replace him by coaxing Howard Dean away from the DNC.  Hey, it certainly wouldn't lower their credibility level.



Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I laughed at John Edwards for backing out of an upcoming presidential debate because it was going to be aired on Fox News Channel.

I am mentioning it again, because I just read Brian Maloney's piece about this at, and it turns out that Edwards has been on Fox News Channel 33 TIMES from August of 2000 to the present.  That's right., 33 times. 

Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a little trouble understanding why Edwards would duck a debate being aired by a cable venue he has continually been on for almost 7 years, and use the excuse that the cable venue isn't acceptable to him. 

Is this the man you want as commander in chief?

After all these years of watching politics and politicians, I suppose idiocies like this shouldn't surprise me.  But somehow they still do.

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