CyberAlert -- 12/05/2001 -- Hamas Not Terrorist to Jennings

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Hamas Not Terrorist to Jennings; "Israelis Have Been on the Attack Again"; Thanks for the Bombing; Military Won't Help Geraldo Rivera

1) In reporting on President Bush's decision Tuesday to freeze the assets of a Texas group, charging that it funnels money to Hamas, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC directly or indirectly described Hamas as a "terrorist" operation. But not ABC's Peter Jennings.

2) For the second night after terrorist attacks which killed Israelis, ABC's Peter Jennings painted Israel as the violent aggressors. He saw "an explosion of violence in the Middle East" with "Palestinians dead and wounded" because "Israelis have been on the attack again." But CBS's Dan Rather cited "Israel's latest answer to a wave of Palestinian terror attacks."

3) One man's terrorist is NBC's "freedom fighter" as NBC News reporter Keith Miller applied that tag to Yasser Arafat.

4) Back in May, following animation of missile defense in action, Peter Jennings snidely added: "One other note. Critics often object to the animation in news reports because the animation usually has the systems working." But Jennings did not utter a word Tuesday night about a successful test.

5) In one town decimated by U.S. bombing, the owner of a house destroyed thanked America: "The Taliban were brutal here. For this reason we are happy, for this reason we make thanks to America."

6) Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, challenged the ACLU's Nadine Strossen from the right about her cherished assumptions about the supremacy of civil rights even during a war.

7) Bernard Goldberg has begun his book tour with stops on FNC and CNN and an interview with Rush Limbaugh. Below, what started it all: A transcript of the 1996 CBS Evening News story that prompted Goldberg to pen an op-ed piece outlining its liberal bias, a piece which led to his being ostracized by CBS News staffers.

8) Payback time for Geraldo Rivera: "The military remembers his support of Bill Clinton,' says one insider. 'They won't let him get near stories he wants -- particularly if it involves interviewing U.S. personnel.'"


Hamas is a "terrorist" group to everyone but Peter Jennings. In reporting on President Bush's decision Tuesday to freeze the assets of a Texas group, charging that it funnels money to Hamas, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC directly or indirectly described Hamas as a terrorist operation. But not ABC's Peter Jennings.

Jennings announced on the December 4 World News Tonight: "Today the Bush administration froze the financial assets and closed the offices of a major Muslim charity. The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation is accused of financing the militant Islamic group Hamas which claimed responsibility for last week's suicide attacks against Israelis. Federal agents raided several Holy Land offices around the country today."

On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather at least added the word "murder" before "suicide attacks" as he cast doubt upon the Texas group's legitimacy as a "charity." From Kabul, he intoned: "The group Hamas has claimed responsibility for the latest murder/suicide attack inside Israel and today President Bush cracked down on a U.S., quote, 'charity,' that has helped finance Hamas. CBS's Sharyl Attkisson has more about a money trail between the Middle East and the American Southwest."

Attkisson conveyed the Bush administration view that the Texas group promoted "terror" through Hamas: "Based in Texas, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development masqueraded as a charity according to the Bush administration, but existed to promote terror. Founder Mussa Abdul Marzuk (sp?) is the political leader of Hamas, which provides relief for Palestinian refugees, but also has a violent, militant arm dedicated to destroying Israel..."

In relaying the Texas organization's denial, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw squeezed in the "terrorist" term: "The United States is cracking down on Hamas, that's the militant group that claims responsibility for those suicide bombings in Israel. On the President's orders today federal agents raided the U.S. offices of the Islamic charity group, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. It's accused of financing Hamas. It's one of three groups whose assets are being frozen. Tonight the foundation denies that it is supporting terrorists."

On the cable networks, CNN's Tim O'Brien, formerly of ABC News, directly tagged Hamas as "terrorist" when he provided this headline of the day to NewsNight anchor Aaron Brown: "The Bush administration accuses a Texas charity of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas terrorists and moves to freeze its assets...."

Over on FNC earlier in the evening, Brit Hume led his Special Report with Brit Hume by noting how Bush had expanded his list of who he categorizes as a "terrorist enemy." Hume asserted: "Ever since President Bush first defined his war on terrorism as being aimed at terror groups of quote, 'global reach,' it was thought he used that phrase to avoid including local Palestinian groups carrying out attacks on Israel. But today, the President specifically named as a terrorist enemy the radical Palestinian group that claimed responsibility for the atrocities in Israel over the weekend."


For the second straight night following the terrorist attacks which killed 26 Israelis, ABC's Peter Jennings portrayed Israel as the violent aggressor. On Monday night he wanted to know if the Bush administration wished to "restrain the Israelis?" He also referred to Hamas simply as an "organization." (For details, refer back to the December 4 CyberAlert:

On Tuesday evening Jennings saw "an explosion of violence in the Middle East" with "Palestinians dead and wounded after Israel attacks." He soon suggested Israel is a repeat offender as he lamented how "Israelis have been on the attack again."

He teased at the top of his December 4 show: "On World News Tonight, an explosion of violence in the Middle East. Palestinians dead and wounded after Israel attacks very close to the Palestinian leader."

Jennings then started the newscast: "Good evening everyone. We're going to begin in the Middle East tonight where the U.S. has so much at stake. The Israelis have been on the attack again against the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Israelis say they're trying to force Mr. Arafat to stop Palestinian terrorists who are killing Israelis. The Palestinians say they're making it impossible for him to do anything while his government is being attacked."

From Israel, Gillian Findlay relayed Palestinian claims about how two were killed, including a 15-year-old.

Contrast the Jennings theme of Israel as the assailant with how Dan Rather approached the subject on the CBS Evening News. His tease at the top of the show: "Israel's latest answer to a wave of Palestinian terror attacks: Air strikes hit just yards from Yasser Arafat's office."

Earlier in the day, however, CBS's Bryant Gumbel echoed Jennings' theme. MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed that in interviewing Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland, Gumbel inquired: "Speaking of restraint, there is considerable question about whether these Israeli, this Israeli response is excessive. How do you interpret the Bush administration's apparent unwillingness to restrain Sharon?"


One man's terrorist is NBC's "freedom fighter" as NBC News reporter Keith Miller applied that label to Yasser Arafat.

After recounting Israel's missile strikes, on the December 4 NBC Nightly News Keith Miller recalled from Tel Aviv: "Today's violence continues a battle between two men that goes back more than thirty years: Arafat the freedom fighter intent on winning a homeland for Palestinians and Sharon the tank commander defending the State of Israel. Today both men are in their 70s, losing patience and running out of time."


Peter Jennings after a May 1 World News Tonight story on President Bush's decision to move forward on missile defense, a story which featured animation of missile defense in action: "One other note. Critics often object to the animation in news reports because the animation usually has the systems working."

World News Tonight with Peter Jennings as anchor on Tuesday, December 4, following a successful test shoot down of a missile: Not a word about it. But Jennings had time for Enron as symbolic of the insecurity of retirement funds invested in an employer's stock and the wonders of the new drug, Modafinal, which restores normal alertness after sleep deprivation. (Good Morning America ran a brief item Tuesday morning from news reader Antonio Mora.)

CBS Evening News viewers learned this from John Roberts, who anchored from New York while Rather anchored from Kabul: "NASA called off today's planned launch of the space shuttle Endeavour at the last minute because of bad weather, but the Pentagon's latest missile defense test succeeded. A Minuteman missile launched last night from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California met an interceptor rocket fired from the South Pacific, destroying the missile's dummy warhead one hundred miles out in space."

For more about ABC's May 1 take on missile defense, go to:


Thank you America for bombing our village and destroying our homes. Traveling to one town decimated by U.S. bombing, ABC's Jim Wooten discovered not anger at the U.S., as previous ABC stories had suggested, but appreciation for getting rid of the Taliban.

After Peter Jennings noted on Tuesday's World News Tonight that "local officials" claim U.S. bombing around Tora Bora has killed more than 50 civilians, he turned to Wooten for a look at a town bombed earlier by the U.S.

In Qarah Bagh Wooten found that bombing had destroyed a farmer's house and the pharmacy, though the hospital was spared. To Wooten's amazement, the farmer "says he's glad they did it."
Farmer through translator: "Any country that helps us, any country that bombs the Taliban, any country that kills the Taliban, we are happy. We are happy with that."
Wooten: "The farmer's son, Minhaj, agrees."
Wooten to boy: "Why are you happy, all the destruction here. Why are you happy about that? 'I'm happy the Taliban have gone away,' the boy says. And listen to Abdul Rachman's (sp?) assessment of the air strikes on the village where his family has lived for 200 years."
Through translator: "Nobody is happy to see the destruction of his own country, but the Taliban were brutal here. For this reason we are happy, for this reason we make thanks to America."

Not quite the impression left by ABC's reporting in October as documented in the MRC's November 5 Media Reality Check study by Rich Noyes: "World News Tonight Showed Afghan Civilian Deaths More Than CBS and NBC Combined."

Recall how on the October 23 World News Tonight Dan Harris prompted some America-bashing: "This boy is one of the injured. His uncle says he had heard American radio broadcasts promising civilians wouldn't be targeted, but he says his village was nowhere near any Taliban positions. Abdul Jabar is the doctor in charge."
Harris to Jabar: "How do you feel when you see these kids?"
Jabar: "I feel very sad."
Harris: "Angry?"
Jabar: "Yes. My sympathies are with the Afghanis."
Harris: "Angry at the United States?"
Jabar: "Yes."
Harris concluded from Pakistan: "Everyone we spoke with at this tiny hospital said the ongoing raids have made the population here and across the border angry at the U.S. and supportive of the Taliban."

To read the study in full, go to the HTML version which also features matching RealPlayer video clips:


More balance from Comedy Central's newscast than from ABC, CBS or NBC. As documented in a Media Reality Check last week distributed as a CyberAlert Special, in interviewing Attorney General John Ashcroft, all three morning shows hit him only with questions from the left about his abridgement of civil rights. (For quotes, access the November 29 Media Reality Check:

On Monday night, however, MRC analyst Brian Boyd observed that Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, managed to question the sanctity of putting civil rights ahead of all other concerns.

Check out the line of questioning he delivered to ACLU President Nadine Strossen after he let her outline her complaints:

Stewart: "See, here's what I don't understand, doesn't free speech come with some responsibility? Isn't there something that people have to be responsible for their own behavior. If they are discussing terrorist acts what would be the problem with surveying for that?"
Strossen: "Well, you have the right to talk about terrorism, in fact, I hope all of us are. We're talking about-"
Stewart: "We're talking about it in a theoretical way how to counter it, not what our next target is."
Strossen: "And that's why these surveillance techniques are as ineffective as they are violative of individual rights. If the program is searching out anytime the word 'terrorist' comes up, I think there are going to be a million innocent conversations for everyone that might be suspicious and that's why, interestingly enough, law enforcement officials are saying these kind of dragnet techniques that we're using are really just a waste of resources."
Stewart: "They talk about the 5,000 people that are going to be questioned."
Strossen: "Exactly, that's what I was going to say."
Stewart: "Now that doesn't sound like a waste of time to me because it, it seems like, well, let's take it in a different direction. When they were trying to effectively curtail the Mafia, chances are they used the RICO, I guess, Act, for racketeering etc., but chances are they talked to mostly Italian-Americans. Now is that racial profiling or is that perhaps an evening at the Olive Garden. (Laughter) No, I don't know what I'm talking about. Is that racial profiling?"
Strossen: "In this context it really is, because the only criterion, well wait, it's not only racial, it's also age and gender. It's 5,000, you said people, Jon, but 5, 000 men between the ages of 18 and 33 who come from certain countries that are suspected of having terrorist activities."
Stewart: "So it's already winnowed down quite a bit."
Strossen: "Not very much. And the government says that these people, they have no basis for believing that any of them have any knowledge of the terrorists, let alone any-"
Stewart: "Were they randomly picked out of a hat?"
Strossen: "No. They were picked only because of the age, the gender and the countries they came from."
Stewart: "Are there only 5,000 people in this country in between the ages of-"
Strossen: "That come from those countries, that have entered, I'm sorry, in the last two years on non-immigrant visas. But they entered lawfully."
Stewart: "Those were eight different criterion you cited. The age, the sex, the country, when they came into the country, on what type of visa they entered into the country, that's, I mean that to me sounds like more than just racial profiling."

The next time Strossen appears on a morning show we can compare her treatment to how Stewart challenged her.


Bernard Goldberg began his book tour on Tuesday with appearances on Rush Limbaugh's radio show and on FNC's Hannity & Colmes. He was scheduled to appear Wednesday morning on CNN to discuss with Paula Zahn his new book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.

The MRC obtained copies of the book on Tuesday and from my initial skimming I can report it's full of great inside tales and many of the examples of bias cited by Goldberg will be familiar to any loyal reader of MRC publications. He even has a whole chapter devoted to quotes from the MRC's Notable Quotables. Over the next few days I intend to run some excerpts to give you a flavor of it, but today I thought I'd start at the beginning, the very beginning, with a transcript and video of Eric Engberg's February 8, 1996 CBS Evening News story which prompted Goldberg to pen a critical op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about how Engberg's story "set new standards for bias." Goldberg's piece led to his ostracization as he became persona non grata at CBS News.

From the February 8 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather set up the story by asking: "What are the economics of this Forbes flat tax proposal? Tonight, a look beyond the promises, to the substance of it, in a Reality Check by correspondent Eric Engberg."
Eric Engberg: "Steve Forbes pitches his flat tax scheme as an economic elixir good for everything that ails us."
Steve Forbes in a speech: "We would see a Renaissance, the likes of which that has never been seen before."
Engberg: "It's the kind of optimistic message people want to believe. But experts have trouble with many of Forbes' specific promises, like how the flat tax would boost economic growth."
Forbes: "By removing obstacles, starting with the tax code, we are capable of growing twice that rate."
Engberg: "Time out! Economists say nothing like that has ever actually happened."
William Gale, Brookings Institution: "It doesn't seem plausible to think that we're going to have a whole new economy, or some economic Renaissance Age due to tax reform."
Engberg: "Forbes claims taxes can be lowered without adding to the deficit."
Forbes: "A flat tax would enable this economy to grow. That would mean more revenues for Washington."
Engberg over video of Reagan before Congress: "That was called supply-side economics under President Reagan, less taxes equal more revenue. It didn't work out that way."
Engberg to Gale: "Is it fair to say the last time we tried something like this we ended up with these hideous deficits?"
Gale: "It's perfectly fair to say that, yes."
Engberg: "And that if we try it again, your fear is?"
Gale: "That we end up with the same problem again."
Engberg: "Forbes claims the flat tax would throw lobbyists, tax lawyers and accountants out of business. Oh, yeah? Ask one."
Donald Alexander, former IRS Commissioner: "If Mr. Forbes' proposal were enacted, it would be hog heaven for tax lawyers, absolutely hog heaven. We would have a wonderful time gaming the system."
Engberg: "Example: The wealthy could hire tax wizards to turn their regular income into investment income, exempt from the tax."
Janice Johnson, tax partner, Coopers & Lybrand: "I'm sure we'll dream up new loopholes under the flat tax. We always do."
Engberg: "OK, how about Forbes' number one wackiest flat tax promise?"
Forbes: "Parents would have more time to spend with their children, and with each other."
Donald Alexander: "That's right. The sky would be blue all the time."
Engberg concluded: "The fact is, the flat tax is one giant untested theory. One economist suggested that before we risk putting it in, we ought to try it out someplace, like maybe Albania. Eric Engberg, CBS News, Washington."

END 1996 transcript reprint

As the March 1996 MediaWatch reported, in 1996 those inside CBS did not embrace Goldberg as a whistle blower:

What a difference the message makes. After 60 Minutes last fall spiked part of an interview with Jeffrey Wigand, the ex-Brown & Williamson cigarette company executive, CBS reporters were angry and embarrassed that Wigand's confidentiality pledge prevented him from blowing the whistle on his former employer. On February 4, CBS overcame the legal hurdle and aired the spiked charges about manipulated nicotine levels. On PBS's Charlie Rose February 6 Dan Rather said that story "was gutsy, great reporting."

Fast forward a week and CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg blew the whistle on CBS, detailing in a February 13 Wall Street Journal op-ed how colleague Eric Engberg's story on the flat tax "set new standards for bias." Goldberg explained that "The old argument that the networks and other 'media elites' have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore."

So did journalists trumpet this whistle-blower? Hardly. "It's such a wacky charge....I don't know what Bernie was driving at. It just sounds bizarre," Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer told The Washington Post. "To accuse Eric of liberal bias is absurd," sniffed CBS News President Andrew Heyward. "The test is not the names people call you or accusations by political activists inside or outside your own organization," Rather told the New York Post in an insult to Goldberg's professionalism, insisting "I am not going to be cowed by anybody's special political agenda."

USA Today's Peter Johnson reported March 11: "Some colleagues supported him privately. But many others stopped talking to him, dismissing him as dead wrong, an ingrate, a nut or all of the above. Mostly, the big chill set in. Not-so-coincidentally, none of his commentary segments on the News, 'Bernard Goldberg's America,' has aired since the day his piece came out."...

END Excerpt from MediaWatch

This week Engberg denounced Goldberg's criticism of his story as an "act of treason." For more negative reaction from inside CBS as collected by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:

For a summary of Goldberg's 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed on the Engberg piece, go to:

I don't think the book has made it into bookstores yet, but it is available online:

Barnes & Noble is asking $26.55 for it while Amazon is selling it for $19.56 and has updated its page to display the actual dark blue cover design with the updated title.


Geraldo getting what he deserves, a little payback from the U.S. military? Rivera hasn't gotten access to U.S. troops because "he's been getting precious little cooperation from U.S. military officials who apparently don't cotton to the left-leaning TV star" because of his support for President Clinton, "Rush & Molloy" reported in Tuesday's New York Daily News.

An excerpt from the December 4 story, highlighted by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (, which was creatively headlined: "To Military, He's Geraldo non Grata."

....Bad enough that gun-toting Afghans have been blocking his way to Kandahar. Worse still, sources claim, he's been getting precious little cooperation from U.S. military officials who apparently don't cotton to the left-leaning TV star.

"The military remembers his support of Bill Clinton," says one insider. "They won't let him get near stories he wants -- particularly if it involves interviewing U.S. personnel."

Rivera has been trying to get into the gung-ho Fox spirit -- declaring on air that he was packing a gun and might personally plug Osama Bin Laden if he found him.

Last week, Fox News chief Roger Ailes is said to have enlisted help from Marine officer-turned-pundit North, who just headed to Bahrain also as a correspondent for Fox. Ailes, says the insider, asked North to put in a good word for his colleague with the brass.

According to the source, North sent word back that his military contacts had dryly responded: "Geraldo's paperwork is not in order, and it won't be in order until the war is over."

Rivera couldn't be reached for comment. A Fox spokesman could confirm only that locals have blocked Rivera's trip to the front lines....

END of Excerpt

For the story in full, go to:

I doubt CyberAlert readers have sympathy for Rivera's plight, nor should they. -- Brent Baker

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