Democratic responses largely absent from network news coverage of Bush speeches on national security

››› ››› SIMON MALOY & ROB MORLINO

A Media Matters for America review of 12 reports on network evening news broadcasts covering President Bush's speeches and statements on Iraq, terrorism, and national security policy in the week preceding September 11 showed that the reports included responses from just five Democratic officials.

A Media Matters for America review* of network evening news broadcasts from September 4 through September 8 showed that 12 separate reports covering President Bush's speeches and statements on Iraq, terrorism, and national security policy, during that week, included responses by a total of five Democratic officials. None of the three reports that aired on the CBS Evening News included a Democratic statement, while ABC's World News included Democrats in only two of its five stories, and Democrats were quoted in only three out of five reports on NBC's Nightly News. In addition to excerpting Bush's speeches, some of the reports also quoted other Republicans and White House officials defending the Bush administration's foreign policies. In addition to the 12 reports, CBS and ABC also aired exclusive interviews with Bush during their broadcasts, neither of which included any Democratic response.

ABC's World News with Charles Gibson

  • The September 8 broadcast featured a report on the Senate Intelligence Committee report released that day, confirming that there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda before the Iraq war. ABC quoted Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) saying: "Today's report is a devastating indictment of the Bush administration's unrelenting, misleading, and deceptive attempts to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein was linked with Al Qaeda."
  • The September 7 broadcast featured anchor Charles Gibson's interview with Bush. No Democrats were quoted.
  • The September 6 broadcast featured a report on Bush's announcement from that day that 14 terror detainees had been transferred from secret CIA prisons to the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. No Democrats were quoted.
  • The September 6 broadcast also featured a report on the Senate Democrats' call for a vote of no confidence in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The report featured quotes from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).
  • The September 5 broadcast featured a report on the peace deal between the Pakistani government and terrorist groups in northern Pakistan -- the region where Osama bin Laden is rumored to be hiding. ABC quoted Bush saying: "We're not gonna back down in the face of these killers. We'll fight this war. And we'll win this war together." No Democrats were quoted.
  • The September 5 broadcast also featured a report on Bush's speech from that day on the fight against terrorism. No Democrats were quoted.

CBS Evening News with Katie Couric

  • The September 7 broadcast featured a report on Bush's speech from that day, at the end of which CBS News White House correspondent Jim Axelrod noted: "The Democrats are out with a name for the president's series of speeches. They're calling it 'the fear and smear tour.' " No Democrats were directly quoted.
  • The September 6 broadcast featured a report on Bush's announcement of the terror detainee transfer -- no Democrats were quoted.
  • The September 6 broadcast also featured excerpts of anchor Katie Couric's kid-gloved interview with Bush. Again, no Democrats were quoted.
  • The September 5 broadcast featured a report on Bush's speech from that day. No Democrats were quoted.

NBC's Nightly News

  • The September 8 broadcast featured a report on the Senate Intelligence Committee report. NBC noted that the White House and congressional Republicans dismissed the report, but quoted no Democrats.
  • The September 7 broadcast featured a report on Bush's call for Congress to pass legislation the White House proposed allowing terror detainees to be tried using military tribunals. NBC News correspondent Chip Reid reported: "Republicans and Democrats say they're hopeful a compromise can be reached. In part, that's because, with elections so close, no one in Congress wants to look soft on terrorism." NBC then aired a clip of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) saying: "We need these very, very bad people brought to justice."
  • The September 6 broadcast featured a report on Bush's speech acknowledging the existence of secret CIA prisons and the transfer of prisoners to Guantánamo Bay; it quoted Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
  • The September 5 broadcast featured a report on Bush's speech from that day by NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory and included a response by former Democratic presidential candidate retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who said, "The war in Iraq was a mistake. The policies that this administration has trumpeted haven't worked."

The September 4 broadcast featured a report by Chip Reid on the prospect of Democratic gains in the House and Senate in the midterm elections. Reid reported on a letter sent by congressional Democratic leaders to Bush calling for Rumsfeld's resignation and the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq. The report quoted no Democrats, but it included a clip of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) from the September 3 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press expressing support for the president. Later in the broadcast, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported that the White House had issued a "pretty dismissive" response to the Democrats' letter.

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