Despite the significance of President Bush's November 1 pronouncement that Donald Rumsfeld will remain defense secretary until the end of his presidency, multiple media outlets have devoted much greater attention to the controversy over Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke."
On October 31, the network news led with coverage of the controversy surrounding Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke," downplaying a story on the U.S. military's accession to an order by Iraqi's prime minister to dismantle checkpoints around Sadr City that were part of an effort to locate a missing U.S. soldier. The Los Angeles Times ran the Kerry story on the front page of its print edition, relegating the story on Sadr City to Page 10.
CBS' Jim Axelrod reported that a White House official told him, "[D]o not expect to see anything significant prior to Election Day" "as far as a significant change" in the Bush administration's Iraq policy and then quoted the official as saying: "You're not going to see anything before November 8th. It would be political suicide, and Karl Rove would never allow it." Axelrod and anchor Katie Couric failed to point out that, as of October 25, the death toll for U.S. soldiers in Iraq stood at 91 for the month, which sets a pace that would make October the deadliest month for U.S. troops in two years.
In an appearance on the "Free Speech" segment of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that Al Gore "reversed course" on Iraq -- in fact, Gore has consistently opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq -- and, despite Hannity's own history of politically divisive statements, attributed the country's "divided" state to Democrats.
CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan reported on "a thousand 'Patriot Pastors' from conservative churches all across Ohio, who want their congregations out of their pews and in the polling places," claiming that church involvement in politics "may well be a get-out-the-vote effort that could once again be the answer to conservatives' prayers." But Cowan's report did not mention disclosures in a newly released book that the Bush White House has pandered to Christian conservatives for votes while breaking promises on policy and denigrating them behind closed doors.
CBS' Tony Guida reported that "[a] new study of the election by Barron's magazine might encourage Republicans. It concludes the GOP will retain control of both houses." But while saying that "anti-Bush, anti-Iraq sentiment" might trump money this year, Guida did not note inconsistencies in the publication's claims themselves or the publication's clear preference for a GOP victory.
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In her report on President Bush's signing of the controversial detainee bill, ABC's Martha Raddatz noted Sen. Russ Feingold's general opposition to the bill but gave no indication of Feingold's specific criticism -- that the bill "allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court." Nightly news broadcasts on NBC and CBS devoted little attention to the bill's signing and ignored Democratic criticism of it altogether.
Evening news programs on ABC and CBS made no mention that federal agents raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon's (R-PA) daughter and her business partner, as well as four additional locations, as part of a reported investigation into whether Weldon improperly assisted their company. NBC's Nightly News did report on the raids, but NBC devoted equal time to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid's announcement that he would issue updated disclosure forms to add more details of a land transaction, without noting a key difference: There are no allegations that Reid used his office to benefit from the land deal.
ABC, NBC, and CBS reported that, during a recent press conference, President Bush stated that he is "open" to changing the administration's Iraq war policy, but did not note that, during that same press conference, Bush reiterated his claim that the United States will not "leave before the job is done."
The same day that White House press secretary Tony Snow dismissed the questions about President Bush's policy on North Korea prior to its alleged test detonation of a nuclear weapon as "silly" and "gratuitous," ABC's World News with Charles Gibson and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric each aired interviews with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding North Korea that offered no indication that Rice was asked about Bush's previous North Korea policy.
Newscasts on NBC and CBS uncritically aired a clip of Rep. Adam Putnam claiming that Republicans "acted proactively" and "aggressively" in demanding Rep. Mark Foley's resignation. In fact, Foley reportedly resigned after being told by ABC News that it was going to make public sexually explicit instant messages linked to him, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert's own statements regarding the events leading up to Foley's resignation have been contradictory.