On NBC's Today, co-host Matt Lauer asked NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert if President Bush's record-low approval numbers are "in some ways a blessing in disguise for Republicans ... [b]ecause, basically, they can look and say, 'Look, I don't have a popular president here. I can turn my back on that president, or even oppose that president going into these elections and stem the tide of this voter anger.' "
In covering the straw poll of Republican presidential hopefuls at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Chris Matthews characterized Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as a "maverick," "kind of a party renegade," and a "lone gun," despite McCain's request that conference attendees cast write-in votes in support of President Bush.
In an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. Joseph R Biden Jr. (D-DE) challenged host Tim Russert's previous suggestion that Democratic lawmakers seized on the recent ports controversy in order to build their national security credentials. Biden pointed out that since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly put forth proposals to bolster port security nationwide -- proposals that have consistently been met with stiff Republican resistance.
NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, apparently referring to a bill offered by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) that would block the acquisition of control over six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, falsely said that the bill would "stop Arab ownership" of U.S. port facilities. In fact, the legislation does not target "Arab ownership" of U.S. shipping terminals.
Following Dubai Ports World's announcement that it would divest its leases to terminals at six U.S. ports, news outlets and media figures depicted Republicans as having neutralized the issue of port security. In other cases, they portrayed the Democratic opposition to the state-owned Arab firm's acquisition of the ports as purely political. But such characterizations take a narrow view of the political issues involved in the controversy, entirely ignoring differences between the two parties' broader records on this issue.
On NBC's Meet the Press, Tim Russert failed to challenge several misleading claims made by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in support of his assertion that the Iraq war is "going very, very well."
Faced with widespread criticism in recent weeks, the Bush administration and some of its supporters have promoted numerous false and misleading claims intended to downplay the approval of a deal that would turn over control of terminal operations at six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- and cast critics of the transaction as racist, politically opportunistic, or both. The media, in turn, have often repeated these claims without challenge or correction.
NBC's Nightly News and Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume uncritically reported the new White House explanation for President Bush's claim that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." The administration now claims that Bush was warned only of the levees "overtopping," not breaching. However, some key facts undermine this White House explanation.
Most major print and broadcast media outlets offered no coverage of House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King's March 1 claim that there was "no investigation into terrorism whatsoever" during the Bush administration's initial review of the proposed deal that would allow Dubai Ports World (DPW) to assume control of terminal operations at six major U.S. ports.
Appearing on NBC's Today, Chris Matthews suggested that President Bush had personal likeability numbers "going for him" until a recent CBS News poll showed them in decline. In fact, Bush's favorability ratings have been low for some time; they were low when Matthews said in November that "Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left."
Several journalists and media figures have taken to describing Democratic criticism of the Bush administration's approval of a deal allowing state-owned Dubai Ports World to assume control of six major U.S. ports as an attempt by Democrats to move "to the right" of President Bush and Republicans in Congress on issues of national security. In fact, some of the Democrats who have most strongly denounced the deal have been among the most active proponents of enhancing port security since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Chris Matthews cropped a quote by Sen. Charles Schumer to suggest that Schumer had simply denied that his concerns about the Bush Administration's ports deal arose from any "anti-Arab suspicion." Schumer, as quoted by Matthews, said that his concern about the ports agreement "is not because the UAE is an Arab country." However, in Schumer's next sentence, which Matthews left out, Schumer spelled out the reason for his concern about the agreement -- he said it was "because the UAE has had involvements with terrorism."
NBC's David Gregory reported that the Bush administration "extracted extra security concessions from Dubai Ports World [DPW] as a condition for the $7 billion contract" through which the company would assume control of six major U.S. seaports. Gregory did not mention that these "extra security concessions" appear to be little more than pledges to comply with U.S. law, nor did he report that the administration exempted DPW from other obligations typically required by the United States.
This Sunday, NBC's Meet the Press plans to feature three guests -- all of whom are Republicans.
In reporting on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ports controversy, NBC's Brian Williams failed to inform viewers that Dubai Ports World is owned by the government of Dubai, a member of the UAE. NBC's David Gregory later indicated that the company is state-owned but entirely ignored the significance of this. In doing so, they obscured the source of the controversy surrounding the Bush administration's approval of a deal to grant the company control of six U.S. ports.