The following is a transcription of the May 28, 2005 edition of "FOX News Watch," that has been edited for clarity:
ERIC BURNS, HOST: This week on a Memorial Day edition of "FOX News Watch," do the media hate the military? Is your local TV newscast promoting racism? What's "Newsweek" going to do to avoid Koran in the toilet type stories in the future? Why is this rock group suing NBC and is this any way to wash a car?
First the headlines, then us.
BURNS: Later in this program you will hear about the rock group Motley Crue (search). For now let me introduce you to an even motlier crew. Too easy, Jim, right?
Jim Pinkerton of "Newsday," syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jane Hall of the American University and media writer Neal Gabler. I'm Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is coming right up.
Pictures of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. Pictures of coffins returning from battle in Iraq and a word picture in this issue of "Newsweek," the now retracted report of American soldiers flushing a Koran down a toilet to torment Muslim prisoners. What do they all have in common? Well, according to many conservatives, they are all evidence of the media's hatred of the military.
According to Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, a leading conservative watchdog group, "It's just shameful to see how many in the U.S. media are giving the hard left aid and comfort by their consistent and increasingly vicious attacks on the U.S. military. Cal, does he have a point?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Not only conservatives like Brent Bozell and the Media Research Center have a point, Eric, I give you Terry Moran of ABC News, the White House correspondent, who acknowledged in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, who is also a blogger, that he believes there is a deep anti-military bias and he also said that - and I quote it right here from a show, he says, "There is Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media, one that begins from the premise that the military must be lying." He says most of the White House press corps shares that view and he adds that upwards of 70 percent of his colleagues voted for John Kerry in the last election.
BURNS: If that's true, Neal, does Vietnam have something to do with it .
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA CRITIC: Let's challenge it right off the bat.
BURNS: Let's challenge the if it's true, okay?
GABLER: Right. Torie Clarke, who was the military spokesman, actually challenged that and said over the last 10 to 15 years she thinks that media has become much more kind of congenial to the military. But look, I think first of all you have got to distinguish, when you are talking about the military, between the soldiers and the Pentagon. Both have been treated rather tenderly, I think, by the media, although the Pentagon has made some indisputable mistakes in prosecuting this war and they have been criticized, rightfully, for it.
But when it comes to our soldiers, when it comes to our soldiers, I don't think there is any doubt whatsoever that the media has been incredibly supportive and in point of fact I don't want to just do this anecdotally, I had a Lexis-Nexus search done. Over the past three months, on the words "brave" and "soldier" there were 325 hits.
JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": It is safe to say, leaving the soldiers aside, that the media are more pro military than 10 or 15 years ago is not necessarily a huge statement. It depends on what your baseline was, as Torie Clarke (search) said. Look, I said there were two issues here. One is cultural, the other is technological. The cultural issue is clear. Terry Moran is right. Linda Foley, who is the president of the Newspaper Guild, the big union for newspapers, said, repeating the Eason Jordan (search) charge, she said the U.S. military is targeting reporters in Iraq. And that is exactly what Eason Jordan said. He had to retract. He had to resign Linda Foley isn't giving a lot of interviews now, but hats off to Joe Strupp, from Editor & Publisher, and Tom Liebskind at the Chicago Sun-Times for pursuing this story.
The second issue, though, is technological. As Don Rumsfeld said in his speech to the World Affairs Council (search) last week, email, cell phones, digital camera, all of these things are making an information proliferation and frankly the American military bureaucracy which issues reports all the time, is always writing orders to each other, is spewing out so much stuff they can't keep it secret and that is a serious challenge to the military in an info-rich age.
BURNS: So part of it then, Jane, might not be bias, it might be just the desire of so many new journalists to get scoops and sometimes the scoops go against the military's interest.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, I think you have to - there are a lot of ways you have to distinguish this. I think you have to also distinguish the period when journalists were embedded in Iraq. I interviewed Brian Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman. The military viewed that as a great success, very pro the United States soldier.
BURNS: Did it change anything, that embedding?
HALL: Well, I think what has happened is that the situation was different from what many people in the Pentagon thought it was going to be. It was the media who uncovered the story about body armor, which I think was certainly pro-military for people whose families were concerned about this. I think that some of the early reporting is - I interviewed John Donden (ph), who was there early on as an embed.
BURNS: And he was at.
HALL: He was at ABC.
BURNS: ABC correspondent.
HALL: He was picking up story that we might not be greeted with open arms after the troops left town. There were things that the media have done that I think are very pro military. They are not opposed to the American soldiers. I think it's terrible - journalists are risking their lives to cover this story.
THOMAS: One of the problems, to pick up on what Jane said, is that there were fewer reporters there now, fewer journalists, many are afraid of literally putting their lives on the line, targeting or not, because of the situation there. Our own Oliver North just got back from the region and reported on some things on this network that I haven't see anywhere else. And it wasn't just the rah-rah military thing. We're talking about operations in the early days of the post beginning of the war activity, we talked about on this program the lack of coverage, of electricity and water services running .
BURNS: Being restored.
THOMAS: Yeah. There's a lot of stuff going on in Iraq that isn't being covered at all and Ollie had some of that.
GABLER: Terry Moran. Let me just say something about Terry Moran.
BURNS: And this is final word.
GABLER: From the safety - he's, I think, protecting his desk. Sixty- six journalists were killed during World War II. Sixty-five during Vietnam. Sixty-eight in Iraq. And my point is for journalists to be sniped at by critics on the right when they are putting their lives on the line is obscene.
BURNS: Quick, Jim.
PINKERTON: For reporters to say, Linda Foley to say that the U.S. government is targeting reporters is a slander, a slur.
THOMAS: It is.
BURNS: We have to take a break. We'll be back with more.
ANNOUNCER: Remember this car chase in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, ending with a man's being shot to death by police. It was a violent story. Was it also racist? More "FOX News Watch" after this.
BURNS: Police stories on most local TV newscasts are crimes. Rape, robbery, assault, murder. Based on their share of the population, minorities, especially blacks, are much more likely to commit these crimes than whites. The man shot down by police after the car chase was a Latino. Now according to UCLA law professor Jerry Kang writing in the "Harvard Law Review," these stories, featuring minorities as villains are an important reason for continuing racial prejudice in America.
Jane, it's a very controversial comment to make, it seems to me. What's your reaction to it?
HALL: Well, there have been a number of stories that have shown over the years that blacks are disproportionately represented as the perpetrators of crimes in local news. Local news, interestingly enough, is one of the most trusted sources in news because people think they know their local anchor.
BURNS: By the way, it's the most pervasive.
HALL: And the most pervasive.
BURNS: More people get their news from local news.
HALL: Than from anywhere else. I think it is true. Many years ago George Gardner (ph) had this idea of a dangerous world. If you saw coverage it did impact on you. I think that it does contribute to racism because you think the perpetrators of crime are more likely to be minorities if you watch a lot of local news.
BURNS: But they are, statistically.
HALL: But it is still - My understanding is it is still disproportionate. And also I think that it does perpetuate, the other thing is, girls that are kidnapped, black girls don't get covered as much, white girls do.
PINKERTON: Let's just step back a minute. For 40 years the left has had an agenda to downplay crime, especially because, as you say Eric, the criminals are disproportionately minorities. They downplay crime because it gets in the way of their sort of .
GABLER: And you see how well they've succeeded.
PINKERTON: They have failed because reality fights (ph), the truth is punched through and people have to deal with crimes. People like Rudy Giuliani have actually taken crime head on, not by lying about it, not by covering up the media, not by canceling the First Amendment but by having tough cops and the left can't stand it and this guy, this professor, is just the latest example of a guy who would kill the messenger rather than deal with the underlying problem.
BURNS: Let me back up what I'm saying about the statistical disproportion, Cal. 37.2 percent of the people arrested for violent crimes in this country are black, 13 percent of the population is black. So that is the disproportion I referred to.
THOMAS: Well, I think you focus on it best by focusing on other things as well. You do cover it.
Let me tell you a personal story. Some years ago, in Washington, I went to a group of black entrepreneurial people and there was no coverage there at all. There were no coverage there at all. There were no cameras. There were no newspaper reporters. These were articulate, successful, educated African Americans. And yet on the evening news that night the local news, there was nothing but blacks and Latinos involved in crime.
So I called a little meeting of news directors and station managers, and say, look, I'm a white guy living in the suburbs, and I've got to tell you, as diverse as I try to be in my attitude, this has a corrosive effect on my point of view and I'm sure it does on a lot of people. Even Jesse Jackson has said, hardly a racist from that point of view, if I see an African American walking down the street a certain way with gold chains and an attitude, I'm going to cross the street to the other side.
So this has a corrosive and negative effect on the way we perceive other people.
BURNS: What's the solution to it, Neal?
GABLER: I didn't realize that the left wing was so ineffectual, but the solution that Kang points out is the FCC ought to intervene.
BURNS: Intervene how?
GABLER: Intervene by imposing .
HALL: A cap.
GABLER: He wanted them to impose a cap on this kind of coverage.
BURNS: On the number of crime stories or you have to look for a white perp?
GABLER: Well, I think set a cap on the number of crime stories. There's no question that the local news media are fixated on these crime stories .
BURNS: But not for racist reasons, do you think, Neal? Maybe this might promote racism, but I don't think local stations focus on crime because they want to show blacks in a bad light, they just like to show crime.
PINKERTON: They focus on crime because people care. When there is an Amber Alert everybody gets worked up, they get excited, and usually the perps in those kinds of sex pervert cases turn out to be white. It is not a racist thing. It is a legitimate social order thing.
GABLER: They focus on it because it entertains people. Let me put it very legalistically. Let me put Kang's argument a very legalistic way. Local television news stinks and the FCC should hold local television news to a higher standard, not just looking at how many hours they devote to local issues, but how they devote those hours. Jim can say, oh, this is really important stuff for people to know, how many murders there were .
PINKERTON: No, it's important for people to deal with crime and it's also terrible that UCLA has a law professor that hates the First Amendment.
BURNS: But Jim, how do we deduce from what he - By the way, K-A-N-G, pronounced Kang, strangely enough .
GABLER: Excuse me.
BURNS: How do we deduce that, Jim, that he hates the first amendment?
PINKERTON: He wants to cancel it to promote his politically correct agenda.
BURNS: Well he doesn't say he wants to .
PINKERTON: Well, I'm saying.
HALL: OK, I agree his remedy is worse, almost, then what he is proposing would do away with the First Amendment. I think there is an overrepresentation. It's not only whether you disproportionately and what you're not showing is middle class .
BURNS: Spend a few moments on what you do about it. Is this it? You cover different stories like the black entrepreneurial convention?
THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely. There was a local guy in Washington named Paul Barry (ph) who did every year scholarships for inner city African- American kids. It was a wonderful thing. Kids who studied hard, did their homework, graduated, we want more of this than we need to cover it and encourage it.
BURNS: Other solutions?
GABLER: Redefine public interest. They have to meet the public interest, television stations do, in order to get a license. Redefine with the public interest.
PINKERTON: Other solutions - reduce crime. Put prisoners in jail and keep them there.
HALL: I'm not sure of a better solution than reducing crime. Think about what you're putting on and don't say, people are entertained by it and that's your reason for doing it.
BURNS: We have to take another break. We'll be back with our quick takes.
ANNOUNCER: What "Newsweek" will do in the future and what Paris Hilton is doing now. That and more when "FOX News Watch" continues.
BURNS: It's time for our quick takes on the media. Headline number one. "Newsweek" has a plan. A plan to avoid having to retract stories in the future. Now, the plan calls for imposing tougher standards on its use of anonymous sources, when "Newsweek" does them it will explain to readers why the sources have been granted anonymity and it will no longer use the phrase "sources said" as the sold attribution for a story. Jim, what do you think?
PINKERTON: These are just words. When you are serious about making change, when you think you have done wrong, you fire people. The "Washington Post" got rid of Janet Cooke, "The New York Times" got rid of Howell Raines .
BURNS: And Jayson Blair.
PINKERTON: And Jayson Blair. CBS got rid of Dan Rather. "Newsweek" is standing firm and standing pat on its existing staff and that says something.
GABLER: Because they didn't do anything that egregiously wrong.
BURNS: It's not standing pat on its old guidelines. What do you think of the news?
GABLER: I'm all for toughening anonymous sources, but let's face it, if you're toughening anonymous sources, you also protect the administration, whether it's the Bush administration or the next administration, and also, let's face it, those people who are criticizing "Newsweek" for its sourcing were not interested in setting the record straight, they were interested in intimidating "Newsweek" to go easy on the Bush administration.
THOMAS: Well "USA Today" has done one of the best jobs, I think, in doing precisely what "Newsweek" says it's going to do and they've become the standard, I think. Let's see if "Newsweek" follows through on this policy, which I think is a good one if they follow through.
BURNS: "USA Today" has cut back, it says, on its use of anonymous sources 75 percent .
THOMAS: That's right.
BURNS: . to reinforce what Cal says.
HALL: And it's also true overall, unlike some of these exhibits we've been talking about. I think the sources said with the most chicken thing they said, you can not have one person saying it and saying "sources said" and too many journalists do that.
BURNS: Quick take headline number two, Motley Crue decides to sue. When the groups lead singer used an obscene word on live TV, NBC's "Tonight Show" on New Year's Eve, it was banned from future appearances on the network. Now the group is suing NBC, claiming its free speech rights were violated and its record sales were adversely affected by the ban.
You, I know, have not bought a Motley Crue record since New Year's Eve.
THOMAS: Not in the last few years, anyway, no. But I did have the lead singer on my other show one night. It was very interesting. Look, you have a right to free speech, but NBC is a network. It has the right to put on or not put on anybody it wishes. Same with FOX or any other network.
BURNS: This was the FCC not getting involved so I assume you would applaud NBC taking whatever action it wants for its own airwaves.
PINKERTON: Right, I don't know whether to criticize Motley Crue for their imperfect understanding of the Constitution or praise them for a brilliant publicity stunt.
HALL: You know, apropos to what we were talking about earlier, I wish the FCC were less concerned with legislating better - breasts or no breasts. It would be nice if they looked at more substantive issues than whether someone says a word in the late night hours.
BURNS: It seems to me a lawsuit, Neal, and you have had legal training. In fact you spoke legalistically in the last .
GABLER: Yeah, no doubt.
BURNS: Does this lawsuit have a chance?
GABLER: Oh, not a prayer. I absolutely agree with this one. But I have to wonder why Motley Crue is excluded and not U2? Could it be Motley Crue is expendable to the right wing and U2 is not?
BURNS: Well, you answer for yourselves. Now in the latest front for the continuing battle over indecency on television and we are going to summarize it in quick take headline number three. Isn't she kind of indecent even when she's not indecent?
Paris Hilton appears in a new TV commercial for a chain of West Coast hamburger restaurants in which she washes a car and herself in a manner not known to most people who wash cars and themselves. As you've seen, she also sexual molests a hamburger in the ad. According to the Parents Television Council, "This commercial is basically soft core porn. It's inappropriate for television." Jim, is it?
PINKERTON: Another publicity stunt that's working, in this case for Carl's Jr. But .
BURNS: No, I disagree. No one is going to remember Carl's Jr. Everyone is going to remember her attire.
PINKERTON: Eric - I remember. I'm one. But look, the second point is customers ought to reflect, Paris has one of the lollipop figures. She weighs about 100 pounds. Does anyone really think she is eating these giant cholesterol burgers?
HALL: Well, as one who is a little concerned about the depiction of women it is striking to me that this was a local commercial - a regional commercial, we're all talking about it. One more exhibit of something people are condemning and yet they're talking about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's going to help the car wax business, especially the hot (INAUDIBLE) wax option.
BURNS: Neal, quickly.
GABLER: If you take sex out of advertising, all you would have is Dr. Greg Simonon (ph) selling diet pills.
BURNS: All right. We have to take one more break during which, as far as I know, the Paris Hilton commercial will not appear on your screens. When we come back it will be your turn.
BURNS: Stephen from Lancaster, California believes that the most interesting thing about "Newsweek's" Koran in the toilet story is the reactions to it.
"As of yet, `Newsweek' has not discredited the alleged source of the report, though apologizing. Neither has the White House come out with any substantial evidence that these events didn't happen. It really makes you wonder if `Newsweek's' apology stems from the fact that it wasn't true or because it was."
And about the picture of Saddam in his underwear that appeared in the "New York Post," here is William from Arlington, Virginia.
"Another act of irresponsibility on the part of the U.S. media. Is it any wonder subscription rates are dropping on U.S. publications."
About the study that found that most supporters surveyed voted for Kerry in 2004, here's Lin from St. Louis. "The surprise is that only 68 percent of journalists admitted to voting for Kerry and 25 percent for Bush, since we know that 10 to 20 percent of journalists lie, there may be only five percent who actually voted for Bush."
Rodney from Del Rio, Texas. "Journalists should not be allowed to vote or participate in our political system in any way. Our government fails to guarantee the citizens a free press when we allow members of that press to choose sides."
Changing subjects, here is Steve from Lexington, Kentucky. "On three separate occasions I've heard Neal bite the hand that feeds him by implying that FOX News is biased to the right. Will somebody please ask Neal how many left-wingers like him must FOX hire to prove they are fair and balanced? I suspect his answer will be nine out of 10 like most of FOX's competition."
And finally, back to the "Newsweek" story, here is Richard from San Jose, California. "I took last week's `TV Guide,' which is much smaller than any book and tried to flush it down the toilet. It just sat there in the toilet bowl as the water exited the bowl. So I put the saturated `TV Guide' in the recycle bin. What made me so upset is that I woke up at 4 am when the thought came to me and I couldn't get back to sleep while I was thinking of the stupidity of `Newsweek's' staff."
Richard, how do I say this kindly? Getting up at 4 in the morning to drop your "TV Guide" in the toilet bowl is not exactly an act of genius. Here is our address. Newswatch@foxnews.com. Please write to us, tell us your full name, and let us know where you live.
That's all the time we have for this week. Thanks to Jane Hall and Jim Pinkerton. Across the table to Cal Thomas and Neal Gabler who is making it very difficult for me to continue and I am Eric Burns thanking you for watching this Memorial Day weekend. We'll see you next week when "FOX News Watch" is back on the air.
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