The Ultimate Guide to Mainstream Media: American TV Networks (P1)
American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Location: Burbank, California (parent), New York (news)
Politics: ABC News is often perceived to have a strong liberal bias.
ABC News’ chief anchor and long-time political correspondent was the communications director for Bill Clinton’s election campaign in 1992, later becoming the White House communications director. He co-hosts Good Morning America, the country’s most influential morning news show. Despite this busy workload, Stephanopoulos finds time to participate in the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a think tank which focuses on US foreign policy and international affairs.
CFR meetings involve government officials, business leaders and prominent members of the intelligence services. It promotes globalization and free trade and favors the growth of regional blocs like the EU and NAFTA. It’s rather less keen on Russia’s embryonic Eurasian Union, which it sees as a threat to US interests. The CFR also publishes the journal Foreign Affairs, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced for "censoring" him in 2007 after he tried to reply to a piece by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
— Tom in Orlando (@tjm0072003) July 23, 2014
Despite grabbing an impressive collection of awards throughout his long career, Brian Ross is seen as one of the most controversial investigative journalists in the whole of America. For a series of blunders, he has unceremoniously been dubbed with the title, ‘America’s wrongest reporter’. In 2012, during ABC’s Breaking coverage of a fatal Colorado shooting, Ross went live on-air to present millions of viewers with quite a sensation – the shooter James Holmes may have had connections to the Tea Party. But the sensation turned out to be a reckless false allegation, which Ross based on a single web page listing Aurora-based “Jim Holmes” as a member of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots.
Brian Ross and ABC are mostly famous for explosive 2001 reports which falsely linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein toanthrax attacksin the US.
The network falsely described footage of Gaza homes which were destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on July 8 – the first day of Operation Protective Edge – as belonging to Israelis.
The wrongly-attributed footage accompanied a report by veteran ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer entitled ‘Under Attack,’ describing how rockets were “raining down on Israel today.”
The footage, of course, showed the opposite; the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on Gaza.
Sawyer would later apologize for the mistake.
In 2012, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel ran a skit which featured a kid suggesting that the US should “kill everyone in China.”
“That’s an interesting idea,” comments Kimmel in the segment. Naturally, there was outrage. ABC had to apologize and deleted the segment from subsequent broadcasts.
Cable News Network (CNN)
Located: Atlanta, Georgia
Politics:Jokingly known as ‘Clinton News Network’ in the '90s, CNN’s worldview can best be deciphered from studying the speeches of Hillary Clinton. The station oscillates between currently fashionable neoliberal causes.
The British-Iranian presenter is married to former US Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin. An ‘informal’ adviser to probable presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he was State Department spokesman during her husband Bill’s administration. Rubin also served as former candidate John Kerry’s senior adviser on national security. Kerry is now the US secretary of state.
Amanpour’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Rubin is a press fellow at the CFR. Amanpour herself has passionately supported a US intervention in Syria, shedding her pretense of journalistic impartiality and being presented as a ‘Middle East expert’ in the UK.
That very family moment when CNN's Amanpour interviews her own husband James Rubin from State Department on Russia. pic.twitter.com/Fo37lrro9x
— Russian Market (@russian_market) March 22, 2014
Somehow dubbed ‘Iron Man’ by his colleagues, he is the face of CNN’s political coverage. In the 1970s, the German-born Blitzer worked as an editor of monthly publications at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which is lobbying pro-Israeli policies in Washington.
Having joined CNN in 1990 as a military reporter, in 1992 Blitzer got the gig as the network’s White House correspondent. From there, he rose to become CNN’s lead political anchor.
Among controversies featuring Blitzer is an episode during a 2012 elections interview. CNN went live to the Iowa Caucus to speak to Corporal Jesse Thorsen, a US military veteran and adamant supporter of Rep. Ron Paul. Thorsen praised Paul, who was trailing frontrunner Mitt Romney by fewer than 200 votes, for his non-interventionist ideals. But just as Thorsen began to get passionate the feed went out. “Sorry, we lost the signal,” Blitzer said, dismissing it as a technical malfunction. A lot of viewers didn’t buy into the tech-error excuse and cried censorship.
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) December 10, 2014
As Pentagon correspondent, Starr was called a ‘spokesperson for the Pentagon’ by the late Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings. In a June 2013 CNN blog entry entitled ‘Terrorists try changes after Snowden leaks, official says’, Starr, citing a US intelligence official, wrote “several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communications behaviors based specifically on what they are reading about our surveillance programs in the media." During a monologue on his MSNBC program ‘All In’, Chris Hayes notes that all of the information passed on to Starr regarding terrorist communication patterns was “almost certainly classified.”
"This article not only self-servingly advances the narrative that the intelligence community would like us to believe, that the Edward Snowden links have helped the terrorists, but in doing so, it could be seen in doing far more to concretely alert terror groups to what the US intelligence community knows about them and their communications that anything published by the Guardian or the Washington Post [which broke the Snowden leaks],” Hayes said.
He went on to note that sharp contrast between how the Beltway reacted to Glen Greenwald’s reporting for the Guardian on the Snowden affair versus Starr’s use of potentially leaked information.
“When, as with Glen Greenwald’s reporting, the leaks are not specifically designed to advance the Pentagon’s agenda, then we have shock, controversy and calls for prosecution. But when they are, as with the Barbara Starr reporting, [then there's] radio silence.”
Family ties to politics run deep for Chris. He is the brother of current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who famously soft-soaped on CNN after a tragic train accident in 2013.
Their dad, Mario, also held the governor post from 1983-94.
Chris' wife, Cristina Greeven, is the former editor of Gotham - a lifestyle magazine aimed at New York's super wealthy.
Amanpour was heavily criticized for “being a cheerleader for the Bush war drive against Iraq.” German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung declared that CNN’s conflict coverage was similar to that of the Super Bowl. Numerous sources have taken CNN to task for presenting war as entertainment, something considered to have begun during the first Iraq War in the early 1990s. A CNN reporter was quoted as saying that bombers taking off from Saudi Arabia was a “sweet, beautiful sight.”
In China, the network has been lambasted by Xinhua news agency for offering one-sided coverage of disturbances in Urumqi and Tibet. The same concerns hovered around their coverage of Thailand’s 2010 political protests.
In 2008, CNN showed violent clashes between police and protestors in Belgrade, while speaking of a nationalist threat in the Balkan nation. There was one major problem - the images shown came from Budapest two years earlier. Budapest is the capital of Hungary.
Later that year, during the South Ossetia War, CNN used images from Georgia’s destruction of Tskhinval to illustrate a piece about the Russian bombardment of Gori. CNN ignored the criticism and never addressed it.
Amber Lyon, a former correspondent at the network, claimed in 2011 that she had been instructed by CNN to ensure her reports helped sway US opinion towards supporting an attack on Syria, and even Iran. She also alleged that this was common practice at CNN. Lyon also stated that Bahrain’s government had paid CNN for positive coverage.
In 2006, CNN was banned from Iran for incorrectly translating a statement by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. CNN reported that he had said: “the use of nuclear weapons is Iran’s right.” What he actually said was “Iran has the right to nuclear energy. A civilized nation does not need nuclear weapons, and our nation does not need them.” CNN opted to apologize for the mistake, prompting the Islamic Republic to lift the ban.
CNN’s technical mess-ups are legendary. From basic geographical fails to misidentifying religious sites and during tragic events, causing offense might be the least of their problems. In 2007, they used Osama Bin Laden’s photo captioned with Barack Obama’s name in a Wolf Blitzer segment called “Where’s Obama?”
Woah, CNN! Obama dead? pic.twitter.com/6ARN1LGOw2
— Anthony Michael (@tmzanthony) November 10, 2014
CNN once again dropped the ball while covering the November 18 terror attack in Jerusalem. Reporting live on the horrific attack at a Jerusalem synagogue, which left three Israeli-American citizens and one British-Israeli citizen dead, the American network ran the questionable headline: "4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians killed in synagogue attack," failing to note that the two Palestinians were actually the attackers.
What's worse, CNN ran a graphic that said that the attack happened at a "Jerusalem mosque" provoking a wave of social media outrage.
BDS (Blind Dog Syndrome); Jerusalem Synagogue terrorist attacks as SEEN by CNN. pic.twitter.com/Pg91JU9Vwm
— If U-why U? (@WhyUthen) December 5, 2014
Columbia Broadcasting Network (CBS)
Located: New York
Politics: Accused of pro-liberal, pro-Obama bias
The CBS chairman is a former actor. Entertainment is his focus rather than politics. However, he does have a family link to that world, being the great-nephew of David Ben-Gurion, the Polish-born first prime minister of Israel.
The anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News and a correspondent for the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, Pelley is held in higher esteem than many of his colleagues. In 2012, the Columbia Journalism Review wrote Pelly was “probably the most well-qualified and proven television journalist ever to ascend to the anchor job.” He has often been the target of conservative media, which accuses him of bias.
In 2010, Pelley said Hillary Clinton “doesn’t let anyone work harder than her” and "she's the only person in American politics with global star power close to" that held by President Barack Obama. He was also accused of being partial to former President Bill Clinton. His most controversial statement, however, came when he spoke of interviewing climate change deniers in a global warming piece as being the same as finding a “Holocaust denier” if doing an interview with professor and political activist Elie Wiesel.
— DFW.com (@dfwdotcom) December 8, 2014
In 2013, CBS' Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan was put on indefinite leave of absence after an erroneous report from Benghazi in Libya. A CBS memo said:
"Logan made a speech in which she took a strong public position arguing that the US government was misrepresenting the threat from Al-Qaeda, and urging actions that the US should take in response to the Benghazi attack.”
The statement continued that there was a “conflict in taking a public position of the government’s handling of the situation while continuing to report on the story." Glenn Greenwald had previously written that that Logan had done courageous reporting over the years, but had come to see herself as part of the government and military.
This year Logan was back in the news after she recorded a story on Ebola in Liberia, failing to manage a single location shoot while remaining 'self-quarantined' in a luxury hotel . Logan has been criticized for being part of a phenomenon in which 'celebrity journalists' make themselves as much a part of the story as the news itself.
Bernard Goldberg, a CBS staffer for 28 years, wrote a book ‘Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How The Media Distort The News’. The contents were explained by the title.
The book takes aim at what Goldberg viewed as intrinsic liberal bias in the American media, though others claimed it merely pointed out how the line between editorializing and news reporting were increasingly becoming blurred.
Earlier in 2014, CBS News' investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson resigned in scandal. Sources told Poltico that she “had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting.” In November she released a book titled ‘Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington.’
John Miller was a CBS 'journalist' with a seemingly boundless career trajectory. From 1994-95, he was deputy police commissioner of New York City. In 2005 he was appointed an Assistant Director of Public Affairs for FBI – becoming the bureau's domestic spokesman.
In 2011, CBS News christened Miller a senior correspondent, where he regularly made appearances across their major programs. Miller famously packaged a one-sided interview with the FBI deputy director on Edward Snowden, where the whistleblower was hammered and portrayed as a traitor and “enemy of the state.”
Where does Miller work now? He is the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counter-terrorism of the NYPD.
Located: New York
Politics: Mention Fox to any American liberal and then take out a thermometer to see what temperature blood boils at. Fox is widely held to promote conservative political positions and was a neocon stronghold in the days before their positions went mainstream in the US print media.
The 83-year-old is a living legend of the media world, rising from provincial Australian beginnings to become, arguably, the global corporate media’s most powerful figure. Murdoch’s philosophy changes with the prevailing winds. He can be pro-Scottish independence personally, while his newspapers oppose it. He is fiercely Republican, but his London tabloid, the Sun, steadfastly supports the British monarchy. Another paradox is that the Aussie owns the most conservative and patriotic major TV news outlet in America, but is not nearly as conservative as his media outlets would have you imagine.
The ‘face’ of Fox. O’Reilly has carefully crafted a no-nonsense, working-class Irish Catholic image; the self-proclaimed voice of the everyman. O’Reilly claims to be an independent and refuses to accept ‘labels.’ That ethos is at the heart of his ‘No Spin’ zone. He rises above the political fray. To disagree with him is not to take a conservative or liberal position, it is to take a ‘pinhead’s’ position. Of course, for anyone who watches ‘The Factor’, it doesn’t take long to find out which side of the political aisle consistently adopts pinhead positions. And the nature of his most controversial statements are also telling. For example, in August 2010, O’Reilly accused the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of aiding Al-Qaeda. Why? Because the ACLU had filed suit saying American citizens accused of terrorism were being denied due process by being killed in predator drone strikes before they had been convicted of any crime.
“The ACLU has always been a far-left outfit, but it is now actively helping terrorists who kill people all over the world,” O'Reilly said.
His bluntness also applies to religion. In 2010, as a guest on the view, the panel was discussing a lower Manhattan Muslim community center. O’Reilly was opposed to its construction, saying: “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” This caused Whoopi Goldberg to walk off the set of panel show 'The View' and sparked a massive blowout.
O’Reilly made the 9/11 attacks a pet cause, often invoking self-righteous anger, even at those who had actually lost family in the attack, all because they differed on policy. On February 3, 2013, O’Reilly invited Jeremy Glick on to The Factor. Glick, the son of a Port Authority worker who died in the 9/11 attacks, publicly opposed the American invasion of Afghanistan.
When Glick accused O’Reilly of evoking the sympathy of the 9/11 victims to advance his political agenda, O’Reilly became livid, telling him to “shut his mouth.”
O’Reilly later said"If I could have whacked him, I would have."
Of course, while Glick was O’Reilly’s “most offensive interview,” he’s not the only one who’s been told to “shut up.”
Ailes is the president of Fox News Channel and was previously a media consultant for Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush - all Republicans. In keeping with the tone of his network, Ailes referred to National Public Radio (NPR) as “Nazis” for firing news analyst Juan Williams, after Williams had made harsh remarks about Muslims.
“They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty [about] using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”
Ailes would later apologize to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for his comments.
Perhaps it’s better to leave the incendiary comments to his TV personalities.
Many Fox hosts admit that the station is biased towards the Republican Party. The network denies it. During the Iraq War, Fox was accused of ‘underplaying’ bad news stories about US involvement in the conflict.
In 2009, a major row erupted between President Obama’s administration and Fox. After the network virulently attacked his healthcare reform plans, Obama appeared on all major US News programs, except those on Fox. Later his communications director, Anita Dunn, upped the ante by claiming that “Fox (is)… the communications arm of the Republican Party.”
Later that year, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least one Democratic strategist was warned by the White House to never appear on Fox again.
Located: New York
Politics: From left-leaningto anti-Fox
Brian L. Roberts
The head of Comcast was named to President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council in 2011. He has been called 'Pennsylvania’s most powerful businessman'. Forbes estimates his wealth at $1.3 billion. In a recent profile by the Jewish Daily Forward, Roberts personally has more Democratic sympathies, though it says Comcast has supported politicians from both parties, as long as they were on the side of its business interests.
He was also a member of the President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and has previously hosted the commander in chief at his summer home in Martha’s Vineyard.
The British journalist, who previously worked at ITN, is the boss at NBC News. In 2011, she married John Toker, the UK Cabinet Office’s director of communications for security and intelligence.
Over to MSNBC, NBCUniversal’s so-called antidote to Fox News. One of its most visible and vocal presenters is Lawrence O'Donnell. The host of 'The Last Word' was the staff director of the United State Senate Committee for Finance from 1993 to 1995 and worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. A self-styled socialist, he also wrote 16 episodes of the acclaimed drama 'The West Wing'.
Amid the 2008 Democratic primaries, rolling news and views channel MSNBC was criticized for apparently favoring Barack Obama over the other main challenger Hillary Clinton. Later, while covering the actual Presidential contest, it was noted that its proportion of negative stories concerning Obama was only 14 percent versus a 73 percent share for bad news about Republican John McCain - a fairly clear bias.
O'Donnell caused a mighty ruckus in 2012, when he described the Mormon faith as "an invented religion." In 2007, he had said about Mitt Romney: "(He) comes from a religion that was founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist."
Once Romney secured the Republican Party nomination for President, Roman Catholic O'Donnell intensified his attacks. "(It was) created by a guy in upstate New York in 1830 when he got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it," he argued.
O'Donnell and NBC later apologized.
Also in 2012, O'Donnell hinted that presidential candidate Ron Paul had never served in the US military. This was a lie. In fact, Paul served as a flight surgeon in the US Air Force and Air National Guard in the 1960s, and had received more donations from active duty military personnel than all of the other election candidates combined.
Cenk Uygur was hired by MSNBC amid the growing popularity of 'The Young Turks' YouTube channel, which has garnered over 1,6 billion views. He was originally given a prime-time slot, but then NBC attempted to shift him around the schedule. Uygur resisted and was fired. He claimed that MSNBC President Phil Griffin told him that "people in Washington" did not like Uygur's tone. MSNBC denied that, replying "We did have numerous conversations with Cenk about his style, not substance."
However, this was small potatoes compared to the 2003 incident with Phil Donahue, in the run up to the Iraq War. Donahue’s show was MSNBC’s highest rated slot in February of that year but was suddenly canceled "because of low ratings." It later emerged that Donahue was canned due to concerns that his anti-war agenda would have consequences for the network in a time of fervent martial lust, dressed up as patriotism.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Complicated. 354 member television stations share
collective ownership. PBS receives government funds from
Congress' $445.5m annual public broadcasting budget.
Located: Arlington, Virginia
Politics: Has often been accused of a left-wing bias and of favoring the US Democratic Party. In the 1980’s, PBS was regarded as a propaganda channel in parts of Europe, especially Poland due to a 1982 special produced by the US Department of Information which protested the imposition of martial law in that country.
Iranian-born and Oxford educated, she is a former treasurer at the World Bank. She’s married to historian Michael Beschloss, who is a regular pundit on PBS. The couple frequently attended White House dinners during the Clinton administration.
The Bill Moyers affair stands out. Moyers served as White House Press Secretary for Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s.
Later he moved into broadcasting, and the Texan’s 1980s shows enraged Republicans so much that they threatened to sever PBS’ funding. After a truce, an ally of President George W. Bush, Kenneth Tomlinson, targeted Moyers in 2003, complaining of a lack of balance in his programs. Moyers replied that he took “in stride attacks by the radical right wingers who have not given up demonizing me…”
He had also described his journalism as “the missing link in a nation wired for everything but the truth.”
Moyers is fiercely critical of the US media and has often blamed the rush to war in Iraq on their shortcomings.
PBS has also been charged with running infomercials that
masquerade as documentaries, most notably for the US defense
industry. A recent example was ‘Rise of the Drones’, a focus on
unmanned aerial vehicles which was part-funded by Lockheed Martin
- a military contractor.