poor Peter Jennings. For the last week, Howie Kurtz reports in his
Media Notes column, ABC has been flooded with "angry calls
and e-mails since its veteran anchor was reported erroneously
to have criticized President Bush for not returning directly
to the White House after the attacks on New York and Washington."
Erroneously, hmm? Well, maybe. The comments in question were uttered
by Jennings on September 11, when President Bush was flying from
Louisiana to Kansas, with the media in the dark as to his whereabouts
and destination. Quoth the anchor: "The country looks to the
president on occasions like this to be reassuring to the nation.
Some presidents do it well, some presidents don't." Now maybe
that "some presidents don't" was a reference to, say,
Jimmy Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis, or James Buchanan
facing the Civil War. But maybe, as David
Limbaugh argued on NRO (and as this writer, who happened to
be watching ABC at the time, certainly thought), Jennings was taking
a backhanded swipe at President Bush's temporary (and sensible)
absence from the media's all-seeing gaze.
does not mention, meanwhile, is that Jennings' comments were part
of a larger pattern of bizarre reporting decisions and inappropriate
emphases, which culminated in the ABC anchor's coverage of President
Bush's speech to Congress. As Washington
columnist Tom Shales (no lefty, he) pointed out last week, when
Bush was finished speaking, Jennings's network did not even deign
to broadcast the joint Daschle-Lott follow-up address. Instead,
Jennings "quizzed ABC correspondents and interested parties
on their reactions ... [and] the first interested party Jennings
consulted was Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University."
This, writes Shales, "was a bizarre choice journalistically
yet in keeping with the personal predilections of Jennings, who
thought the burning question of the moment was whether Bush had
come out strongly enough against bigotry toward people of Islamic
faith. Not surprisingly, Hendi thought not."
to be more aggressive or more assertive in that message,' Hendi
said heatedly. 'I need to hear him more clear' regarding hatred
and acts of violence committed against Muslims living in America."
As Shales points
out, these comments followed a speech in which "Bush said America's
prayers were being heard whether 'in English, Hebrew or Arabic'
... [in which] he said later that America has 'many Muslim friends'
and 'many Arab friends,'" and added that "'no one should
be singled out . . . because of their ethnic background or religious
faith." "But that," Shales concludes, "wasn't
enough for Hendi or, perhaps, for Jennings."
think that ABC's anchor might be biased? How silly of them.
in a related item, Kurtz reports that ABC News has barred its reporters
from wearing American-flag lapel pins while on the air. "Especially
in a time of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists
can do is to remain as objective as possible," spokesman Jeffrey
Schneider is quoted as saying. "That does not mean journalists
are not patriots. All of us are at a time like this. But we cannot
signal how we feel about a cause, even a justified and just cause,
through some sort of outward symbol."
as possible? Maybe they should start with their anchor.