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May 19, 2008

White House Unloads on NBC for Bias

The first part of the letter is concerned with selective editing. I have to say that while Bush's remarks were edited, I don't find them to have been Dowdified to suggest that Bush "agrees" with the premises of reporter Obama mouthpiece Richard Engel. (The link to the interview as aired is at the bottom of the letter.)

I liked this part though:

On November 27, 2006, NBC News made a decision to no longer just cover the news in Iraq, but to make an analytical and editorial judgment that Iraq was in a civil war. As you know, both the United States government and the Government of Iraq disputed your account at that time. As Matt Lauer said that morning on The Today Show: “We should mention, we didn’t just wake up on a Monday morning and say, ‘Let’s call this a civil war.’ This took careful deliberation.’”

I noticed that around September of 2007, your network quietly stopped referring to conditions in Iraq as a “civil war.” Is it still NBC News’s carefully deliberated opinion that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war? If not, will the network publicly declare that the civil war has ended, or that it was wrong to declare it in the first place?

Lastly, when the Commerce Department on April 30 released the GDP numbers for the first quarter of 2007, Brian Williams reported it this way: “If you go by the government number, the figure that came out today stops just short of the official declaration of a recession.”

The GDP estimate was a positive 0.6% for the first quarter. Slow growth, but growth nonetheless. This followed a slow but growing fourth quarter in 2007. Consequently, even if the first quarter GDP estimate had been negative, it still would not have signaled a recession – neither by the unofficial rule-of-thumb of two consecutive quarters of negative growth, nor the more robust definition by the National Bureau of Economic Research (the group that officially marks the beginnings and ends of business cycles).

Furthermore, never in our nation’s history have we characterized economic conditions as a “recession” with unemployment so low – in fact, when this rate of unemployment was eventually reached in the 1990s, it was hailed as the sign of a strong economy. This rate of unemployment is lower than the average of the past three decades.

Are there numbers besides the “government number” to go by? Is there reason to believe “the government number” is suspect? How does the release of positive economic growth for two consecutive quarters, albeit limited, stop “just short of the official declaration of a recession”?

Mr. Capus, I’m sure you don’t want people to conclude that there is really no distinction between the “news” as reported on NBC and the “opinion” as reported on MSNBC, despite the increasing blurring of those lines. I welcome your response to this letter, and hope it is one that reassures your broadcast network’s viewers that blatantly partisan talk show hosts like Christopher Matthews and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC don’t hold editorial sway over the NBC network news division.

I've been beating that drum about NBC having the duty to either reaffirm or retract its "official editorial position" on Iraq being in a state of civil war for some time -- and I don't think I've read anyone else making that point.

So, I'm going to pat myself on the back for that.


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posted by Ace at 03:48 PM

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