Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

O'Neill gives ample evidence about MSM bias

In a lengthy interview in the American Enterprise Magazine, John O'Neill talks about the Swift Boat Veterans' role in the 2004 election. Assuming that what he says is true (and I do, since I watched events unfold in real time), he really paints a staggering picture of the mainstream media doing everything it could to suppress the story and, when it could no longer be surprised, to defend Kerry's position. Here, O'Neill speaks of his first introduction to the media's adamant determination to ignore the story:

TAE: At the Swift Boat veterans' May 4 press conference you had an open letter calling Kerry unfit to be Commander in Chief. It was signed by virtually all of John Kerry's commanders in Vietnam. Yet the story fell flat. The media ignored it. How did your group react to the media blackout? O'NEILL: We were shocked. We couldn't believe it. I haven't been involved in politics or media relations, and I thought the job of the media was primarily to report the facts. It was obvious to me that many hundreds of his former comrades coming forward to say that he lied about his record in Vietnam and that he was unfit to be President would be important information for Americans. I only then became aware of the bias of the media. TAE: How do you explain the media's response? O'NEILL: The establishment media was very pro-Kerry. They were opposed to any story that was critical of Kerry, and I believe that they were captured by their own bias. We met with one reporter around that time. We told a story to him relating to Kerry's service. He acknowledged it was true and terribly important. And he told us he would not print it because it would help George Bush. That's when we began to realize we had a real problem on our hands.
He moves from the media's bias to discuss Kerry's hubris, which was based, in part, on Kerry's absolute faith that the media would insulate him from dangerous stories:
TAE: Were you surprised when Senator Kerry focused so much on his Vietnam record at the Democratic Convention in late July? How do you account for this when he clearly knew you were out there? O'NEILL: I think he thought that he had good control over the mainline media, that they were sympathetic, that they would kill the story. And I think he was very confident that was the case with the New York Times and the three major networks and CNN, and that he could intimidate the portions of the media not already friendly to him. And so he thought the story would never come out. That had been his experience over and over again in Massachusetts. TAE: Everything changed in early August, after your first ad. O'NEILL: All of a sudden, Kerry and the media were faced with an ad that was actually showing. There was a time when they controlled the entire world of communications. That day is over. The Kerry campaign, fortunately for us, threatened the stations carrying the ad. They had two Washington law firms write legal letters demanding that the ads not be run. *** TAE: Did the attempts of Kerry's people to stop your message only help publicize it more? O'NEILL: They helped us tremendously. The threats against the station managers led to extensive publicity, particularly on the "Hannity & Colmes" show and then on other FOX News shows. Then it spread to CNN and to MSNBC. More than 1,400,000 people downloaded that first ad, and it swept through the Internet. It also allowed thousands and thousands of people to start donating money to us at our Web site. Three weeks after it was put up, half of all the people in the United States had heard about that ad and about us and yet there had never been a story about us on ABC, NBC, or CBS or in the New York Times. At that point, people began laughing, I believe, at the mainline media. It became obvious they were suppressing the story.
Once the mainstream media could no longer suppress the story, it went into attack dog mode:
TAE: The media establishment finally took notice when Senator Kerry attacked you publicly on August 19. Then they seemed to see their role as proving your charges false. O'NEILL: Yes, that's exactly what occurred. The New York Times functioned as a newsletter for the Kerry campaign. The Times purported to show that I was a Republican. I would have been happy to be a Republican if I really was. The article was ridiculous. It had me married to the wrong person. It was really a sad article to see from a great newspaper. It should win the Jayson Blair award. There's never been a piece in the New York Times examining the factual basis of the Swift Boat vets' charges.
These attacks included a Bizarro Land book review of the Swift Boat Vets' book, which concluded that the 1971 debate between Kerry and O'Neill launched Kerry's career, even though his career in fact went dormant for 13 years:
TAE: The New York Times didn't get around to reviewing your book until October although it had been at the top of the Times bestseller list since August? O'NEILL: They began the review by saying if Kerry loses the election it will be because of this book. You would expect that declaration would be followed by an in-depth review of the book that would indicate whether it was true or not true. But the review is very short. No fact is refuted other than the outcome of my debate with John Kerry in 1971. I said I thought I'd beat him. I quoted from the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the San Antonio Express & News, all of which concluded that he lost. The Times review claimed that debate was the launching point for Kerry's entire career. The fact is, before the debate John Kerry was a major national figure. After the debate, his career declined. He was defeated for Congress and he disappeared from public view. Only in the New York Times would that debate be the launching point for Kerry's career. When you have a guy who's very famous in 1971 and then no one hears about him again until 1984, how could this be a launch?
Eventually, various MSM shows did have O'Neill on, but they did it to challenge him, not to elicit information. He describes being screamed at by Jim Carville, and having Thomas Oliphant, of the Boston Globe attack him. With regard to the latter, O'Neill makes this (to me) surprising revelation:
TAE: On the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" you were matched with Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe who lectured you. He said that your allegations didn't meet the basic criteria for a real story. O'NEILL: It was interesting. He said in order to carry a story you had to have conclusive evidence. Within a few days of that story, the Boston Globe, his newspaper, was pushing the Dan Rather story, based on phony documents, that President Bush skirted his National Guard duty. Oliphant was involved with the story. He should be ashamed of himself, as I think the entire journalistic establishment should be. TAE: What were you thinking during that interview? O'NEILL: About being lectured on journalistic ethics by a journalist from a newspaper now famous for a lack of ethics? It was truly a remarkable experience, particularly from someone who was trying to suppress a story that he knew was the truth. Oliphant, after all, was a friend of Kerry's. As a matter of fact, the Kerry campaign was asked to send a debate representative, and I gather Oliphant was their representative. How could a supposedly independent journalist appear as a debater for the Kerry campaign? How could James Carville be an independent commentator if he was retained by the Kerry campaign? I realized they were simply doing openly what the New York Times was doing secretly.
O'Neill then turns to the famous Nightline show, where Koppel tried to rebut the Swift Boat veterans by getting the word from 5 former Viet Cong soldiers. I don't know about you, but I'm dubious about voting for a Commander in Chief whose staunchest defenders can only be found amongst the enemy troops. The interview goes on for quite a while, but I'll leave it with a point O'Neill makes about the state of the American media since the last time he dealt with it in 1971:
TAE: There are parallels between your own experience in 1971 and today. How has the media changed in terms of being "balanced" since you debated John Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show"? O'NEILL: I'm Rip Van Winkle when it comes to the media. I happily disappeared from public life for 32 years. The big difference is that, in 1971, while the media would spin facts on occasion and spin them very favorably to Kerry and his group, they wouldn't actually suppress the news. What's happened now is the mainline media, by which I mean the three major networks, and the New York Times, suppress news stories. It's one thing to provide opinion, even in the news section. It's another to suppress facts that are adverse to your views. That is really a brave new world that did not exist in the 1970s. TAE: Does your experience suggest the major media have lost their gatekeeper role? O'NEILL: Yes, without question. Major networks tried to blacklist us and to hide the story from the public. In doing so they seemed to follow the directions of the Kerry campaign. As long as the campaign ignored us, they ignored us. When the Kerry campaign went on the attack, the big media attacked us. But the message got out anyway. In my opinion they were unsuccessful basically because they didn't have very much to work with. They hadn't anything to sink their teeth into. We were very careful in the ads and in the book. That's why the attacks on us flailed around.
Did I mention at the beginning of this post that I tend to believe O'Neill's version of events last year? I am reminded, after going through this article, that only a day or two ago, the Columbia Journalism School published a report proving irrefutably that the MSM grossly favored Kerry in their reporting. This is just more of the same, I guess.