The year 2005 is ending as it began, with another successful election in Iraq and a liberal media still flapping around trying to find other controversies to submerge it. It does not matter to them that a Gallup poll found that 74 percent of Americans express confidence in their military, but only 28 percent express confidence in their newspapers or TV news outlets. The "mainstream" media excels in excoriating the performance of nearly everyone else, but acts as if nothing they do should be held up as ineffective, inaccurate or just plain absurd.
That's why the Media Research Center and a panel of more than 50 judges have compiled an annual "Best Notable Quotables," a collection of the media's greatest stinkers in the past 12 months. The utterances speak volumes about our supposedly ideologically detached press corps.
In August, NBC's "Today" show was in Iraq, and Specialist Steven Chitterer told co-host Matt Lauer that "Morale is always high. Soldiers know they have a mission. They like taking on new objectives and taking on the new challenges." Lauer won the "Good Morning Morons Award" for interjecting: "Don't get me wrong here, I think you are probably telling me the truth, but a lot of people at home are wondering how that could be possible with the conditions you're facing and with the attacks you're facing. What would you say to those people who are doubtful that morale can be that high?" Capt. Sherman Powell unloaded a quote for the ages: "Sir, if I got my news from the newspapers also, I'd be pretty depressed as well."
The networks specialize in moral equivalence, that we in America need to be held to the highest standard, but what that really meant in 2005 was that our leaders and our troops were to be constantly presented as nearly identical to terrorists. The more extreme example of this came from NBC anchor Brian Williams, who won the "Slam Uncle Sam Award." He tried to dismiss concerns that the new radical Muslim leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, might have been a holder of American hostages in Iran in 1979-80 thusly: "What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries and might have been called terrorists at the time by the British Crown, after all." The father of our country, a terrorist? Why, yes, said Williams, according to some.
Some quotes were shorter and yet even dumber. The "Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis" went to CNN weekend anchor Carol Lin. She was so politically correct she couldn't be factually correct. Riots in Paris centered on the deaths of two black French citizens of Tunisian heritage. What did she report on national television? "It's been 11 days since two African-American teenagers were killed, electrocuted during a police chase, which prompted all of this."
Some of the awards were predictable. David Gergen of U.S. News won the "Media Hero Award" for sucking up to someone who might be the next president, oozing on CNN that uber-feminist Hillary Clinton has "always had strong religious faith. She's been a strong Methodist. She does have conservative social values on many issues."
Speaking of journalistic apple-polishers, the "Crazy Chris Award for Matthews' Left-Wing Lunacy" was a real contest. He swooned over Jane Fonda's Vietnam views. But the winning quote came on the night Matthews fawned over Cindy Sheehan for being so bright she should run for Congress: "I have to tell you, you sound more informed than most U.S. congresspeople, so maybe you should run."
But the media's biggest losers continue to be the die-hards who went down on the "60 Minutes 2" ship that tried to destroy President Bush with phony National Guard documents. Dan Rather remained "Captain Dan the Forgery Man" by boasting to old colleague Marvin Kalb on C-SPAN that "To this day no one has proven whether it was what it purported to be or not. . . . You know, I didn't give up on my people, our people. I didn't and I won't." Kalb replied: "I believe you just said that you think the story is accurate." Rather affirmed: "The story is accurate."
He's still clueless. And so is his comrade in concoction, former CBS producer Mary Mapes, who won "Quote of the Year" honors for her interview with ABC's Brian Ross. Ross was stunned when Mapes claimed she would retract her story if anyone could disprove it. "But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic? . . . Isn't that really what journalists do?" Replied Mapes: "No, I don't think that's the standard."
And they wonder why only one in four Americans trust their work.