'Path to 9/11': Congressional Thuggery By Any Other Name

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 08, 2006 2:37 PM

Last night we learned that the Senate Democrats are not above threatening a network's broadcast license to prevent the slightest tarnishing of the Clinton legacy. Then we learned that the nutroots calling the shots for the Party Leadership these days are not above applauding that effort.

Today, I thought it'd be fun to see what the media has to say about Bare-Knuckle Harry's hard-hitting tactics. I was not surprised to find that every writer I came across had flipped in their thesaurus to the "benign synonyms for threaten" section (emphasis all mine).

Howard Kurtz, 6th paragraph:

Democrats ratcheted up the pressure yesterday. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and four Democratic colleagues wrote to Robert Iger, chief executive of the Walt Disney Co., ABC's corporate parent, urging him to cancel the movie. The Democratic National Committee obtained more than 100,000 signatures on a petition demanding cancellation. Jay Carson, a spokesman for former president Bill Clinton, called ABC's plan to air the movie "despicable."
AP overachieves with a truly remarkable 11th-graph placing for this nugget:
They were joined Thursday by Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Charles Schumer of New York and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who sent a joint letter to Iger asking that the broadcast be cancelled.
Let's check our pal Reuters, which does get credit for putting the info in the lede:
Amid an election-year debate over who can best defend America, U.S. congressional Democrats urged ABC on Thursday to cancel a TV miniseries about the September 11 attacks that is critical of former Democratic President Bill Clinton and his top aides.

The LAT runs the AP story and a column with no mention of the Dems' move. Their beat writer appears not to have filed a story on this today, despite the fact that the paper covers L.A.

The NYT focuses on the heat a former Republican governor is taking for advising on the miniseries. In fact, it focuses on that for seven graphs before coughing this up:

Democrats and allies of Mr. Clinton unleashed full-throated appeals to ABC yesterday to cancel the broadcast, which is scheduled for Sunday and Monday nights. The Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter to Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, ABC’s parent, saying that broadcasting the film “would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility.”
I'll give the Grey Lady credit for quoting some of the letter, as no else has. But why not quote, I don't know, this part?
The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.

Maybe because that sounds a lot less like an "urgy" "appeal" than a "heavy-handed" "threat."

I know we play the "can you imagine" game with the media all the time, but can you imagine what the headlines would look like today if Senate Republicans had sent a letter like this?

Guess who was on the Democrats' letter, by the way? Debbie Stabenow. What a great reason to go throw $50 into Mike Bouchard's campaign fund over at Rightroots. I think I'll go do that now. This is a misstep betraying "dangerous incompetence," Stabenow.