If you're looking for an example of mainstream media bias, you won't find anything more egregious than the recent stories on the tape of George W. Bush being briefed on August 28, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The lead was taken by the Associated Press. The videotape was treated as hot news, but in fact it was provided to Congress and made public months ago. Here's the key bit of dishonesty:
Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly floodwaters into New Orleans. He later clarified, saying officials believed, wrongly, after the storm passed that the levees had survived. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility even before the stormand Bush was worried, too.
Plenty of talk about that possibility before the storm? Not hardly. The transcript shows briefer Max Mayfield saying, "I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that is obviously a very, very grave concern."
"Topped," not "breached." Those are obviously two different things. "Topped" means that water would be washed over the top of the levees while the hurricane winds were blowing. This would obviously cause considerable damage, but nothing like what New Orleans actually suffered. "Breached" means that two big holes in levees lining the 17th Street Canal and the Industrial Canal would let water continuously pour into New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrainthe disaster that happened.
Here's a good analysis from the Wizbang blog.
Plain and simple: The tape doesn't support the AP story. Yet all kinds of news outlets are running with it. In this morning's Washington Post, Peter Baker and Spencer Hsu note that their news is not news.
In its substance, the video reveals nothing that was not already known from previously released transcripts and government investigations. But in politics, images carry a power far beyond written words, and the video, played again and again on cable television, instantly provided new fuel for an emotional debate.
In other words, the central focus of the storyBush's September 1 statement supposedly being proved untrue by the August 28 briefingisn't true, but we'll pass it along anyway, because Bush's political adversaries will use it against him. That's like saying the composite photo showing Maryland Sen. Millard Tydings and U.S. Communist Party leader Earl Browder is a fraud, but we'll print it anyway, because Tydings's opponents will unscrupulously use it. McCarthyism vintage 1950, mainstream media vintage 2006: What's the difference?