Monday, February 28, 2005

Talon News: Anatomy of a Kerry Smear, October Surprise

from grannyhelen - again, due to my embed-link challenges, to view links to all articles mentioned please click on the title which will take you to my cross-post at Daily Kos.

This is the final installment of the Anatomy of a Kerry Smear series. Part 1 covered Talon News 2004 campaign "articles" from June 16, 2003 through April 9, 2004. Part 2 covered "articles" written from May 21, 2004 (chronologically the next article in our timeline) through September 29, 2004.

In Part 3, we're going to look at Talon News' repeated attempts to engineer a smear against John Kerry in the last month before the November elections.

Why is this important?

To quote from a Talon News article, CBS, Kerry Campaign Hit With FEC Complaint, authored by Jeff Gannon (and mentioned in Part 2) he reported that:

... Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, media organizations are exempt from provisions barring corporations from engaging in "electioneering communications" within 60 days of a general election. But the Center argued that CBS forfeited its exemption by illegally coordinating a partisan attack on the president only 55 days before an election.

So, if Talon News was coordinating with the Republican Party to launch a partisan attack on John Kerry less than one month before the election...that's illegal. This could be a big reason why Talon News scrubbed ALL of its articles - even those not written by Jeff Gannon - from its website.

Our first article is written by Bobby Eberle, who reports on CBS's "questionable reporting". Cynicism, it seems, has a happy home in the radical right wing of this country.

September 30, 2004
CBS Again Under Fire for Questionable Reporting By Bobby Eberle

Paul Rodriguez, the managing editor of Insight Magazine, said in an

online column (web site), "Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if CBS News is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee -- or at least a satellite office for John Kerry's campaign committee."

Rodriguez added that he now wonders whether other CBS stories aired over the years "contained laws, errors, bad judgment and perhaps even purposeful deceit."

"As a consumer of news I should never harbor such thoughts," Rodriguez said. "But now I do...because of CBS."

...Despite the fact that both presidential candidates are on record opposing a draft and no evidence exists that a draft is likely, CBS pursued a draft story based on urban legends and the opinion of a staunch anti-draft activist. At the same time, CBS withheld Cocco's background while she helped raise the issue of a possible Bush draft.

And on that same day Talon News reports:

Kerry Claims Fatigue, 'Inarticulate Moment' Spawned Infamous Iraq Funding Comment By Jimmy Moore

...Kerry told Sawyer that he simply misspoke.

"It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries and I didn't say something very clearly," Kerry admitted to Sawyer.

Yet the speech Kerry gave on March 16 at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia was held in the middle of the day at noon, not at a late night hour as he suggested in the interview with Sawyer.

Chad Clanton, a Kerry campaign spokesman, told that the Democratic candidate "simply got the time of day wrong."

"Campaigns are long, grueling things," Clanton surmised to "It's like one continuous blur."...

...The Bush campaign says this is yet another example of how Kerry has been indecisive and unclear about his position on the issues.

The Republican National Committee took this latest explanation of the comment from Kerry about his "inarticulate moment" and sent a message to supporters entitled "Perhaps His Watch Was On Paris Time?"

Republicans? Cynical? Naw!

October 10, 2004 CBS, NY Times Appear to Plan 'October Surprise' Regarding Missing Iraqi Explosives by Bobby Eberle and Jimmy Moore

At the heart of the controversy are reports that both CBS and the New
York Times were working on news stories which would focus on the missing explosives in the context that the explosives disappeared due to inadequate security provided by coalition forces following the fall of Baghdad. The segments would thus be critical of President Bush and his handling of post-war Iraq.

According to CBS News executive producer Jeff Fager, an announcement by the interim Iraqi government to the International Atomic Energy Agency that a cache of 380 tons of explosives in a storage depot at Al Qaqaa have been missing since former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted from power was going to be revealed on this Sunday's episode of "60 Minutes."

"[Ou]r plan was to run the story on October 31, but it became clear that it wouldn't hold," Fager said in a statement.

The New York Times beat CBS to the punch by releasing their story on Monday. Under the headline "Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq," the New York Times said that Iraqi interim government warned the U.S. and the IAEA that the explosives were missing from "one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations."

In a statement which implies that coalition forces did not provide adequate security, the story reads, "The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year."

The news story goes on to credit CBS News and "60 Minutes" by stating, "This article was reported in cooperation with the CBS News program "60 Minutes." "60 Minutes" first obtained information on the missing explosives."

Many political observers believe CBS was planning to unveil this as an "October surprise" in an effort to defeat President Bush in the November 2 election by airing the segment on Sunday, October 31.

And that same day...

Below is an article that was posted on the Bush-Cheney 04 campaign site. You can view the original link posting here:

The article was scrubbed, of course, but the cache still exists (by the way, if anyone wants to do a screen grab of the post on the BC04 website, I'd be most appreciative).

For those of us who went to the BC04 website throughout the campaign and saw entire sections devoted exclusively to attacking Kerry, this little write up is a hoot!

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- The official weblog for the Bush-Cheney 2004
reelection campaign was opened this week to help keep the public informed about the major campaign issues and activities.

The new Bush blog, the term commonly used for a weblog, located on the Internet at launched just weeks after the controversial new Democrat Party blog entitled "Kicking Ass."

As previously reported by Talon News, the Democrat blog contains mostly negative stories and postings about President Bush and members of his administration. Also, it has suppressed opposing viewpoints in its comment section. Conversely, the new Bush-Cheney '04 blog contains positive entries regarding the strength of the economy as a result of the tax cuts, the continuing progress made in the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq as well as news and notes from the campaign.

The Bush blog was created specifically to inform supporters of the President about "breaking news" on the campaign when it hits. Additionally, regular news alerts will be sent out to subscribers via e-mail when they sign up for them on the blog.

One difference between the Bush blog and other blogs is that a discussion feature is not located at the end of each blog entry. While the blog is still in the early stages, that feature may be added in the coming months as more and more people become interested in the political process. There are a few interesting features of the Bush blog.

First, there is a categorized list of the major issues on President Bush's agenda, including the economy, compassion, homeland security, health care, education, national security, and the environment. Clickable links to each of these issues are located at the top of the blog and will send you to a webpage detailing the president's stand on each of the issues as well as the progress he has made on each one since being in office.

Second, in anticipation of the election taking place on November 2004, there is a countdown calendar image on the blog. There is also a link for others to put the countdown calendar on their website.

Third, a daily travel log of where the president and members of his administration will be each day is posted on the blog.

The Bush blog is meant to work in tandem with the Bush-Cheney reelection website located at

And an article covering Grover Norquists views on Kerry's health care plan. Gannon just forgets to mention Norquist's connections to the Republican Party.

October 11, 2004
Group Says 'Kerry Care' Would Cost Staggering $1.5 Trillion By Jeff Gannon

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a Washington-based taxpayer advocacy group, estimated the cost for Kerry's plan at $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The candidate's proposal would hike taxes $969 per taxpayer, or nearly $10,000 over the next decade.

ATR President Grover Norquist said, "John Kerry wants to implement a bloated, government-run healthcare program and stick American taxpayers with the bill."

Norquist believes much of the benefit would be wasted since almost 60 percent of the plan's cost would be used to pay for people who already have health insurance. The average person will receive a benefit of $451 dollars, which is more than offset by the increased tax burden.

"Kerry has made empty promises about preserving President Bush's middle class tax cuts, but the fact it is, he needs to raise taxes to fund this big government boondoggle," Norquist said. President George W. Bush took issue with his opponent's strategy to cover the cost of 'Kerry Care' during last Friday's debate. He pointed out that Kerry's tax increase, estimated to be somewhere between $600 and $800 billion wouldn't cover the $1.5 trillion price tag.

Bush said, "It's just not credible ... there is a difference: what he's promised and what he could raise ... either he's going to break all these wonderful promises he's told you about, or he's going to raise taxes. And I suspect, given his record, he's going to raise taxes."

At a campaign stop earlier in the week, Bush criticized Kerry's approach to expanding access to health care.

Bush said, "My opponent's proposal would be the largest expansion of government-run health care ever. His plan would put bureaucrats in charge of dictating coverage, which could ration your care and limit your choice of doctors. ... He's putting us on the path to Hillary care."

The president pushed for health savings accounts (HSAs) where individuals pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.

He signed legislation last year that established the innovative health care funding program. Amounts contributed to an HSA belong to individuals and are completely portable. Every year the money not spent would stay in the account and gain interest tax-free, just like an IRA. Unused amounts remain available for later years.

Bush has also aggressively promoted small business health care reform. He has repeatedly called on both houses of Congress to pass a law allowing association health plans (AHPs), so small businesses could band together to negotiate and purchase health coverage for their employees. In his 2004 State of the Union address, Bush again pressed for legislation to help make health insurance more affordable.

He said, "On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs."

Legislation that would allow AHPs has passed the House of Representatives but has been obstructed in the Senate by the Democratic minority that includes both Kerry and his runningmate, Sen. John Edwards (D-NC).

Below is the link to the now-infamous "article" written by Gannon on Kerry becoming the "first gay President". For folks in the media who have called this article "tame", I would point them to this timeline so they can see for themselves the entirety of what Talon News was writing about John Kerry in October, 2004. In this context the "article" is properly viewed as a smear piece.

October 12, 2004
Kerry Could Become First Gay President By Jeff Gannon

Yes, every act of violence against the BC04 campaign MUST have been committed by the unions...or at least this is the impression you're left with after reading this "article".

October 12, 2004
Bush Campaign Protests Union Violence Against HQs By Jeff Gannon

The campaign chairman noted that the protests organized by the union came on the heels of a number of other serious incidents. Laptop computers were stolen from the Washington State Bush-Cheney '04 executive director and the state Republican Party 72-hour director during a break-in at the Seattle office. Another break-in Sunday night at the Canton, Ohio Bush-Cheney '04 headquarters forced a staffer to lock herself in an office while the invasion was in progress. The facility was seriously damaged, and property was stolen.

Gunshots have been fired into Bush-Cheney '04 offices in West Virginia, Florida, and Tennessee. Windows were broken in West Virginia, and campaign staffers were threatened. In Wisconsin, a supporter of the president had a swastika burned into his front yard simply because he had a Bush-Cheney '04 lawn sign.

Racicot called on Sweeney to put and end to the union's threatening and violent protest activities. He said that he would hold the AFL-CIO and its leadership accountable for the actions of its members. The Chairman challenged Sweeney to immediately discontinue the intimidation of people who hold different political views from his union's membership but share an equal right to be involved in the political process.

On Monday, Bush-Cheney '04 established a hotline for victims to report incidents of voter intimidation at 1-888-303-7125.

October 13, 2004
Kerry Spokesman Appears to Threaten TV Network Set to Air 'Stolen Honor' By Jeff Gannon

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- Chad Clanton, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign appeared on a Fox News program Tuesday and suggested that the Sinclair Broadcasting Group might regret airing a documentary that focuses on the Democratic candidate's antiwar activities. He announced that pro-Kerry activists were organizing to protest the network.

"We've got thousands of people now very mad jackballed up calling these stations, protesting, threatening boycotts of their sponsors," Clanton said.

As reported Tuesday by Talon News, Sinclair is set to air "Stolen Honor," a documentary about John Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War and how his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee impacted American soldiers held as prisoners of war by the Viet Cong. The film features several survivors of the prison camps who tell stories of torture and how Kerry's words were used to extract confessions to war crimes from them.

Here's an interesting piece. I found it on a website for the "Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran". Now, you don't think this "movement" has anything to do with the US Government, CIA or military intelligence, do ya?

October 15, 2004
Kerry Taking Campaign Contributions from Pro-Iranian Group by Jeff Gannon

WASHINGTON (Talon News) --The chairman of a pro-Iranian democracy group
is charging that the campaign of Sen. John Kerry has been accepting political contributions from a lobbying group promoting the agenda of the mullah rulers of Iran. Aryo Pirouznia, leader of the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iraq (SMCCDI) says that backers of the regime in Tehran are channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Kerry campaign.

During a press conference in Washington on Thursday, Pirouznia identified several individuals who have close ties to the Democratic presidential candidate. The most prominent of them is Hassan Nemazee, a New York investment banker and a member of the board of the American-Iranian Council (AIC). A chief goal of the lobbying group is the removal of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Once nominated by President Bill Clinton to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina, Nemazee has raised more than $100,000 for Kerry. Nemazee withdrew his name from consideration following allegations of improper business dealings.

On March 19, 2004, Nemazee was listed as a vice chairman by the Kerry campaign, and on June 18, 2004, CBS News reported that Nemazee was part a group that raised more than $500,000.

Other key Kerry fundraisers with similar ties include Susan Akbarpour, a recent immigrant from Iran whom the campaign lists as raising between $50,000 and $100,000 and her husband, Faraj Aelaei, a telecommunications executive raising the same amount.

Iran has been alternately threatening to develop nuclear weapons and insisting that it needs uranium for energy production. During the first presidential debate, Kerry suggested that he would provide nuclear fuel to Iran.

Kerry was critical of President George W. Bush, who called Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil" along with North Korea and Iraq when it was controlled by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Kerry lamented that the U.S. passed up an opportunity to join the Great Britain, France, and Germany in engaging Iran.

Kerry said, "I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes."

The Democrat's web site reiterates the "global test" he proposes for the mullah government.

Kerry's plan is to "call their bluff by organizing a group of states to offer Iran the nuclear fuel they need for peaceful purposes and take back the spent fuel so they cannot divert it to build a weapon. If Iran does not accept this offer, their true motivations will be clear." In one of his public statements about Iran, Kerry said, "I will be prepared early on to explore areas of mutual interest with Iran, just as I was prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam a decade ago."

Following Kerry's advocacy on behalf of the communist government of Vietnam, Hanoi awarded a contract to Boston real estate firm Colliers International. At the time, the senator's cousin Stuart Forbes was head of the company. The Kerry campaign won't comment on the individuals in question.

October 26, 2004
Rehnquist's Cancer Reminds Voters Of Election's Importance By Jimmy Moore

Just throwing these last two post-election articles in the mix...

January 18, 2005
Kerry Blames 'Suppressed' Voters In His Defeat To Bush By Jimmy Moore

February 4, 2005
White House: Washington Post Article 'Flat Wrong' By Jeff Gannon

It comes as no surprise to dKos readers that this is not about Gannon, and in fact I believe that Gannon's latest media escapades, including his website launch, have been done to divert media attention away from Talon News's actions during the 2004 campaign specifically, and refocus it on the train wreck of Gannon's zany comments and wondering what he'll do next.

Once again, to quote Mr. O'Reilly, "what say you"?

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