Here's how Lester Holt introduced Sunday's Nightly News story about Herman Cain: "Herman Cain faced some tough new questioning today on his policies including his 9-9-9 tax plan, the war in Iraq and abortion...." Then Kristen Welker began the report by saying, "Under the strongest microscope yet, newly-minted GOP front runner Herman Cain appeared on NBC's 'Meet the Press' and acknowledged that his controversial revenue plan would increase taxes on some Americans." "Tough new questioning"? "The strongest microscope yet"? Give me a break. This is just typical Nightly News mumbo-jumbo meant to promote "Meet the Press", another NBC News show. The questions asked by David Gregory had all been asked before. Are we supposed to believe that Gregory is some sort of super genius who can come up with questions that no one else would consider asking? Are we supposed to believe that no one else questioned Cain's 9-9-9 plan? Not ABC News, CBS News or CNN? Not The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Huffington Post or The Chicago Tribune? In fact, the media have been disputing this plan ever since Cain announced it. The Oct. 13 New York Times ran a front page story (written by Trip Gabriel and Susan Saulny) on Cain and his 9-9-9 plan that included an interview with Cain--three days before his "Meet the Press" appearance. Here are some excerpts from the Times article:
*** "Now both he and his proposal are getting intensive new scrutiny as Republicans continue to flirt with their candidates less than three months before casting the first votes of the primary season."
*** "The 9-9-9 plan...is little more than a sketch of what would be a radical and complex overhaul of the tax system."
*** "The plan could have major economic and political challenges: It might result in a substantial revenue loss for the government and shift the tax burden to lower- and middle-income people."
*** "Their (9-9-9) plan has drawn fire from both right and left. Conservatives are wary of a national sales tax, concerned that it would create another, easily increased method of taxation. Among the critics are The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Bruce Bartlett, an official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, who contributes to the Economix blog for The New York Times."
*** "Critics, especially liberals, say the plan offers a huge tax break for the wealthy while imposing a steep, regressive new sales tax on the middle-class and working poor, with everyday items like milk and bread being subject to a 9 percent tax."
So I'm sorry to burst Lester Holt's and Kristen Welker's bubble, but David Gregory was not the first person to question Cain's 9-9-9 plan, although Holt and Welker would have us believe that he was.
Poor Lester Holt. He used to be a respected journalist. But he had to sell his soul to the NBC devil when he became the Nightly News weekend anchor. Now, he's forced to meekly promote NBC sponsors, NBC sports and entertainment shows and to be a rah-rah cheerleader for all things NBC. It's sad to see, but that's the price he had to pay.
And Kristen Welker simply has no credibility as a journalist. Her shameful promotion for "Meet the Press" is a clear indication that she will say anything her producers tell her to say. This certainly isn't the first time Welker has shilled for NBC or its sponsors. On the 8/12/10 Nightly News, Welker did a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about Jackie Evancho, "America's newest singing sensation" (Ann Curry's words) who was then appearing on NBC's "America's Got Talent". Here's how Welker began her story: "America couldn't believe its ears when this very big and seemingly seasoned soprano voice came out of a very small girl on NBC's 'America's Got Talent'". It was shameless for NBC to use its news broadcast to promote one of its entertainment shows and it was shameless of Welker to report this story. During that report, Welker also told us that, "on any given night, there are 12 million people watching" America's Got Talent. But according to one of NBC's very own press releases (reprinted on the website for TV By The Numbers [http://tvbythenumbers.com/2010/08/17/nbc-primetime-results-for-the-week-of-aug-9-15/60225#more-60225]) NBC claimed that the Tuesday (8/10/10) AGT had 10.5 million viewers, and the Wednesday (8/11/10) AGT had 10.7 million viewers. Additionally, also according to TV By The Numbers, the Tuesday (8/3/10) AGT had 9.56 million viewers (from 9-10 PM) and 10.81 million viewers (from 10-11 PM). The Wednesday (8/4/10) show had 9.96 million viewers. None of those shows reached 11 million viewers, never mind 12 million. So Welker's claim was disputed by NBC's own press release, as well as by Nielsen. I guess Welker and her producers are just plain old liars. But when it comes to shilling for NBC, lying is part of the job.
And then there was the 9/24/10 Nightly News. On that broadcast, Welker reported a story that was ostensibly about the credit card-versus-cash shopping habits of American consumers. In actuality, this was nothing more than a 2:20 product placement for Cheerios, one of Nightly News's (and NBC's) best advertisers. The story begins with a couple in the cereal aisle of a Los Angeles Target store, where we see a massive wall of Cheerios comprising 50 facings. (It is absurd to think that any store would display 50 facings of a cereal. This aisle was clearly manipulated by the NBC production staff.) The camera then follows the couple through the store--zooming in on the Cheerios box in their basket. At the checkout, we get a close-up the cashier swiping the Cheerios box past the scanner. At the end of the story, the mother is clearly shown feeding Cheerios to her infant. There is little doubt that General Mills paid NBC News to feature their Cheerios brand in this story. Welker contributes to the product placement by saying things like, "Every cent counts when Sarah and David Winfrey go shopping," and, "The young parents...are always looking for discounts and learning to live within their means." By making these statements as the couple shops for Cheerios, Welker is reinforcing to the viewers that Cheerios are a good value. She was as complicit as the NBC producers and ad executives in bamboozling the viewers into thinking that this was a news story, when it was really a paid product placement. So since Welker has already acted as a shill for Cheerios, "America's Got Talent" and "Meet the Press", are we supposed to believe that she has any credibility as a reporter? Kristen Welker is not a journalist, she's a publicist. She's a joke.
I will say this: At least Sunday's story about Herman Cain managed to spell his name correctly. During last Wednesday's Nightly News story about Cain, an on-screen graphic spelled his first name as "Hermain".