Topic: Media Research Center
It's never a good sign when your purportedly exhaustively researched "special report" counts an easily disproved distortion as one of its signature claims.
A new Media Research Center "special report" by Rich Noyes purports to document how new CBS Evening News host Katie Couric "pushed a liberal political agenda during her 15 years as co-host of NBC’s Today." One of its signature claims, as promoted in an Aug. 29 press release announcing the report: "Deploring Ronald Reagan with insults such as 'The Gipper was an airhead!' " In the introduction to the report, Noyes expands this somewhat:
In 1999, Couric decided to begin the Today show by insulting Ronald Reagan: "Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead!" Two days later, the author of the Reagan biography she was supposedly summarizing told Couric she’d gotten it exactly backwards: "Oh, good God, no!" author Edmund Morris upbraided Couric. "He was a very bright man."
In the section of the report substantiating the claim, Noyes includes the original "airhead" quote, a snippet of an interview Couric did with Morris two days later in which Morris denied saying that, and a transcript from a 2002 Couric interview with Ann Coulter, headlined "Couric Re-Writes History," in which Couric takes offense to Coulter's description of the incident in her book "Slander."
What Noyes fails to note is the context in which Couric made the comment. As The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby reported:
Why did Couric say what she did? Because everyone thought it was true. Indeed, despite the picture painted in Slander, many conservatives were slamming Morris for what he had said about Ron.
Noyes' reporting of Morris's denial further obfuscates the fact that, as Somerby reported, many conservatives thought that about the book as well. From an Oct. 13, 1999 (a couple weeks after Couric's statement), Heritage Foundation online chat with Dinesh D'Souza, author of the hagiography "Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader":
Morris' book has been subject to an incredible public whipping. He has virtually no defenders. Even Morris's own reasons for using multiple fictitious characters and for calling Reagan an ignoramus and an apparent airhead sound hollow and ill-considered. When the dust has settled, Reagan will be seen as a great president.
Couric was hardly alone in interpreting that Morris' book called Reagan an "airhead." Yet Noyes and the MRC would rather leave the false impression that a hopelessly biased Couric came up with that on her own.