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Insider Report: O'Reilly, Ed Asner, Sulzberger, More

Friday, 23 December 2005 12:00 AM

Actor and political activist Ed Asner told a group of Democrats last week that President Bush "made it easy" for 9/11 to occur - then exploited the tragedy to sell the war in Iraq and bolster his own re-election campaign.

"We might easily have been spared 9/11 if the president had heeded expert advice and made terrorism one of his highest priorities, as the previous administration had done," Asner said.

"The 9/11 hijackers would have faced great difficulty had the president simply convened a cabinet meeting to require protection of commercial aircraft -- just that one simple thing."

Asner seemed to have conveniently forgotten that the "previous administration" took no such step.

The actor also said about Hillary Clinton's prospects for winning the Oval Office in 2008: "So far, she's not my kind of candidate."

Asner, who is promoting his book "Misuse of Power," made his remarks to the Palm Beach Democratic Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

An audience member asked Asner if he thought the anthrax scare that followed 9/11 was actually a plot to silence congressional opposition to Bush's policies.

The former "Lou Grant" star told his audience the 9/11 Commission feared that holding the Bush administration accountable for the terrorist attacks would be bad for the economy, and could ultimately damage Bush's chances of winning re-election.

The sympathetic audience interrupted Asner frequently to applaud his remarks.

"Unfortunately," Asner said, "President Bush made it easy for 9/11 to happen, and then exploited that tragedy to sell an unnecessary war and further his own re-election. Remarkable, but true."

Other Asner statements:

In response to a suggestion that he should rally more actors to actively promote the Democratic Party, Asner said: "There is a world out there, the Rush Limbaughs and the Hannitys, the O'Reillys -- they can't wait for politics to come out of Hollywood, so they can brand it, and scarify it and castrate it.

"And they speak of us as the 'Hollywood rabble.' That would be the most dangerous thing in the world, to have future ideas of the Democratic Party come out of Hollywood."

Donors who have contributed money to Jeanine Pirro's Senate race against Hillary Clinton say they don't want it spent on her attorney general campaign.

Pirro has raised less than $440,000 through September and was urged by state GOP leaders in New York to drop her bid against Clinton and seek the attorney general post instead.

But Valon Cross, a California computer programmer who gave Pirro $250, said: "The goal is to fund someone who is not Hillary Clinton."

Kenneth Going, a transplanted New Yorker who lives in Arizona, told the New York Post that if he could he would take back the $1,000 he gave to Pirro's Senate campaign.

And Timothy Reily, a retiree in New Orleans, told the Post he would want his $250 contribution back so he could give it to whoever runs against Clinton.

"It's an anti-Hillary donation," he said.

Legally, Pirro has the right to transfer most of the funds she has received to an attorney general campaign.

Pirro - the Westchester County district attorney - announced that she was dropping out of the Senate race on Wednesday, saying in a statement:

"I have decided that my law enforcement background better qualifies me for a race for New York State attorney general than a race for the United States Senate."

The move leaves Republicans with two active candidates for the Senate nomination: former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, who is not well known statewide, and William Brenner, a tax attorney from the Catskills region.

But Pirro failed to win the endorsement of New York State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long, who warned that she is too liberal on social issues.

Long has suggested, however, that he could support Pirro for attorney general.

Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly is on a crusade to keep the word "Christmas" in the holiday season.

But his own network isn't joining the campaign.

While O'Reilly properly notes that Americans are under siege, he says, by the "Kool-Aid secular-progressive ACLU America haters" who want to drive the phrase "Merry Christmas" and Christmas symbols out of schools, public squares and even department stores, according to the publication Broadcasting & Cable.

So it came as a surprise to some when Fox News sent out its corporate Christmas card, featuring Santa and his reindeer flying over the Fox News headquarters. There on a sign scrolling around the building are the words - "HAPPY HOLIDAYS."

Bah humbug!

O'Reilly is not the only Fox News talker fighting for "Christmas." John Gibson is promoting his book "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought."

When asked about the apparent discrepancy between the card and the two commentators, Broadcasting & Cable reports, a Fox spokeswoman "hinted that the opinion of Fox analysts is unrelated to the corporate office."

We say O'Reilly should make his network's card the Talking Points for his next show and have some fun.

Bolivia's newly elected President Evo Morales has warned that he will evict American military advisers over charges that the U.S. secretly removed Chinese-made anti-aircraft missiles from the country.

Morales, a former coca farmer and leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), was quoted as saying he would punish those responsible for the removal of 28 HN-SA hand-held surface-to-air missiles, as well as evict the U.S. advisers.

The missiles are similar to the American "Stinger" missiles effective against low-flying aircraft.

"I will press for a full investigation to establish responsibilities," Morales reportedly stated. "We cannot tolerate international intervention."

The removal of the missiles created a stir during the lead-up to the December 18 election after MAS officials leaked an intelligence report that said U.S. military officers, working directly with Bolivian army commanders, had removed the missiles between May and June of this year, the Washington Times reports.

At the time, MAS-led street protests had toppled the government of President Carlos Mesa and mobs were threatening to invade government installations in the capital.

"They were afraid the missiles could be used against U.S. aircraft in the event they had to evacuate their personnel or intervene," one insider told the Times.

Former Defense Minister Gonzalo Arredondo confirmed that the missiles had been flown out of the country, saying the U.S. government had urged that Bolivia give up the weapons.

Said Arredondo: "Officers attached to the military section of the embassy came to my office around August 2004, expressing preoccupation over intelligence that there were terrorist groups interested in anti-aircraft missiles with the characteristics of those we had."

Morales' bombast over the missiles is likely to further sour relations between Bolivia and the U.S. The new president has already vowed to end American drug eradication efforts in the country.

A toy moose ... a vomiting dog ... a sagging stock price ... two huge reporting scandals - these have been difficult times for the New York Times.

In an exhaustive article in The New Yorker magazine, longtime media insider Ken Auletta raises questions about the reign of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., whose family has controlled the newspaper since 1896.

Auletta quotes Gay Talese, author of "The Kingdom and the Power," the definitive history of the Old Gray Lady, regarding Sulzberger, 54, who succeeded his father Arthur (Punch) Sulzberger as publisher in 1992:

"You get a bad king every once in a while."

The New York Times Company's stock fell 33.2 percent between the end of 2004 and this past October 31, and twice in the past three years the paper has been forced to admit to running bogus stories.

In 2003, reporter Jason Blair and executive editor Howell Raines were fired after it was revealed that Blair had fabricated stories.

This year, longtime reporter Judith Miller was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify about her conversations with a confidential source in the Leakgate case, then was harshly criticized by the Times for reporting during the run-up to the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - a story that was later discredited.

But Auletta delves into the stories behind the stories and offers these highlights:

Sulzberger, who was holding a mysterious bag, told the story of a Times business retreat where a moose had been lurking outside a window but wasn't mentioned by any of the executives present.

"He then pulled from the bag a stuffed toy moose, held it up, and urged his employees to discuss any 'moose issues' - meaning the most obvious issues that people were wary of confronting," Auletta writes.

The gesture was widely viewed as a "clumsy prank at the worst possible moment," according to Auletta.

Sulzberger greeted Rice and said: "My apologies. The bomb-sniffing dog threw up here."

Writes Auletta: "Everyone laughed, but Sulzberger continued to apologize and, as some of the reporters present cringed, Rice finally said, 'Thank you for sharing that.'"

"When he came in, gays in the newsroom lived in terror, and Arthur met them and took each of them to lunch and said, 'What is it like to be gay here? When I take over, it will no longer be a problem.' He transformed the institution from the most homophobic institution in America to the most gay-friendly institution."

Auletta does give credit to Sulzberger for starting NYTimes.com, the online edition of the newspaper, which is today the most heavily trafficked newspaper Web site.

But the New Yorker writer points out that 95 percent of the Times Company's $3.3 billion in revenue last year came from print, including the Times, the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

"Today," Auletta cautions, "many media experts believe that the Times' greatest vulnerability is its concentration on newspapers."


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Actor and political activist Ed Asner told a group of Democrats last week that President Bush "made it easy" for 9/11 to occur - then exploited the tragedy to sell the war in Iraq and bolster his own re-election campaign. "We might easily have been spared 9/11 if the...
Friday, 23 December 2005 12:00 AM
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