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PBS Ombudsman Responds to "My Fellow Texan"

This column was posted by PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler on Friday. August 24, 2007.

Over the last many years, reporters have grown fond of the once-secret tape recordings of White House conversations made by former President Richard Nixon. They are sometimes jokingly referred to as “the gift that keeps on giving,” not just because each new batch that gets released is likely to reveal something new, but because they almost always produce stories and give journalists and commentators something to write about.

I’m beginning to think the same way about Bill Moyers and his weekly Journal on PBS. A few months ago, soon after Moyers returned as a regular to PBS, I said, half-jokingly, that there may need to be an ombudsman just for Moyers. Since then, I’ve written about segments of his programs, in response to viewer comments, several times, and Moyers and I have also aired our differences in this space. Actually, I’d rather not spend so many of my columns on one person or series of programs, but, like the Nixon tapes, the Journal and Moyers keep on providing material that viewers react to and that the ombudsman hears about.

Moyers, of course, produces informative and often powerful public affairs programs and has a large and loyal following. But he also draws fire from others for his approach to some issues and that, for the most part, is what keeps an ombudsman busy.

So, here we go again. Last Friday, Aug. 17, Moyers ended his program with what can only be described (by me) as an editorial. Here’s the transcript of how Moyers bid farewell to White House political strategist Karl Rove:

BILL MOYERS: Some closing thoughts now on politics. When Karl Rove announced his resignation from the White House earlier this week, he got some rave reviews. Here’s a sample circulating on the Internet.

CNN CORRESPONDENT: We should be congratulating Karl Rove for a long successful run — this is a guy who elected a president twice — who’s known as one of the most brilliant political activists of our time …

CHRIS MATTHEWS: If you’ve ever talked to him he’s almost got, almost like a blinder’s eye — he looks you right in the eye — and he talks faster than I do — really fast right in your face totally intent on you — and it’s real like talking to a fire hydrant …

BILL PLANTE: He’s not only the mastermind behind everything — he’s the president’s senior advisor …

MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Boy genius, Bush’s brain, the architect …

KAREN HUGHES: Karl is brilliant — he is funny — and he’s a passionate advocate …

ANDREW CARD: Karl rove is a superstar — he’s very insightful — he’s a great friend to the president — he’s also a very broad thinker — he is one of the more intelligent that people I know — he’s very quick witted — he’s got a great sense of humor and the president will miss him …

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well generally where there’s brains, there’s Rove …

BILL MOYERS: There is, of course, more to be said. What struck me about my fellow Texan, Karl Rove, is that he knew how to win elections as if they were divine interventions. You may think God summoned Billy Graham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the good lord was speaking in a Texas accent.

Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God’s anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as precincts Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat — a battering-ram, aimed at the devil’s minions, especially at gay people.

It’s so easy, as Karl knew, to scapegoat people you outnumber, and if God is love, as rumor has it, Rove knew that, in politics, you better bet on fear and loathing. Never mind that in stroking the basest bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion.

At the same time he was recruiting an army of the lord for the born-again Bush, Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash. Crony capitalism became a biblical injunction. Greed and God won four elections in a row — twice in the lone star state and twice again in the nation at large. But the result has been to leave Texas under the thumb of big money with huge holes ripped in its social contract, and the U.S. government in shambles — paralyzed, polarized, and mired in war, debt and corruption.

Rove himself is deeply enmeshed in some of the scandals being investigated as we speak, including those missing emails that could tell us who turned the attorney general of the United States into a partisan sock-puppet. Rove is riding out of Dodge City as the posse rides in. At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he could believe, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator. On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a Hail-Mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Now, let’s set aside the question, for a moment, of whether editorials (again, that’s my word for it) belong on PBS. One other thing that jumped out at me, especially, about this commentary was the use of the formulation, “even as reports were circulating,” to portray Rove as not a religious person and thus a “skeptic, a secular manipulator.”

That, in my view, is not like Moyers; not up to his standards. Although Moyers is clearly a consistent target for conservatives, his reporting frequently hits a nerve but is almost always well-attributed, which is what makes it so often hard-hitting and why it draws a strong reaction from supporters and critics. I, personally, didn’t know what Moyers was talking about when I heard this line, and my guess is that most viewers were also in the dark about what reports were circulating, where they were circulating and what, exactly, were they saying. The portrayal of this contrast in Rove’s use of the Christian right politically and his own alleged non-belief was at the core of this commentary. So it seemed an important point, not to be skimmed over without any attribution or evidence.

Since then, those “closing thoughts” by Moyers and the particular point about Rove’s faith have attracted a fair amount of attention. Two days later, Rove was a guest on “Fox News Sunday” and host Chris Wallace played a clip of the Moyers program and asked Rove about it. Then on Tuesday, Moyers, on his blog, responded to Wallace. Then on Thursday, Rove called me to say, among other things, that he had been inclined to just leave this thing alone but that Moyers’ online response to Wallace, and the program itself, had gone “beyond the pale” and he wanted to register a complaint with PBS. I’ll get to all of this, so hang in there.

First, the interview with Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: After you resigned, Bill Moyers — some would say he’s part of the mob — went after you as an agnostic who flim-flammed the Christian right … Your response.

ROVE: I’m a Christian. I go to church. I’m an Episcopalian. I think he may have taken a comment that I made where I was talking about how — I have had colleagues at the White House — Mike Gerson, Pete Wehner, Lindsey Drouin, Josh Bolten and others — who I’m really impressed about how their faith has informed their lives and made them really better people. And it took a comment where I acknowledged my shortcomings in living up to the beliefs of my faith and contrasted it with how these extraordinary people have made their faith a part of their fiber. And somehow or another he goes from taking it from me being an Episcopalian wishing I was a better Christian to somehow making me into a agnostic. You know, Mr. Moyers ought to do a little bit better research before he does another drive-by slander.

After a bit of our own Web surfing and research early in the week, my assistant, Marcia Apperson, and I found two references which we thought may have been the ones that provided the basis for those “reports” that are “circulating” that Moyers alluded to. One is an interview on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program on Sept. 6, 2006, with Wayne Slater, author of a book about Rove, and the other is an interview with author Christopher Hitchens in May 2007 in New York magazine. In both cases, Rove is reported as a non-believer, although neither report could be considered definitive, and Rove’s statement to Wallace contradicts that.

And now Moyers has responded on his blog to Wallace’s interview with more support for his reference to those circulating reports. Among other things, Moyers says in his posting: “There were several references to it online as well as in print journalism last week. The San Antonio Express News, which knows Rove well, wrote in an editorial (August 14): ‘The White House will miss his indubitable political acumen. What other agnostic could have mobilized hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians behind a political banner?’” Moyers, as you can read on the link above, also cites two other writers — Marc Ambinder and James Moore — but the quote used from Ambinder begins, “I could be wrong here, but …” and the quote from Moore begins, “[Rove] told his friend Bill Israel years ago that he was an agnostic …” and the quote from a book by Slater and Moore that Moyers uses begins, “Rove once told a colleague …” These are of interest but not exactly authoritative, first-hand reports.

In his call to me, Rove said, “If someone says he is a believer, why is that not accepted? He (Moyers) has decided he will be the judge and the jury about whether I’m a believer. He attributes this to unknown parties and then defends it in a letter to Chris Wallace, with no personal interface with me at all. How does the San Antonio Express know? They don’t. They don’t know me well. He (Moyers) then relies on a blogger who says ‘I could be wrong here.’ Well, he is wrong.” Rove calls Moore an “incredible left-wing ideologue.” Bill Israel, he says, “was once my teaching assistant. He was no more a close friend of mine than the man in the moon. I attend church in my neighborhood and here in Washington. I was married in church, worship in church, tithe to the church. My faith is my business. This is just beyond the pale.”

Opinion and Commentary

PBS’s Editorial Standards and Policies require that when “a program, segment, or other content is devoted to opinion or commentary, the principle of transparency requires that it be clearly labeled as such” and “should identify who is responsible for the views being presented.” It is clear that Moyers was expressing his own thoughts in this matter. And my guess is that, in his view, he was also adding some “balance” to the television coverage of the official departure of Rove from the administration. Although there were many newspaper articles, and I’m sure a fair number of television reports, that captured both the accomplishments and criticism of Rove’s tenure, Moyers introduced his commentary only with TV clips of “rave reviews” about Rove.

Viewers probably know what to expect from “Bill Moyers Journal.” To repeat what I’ve made note of in earlier columns, the program is clearly dedicated, as Moyers says in his online description of his weekly series, to “perspectives seldom available anywhere else on television.” In my view, that is most often a big plus for the viewing public. And Rove, whether one praises him or vilifies him, is a major figure in contemporary American politics and a fair subject for intense reporting and commentary. He has indeed been lionized often over the past several years, especially on many radio and television outlets and in conservative periodicals. So a broadcaster presenting a strongly worded negative assessment is okay, an important and valuable part of the mix for viewers to sort out. But in this case, I thought a central point of the criticism was not supported for those listening.

But aside from this point, what makes Moyers such a lightning rod is that not only is he one of the few TV broadcaster/journalist/commentators that goes after the big and sensitive targets and presents such strong critiques, but that he does it on PBS, where, as far as I can tell, he occupies a unique position. There is no other high-profile program on PBS that I’m aware of where the host frequently presents such strongly worded “closing thoughts.”

When I asked PBS how the service justifies broadcasting editorials by the host of a major program, here is the response I got from “programming officials”:

“As we stated last month in our reply to your (previous) inquiry, ‘the title of the series, Bill Moyers Journal, signals to viewers that they can expect to encounter the strongly reasoned viewpoints of Bill Moyers and his guests.’ Last Friday, in Bill Moyers’ closing remarks, he began by quoting several broadcasters. Among them was a CNN correspondent who said ‘We should be congratulating Karl Rove for a long successful run — this is a guy who elected a president twice — who’s known as one of the most brilliant political activists of our time …’ Chris Matthews of MSNBC was quoted as saying, ‘Well generally where there’s brains, there’s Rove …’ These are but two examples of how in the days immediately following Mr. Rove’s announcement that he was leaving the White House, many journalists made known their assessments of Mr. Rove’s tenure. Bill Moyers did exactly the same thing at the conclusion of last Friday’s Bill Moyers Journal. Mr. Moyers is not hiding anything from viewers; his show is not a ‘nightly news’ program where the format standards are more narrowly defined. It is completely appropriate for him to express his informed analysis.”

A CNN Correspondent, Not

Actually, the person on CNN whose face and voice — but no name or title — appear in the clip Moyers used, is not a CNN correspondent. He is Terry Holt, identified in the transcript of the CNN program from which the sound bite was extracted as a “Republican Strategist.” Holt was a national spokesman for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign.

Two other people — of the six who were shown at the start of Moyers’ segment on Rove — were also not journalists but former top officials of the Bush administration, Karen Hughes and Andrew Card. So it is not surprising that Rove got some “rave reviews.” In fairness to Moyers, he did not describe these people as journalists and was using these clips to make his point about how Rove was being portrayed on television and how that was circulating on the Internet. But it seems to me it should have been made clear that this was not exactly the journalistic community fawning over Rove and that it was not indicative of how, as the PBS “programming officials” statement above says, “many journalists made known their assessments of Mr. Rove’s tenure.”

When I asked PBS whether there are any other regular programs in which the host provides editorial opinion or informed analysis analogous to what Moyers does, the officials said, “There is no other program or host precisely analogous to Bill Moyers Journal/Bill Moyers but the hosts of other PBS talk and public affairs programs certainly express their opinions on occasion.”

Here is a sampling of the letters I received. Although there are undoubtedly large numbers of viewers who applaud Moyers’ perspective, all the letters that came to me were uniformly critical (with one exception).

The Letters

Tell me, sir, how does a supposedly objective, non-partisan reporter refer to the president of the US as an “intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket”? The lack of integrity found in today’s media is outrageous. It’s no wonder the American public has a lack of trust in the media when it continues to be represented by elite snobs like Bill Moyers who continue to denigrate anyone who doesn’t live on the east side of Manhattan.

Arlene Barron, Colorado Springs, CO

The most recent episode of Bill Moyers’ journal contains an embarrassingly bias commentary about Karl Rove that shames public broadcasting. Not only should PBS decline to broadcast the pitiable views of Mr. Moyers on the grounds that they are without merit, but also because you do not give equal time to idiotic conservative rants. By broadcasting material like this PBS is giving tacit endorsement — “what you allow, you endorse.”

Charlie Dragon, East Brunswick, NJ

Just what ARE PBS’s standards of editorial integrity? Does that include permitting Bill Moyers to spill his hateful poison year after year? His most recent tirade against Karl Rove and President Bush was so beyond the pale of decency that I am barely able to think or talk about it. No facts, just an emotional screed that went further than even his most intemperate remarks of years past. I think Moyers’ derangement over the Bush administration has pushed him entirely over the edge.

Barbara Duran, Kaneohe, HI

Just a comment on the creditability of Bill Moyers. He should suppress his personal feelings and spend more time checking out his information concerning others. So often his comments can’t be checked out with the facts.

Gordon Record, San Diego, CA

Bill Moyers, you are a true hero. You speak truth to power, albeit in a soft, well-spoken voice. Karl Rove is no Christian when he does the work of Satan (no matter if he occasionally sits in the pew of an Episcopalian church.) Rove helped elect a “true believer” though, a “born again” Bush, who thought that God “wanted” him to run for President. Talk about delusions of grandeur! The “God” that then “talked” to Bush is living in Hell now — or in Iraq.

David Wyles, Playa Del Rey, CA

I am outraged and disgusted at the recent incoherent ravings of Mr. Moyers on PBS. Obviously, he actively hates the President of the United States and more viciously hates Mr. Rove and I guess anyone else who is not a rabid liberal.

Lynn Campbell, Whittier, CA

I happened to have seen Bill Moyers’ commentary on Karl Rove. His holier-than-thou posturing and frankly stupid comments on Rove and Bush (and religious Christians in general) cast Moyers as the intellectually inferior of those he desperately attempts to malign. He unwittingly reveals that liberals are not tolerant nor frankly intellectually gifted as advertised.

Richard Friedman, Los Angeles, CA

My question is should a public TV station allow such one sided critique of Bush and Rove? In the past I never heard any one sided critique of Pres. Clinton. I am offended by this for I look to public TV as one place an individual can be told facts without a man’s personal bias so blatantly expressed. I ask PBS to look into this matter and advise me how this will be changed in the future. I do not want my tax dollars used to express any individual’s biased point of view. We get enough of this on regular TV broadcasts.

Patricia Sommerkamp, Crestview Hills, KY

There was a day when Mr. Moyers had something to say. I often disagreed with him, but he was a reasonable advocate for his political position. Sadly that day is past. His latest mad ravings regarding Karl Rove were embarrassing to PBS and to Mr. Rove himself.

Wade Malloy, Charlotte, NC

Bill Moyers is, as they say in the south, losing his “religion.” This is a bitter and totally off base journalist. The latest salvo was his commentary on Karl Rove. What creditability he held in the past has run dry.

Gary Clower, Narvon, PA

I am an atheist, a college graduate, a Texan, a former Democrat, and a former contributor to PBS … I am trying to be respectful and objective but is Bill Moyers an idiot, stupid, hateful, a resentful Democrat hack or what?? In my 60 years of following history and mainline politics I have never heard such hateful, unconstructive rantings in a respected media outlet. I too disagree with the President and Mr. Rove but disagree is not to hate.

KW Kessler, Austin, TX

I do not believe in censorship or in boycotting, but Bill Moyers’ latest rants have moved him into the tinfoil hat crew and I have to question why he has a PBS platform for his outbursts. They have become rants and outpouring of bile which 1) should cause PBS management to take note and 2) make me wonder why he should be publicly supported.

Dave Cotts, Alexandria, VA

I am indignant at Bill Moyers’ description of our president. He can criticize his policy but he slandered him with his description in the article about Rove … he also offended me as a Christian who is a moderate and lumped me together with a group that I am not a part of. PBS has some great programming but I for one will not watch again as long as Bill Moyers is allowed to speak this rubbish.

Suzanne Allen, Wagram, NC

I listened to the comments of Bill Moyers regarding Karl Rove and President Bush. While commentators are entitled to their opinion, Mr. Moyers’ comments were entirely out of line. They were biased, hate filled and full of stereotypes. If Don Imus had said what Mr. Moyers said … he would have been fired. Shame on him for his remarks about the President of the United States.

Luci Snyder, Carmel, IN

My wife and I watch PBS more than any other network, having 3 stations in our area from which to choose. I am appalled at the sloppy, rude, arrogant, and inaccurate nature of Bill Moyers’ nasty commentary upon Karl Rove’s resignation. Moyers played loosely with the facts, or with no facts at all. I appreciate objective journalism that deals with all sides of issues, but I deplore the tone and nastiness of Moyers’ diatribe about Rove and the President. For a man who once worked for a President, he shows amazing immaturity and very lazy research habits about the facts. He is embarrassing to those of us who revel in the wonderful programs on PBS.

Richard Palmer, Springboro, OH

You folks have to do something about Bill Moyers. He has really gone way over the top on some of his latest rantings. I understand PBS is for ALL of the people but Mr. Moyers represents such a small portion of this country’s population it is incredible. The statements he made about Karl Rove and our President are extreme to say the least. These comments by Mr. Moyers, “intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket” are just unbelievable. Even if you do not agree with someone’s political view this is just personal attacks. I do not mind hearing other viewpoints but this is ridiculous. PBS is throwing away any credibility they have left by continuing to air this person on our public airwaves. On top of that there is no balance to this perspective at all but how can you balance personal attacks against political viewpoints.

James Ward, Kaneohe, HI

Objective journalism goes right out the window every time you play something by Bill Moyers. Give me a break this guy is a half a mile left of Marx himself. You would have to play Rush Limbaugh for 3 days straight to offset him. I enjoy NOVA and some of the history programming but if you wonder why you do not see money from young men in their 30s don’t play stuff that tells us our country is the worst thing on the planet.

B. Peterson, WI

I wonder why PBS permits Bill Moyers to provide slanted political commentary which at times is inflammatory rather than balanced. For example, he rails against Bush, but instead of sticking to presenting opposing viewpoints, he tries to paint unflattering and misleading pictures of Bush as a person or suggest malevolent, conspiratorial efforts underfoot as the reason we should hate Bush. If PBS is supposed to offer itself up as an intellectual broadcaster of issues, then tell him to act more like Charlie Rose and stop thinking he is on a personal crusade and newscast representative for the Democratic Party. Maybe he is pining for a job as the news spokesman for the next Democratic President if the party takes over the White House. It is this kind of performance which turns me off from PBS.

Bomoseen, VT

Please investigate Bill Moyers. He has gone/is going too far in his rhetoric. His anti-Bush rhetoric is damaging PBS not to mention his own reputation.

Reno, NV

Bill Moyers owes Karl Rove an apology. If he can’t bring himself to do that, he is obliged by journalistic ethics to issue a correction. Moyers, a seasoned journalist and former White House staffer himself, relies on “reports were circulating” as the source for his characterization of Rove’s religious beliefs.

After reading Moyers’ blog and watching a video of his broadcast, I alerted Karl Rove via e-mail that Moyers had described him as an “agnostic.” This was Karl Rove’s reply, once again via e-mail: “I am a believing Christian who attends his neighboring Episcopal parish church. People have taken out of context a quote in which I express admiration for the deep faith of colleagues that so clearly informs their lives as a statement I am not a believer. I am: just not as good a Christian as some very fine people I have been honored to call friends and colleagues.”

Deal Hudson, Washington, DC

(Ombudsman’s note: Hudson’s role in religious issues and relationship to Bush and Rove is referred to in the interview with Wayne Slater and the recent blog posting by Moyers after the Fox News Sunday interview.)


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These blustering critics have inverted the old maxim, "Never speak ill of the dead," in protection of two men who appear to be insane (Bush and Rove): "Never speak dead-on, in describing the (mentally) ill."
Too bad Bill has abandoned his colorful Texas "straight talk"
now-a-days. It was the thing made him most beloved.

Moyers may have skirted the line. But it was obvious his comments were editiorial in nature.
And there is no question that Rove's political strategy was partially faith/morality based. And there were rumors afloat that Rove was agnostic - which obviously puts it in the realm of public speculation. I am glad to hear Rove say that his religion is his business - that it is personal. That is one of the major problems with our government today that people are struggling with. What is the appropriate line between what is public and what is personal and private. Rove is right that faith is an important part of our social fabric that should operate in the private and not the public realm.

Commentator-worship is a problem. It permits commentators to launch offensive verbal bombs -- things they would never say in person -- and then bask in the glow of their fans cheering about "courage" or "truth" or being "provocative."

We teach our kids not to say these things while we laud and applaud media elites who do.

I'm sick of all of it.

You right wingers worhip commentators who call for liberals to be thrown into concentration camps and shot down in the streets, but no, that's not hate in your sick world.

Hate, to you, is Bill Moyers' calling George Bush an "intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy."

How dare you draw moral equivalence between Bill Moyer's opinion and the death and violence obsessed rantings of your favorite pundits.

You people claim to be champions against moral equivalence, but you are some of the worst moral prevaricators on the planet.

I support Bill moyers comments. The Rove deceit machine has caused serious death and destruction. Even if Rove claimed to be a Christian. His evil methods would disprove the claim.

Who was it who said, "you can tell when rove is lying because his mouth is moving"?

I support Bill Moyers and his assessment of karl Rove. It is my understanding that Karl was an understudy to one of the most cut throat politicians known to mankind. He is well versed in Nietzche and Machiavelli. He would put the devil to shame with his ability to decieve people with his twisted use of the English language. "Enemy combatants" were no longer the person on the other side of a combat situation; they became a less than human person who you can torture or jail with no concern for human rights.
Instilling fear in his fellow citizens was also an acceptable means of manipulating people to meet political ends.
The reporters who went along with his deceptions are criminally responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people. Karl's philosophy is diameterically apposed to the teachings of Christ, it is safe to assume he is not a Christian.

I saw the show and it was right on target on carl rove and this lying war criminal administration.
Who is this Ombudsman? Is he trying to make this into an excuse to get bill removed? Bill Moyers is the best by far of any of the other characters on the so called balanced news shows on pbs. We get to see the the Mclaughlin Group, The Wall Street Journal Report, and others.
all right wing and with little to no liberal counter balance. This includes the Pbs Nightly News Hour. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has been doing a study for the last number of years on who gets on the Nightly News Hour. They found that it has been weighed heavily towards more right wing and government people. More progressive voices and voices from african american, latino and asian are rarely on. this has especially been true leading up to the iraq war. very few anti war voices on many of the programs. I am fed up with right wingnuts thinking they are always correct and needing to control all news and information. The only reason they are all huffy about Bill Moyers is that they dont like what he said and has been saying about many topics.
I would hope this Ombudsman character would use his brain and see that.
There are plenty of right wing shows on PBS already
Mr. Getler with all of their right wing views.

Precisely. Yet Moyers assumed it was true in order to make broad, insulting judgments -- that we are dupes.

Your point is well taken, we don't know the truth.

Anyone, I suppose is entitled to complain about the correctness of Bill Moyers being on PBS and what he has to say. They should not however infer that by doing so they are uncovering untruths. Just saying something does not make it true. Or untrue.
Mr Rove has been proven to have been untruthful on more than one occasion. In all fairness it matters not which side of the "political fence" a person resides, he or she will have plenty of liars around. You can complain until the cows come home to Crawford, TX.............But nothing about what Mr. Moyers said can be proven true or untrue. If this is not true then just prove Mr. Rove is a true believer!

The editorial by Mr. Getler reminds me of a FedEx commercial which I enjoy when I am watching golf of a Sunday. In it, the subservient worker (he's got gloves on, so you can tell he's one of the menials) interrupts an important conversation between the boss and higherups to ask for the day off because his daughter is sick.

Pregnant pause.

"Your daughter?"

"Yes sir."

Another pregnant pause.

"Is sick?"

"Yes sir."

And so it goes. You know it. Clear definition between them that has the power and them that don't.

The final message is, of course, that those in power care. Care? He just held this guy in agonizing suspense about something which should be his right to do - take care of a family emergency!

Mr. Moyers has a right to editorialize on the public airways. Enough of your pregnant pauses, powers that be!

Boy, do we need to have those airways restored to us.

Deal Hudson,

I don't follow your writings. In fact, I don't recall hearing your name before.

Your leading comment is to impugn Mr. Moyers by noting he used the attribution "reports are circulating" when discussing Rove's reputed agnosticism.

Then next time you complain about anonymous sources being used in a news story that is favorable to Rove or his machinations, I will consider your complaint about Mr. Moyers more favorably.

Until then....

My rights have been taken away under the Geneva Convention and the Constitution. I support the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for disregarding civil and human rights. This does not help the US and only allows serious mistakes to be made when innocent people are abused. Thank you for your courage in presenting what America should really stand for - the rights of people and the rule of law rather than entertainment and the suspension of law, which only results in fascism!

What media love fest? Much reporting on Bush, Rove and the religious right is very critical in tone and content. Don't get me wrong, the negatives should be reported, to keep us informed, and much was missed in the lead-up to Iraq. But Rove and Bush-bashing are major public sport, editorial cliche. Opinions just like Moyers' are everywhere. Even the sources he cited (e.g.,"The Rove Goes on Forever") give the same opinions Moyers gave. And the God-and-Texas mockery has been done and redone, ad nauseum.

Google "rove plame" and you'll find hundreds of major media stories -- Time, Newsweek, msnbc, cnn, NYT -- on Rove's involvement in the Plame matter. Was Rove interviewed about this? Yes, by special prosecutor Fitzgerald and the grand jury, 2-3 times. Whether he told the truth or lied was for them to judge. (Unless they were bought out by corporate interests!) There are no new interviews on Plame because Rove hasn't given one. Will Congress get to interview him? If the federal court rules so, yes.

I am not defending this man nor attacking the left. I am concerned about journalistic standards and the state of public information. That is where we agree.

amazing that any attack on Rove would result is such a lambasting and detailed counterattack. Moyers is probably the only public media figure i have heard of who has the intestinal fortitude to criticize the Republicans or Bush in the 6 years of Bush's imperial presidency. and now Rove? oh my!!

Unfavorable opinions apparently are not tolerated and way beyond the pale for those who simply will not tolerate such a negative thought to be cast upon the highly exalted Kingmaker Rove. We have witnessed Rove's constant attacks on anyone who disagreed with the Bush/Republican party from day one of their takeover.

John McCain comes to mind.

Rove's attack are legendary and at times so extremely nuanced and usually fictitious, but the Media loves the way Rove does what he does.

Has there been any question by the Media" as what kind of morals Rove might have (Rove has morals?.)Talk about Moral Values, dare We? Why anyone would possibly condone, much less employ such tactics.
to wonder if there could be any semblance of humanity in such a person who would do the things that Rove does. Now Moyers bring up the issue of Christianity. lol. what a farce.

Nor has there been much question concerning what Rove's "success" has done to the body politic

Neither the NY Times nor the Washington Post, supposed liberal rags, has done much to question the morality or protest too much of anything Rove has accomplished in the name of Bush.

Such a love fest by the corporate media toward Rove! And Rightwingers call the media, liberal.and the media remains silent.
The so-called "liberal" media has been so afraid of upsetting Rove, as if there was a good side to get on.

Yet the hype and pomposity of how successful Rove's tactics are seems to be one area the "liberal" media is helping Rove. Rove's saves his most vicious attacks for those who dare disagree with his "vision" for America.

the ends justify the means apparently for a good new story.

Of course no one would dare ask Rove about the treasonous outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, not one media spokesman, newspaper or any other form of the so-called liberal press has dared to "press" this issue with the great spinmeister Rove.

The Media is owned by the corporate men who are Bush's cronies, the haves and haves-mores.

So, Moyers criticizes Rove and states this as his "opinion" and the fury of the Republican "counterops" respond, and do their job to attack, belittle and dminish any dissent whatsoever. Quite consistent, however.

Only in America can the Right accuse the Left of being biased, bigoted and immoral. The only acceptable Truth is the one the Right disposes. The Media has quietly been acceeding to such blackmail.

How dare Bill Moyers criticize Karl Rove. How dare him? Who does Moyers think he is? obviously not a real American.

How dare Moyers question Rove's integrity!!!!

If Rove is exposed for what he is, who knows what American might discover?

We can't allow that, now can we.

I would definitely Second Robert Feinman's suggestion and add one more players, Dr Alice Miller who has also done much research into the Authoritarian Personality.

As I have also done much reading on the Internet about Dr. Altemeyer's work and those in parallel, it is a subject as timely as Global Warming, and perhaps as big an influence on out future.

Add a few more names like George Lakoff, Phillip Zembardo, Lloyd DeMause, James Ault, Sara Robinson,&
David Neiwert and you could have a series.

Aw, come on, Tim Burns... Chris Wallace? Oh well. I see Alberto Gonzalez resigned. The evacuation of Washington by that duo, Rove-Gonzalez, indicates to me that someone had the goods on them. Most likely, in regard to the attorneys general scandal. It must be huge to have led to the strategic retreat of those characters. Who's next? Cheney resigns because of ill health or because he wants to spend more time with his family?

I listened with glee on Sunday, as Mr. Wallace struck back at Bill Moyers. Mr. Moyers' sin was not asking Karl Rove if he was guilty of the charge of cynically manipulating the Religious Right; whereas Mr. Wallace did. Mr. Wallace finds Mr. Rove's denial of the Moyers' accusation to be the end of the matter and I thank him for it!

This nation, so racked with public debt, our prison's overflowing, our courts clogged, and our lawyers unjustly enriched, now has an answer to its problems! Whenever one is accused of a crime, a misdeed, a cynical ploy...whatever...the nation (alternatively Mr. Wallace, if he has the time) can ask him/her if he/she is guilty. Unless he confesses, he gets set free! What is the testimony of disinterested witnesses when a man's integrity is at stake?

Thanks you, Chris Wallace, you have saved a generation from the travails of prison.

Tim Burns

Rove has had plenty of time to correct the record. He didn't. Moreover, the revelations of David Kuo make it plain that Rove considered people of faith to be ignorant and exploitable.

Having spent most of my life in Texas, I can attest that this is the political MO of the right: to appeal to religious values that they do not have in order to win elections.

FOX News can only help Moyers' credibility by attacking him. Then again, FOX News has been built on exploiting the same kind of people as Karl Rove.

B. Perez, you make excellent points about the simple power of well-documented data, and the occupational hazards (cynicism, bitterness, partisanship) of journalism and editorial/opinion work.

That is a hazard many professions -- teaching school, police, social work, medical providers -- and still we want them to remain civil and respectful. Why does Ann Coulter alienate people? Because she will go beyond the pale in scorn, mockery and personal insults. And unlike a schoolteacher or social worker, columnists are able to plan, write, research and fact-check(?) their work, so what they publish is intentional in tone and content.

I haven't watched/read Moyers regularly in years. I stopped when I felt he just didn't like most people, businesses, government, and even much journalism, and seemed to see himself as the arbiter of Truth instead of a journalist (and his followers apparently agree!). His "if you'd done your homework" letter to Chris Wallace has that same condescending, my-truth-is- The-Truth tone. Chris Wallace responded in kind, leaving us with two seasoned journalists acting like middle schoolers. So we protest.

I'm glad to hear that Moyers' other work is better.

How typical the rush to silence the great truth teller Moyers. I for one wish he were a little taller and a little louder so more people could be exposed to his particular brand of crackpotism. :)

As long as Moyers the tubby litttle boy lover draws breath, President Bush can only aspire to be the second most inauthentic Texan on the planet.

Give Moyers a megaphone and a huge raise. That bottle-capped douche is more unintentionally entertaining than he could ever attempt to be.

The real issue is not what Rove believes in his heart of hearts, but how he and the administration have acted.

As has been widely reported by several officials who worked in the Whitehouse "Faith Based and Community Services" program the principal officials used this effort for strictly political aims. They held the religious right leaders that they invited to the Whitehouse in low regard and called them "wackos".

Since every political unit in the Whtiehouse (and apparently the executive departments as well) reported to Rove the implications of who was being indicated are clear.
"By their works ye shall know them." - Luke 13:26

I am answering Karen's comments in regard to not wanting to hear outrage but rather,"well-sourced information and reasoned analysis."

You're quite right, Karen. Outrage is what should be felt by reader/listeners when presented with truthful and well-documented data that elicits this reaction.

An example of this is the crisis resulting from sub-prime mortgage defaults which is affecting not only the financial sphere of the USA but also the world. An article predicting the crisis appeared in Harper's magazine almost a year ago but nothing was done. The New York Times yesterday carried an article on one of the responsible parties:

After reading this article, I was outraged that it was foreseen that this would happen and that it was the result of deliberate tactics motivated by ruthless greed, and that thousands of innocent people will suffer as a result.

However, if you are the same Karen who confessed to not listening to Bill Moyer's previous NOW programs on PBS, that's what you missed, "well-sourced information and reasoned analysis." Week after week, Moyers exposed, in a fully documented and well reasoned manner, cases of corporations who are ripping off the American people and their government, but also the manner in which they influence our government.

I remember when Moyers exposed the lobbying that went on in the Democratic Party's national convention in which Kerry was selected as presidential candidate, I was staggered. I understood that our congressmen are corporate clients, not representatives of the people who elected them.

That is one of the reasons why many posters hurl invectives at him. Moyers exposed what none in the corporate-influenced media dared. It appears that nowadays honesty is no longer a necessity and virtue. Unmasking corruption is being a "communist," or at best, a "leftist."

But as a former commentator myself, I confess we columnists and commenators are subject to certain occupational hazards. After reporting and commenting on violations in the political scenario of morals and ethics, the law and the Constitution, week after week, year after year, by the same parties, with impunity, the list of those unpunished violations and the shameless lies put out by the perpetrators, is too long. It becomes impossible to list them in a commentary or article. Then, for context and background, we have to rely on readers having a pool of information that they can access, to fully understand our communications. That is what those who did not view Moyers' NOW program lacking when they judge him and his work today.

The other occupational hazard to which honest commentators are subject is the expression of outrage on our part. This happens also as a result of years and years of watching unpunished felonies and crimes in the political scenario, accompanied as always with a plethora of "justifying" lies. The sum of this data becomes as condensed and bitter as a pot of coffee that has brewed for a week. It is at this point that we are vulnerable to expressing "outrage," feeling perhaps that it is legitimate and honest, a service to our listeners or readers, as well as an acurate depiction of a state of affairs.

I don't want to hear outrage on PBS, but that's just my opinion. I'd rather hear well-sourced information and reasoned analysis. There's plenty of scorn and outrage on radio and blogs, and it's not usually helpful.

Normality on PBS and the rest of the mainstream media is to treat the outrages of the Bush administration of which Karl Rove has been an integral part as ho-hum normal events to speak about calmly and dispassionately. Why should anyone raise their voice about an illegal war in Iraq that has killed over 100,000 people; of a possible coming war with Iran; of the establishment of torture as a normal way of America doing business; of the destruction of habeus corpus and the right of detainees to trial, just a minor matter of trashing the U.S. Constitution, an antiquated document given the new 9/11 realities; of the use of the U.S. Justice Department as a political arm of the Republican Party; etc. etc. etc.

No, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler has no interest in such uninteresting subjects. Instead all the anti-Moyers complainers are shocked, shocked, that he talks in such intemperate terms about Karl Rove, a man who is amply documented as having no interest in speaking truth, only interested in using all kinds of amoral and immoral means to lie and manipulate in order to help establish his cherished "permanent Republican majority". But Moyers doesn't have 100% certified proof that Karl Rove isn't truly a man of faith. Well if he is a true man of Christian faith it then it is clear to me that such faith is truly meaningless.

It is appalling that there are so few voices in the media of outrage against the atrocities committed by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and their cronies. But its good to see that Michael Getler is at least demanding due process for one man, Karl Rove, even though very few are willing to say anything about the destruction of due process in America as a whole by this Administration.

I am not aware of PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler making a big issue about all the conventional wisdom that gets expressed on PBS and all other mainstream media that takes a ho-hum attitude towards all the outrages of the Bush Administration and the role that Karl Rove among others plays in it. It is normal to not express outrage about illegal war killing at least 100,000 people, the establishment of torture as a normal American practice, the elimination of the antiquated notion in the U.S constituion that suspects need to be informed of why they are in detention and offered due process instead of being detained indefinitely, the turning of the Justice Department into a Republican Party instrument of power, etc, etc, etc.

No, it is quite acceptable to take all of this calmly and to act as if everything is normal. But if someone actually expresses outrage about all this then people are shocked, shocked about the incivility and the failure to take at their word a group of people who use lying and manipulation as their standard mode of operation. No, heaven forbid that someone depart from the conventional wisdom that has made the media an accessory to the crimes of this administration. Thank you Bill Moyers for being one of the few voices of wisdom in the wasteland that is PBS and the rest of the mainstream media.

I am not aware of PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler making a big issue about all the conventional wisdom that gets expressed on PBS and all other mainstream media that takes a ho-hum attitude towards all the outrages of the Bush Administration and the role that Karl Rove among others plays in it. It is normal to not express outrage about illegal war killing at least 100,000 people, the establishment of torture as a normal American practice, the elimination of the antiquated notion in the U.S constituion that suspects need to be informed of why they are in detention and offered due process instead of being detained indefinitely, the turning of the Justice Department into a Republican Party instrument of power, etc, etc, etc.

No, it is quite acceptable to take all of this calmly and to act as if everything is normal. But if someone actually expresses outrage about all this then people are shocked, shocked about the incivility and the failure to take at their word a group of people who use lying and manipulation as their standard mode of operation. No, heaven forbid that someone depart from the conventional wisdom that has made the media an accessory to the crimes of this administration. Thank you Bill Moyers for being one of the few voices of wisdom in the wasteland that is PBS and the rest of the mainstream media.

Mr. Getler;
I see you were able to get all your right wing buddies together to write letters to you complaining about Bill Moyers. That's the one thing I've noticed about right wingers. They tried very hard not to muddle up their letters and opinions with facts. The President and Mr. Rove didn't use facts either in their run up to the war. Mr. Moyers is a truth teller and right wingers don't want to hear the truth. I wish Mr. Moyers or some newscasters like him were on PBS every night all night.

It's hard for us regular dupes to get to the original source for Rove-is-agnostic. I tried. Here's the journalistic sausage I found:

There's no source for Christopher Hitchens' Fresh Air interview comment that Rove is agnostic. The subsequent blog reports omit the first part of Hitchens' response to the question "Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?" He responds coyly: "Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer ... I think the way he puts it is, 'I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.'”.

Where did that scuttlebutt come from?

Well, Moyers and the blogs also cite Will Slater, author of "The Architect" and "Bush's Brain," as a source. Slater wrote that "Rove once told a colleague" that he was not a Christian. Slater expanded in another Fresh Air interview, saying Rove "told a friend at the University of Texas... that he would like to be a believer, but he's an agnostic, and couldn't be otherwise."

That colleague/friend might be Bill Israel who worked with Rove on "Politics and the Press" at UT. James Moore, Slater's co-author of "The Architect, wrote a Huffington Post editorial ("The Rove Goes On Forever," please read the whole thing, Moyers cites it) saying Rove told Bill Israel years ago that he was agnostic and that "he wished he could believe, but he cannot."

So far, all these multiple sources look like Bill Israel...
... who is now promoting his upcoming book, "Stealing Reality: The Rise of the Right, the Fracture of news, the Lessons of Karl Rove," due out next January!

Bill Israel is a journalism professor who wrote an article urging reporters to breach confidentiality in "Forget Confidentiality, Out Rove!" He frequently gives press interviews about Rove. Thanks to his info about Rove's faith, Rove has now made Wikipedia's List of Famous Agnostics. (Foonotes 34 and 35 - source, Slater and Moore, The Architect. But you knew that). Try Googling "rove agnostic" now and you might get...PBS! I did.

C'mon. Doesn't anyone see the problems here?

At least we know the answer to Bill's question: "but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feeldiscovering they were used for partisan reasons"......anger... towards the messenger!

It is heartening to read so many well thought-out replies to the relatively small number of complaints. Mr. Getler, this is a country that has told those of us who tried to keep the US out if Iraq that we were unpatriotic at best and terrorists at worse. It is a country that has allowed the media and this administration to lie to us with impunity. The language that has been allowed to be used against every liberal/progressive in the editorial pages of most papers in the US is outrageous and unacceptable and we have no avenue for complaint. Michael Savage and others see no difference between Democrats and Al Qaeda. I honestly hope the US can find a way to restore the media fairness doctrine, but meanwhile, thank God for Bill Moyers. I remember when Lee Atwater had his brain tumor and expressed that he was very sorry for all the dirty political tricks that he'd played. As I recall, Karl Rove said "that doesn't sound like the Lee Atwater I know." So much for insight. Que viva, Bill Moyers!

It's widely known in Washington that Karl Rove, Mary Matalin, Dan Bartlett, and other political operatives were key figures in the famous WHIG (White House Iraq Group) convened in 2002 by the President and V.P. to sell the war in Iraq to America and the World. We didn't see even one editorial, comment or remark, from any of the worshipful, eulogistic commentary on Mr. Rove in the mainstream media last week, or one question from the CBS, NBC, and FOX newsmen granted an interview last week by the elusive Mr. Rove, on his central role in the politicization of the War. In fact, we heard a number of comments that Mr. Rove "had nothing to do with the Iraq War," from a number of commentators including Pat Buchannan and Bob Novak. About the nicest thing you could say about Karl Rove is, he's not a real Episcopalian, because the simple fact is, no real Episcopalian could pathologically lie every day, all day, for years on end, like Mr. Rove. PBS ought to stand by its' man, because after all, all he did was say the nicest thing possible about Mr. Rove - instead of calling him what he really is, he merely identified what he is not. Kind of gentlemanly, when you think about it.

All I can say I thank God for Bill Moyers. Mr Moyers is one bright moment of truth in a world of lies and deception. Millions of Americans are mourning the loss of our Country and all that it stood for. I never thought I would witness the demise of the American Dream but it is lost to so many of us, our children, and our grandchildren. Lots of Americans are making lots of money and are doing it at the expense of others. The real terrorist threat is greed. We have certainly showed the Chinese what greed can do for them. The only problem is average Americans can hardly trust any product they buy, that it can be safe. Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush have done a wonderful job. Only problem is they won't pay for their mistakes, we will. God Help US!

Has anyone found the FROGS that were to be marched out with Rove yet?

How anyone could defend Karl Rove exceeds my understanding. Not only is he the incarnation of the dirtiest political tricks ever played, but he's been a guiding force behind the most murderous, lying, Constitution-trampling administration in American history.

And this ombudsman, BTW, never did me the courtesy of replying to my complaints about totally right-wing spins on some Jim Lehrer shows. I daresay he was installed in his position by Shrub's appointed PBS oversight team. The corporatists are trying to deny us truth on the last of our public airwaves, which is why Mr. Moyers was forced out at one point. Thank heavens he's back. If PBS wants a dime from any viewers who aren't die-hard neocons or brainwashed, they'd better not interfere with him this time!

Bill: Have at it my man.

PBS is horribly biased to the left and tax monies should never support such unbalanced viewpoints or political manipulations whatsoever.

He (Moyers) speaks of hardworking independent people but he protects them with the lie and the trap of liberalism which couldn’t give a fig about any who are not dependent on the state or indolent.

Entrapment comes in many forms, evil and even genuine misguided caring forms, all with the same gray, mediocre result.

There is a very special place in the afterlife for society tweakers like Soros and all of his minions, it will be constructed of everything which is all that they attempt to foist on everyone else but their own hypocritic selves.

Where they have needs they will find taxes, where they need freedom they will find barriers and where they need rights they will find themselves controlled by a behind the scenes puppeteer.

We don’t need totalitarian, friends.

I think Bill Moyer's should apologize to Karl Rove, but he should wait for Karl to apologize to all those he has slandered over the last 20 years or so first. Since being a Republican means never having to say your sorry (or wrong), I think this might take a bit.

The only other thing that comforts me from the tragic years of Bush's presidency is that after he is gone, congress will pass laws to curb the abuse of powers for the presidency that he & Cheney have worked tirelessly to expand.


Mr. Getler:

I was mistaken in my previous comment to ask you for a "defense" of PBS's programming, because as an ombuds, that isn't your role. My request should have been for you to correct misinterpretations and misinformation with actual facts about the history of programming at PBS and to clarify the issues and charges that have been brought up.

I'm sure you try your best to remain neutral as befits an ombudsperson, even though you speak for PBS.

Mr. Getler:

Thank you for airing PBS's position, and more importantly, its interests, in evaluating both Bill Moyers's editorial on Karl Rove as well as the show in general.

It's not surprising that your mail should be completely against both Moyers's position and his wording. I am a community mediator, and people don't usually call on mediators when things are going well or when everybody is in agreement with everything. In this case, it appears that the people who appealed to you see your role as something of an "enforcer" or "the PBS police" as well (if that is not the case, please disabuse them of this impression). So I think your argument on this point is a red herring.

I had no trouble interpreting the comments on Rove as an editorial. There was a clear delineation from the rest of the hour; not only did Moyers introduce the segment by explaining he was giving his "thoughts" on "politics", but he also changed his body posture and the lighting and camera angle changed. Given the visual medium, it couldn't have been any clearer than if it had been published on the editorial page in a print medium.

I would hate to see the time when PBS pre-circumscribes the content of its political shows. That would just mimic the for-profit news media and lower the quality and credibility of its offerings. PBS is the most trusted network by the US public (or so they tell us) for a reason--because it is different. I don't watch PBS and listen to NPR just to be entertained, but to be informed and encouraged to think about my world and my country.

To respond to the critics of Moyers in general as well as this editorial in particular, you could have mentioned that regular commentators on political and news shows on PBS are David Brooks, David Gergen, that David Frumm is a regular commentator on NPR. Another commenter mentioned Tucker Carlson's show. I have seen contributions by J.C. Watts (maybe I go back further than some of the commentors) and other conservative African-American politicians and thinkers. The list could go on. I would have liked to see a stronger defense by you of PBS's programming to counter the arguments that PBS is nothing more than a "vast left-wing conspiracy" and a serpent's pit of liberals who are all going to hell.

Everything Moyers said about Bush was accurate. The reports of Rove's agnosticism were EVERYWHERE a few months ago. He's identified as such in a book called The Architect. Christopher Hitchens discussed it in God is not Great.

"Asked in an interview with New York magazine if anyone in the Bush administration had ever confided in him about "being an atheist," Hitchens replied:

I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, "I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith." "
Karl Rove is just doing what he always does - attacking a liberal with lies. He says the lies over and over, he gets Drudge and the other vermin to repeat his lies and broadcast their "moral outrage" at being victimized by the hateful secular liberals, and people like you bow and scrape before them, cowering in fear that someone has claimed you aren't being civil or fair when you know darned well that the compainers are neither civil or fair or even correct.

Seriously, I can't believe anyone still falls for this tactic. Just because Rove objects to that statement doesn't make it false. It just means he can use it to beat up on Moyers so he's doing it. "Right" and "Wrong" don't enter into Rove's mind - he's a pure opportunist. These Crybaby Conservatives will whine no matter how correct our facts are, so let them whine. Moyers did and said what the rest of the media ought to be doing. He told the truth.

I am amazed by the intolerance displayed by those who disagree with Mr. Moyers' opinion of Karl Rove. Have we really become a nation where some demand an investigation or question the integrity or credibility of an outstanding journalist who expresses an opinion that is not in lockstep with those of a particular political bent? Was there the same level of outrage expressed when PBS was home to a program hosted by Tucker Carlson? Or is this outrage, this clamor for censorship, only directed at those who express a negative opinion about a current or former member of the Bush administration?

Perhaps, Mr. Getler, your time would be better spent on the questionable behavior of some PBS personalities who lay claim to the title "journalist" or who book analysts and guests for PBS programs. For instance, how about investigating Susan Dentzer's role with the AHIP Speakers Network? Or the person(s) who hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to provide analysis of the PBS Democratic presidential forum (a function that Luntz was relieved of, after protests)? Or why conservative religious leaders are "quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders" on PBS?

Mr. Geltner of PBS concludes: "But in this case, I thought a central point of the criticism [by Moyers] was not supported for those listening." It still isn't, and Moyers doesn't care. He's found his preferred truth; in fact, he scoffs that Rove is "blowing smoke" by protesting that he is a believing Christian.

PBS journalists, godlike, judge hearts and pronounce people nonChristian, no backtalk allowed. That's a problem.

B. Perez, yes I understand the difference. My objections are not aimed at Moyers' program in general (I don't watch it), but to "My Fellow Texan" in particular, for reasons I've stated. Your response was refreshingly civil, thank you.

Last comment: I took note of the fact that Deal Hudson entered into the fray to defend Rove's "faith."

A most equivocal figure, is Hudson. Try reading:

And this as well:

I wouldn't want to have the man defending me, but then I'm not Karl Rove.

B. Perez, thank you for your response. Yes I see the difference. But I do not object to Moyers' programming in general (I don't watch, so I have no basis for broad conclusions other than hearsay), but to "My Fellow Texan" in particular, for reasons I've stated.

Mr. Getler: You say that PBS' airing “perspectives [Moyers'] seldom available anywhere else on television” is a "big plus for the viewing public."

That depends. Ward Churchill? "Strongly worded negative assessments" of embryonic stem cell research? A PBS journalist giving a strongly negative assessment of CAIR?

I'm sure we could sort it out.

For the dear Karen who objected to my post thusly.

Perez says: "It's impossible to take seriously Gerstle's criticism of Bill Moyer's piece on Rove because he started out with three paragraphs poking fun of Moyers and deliberately disparaging him."

Karen, you need to know that in Moyer's case, he was evaluating the track record of a political figure so notorious in the U.S. national scenario that his last name has been turned into a pejorative adjective. On the other hand, Gerstle's task was to evaluate a single article. Do you see the difference? Gerstle's slip is showing. He could have at least tried not to make so clear what his mission in PBS is.

Still and all, I appreciate your comment.

But why you or anybody should else should object to taxpayers' money being used in PBS to defend the interests of taxpayers as Moyers does, is beyond me.

Why do you think so many foam at the mouth at the mention of Moyer's name? It's not only that he has censured the manipulation of religion for the purposes of political control, but that he has sorely offended some corporations by unveiling the way they steal from the common man and from the government. That, my dear, is democracy in action, and a heck of a lot more than the mainstream media are doing.

Omsbudsman Getler says: "So a broadcaster presenting a strongly worded negative assessment is an important and valuable part of the mix for viewers to sort out."

OK. I expect PBS to present "a strongly worded negative assessment" on, say, Al Gore's belief in personal energy conservation. No? How about well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens editorially mocking Obama's faith? (He mocks everyone's faith). How about a "strongly worded negative assessment" on whether John Edwards can identify at all with how the other America lives? It's important!

And I'm sure we can sort it out.

An ombudsman for Bill Moyers? It's refreshing to hear from a real JOUNALIST! He is not a "talking head". Oddly enough there is a shill anouncer on the Fox network that produces output from all three orifices as any human male will. His noteworthy difference is two of the orifices are interchangeable.

Viewers might not agree with all of Bill Moyer's statements and positions, but he does his homework! He doesn't descend to the "rip and read" mindset held by many self-appointed media guardians.

For the sake of the Freedom of the Press please do not back down. Continue the great work!



Lou Morlando

One more commentif I may. The ombudsman is full of baloney. The News Hour is one full hour of editorial every bit as much as Bill Moyer's closing comments. Gimme a break! PBS is full of editorials disguised as news and reporting. McLaughlin Group anyone? The PBS ombudsman is doing a great disservice to the American public by pretending that Moyers' comments were somehow editorial while those of Charlie Rose and others are not. Of course the comments the ombudsman got were critical, doesn't he have the slightest clue that the right-wingers have internet cadres for exactly this kind of email response to anything that they perceive as pulling the curtain away to expose the truth?

By beginning his comments with "Some closing thoughts now on politics." Moyers was clearly indicating he was making editorial opinion comments. What's the problem with that? Compred to the news coverage of Rove's departure that pretended to be news reporting yet was every bit as opinionated as Moyers' comments, Moyers is a paragon of virtue by his honesty that he is expressing a view, not reporting "facts". The quoted people who gushed about and fawned over Rove were the fakes and phonys who pretend they are merely reporting.
Anyone who knows Moyers knows that he takes spiritual faith to be as important as anything in life, and so when he sees hypocirisy in faith it galls him even more than hypocrisy in journalism. I applaud Moyers for being among the few true voices in journalism today.

Perez says: "It's impossible to take seriously Gerstle's criticism of Bill Moyer's piece on Rove because he started out with three paragraphs poking fun of Moyers and deliberately disparaging him."

Please apply that same standard to Moyers' "My Fellow Texan." Three paragraphs of poking fun and deliberate bonus gossip about personal taxpayer expense, to boot.

Whose integrity do you trust more--a seasoned journalist with decades of insightful reporting under his belt, or a political operative that is a master of manipulating public fears and insecurities to his own profitable ends?

It's impossible to take seriously Gerstle's criticism of Bill Moyer's piece on Rove because he started out with three paragraphs poking fun of Moyers and deliberately disparaging him. Obviously, Gerstle's intent was to undermine Moyer's position as a PBS commentator. Why would Gerstle should have picked up the issue of the beliefs or nonbeliefs of Karl Rove when that man's actions have done so much damage to our country. In addition, Gerstle confuses "editorializing" with telling the truth. Alas, in an epoch, when the media has so signally failed the American people, Gertle follows the same dismal pattern. It's not that he fails to say that the emperor has no clothes, i.e. the truth that Moyers is willing to put forth, but that Gerstle and kindred have lost all notion of the fact that the emperor should be clothed.


"why on earth make your commentary about putting a yardstick on his faith?"

I think there are valid concerns about the sourcing of the assertion that Rove is an agnostic. For one, it appears that the sources Moyers relies on (with the exception of Bill Israel) are themselves unsourced.

Maybe Israel will confirm the report of what Rove said to him in his forthcoming book. If so, then it is up to you whether you believe a quote in which Rove was speaking in candor to a friend, or whether you believe his "I'm a Christian, but not a very good one compared with my incredibly pious friends" spin in the Wallace interview.

Moyers' accusations aren't about "putting a yardstick on [Rove's] faith" -- they're about the hyprocisy of cynically exploiting people's faith for political ends. Whatever you believe about Rove's own faith, it's hard to deny that he's pursued that strategy with great success and catastrophic results.

About Moyers' remarks not being very elegant or persuasive: maybe you're referring to "an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket?"

If the cowboy boots fit... that sure sounds like the Brush-Clearer-in-Chief I've come to know in the last 6 years.

Just a note: there is a parallel discussion happening on the dailyKos. Needless to say the majority view is somewhat different than the comments on the ombudsman's blog:

Watched last night's show about military recruitment being down. I have a son and daughter ages 20 and 17 respectively.

Both have been hounded by the military due to a provision of No Child Left Behind which requires schools to give out kids names. Families can "opt out" but no one knows to do so.

Military recruiters call for your kids by their first name without telling you the purpose of the call. When you ask who is calling they'll say only their first name.

Only when presed further as to the purpose of the call will they identify their affiliation with the military.

Here is a link to a form to send to your school to have your child's name not be given to the military recruiters.

It seems we'll never get to the bottom of the hypocrisy of the past seven years. Surely one of the most disturbing aspects of Karl Rove's impact has been its effect on Christianity in the United States and in the world. He has sold us a "Christian" President who habitually lies and who responds to criticism and questions by slandering the questioner. We have gotten so used to this pattern that we don't even notice it any more. Bill Moyers was exactly right in noting the terribly degrading effect Rove's policies have had on both our religious and our political life. St. Paul said that faith is demonstrated by its fruits. The fruits of this Bush presidency as orchestrated by Rove have been war, death, division and an increase in misery for the poor and vulnerable. I have no idea what Rove "believes," but this is not a Christian legacy by any definition. We have lost the ability to tolerate hearing the truth.

One of the things that constantly puzzles me is that so many people seem to believe that there are only two perspectives on an issue, expressed often by their saying "you should have given "equal time" to someone who would express "the other side". It's my experience that there are 'way more than two sides to any issue. Moreover, it has always been my conviction that it is PBS that gives us perspectives that are never never never given on, say, FOX. So it needn't be a single program that has to include differing viewpoints but rather the broadcasting system as a whole that manifests balance since we certainly can't count on the FOXES of this world to include positions that are not supported by Mr. Murdoch!

Bill Moyers is one of the reasons I support PBS. It's not because I always agree with him but rather, because he always makes me think, especially when I don't agree with him. I describe him as "provocative in the very best sense of the word"--he provokes me to think, to consider, to REconsider. That makes him a rare--and important--asset to the public broadcasting system.

Reason for Citizen Amendment 22

If we the people are to remain a free people, the Media must remain under our control. Just like the government is required to have multiple independent branches to provide Checks and Balances to protect the citizens, the same is true for keeping the different media independent.

Citizen Amendment 22 – Media

The ownership of the Media shall be dispersed so that it represents the needs and interests of each community.

There shall be no overlap in media ownership. If you own a Radio Station you shall not own Television Stations or Printed News Media. Like wise if you own a Television Station you shall not own Radio Stations or Printed News Media and if you own a Printed News Media you shall not own a Radio Station or Television Station.

The owners of Radio and TV stations shall be United States Citizens and be residents of the state where the station is located or shall have an independent board of directors who are residents of the state where the station is located.

No media shall be used to promote the benefits or use of a particular drug. The doctors and pharmacists are trained to provide this service.

Children’s program times shall not have ads which are not for children and shall not have ads which promote the buying of anything.

Cable TV shall allow the subscriber the right to purchase only the channels the subscriber wants. The cost of one channel shall not be used to subsidize the cost of another channel. A basic minimum charge shall be allowed, but it shall not be used to subsidize the cost of any of the channels.

News articles shall list all the citizenships of the person who wrote the article.

There shall be no fees or restrictions on Internet usage, but content including Email shall have a descriptor which indicates its content. There shall be NO government (Federal, State, or Local) policies which favor or inhibit any one competitor in any Internet industry. The Internet network shall not discriminate among different types of traffic based on the traffic’s source, destination, or content.

Congress shall immediately setup and fund a Television network which provides International news broadcasts. These broadcasts shall not be censored and its content shall be provided in English by each country. In places where the people do not live in a country, they shall also be allowed a news broadcast. Each country or peoples shall be allowed one-half hour to present the news as they see it. The day-of-week and the hour-of-the-day shall be on a rotating basis so that each country or peoples will provide their news at different times of the day and week. No country or peoples shall have more than one allotted time in each rotation. The United Nations shall be allotted one time slot. The United Nations will determine the initial countries and people who qualify. The order of rotation will be in English Alphabetic ascending order.

Congress shall fund at least 85% of the cost of Public Radio and Television to eliminate the influence of business sponsors. The content shall be regulated by the Citizens of each service area. If there is a dispute on content, a vote of the subscribers in each service area shall be used to resolve the dispute. There shall only be one vote per subscriber. Federal, State, and Local government candidates shall be allotted equal time by each Public Station for stating their message or for debates. No other government funding shall be provided to candidates for any office.

Thank you, Mr. Moyers, for continuing to seek out and report the truth.

"PBS - The light of truth that shine upon the secrecy surrounding our government".
Edward R. Murrow exposed the truth of... in World War II, Walter Cromkite the truth in Vietnam war
and Bill Moyers " the beacon of truth that shines upon the secrecy, corruption ..." to justify impeachment.

Gossip + insults does not equal journalism.

Not on the right. Not on the left. Not by Bill Moyers.

"We somehow forget this is a democracy and freedom of speech is fundamental to the integrity of the system."
How abjectly disgusting you are, sir. You trot out the BS "freedom of speech" canard every single time some leftist filth gets tangled in their own words. This is profoundly NOT about "free speech," it is about a disingenuous leftist bastard polluting "free speech" from his tax-payer-funded postion. You are a revolting, anti-intellectual garbage can who probably is so dense, "incurious" and pathetic as to believe these hateful, hateful rantings of a beclowned jackass. Filth.

It was indeed interesting reading all the comments from Mr Moyers commentary, -which ran the gammut from "investigate Bill moyers, to get him off PBS". We somehow forget this is a democracy and freedom of speech is fundamental to the integrity of the system.

We certainly will not agree all the time, and differences are to be celebrated (I am told). Based on what I see happening in the world, I'm not sure if it is as convenient for us today as it was yesterday.

Personally, I think Mr Moyers is doing an excellent job, - Thank you Sir. You have given voice to the countless number of us who has none. The underemployed, the poor, the defenceless, the voiceless, the ignorant. Those of us who are fodder to the military and penal system, those of us who are sitting ducks for the mega coperations, who stripe and swags us into one sided deals, for the simply reason, we cannot fight back.

There is a phenomenon taking place before our eyes. A great country once built on profound principles is being transformed into one of the greatest tyranny of the ages. Our pride is more important than truth. Our wealth takes precident over our humanity and our present values are wrapped in a thick blanket of delusion.

We ascribe honors to criminals and we praise liers for their craftyness. Who is religious, and who is a deciple of rightousness. Under whose bed is truth hiding and where are the perveyors of justice? Could someone say what hour is it?

Speaking of blatant manipulation by Karl Rove . . .

How many battleground states were won by Rove's planting anti-gay marriage voter referendums on the 2004 Presidentail ballot? In a couple states, I believe Michigan was one, they has already passed state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. So these repeat referendums did not even provide a substantive change in the law. They just provided an outlet for the Christian right to say "we really mean it!"

Sure enough, it worked, and four days after the electoral victory who does Karl Rove appoint to head the national Republican Party - Ken Mehlman. Think about it.

Doesn't the religious right have something better to do than being conned by Karl Rove, and electing moral degenerates like Mark Foley to boot?

While I personally would have preferred Mr. Moyer leave Rove's faith out of the discussion, however emblematic of Rove's win at all cost tactics; I'm bemused at all the outrage.

Much like the Rather affair, where the actual facts of Bush's cowardice in using Daddy's connections to avoid serving his country with the rest of us lower class grunts, partisans are lamely besmirching one of the few brave men left in media today.

We've had fifteen years of media complicity first in trying to bring down a popular president by endlessly repeating right wing smears, then cheer leading America into an illegal war, and now complicity with Republican war mongers in mutual rear end covering until this mess can be dumped on some poor Democrat, that as usual has to straighten out a Republican, neocon mess.

I found your critique thoughtful and cogent, Mr. Getler, as opposed to those so clearly looking for any port in a storm in covering for the most disastrous administration in our history, as well as their own gullibility in wrongly supporting Republicans bent on ruling via corporate power and hate the last forty years.

I occasionally comment on this blog since it started, mostly positive since so little truthful reporting exists today.

It would be a shame if the same shrill hateful voices that have drowned out all reason since Nixon's wonderful "Southern Strategy" laid out a sinister template for Republican rule forty years ago, would now be allowed to silence someone who actually knows what Paine and Jefferson meant by a free press.

If we need to balance the handful of those bent of squashing every voice of dissent against the Great Leader or his minions, then I'm sure we could roust up more than enough folks starving for real factual news to write you directly instead of merely commenting positively on his blog.

Please carry on, Mr. Moyers, I don't remember when the law passed requiring journalistic perfection from anyone viewed as progressive while abetting authoritarianism, propaganda, and the destruction of our founding principles.

I think Bill hit it right on the head.
If (God forbid) I was on the religious right, I would be outraged by the blatant manipulation by Rove AND Bush.
Or do they think that the killing of a million Muslims made it a fair trade?

It would appear from the tenor of many of the comments to Michael Getler's critique that the Rove supporters are still active.

Now why would people come to his defense? Possible reasons
1. They are part of the GOP noise machine, that is, shills
2. They owe him a favor or are friends
3. They are "true believers" of the neo-con ideology.

It is this last point I'd like to focus on. There are many on the right who remain ideologues despite evidence that their beliefs are not those of the admin, or that they are being used, or that some of their deeply held ideas are at variance with the facts.

There has been some recent work on studying this type of personality. John Dean's recent book "Conservatives without Conscience" is one example. It is based upon the work of psychologist Robert Altemeyer.

Altemeyer has now issued a book summarizing his 40+ years of research and made it available online and free here:
The Authoritarians

Altemeyer defines a group he dubbed "Right wing authoritarians". These are people who believe in a strong leader, a hierarchical social structure and also have a conservative social outlook.

I think a Moyers segment with both Altemeyer and Dean would be of general interest to viewers. They did a couple of joint blog discussions and got lots of participation.

Much of the discussions on TV are ostensibly about ideas, but ignoring the psychological makeup of the participants gives an incomplete picture.

Those who are low "RWA's" are willing to debate ideas, those who are high aren't. It makes for lots of non-productive discussions. Understanding this more widely would be useful.

Karl Rove is nothing more than a political prankster who blatantly promoted a hooligan to the extent that he was elected President. It was an amazing accomplishment when viewed in the abstract. The hooligan is a constitutional traitor and a serial liar. Why should anyone have any respect for Mr. Rove ?

Now that Karl is out of the public eye for the time being, it will be very interesting to see how he tries to spin himself when the need to do so isn't as apparent as when he was advisor to George.

Bill Moyers need not apologize to anybody. He is the very counter voice necessary for the Bush administration, any biases included. It is up to viewers, readers, and listeners to weigh the perspectives. God only help us if we were left solely to the machinations of Karl, et al.

There are a lot of issues at play here. One is, is it ok that Bill Moyers offered his opinion, as opposed to an objective factual report. To that, my response is, "yes." It was clearly presented as opinion and as in a newspaper, there is room in a newscast for both reporting and editorials (David Broder of the Washington Post, for example, writes both).

So all the complaints about PBS' editorial integrity etc seem to me off-base. This wasn't presented as a documentary on Rove. Opinion masked as fact is far more insidious and is what we as a democracy should be more concerned with.

But I do agree with those who've observed that these particular remarks by Moyers are not very eloquent or persuasive. The language is abstract and confusing in places, and with ALL of the misdeeds Karl Rove has done, why on earth make your commentary about putting a yardstick on his faith? To me that seems like jumping right into the partisan fray that Moyers so often reminds us is dangerous to our democracy. It feels like name calling instead of smart, thoughtful analysis, which is what I've come to expect from Mr. Moyers.

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