The Ombudsman's Mailbag
By Michael Getler
August 30, 2007
Last week's ombudsman's column about the closing segment of a Bill Moyers Journal and Moyers' "closing thoughts" on the departure of top political strategist Karl Rove from the White House drew quite a bit of mail. Unlike last week, however, when the mail I received was only about the original Aug. 17 program and was almost uniformly critical of Moyers, this week's mail ran heavily in favor of Moyers and heavily against the critique of his presentation that I laid out as ombudsman. There were actually a lot more letters than are printed below, but I've picked a still-large representative sample.
Aside from the letters, Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday weighed in again in response to a letter that Moyers sent to him and posted on the Moyers blog. That Moyers' letter was reported in last week's ombudsman's column and Wallace, in response, this past Sunday said, in part, "If you want to find out about someone's religious beliefs, a good first step might be to ask him." That's "reporting 101," said Wallace to Moyers, but "it would have gotten in the way of a tasty story line about a non-believer flim-flamming the Christian right. I guess, Bill, reporting is easier when you don't worry about the facts."
And on the CBSNews.com "Public Eye" Web site, co-editor Matthew Felling wrote about this media "war of words." About Moyers, he wrote that, "If you're going to pen an essay turning entirely on the hypocrisy of an agnostic manipulating the religious population, you'd best be served by basing that on something more specific than vague-sounding 'reports.'"
Here Are the Letters from Viewers
I am trying to understand what Mr. Getler's objections are to Bill Moyers' statements. Mr. Moyers' program is commentary, which he says openly. Unlike many in the media on CNN, the networks and FOX, commentary from Bill Moyers is obvious, not disguised as news. Then, Mr. Moyers did not lie about Karl Rove's beliefs, or lack of them. What is the issue here? Is PBS afraid of losing the pittance of the federal budget that it begs conservatives to get? If those who watch Mr. Moyers "Journal" are so outraged, they should watch the rest of the media. That should lull them back into their comfortable illusion that there is nothing wrong in our government. And, Mr. Getler should stop his agonizing over Mr. Moyers' courage and willingness to tell the truth.
M. Danza, Naperville, IL
Opinions dumping on members of the current administration are widely available in print, on television and radio. In particular, they are routinely available on NPR, the NewsHour and other shows. The challenge is to find other opinions — Bill Moyers has a primetime slot to vent his vitriol when the closest comparison I can think of — John McLaughlin, is relegated to weekends and bumped whenever there is a pledge drive.
Michael Freed, Sylmar, CA
"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 . . . "
"Bill Moyers' Journal" signals no such thing. Look it up, 'journal'. By traditional usage, journalism is distinguished from editorial commentary. Hence the claim that prevailed in decades past that mainstream media was 'objective, unbiased journalism'. Bill Moyers has become vitriolic and extremist in his later years.
M. Weaver, Somerset, PA
I want to thank you for your report on Bill Moyers' latest: The Gift that Keeps on Giving, 8/24/07. I, too, would be on the side of the majority of comments you included from viewers. I can only wince when I listen to Mr. Moyers' editorial commentary. It strikes me as poorly reasoned and patently shallow. I think you really bent over backwards, in the ostensible effort to seem balanced, to give Mr. Moyers any credit at all. You should have just called him out. He is disgraceful and worthy of very little, but certainly not a PBS show, website and personal staff to help him communicate with the public.
I am surprised to see the number of anti-Moyers letters you posted about the Rove comments. Perhaps Mr. Moyers supporters did not feel the need to write in, but although I may be just one voice I fully support Mr. Moyers right to speak his opinions and I also fully support what he had to say. Mr. Rove's religion, or lack thereof, is his business, however anyone that knows the facts of his bio would have to conclude that he has often acted in an unchristian-like manner. And I say that if even 50% of the dirty tricks ascribed to him are true. I say "Go Bill" and continue to speak truth to power.
Michael G. Giuseffi, New York, NY
No Ombudsman Envy
I just wanted to write that I think Mr Moyers is a fine journalist, and likely the only real journalist left in broadcast. I don't envy Mr Getler's job as ombudsman. It's not one that I would want. I didn't read all the letters that were posted, but I have a simple question that I think is fair to ask. Many complain about Mr Moyers' commentary. My question is, how many of these letter writers have written similar commentary to Fox concerning Bill O'Reilly or CNN concerning Lou Dobbs? This question goes to a simple point. Are the writers truly disturbed by the commentary or are they disturbed by Mr. Moyers' journalistic accomplishments? Attacking the messenger seems to be the popular manner of political discourse in America these days.
Jim Gonyea, Cherry Valley, MA
I saw and heard that commentary by Bill Moyers, and of course it was a commentary not intended to be news reporting. I was not aware of the so-called reports of Mr. Rove's comment on his alleged agnosticism, and would agree, after reading Mr. Getler's examination, that Moyers was loose in his characterization. Personally, I did not think that that point, true to whatever degree or not, was the key issue, but rather a sub point that was part of the larger commentary.
In any event, PBS executives are correct in saying that the program clearly is Bill Moyers and his views and his interviews with others. The press in general — including many commentators — was lax in reporting on and analyzing the White House, Congress and the war in the past half-dozen years, and Moyers' strongly worded commentaries are welcome by many. The fawning over Rove by other commentators — not by all, certainly — is hardly dented by Moyers' strong words. (Rove, in fact, was on three Sunday network or cable discussion shows. He more than holds his own all by himself.)
He slipped up, it seems, in not clarifying the agnosticism reference, and really did not need it. But on the whole, his role is clear: He comments on and analyzes events and the people behind them. If the argument is whether PBS needs to present someone with different views (which it has done, if I am not mistaken), fine. Add another voice.
But Moyers is a commentator and a thoughtful analyst who should be taken — and liked or disliked — for what and who he is. Here's an idea: Ask Moyers to ask Rove to be a guest on his program for a free-wheeling discussion. I bet Rove would not do it.
Dan Hortsch, Portland, OR
No amount of "truth in advertising" will solve the Bill Moyers problem. His program is entirely devoted to advancing his agenda, and labeling one section or another as "opinion" only adds to the insult of having tax dollars support third-rate propaganda.
John Fischer, Philadelphia, PA
A Shill for the Republicans
Bill Moyers is a man of honesty and integrity. He honors the highest standards of journalistic ethics. Mr. Getler is a shill for the Republican Party. His sole purpose is to undermine the profession of journalism. He is dishonest and without ethics. So, of course he loves Karl Rove.
Duane French, Olympia, WA
It seems that you and some of your letter writers have forgotten that the use of the word 'journal' means personal record or reflections of the writer. If the viewers are so dumb as not to realize that; then you have an obligation to tell them what a journal is or perhaps you can arrange to have PBS change the name to Bill Moyers NEWS HOUR just for those idiots who wrote. All your column proved is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, no matter how uninformed. Moyers was gracious enough to give five or six good reviews of Rove before he commented. For crying out loud does PBS now have to have eight or a dozen good things to say before one can be critical? Apparently these people stayed for forty-five minutes of the program so he must be doing something right. I had heard the story about Rove before Moyer mentioned it and was pleased that we seemed to be turned in to the same news sources. I would expect an ombudsman to not give such a knee-jerk reaction.
C. Forsythe, Washington, DC
I am sorry to say that you need to step down as ombudsman. You are unwilling (or unable) to fulfill your function. Two months in a row you have received the same response from PBS. They have correctly pointed out the unique position that Bill Moyers occupies. You seem unable to accept that. You need to resign . . .
I expect that the current ombudsman will match his inability to comprehend simple concepts to his inability to do his job. I also believe that his total lack of class will allow him to continue in a position that he obviously is not equipped to perform. If I am wrong there will be a new ombudsman and I hope that they will realize that because a lot of people are offended (including me) there is no obligation to respond to that. If Karl Rove wants to say "I go to church every Sunday so I am a Christian" let him say it. That is not the response from a true believer. That is the response from a politician looking for damage control. Going to church (or not going) does not make you a believer and having the title of ombudsman or saying you are does not make you one.
Mike Knight, Tampa, FL
Moyers doesn't live up to journalistic standards because he's critical of Karl Rove? Rather than using vague and nebulous criticisms of a journalist who (unlike the vast majority of his colleagues in the media) has the courage to tell it like it is, how about pointing to FACTS that Moyers got wrong? Because it's much easier to smear him using baseless attacks. Rove's lessons continue to reverberate throughout our country — in politics, in business, in law, and in journalism. Thank goodness people like Moyers still exist.
Jeffrey Fazio, Alamo, CA
Bill Moyers is simply the most honestly deliberate true voice in America today. Knock him down and you and PBS better get ready for the fight of your lives. There are several million viewers who will step into the ring to defend him with every ounce of their spit and spirit. This is the way revolutions begin. Bring it on . . . Mikey . . . Bring it on!
Richard Bohn, Spokane, WA
Wouldn't it be fair to say that ombudsmen normally receive more onions than orchids in their mailboxes? So it's not really too surprising that one of the few voices to challenge the right-wing noise machine would generate the kind of responses that you posted following Bill Moyers' farewell to Rove editorial.
Let me add another note of gratitude for Bill Moyers' coming out of retirement to give just such a voice at this fragile time in the history of our republic. Good God, you'd think some of your letter writers had never heard of the freedom of speech and were ignorant of the fact that Moyers served in a Democratic administration. But he IS a journalist and has demonstrated for decades his professional ability for fair and balanced reporting. He is also a commentator, and the Rove piece was clearly an editorial. I am an ordained minister and I am so sick of Karl Rove and his Republican cohorts co-opting Christianity for political gain.
William Sherman, Portland, OR
Thanks, But . . .
Thank you for your efforts as the PBS Ombudsman. You serve is an important and necessary role and I enjoy reading your commentary on PBS journalism. I must say, however, that Bill Moyers' thoughtful and unflinching critiques of American government and culture is one of the principal reasons I support PBS. It is Moyers' willingness to speak truth to power that I find so refreshing. Regrettably, PBS is one of the few remaining sources of in-depth reporting, unencumbered by outside economic or political interests.
Brian Becker, Portland, ME
I agree with you and Moyers' other critics that he was off-base with the characterization of Karl Rove as an "agnostic." If Rove says he is a Christian, we must take him at his word. It would, however, have been fair and justified to suggest that Rove's actual conduct in the political arena suggests a broad unfamiliarity with the teachings of Jesus. Ask John McCain.
Peter McGrath, Annapolis, MD
Perhaps the reason that Bill Moyers' commentaries draw such heated response is because his work presumes that his audience is equally familiar with the stories he reports on. I also was familiar with the reports of Rove's agnosticism and the implied cynicism of his having used the religious right for his own purposes, as well as Rove's description of his first meeting with George Bush, which Moyers alludes to in his description of him, a description that seemed to offend many, even though it was entirely factual. All of those "facts" have been documented in numerous reports on his earlier life.
As for the uniqueness of Moyers' program . . . would that it was not so unique, but in the current media environment, where so many broadcasters and reporters simply adopt the GOP talking points, it is inevitable that Moyers' journal will be a stand-alone product. Comparisons will simply have to wait until there are more broadcasters and/or reporters who have his intellectual grit and courage.
Karen Murphy, Lansdowne, PA
As a long-time fan of PBS and Bill Moyers, I write in support of Mr. Moyers' criticism of Karl Rove. Not only does Mr. Moyers have the right to criticize the hypocrisy of Rove, he has a duty to his viewers to do so. Rove's skullduggery in behalf of Bush & Co. has done more to ruin this "Christian Nation" than the assembled multitudes of Islamic jihadists. Let Mr. Moyers speak!
Mike Shay, Cheyenne, WY
Your hit piece on Bill Moyers was disgusting. Unlike you, Moyers has integrity. I used to watch PBS all the time until the republicans put political flacks like you in charge to make sure that PBS had a right wing slant. Moyers is one of the few objective journalists left on PBS. Every one knows that Rove isn't a Christian. Your attempts to discredit Moyers were pathetic and rovian. Incidentally I am an independent & do not support any of the presidential candidates at this time. Do your job instead of acting as a propagandist for the Republican Party.
Manfred Holl, Poughkeepsie, NY
Re-Defining the GOP
I find it hard to believe only one person stood up for Moyers, the other GREEDY OLD PERVERTS (GOP) ARE BLINDED BY THEIR HUGE TAX CUTS, and fear of talking snakes-magic apples and benevolent cloud beings who will burn you forever because they love you . . . gimme a break, listen to smart people like Moyers, Chomsky, Zinn et. al. and grow up!
Ken Huckins, Vancouver, WA
I agree with Bill Moyers about Karl Rove's hypocrisy in claiming he is a Christian. I very much appreciate Bill Moyers and his being one of the few in the MSM to tell the truth. We need to hear more about the Impeachment process and Congressman Kucinich's bill of impeachment to remove Dick Cheney before he does more damage to America and the world.
Linda Leonard, Gaithersburg, MD
If you don't like dealing with Mr. Moyers' program, perhaps you should not be an ombudsman. Mr Moyers is quite popular with a very large number of people, yet you chose to post only the hate mail to make your point. What that point is I would like to hear from you about. This column of yours is incredibly deceitful and, frankly, cowardly, letting a bunch of Drudge/Rush/O'Reilly inspired people who don't watch his program do your knife work. You ought to be ashamed but it doesn't seem like that's in the cards. Or do you really think that all of your writers actually watched the whole show?
Gregg Rosner, El Cajon, CA
I heard the Moyers editorial, and I can't figure out what's so controversial about it. While other commentators were serving up the same warmed over tripe about what the "genius" of Karl Rove, Bill Moyers told the truth. I've never judged a politician by their religious beliefs, but since Karl Rove brought it up, Karl Rove cynically manipulated voters using religious imagery to lead good-natured, well-intentioned Christians to vote against their own interests. We're seeing the fruit of it now. Christians are called to "heal the sick," and wonder why the GOP has not come forward with a universal health care plan for all Americans, and why they continually cut funding for "the least of these." While Rove is good at using Christian themes, he has mislead people into voting for the powerful, not the faithful. Bill Moyers called it right. It's all the other journalists who have let us down.
L. Coleman, Dallas, TX
As an ombudsman, why are you taking calls from Karl Rove and printing his complaints? Do you not understand the definition of your job? If you cannot remove your personal animosity towards Mr. Moyers from your job duties, you should take a different job.
David Moran, Northampton, MA
To make absolutely clear from the beginning, I think the sun rises and sets on Bill Moyers. I have been an avid fan of his work since his first appearance on PBS. I agree 100% with him on the comments he made about Mr Rove. He does not owe Mr. Rove an apology. By your criteria, Mr. Rove himself owes so many apologies he can spend the next ten years doing so and still not be done. He has offended me many, many times with unsupported statements. However, this is the USA where we are allowed an opinion, and being a good American I do not go around whining when someone's is different than mine. Public television by its very nature should serve all the people. I am one of those people and Bill Moyers Journal is my favorite program. If others do not like it, they can turn the channel. That is what I do.
Marty Jones, Elkton, VA
Michael Getler wrote "Now, let's set aside the question, for a moment, of whether editorials (again, that's my word for it) belong on PBS." Setting aside the fact that Bill Moyers Journal (as opposed to a hypothetical "Bill Moyers News Hour") seems rather akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Moyers Journal is about the views of Bill Moyers, after all, editorializing is (obviously) expected.
As for your difficulties in performing your job, I have no doubt that, for example, the Fox news staff gets tons of feedback from folks who take extreme offense to Bill O'Reilly. The unfortunate truth is that O'Reilly is an "opinion journalist" and has every right (did I mention "unfortunate"?) to say anything on his show that doesn't qualify as illegal. As a long-time PBS viewer, I find Bill Moyers a refreshing, rational voice. If I don't like it, I can always turn to Fox news, CNN or any of a variety of networks that provide a more conservative-leaning bias. Perhaps you should hire a "Bill Moyers Ombudsman," if you're having so much difficulty keeping up.
Moreover, since PBS has been extensively catering to Republican interests these past few years, I find the argument for having Bill Moyers continue to speak his mind more compelling than ever. As a PBS supporter, I wholeheartedly hope to see him continue to appear on PBS for the conceivable future.
John McClain, Honolulu, HI
Greedy NeoCon Bull
Karl Rove's dirty politics have been the single most destructive political force in America since he fell in love with George W. Bush. How come the right wing whiners get to spew all manner of lies, slander and demonizing of each and every human being who disagrees with their greedy neocon bull? Faux News, Rush, Hannity, Coulter and the list of lying bloviators goes on. Why aren't they held accountable for their hate mongering, slandering, and demonizing? And Karl Rove? Please. From his early college days up until the present he has engaged in the meanest, most despicable political assassinations and chicanery in U.S. history. He can dish it out, but he can't take it. Bill Moyers' criticisms of Turdblossom were spot on. The truth hurts, doesn't it Karl.
Resa Harrison, Aubrey, TX
PBS does not need two ombudsmen. PBS does need one ombudsman capable of treating political-fringe astroturf with the respect it deserves. These folks want their views to dominate for a generation. The single word for that political condition is dictatorship. Please explain why efforts to further their tyrannical goal should be treated with deference. Michael Getler needs to look deep into his mirror and ask if he's in over his head and is actively injuring his journalistic legacy.
D. Fisher, New York, NY
Bill Moyers is a national treasure, one of the few genuine journalists still working in this dumbed-down media culture of ours. Unlike Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, O'Reilly, Matthews and others of their execrable ilk, Moyers actually speaks truth to power — about not only this criminal president, but the minions and enablers and sycophants (such as yourself) who continue to prop him up. It was laughable reading all of the woe-is-us letters from a portion of that deluded reich-wing minority who still cling to the fiction that this incurious coke-snorting frat boy is actually a statesman. Have you noticed how disastrous his Supreme Court-appointed "presidency" has been? I, for one — and I know there are millions who agree with me — would love to see more cogent, informed, trenchant opinions from Mr. Moyers. If he happens to tar and feather Rove and Rice and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Commander Bunnypants himself, well, so be it.
D. Bowman, Pasadena, CA
Since you've apparently been getting a lot of negative feedback concerning the Bill Moyers' commentary, please know that I'm a great supporter of PBS and consider Bill Moyers' Journal (and its predecessor, "NOW") to be some of the best journalism and thoughtful discussion on television today. I know PBS is under great pressure to be "fair and balanced" (not the FOX News-type of fair and balanced.) But most of the media today IS the FOX News type of "journalism," so I'm grateful that PBS is willing to air the perspective of Moyers.
Tom Walters, Dan Diego, CA
I appreciate your efforts as referee. But I've found Bill Moyers' broadcasts to be among the most provocative and informative on television — just what I hope for from PBS.
John McManus, Sunnyvale, CA
I have long been devoted member of Mr. Moyers' audience. I was most disturbed when PBS forced him off NOW. And I was gratified by his return to PBS with Journal. I believe that Mr. Moyers can generally be counted on to be more than a mere reiterator of what has been reported or misreported in the mainstream media. We who value his opinion are grateful for its expression. This president has represented himself as less than intellectually curious, and all attempts to hide this truth to the contrary, he was indeed a draft dodger as was his vice president. His career achievements, prior to running for the governorship of Texas were the lackluster efforts of a very privileged son of a powerful man. One has merely to look at Rove's performance, his efforts to smear honest candidates, suppress honest voters from exercising their constitutional rights, and his campaign to politicize every regulatory branch of our government to realize that such a man could only at best be agnostic. For all his church attendance, tithing, and public piety he has not mastered the one simple rule of our lord. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Mr. Rove's actions speak for themselves. You are castigating Bill Moyers for commenting on the obvious.
Anne Winn, Kimberton, PA
How Dare I
Hopefully, this will serve to show that there are just as many if not more people who feel that Moyers was correct and perfectly within bounds in making his comments on Rove. In fact, there's an element of "how dare you" in my mind. As our politics has become over-run by pundits who blather w/o much accountability (and apparently accuracy, judging from the kinds of comments one hears in the media), to find Moyers MAY have misstepped into this is FAR less discouraging than the fact that when other stations make more egregious misstatements, it's barely mentioned in the media let alone corrected by the source or subjected to a ombudsman. In this way Moyers provides ESSENTIAL balance to the right-wing echo chamber.
C. Parker, Cleveland, OH
Can you just spare me the partisan attack on Bill Moyers? He actually presents the truth with his opinions. Rove has long been a master-manipulator and one can't expect him or his legions of lackeys to quietly submit to criticism from Moyers. Thus we have the barrage of comments from Rove-supporters and the all-too-typical PBS hand-wringing as a result. Were that the conservative bias of the news to be held up to this sort of scrutiny. (Yeah, sorry right-wingers who like to whine otherwise but the MSM is conservative — or should I say terrified of upsetting the powers-that-be in this country.) Rove made lying a career and you can expect him to squeal like a stuck pig when called out. I guess when he boldly lies about things like the elections last fall or the fact that Democrats hate America it's just that genius Karl being Karl but when someone actually questions his rhetoric they are showing bias.
Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Portland, OR
I wish to be counted among those who found no fault with Bill Moyers' editorial about Karl Rove. You yourself have set out a strong case for why his comments should be taken in the context of his "Journal." In addition, his criticisms of Bush & Cheney should be appreciated in the historical context in which we are living: the Bush/Cheney administration is, without doubt, the most lawless, anti-Constitutional, criminal administration in my lifetime, and I was born in 1948 and lived through Lyndon Johnson's, Richard Nixon's, and Ronald Reagan's international law-breaking, state-terrorist administrations. Extreme times require the public expression of strong critical opinions.
Edward Ciaccio, Douglaston, NY
To criticize someone for their opinion is fatuous. I agree with your network that Bill Moyers Journal explicitly implies that one will experience the viewpoints of Moyer and his guests. All journalists clearly have an opinion, but when reporting are not allowed to give it. That is not the nature of Moyers' show. To listen to an educated, articulate, and informed man's point of view on the world's events is refreshing to see on any network, and I'm glad PBS provides Moyers' show, which really does show perspectives viewers don't see anywhere else.
Do know that Moyers is not the only journalist to give his opinions. Currently MSNBC's Keith Olbermann ends some of his shows with a special comment, his own viewpoints and strong opinions, usually critical of the Bush administration. Bill O'Reilly of the Fox News network clearly shares his opinions as well. The historical Edward R. Murrow was known for giving his editorials on CBS. There are many different viewpoints in our world, and it is would be unfortunate if one tried to censor those points of view. I do not understand why you as the ombudsman find it necessary to criticize and critique Moyers' commentaries. They stand for themselves. And while I'm sure viewers may agree and disagree with what he has to say, perhaps it's best just to air their viewpoints as well, instead of choosing sides. He is neither hateful nor stereotypical, but impassioned.
Matthew Schneck, Pleasanton, CA
So Bill Moyers actually comes out and says something. God forbid anybody on PBS — Perpetually Broadcasting Safely — should say anything controversial. He looks at Rove's history, and, knowing something about Texas and Texas politics himself, calls a spade a spade. He points out what we all know, that Rove and Bush have simply exploited religion for political purposes and exploited the fears and prejudices of the American pubic. And he points out something else we all know — most people in the media are afraid to say what they really think about Rove. They're afraid that if they do, he won't return their phone calls and tell them more lies that they can then repeat in their columns and TV commentaries. The problem isn't that Moyers is too opinionated. It's that everybody else on PBS is stark terrified of any kind of controversy. 99 percent of the time, PBS is simply dead boring. But not boring enough for the ombudsman, apparently. Maybe the ombudsman should take the advice of Harry Truman: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Robert Laurence, San Diego, CA
Actually, They Were
Mr. Getler, surely all the letters you received weren't anti-Moyers and pro Rove. For me personally, everything that Moyers said rang true. Why should Rove be entitled to special treatment? He got the sweet kisses and compliments from the corporate broadcast media. I have read elsewhere and for quite some time that Rove is an agnostic. And, as far as I am concerned, Mr. Moyers is spot on. Rove needed a skewering, since apparently he is not going to pay for his misdeeds, and his part in the undermining of the rule of law.
Rove was a truly "dirty" politician, undermining electoral integrity, politicizing the justice department, and participating in the effort to undermine an Iraq critic by bandying the name of his wife around, who just happened to be a CIA operative. For that, he should truly pay and he has not, and probably won't. I find it laughable that people feel that Moyers has slandered Rove. He simply told the truth.
D. W., Macon, GA
Chris Wallace made a great rebuttal to Moyers' letter to him on his Sunday night signoff (8/26) by challenging Moyers to actually ask the source (Rove) about his religion as he (Wallace) did, calling it journalism 101. Obviously Moyers has no journalistic integrity left and should be put out to pasture somewhere in Texas where he came from. Since slinging crap is one of his specialties, he should fit right in. Someone at PBS should accountable for these biased on-air attacks and rein him in. There is no more objectivity left, no balance, and no one there seems to care, because you call it journalism.
Robert Cerritelli, Port Charlotte, FL
Bill Moyers is one of the very few journalists that have not been intimidated by the freak-show — that loose collective of blogs and talking heads that steer the politics of attack and division on both the left and the right. Moyers' frustration was evident in his comments about Rove, whom he believes is a willing participant — even an orchestrator — of that style of political rhetoric on the right. Moyers is politically a centrist, even though the radical right chooses to paint him otherwise. To think of him as a liberal is to expose just how tilted the journalistic field has become.
Brian Victory, Stroudsburg, PA
How incredibly arrogant and intellectually dishonest for Bill Moyers to publicly question another man's faith, without ever knowing that man, or speaking with him. A public flogging over someone's religion is an aspect of Jihad PBS should not support, and cries for penalty.
Douglas Reiter, Lake Oswego, OR
The failure of Mr. Moyers to even appear to be interested in the facts of a story once and for all tarnishes his reputation and the reputation of PBS. If PBS would wonder why it gets less support from particular religious or political groups, perhaps it might be related to the fossilized Moyers trying to carry on the fight that he started decades ago.
Nathan Krahn, Eagan, MN
Regarding Bill Moyers: I am convinced that PBS is proud of the fact that it has found its own Rosie O'Donnell. Yes, Bill Moyers will increase your numbers for a while. Yes, you now have other venues like Fox showing clips of Moyers on their shows. But isn't that just the Britney Spears approach to bigger ratings? Each day you have to show just a little more flesh or get a little dirtier. Bill Moyers purposely trashed Karl Rove. He did it out of hate and he did it for ratings. PBS is supporting it. To deny this is to think you can fool the public you were supposed to be serving. Shame on you.
David Bixby, Yakima, WA
Mr. Moyers is correct in describing Mr. Rove in the way that he did. What you called an editorial was in fact commentary based upon the 'actions' of Mr. Rove and not what Mr. Rove says. Objective facts show that Mr. Rove and his ex-boss George Bush Jr. have been shown on many occasions to be bald-faced liars and if anything Mr. Moyers showed Mr. Rove and Mr. Rove's ex-boss George Bush Jr. too much respect. This again based on the actual documented 'actions' of Mr. Rove and Mr. George Bush Jr. and not what either of them 'say' nor on opinions of the two men. Mr. Moyers is simply one of the few journalists in the right-wing biased mainstream media who are willing to speak some truth to power.
C. Currey, Portland, OR
Just wanted to support Bill Moyers. His program is by far the best on TV. It seems the right has launched a campaign to discredit Mr. Moyers and remove him from PBS. There aren't many broadcasters telling the real story about the administration and Mr. Moyers should be allowed to express his opinion without intimidation.
D. Morrison, Adrian, MI
Describing the President
I'm a bit confused with all this. To me, Moyers' description of President Bush as an "intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket," seemed almost wholly accurate, in alignment with all the facts I know about the President. We have been bombarded with news concerning the President's aversion to intellectual pursuit. It seems to me, the President is proud of this trait. I think Mr. Bush regards himself more as a "decider" than a thinker. From the facts, again, "draft-averse" is a mild way to summarize the Presidents willful avoidance of the military draft during the Vietnam era. There's no question about these historical facts. Even more so, the President's acknowledged partying and hell-raising in his college days is common knowledge, again justifying the phrase, "naughty playboy," which would probably bring a smirk to the President, were someone to suggest it — with a knowing smile. The description, "with chewing tobacco in his back pocket," is the only part of this description I can't verify. Perhaps it's true, and even if it's not, I think the phrase is immensely poetic and conveys a reality that, I think again, the President himself would welcome, in keeping with his swash buckling image he has often portrayed to the public. In short, it's odd to me that when a man describes the President in truthful ways, what legitimacy is there in objecting, without at least an attempt to disprove the description? Apparently, in the eyes of many, truthful descriptions of our President are extremely offensive. Why is this so?
T. Tonon, Princeton Junction, NJ
I'm not surprised that the right-wingers are writing in with all the approved talking points about Bill Moyers' latest commentary concerning Karl Rove. Although Moyers made himself way too easy a target with that particular commentary, he is a well-educated, thoughtful person, and he is the best interviewer on the air because he listens to his guests and responds to them, instead of merely waiting for them to finish so he can make his next point. He has guests from all positions on the political spectrum and is respectful to all of them, whether or not he agrees with them. I, for one, don't care what his personal political views may be. When he does express them, sometimes I agree, and sometimes I don't. But I always watch his program because it is about the only civilized interview program on the air. I detest shouting matches, which is all the other stations have to offer. When NOW was slashed to a half hour and Moyers departed PBS, I stopped contributing to my local station in protest (even though I still watch NOW and like David Brancaccio very much). PBS seemed for a while to be getting as right-wing as the N[ice] P[olite] R[epublicans] on the radio. My husband and I have returned to the public television fold, but we will leave for good if Moyers goes off the air again. His program is an oasis in an ocean of right-wing misrepresentation and fantasy. We need him.
BJ R, Nashville, TN
You have a difficult job and I think you do it well. I have not followed your previous reviews of Bill Moyers Journal, so I can only react to this one, and not entirely positively. It seems that you are personalizing this review just as much as you claim Bill is personalizing the comments at the end of his Journal. Setting up the piece with quite a long, theater- or book-critic-style "poor me, I have to watch these things" about BMJ's lightning-rod status. Was that necessary?
Moyers' clearly identified personal thoughts at the end of his program are a solitary survivor in broadcast television, in my experience. Once we had William Buckley doing it from another point of view on PBS, when the country and the broadcast media were definitely more liberal. Once commercial news anchors like Chet Huntley would make strong personal statements from time to time, and short inserts by the likes of David Sevareid would sometimes be as frank as print columnists. There was little complaint because it was still believed then that your personal ethics were part of your job in TV journalism.
The issue here was not simply Karl Rove's religious views but his long role in the politicization of religion. There should have been a lot of commentary, very strong, from all sides, about that, but that political shift has been set up for decades, and Bill Moyers is the only one left on broadcast TV with the depth of experience to see it and say what it means. When you complain that the reviews Moyers showed were not all from journalists, you miss the point that the journalists didn't question but simply showed the raves from Karl's colleagues. That's more of an endorsement than saying something nice yourself: you just give your channel away to the powerful.
Karl appears to be at the center of an illegal, unethical and could we say un-American "caging" of minority voters which congressional committees are slogging through. That is very likely why he is leaving right now, but where are you hearing about that this side of the BBC? He is clearly responsible for outing Valerie Plame, but his boss failed to honor his pledge to fire anyone who had done that.
Karl, Karl, Karl. This man has been a genius of political degeneracy — and the broadcast media excepting Bill Moyers are not calling him on it. In the total context of public broadcasting's public support I would not find your wrist-slap completely out of place. You aren't supposed to just do apologias for PBS. But I feel that you crossed a line into your own ad hominem against Bill Moyers, and I think that's quite wrong. The fact that you get only the negatives on Moyers, by the way, requires no explanation at all. You're the complaints department.
John Beck, Chilmark, MA
I agree with the PBS programming officials in that Mr. Moyers' show is just that, his show and subject to his views. Tearing apart his words & stating how he should have spoken in order to make his point is just systematics and petty. I don't agree word for word with Mr. Moyers, but I do enjoy his show greatly on a weekly basis. It's fresh, intelligent, interesting, and gives me a point of view I can't find anywhere else.
Tina Crawford, San Diego, CA