Marc Morano | Senior Staff Writer | Friday, October 1, 2004
"I think conservatives ought to quit trying to intimidate the rest of the media," said Eleanor Clift, a contributing editor to Newsweek, in an interview with CNSNews.com following Thursday night's presidential debate at the University of Miami.
The liberal Clift was responding to a question about whether CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer should retain his role as the moderator in the Oct. 13 presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Democratic nominee John F. Kerry.
"Bob Schieffer is one of the most respected newsman on all sides of the political debate," she said, defending CBS's role in the third and final debate.
A conservative website, BoycottCBS.com, has called for Schieffer's removal from the debate that will take place in Phoenix and suggested NBC's Tim Russert or former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw as possible replacements.
The group notes that the debate commission selected Schieffer before Dan Rather went on "60 Minutes Wednesday" with phony memos discrediting George W. Bush's National Guard service. (Despite questions about the memos' authenticity, Rather says he believes their content is accurate.)
According to BoycottCBS.com, Schieffer has made "troubling statements" about the memo controversy that raise questions about his "appropriateness" as a moderator for the Oct. 13 debate.
"Far from serving as a 'whistleblower' or someone completely separate from the scandal surrounding his friends and colleagues, Schieffer was parroting the CBS News party line a full week after the documents had been exposed as fraudulent," said Mike Paranzino of BoycottCBS.com.
But prominent media figures and politicians attending Thursday's debate defended CBS News.
CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield called Schieffer "about as straight a shooter I know...He is just the gold standard when it comes to a straight up honest reporter," Greenfield told CNSNews.com.
Greenfield acknowledged that CBS News "took a hit" on the Bush National Guard documents, but he insisted that all major media outlets have had similar incidents. "We have all been through this. It's embarrassing. They have to figure out how it happened," Greenfield said.
Anne Lewis, the national chair of the Women's Vote Center, an arm of the Democratic National Committee, doesn't believe CBS has suffered any damage to its credibility.
"CBS stepped up and said, 'Well, we discovered that the documents weren't so.' They said so. I wish that more people in public life would set that example if they come to a wrong conclusion, perhaps," Lewis told CNSNews.com.
"I think that is rather setting an example, and I would like to see other institutions and individuals in high office live up to that," she added.
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe also defended CBS News. "I don't think CBS has comprised anything," McAuliffe said.
Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie declined to comment on CBS News except to say that President Bush will not request that Schieffer be replaced as the moderator of the final debate.
"We have agreed to the debates as the [presidential debate] commission put them forward -- and the two campaigns negotiated and agreed to -- and we will abide by the agreement," Gillespie said.
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