Is NBC soft on Sochi terror threats, political stalling, and the lawyer who could nail Christie

February 4, 2014

1. Is NBC soft on Sochi terror threats? Or are its rivals overdoing it?

I may be imagining it, but while the other network news organizations are giving full, even avid, coverage to the threat of terrorism at the coming Sochi Olympics, NBC — which is televising the games — seems to be playing it down. Or at least not playing it up.

It’s no surprise that NBC has been full of segments featuring the arrivals or practice sessions of members of team America, especially the good-looking ones. That’s a time-honored, if cheesy, effort to use ostensible news shows to boost the games’ ratings.

But it also seems that its coverage of the security threats and accompanying precautions is nothing like what we’re seeing on CBS, ABC, Fox or CNN — where images of barb wire-encased arenas and helmeted Russian security forces abound.

Am I right? Someone on the media or sports beats ought to check that out by doing a full count of the types of stories aired across the networks.

Either way — if NBC’s security coverage is just as strong as its rivals or not — I’d like to see an inside report on how the network’s bosses are instructing their producers and talent to juxtapose their cheery coverage of our athletes with the more grim reports about the challenges of Sochi as the venue for the games.

When it’s over, I’d also like to see someone try to figure out if the ratings were hurt by the negative vibes from Sochi, or if they were helped because of the extra tension surrounding the events.

2. Stalling on environmental reviews:

Last week, the State Department released what most press reports called its “long-awaited” environmental impact review of the proposed Keystone XL gas pipeline. The pipeline’s sponsor, TransCanada Corporation, had submitted its application 21 months ago, on May 4, 2012, after what a company press release called “more than three years of environmental review already conducted” by the company and various regulatory agencies.

Though the State Department’s decision took up 11 volumes, almost two years is still a long time to write a report — especially one based on other reports.

Besides, it’s not even the final word: Now that the State Department  has concluded that the pipeline, according to this account in the New York Times, “would not substantially worsen carbon pollution,” Secretary of State John Kerry still has to consult with eight other federal agencies (from the departments of Commerce and Justice, to Homeland Security and Energy) to decide whether the project is in the broader national interest.

So, who at the State Department was doing what over those 21 months? Was a team burning the midnight oil every day to produce its verdict? Or, as I suspect, has the report been slow-walked because the politics of the pipeline are so dicey for a Democratic administration that has two key constituencies — labor and environmentalists — in opposite camps?

A major news organization should demand calendars, meeting logs and other records and cultivate some inside sources to create what I’ll bet is a story of a determined bureaucratic stall. For the same reason, someone ought to start tracking the pace of Kerry’s consultations with all those other agencies.

3. Inside the Cuomo stall:

With that in mind, here’s an even surer story on the same subject. This one involves a Democratic presidential hopeful rather than a soon-to-be lame duck.

It’s about the debate over whether the hydraulic fracturing process of drilling for natural gas — fracking — should be allowed in New York State.

Fracking fields in neighboring Pennsylvania are thriving. But New York — whose upstate regions are thought to contain the same natural gas riches found in Pennsylvania — has had a moratorium on this kind of drilling since 2008, ostensibly to study the issue.

It’s become comical watching New York Governor Andrew Cuomo explain the deliberative process he and his team are going through whenever a reporter is lucky enough to pin him down on the subject.

After Cuomo inherited the moratorium when he took office in 2010, he assigned his health commissioner, Nirav Shah, to examine the pros and cons. Since then, Cuomo has repeatedly brushed off questions about where he stands on fracking by saying he’s waiting for Shah’s report. The governor has promised that his decision will only be based on science, as determined by Shah, not politics.

As labor and energy interests scream for the “study” to be completed, environmentalists (led by former Cuomo brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) continue to pound the drums against fracking. The pressure on Cuomo and Shah is mounting. Yet whenever Shah is asked when he’s going to give the governor his thumbs up or thumbs down, he looks increasingly like someone taping a hostage video as he explains that he hasn’t yet gathered all the evidence.

A good reporter ought to get his calendar and see just how vigorously Shah is doing his “study” and exactly how much the governor’s office is controlling the pace.

Whether you support fracking or hate it, an inside report on Cuomo’s obvious stall will be a fun read.

4. Checking out the MO of the lawyer who could nail Christie:

A day before former Chris Christie Port Authority appointee David Wildstein accused the New Jersey governor of knowing a lot more about the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge than he has claimed, this prescient article in the Wall Street Journal laid out the essence of the threat Wildstein might pose to Christie.

According to the Journal’s Ted Mann and Heather Haddon, by last week Wildstein had become “something of a wild card in the unfolding investigations into why bridge toll lanes were diverted for that week in September — and who was behind it.”

Why was Wildstein such a singular threat? Because, the Journal reported:

Mr. Wildstein has retained Alan Zegas, a prominent New Jersey criminal defender who sparred with Mr. Christie’s office during the governor’s tenure as a federal prosecutor, and who legal experts say is known for a willingness to cut deals that turn his clients to cooperating witnesses.

The rest of the Journal article provides no detail of any cases where Zegas successfully worked with prosecutors to flip his clients and get them to help in going after higher-ups. The Journal’s Mann and Haddon — or some of their competitors on the Bridgegate beat — should be chasing that down for what could be the most vivid preview of what’s going to happen next.

PHOTO: David Wildstein (R), former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Director of Interstate Capital Projects and an ally of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, looks at documents placed on the table earlier by an officer of the committee, as his lawyer Alan Zegas flips through them, at a hearing for Wildstein to testify in front of state lawmakers, at the New Jersey State Capitol in Trenton, New Jersey, January 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar 






We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Last January I was made aware of a shut down of the defense system on our Southern Border. I find this perplexing but have found no coverage addressing this apparent gaping hole in the US defense of “our homeland.”
I am wondering if there are any professionals or experts in this field who can identify if there is a real danger and/or why this does not seem to be a concern.
Here is a link to the story: ama-to-shut-down-southern-a…

Posted by sapho | Report as abusive

Last January I was made aware of a shut down of the defense system on our Southern Border. I find this perplexing but have found no coverage addressing this apparent gaping hole in the US defense of “our homeland.”
I am wondering if there are any professionals or experts in this field who can identify if there is a real danger and/or why this does not seem to be a concern.
Here is a link to the story: ama-to-shut-down-southern-a…

Posted by sapho | Report as abusive

All U.S. MSM establishment was so hard on Sochi, and Russia, and Putin personally – within the last years.

It’s not NBC is softer. It’s other channels of feeding are mind-blowing and irrationally subjective.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive

Sadly, my bias is to significantly discount any negative American mainstream media reporting on the Sochi Olympics…clearly these “journalists” can’t distance themselves from Russia’s anti-gay culture, and therefore, their reports seem to be gross distortions of the inevitable shortcomings of any games. Reports from non-American media, the athletes and visitors seem to be great if not excellent. These blatantly biased “journalists” ruin their own credibility and the organizations they work for…ultimately reflected in ratings, subscription fees, etc… Sad to watch the mainstream media self destruct, then scratch their heads when people turn to Fox, foreign media, or the blogosphere for news. Is being supportive of gay sex so important to them that they’ll sacrifice the credibility of the Fifth Estate for it?? Sad decadence.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive