President Obama tries to ease environmentalist fears

By: CNN's Cody Combs
Washington (CNN)- President Obama surprised a group of young environmental organizers Friday during what they thought was just a meeting with White House staffers about energy policy.

"We went in thinking we were meeting with senior staff and there walked in Barack Obama," said Courtney Hight, co-director of Energy Action Coalition, "We got to share with him what we care about."
Hight's group was taking part in Power Shift 2011, a conference of young environmental organizers gathering in Washington to focus on climate and energy policy.

The White House meeting highlighted a major rift President Obama and environmental groups: nuclear energy.

"We made it clear we don't support nuclear," Hight said. "The president said it's something he's going to continue to support, so we have a difference of opinion on that."

Hight said that while she feels the president has done good work on energy efficiency and renewables, she wants to keep the pressure to transition to what she called true clean renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Although there were differences in the details of energy policy, another organizer at the meeting saw the president return to his roots.

"We saw the community organizer side of President Obama come out in this meeting," said Maura Cowley, co-director of Power Shift. "I think we're hoping it's the beginning of a dialogue."

Later in the day at the actual Power Shift conference, former Vice President Al Gore brought the crowd to their feet with a boisterous speech about the environment and climate change.

"Our leaders have not done enough," said Gore. "All we need is the political will, and political will is a renewable resource."

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Dee Dee Myers talks about helping Aaron Sorkin with the 'West Wing'

CNN's Cody Combs Feb 8, 2011
Washington (CNN) - As the first female White House press secretary, Dee Dee Myers will go into the history books, but she'll also be remembered for inspiring the creation of a female character on the popular TV series, "The West Wing." That character's name was C.J. Cregg, a press secretary for the fictional Bartlett administration during the series' run from 1999 to 2006.

Myers, Bill Clinton's press secretary for his first two years in office, talked about the show and the character of C.J. – portrayed by Allison Janney - on Monday during a roundtable discussion with previous White House press secretaries at George Washington University.

It was the legendary screenwriter Aaron Sorkin who approached Myers about a new show he was planning.
"I was in L.A., and he asked if I would read his pilot and consult on his show. I said sure," Myers said, "It was reported somewhere, and all my friends started calling me saying 'Come on, Hollywood never gets Washington right.'"

After the first episode, Myers' friends maintained their skepticism by critiquing everything from the dialogue to the fast walking pace of the characters in the fictional White House. "Why are people walking so fast in the hallways?" Myers recalled them asking. "I think we did have people (in the show) walking fast in the halls," she added. "Not because it actually happens in the West Wing. It was a way to depict the constant motion of events."

Once the show became a critical success and ratings winner, those very skeptics were soon calling Myers and suggesting plot lines. Myers said that while the realistic and relatable main characters were a big reason for the show's success, the real White House is far more complicated.

"One thing I think is least realistic is that there were five people that made decisions in the fictional 'West Wing,'" said Myers. "In real life, there are about five million people that weigh in."

Myers was also joined by former White House press secretaries Mike McCurry, her successor in the Clinton White House, and Ari Fleischer and Dana Perino from George W. Bush's administration at Monday's
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Former ABC reporter defends Al-Jazeera comments
Washington (CNN) -- Former ABC News journalist Sam Donaldson stood by recent compliments he gave to Al-Jazeera regarding its coverage of the Egypt protests during an interview Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources" with Howard Kurtz.

His compliments to the Qatar-based TV news network came under harsh criticism from conservative firebrand host Bill O'Reilly of Fox News.

"Any fair-minded person who follows Al-Jazeera knows it's anti-American and anti-Semitic," O'Reilly said. "Why are they cheerleading Al-Jazeera?"

Donaldson reinforced his kind words for Al-Jazeera while also acknowledging O'Reilly's critique of his comments.

"Al-Jazeera, I thought, performed a service in fanning the flames in Egypt," he said. "It says things about us we don't like, and some things that are not true. And I certainly don't subscribe to that, except a news service of any kind has got to be able to say whatever it wants, otherwise it's a contradiction in terms."

Also taking a critical but optimistic view toward Al-Jazeera during the interview was John Fund, conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Fund emphasized a methodical transition to better reporting at Al-Jazeera over the years.

"I think they've cleaned up their act," said Fund. "Frankly, the Arab street is never going to trust Western media. Al-Jazeera is about as good as we're going to get in terms of objective analysis for the Arab world, and I'm glad that it's there."

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Carter: Tea Party forebears elected me

CNN’s Cody Combs
Oct. 31, 2010

(CNN) – Former President Jimmy Carter dismissed any notion that he has ill feelings toward the Tea Party movement.

"I don't have any criticism of the members of the Tea Party," Carter told CNN's Howard Kurtz in an interview on "Reliable Sources." "A lot of those same people, 30 years ago, were the ones who put me in the White House."
The former president did however, express concern about the movement's funding, while at the same time taking a shot at the recent Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on campaign spending and free speech.

"This Tea Party doesn't realize that they are financed by oligarchs, in the oil industry primarily - the Koch brothers and others," Carter said. "They've been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the political system... after what I call a stupid Supreme Court ruling last January."

As for election predictions, Carter wrote off the Democratic Party's chances of maintaining their majority in the House of Representatives.

"That's almost a foregone conclusion," Carter said. "I hope they (the Republican Party) won't get the Senate as well, I don't think they will."

When asked about President Obama's relationship with the press, Carter said cable news channels have changed the presidential news landscape, and did not mince words about Fox News.

"The discussion groups... on Fox News, are totally biased," said Carter. "They implant completely false images not only of facts about legislation that's passed or doesn't get passed, but also about the character of President Obama."

Carter has recently made appearances across the country to promote his new book, "White House Diary."

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Why Woodward is a registered Democrat...and doesn’t Tweet
CNN's Cody Combs
Oct. 10, 2010

(CNN) - Author and journalist Bob Woodward says he wants to teach his daughter about the electoral process, and that’s why he is a registered Democrat in the District of Columbia.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz of Reliable Sources inquired about Woodward’s political registration because of recent comments Woodward made on C-SPAN where he said he was a registered Democrat, but acted as a political independent.

“I take my daughter to vote,” Woodward told Kurtz on Reliable Sources. “She decides, she’s empowered, and that’s the main reason.”

Woodward pointed to Washington’s heavily Democratic voter population when prompted about why he didn’t register as an independent.

“It’s meaningless because the Democratic party, if you win the primary, that’s the end,” Woodward said. “So you would disenfranchise my young 14-year-old daughter,” he said jokingly.

Woodward also addressed his absence on Twitter, which many journalists now frequently use.

“I’m not sure what it is,” he said. “Part of my problem with the media…is the impatience of speed which drives everything. As you know, I do long form. On Twitter, you can do 140 characters.”

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The 'Gipper' Ticker: Giuliani wins

By Cody Combs, CNN
Friday, May 04, 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani takes the prize for the most references to former President Ronald Reagan at last night's GOP presidential debate. Texas Rep. Ron Paul was the only candidate not to invoke the former president's name.

In all, Reagan's name was mentioned 19 times in the 90 minute debate. Conversly, the current president's name was only uttered six times.

"Reagan"    "Bush"
Giuliani            5         1
McCain              3         0
Thompson            3         1
Gilmore             2         2
Romney              2         2
Brownback           1         0
Huckabee            1         0
Hunter              1         0
Tancredo            1         0
Paul                0         0

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Jimmy Carter explains 'rabbit attack'

By Cody Combs, CNN
Nov. 21, 2010

(CNN) - At 537 pages, former President Jimmy Carter's latest book, "White House Diary," is full of behind-the-scenes accounts of his time in the Oval Office - but one incident goes without mention, and it involves a rabbit.

In April of 1979, Carter used a paddle on his boat in Plains, Georgia to splash a rabbit and prevent it from swimming too close to his boat. Thirty-one years later, CNN's Howard Kurtz asked him about the ordeal.
"I was fishing one afternoon…," Carter said on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "…and a rabbit was being chased by hounds... he jumped in the water and swam toward my boat. When he got almost there, I splashed some water with a paddle."

Carter says that the animal turned in the opposite direction and crawled out of the pond. A photographer then snapped a picture, and the legend of the "killer rabbit" was born.

According to Carter, his Press Secretary, Jody Powell shared the rabbit story at a bar with members of the press.

"I don't know what Jody told," Carter explained to Kurtz. "It was in a bar after a lot of drinking had gone on."

Powell passed away in 2009, but in his book "The Other Side of the Story" said he accidentally told Associated Press reporter Brooks Jackson about the rabbit incident over a cup of tea, not in a bar.

"It was a nightmare," wrote Powell. "The Washington Post… headed the piece, 'President Attacked by Rabbit' and ran it on the front page."

Powell lamented that the press kept pushing the story for more than a week.

However, Carter maintained his humor about the whole ordeal decades later.

"It became a very humorous and lasting story," he said. "And we're still talking about it."

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Aaron Sorkin on Facebook: 'Not my cup of tea'
By Cody Combs, CNN
Oct. 17, 2010

(CNN) -- If you want to "friend" screenwriter Aaron Sorkin after seeing his movie about Facebook, you'll have to have to wait indefinitely. In an interview with CNN's Howard Kurtz of "Reliable Sources," Sorkin admitted that despite the movie taking up two years of his life, he remains indifferent to the social networking website.

"It's not my cup of tea but there are a lot of things that aren't my cup of tea that the world likes," said Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay for "The Social Network." "I don't like soccer, but it's the most popular sport in the world."

Sorkin also addressed mounting criticism that the movie portrays women as sex objects or groupies.

"I was writing about a very specific group of people who are misogynistic, who do see women as... enemies," Sorkin said. "They're angry because the cheerleader still wants to date the quarterback, not them, the cheerleader doesn't understand they're the ones that are running the universe right now."

As for the movie's less than flattering portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Sorkin said that he found great respect and admiration for Zuckerberg through the process of writing.

"I find the parts of him that are like me," Sorkin said. "What I found is that I'm shy and awkward in social situations, like a lot of people I felt like I'm on the outside looking in...that I haven't been invited to the cool kids table."

Zuckerberg addressed the movie's portrayal of him during a recent appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"It's a movie, it's fun, a lot of it is fiction," he said. "They're trying to build a good story... this is my life, I know it's not that dramatic."

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Twitter co-founder goes unrecognized
By Cody Combs, CNN
Dec. 13, 2010

Washington (CNN) -- He has approximately 1.6 million Twitter followers, but does that make Twitter co-founder Biz Stone a recognizable celebrity wherever he goes? Stone laughed when answering that question during an interview Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources" with Howard Kurtz.

"No, no, I don't think internet dorks are necessarily the kind of people that get stopped in restaurants," he said. "They get me in little 140-character bursts of information."

The Twitter co-founder also brushed off any notion that Twitter was stealing thunder from the popular social-networking site, Facebook.

"It doesn't feel like that for us, at least internally," said Stone. "I feel like we're adding to, you know, this sort of brave new world of information where we get what we need when we need it."

Earlier this year, Stone made a trip to Capitol Hill, meeting with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, as well as staffers, to talk about Twitter.
Most recently the company hired a "manager of government and political partnerships." But Stone explained that in his view, Twitter was not getting into the Washington lobbying game.

"We're just kind of saying, 'We're here to answer your questions and we're not ignoring you,'" he said.

Last week, Twitter made news by deleting an account, "Operation Payback," which was supportive of WikiLeaks, the group responsible for leaking secret international cables.
Stone defended the move by saying that while Twitter was on the side of freedom of speech, Operation Payback had violated Twitter's terms of service. Stone didn't elaborate on which terms of service were violated.

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New CBS 'Early Show' co-anchor embraces challenge
By Cody Combs, CNN
Dec. 5, 2010

(CNN) -- The newly named co-host of CBS' "The Early Show" acknowledged the work ahead of her in an interview Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources" with Howard Kurtz.
"I look at it as a challenge, but I look at any new job as a challenge," Erica Hill said. "I know there's been a lot written about the challenges that this sort of morning show has had."

While seen by millions of viewers, "The Early Show" has consistently lagged in third place behind NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America."

When asked about the show's ratings struggle, Hill brushed off the stigma. "What happened in the past happened in the past," she said. "I'm really focused on the future. ... I'm putting everything I have into this."

Hill will be joined by Chris Wragge, with whom she co-anchored the Saturday edition of "The Early Show" since 2008.

While current "Early Show" co-anchors Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez will remain at the helm of the program until early January and maintain roles at CBS News, Hill talked about the uncomfortable process of transitioning.

"It is awkward," she said. "They're people... that I adore and that I respect, not just as colleagues, not just as journalists, but also as friends."

Harry Smith, who has anchored morning shows at CBS for 17 years, said the first of many goodbyes on CBS Radio last week.

"Being on a network television show is a pretty cool job. You get to cover the news of the day, meet movie stars and cook with great chefs," Smith said. "I'm leaving my job on 'The Early Show' soon, but I will always be grateful for having one of the best seats in the house."

Prior to working at CBS, Hill appeared on CNN's nightly newsmagazine "AC360," where she joined Anderson Cooper for news bulletins and friendly banter.

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Journalists talk about Olbermann suspension
By Cody Combs, CNN
Nov. 8, 2010

(CNN) -- The controversy surrounding MSNBC's suspension of prime-time host Keith Olbermann had journalists chiming in with opinions Sunday as the issue took center stage on CNN's "Reliable Sources."

MSNBC announced Friday that Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely for violating the ethics policies of his employer earlier this year when he donated to three Democrats seeking federal office.

"I think he should be suspended, but...first of all, the policy may or may not be smart," Matt Lewis, political analyst for, told "Reliable Sources" host Howard Kurtz. "It may be that if you host an evening show, and you obviously have a point of view, as Olbermann does, that you should be exempted from the policy, that's something to look at."

Joan Walsh, editor in chief of, took more a big-picture look at the Olbermann controversy and suggested it may be a case of media overkill.

"This story is part of the reason why people don't like the media," said Walsh. "We're sitting here naval-gazing about this very wealthy man, respected by many of us, reviled by others, who is going to be fine whatever happens, while people across the country are getting thrown out of their jobs."

Olbermann's show, "Countdown," has been a staple of MSNBC's prime-time programming, and It has some of the highest ratings on the network.

New York Times media writer David Carr talked about the resiliency of both Olbermann and his show in the long run.

"I don’t think anybody who watches him would be stunned that he put his money where his mouth is," said Carr. "In terms of, did he injure his relationship with his viewers? I really doubt it."

Host Kurtz took time at the end of "Reliable Sources" to talk about the man responsible for Olbermann's suspension.

"MSNBC President Phil Griffin stepped up to the plate by suspending his star, rather than letting him off with a slap on the wrist," said Kurtz.

In what was apparently his first public comment since his suspension was announced, Olbermann wrote Sunday on his Twitter page: "Greetings From Exile! A quick, overwhelmed, stunned THANK YOU for support that feels like a global hug & obviously left me tweetless XO."

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3 letters, 48 hours, 1 logo

By Cody Combs, CNN
June 1, 2010

CNN’s Logo has been seen and recognized all over the world, but like the rest of the network, it has roots in Atlanta.

“In the eleventh hour, it occurred to someone that they needed a logo,” said Toni Dwyer of Communication Trends, Inc, and the ad firm that worked with CNN before it got off the ground in 1980. “We had about 24 or 48 hours to turn around and present a logo.”

The logo was designed by the late Anthony Guy Bost, who had also been a professor at the University of Auburn. Dwyer distinctly remembered presenting the designs to the powers that be. “There were several forms of the logo they weren’t exactly wild about, there was one we thought would play the best, we tried to keep it simple,” said Dwyer. “It was designed with money in mind, so we tried to keep it one color.”

Terry McGuirk, currently the chairman of the Atlanta Braves, was first to see the logo. “They gave us 4 or 5 different looks, and one sort of stood out, a cable running through the letters C-N-N,” said McGuirk, who in 1980 was vice president of Turner Broadcasting and very involved in the startup of CNN.

CNN founder Ted Turner liked the logo, and the choice was made. It finally came time to talk money. “For the price of the logo, we wanted something like $5,000,” said Dwyer of Communication Trends. “They [CNN] all threw a fit, and the final bill for the logo was $2,800 or $2,400.”

The logo was not without its critics. Canadian National Railway believed it closely resembled its logo and raised some concern about the matter. “I didn’t know anything about railroads or the Canadian National Railroad,” Dwyer said. “When I looked at the logos, it wasn’t even close.”

“Part of the reason the CNN logo became such a strong symbol might have to do with the fact that it was almost always placed on the television screen, now commonly known as a “bug” in broadcast lingo. This idea was the brainchild of Burt Beinhardt, who served as CNN’s president from 1982 to 1990, after which he became vice chairman. McGuirk distinctly remembered the reasoning of placing the logo on screen. “People weren’t used to getting their news from a 24-hour network,” he said. “We didn’t want them to mistake it for a different network.”

Thirty years later, that logo designed in less than 48 hours is still on the screen, although it’s been slightly changed and sometimes animated. According to Dwyer, when some suggested changing the logo years later, Turner would not hear of it. “He put his foot down and said ‘absolutely not,’” said Dwyer. “That gave me a lot of gratification.”

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Kerry to vote 'no' on new Iraq spending bill

CNN’s Cody Combs
Thursday, May 24, 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With an e-mail to supporters and a post on the popular liberal blog DailyKos, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, announced Thursday he will oppose the Iraq supplemental funding bill scheduled for a vote in the Senate this evening.

In the e-mail, Kerry wrote, "We support the troops by getting the policy right, and this bill doesn't do that. I've said it again and again...We need a deadline to force Iraqis to stand up for Iraq and bring our heroes home."

In 2006, Kerry sponsored a bill with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, that required redeployment of U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by July 1, 2007.

The Kerry-Feingold amendment was defeated overwhelmingly, 13-86.

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