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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| March 31, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 40) |


Talk Radio Conspiracies; Bank Robbing Journalists

1.  ABC's Cokie Roberts equates Oliver Stone conspiracy movies with "conservative talk radio."

2.  Scandals continue to be skipped, but ABC finds time for jokes from Al Gore and NBC for "Chelsea's Excellent Adventure."

3.  Free housing! Free education! Free health care! It's all available, says CBS, in Cuba.

4.  Patty Hearst reveals that journalists told her they felt guilty about not taking up arms like her and robbing banks.

5.  Conservatives' interest in life begins at conception and ends at birth, Bonnie Erbe of PBS and NBC Radio argues in a harsh op-ed.

6.  Cronkite's Crockery of the Day: The "conservative right wing" is "a problem that has plagued" every Republican President.


1) On Sunday's This Week on ABC the panelists discussed the dangers of the Internet in the wake of the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, but it's not only new technology that confounds Cokie Roberts. She's upset by radio, a form of media begun 25 years before she was born.

In the roundtable segment George Will noted that many Americans buy into wild ideas, illustrating his point by citing the success of Oliver Stone movies. Stone, he explained, "taps into, in a movie like JFK, a quite pathetic but also dangerous will to believe, will to believe astonishing, unbelievable things. Now, it can be big business"

At that point, Robert interjected: "But that's actually happening more and more. If you listen to conservative talk radio, there are more conspiracies a week than I've ever heard of. I mean, the huge Chinese conspiracy as far as the talk radio shows are concerned."

They then moved on to another topic, so we never learned exactly what conspiracy Roberts had heard discussed. If she actually does tune in "conservative talk radio," Washington, DC has no local conservative host, so she must be referring to a national host carried by a DC station. That list: Rush Limbaugh, Mary Matalin, Oliver North, Janet Parshall and G. Gordon Liddy. And if she's up between 2 and 5am, Michael Reagan.


2) The March 28 CyberAlert noted that NBC Nightly News and Today never reported the March 23 New York Times story on how the White House kept careful track of how much each coffee raised. Neither show mentioned the news on Friday.

Meanwhile, two Clinton fundraising developments have gone unnoticed by networks focused on Heaven's Gate:

*** 1) The March 27 Boston Globe reported that Roger Tamraz, the Lebanese businessman for whom DNC Chairman Don Fowler used the CIA to help get into a White House event, "received support from Clinton for the general concept of his oil pipeline proposal in October 1995." Tamraz contributed $180,000. The Globe noted that until this story "it has not been reported that Clinton announced support for a position sought by Tamraz after the businessman made his contributions."

*** 2) On the same day, a front page New York Times headline declared: "Democratic Party Unable to Pay Debts from Last Year's Elections." The story noted that the party is $14 million in debt, not counting $4 million in legal bills and the $1.5 million it promised to return.

None of the broadcast networks found time for either disclosure, but....

-- Thursday's (March 27) World News Tonight found time to show video of Al Gore in China telling a joke about his stiffness.

-- On Friday (March 28) NBC Nightly News devoted almost the entire newscast to Heaven's Gate, but found time for a full story on what Tom Brokaw dubbed "Chelsea's Excellent Adventure" in Africa. Gwen Ifill reported that the First Daughter was speaking out, before sympathetically explaining her political role:

"The Clintons have a minor dilemma when it come to their only daughter Chelsea. They are proud of her and they don't want to exploit her, yet she's the best example of many of the things they want to promote. Hillary Clinton said that Chelsea Clinton at her side sends all the right messages to women in developing countries."

Hillary Clinton: "Now all of a sudden you may have, you know, some women, somewhere say well, I'm going to send my daughter to school."


3) Every few years another TV reporter goes to Cuba and discovers the joys of good stuff for free in the sunny communist land. MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski caught the latest example. On the March 24 CBS This Morning Jane Robelot recounted her visit with four Cuban women: three pro-Castro and one dissident. Near the top of her story Robelot noted that food is scarce, but:

"...Under Cuba's communist form of government, a Cuban family's basic necessities, housing, education, health care, and transportation, are provided by the state for free or at very little cost."


4) The Reporter Has a Got a Gun. The March 21 Dateline NBC ran a profile of Patty Hearst, who Stone Phillips called a "bank robbing revolutionary," the "newspaper heiress" who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and later participated in a bank robbery with her captors. She maintained that she was brainwashed, but she was convicted and served a few years before being pardoned by President Carter.

MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens alerted me to this illuminating exchange from the profile by NBC's Dennis Murphy:

Murphy: "Before O.J. Simpson's, Patty Hearst's was the Trial of the Century. She too was defended by none other than F. Lee Bailey. And as in the case of O.J. reporters from all over the world came to California to cover her trial."

Patricia Hearst: "I had absolutely become a fantasy figure. I have had more people come up and um, especially, shockingly enough journalists who grew up in the '60s who felt that they had not fulfilled part of their political obligations. That they hadn't been active enough on campus. That they kind of wish they'd done this sort of thing themselves. And they wanted to hear me say how cool it all was. And they were incredibly disappointed to find out that..."

Murphy jumped in: "That 'Right on Patty' was not 'Right on Patty?'"

Hearst: "Yeah. Just none of this had happened the way they thought it was."

In other words, the journalists were let down when Hearst told them she really wasn't an urban guerrilla with radical political goals.


5) Washington Times Managing Editor Josette Shiner and NBC Radio/Westwood One reporter Bonnie Erbe write a weekly point-counterpoint syndicated column. In the edition printed in the March 29 Washington Times they debated partial-birth abortion.

Erbe, who hosts To the Contrary on PBS, charged that "the right wing has lied repeatedly in an effort to move public opinion on this issue." Erbe then spelled out the four supposed big lies. Here's the first:

"Lie No. 1: Conservatives care about life. The renowned quipmeister, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, once said, 'Conservatives' interest in life begins at conception and ends at birth.' Truer words were never spoken. If they did care about taking care of babies and protecting the helpless, they would not be so driven to cut government programs that help the poor, nor so concerned about paying a few dollars less of their own money in taxes."


6) Cronkite's Crockery of the Day. Today's quote is another identified by MRC intern Brian Schmisek in reading through Cronkite's book, A Reporter's Life. On page 228 Cronkite argues that the "right wing" has been a "problem" for every Republican President but one. We join Cronkite as he recalls President Eisenhower's reaction to Senator Joseph McCarthy:

"Eisenhower had sullied his reputation by failing to stand up to McCarthy even when the Senator dared to attack Ike's mentor and sponsor, the nearly impeccable General George Marshall. It can only be assumed that Eisenhower, who was most comfortable with the liberal Republicans of the party's so-called Eastern Establishment, yielded in this case, as he had in others, to pressures from the party's conservative right wing -- a problem that has plagued every Republican administration since Hoover's, excepting only Reagan's, which was almost entirely right wing anyway."

Sort of like how liberals have plagued the media, except at CBS which was almost entirely left wing anyway.

  -- Brent Baker





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