McRee's Angles; Stomping Stephanopoulos; Blumenthal's Bombast
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- Lisa McRee,
picked by ABC to replace Joan Lunden, took up the liberal line
during 1992 campaign interviews.
- ABC made
George Stephanopoulos cancel a Democratic fundraising event, but
ABC has no qualms about reporters helping liberal groups.
Blumenthal, who claimed the Clintons demonstrated family values by
"confessing to adultery," has joined Clinton's staff.
Even his media colleagues realized he was more Clinton advocate
than reporter. He called Phil Gramm a "mean-spirited
1) KABC-TV anchor Lisa McRee
will replace Joan Lunden as co-host of Good Morning America, ABC News
announced on Tuesday. She'll move east this fall to take on her new
position. McRee was one of the original co-hosts of ABC's 1:30am-5am
World News Now when it premiered in 1991. The MRC doesn't regularly
monitor the show, but we do tape it. Back in 1992 Notable Quotables
ran a couple of her quotes -- attacking Pat Buchanan from the left and
promoting the liberal spin that conservatives doomed George Bush's
-- From a February 26, 1992
World News Now interview with Buchanan:
Anchor Lisa McRee: "What's the difference between your message
and the message of David Duke?....In terms of fairness, you've said
things that have angered Jews, that have angered gays, that have
angered women, that have angered minorities. In fact, just the other
day, you said that there are certain groups that assimilate more
easily into what is basically an American society which is of European
derivation. As a woman, if I was a minority, why shouldn't I be scared
Buchanan: "....No nation of God's Earth has done more to fight
discrimination, or has made greater progress in doing so, than the
United States of America."
McRee: "But you want to turn that around!"
-- From the November 4, 1992
World News Now, the night of the election:
Lisa McRee: "Patrick Buchanan's speech was one of those speeches
that not many people will ever forget. It divided the party and many
moderates were frightened away by that. Patrick Buchanan is a very
smart man...I find it hard to believe that he didn't know what kind of
effect his speech was going to have."
ABC reporter Ann Compton: "...There are those who also say that
George Bush's biggest mistake this whole year has been pandering to
the end of the party, which is not going to pull together the kind of
votes he needed to win nationwide."
And the media establishment
is upset that Susan Molinari will express conservative views ONE
morning a week on CBS.
2) ABC News forced George
Stephanopoulos to back out of a political fundraiser he agreed to
host, The Washington Post reported on June 26. But ABC is hardly
consistent when it comes to barring news staffers from lending their
name to political causes as it did nothing to stop Carole Simpson from
helping a left-wing group. In the current case, The Washington Post's
Howard Kurtz found that Democratic New York City mayoral candidate
Ruth Messinger invited supporters to a fundraiser featuring
Stephanopoulos at Tavern on the Green. Kurtz relayed: "A $2,500
contribution, the invitation said, 'entitles couple to intimate dinner
with Mr. Stephanopoulos and Ms. Messinger after the event.'"
Upon seeing one of the
invitations, ABC News Senior Vice President Richard Wald told Kurtz
that "I called George and said this is a no-no." Kurtz
elaborated: "Anyone employed by ABC News 'should not be in active
politics,' Wald said. 'He made a mistake.'"
So, no one employed by ABC
News should be active in politics. Just how well is that rule
enforced? Well, while ABC barred a commentator's activity, MediaWatch
Associate Editor Tim Graham reminded me that they seem to make an
exception for on-air reporters. From the August, 1994 MediaWatch, a
newsbite that by coincidence starts with Kurtz quoting a Wald edict:
Selective Ethics. Washington
Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote July 8 that "ABC News is
cracking down on big-bucks speeches by its star correspondents."
Why? Kurtz quoted an internal memo from Senior VP Richard Wald:
"'It isn't just how big a fee is, it is also who gives it and
what it might imply...You may not accept a fee from a trade
association or from a for-profit business. Their special interest is
obvious and we have to guard against it.'"
How will ABC policy affect
speeches before other special interests, like the NAACP? As Susan
Gregory Thomas reported in the May 17 Washington Post, ABC
correspondent Carole Simpson (and CBS anchor Dan Rather) hosted a
$175-a-plate fundraiser for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's 40th
anniversary. Would the new policy prevent helping such a liberal
advocacy organization? No, Director of News Practices Lisa Heiden told
MediaWatch, noting that ABC's policy had always covered "groups
with a political purpose" and NAACP doesn't fit that category.
Stephanopoulos just has to
find a liberal group to support instead of a candidate.
3) Sidney Blumenthal, the
former Washington Post, New Republic and New Yorker reporter, started
his new White House job on Tuesday. "He'll fill a newly created
post as an assistant to the President for communications," the
June 7 National Journal revealed, explaining that he was picked to
"work on major speeches and serve as an all-purpose message-meister."
He's been such a Clinton
promoter that even his old colleagues realized he long ago dropped any
pretense of balanced journalism. Observed the New Republic: "We
are delighted to note that the noted Democratic journalist Sidney
Blumenthal, having worked so long for the Clinton White House outside
the Clinton White House, will now work for the Clinton White House
inside the Clinton White House." The June 23 edition then passed
along this quip: "With any luck, one of his journalistic
colleagues remarked, he'll get his back pay."
Indeed, the Washington Post
reported on June 29 that while still with the New Yorker he began
weekly "brainstorming sessions" with Dick Morris in which
"Morris said Blumenthal recommended ideas for staging Clinton at
the Democratic National Convention and for using Clinton's appearances
at the Atlanta Olympics to boost him politically."
In the mid-'80s Blumenthal
worked as a political reporter and later Style section writer for the
Washington Post where he covered Clinton's 1988 Democratic convention
speech. A couple of years later he jumped to the New Republic until
moving to the New Yorker as its Washington correspondent after the
Washington Post reporter
Howard Kurtz put together a profile on June 16 that included some very
illuminating anecdotes about Blumenthal crossing the line and how he
lost the trust of his colleagues:
-- "Tales of
Blumenthal's zealous defense of the administration have become legend.
During the 1992 campaign, says Julia Reed, a Vogue magazine reporter,
Blumenthal urged her at a party not to write a piece questioning
Clinton's character. But what, she shot back, if it were true? 'It
doesn't matter,' she recalls him saying. 'This is too
-- "Peter Boyer, a New
Yorker writer, says Blumenthal tried to sabotage his story about the
Travelgate affair last year. Boyer says he mentioned the piece to his
colleague after learning that Blumenthal had lunched with Clinton's
friend Harry Thomason on the day the Hollywood producer pushed for the
firing of the White House travel office employees....Boyer says he was
later told by Harry Thomason or his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason,
that Blumenthal had warned them Boyer was anti-Clinton and planned to
smear them, leading to a series of legal threats against the
-- "When Whitewater
exploded in early 1994, Blumenthal refused to write about it,
dismissing it as a bogus scandal..."
-- "Blumenthal shied
away from writing about his friend Hillary Clinton. 'That's where Tina
[Brown, Editor of the New Yorker] finally said, 'This is untenable,'
says a New Yorker writer. By 1995, Blumenthal was no longer writing
the Letter from Washington. He was replaced by Michael Kelly, a fierce
Clinton critic. Kelly ordered Blumenthal to stay away from the
magazine's downtown office. 'I did not trust him,' says Kelly, now the
New Republic's Editor. 'I felt his relationship...with the President
and First Lady was such that I was not sure I wanted him around the
office as I was working on stories. He was serving two masters.'"
The MRC didn't track
Blumenthal's New Yorker work, but here are a few of his most left-wing
comments from elsewhere as published in Notable Quotables:
-- In the February 17, 1992
New Republic: "While George Bush -- all whiteness -- talks about
'family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by confessing to
-- In the April 16, 1993
Boston Phoenix on conservatives after the 1992 loss: "Then you've
got Bill Bennett out there, who is kind of a Torquemada...Bill Bennett
is basically a schismatic heretic practicing his own contrived lunatic
version of the Latin Mass in the basement. That's what Buchanan is
doing, only with Confederate flags flying. You have Phil Gramm from
Texas, an incredibly mean-spirited right-wing character backed by
big-oil money. He is the kind of perverse version of Lyndon Johnson
whittled down to his vices and exaggerated. Then you have Bob Dole:
when he's most sardonic and cruel is when he's most sincere. I think
that's the Republican Party right now."
-- In an October 30, 1994
op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times: "Negativity is the essence
of the conservatives' assault. They have nurtured and exploited a
negative public mood that, in turn, has wrapped itself around the
conservatives' message of negative government. Cynicism has been used
to breed cynicism. The conservative program can be summarized as
'anti' -- anti-tax, anti-government, anti-incumbent, anti-immigrant,
anti-welfare, anti-criminal -- with the all the categories conflated
into one angry impulse. This is rooted in traditions of no-nothing
[sic] nativism and Social Darwinism. No one should be surprised that
the celebrated conservative book of this campaign season is The Bell
Curve, which proclaims that blacks are inherently inferior in
Blumenthal told Kurtz in
reference to sliding into his new White House slot: "This is a
chance to help change the country. I was always in journalism because
I thought I could help make a difference."
At least he's more honest
about using journalism to advance his personal political goals than
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