McRee's Angles; Stomping Stephanopoulos; Blumenthal's Bombast
- The Senate
fundraising hearings begin Tuesday. On Monday night CBS will
highlight foreign money accepted by the GOP.
Limbaugh's high ratings drive off a leading liberal host in the
2nd biggest market, but will the national media notice?
another side to the image of Charles Kuralt as avuncular newsman:
a man who abused his position to advocate liberal policies and
disparage conservatives: "What on Earth did conservatism ever
accomplish for our country?"
1) Sunday's ABC World News
Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News aired stories
previewing the upcoming Senate hearings on campaign finances. The
hearings were prompted by widespread illegal Democratic fundraising
and connections to communist China, yet all three networks noted that
the committee will examine Haley Barbour and GOP funding from Hong
And what will CBS look at
Monday night, on the eve of the hearings which begin Tuesday. Here's a
promo that CBS ran over the holiday weekend:
Announcer: "Where would
a deadbeat dad get half a million dollars to give to the Republican
Party during the 1992 election? Ask these Japanese businessmen. They
Common Cause spokeswoman:
"Contributions from foreign nationals are illegal."
Announcer: "So the
Republican Party gave the money back, right? Eye on America
investigates Monday on the CBS Evening News."
2) Rush Limbaugh's high
ratings have driven a veteran liberal talk show host, a fixture in the
second largest media market, to a weekend slot. As noted in the March
18 CyberAlert, when a small station in Wilmington, Delaware dropped
Limbaugh U.S. News & World Report ran a piece on the development,
suggesting Limbaugh's popularity may have crested. Will Limbaugh's
triumph generate a similar mainstream media story?
In the July 3 Daily Variety,
faxed to me by the Parents Television Council's Mark Honig, Ray
"Michael Jackson, the
KABC radio talk show host whose erudite, courtly style and liberal
sensibility have defined the station's weekday morning personality for
more than 30 years, is being bumped out of the spot he has occupied
since 1966, in a move inspired by Rush Limbaugh's continued dominance
of the timeslot on rival KFI."
In Los Angeles Limbaugh airs
live from 9am to noon and Jackson's show, which aired from 9am to 1pm
until a couple of years ago, ran opposite Limbaugh from 9am to
11:45am. ABC/Disney owned KABC will replace Jackson by simulcasting
Ronn Owens from ABC's station in San Francisco, KGO. Talk radio
listeners may recall Jackson, a South African who speaks with a
matching accent, from ABC's several-year effort to create a national
talk network in the 1980s. ABC nationally fed Jackson's LA show.
The ratings tell why KABC
made the move. As summarized in Variety:
"In the quarterly
Arbitron radio ratings survey for Winter '97, Limbaugh tallied a 6.8
rating in Los Angeles with listeners aged 12 and above, more than
double the 2.9 pulled in by Jackson. With the prime buying demographic
aged 25-54, Limbaugh generated a 4.7 rating to Jackson's 1.4."
The Los Angeles news reminded
me af a story from a few months ago which showed that the biggest
threat to Limbaugh's national dominance comes not from any liberal,
but from a conservative -- though a non-political one, namely Dr.
Laura. She's sort of a conservative Sally Jessy Raphael. In the April
8 Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher conceded: "For years now,
the slime mold of the mainstream media (that's us!) has examined every
ratings book, hunting in vein for any sign of weakening in
Instead, Fisher found:
"Limbaugh has held steady at about 650 affiliates, and he's
drawing his best numbers since 1994." But, Dr. Laura Schlessinger,
the Los Angeles-based personal advice host with a traditional,
personal responsibility emphasis, does beat Limbaugh in some markets
were they face-off on different stations at the same time. Fisher
elaborated: "In Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Limbaugh slaughters the
upstart, winning twice her audience. But in Detroit and Atlanta,
Schlessinger unseats the king."
3) Eulogies for Charles
Kuralt, who passed away Friday, have emphasized his folksy reporting
that brought to life uplifting stories about individual Americans.
Some also showcased him as a model journalist. "He didn't merely
practice good journalism but came to personify it," insisted
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales on July 5. "A terrific
journalist," agreed NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday's Meet the Press.
After he retired from CBS
News in 1994 Boston Globe TV critic Ed Siegel claimed: "He has
been the nonideological fixture of common decency, uncommon
intelligence and humanism (both secular and religious) while the
country's ideological pendulum has swung from left to right and
halfway back again."
Really? In the May 5, 1994
CBS special, "One for the Road with Charles Kuralt," Kuralt
told Morley Safer: "I think liberalism lives -- the notion that
we don't have to stay where we are as a society, we have promises to
keep, and it is liberalism, whether people like it or not, which has
animated all the years of my life. What on Earth did conservatism ever
accomplish for our country? It was people who wanted to change things
for the better."
Kuralt didn't bother keeping
his personal views from influencing his reporting. Long before
journalists worried about Susan Molinari using her CBS perch to help
Republicans, Kuralt began abusing his journalistic position by using
his CBS position as a platform to promote his liberal political views.
For the April 1994 MediaWatch
study, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski gathered some of Kuralt's
liberal statements, all uttered on CBS News programs. Here's a
slightly edited down version of the study which appeared just after
Kuralt retired from hosting Sunday Morning:
On the Road to Serfdom
Tax More/Spend More. Kuralt
repeatedly stressed that if only people had the will to pay increased
taxes, government could spend more on our country's problems and
quickly solve them. Introducing a January 12, 1992 Sunday Morning
piece on Michigan's welfare reforms, Kuralt heaped shame on the state
for its lack of "compassion." He began with a parable:
"You know the old saying about giving a hungry man a handout --
he'll just be hungry again after he's eaten. But if you teach him to
fish, the saying goes, why, then he'll always be able to feed himself.
A lot of states are thinking along these lines, trying to reduce their
budgets by cutting dependence on welfare, telling a lot of people, in
effect, to go fishing."
Yes, for Kuralt, caring
equaled spending. He looked toward Europe with envy in an August 1991
Sunday Morning monologue. "A report last week compared health
care for children in the United States with health care in the ten
countries of Western Europe. Really there isn't any comparison. Nearly
all children in Europe are able to see a doctor when they're sick. A
lot more of them are immunized, a lot fewer of them die in infancy. Do
Europeans care more about their children than we do? There's a simple
On the September 6, 1992
Sunday Morning, Kuralt discussed the plight of the poor in America.
"According to guidelines established by the federal government, a
family of four can be classified as living in poverty if its cash
income is $13,924 a year or less. $13,924 a year for four of you comes
to $9.54 per person per day. Can anybody live on that?...One nation
under God is what we say in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, but
the Pledge was written long ago, and has never been adjusted for
inflation. With 36 million Americans in poverty now, perhaps the
Pledge ought to be brought up to date to read: two nations under
God." But he conveniently ignored that assets and non-cash
benefits of the poor are not included in the poverty measure.
Last August, Kuralt thought
Americans had been failed by their representatives. Not because of
corruption or waste, but because the politicians didn't have the guts
to raise taxes enough: "Last week after much posturing and
fretting, the elected representatives of the people decided how much
sacrifice we should make for a civilized society. By the narrowest
possible margin in both houses of the Congress, they agreed, in the
interest of deficit reduction, that we could afford: four cents. A
rise of just over four cents a gallon in the federal tax on
gasoline...In the land of the free and the home of the brave, ordinary
citizens might have been brave enough to make a real sacrifice for the
economic health of their country. But now we won't know. The
politicians weren't brave enough to find out."
Conservatives. Kuralt served as a commentator for CBS News during the
political conventions in the summer of 1992. The perspectives he
delivered for CBS' coverage were glowing assessments of the liberals
and condemnations of the conservatives. At the Democratic Convention
in New York, Kuralt breathlessly praised Gov. Mario Cuomo's partisan
attacks on George Bush: "I'm still in the glow of that Cuomo
speech. Mario Cuomo is like one of those three-way lightbulbs...he
said he was going to stay on dim so as not to put Bill Clinton in the
shade. And then he stepped up here tonight and delivered a genuine
250-watter. A speech bright enough and hot enough to fill up this dark
room. I think tonight was Cuomo's night, as last night was Jesse
At the Republican Convention,
Kuralt felt the thoughts expressed by some speakers deserved
condemnation. On August 17, 1992 he was especially tough on Pat
Buchanan, declaring: "I thought the Buchanan speech had ugly
elements in it, especially there at the end, take back our culture,
take back our country. I think that was an appeal to racism."
Earlier that day, following
the media zeitgeist, he slammed the GOP platform as extreme.
"This platform the Republicans adopted today reminds me of
another Republican platform and another convention, the one of '64,
the one that nominated Barry Goldwater, [when] the party's farthest
right-wingers took over for the first time and drove through a
breathtakingly conservative platform...Those folks were not so
interested in winning the election as in humiliating Nelson
Rockefeller and the other moderates of their own party." Kuralt
continued: "They lost in a landslide. Republicans with long
memories might have noticed that something like that was going on here
He concluded by attacking
Christian Right delegates. "The only excited, demonstrative
delegates any of us could find were the ones from the religious right,
Pat Robertson's God and Country rally. They remind me of those
Goldwater delegates of 28 years ago, far more interested in imposing
ideological purity on this party than they are on winning the
election...They got the platform they want. No room for a pregnant
woman to make any decision [on abortion] at all, even if she was
raped. It's tough on welfare, tough on taxes and guns and gays and
pornography, tough even on public radio and public television."
Charles Kuralt, a network
reporter who advocated raising taxes, condemned the U.S. for not
caring as much as Europeans for children because we don't spend enough
on social programs, praised Mario Cuomo, called Pat Buchanan a racist
and described conservatives as extremists.
Hard to understand why any
conservative would praise his work. It's all too typical.
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