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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| September 30, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 155) |


Invoking Reagan; Katie Couric Outed; Either "Faithful" or "Far Right"

  1. ABC blamed nature not communism for starving people as Diane Sawyer invoked Ronald Reagan's name in arguing for U.S. aid to North Korea.
  2. Katie Couric "outed" by Whoopi Goldberg on Monday's Today -- outed as a closet "pro-choice" abortion marcher.
  3. News flash. Dan Rather declared: "I do believe in objectivity."
  4. Some are "faithful" while others belong to the "far right" asserted a Washington Post headline over a Promise Keepers story.

1) As the CBS Evening News did three weeks ago, Monday night ABC's World News Tonight blamed North Korea's famine and starvation on natural events instead of the communist government's Marxist policies. (For details on the CBS story, a longer version of which will air Wednesday on the premiere of Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel, see the September 11 CyberAlert.)

For her September 29 World News Tonight story, Diane Sawyer traveled to North Korea with Feed the Children. She showcased video of malnourished children before laying some blame on the regime, blame she quickly let a supposedly randomly selected peasant absolve:

"Aid organizations told us the country's failed economic policies have made a bad situation worse. But outside Mundock [just spelling as Sawyer pronounced the town name] 57-year-old Ahnac Chung [again, a guess] blames only the unrelenting natural disasters -- floods, drought, even a tidal wave last August which destroyed crop land and her home."

Following a soundbite, Sawyer concluded by citing a quote from a man rarely cited as an authority by networks reporters:

"Nobody knows exactly how many people are suffering, because entire regions of the country remain off limits to outsiders. Even in desperation North Korea is still a fiercely totalitarian state. Which means the severely malnourished body of a child barely able to stand poses a question for the rest of the world: Should we come to the aid of a hostile government or remember, as Ronald Reagan said, a hungry child knows no politics."

Where's the "or" in that choice? To judge by the many network stories that blamed Reagan for denying food stamps to American kids you'd never know he ever cared about a hungry child.

2) Actress Whoopi Goldberg appeared on Today Monday morning to promote her new book titled "Book" about her views on life, but the biggest revelation of the interview involved Katie Couric's politics.

During the September 29 interview Couric raised a chapter titled "Choice" in which Goldberg explained how her daughter's pregnancy impacted her view of abortion. But as MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Goldberg embarrassed Couric by mentioning the NBC host's participation in a pro-choice march. Here's how the interview unfolded:

Katie Couric: "Let's talk about the chapter you write called, 'Choice,' it's a very, very personal chapter about getting a call from your 14 year old daughter telling you, 'Hey mom, Guess what?'"

Whoopi Goldberg: "'I'm pregnant.' Yes. Shock, but relief that she told me."

Couric: "Then she gave you a double whammy and said, 'Mom:'"

Goldberg: "'I'm gonna keep this baby.'"

Couric: "So you write about choice meaning what?"

Goldberg: "Well because, you know, when you get out there and you march, because we've marched together."

Couric, feigning ignorance, retorted: "Nooo. I'm not allowed to do that." [She giggles]

Goldberg, playing along, with tongue firmly implanted in cheek as she stared upward: "Oh, no that's right. We have not marched together. It was somebody that looked like you."

At this point Couric is staring at Goldberg who is laughing as are others off-camera as Goldberg acknowledges her error in making a public mention: "Uh, I forget where I am sometimes."

Couric tries to get off the subject as soon as she can, prompting Goldberg: "You were talking about, want me to remind you? About the pro-choice movement and what pro-choice means to you?"

Goldberg then explained that her daughter's decision to give birth made Goldberg realize that "it's also a woman's right to choose to have the baby."

This revelation about Couric helps explain her obsession last summer with the GOP's pro-life platform. Here's a brief excerpt from the August 13 MRC Media Reality Check on August 12 Republican convention coverage:

On NBC's Today on Monday, Katie Couric posed at least seven abortion questions. To Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison:

"You know a lot has been made of the Republican Party being a very inclusive party, one that can embrace the views of various people. Given the way the platform has worked out vis a vis abortion, and the fact that some of these Republican governors are not speaking because they felt, as if they were being censored. Do you still believe you can call the Republican Party an inclusive party?"

During the 1992 convention, Couric only asked Clinton's mother Virginia Kelley puff questions:

"I also read in the many things that have been written about your son and his childhood that he used to walk to church alone with a Bible under his arm." But Couric felt compelled yesterday to ask Dole s daughter Robin: "You all don t agree on all things political. I know you differ with him in terms of his views on abortion. Do you have discussions? Do you talk about it, talk it out, exchange views?"

If Couric had participated in a conservative political event I bet she would have been outed long ago and vilified by the mainstream media for "crossing the line."

3) Don't worry about bias at CBS News. Dan Rather has it under control. In a recent interview he insisted that he believes on objectivity. In an exchange caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, on the September 20 edition of his CNBC show Tim Russert asked Rather:

Russert: "Do you think reporters on the air should have to hide their emotions?"

Rather replied: "No. First of all it's not humanly possible to hide your emotions all the time. I do believe in what's become an archaic word for journalists, I do believe in objectivity. You know my job is to be accurate, be fair and in so far as it's humanly possible to keep my own feelings out of every story. Now it's like the Ten Commandments. This is the goal, this is the ideal. But no person everyday in every way can meet the Ten Commandments and no person everyday and every way can meet the high standard that reporters by in large set for themselves. But I do agree that one test of a reporter is how often he or she is able to keep their emotions out of what they are doing and keep their own biases and agendas out of it."

Very reassuring, but Rather hasn't been very successful. Here are just two examples.

From the March 16, 1995 CBS Evening News:

"The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor."

From the April 23, 1997 CBS Evening News:

"The head of the Republican political lobbying group that calls itself, quote, 'the Christian Coalition' said today he's leaving to start a political consulting business. Ralph Reed's group took a beating on some of its hard-right agenda in the last election."

4) The Promise Keepers will hold a big march this Saturday in Washington, DC. Previewing the event, Sunday's Washington Post ran a front page profile of founder Bill McCartney. The headline over Gabriel Escobar's story:

"He's the Coach for the Faithful -- Or the Far Right?"

(The Promise Keepers are headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. Inside, Escobar passed along: "'McCartney and His Penis Keepers' is how part of the Boulder community irreverently dismisses him.")

So, the "far right" and the "faithful" do not overlap?

-- Brent Baker




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