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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| December 30, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 198) |

Newsweek Skips Lawrence; AIDS Reality; Best of NQ Runners-Up 

1.  Newsweek, which showcased how Admiral Boorda supposedly misused medals, has yet to write a word about Lawrence's deception.

2.  The Washington Post called the public "unusually well- informed" for believing AIDS is one of top two health problems. But seven other major disease categories kill many more.

3.  The first runners-up in the Best Notable Quotables of 1997: The Tenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting.

1) One national media outlet has been conspicuously absent on the strange tale of Larry Lawrence, the $10 million Democratic donor who lied about service aboard a merchant marine ship in World War II to pad his resume and get him buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Newsweek, the MRC's Tim Graham noticed, has done nothing. Tim wrote up this item for the CyberAlert:

Why is that strange? In May of 1996, Newsweek's fervent pursuit of the mini-scoop (outside military circles) that top Navy Admiral Jeremy Boorda improperly wore valor medals on his uniform led Boorda to kill himself. As you may recall, Boorda committed suicide upon learning of an upcoming Newsweek article, before any story actually appeared.

After his death, Newsweek led off its "National Affairs" section in the May 27, 1996 issue with eight pages of coverage, led by the headline "A Matter Of Honor" and included a sidebar from Newsweek contributor David Hackworth titled "Why Medals Matter." Hackworth underlined how important Boorda's mistake was with quotes from retired Navy officers declaring "I've seen enlisted folks get court-martialed for doctoring their own service records or wearing phony awards." In a defensive article, senior writer Jonathan Alter wrote that "public officials need to be judged in a more complete context than a mere recitation of their troubles." But in the case of Larry Lawrence, Newsweek wrote no article on "matters of honor," or "why Arlington matters." It has suggested the best context is no context.

2) Catching up on an item that failed to make it into the CyberAlert a few weeks ago, Michael Fumento of the American Enterprise Institute alerted me to an interesting bit of spin in the Washington Post on how much the public knows about AIDS.

The December 5 Washington Post ran a short story from Reuters titled, "More AIDS Funds Favored." The wire report asserted:
"Americans are unusually well-informed about AIDS and want the government to spend more fighting it, according to a survey released yesterday. The nationwide survey of more than 1,200 adults, done for the Kaiser Family Foundation, also found that people think AIDS is one of the two top major health problems facing the nation."

As Fumento, who frequently writes articles for Reason magazine, observed: "This would help explain why they want more AIDS funds. But as it happens, AIDS is number eight on the list of causes of death and dropping like a rock. AIDS caused less than 33,000 deaths. Only the American media could think that if the population thinks 33,000 deaths is more than 734,000 deaths, it's 'unusually well-informed.'"

Here are the numbers collated by the Centers for Disease Control as published in the Monthly Vital Statistics Report under the title, "Births and Deaths: United States, 1996."

Diseases of heart -- 733,834
Malignant neoplasms -- 544,278
Cerebrovascular diseases -- 160,431
Chronic obstructive -- 106,146
pulmonary diseases
Accidents and adverse -- 93,874
Pneumonia and influenza -- 82,579
Diabetes mellitus -- 61,559
HIV infection -- 32,655
Suicide -- 30,862
Chronic liver disease and -- 25,135

3) Picking up where the December 29 CyberAlert left off, here are the first runners-up quotes from the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 1997: The Tenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." Again, these are the first runners-up. The number after each quote is the number of points awarded by the judges. First place picks earned three points, with two points for second place and one for third best selections.

Quote of the Year -- First runner-up

++ "Newt Gingrich's problem, I've always thought, he's like Lenin. They both made a revolution by shooting people -- Newt shot Democrats, Lenin shot everybody -- and then they didn't have enough sense to stop shooting once they won. So, I mean, once you win, you say, 'Okay, now I've shot all your relatives, but you're a good guy, let's work together.' Instead, Newt shut down the government and kept on trying to shoot Democrats." -- ABC's Sam Donaldson on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, January 8. [96]

Clinton Camelot Award (for Creating a Clinton-Gore Mythology)

++ "Still their shared needs and mutual admiration cover an essential difference between the two men. Both think deep thoughts about saving the world, but they approach the task quite differently. Clinton is often roundabout, if not waffling. Gore is a plunger who thinks and acts in a straight line. Because Gore has been a reserved politician, his sometimes messianic zeal has been overlooked. The Vice President has written that his call to save the environment began with the shock of a near-fatal car accident to his son, Albert III. Characteristically, Gore felt it wasn't enough to save one child; he wanted to save all the world's children. By the same token, he has said privately that his absorption with arms control in the 1980s began with dreams that he could not rescue his family from nuclear war." -- Newsweek's Evan Thomas, January 27. [74]

The Harold Ickes "System Made Me Do It" Award

++ "We begin tonight with stalemate in the Senate. The majority thwarted. Politics prevails. Campaign finance reform, which the public wants, dead as a doornail, all of the above. After many months of talking about it, the first real effort to reform how campaigns for federal office are financed, the push to get some of the big money out of election campaigns has gone nowhere." -- ABC's Peter Jennings, October 7. [56]

Lanny Davis No Controlling Legal Authority Award (for Clinton Scandal Denial)

++ "President Nixon was investigated for obstruction of justice. President Reagan was investigated for not telling investigators what he knew of the Iran-Contra scandal. President Clinton is being investigated for making telephone calls from the wrong room in the White House." -- New York Times Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Adam Clymer opening Oct. 15 analysis of Janet Reno's decision to further probe Clinton's calls. [54]

Evil Elephant Empire Award (for Bashing Congressional Republicans)

++ ABC reporter John Cochran: "Flood victims in Grand Forks do not understand why Republican leaders refuse to pass an aid bill without strings attached." A flood victim: "The river took our home, our possessions, our neighbors, our neighborhood and we still have our spirit. But the government is taking our spirit and our strength. And that's what's going to kill us."
Cochran: "Doug Sprehe is a life-long conservative Republican."
Doug Sprehe: "I believed in these guys and I voted for some of them and I'm beginning to lose my faith in the conservative party."
Cochran: "...People whose homes and businesses were destroyed say GOP leaders should realize that what they really need is money to rebuild." -- ABC's World News Tonight, June 6. [68]

Che Guevara Award (for Nostalgia for Communism)

++ "Open societies, it turns out, haven't been as generous as socialism and communism to women who want to serve in public office. From Albania to Yemen, the number of women in power plummeted after the transition from socialist governments, which sought to develop female as well as male proletariats. As those governments died, so went the socialist ideals of equality and the subsidies for social programs that aided women. In many countries, traditional patriarchal cultures resurfaced." -- Los Angeles Times correspondent Robin Wright, October 2 Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed. [61]

John Glenn Award (for Ensuring the Hearings Got Lost in Space)

++ "The UFO comparison is apt in his case. He is considered flaky and a bit of a crackpot, even though a nice guy. Some crackpots are nice." -- Time columnist Margaret Carlson on House Government Operations Committee Chairman Dan Burton, referring to Hillary Clinton's comment that attention to Whitewater "reminds me of some people's obsession with UFO's and the Hale-Bopp comet." Apr. 12 CNN Capital Gang. [48]

Good Morning Morons Award

++ "It is clear that day care in this country is inaccessible to many, cost prohibitive for others, substandard in many situations. What can the government actually do to alleviate some of these problems?"
"As you know, Mrs. Clinton, regulations for at-home day care vary so much from state to state in terms of the ratio of children to day care provider, do you think there should be some kind of overall federal regulations?" -- Today co-host Katie Couric to Hillary Rodham Clinton, October 23. [62]

Satan of the South Award (for Hating Jesse Helms)

++ James Warren, Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief: "I also find interesting this revisionism about Senator Helms. We've sort of turned his dogmatism and bigotry into now, the iron-willed principle of a man of the right."
Mona Charen: "What bigotry?"
Warren: "Oh, his gay-baiting, his union-bashing. His hatred of any fundings for the arts. His isolationism." -- Exchange on August 3 edition of CNN's Capital Gang. [68]

Bryant Gumbel Journalism Fellowship Award (for Liberal Advocacy)

++ "Governor Shaheen, you've said that you want kindergarten available for every child in your state. And you're proposing to finance it with higher cigarette taxes and more gambling in the state. I guess you have to do that because you've locked yourself away from calling for any sales tax or income tax in New Hampshire. Are the kids not worth having a sales tax or an income tax?" -- Washington Post reporter David Broder to New Hampshire Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen, February 2 Meet the Press. [76]

The Paul Wellstone Award (for Championing Welfare Dependency)

++ "Like an ominous storm blown in from the East, the reality of welfare reform has descended with relentless and unsparing force on thousands of families like that of [Yvonne] Parris who begin the new year today with less cash to live on and the prospect of a welter of new rules aimed at restricting their access to government aid....Many who are against the cuts argue that the welfare overhaul does little to address the fundamental causes of poverty, but is instead based on long-standing myths and prejudices." -- Los Angeles Times reporters Carla Rivera and Hector Tobar in a front-page news story, January 1. [64]

Damn Those Conservatives Award

++ "You were raised, sir, in a subsidized housing project by a single mother and yet you support welfare reform and oppose affirmative action. How do you square those two sides?" -- Today's Ann Curry to Paul Harris, the first black Republican elected to the Virginia House of Delegates since 1891. [58]

Politics of Meaningless Award (for the Silliest Analysis)

++ "I said to somebody that if O.J. killed his first wife, Marguerite [who is black], and her friend, then do I think George Will and William F. Buckley would have written about it? No way. Not on God's green earth. They wouldn't have even noticed." -- Bryant Gumbel in a Los Angeles Times Magazine profile, January 12 (Brackets theirs). [62]

Media Hero Award

++ "[Mario] Cuomo was a rare combination: an intellectual and a spellbinding orator. I would have bet that he could have won the Democratic nomination and been elected to the presidency. He had electrified the 1984 Democratic convention with his keynote speech, and I never saw him fail to excite those who shared his liberal vision of America's future. Despite the pollsters and political operators' contrary opinions, I remain convinced that the public was ready for a leader who could restore that vision after the selfish eighties. I don't believe the public has rejected liberalism; it simply has not heard a candidate persuasively advocate its humane and deeply democratic principles." -- Walter Cronkite in his book A Reporter's Life. [60]

If The Bias Fits We Won't Admit Award

++ "Although the experience and independence of Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Ted Koppel would give their opinions a lot more weight than those of any politician, they still observe the disciplines of their craft. Their on-air analyses plumb the views and prejudices of others without parading their own." -- Former New York Times Executive Editor Max Frankel deploring ABC's hiring of George Stephanopoulos, January 19 New York Times Magazine. [65]

Which Way Is It?

"CIA Agent Says He Gave Huang Classified Data" -- Los Angeles Times headline, July 17


"CIA Officer Says His Briefings for Huang Were Simply Routine" -- New York Times headline, same day [97]

-- Brent Baker




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