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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday May 8, 1998 (Vol. Three; No.75)

GOP "Attacks" Hillary Over Palestine; Only Conservatives are "Haters"

1) Scandal news skipped by ABC and NBC. Only CBS mentioned questions about the authenticity of Currie's name on visitor logs. But in the wake of Hillary Clinton's call for a Palestinian state, Dan Rather portrayed her as a victim of Republican attacks.

2) Catching up with FNC, NBC's Today reported Starr's denial of a leak, but in the evening neither ABC or NBC updated their hit on Starr.

3) House Republicans are immoral because they failed to pass campaign finance reform. So spouted Larry King.

4) "Clinton haters" are all around, the news magazines and major newspapers convey. But they don't see any "Starr haters" and missed all the "Reagan haters" a new MRC Study documented.

5) MediaWatch

Grammatical Decision: I've learned there are more disagreements among conservatives over grammar than bias. I've received about ten conflicting rules on the use of "effect" and "affect." So, in the future I'll stick to bias and correcting factual errors but cease any comments on grammar. But, before I leave this subject, reader Steve Turner passed along this illuminating analysis from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary that hopefully will effectively clear up one matter: "Only the irrationally large amount of critical fire drawn by sense 2 of *hopefully*
[: it is hoped] requires its particular recognition in a dictionary. Similar use of other adverbs (as *interestingly*, *frankly*, *clearly*) as sentence modifiers is so commonplace as to excite no notice whatever. While it still arouses occasional objection, *hopefully* as a sentence modifier has been in use at least since 1932 and is well established as standard."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Thursday night ABC and NBC did not run any Clinton scandal-related news, FNC and CNN offered brief items on the appearance before the grand jury of Betty Currie and a steward. Only CBS mentioned how Starr is looking into the possibility that Currie was not at work on some days when the logs show Monica Lewinsky visiting her. The walkout by Democrats in New Hampshire during an address from Newt Gingrich generated a full story on CNN by John King, but nothing on any other network.
      All the networks at least mentioned Hillary Clinton's call for a Palestinian state, a position contrary to long-standing U.S. policy. But instead of portraying it as an embarrassment for the Clinton Administration, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather characterized Hillary Clinton as the victim, the victim of Republican attacks.

      ABC's World News Tonight and CNN's The World Today led with the FAA's safety check inspection order for 737s to look at wiring around fuel tanks. The decision to remove remains of a Vietnam War veteran from the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in order to establish his identity topped the CBS Evening News and FNC's Fox Report. NBC Nightly News went first with the implications of the Daimler-Chrysler merger.

      Other highlights from the Thursday, May 7 evening shows:

      -- Hillary/Palestinian state. ABC's Sam Donaldson filed a full story on fallout from her liberal advocacy: "Today at the White House it was damage control 101." NBC's Claire Shipman looked at the "uproar over Mrs. Clinton's comments" as did CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
      But Dan Rather managed to turn Hillary Clinton's faux pas into an opportunity to paint her as a victim of Republican attacks, offering spin that should awe Paul Begala:
      "President Clinton is sending his top Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross, back to Israel tonight at a crucial point in the peace process. This amid new Republican attacks aimed at First Lady Hillary Clinton for remarks she made yesterday telling international students that she favors the idea of a Palestinian state. The White House says that's just her opinion."

       -- Only the CBS Evening News raised the possibility that Currie's name may have been used as a cover when Monica Lewinsky visited the White House, though Dan Rather did not spell out that implication in a 29-second item he read. Rather announced that Clinton's personal secretary, Betty Currie, "returned to the White House today after the Ken Starr grand jury reportedly again asked about the dozens of times her name was used to clear Monica Lewinsky through White House security. Sources who declined to be identified, but whom we consider to be reliable, tell CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley that investigators for Starr are now questioning whether someone else possibly signed Currie's name on days she wasn't there."

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Catching up with the Fox News Channel, Thursday morning on Today David Bloom acknowledged that Ken Starr's office denies leaking the judge's decision on executive privilege. As transcribed by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Bloom told May 7 Today viewers:
      "First the President's lawyers, then Ken Starr's prosecutors battled into the night in a blitz of faxes over who's to blame for leaking to the press a judge's confidential ruling that the President cannot assert executive privilege in the Monica Lewinsky case. The President's lawyer, David Kendall, filed court papers Wednesday asking that Starr's office be held in contempt of court. Pointing to a Fox news report that cited prosecutors as the source of the leak, said the President's lawyer, 'It's clear your office does not take seriously its obligation to safeguard grand jury material." But last night Starr's prosecutors fired back, calling the allegation they leaked the judge's decision, 'not only wrong but reckless,' telling Kendall, 'although we understand your keen desire once again to change the subject when you receive bad news we demand that you withdraw the motion forthwith. Otherwise we will take appropriate action.'"

      Wednesday night Bloom and ABC's Sam Donaldson had reported only how Kendall filed the complaint blaming the Office of the Independent Counsel. Thursday's Good Morning America did not offer an amplification, MRC news analyst Clay Waters informed me, and while Bloom clarified his story Thursday morning NBC Nightly News viewers never heard anything about Starr's response as NBC skipped the subject Thursday night. (See the May 7 CyberAlert for the contrast Wednesday night between the two broadcast networks and FNC.)

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Larry King questioned the morality of the GOP House leadership, but not for going too soft as James Dobson believes but for failing to push through liberal policies. MRC news analyst Eric Darbe caught the jab at conservative stands from CNN's Larry King. During a May 6 interview with Dobson, the leader of Focus on the Family who traveled to Washington to make known to GOP leaders his displeasure with their failure to counter what he sees as the moral decline of the country, King argued:
      "You're also talking to people who are not popular because they closed the government; they're not popular because they never came up with campaign finance reform, which they promised -- that could be a moral issue, too, taking money from people to vote. So morality covers a lot of areas and some of the people you're talking to have the questionable morals themselves."

cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)The media are able to easily identify and label "Clinton haters," but are somehow unable to recognize "Starr haters" and never really came across any "Reagan haters." That's the discovery of the latest MediaWatch study conducted by Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the MRC. It's an amazing demonstration of how the collective perceptions of journalists about who are the good guys and the bad guys impact how they characterize players in the political process.
      The study with a table as well as the rest of the May 4 edition of MediaWatch are up on the MRC home page, thanks to the MRC's Kenny Lemay. To read the study and the rest of the issue, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1998/welcome.html

The MediaWatch study follows below. -- Brent Baker



May 4, 1998

Study: Print Media Never Discovered Any "Reagan Haters"
Only Conservatives Qualify as "Haters"

Students of history make distinctions of quality: there's history, which builds a story based on documented fact, research, and interviews; and there's psycho-history, which instead of dwelling on evidence, simply puts historical actors on the couch and attempts to read their mind as events unfold. Likewise, there's journalism, based on facts, and psycho-journalism, which simply seeks to guess the motivations of public figures.

In the last few years, reporters have introduced a new term into the media lexicon to describe Bill Clinton's adversaries: "Clinton haters." The April 11, 1994 Time published a story titled "Clintonophobia! Just who are these Clinton haters, and why do they loathe Bill and Hillary Clinton with such passion?" Reporter Nina Burleigh didn't seem to care if her mind-reading was accurate: after tagging conservatives like Rush Limbaugh as "haters," Burleigh casually added: "Both profess not to hate Clinton." She then referred to "Clinton haters" twice more.

Is "hater" the standard way the media describes a President's opponents, whether they're Republicans or Democrats? To determine the journalistic usage of "hate" terms, MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to find all mentions of the terms "Clinton-hater," "Clinton-basher," and "anti-Clinton," (compared to "Reagan hater," "Reagan basher," and "anti-Reagan") in Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post. For Reagan, analysts reviewed stories from 1981 through 1988; for Clinton, from 1992 through mid-April 1998. These publications contained:

-- 63 uses of "Clinton hater," compared to one use of "Reagan hater";

-- 106 references to "Clinton-bashers" or "Clinton-bashing," compared to 17 references to "Reagan-bashers"or "Reagan-bashing";

-- 55 mentions of "anti-Clinton" groups or efforts compared to two mentions of an "anti-Reagan" force.

-- Analysts also checked these variants for independent counsel Ken Starr since 1994 ("Starr-hater," "Starr-basher," or "anti-Starr." Time, U.S. News & World Report, and The New York Times have never carried these terms. Newsweek made one mention of Hillary Clinton as a "veteran Starr-basher." The Washington Post carried two mentions of "Starr-bashing." No one was a "Starr hater."

+++Magazines: Leading the Hate Hunters. Time led the hate-labeling pack, with 28 designations of "Clinton hater," with almost half of them (13) in the last four months. Time carried 11 mentions of "Clinton-bashing," and 14 mentions of "anti-Clinton" activists or activities.

By itself, "anti-Clinton" seems an inoffensive term, but Time regularly applied modifiers like "fiercely" or "virulent" or "obsessive" or "right-wing" to the term. The April 13, 1998 Time referred to "Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and The American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that Scaife has supported." A February 9, 1998 article called Scaife a "super-Clinton hater."

In the June 9, 1997 edition, Time reporter George Church described Paula Jones' first press conference, "where she shared a stage with Clinton haters. That helped to convince many that Jones was a tool, witting or unwitting, of the rabid right." In the Reagan years, Time ran only three uses of "Reagan bashing."

Newsweek carried 17 references to "Clinton haters," 14 uses of "Clinton bashing," and 19 "anti-Clinton" designations. In a May 16, 1994 article, Mark Hosenball argued "It is true that Paula Jones has been egged on by an odd collection of right-wingers and Clinton haters." In the April 27, 1998 issue, Hosenball wrote: "The evidence linking Starr to conservative Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure: Richard Mellon ScaifeScaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who has spent millions trying to undermine the President."

Newsweek carried four mentions of "Reagan-bashing" and one use of "Reagan hater." In 1987, Jonathan Alter explained Sam Donaldson's jobs as both an ABC reporter and commentator "exposes him to critics who label him a Reagan-hater...In truth, his politics don't interfere with his reportage."

U.S. News & World Report carried 16 designations of "Clinton haters," nine of "Clinton bashing," and 21 "anti-Clinton" mentions. In a November 7, 1994 election preview, the magazine charged: "The most virulent Clinton haters charge that Hillary Rodham Clinton holds the real power and blackmails her husband." In a May 17, 1993 column, Mortimer Zuckerman began: "The media may be in a frenzy trying to bash Bill Clinton, but the public is focused on something else: the sagging U.S. economy." Only one U.S. News story cited "Reagan bashing."

+++Newspapers: "Bash" Is The Preferred Term. In eight years, The New York Times never labeled anyone a "Reagan hater," although three stories carried the term in quotations from political analysts. Only one story carried the word "anti-Reagan," and only two mentioned "Reagan bashing." In a 1987 review of the PBS show The Kwitny Report, TV critic John Corry dismissed the episode alleging Reagan's connections to the Mafia as "dreary Reagan bashing." By comparison, the Times applied the term "Clinton hater" once, and variants of "Clinton-bashing" 17 times.

The Post discovered conservative hate in a May 27, 1994 front-page Sunday story by Ann Devroy: "Bill Clinton's enemies are making their hatred clear, with a burning intensity and in some cases with an organized passion." Variants of "Clinton-bashing" were employed 52 times by Post reporters.

The Sunday before the 1992 convention, Post reporter Dan Balz began an article "Get ready for the bashing of Bill Clinton." Four days later, Ruth Marcus started her piece: "The Republican gathering here was expected to be a festival of Clinton-bashing. As it turned out , the target has been not only the candidate, but his wife Hillary." (Two additional articles mentioned "Hillary-bashing.")

In January 1997, the Post's Kevin Merida described the Paula Jones complaint as announced at "a convention of Clinton-bashing conservatives." Five months later, Merida repeated the phrase verbatim.

In the Reagan years, Washington Post reporters never used "Reagan hater," although two articles carried the term in quotations. Seven Post news stories mentioned "Reagan bashing." In one 1985 piece, business reporter Peter Behr decried both sides of the trade debate, writing "Reagan is inviting the bashing by continuing to avoid the trade dilemma."

Politics creates passions that inflame the whole range of emotions -- joy and sadness, inspiration and disillusionment, love and hate. Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, fuels all of these. But reporters proved their liberalism when they suggested in their stories, subtly or unsubtly, that only one President was subject to unrelenting attack by a group of obsessed "haters."

END of Study

  -- Brent Baker

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