Gentler Dem Ads; "Bleh! Sick of It"; CNN's Cold War: McCarthy = Stalin
1) Glenn's launch pushed
politics aside Thursday night, but Peter Jennings, who referred to the
GOP's "advertising attack," goes gentler on Democratic ads.
NBC: "Who can blame Mr. Clinton if some of Glenn's glory reflects
2) Today's Ann Curry
emphasized how "the President is not happy about" the GOP ads.
ABC's Lisa McRee hoped: "Could everybody just go 'Bleh!' Sick
3) Geraldo Rivera's mantra:
"Arthur Schlesinger said of Ken Starr that he is America's number
4) This Sunday on CNN's Cold
War: "The 1950s usher in an era of fear and persecution on both sides
of the globe." The New Republic documented how the series portrays
the cold war "as a morally unintelligible contest between two equally
>>> "What's Worse?
'Putzhead' or 'Fascist'? TV Pounds D'Amato's Yiddish Slap at
Schumer, But D'Amato's '92 Foe Allowed to Call D'Amato
Worse." This latest MRC Media Reality Check fax report by Tim Graham
is now up on the MRC home page thanks to Webmaster Sean Henry. MRC news
analyst Clay Waters noticed all the network coverage earlier this week of
New York Senator D'Amato calling his Democratic opponent a "putzhead"
and used the MRC database of news show content to see how much coverage
Robert Abrams generated when he called D'Amato a "fascist" in
1992. Clay discovered that while every evening show highlighted "putzhead"
this year, only ABC gave equal time in 1992 to
Corrections: In the
October 29 CyberAlert I questioned my spelling of Gary Morrow, the
Democratic candidate for Governor in Texas. My doubts were on target. His
name really is spelled: Garry Mauro.
The Republicans began a "$10 million campaign advertising
attack," Peter Jennings announced Wednesday night. Thursday night,
however, he portrayed the Democratic response more gently, simply
referring to how they "released two new television ads."
Glenn's return to space leading every evening show and consuming up to
half the airtime, political news was largely shunted aside Thursday night.
ABC was the exception with a brief item on the ads followed by a story on
the three "Year of he Women" Senators facing re-election. CNN
didn't even air a prime time newscast, transforming its 8pm ET World
Today hour into a Walter Cronkite and Miles O'Brien co-anchored special
on Glenn. Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News ran a scandal
or campaign story, though NBC carried the only piece explicitly examining
the political implications for Clinton of the launch.
NBC's David Bloom concluded: "Tonight President Clinton and NASA
are basking in John Glenn's status and who can blame Mr. Clinton if some
of Glenn's glory reflects onto him, what with congressional elections
just five days away."
The GAO report on
Ken Starr's expenses, played on the front page of Thursday's Los
Angeles Times, didn't get much traction thanks to Glenn. The Fox Report
gave it a few seconds read by co-anchor Jane Skinner and CNN produced a
full story by David Ensor which ran on Inside Politics. Geraldo Rivera, of
course, jumped on it. On CNBC's Upfront Tonight he transitioned from
Glenn to Starr: "Now we move from the hero to the man many consider
the anti-hero: Kenneth W. Starr."
Here are some
highlights from the Thursday, October 29, evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings delivered this mildly worded take on the new
Democratic ads and did not allow a Republican to critique them, as all the
networks had allowed Clinton to rebut the GOP ads the night before:
"In politics today, the election is only
five days away, the Democrats released two new television ads. They are
intent on answering Republican ads of yesterday drawing attention to his
affair with Monica Lewinsky and his lies about it. In their ads today the
Democrats say that they care about the issues."
Douglass looked at the status of three Democratic Year of the Woman
Senators up for re-election, "members of a historic sorority,"
namely California's Barbara Boxer, Washington's Patty Murray, and
Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois. Douglass found they are now treated as
incumbents, with all that baggage: "In Washington, Senator Patty
Murray fought for more teachers by working with Democratic leaders. So her
opponent, Linda Smith, calls her one of the good old boys."
After noting how Moseley-Braun's finances and
trips to Nigeria have been attacked and how Hillary Rodham Clinton
campaigned for her, Douglass pointed out the hypocrisy of one of the
three: "But Mrs. Clinton's husband has not made things easy for
Democratic women candidates, particularly California's Barbara Boxer,
who is related to the Clinton's by marriage. Boxer has a record of
demanding punishment when Republicans are accused of sexual harassment but
she has tried to minimize the President's sex scandal."
Turning positive, Douglass observed that the
women have moved the agenda: "The agenda has moved beyond women's
rights. Even conservative male Senators claim they have been sensitized to
Lauch Faircloth ad: "Thanks to Senator Lauch
Faircloth's breast cancer stamp we now have a chance to make a real
Douglass: "The three women Senators see that
as a triumph. They say but for them those issues would not be on the
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather was giddy all
day. "John Glenn puts the age back in space age," he announced
at the top of the show. Leading into a piece on VIPs attending the launch,
he referred to Bill and Hillary as "the V-est of the VIPs."
Rather signed off
the broadcast in traditional Rather-style: "When they lighted up
those engines they fired up dreams worldwide. There, in the mix of
evaporating gray smoke contrails and hard heavy medal, is a touch of gray
but forever young coexisting in John Glenn and in our collective dream.
Human flesh and high-tech flash. The message: at any age you can make a
difference and take a new shot at life."
Spoken like a
-- CNN ran a Glenn special at 8pm which featured
a full story by Carl Rochelle on the Clintons visit, but avoided politics
and stuck to his inspirational message to the NASA staff.
Politics featured a story on Starr's expenses. David Ensor picked up on
one in particular: "There is one interesting tidbit, that's the bill
for office copier. What's interesting is not the $56,000 price tag but the
arguments for buying, instead of renting. 'I estimate, Starr's aide
wrote in January, 'that we will have need for this copier for at least
40 months.' Forty months -- that would take Starr's probe to May of
2001, four months after President Clinton will have left office."
After a soundbite from Jerrold Nadler denouncing
Starr, Ensor concluded by explaining how Starr's costs are not all that
out of line and cheaper than Iran-Contra:
"While Starr's probe has not been cheap and
it is not over yet, it has, so far, cost taxpayers less than the
Iran-Contra investigation, led by Lawrence Walsh in the Reagan years. That
one ran to $47 million. And while Starr's team have spent $1 million on
air travel, they haven't been living high on the hog -- they always fly
-- FNC's Fox Report devoted over half its hour
to Glenn but still squeezed in a brief item on Starr's expenses and a
full report by Carl Cameron on the new Democratic ads. Noting that the
Democrats have scraped together just $1 million for them, Cameron added
that Democrats also benefit from another $1 million in ads produced by
People for the American Way.
-- NBC Nightly News. David Bloom provided the
only look of the night at how the launch benefits Clinton politically.
After explaining how Clinton said the launch will help build support for a
new space station and how he called it a great day for senior citizens,
"Ironically, John Glenn is back in space
tonight for much the same reason he was grounded 36 years ago. Back then
President Kennedy thought that Glenn was too big a hero to risk on another
mission. Tonight President Clinton and NASA are basking in John Glenn's
status and who can blame Mr. Clinton if some of Glenn's glory reflects
onto him, what with congressional elections just five days away."
The Thursday morning shows continued the network attack on the new
Republican ads begun on the evening shows the night before, and detailed
in the October 29 CyberAlert. As NBC Nightly News did, Today also made
Clinton's retort the lead. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed
Ann Curry: "A new ad campaign from the
Republicans is focusing on the President's affair with Monica Lewinsky and
the President is not happy about it. NBC's Claire Shipman reports."
Claire Shipman: "Bill Clinton, suddenly the
centerpiece of a last minute Republican campaign blitzkrieg, said
Wednesday that his personal behavior is not a reason to reject him or
Over on ABC's
Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee displayed her agitation with the
GOP ads. MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson took down some of her questions
to ABC News political director Mark Halperin.
"Are you surprised about this strategy because what we think we know,
from polls anyway, is that most Americans, even those who are registered
voters and voters who intend to go the polls, say they're sick of
"Even the Republicans who made the decisions to run these ads say,
Yeah this could backfire on us, it's a possibility. So it's a little bit
strange that they're, in the last few days, when things seem to be going
their direction, mostly, that they would do this.
McRee: "Could it keep people of both parties
-- "But just
raising the subject again -- could everybody just go 'Bleh!' Sick of
More from NBC's cable world, a few more noteworthy blasts from Geraldo
Rivera and Keith Olbermann from Wednesday night.
Picking up on a
letter signed by 400 historians calling for an end to the impeachment
proceedings, historian Arthur Schlesinger's tag of Ken Starr as
"America's number one pornographer," MRC analyst Geoffrey
Dickens noticed, became Rivera's mantra of the night on the October 28
cosponsor Arthur Schlesinger the legendary aide to John F. Kennedy was
particularly blunt and harsh when it came to the subject of Ken Starr. Ken
Starr, America's number one pornographer in Arthur Schlesinger's
"America's number one pornographer, Arthur Schlesinger calls Ken
Starr. Back in a flash, stay tuned."
-- "Be right
back. Arthur Schlesinger said of Ken Starr that he is America's number
The October 29
CyberAlert cited how MSNBC's Keith Olbermann asked RNC Chairman Jim
Nicholson on the Big Show: "It's been said that the political
climate and discourse in this country has been coarsened to a great degree
by what Bill Clinton has done this year. Is there not a sense that this
kind of advertising continues the process rather than puts the Republicans
on a higher road than Mr. Clinton himself?"
MRC analyst Mark
Drake caught another Olbermannism conveying his "many of us"
disgust: "Did anybody take a hint? Despite what numerous polls are
saying, what four hundred prominent historians believe and frankly what
many of us think, Republicans, apparently, continue to believe the
Lewinsky matter might still be a winner in at least some of next week's
elections. So on they press."
CyberAlert prescience on CNN's Cold War? (The 24-part weekly series
began airing on September 27 and runs through April with a break over the
Christmas/New Years weekends.) The October 2 CyberAlert noted: "There
are some troubling signs about the messages that may be delivered in the
series produced for Turner by British filmmaker Jeremy Isaacs. Most fall
under the heading of 'moral equivalence.'" For instance, a New
York Times story revealed: "'He [Turner] wanted a project that
dealt unjingoistically with the cold war,' Sir Jeremy recalled. 'He
did not want a triumphalist approach.'" The CyberAlert cited
several other signs from Turner and things said by producers in the
preview show that suggested the series might engage in some liberal
historical revisionism and moral equivalence.
I think we've
now moved from suggestion to reality. In the episode 5 on Korea which
first aired last Sunday and runs again October 30 at 10pmET/PT and October
31 at 10pm ET/PT, narrator Kenneth Branagh stated:
"Throughout the war, both sides committed
horrible atrocities. Northerners killed southerners accused of
sympathizing with the enemy. Rhee's [South Korean leader] supporters
massacred those suspected of being communists. In seemingly endless
violence, innocent civilians were often the victims."
Sounds like what
Alan Alda's "Hawkeye" character would say on an episode of
But while the
South Korean's probably did kill a lot of people who set out to invade,
destroy and subjugate their nation, even the most ardent leftist could not
say the U.S. did any more in the McCarthy era than murder two people:
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Yet, check out this plug on the www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war
Web page for this Sunday's episode #6, Reds: "The 1950s usher in an
era of fear and persecution on both sides of the globe."
The U.S. was a
little overzealous maybe in identifying people working for an empire that
would end all of our freedoms and had nuclear missiles aimed at us. The
Soviets massacred hundreds of thousands and sent political dissenters, the
ones who were allowed to live, to gulags. Same thing?
This theme of
"fear" on both sides that was equally irrational and equally
hurt the rest of the world, is taken apart in an excellent November 9 New
Republic article which cites some of the bias you'll see in the
"Reds" episode. Below are excepts of the most illuminating
portions of the piece by Jacob Heilbrunn:
Turner insisted that the CNN series be
objective as well as comprehensive. Turner himself decided that a British
producer be given the series. He wanted to avoid any hint of American
triumphalism )Turner seemingly didn't mind that Britain was America's
staunchest anti-Soviet ally). "The idea," British co-producer
Jeremy Isaacs has said, was "to tell the story of the cold war not
wrapped in Old Glory but from the viewpoints of both protagonists."
Yet this is precisely the show's problem.
Isaacs's outstanding previous work is "The World at War" series
about World War II. Obviously he never dreamed of giving equal time,
weight, and credence to both the Nazi and Allied "viewpoints."
Similarly, when it comes to the Soviet Union, neutrality is itself a kind
of ideological position. You can view the cold war as a justifiable (if
sometimes excessive) American struggle to contain, and ultimately defeat,
a monstrous system that was intent on global expansion. Or you can view
it, as the CNN series does, as a morally unintelligible contest between
two equally dangerous superpowers, whose "fear" of each other
constantly threatened to plunge a world full of innocent bystanders into
So, while the CNN saga never denies the
horrors of Soviet communism and even recounts some of them (as well as
China's lunatic Cultural Revolution), it fails to make the connection
between the barbarous internal nature of the Soviet system and its foreign
policy. Instead, every effort is made to draw parallels between American
misdeeds, at home and abroad, and Soviet ones. Neither Soviet communism
itself nor any of its individual leaders is held to account for
perpetuating the cold war. Rather, both Soviets and Americans are
presented almost as victims of their equally irrational
CNN then blames the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact
on the West: "Stalin drew lessons from Munich. The Western
democracies, he concluded, would never stand up to Hitler." But, of
course, the Soviet Union itself was hardly "standing up" to
Hitler. The Soviets had secretly done business with Hitler's regime in the
'30s, even allowing the Wehrmacht to train on Soviet territory. Stalin's
real motive in signing the pact was territorial gain in Poland and the
Then there is the Korean War. Both the
Americans and Soviets are presented as pursuing similar policies.
"South of the divide, the Americans were in control," Branagh
narrates. "North of the thirty-eighth parallel, the Russians were in
control." Well, yes. But "control" meant one thing in the
North and quite another in the South. Ten San Din, a Soviet adviser to
North Korea, is trotted out to report that the North's Kim Il Sung was
"the national hero of the Korean people." Why, then, did half of
the North Korean POWs choose not to return to Kim Il Sung's realm, a fact
CNN reports but doesn't analyze?
An episode called "Reds" is even
worse. It opens with black-and- white pictures of a snow-covered Gulag and
then shifts to a snarling J. Edgar Hoover denouncing communism. Branagh
declares: "In the Soviet Union and in America, the cold war was
fought by fear. The Soviet Union raised fences against the outside world.
The Gulag, the secret universe of labor camps, swallowed the lives of
millions. Both sides turned their fear inwards against their own people.
They hunted the enemy within." Hoover equals Stalin?
As pictures of America in the 1950s flash
by, Branagh fairly sneers that "the cold war made America invent new
images for American virtue.... Was communism out to destroy all this?
American propaganda said it was." In the United States, "leaders
of the American Communist Party were jailed, and the persecution spread.
Left-wing labor organizations were banned, radical groups indicted,
demonstrations broken up."
The use of the passive voice makes terror
seem pervasive, but this is hyperbole. Some Communists were convicted,
under the Smith Act, for conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of
the U.S. government by force and violence. But the CPUSA was never banned
-- despite the fact that recently opened Soviet archives reveal that it
was funded by the Soviets right up to Gorbachev's time. The AFL-CIO
expelled Communist-front labor groups from its own ranks. The series
depicts the struggles over communism during the '50s as a battle between
hysterical right-wingers and "persecuted" leftists; there's no
room in the story for anti-Communist liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger
Jr. or Walter Reuther.
By now, you'd think that no serious news
organization would even implicitly lend credence to Alger Hiss's denials
of espionage. The guilty verdict of Allen Weinstein's book Perjury has
recently been confirmed by the release of the National Security Agency's
Venona files, which show that the Soviet Union did indeed have hundreds of
agents in the United States, and that Hiss was one of them. But, in CNN's
version, Hiss's guilt is never explicitly mentioned; he is portrayed as a
hapless victim of a power-hungry politician. "Hiss," Branagh
says, "firmly denied that he had betrayed his country. Richard Nixon,
an ambitious young Republican, was convinced that Hiss was lying. Hiss was
jailed for perjury. Nixon's name was made." Hiss "was
jailed" after a trial by a jury of his peers, a constitutional nicety
never observed for the multitudes accused of espionage in the Soviet
Branagh concludes that "the spirit of
McCarthyism, the smearing of dissent as Communist treason, stained
American democracy for decades. In the Soviet Union, all dissent was
suppressed...." But the Rosenbergs, Hiss, and other American
Communists were not exactly "dissenters"; many of them were,
quite consciously, agents of a hostile foreign power. As Senator Daniel
Patrick Moynihan notes in his brilliant new book Secrecy: "The facts
now in hand surely attest that the U.S. government's pursuit of alleged
sympathizers and spies in the post-World War II period did not amount to
persecution, still less delusion. Not a few in fact were spies, and, of
these, most were left untroubled." Apparently, CNN's producers didn't
think to put Moynihan on camera....
Since this article
may be about to move to TNR's archive, I won't give a
soon-to-be-obsolete address, but if the November 9 issue is not the
current one when you go to their Web page, you should be able to read it
in their back issues section. Go to: http://www.thenewrepublic.com.
To read the warning signs presented by
CyberAlert, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19981002.html#3
"Red" episode dissected by Heilbrunn first airs this Sunday,
November 1, at 8pm ET and again at 12am ET that night/Monday morning. It
will repeat next Friday and Saturday night at 10pm and 1am ET.
In the October 2
CyberAlert I observed: "Up front it must be said that in an era of TV
news magazines dominated celebrity interviews, crime and scare stories
about what causes cancer, Ted Turner deserves credit for spending $12
million to produce a serious documentary series about an important
I guess it was too
much to hope that he could keep his liberal politics out of it. -- Brent Baker
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