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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday April 23, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 71)

Gun as Deterrent Derided; "Fatheads" Urge Prayer; Fired by Energy 

1) ABC's World News Tonight derided Charlton Heston's point about the benefit of an armed officer in a school. CNN's Judy Woodruff demanded a Senator admit the problem is "gun availability."

2) GMA and Today prompted guests to tell how tougher gun control would help, but a Today guest uniquely noted how the killers broke several existing gun laws.

3) Peter Jennings actually praised talk radio; CBS blamed the "failure of adult supervision;" and NBC discovered court officers had praised the killers as "likely to succeed" in life.

4) A tolerant liberal columnist showcased by the Washington Post complained that in "preventing violence in our schoolyards, some fathead is bound to say that prayer is the solution."

5) "Look into Satanism," Fred Barnes urged journalists since recent student killers have "been worshipers of the devil."

6) The CIA confirmed Chinese spying and found it more extensive than thought, but only FNC ran a full story. Carl Cameron revealed that Energy fired a security officer who criticized lax policies.  

>>> Newsweek Links to MRC. The "Digital Digs" page in Newsweek online's Cyberscope section for Friday, April 23, links to the MRC recitation of Gore gaffes. The item reads in part: "Al Gore can't quite claim to have invented the Internet, but he was an early sponsor. Now the Web is biting the hand that fed it, with a growing number of sites carrying Al Gore jokes. And while many feature old standbys ("How can you spot Al Gore in a bunch of Secret Service agents? He's the stiff one."), the best Gore jokes are springing, Dan Quayle-like, from the veep's own mouth. At the Media Research Center, for instance, you'll find the VP's gaffe, 'They will be the education team that Missouri needs,' which he said while stumping for Democratic candidates -- in Minnesota."

Newsweek later highlighted a quip from the man who alerted me to this item: "Steven Allen, VP for communications at The Progress & Freedom Foundation, a Washington-based digital-policy think tank, said it best: 'For Al Gore, the Internet has turned out to be the most ungrateful creation since Lizzy Borden.'" To read the whole article by Ed Perratore, go to this direct address: http://www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/tnw/today/cs/cs01th_1.htm

The link in the article jumps you to the March 25 Media Reality Check fax report, which features a link to the MRC's Gore Gaffes videos page. For the fax report collection of Gore gaffes, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1999/fax19990325.html <<<

>>> Joyce Milton delayed. As the April 21 CyberAlert suggested might happen, the Today's show's non-stop focus on the Colorado shooting bumped Hillary Clinton biographer Joyce Milton from her scheduled April 21 appearance. No word yet on when she may appear, but on Friday morning Today will feature Monica Lewinsky who was bumped on Thursday. <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The lack of adequate gun control is the problem, argued ABC News and CNN in analyzing what led to Tuesday's shooting at a high school in Jefferson County, Colorado.

     ABC couldn't go more than two nights before presenting a slanted look at gun control prompted by the shooting. As the April 21 CyberAlert noted, only the NBC Nightly News picked up the liberal cause on Tuesday, the night of the shooting. CBS refrained then and on Wednesday night, but ABC broke down on Thursday after anchor Peter Jennings announced this short item on Wednesday night: "It is no surprise that this became a big international story, and in the other nations' headlines, not for the first time, America is seen as a country which cannot control violence committed with guns. In Japan today the headline was 'How sick is the gun society?'"

     Thursday night, the CBS Evening News broached the topic with this one line from reporter Bill Whitaker, but avoided the kind of sanctimonious story delivered by ABC: "CBS News has learned that the pistol and the rifle used in the assault have been traced to two local, licensed dealers."

     Below are details of how ABC and CNN exploited the murder of teenagers to advance a political cause: gun control. ABC's World News Tonight derided a perfectly reasonable point made by Charlton Heston and CNN anchor Judy Woodruff pressed both a gun control advocate and opponent with the same question from the left about "gun availability."

     -- ABC's World News Tonight, April 22. Back in New York City after one night of anchoring from Colorado, Peter Jennings noted that the NRA, which has its annual convention scheduled for Denver next week, had decided to limit its activities. Using loaded language, he warned: "The gun lobby scaled its plans down, but it may not have been enough."
     Aaron Brown provided a full report, starting with a soundbite from Denver Mayor Wellington Webb urging that the convention be canceled. Brown explained how three bills in the legislature to expand gun rights that would have passed have now been dropped. State representative Doug Dean suggested it would have been a "slap in the face to those families to debate any kind of gun legislation."
     Brown picked up: "And the gun lobby's leader drew criticism for what he said to a TV interviewer yesterday."
     Charlton Heston, President of the NRA, on KABC-TV: "If there had been even one armed guard in that school he could have saved a lot of lives, and perhaps ended the whole thing instantly."
     Brown: "In fact there was an armed officer in the school on Tuesday trying to do exactly that."
     Howard Cornell, Jefferson County Schools Security Director: "They engaged the two shooters in a running gun battle. He was armed, as most deputies are armed, with a handgun."
     Bob Walker, Handgun Control: "I think this puts the NRA in a very difficult position. The NRA is out there promoting the notion that more guns in our society will make us safer. Try telling that to the people of Littleton."
     Brown concluded: "A pro-gun legislator, the House Majority Leader, said the same thing to us today: that the fear of the victim's families testifying, re-living the tragedy, he said, will keep legislators from even considering loosening gun laws for many years to come."

     Piling on, Jennings assumed Heston had something to apologize for: "There has been no public comment from Charlton Heston since he made those remarks, but the Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura, says today he regrets a comment he made yesterday that lives may have been saved if someone at the school had been carrying a concealed weapon."

     Reality Check: Heston may have spoken without bothering to learn the basic fact that a county sheriff's department deputy is assigned to the school and was present, but that hardly contradicts his point. It's a big school and maybe if he had been in the right place he could have done more. I believe ABC took the Cornell quote out of context, as in saying "they" he was referring to the school officer plus others who arrived on scene, but how do we know that the "running gun battle" didn't save lives by driving the killers into a room so they couldn't wander the halls shooting dozens more? Cornell complained the officer was outgunned firepower-wise which is not an argument for disarming the officer but for better equipping him.

     -- Challenging the opposition and promoting your side. That's what politicians do, so when reporters help out you know where they stand. On Thursday's (April 22) Inside Politics on CNN co-anchor Judy Woodruff demanded a gun control opponent, Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado, respond to Senator Dianne Feinstein's points about how the shooting shows the need for more controls, but instead of challenging Feinstein with his arguments she tossed up Feinstein's own talking points.

     Here are her questions to Allard:
     "And let me just begin by asking you to what extent do you think the easy availability of guns was one of the main causes of what happened."
     "You say much of the damage was caused by bombs, and we know there were other bombs found. But the deaths were caused by guns and the injuries were caused by guns, were they not?"
     "Senator, you don't believe that any -- or do you believe, let me ask you, that any tightening of gun restrictions in this country is appropriate?"
     "Well, specifically, for example, Senator Feinstein, whom I interviewed just a couple of hours ago, is talking about requiring trigger locks on guns. What would be wrong with that?"
     "And what about expanding the Brady law to say that minors could not possess handguns?"
     "You voted in the last session of Congress to repeal the assault weapons ban. Do you stand by that vote?"
     "Do you believe that the National Rifle Association should go ahead and hold a conference -- albeit a scaled-down conference -- in Denver next week?"
     "The mayor is now, as we understand it, saying that convention should not be held."

     But Feinstein didn't face such tough questions. In fact, the first one was the same and only the last challenged her at all, but not on the core issue:
     "Well as I mentioned I did talk earlier with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, and I also began by asking her if the availability of guns was one of the main causes for what happened in Colorado?"
     "And what should be done about it?"
     "Senator, if they [new regulations] are so common sense, then how easy will it be to get them through the Congress?"
     "And Senator, you mentioned the bombs. It's now apparently the case that we're learning from authorities in Colorado that these students had put in some very powerful bombs in the school, that they planned to blow the school up. Gun regulations wouldn't really address that part of the problem?"

     All the networks have noted the last couple of nights how the killers enjoyed violent computer games like Doom, but none advocated curtailing them. Maybe that's because reporters care more about defending the First Amendment than the Second Amendment.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The morning shows have largely stuck to emotional recounting of the shooting, with each show sending a host to Jefferson County, and avoided gun control advocacy. But there have been exceptions. (Today found one segment so compelling that producers failed to make Katie Couric break for the usual 7:25am local affiliate time. Thursday morning at about 5:15am local time she interviewed the father of a student who was killed and a student whose sister was killed. NBC stuck with the segment, with the camera zooming in on Katie holding the man's hand and his tears, right through to 7:30am, blowing off all the ad breaks in the first half hour.) Wednesday morning both Today and CBS's This Morning brought aboard gun control advocate Suzann Wilson, mother of a student killed last year in Jonesboro.

     -- ABC's Good Morning America. On Wednesday Diane Sawyer prompted two guests to address gun control, as noticed by MRC analyst Mark Drake. To Attorney General Janet Reno: "But we keep hearing over and over again that even troubled kids could get access to help without this sort of incident if they didn't have access to guns first. Is there a gun control measure that you think would actually help prevent a situation like this?"
     And to psychologist Michael Jepsen: "Would gun control, the prevention of ordinary access to guns, change this or would they find them somehow anyway?"

     -- NBC's Today. Thursday morning Matt Lauer interviewed two authors of books about aggressive boys, Raising Cain and Lost Boys, and pressed both about the role of guns:
     "How much of this can we attach to one word and that's guns. I mean when I was a kid I was brought up with guns. I had the GI Joe gun, I had the Man from U.N.C.L.E gun. We don't raise girls in this country by giving them guns."
     "But if we were to raise young girls and give them access to guns. Toy guns, any guns do you think you would see an upswing in the amount of violent crimes committed by girls?"

     Wednesday morning, April 21, Katie Couric interviewed Colorado Governor Bill Owens. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this interesting exchange:
     Couric: "A lot of people are asking about the accessibility of guns. Have you wondered about that yourself?"
     Owens: "Well certainly. And these killers broke so many laws. Both our current tough gun laws in Colorado as well as laws against murder and mayhem."
     Couric: "What tough gun laws are you referring to?"
     Owens: "Well they weren't allowed to take guns into that school. They weren't allowed to conceal those guns. They weren't allowed to carry those guns. Children aren't allowed to have guns in Colorado in the respect that they did."

     Now there's an angle left unpursued by the networks: If the killers violated several gun laws what good will a few more restrictions, which criminals will ignore, do?


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Scattered items from the evening shows: Peter Jennings actually praised talk radio, CBS's Wyatt Andrews blamed the "failure of adult supervision," NBC's Jim Avila discovered court officers had praised the killers as "likely to succeed" and "should do well in life," and Dan Rather, the only broadcast anchor still in Colorado on Thursday night, parsed his words in calling it "the worst high school massacre in U.S. history."

     -- "Appreciate talk radio." Peter Jennings offered some rare kind words from a network star about talk radio, observing on the April 21 World News Tonight:
     "On a day like this, any community must surely appreciate talk radio. From the moment the disaster struck, through the night, if the talk show host was a good facilitator, it was an effective way for people to communicate their pain, their anxiety, their anger and their disappointment."

     -- "Failure of adult supervision" is the common element in all the shooting cases, CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews proposed in an April 22 Evening News piece. He logically asked:
     "Where were the parents? These were students who dressed in trench coats, were in a group that admired Hitler, set up Web sites with death threats, gathered an arsenal and manufactured some 30 home-made bombs apparently undetected, or unchallenged, by their parents."

     -- "Bright" and "should do well in life," or why never to trust a juvenile probation officer. On Thursday's NBC Nightly News Jim Avila looked at the court records for the killers, disclosing:
     "Court records obtained by NBC News show they finished juvenile probation for last year's breaking an entering incident six weeks early and their supervisors were impressed, noting Harris enjoyed completing the anger management part of the program [on screen: "He did enjoy completing Anger Mgmt."]and is called a very 'bright young man' who is 'likely to succeed.' Dylan is also called 'bright' in the court records and self-motivated and 'should do well in life.' [on-screen: "Dylan is a bright young man who has a great deal of potential"]"

     It's all in how you define success and potential.

     -- After the Drudge Report revealed how the incident was not the most deadly at a school in U.S. history, Dan Rather chose his words carefully Thursday night: "The enormity here of the worst high school massacre in U.S. history hits home in sharp, crystal clarity, when you see it one victim at a time..."

     Worst "high school" massacre, but not the worst school incident. "The country's worst school massacre, in Littleton, Colo." claimed Reuters and "The worst school massacre in U.S. history" declared UPI in headlines cited by Matt Drudge, who explained:
     "A massive error is circulating in the media about Tuesday's Colorado school tragedy: It was not, repeat, not the worst attack on a school in United States history. On May 18, 1927, 45 people were killed, including 38 elementary students, by a series of dynamite explosions at the Bath Michigan School.
     "After detonating explosives he planted under the school, 'maniac bomber' Andrew Kehoe, a school board member and treasurer and farmer, blew up his pickup truck, killing himself and the Bath School superintendent...."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) "Some fathead" will suggest praying. Liberal syndicated columnist Mary McGrory took a disparaging shot at those who think prayer is appropriate in the wake of a tragedy like the Colorado school shooting. Several people e-mailed me the column, so I know it has been circulating on the Internet.

     Bemoaning how people won't face the failure of the NATO bombing or how guns are the culprit in school shootings, McGrory wrote in her column carried in the April 22 Washington Post (the quote in the second paragraph refers to security preparations for the NATO summit in Washington, DC):
     "Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we say better metal detectors and more psychiatrists could end the horror of schoolyard shootings? The main reason, of course, is Congress, which takes campaign contributions from the NRA and cowers before it.
     "We know just what to do, we think, when international big shots are in danger. 'Thousands of law enforcement officers will cover the streets, escorting and protecting the heads of state.... aggressively guarding against potential problems.' But when it comes to preventing violence in our schoolyards, some fathead is bound to say that prayer is the solution."

     (She did not elaborate, moving on to charge that the NATO "bombing campaign has so far been a fiasco.")

     As for her "fathead" insult, I doubt that most who pray believe prayer is "the solution" to avoiding future incidents but instead believe they are giving strength to those involved so they can make it through. If a conservative columnist issued such a derogatory label he or she would be denounced by McGrory and her ilk as "mean-spirited," "intolerant" and "divisive."

     And McGrory isn't just a liberal columnist. She's the officially sanctioned columnist at the Post, the only one to have her column showcased on page A3 of the news section every Tuesday and Thursday and on the front page of Sunday's "Outlook" section.

     To read her whole column, you can go to :http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-04/22/158l-042299-idx.html (The excerpt above is of the 13th and 14th paragraphs.)


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Attention: Assignment Desk. The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes suggested an interesting angle for his media colleagues to explore. On the April 21 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC he recommended:
     "Maybe it's something for journalists to do, and that is to look into Satanism in the United States. You know it's cropped up in a number of these incidents where students who have shot other kids, they've been worshipers of the devil. Now most of us think that's crazy, how could any kids be doing that, and yet it's obviously having some impact on them. These kids were worshipers of Hitler, they were obsessed with death, they wore black, that's the only thing they wore. There's darkness and there's light. They were darkness, they were followers of Satan."


cyberno6.jpg (1848 bytes) "In their first public damage assessment of Chinese spying, U.S. intelligence officials told Senators that Beijing stole information on several U.S. warheads, not just the two that were previously revealed." That one sentence, caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, as read by ABC's Juju Chang during the 8:30am news update on Thursday's Good Morning America, represents the totality of broadcast network coverage for the fresh CIA report.

     Though the assessment appeared on the front page of the April 21 New York Times, the day the Senators were to be briefed, the Colorado shooting gave the networks an excuse to ignore it. Not even CNN touched it the last two says in the shortened editions of Inside Politics or the few minutes of The World Today not dedicated to the shooting, MRC analyst Paul Smith informed me. Only FNC managed to simultaneously cover the Colorado shooting, Kosovo AND Chinese espionage. FNC's Carl Cameron also uniquely disclosed that the Energy Dept. has fired a security officer who criticized lax security.

     New York Times reporters James Risen and Jeff Gerth opened their April 21 front page piece:
     "A comprehensive new analysis by U.S. intelligence officials has concluded that China stole design information related to the United States' most advanced nuclear warhead from a government nuclear weapons laboratory, government officials said.

     "The intelligence report is expected to be presented to the Clinton administration and Congress on Wednesday. Previously, the White House, citing other intelligence reports, had said that the evidence of Chinese atomic espionage is less conclusive...."

     To read the whole story, go to this address which also features a helpful set of links to all of the paper's recent pieces on Chinese spying: http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/asia/042199china-nuke.html (You will have to be or become a registered user of NYT to access this page)

     FNC gave the CIA report 15 seconds Wednesday night on the Fox Report, but an hour earlier on the 6pm ET Special Report with Brit Hume the anchor of the same name introduced a full story:
     "Chinese nuclear espionage is no longer merely alleged. The CIA, Defense Department, Department of Energy and other federal agencies have now unanimously agreed that it occurred and told Congress so in a newly released report."
     Carl Cameron explained how the CIA briefed Senate Intelligence Committee members about how within three to seven years China will be able to deploy nuclear weapons which incorporate U.S. designs. Cameron noted that all the departments cited by Hume agreed that espionage did indeed occur and that China obtained technology for six or so weapons, more than previously thought. Picking up on a hearing the other networks skipped about how security violations continued through the '90s, Cameron played a soundbite from GAO official Victor Rezendes who, at a hearing on Tuesday, asserted: "Los Alamos had 45 major security violation in 1998."
     After allowing Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to insist the security problem has been addressed, Cameron intriguingly concluded:
     "Richardson quietly fired one of the Energy Department's chief security officers this week for allegedly disclosing secrets unrelated to the Chinese espionage. Because that employee is known to be one of the loudest internal critics of lax Energy Department security, a number of people have suggested his termination may be retribution. And now there are a number in Congress, including Democrats, who say they want his firing investigated."

     Editor's Note: As you can see, this CyberAlert is getting long so I don't have room for the promised look at ABC's "Swing Vote" movie. I'll make sure that gets in next time. -- Brent Baker


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