"Chubby" Ted; ABC Discredits a Tax Cut; PBS List Sharing: Newt's Fault
1) ABC and CBS, but not NBC,
cut way back on Kennedy coverage Tuesday night, though both still led with
it. NBC profiled Senator Ted Kennedy whom Tom Brokaw said had evolved from
"the chubby youngest child" into "the family
2) Peter Jennings and Barbara
Walters goofed and substituted the name President Kennedy for Senator
Kennedy and President Clinton.
3) In a eulogy to John F.
Kennedy Jr. for paying proper respect to him, Geraldo Rivera tossed in a
shot at Richard Scaife as a "right-wing zealot."
4) The media's favorite
Kennedy expert, Mike Barnicle, praised JFK Jr. but two years ago he called
him "dim-witted." And CNN had to correct an anecdote Barnicle
5) ABC's Linda Douglass
portrayed a tax cut as inflationary and bemoaned how "voters may well
get a tax cut whether they want one or not." Eleanor Clift called the
idea "totally irresponsible."
6) It's Newt's fault. The
Boston Globe blamed his proposal to cut PBS funding for forcing stations
to share donor lists with political groups. And the MRC's Tim Graham
presented the conservative view of the controversy to a House committee.
Correction: One syllable
too many. The July 20 CyberAlert quoted Dan Rather as emoting: "By
those definitions, like it or not, there is a Kennedy mystique and their
history is mythical." MRC Webmaster Sean "Eagle Ear" Henry
noticed Rather actually said "...and their history is mythic,"
as you can hear for yourself by playing the RealPlayer clip of this
commentary. Go to the MRC home page and click on "Media Bias
Videos." Or go directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html
ABC and CBS cut way back on JFK Jr. death-related stories Tuesday night,
July 20, but not NBC which still devoted at least two-thirds of NBC
Nightly News to the story. Amongst NBC's pieces, a look at how Ted
Kennedy has, in Tom Brokaw's words, evolved from "the chubby
youngest child" to "the family patriarch, the aging liberal lion
of the Senate."
morning shows were again dominated by JFK Jr. news, though both NBC's
Katie Couric and ABC's Charles Gibson were back in New York after
broadcasting from Hyannisport on Monday. Only CBS This Morning, with Russ
Mitchell, had a co-host on Cape Cod.
stretch for news from Tuesday daytime on the cable news networks: MSNBC
interviewing Kennedy's soccer coach from his days at Brown University.)
ABC's World News
Tonight opened with two crash-related stories about the search and closed
with a third about the death of the photographer who took the famous photo
of John Jr. under his father's desk. The CBS Evening News also began
with updates on the search and Dan Rather previewed a 60 Minutes II look
at how John Kennedy Jr. learned to fly back in 1996 by starting out with
lessons using a "power parachute." (CBS again did not air part
five of its "Armed America" Eye on America series which was
scheduled to run on Monday.)
NBC Nightly News
opened with an update on search efforts followed by a piece on what the
Kennedy family did all day which strangely included a one-second clip via
zoom lense through trees of NBC's own Maria Shriver at the home of
Caroline Schlossberg. I say strangely because it meant NBC treated its own
staff member as a paparazzi target.
introduced Gwen Ifill's profile of Senator Edward Kennedy: "There
was a time in the Kennedy family saga when Edward, Teddy as he was called,
was simply the chubby youngest child. Then, as tragedy struck again and
again, as he struggled to deal with his own failings, he evolved into the
family patriarch, the aging liberal lion of the Senate. A man who, for the
past four days, once again has been enveloped by death and grief."
An upside to the
tragedy: It got a major network to actually call Kennedy
"liberal." And I think he's still pretty chubby.
was largely positive but she did raise the subject of Chappaquiddick and
how he divorced his first wife, Joan.
The In Depth
segment examined "small planes and big risks" as Jim Avila
pointed out there were 11 other small plane crashes the same day as
JFK's plane went down and there was about one general aviation death per
day in 1998.
President Kennedy on the brain at ABC News. Running through Monday
night/Tuesday morning ABC News shows MRC intern Ken Shepherd came across
instances when ABC stars confused Senator and President Kennedy or
President Clinton with President Kennedy:
-- World News
Tonight, July 19. Peter Jennings on Ted Kennedy's statement: "Also in
his statement today, President Kennedy said what Kennedys have said before
on occasions like this, this family sort of helps to appease its grief if
you will, he said by putting its faith in God."
-- Good Morning
America, July 20. Co-host Barbara Walters about a reception she attended
in New York for the new Prime Minister of Israel: "I went to a
reception for Prime Minister Barak and he was very pleased with his visit
with President Kennedy..."
A few seconds
later co-host Charles Gibson did correct her goof.
Even in a eulogy to John F. Kennedy Jr., for paying proper respect to him,
CNBC's Geraldo Rivera managed to throw in a shot at Richard Scaife as a
Geoffrey Dickens caught these comments uttered by Rivera on the July 19
"I have my own memories of this noble young
man that make his loss even more painful. He went out of his way to be
friendly with me. To make me feel accepted. Whether it was in the gym
where we both worked out or in the offices of George magazine. When he
interviewed the right-wing zealot Richard Mellon Scaife for George
magazine he used my name to get a rise out of that Clinton hater.
"Later he wrote me a note letting me know that he certainly did not
share Mr. Scaife's sentiments about me. He then invited me to speak to
the editorial staff of George magazine as part of a very real effort to
hear all points of view on the great issues of the day. And in defiance of
the common attitudes of today's crew of Washington pundits John listed
me in a very favorable way in his colorful magazine. He was gracious, he
was open minded. He was never smug or superior. He was casual in his
manner and despite his high birth and his gorgeous good lucks and his
tremendous monetary fortune John never lost the common touch. At 38 years
old he had wisdom and class that I think could have taught a lot of older
and more experienced public officials a very important lesson. Diane
we'll miss him."
As noted in the July 19 CyberAlert, despite being canned by the Boston
Globe for making up facts in columns, the television networks have treated
Mike Barnicle as a noble Kennedy family friend and expert.
But a quote
contrast relayed by Hotline demonstrates he's willing to adapt his views
to the media's needs as the Boston Herald noted CNN had to correct a bit
of false information he told them.
-- A couple of
people passed along to me this contrast, which I believe is borrowed from
Sunday's Meet the Press, July 18: "There is a very real sense, I
think, that he is a lost child of our culture."
Barnicle in an
August 14, 1997 Boston Globe column: "JFK Jr. comes off sounding like
some thin-lipped, dim-witted, bad-backed polo player whose empty head can
barely retain enough limited cocktail chatter to get him through a dinner
-- An expert with non-expert info. Former MRC
analyst Eric Darbe, now the CyberAlert Boston Bureau Chief, alerted me to
this item in Tuesday's Boston Herald "Inside Track" column by
Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa:
And now we come to Mike Barnicle who is
publicly trying to rehabilitate himself by pimping himself out to every
network, cable and local news show as a Kennedy confidant.
It was like he was playing musical chairs
down there on Scudder Avenue in Hyannisport, hopping from one interview to
the next saying the same things over and over and OVER again.
And we know you'll find this hard to
believe, but some of it was wrong!
Like the grief-stricken Ted Kennedy's
"midnight sail" on Saturday night. Wrong. CNN had to correct
itself after a call from the Senator's people. And do we really believe
the pita bread-as-Holy Communion story?
Today show gal Katie Couric was one of many
who jawed with Barnicle yesterday. And later on while he was chatting up
MSNBC's Morning Line lady Chris Jansing, a big, blue and loud BFI garbage
truck pulled into the shot.
How appropriate. As one of the locals
pointed out, "BFI -- Barnicle Full of It."
Stop that tax cut before it happens. With the House about to vote to
approve a tax cut plan of some sort on Tuesday night ABC News jumped into
the fray to try to discredit the whole idea as ill-advised. By the
reasoning presented on ABC's World News Tonight economists oppose one
because it would supposedly fuel inflation, something that in fact did not
occur in the 1980s, and the public doesn't really want one anyway.
Jennings set up ABC's take: "The conventional wisdom has always
been that supporting tax cuts is a no-lose proposition. But ABC's Linda
Douglass reports this time that may not be the case."
began: "Republicans have always believed that cutting taxes is their
issue and so it is again this year."
After a soundbite of Congressman John Kasich
announcing GOP plans for a big cut, Douglass began her case against the
"The push for a tax cut does not come from
the state of the economy."
Bruce Steinberg, Merrill Lynch chief economist:
"The last thing of course an economy that's already very strong
needs is a tax cut."
Douglass: "Bruce Steinberg and other
economists worry that tax cuts will give consumers more money to spend,
which might lead to higher inflation and prompt the Federal Reserve Board
to raise interest rates."
Steinberg: "And the economy would end up
slowing down more than it probably needed to slow down."
Douglass: "And though voters think taxes are
too high they are not clamoring for a tax cut. Numerous polls show tax
cuts rank low on their list of priorities behind education, Medicare and
On screen viewers
could see a list of issues and percent support for what's
"important" to voters according to an ABC News poll, but you
could not see the very top items. Viewers could see "taxes" were
at 64 percent, behind "Social Security" at 74,
"education" at 73, "patient's rights" at 71,
"middle class," whatever than means, at 70, "Medicare"
at 70 and "crime" at 67. Below taxes: "environment" at
61. Basically, not much of a spread at all between the issues.
buttressed her case with clips of two supposedly typical Americans.
Man on street: "I think there's no better
time than the present to start solving those problems with a surplus
rather than a tax cut."
Woman: "I think there need to be some Social
Security left for the youth of America when they retire."
Douglass: "But Republicans not only believe
tax cuts are the defining issue of their party, they also see taxes as the
one issue President Clinton has not yet commandeered."
Marshall Wittman, Heritage Foundation:
"Republican believe that if they offer a significant tax cut
ultimately the President will not be able to steal that issue because his
main priority are spending initiatives."
Douglass concluded with the horrific news for the
anti-tax cutting media that Clinton may not oppose the idea:
"But now the President is also calling for a
tax cut. So tomorrow the House may consider a Republican proposal to cut
taxes by $800 billion over ten years and possibly a Democratic alternative
to cut taxes by less than half that. So voters may well get a tax cut
whether they want one or not."
Douglass failed to
consider that the public may not be excited by a tax cut promise because
they've been let down before. Nor did she raise the conservative
observation that if the surplus tax revenue now being collected is not
returned to the people who earned it there will be no future surpluses to
apply to the debt or "saving" Social Security because Congress
will spend it all.
Over the weekend Newsweek's Eleanor Clift also
denounced a tax cut, declaring on the McLaughlin Group:
"Chairman Archer and Tony Blankley must have
been watching old Laurel and Hardy movies together [laughter] if they
believe that there's this much money out there. It's a totally
irresponsible tax plan. The 10 percent across-the-board tax cut would give
30 percent of -- what it would give back, it would give to the top one
The controversy/scandal over PBS stations sharing/exchanging donor lists
with the Democratic National Committee: It's Newt's fault. So
suggested a Boston Globe news story about the "identity crisis of
public broadcasting" brought to my attention by former MRCer Eric
Anne Kornblut and Don Aucoin identified the culprit: "Ever since the
Public Broadcasting Service came under attack in 1995 -- with Republican
House Speaker Newt Gingrich promising to 'zero out' its federal money
-- public broadcasters have been encouraged to finance themselves."
That zeroing out
never happened and the latest federal appropriation for CPB is higher than
An except from the
July 20 Boston Globe story headlined, "WGBH list-swaps tied to
WASHINGTON -- When Boston's WGBH-TV last
week admitted swapping donor lists with the Democratic Party, the
controversy that erupted seemed driven entirely by Capitol Hill.
Republicans, long suspicious of a liberal
bias in public broadcasting, threatened to slash funding. Democrats leaped
to the defense, insisting the practice was legal, accusing Republicans of
using any excuse to cut off public broadcasting.
But as the dust has begun to settle, and as
both parties have been implicated to some degree in list-swapping, it has
become clear the ordeal is not just about Washington politics. It is a
window into the identity crisis of public broadcasting: how to be a public
station and a successful commercial venture at the same time.
Ever since the Public Broadcasting Service
came under attack in 1995 -- with Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich
promising to "zero out" its federal money -- public broadcasters
have been encouraged to finance themselves, with the most successful
stations learning how to draw in ever more vast amounts of public
donations and corporate support. In that context, industry analysts said,
it should be no surprise that WGBH may have pushed the envelope too far.
"What this is about is how far the
commercial mindset has crept into public television," said William
Hoynes, a Vassar College professor of sociology and author of a book on
public television. "This is part of a bigger picture. WGBH treated
its customers as a market. They packaged them and sold them in an effort
to generate new revenues."....
In 1995, after the GOP took control of
Congress, Gingrich and Senate Commerce Committee chairman Larry Pressler
of South Dakota pledged to close down the public broadcasting system, a
network they accused of being both liberal and a drain on the federal
The political attack sent shockwaves
throughout PBS. Broadcasters already strapped for funding began thinking
up creative ways to fund programs. Even today Robert Coonrod, the
President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- the umbrella
organization for public television and radio -- and other public
broadcasters argue they need to fund their stations themselves, in part,
rather than depend on the whims of Congress....
To read the whole
story, go to: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/201/nation/
(The last time I
posted Globe stories I noted they only remain accessible for two days. In
fact, I've since been informed by a Globe staffer, with the exact
address you can access stories for a month.)
For some more
reasoned analysis of the PBS list sharing controversy, go to the MRC home
page where Webmaster Sean Henry has posted the testimony delivered Tuesday
by Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, to the House
Subcommittee on Telecommunications. He came under fire from Democrat John
Dingell. You can see that exchange as well as Graham's statement via
RealPlayer, or just read a text version the old fashioned way. Go to: http://www.mrc.org.
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