Ted Tribute; Kennedy Family "Values" in "National Bosom"; No Scandal Qs
1) "Yet another test of
Ted Kennedy's resiliency, yet another test of his endurance,"
ABC's Morton Dean extolled Wednesday night. CBS marveled at how people
who never met JFK Jr. are grieving for him.
2) Today wondered who will
"pick up the mantle" of Camelot. Jonathan Alter advocated
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Couric lamented how the massive coverage
"takes a sweetness and specialness out of the images that we
3) CNN's Chris Black admired
how "the legacy of values and a significant achievement has
endured" in the Kennedy family as Jeff Greenfield suggested Americans
have drawn them "into the national bosom."
4) On tax cuts NBC relayed
only Clinton's viewpoint. Tuesday night ABC's Linda Douglass worried
"voters may well get a tax cut whether they want one or not."
Wednesday night: "The question tonight is whether any plan is going
5) Spreading the blame around,
Dan Rather asserted secrets spilled to China "in the Carter, Reagan,
Bush and Clinton years."
6) At Clinton's press
conference reporters avoided Chinese espionage and pressed Clinton from
the left on health care. On FNC Mara Liasson suggested he's interacting
so much with the press now "because we're not asking him any
scandal questions anymore."
Bozell to appear Thursday morning on MSNBC to discuss JFK Jr. death
coverage. MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell is scheduled to appear Thursday,
July 22, in the first half of MSNBC's Watch It with Laura Ingraham. The
show airs for one hour at 11am ET, 10am CT, 9am MT and 8am PT.
Testimony of Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, to the
House Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and
Consumer Protection, is now up on the MRC Web site along with two video
clips in RealPlayer format of his July 20 testimony which reads in part:
"This erupting PBS-DNC fundraising scandal demonstrates what can
happen when Congress and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have done
very little to lift the veil of privacy that supposedly 'public'
stations draw around their own financial arrangements. Behind our backs,
PBS stations have constructed an indirect form of taxpayer- financed
campaigns, at least for the Democrats. But the lack of oversight means the
taxpayer is asked to put up and shut up." Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/press/news/pr19990720a.html
For the fifth straight night the three broadcast network evening shows all
led Wednesday, July 21, with JFK Jr. death-related stories. All started
with three stories about the bodies being found, how the search was
conducted and memorial service plans. Like Tuesday night, NBC devoted the
most time to the story, once again allocating over half its newscast.
In a sign that ABC
and CBS have returned to a normal news judgment routine, ABC's World
News Tonight featured a look at the lack of community and things for kids
to do in suburbs and the CBS Evening News checked out the controversy over
genetically-altered crops. (Still no last part of CBS's "Armed
Senator's endurance and resiliency have been tested time and time
again," admired ABC's Morton Dean as World News Tonight caught up
with NBC and ran a tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy. But unlike NBC on
Tuesday night, ABC failed to call his politics liberal.
CBS ended by
marveling at how the nation has moved from observing to taking part in
grieving as those paying tribute outside the Kennedy-Bessette apartment
"were strangers to Kennedy, but in their minds, even though they were
never near him, they are still close to him." CBS's Bob Schieffer
managed to link the Kennedy tragedy to the tax debate, reporting that
Congressman Patrick Kennedy has offered to fly back to vote if necessary.
(See item #4 today for a look at tax bill coverage.)
-- ABC's World
News Tonight ended with Morton Dean on Ted Kennedy as family grief
counselor and surrogate father: "The Senator's endurance and
resiliency have been tested time and time again." Morton asserted
that "religion has played an important part in his survival," as
he outlined the many tragedies in the Kennedy family history.
While NBC's Tom
Brokaw on Tuesday night referred to Kennedy as the "aging liberal
lion of the Senate," Morton avoided any such labeling as he concluded
by simultaneously pointing out Kennedy's shortcomings while also
admiring his resilience and endurance:
"As Ted Kennedy persevered and rose from a
lightly regarded junior brother of political heavyweights to one of the
most formidable forces in the U.S. Senate, he survived questions about his
own integrity and personal conduct, heavy drinking, reports of
extra-marital escapades and Chappaquiddick: A young woman died in a car
the Senator was driving. He's 67 now and soon to bury another young
nephew. Yet another test of Ted Kennedy's resiliency, yet another test
of his endurance."
-- The CBS Evening
News ended with Richard Schlesinger marveling at a change in America over
the last 35 years:
"The rituals of grief have changed since we
first went through this with the Kennedy family. The nation looked on
then, the nation takes part now. In front of the apartment where John
Kennedy Jr. and his wife lived, crowds have built an instant
After some soundbites of people who never met him
saying they felt close to him and expressing how pleased they were to be
able to show their feelings, Schlesinger concluded:
"It's an emotional scene, watching people
grieve. Remember, most if not all of these people were strangers to
Kennedy, but in their minds, even though they were never near him, they
are still close to him."
One big change
between 1963 and 1999: Television, which allows people to think they know
those they often see on the screen.
For the third straight weekday morning, on July 21 the three morning shows
spent most of their time on the Kennedy death, but for the first time they
also spent significant time on other subjects while NBC's Today actually
devoted a segment to wondering if "the frenzy at the Kennedy compound
[is] over the top?"
This came an hour
after Today spent a segment exploring who will "pick up the
mantle" of Camelot. Jonathan Alter advocated Maryland Lieutenant
Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, "who's about to become Governor
of Maryland." (Maryland residents take note of this, no need to vote
since it's already been decided.)
On non-JFK topics,
ABC's Good Morning America interviewed Jesse Ventura during the 7:30am
half hour and Today devoted the whole 7:30am half hour to the recovery of
the Liberty Bell Mercury capsule and to a heartwarming interview by Matt
Lauer with Lorraine Wagner, the woman who corresponded with Ronald Reagan
for over 50 years and is the focus of an article in this week's New
During the 7am
half hour Today brought aboard Democratic activist Lawrence O'Donnell
and liberal analyst Jonathan Alter of Newsweek to answer Matt Lauer's
"Ever since November of 1963 the legacy of
Camelot had rested in large part on the shoulders of John Kennedy Jr. With
his death who will now pick up the mantle?"
Lauer conceded the
obvious, telling O'Donnell, "This is something that in the media we
tend to be a little obsessed with, who will carry the mantle."
that the Kennedys have always been entwined in American history as Joe
Kennedy was isolationist in the 1930s when most Americans were and when
Americans were concerned about communism Robert Kennedy toiled for Joe
McCarthy. Bringing his analysis up to the present, MRC analyst Geoffrey
Dickens observed that Alter tied the Kennedy family to the impending rise
of women in politics:
"I think in the next century they will
represent the coming to power of women in this country and in that sense
they do have somebody who represents that and that's Kathleen Kennedy
Townsend, who's about to become Governor of Maryland."
Lauer: "You feel strongly that she is both
willing and able to step into the spotlight. Why?"
Alter: "She's just already developing a good
track record in Maryland. At the next gubernatorial election she's
expected to get elected Governor. You never know how these things work out
for sure but looking down the road ten years or so it's hard to imagine
she wouldn't be a pretty attractive candidate to put on a national
An hour later the
ubiquitous Alter hadn't left the Today set when Katie Couric asked him
and disgraced newspaper writer turned Kennedy expert, Mike Barnicle:
"The tragedy that began to unfold last Saturday has attracted an
enormous amount of media attention. John F. Kennedy Jr. was no stranger to
the spotlight. But is the frenzy at the Kennedy compound over the
Anne Thompson showed how Hyannisport has been inundated by the media
Barnicle expressed concern for how the Kennedys are being treated:
"The media has mistaken volume for content. There's a huge
difference...the most lethal weapon of all, in a sense, is the media. We
kill reputations, we invade privacy, we are ruthless and we are
"The problem Katie is that the intensity of the coverage strips the
coverage of the dignity that it used to have before we had 24 hour news.
It used to be a story had some time to unfold in a dignified way. And now
the saturation coverage, I think, is really starting to annoy not just the
people who watch it but those of us who participate."
Couric agreed, ending the segment by lamenting:
"And it takes a sweetness and specialness out of the images that we
Couric and Alter
should talk to Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. MRC analyst
Paul Smith noticed that he ended CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday by
insisting to co-host Bernard Kalb: "You mentioned the question of
over-coverage, Bernie. I'm not sure a story like this can be
Two CNN reporters gushed over the Kennedy family Tuesday night on Late
Edition Prime Time as Chris Black maintained that despite setbacks
"the legacy of values and a significant achievement has endured"
and Jeff Greenfield suggested national guilt over the assassination has
drawn the family "into the national bosom."
MRC analyst Paul
Smith picked up on these July 20 assertions:
Hyannisport, Chris Black, a former Boston Globe reporter turned CNN
"Because the Kennedy legacy really endures:
Senator Kennedy has been in the United States Senate for 36 years, and the
baby boom generation -- my generation -- has a Lieutenant Governor in
Maryland, Congressman Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island, Joe Kennedy is
not in Congress now, but everyone in Massachusetts will tell you that
he'll probably be Governor of Massachusetts some day. So the legacy of
values and a significant achievement has endured."
-- Jeff Greenfield
on the Kennedy family and America:
"I think the massive national guilt that was
felt about the fact that the President of the United States was murdered
in broad daylight, kind of turned the Kennedys into this family that was
taken into the national bosom."
Certainly into the
bosom of the news media.
The intra-Republican battle over a tax cut plan and Clinton denouncing the
GOP leadership's plan generated full stories on ABC and CBS, as Dan
Rather highlighted how the idea is not popular, and a one-sided half story
on NBC which presented only Clinton's viewpoint. ABC's Linda Douglass
showed she's not a very good prognosticator, predicting passage one
night only to not be so sure the next evening.
Bloom highlighted how at his press conference Clinton threatened a veto of
the GOP tax cut plan, calling it "risky." Bloom allowed Clinton
to denounce Republicans for doing nothing about Medicare and Social
Security and charge the plan will lead to "major cuts" in
popular programs, before Bloom moved on to other press conference topics.
Over on the CBS
Evening News anchor Dan Rather intoned:
"An election year tax cut battle kicked into
higher gear today. In the Republican controlled House the push is on for a
$800 billion tax cut plan. President Clinton calls the plan 'way too
risky for our future.' That's a quote. So do some Republicans."
allowed Dick Armey to promote its value before noting how "Democrats
say it's tilted to the rich and so huge there would be no money left to
run the government." Schieffer outlined the major provisions of the
GOP bill and then concluded by relaying how a Kennedy may save the
"The Republican leaders are still convinced
they can push this through somehow, but it's going to be so close that
even Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the cousin of the late John
Kennedy Jr., has sent word to the Democratic leadership that he'll fly
back to Washington from Hyannisport just to cast his vote."
followed up by pointing out how tax cuts are "not a top priority of
the public" according to a CBS News poll which found only five
percent cited taxes as the most important issue, compared to 14 percent
who named health care and eight percent who identified Social Security.
Douglass demonstrated the short-lived nature of television
prognostication. Tuesday night she concluded her World News Tonight piece:
"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
A night later, she
ended her Wednesday story: "The question tonight is whether any plan
is going to pass. Some provisions are being negotiated but the price tag
remains the same. So Peter, it is likely to be a very long night."
CBS's Dan Rather continues to insist upon spreading the blame around
equally for Chinese espionage. Wednesday night CBS was the only broadcast
network to note an espionage fallout-prompted Senate vote, as Rather told
CBS Evening News viewers:
"The U.S. Senate voted tonight to create a
new agency to oversee nuclear weapons lab security. It would report
directly to U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. This follows
disclosures of lack security that allowed nuclear weapons secrets to spill
to China, it is said, in the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton years."
Not all are
equally culpable. As Paul Sperry reported in the June 9 Investor's
"The declassified version of the House
report identifies 11 cases of Chinese espionage since the late 1970s.
Eight took place during President Clinton's years in office. Two of the
three prior cases were first learned in 1995 and 1997.
"In other words, the vast majority of the
leaks over the past 20 years have sprung on Clinton's watch and nearly all
the old leaks have shown up then.
"That's not all. The House report doesn't
disclose the full extent of Chinese espionage in the Clinton years. Citing
"national security" reasons, the White House censored roughly
375 pages, including several recent cases."
The only thing we
know that has remained consistent through the Carter, Reagan, Bush and
Clinton years is CBS's liberal bias.
A jovial Bill Clinton met an accommodating White House press corps for a
70-minute press conference from 2:35 to 3:45pm ET Wednesday afternoon
carried live by the cable networks. The press corps avoided all scandal
questions and failed to broach Chinese espionage. Instead, they asked
about JFK Jr., pressed him from the left "to provide the
leadership" to give health coverage to the uninsured, and wondered if
he will run for elective office in the future.
At one point
Clinton lied about Newt Gingrich, but no one in the room corrected him
then or in later news reports. Specifically, Clinton charged: "So
unless they just simply propose to bankrupt all the teaching hospitals and
a lot of the other hospitals in the country and let the Medicare program
wither away, as one of their previous leaders so eloquently put it, they
can't possibly finance this tax program without doing serious
As Clinton well
knows and the press corps should, he was lying. His reference to
"withering away" was to a comment from Newt Gingrich, but
Gingrich was referring not to the Medicare program but to reducing
bureaucracy and reforming the program so that the Heath Care Finance
Administration would "wither away."
Here are three
questions of note posed at the July 21 press conference which only CNN
carried to the end as both FNC and MSNBC cut out about six minutes early
to go back to more JFK Jr. coverage.
-- In a question
he wasn't too embarrassed to replay in his CBS Evening News story, CBS
Scott Pelley asked about John F. Kennedy Jr.'s visit to the White House:
"Is there anything Mr. Kennedy said to you that night that
particularly struck you?"
-- Los Angeles
Times reporter Ed Chen hit Clinton from the left about not doing enough on
"You mentioned the Patients' Bill of Rights.
It seems like that was an argument by both parties over providing more for
people who already are lucky enough to have health insurance. And in fact,
neither party dealt with some very fundamental issues that energized you
and the First Lady five and six years ago. The question is: With such a
robust economy and the budget surpluses, if not now when? And if not you,
who would provide the leadership to provide for those folks?"
-- The press
conference ended with this question from CBS reporter Bill Plante:
"As the spotlight shifts from you to your Vice President and to your
wife, are you likely to be content drifting slowly offstage, or do you
think that someday you will want to run for office, some office, again? Or
are you willing to tell us this afternoon, sir, that you will never again
run for elective office?" (Answer: "I don't have any
Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, NPR reporter Mara Liasson observed:
"I think the President does really enjoy
this. As Joe Lockhart said the other day, one of the reasons he's
interacting so much with the press now is because we're not asking him
any scandal questions anymore. We're actually asking him about things he
wants to talk about. The President was very relaxed, he was funny."
Well, that's what's important.
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