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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday July 27, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 131) 

Ted Kennedy: Champion of "The Little Guy"; AP Re-Wrote Clinton's Lie

1) Peter Jennings has moved on. Unlike CBS and NBC on Monday night ABC avoided JFK Jr.'s death. "They're all so beautiful," Today's Katie Couric oozed over boyhood photos. "I spent so much time last night just staring at them."

2) Ted Kennedy the Great, Part 1: On Today Jonathan Alter agreed he "is one of the towering figures" in the Senate "in the whole second half of this century." Washington Week in Review panelists competed to offer the most effusive praise.

3) Ted Kennedy the Great Part 2: Time's Margaret Carlson admired "his concern for the little guy." New York Times reporter Adam Clymer gushed over his achievements which have changed "the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne."

4) The Washington Post implied communists were imaginary, claiming McCarthy "trampled the rights of government workers and private citizens in his vicious and futile search for 'communists.'"

5) The Weekly Standard discovered dissembling by AP: "Once [JFK Jr.'s] prior visit to the Nixon White House had been reported elsewhere, AP amended its dispatch -- not to report Clinton's whopper...but to help the White House press office obscure it."

koppel0727.JPG (18703 bytes)     >>> "Kenny Koppel," Ted's "evil twin" with a mustache, hosted Nightline Monday night while Ted guested on Letterman's show -- at least in a joke tape played on Monday night's Late Show on CBS . A still shot of Koppel in a mustache along with a clip of the Letterman segment is now up on the MRC home page in RealPlayer format for your amusement, thanks to the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell. <<<

Correction: An error by the musically challenged, seemingly confusing Dylan and Denver. The July 26 CyberAlert referred to how ABC News played "a John Dylan song over a video retrospective of JFK Jr.'s life." That was Bob Dylan.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Peter Jennings really has moved on, unlike his CBS and NBC colleagues. Jennings ended Friday's World News Tonight by choking back tears at the completion of another video montage as he promised: "And now as someone said, outside the church today, time to move on." While ABC News did not "move on" over the weekend, as detailed in the July 26 CyberAlert, the network did move away from JFK Jr.'s death on Monday.

     Monday's World News Tonight avoided the subject while both the CBS Evening News anchored by John Roberts and NBC Nightly News anchored by Tom Brokaw devoted full stories to the crash investigation and how investigators found nothing wrong with the plane and so are looking at pilot error. NBC made its piece the number two story of the night, just after the lead story about the Yosemite murder arrest. ABC and CBS led with the heat wave and drought across much of the country.

     Otherwise, the networks returned to the usual summer fare of non-political stories, though the CBS Evening News, which has yet to inform its viewers about Johnny Chung's charge that he got $300,000 from the Chines military to give on behalf of President Clinton's r-election, did look at China's crackdown on the Falun Gong sect followed by 100 million.

     NBC's In Depth segment explored airline passenger rage with Jim Avila offering this explanation: "What's going on? Experts say air rage is an unintended result of flying for the masses: low fares and a robust economy. The jets are full. A record 71 percent of airline seats sold today compared to 62 percent in 1989." NBC also discovered an "epidemic" of people getting fat as Robert Bazell, in a piece of how people are confused by conflicting studies about fat content in food, asserted: "The biggest problem is not what we eat but how much we eat. Whether it is good for you or bad for you, Americans are eating more of everything, creating an epidemic of obesity."

     Monday morning ABC's Good Morning America managed to hold JFK Jr. news to a few news briefs and did not run an interview segment, about why people are so involved in his death, until the 8:30 half hour. In its prime 8am half hour CBS's This Morning interviewed a People editor about the magazine's new issue looking at his life. Today still made the death a top story, interviewing Coast Guard Rear Admiral Richard Larrabee in the 7am half hour about the search effort, featuring former Ambassador William Vanden Heuvel in the 7:30am half hour for a talk about the memorial service and ending the show with a Life editor showing photos of JFK JR.'s boyhood from the magazine's special issue. Katie Couric, MRC intern Ken Shepherd noticed, beamed: "As I said, they're all so beautiful, I spent so much time last night just staring at them."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) It's one thing to admire Senator Ted Kennedy for his personal strength in seeing his family through too many tragedies, quite another to praise his ideological causes, political acumen and inspirational leadership while pretending he is not a liberal. But that is just what some leading media figures have done over the past few days. The July 26 CyberAlert noted how Steve Roberts maintained that calling Ted Kennedy liberal is just "Republican mythology" as he's really "a very flexible, pragmatic person."

     Last Friday morning on Today Matt Lauer recalled how JFK Jr. praised his uncle for how "he has shown that unwavering commitment to the poor, to the elderly." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter agreed Ted Kennedy "is one of the towering figures" in the Senate "in the whole second half of this century." Friday night on Washington Week in Review the panel conceded he's liberal but competed to see who could praise him more for creating "landmark legislation" and compromising as all agreed he's "a great legislator."

     -- July 23 Today, as caught MRC analyst Mark Drake:

     Co-host Matt Lauer: "Let me read on that point what John Kennedy Jr. said in introducing Ted Kennedy at the 1988 Democratic Convention: He said: 'I owe a special debt to the man his nephews and nieces call Teddy. Not just because of what he means to me personally but because of the causes he has carried on. He has shown that unwavering commitment to the poor, to the elderly, to those without hope, regardless of fashion or convention, is the greatest reward of public service.' Those are John Kennedy Jr's words speaking about the passion his uncle feels."
     Newsweek's Jonathan Alter: "Well, remember Ted Kennedy talked about sailing against the wind in 1980, not going with the political fashions and standing up for what you believe in. And when they look at the United States Senate, when they look back on it, from both sides of the aisle, he is one of the towering figures in that institution in the whole second half of this century."

-- July 23 Washington Week in Review on PBS, in a transcript checked for accuracy the MRC's Jessica Anderson:

     Gloria Borger, U.S. News and World Report: "He has become a national legislator. Think back to Teddy Kennedy, comes into the Senate at the age of 30, the youngest Senator. He's now the third longest serving Senator. He's 67, spent more than half of his life now in the United States Senate. When you think of landmark legislation in this country, when you think of civil rights legislation, health care legislation, job training, national service, minimum wage, the name Kennedy always gets the top byline. This is a man who has known how to legislate. He's had some rocky times -- you cannot deny that, of course. And maybe it's taken him a little bit longer to mature, but there he is. And Republicans and Democrats agree that he is a great legislator."

     "A little bit longer to mature." Nice euphemism.

     Moderator Paul Duke picked up: "He is a great legislator, but I, but I'd just like to say, Gloria, that some of us remember when he first came to Washington back in the early 1960s, he was very much of a lightweight. In fact, it was kind of accepted wisdom that his brother, the president, John F. Kennedy, wasn't particularly keen on him running for that Senate seat. Well, he ran and he won. And as you say, he's gone on to become the keeper of the flame."

     Borger: "Well, well, he has, and he's, and he's had rough times: Chappaquiddick in 1969, stories of overindulgent drinking, carousing, etcetera, etcetera. And so, you know, there has been a rockiness to him. He almost lost his election in 1994. This was a tough re-election fight for this, for this man, because there were so many bad stories about him. Then he got married to Vicki, and people say that it was a life-saving marriage, that his life has changed. And in fact, people say that this is a man who works harder than any other person in the United States Senate. I talked to the House minority leader, Dick Gephardt, this week, who said to me, 'I am in awe of this man. He comes to every meeting with more exuberance than the freshman congressman who comes to Washington who wants to change the world.' He said, 'He doesn't think about yesterday. He thinks about tomorrow,' and that's how he gets through things."
     Duke: "He's also this liberal lion who has just not changed."
     Borger: "Well, that's right, and whether you agree or whether you disagree, this is a man who has belief, which is something that some might argue is disappearing in Washington. I remember covering Tip O'Neill during the Reagan years, and Tip said, 'I am an old-fashioned liberal,' during the Reagan years, right? That was out of style. Ted Kennedy, 1994, the wave of the Newt Gingrich Republican Revolution was just coming. People were smelling it. How did he run for re-election in the state of Massachusetts, admittedly, a liberal state? Talking about Medicare reform, talking about working families, talking about the minimum wage. That's how he won, and that has become the agenda of the Democratic Party."
     Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times: "But, Gloria, while everybody in America knows that Ted Kennedy is this leading liberal, he has also had a lot of his success by working with very conservative Republicans: Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dan Quayle of Indiana when he was in the Senate. How does..."
     Borger: "Job training with Dan Quayle."
     McManus: "How does he do that?"
     Borger: "I spoke with Orrin Hatch this week. I asked him about that, and he said, 'Look, this is a guy who has a lot of liberal ideology, but when he wants to get something done, he gets it done.' And Hatch told me this story. He said, 'Look, when I took over the Labor and Human Resources Committee in the, in the aftermath of the Reagan landslide, Kennedy came over, took the ranking seat on that committee. We had a meeting. I said, 'Ted, I'm going to need you, 'cause I got two liberal Republicans that you're going to bring along with you.' And Ted said, 'Look, I'll be with you when I can, and I'll tell you when I can't.' And together they've passed health legislation, AIDS research legislation. You look at Ted Kennedy -- Kennedy-Kassebaum health insurance; Dan Quayle, job training -- this is a man who knows how to compromise. Two weeks ago, Patients' Bill of Rights, didn't really want to compromise with those Republicans, but there are times he's really been able to do it."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Ted Kennedy is also effusively praised in this week's news magazines, as documented by MRC analyst Paul Smith in the just-posted latest edition of MagazineWatch. "He will be remembered in both parties as one of the giants of the postwar U.S. Senate," oozed Newsweek. Time's Margaret Carlson admired how his public life "is still shaped by his concern for the little guy." Time also featured a book excerpt from a New York Times reporter who gloated that "his achievements as a Senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne."

     Here's an excerpt from the July 27 MagazineWatch about the August 2 editions:

-- 1. ...Jonathan Alter continued this Newsweek pattern of denial [of Kennedy's liberalism]. "The Kennedys have this reputation as big liberals; in fact, both JFK and his son were centrist and pragmatic." Now one can make a case for both JFK and his son given the father's position on tax cuts and George magazine's relative political evenhandedness. However, Alter conveniently ignored the primary reason for the Kennedys' liberal reputation. Teddy is a "big liberal." Amazingly, Alter went on to praise Teddy's liberal accomplishments and causes. "While Ted could never be President, he directly affected countless lives with an impressive string of legislative accomplishments on health, education, deregulation and the minimum wage. He's old-fashioned and easy to ridicule, but he will be remembered in both parties as one of the giants of the postwar U.S. Senate."

Gloria Borger followed the Ted Kennedy worship trend in her U.S. News & World Report article titled "The Scars Never Heal." Like Jonathan Alter, she praised his liberal Senate record. "As expected, he once tried out for the Presidency. He failed, yet produced a senatorial legacy no less enduring -- with a lead byline on landmark legislation ranging from civil rights to health care to national service to job training to the minimum wage." Unlike Alter, she acknowledged Ted's liberal ideology but went out of her way to praise him for it. "In politics, there is something to be said for belief....It's something House Speaker Tip O'Neill had when he called himself an 'old-fashioned liberal' during the Reagan era; it's what Kennedy clung to during the dawn of Newt Gingrich's 1994 Republican revolution."

Borger also hailed his efforts on behalf of the Democrats' bid to regulate HMOs, and disdained his "tasteless" opponents: "A couple of weeks ago, Ted Kennedy was a man in full -- on the Senate floor, fighting for his patients' bill of rights. He was passionate and, as always, funny. One tasteless Republican worried aloud that the Senator was so worked up he might have to call in Sen. Bill Frist, a heart surgeon. Kennedy didn't miss a beat. 'We couldn't get Dr. Frist under the (restrictive Republican) bill,' he roared."

It's not enough to just quote Kennedy, Borger had to pass on JFK Jr.'s tributes as her own. "In his office, he keeps a picture of himself with John Kennedy Jr. on the podium at the 1988 Democratic convention. The nephew was the political debutant, introducing the uncle, the party patriarch. His inscription: 'To Teddy, I could have gone on forever, but no introduction could match the eloquence of your example. You're always there for all of us and I'm proud to let the world know.'" Borger ended: "We know."

-- 2. Time saluted the entire Kennedy family, but saved its kindest words for Ted....Margaret Carlson concluded: "If his private life is shaped by his love for children and stepchildren, his public one is still shaped by his concern for the little guy, the one who parks your car, rings the cash register at the convenience store, catches the early bus. As he left town he was trying to expand health care, and when he comes back from burying his nephew, he will be fighting to raise the minimum wage. Leaving the Coast Guard cutter that brought the family and friends back to Woods Hole after the burial, he shook hands formally with the officers in their dress whites but gave the crewmen in working blues a slap on the back. It was a gesture that surely would have made his nephew smile."

Now for the piece de resistance. Time ran an excerpt from Adam Clymer's forthcoming biography of Ted Kennedy.(Clymer is a former deputy Washington bureau chief for the New York Times.) If Jonathan Alter and Gloria Borger represent respectful kneeling at the Temple of Ted, then Clymer is practically lying prostrate on the ground. Here's a selection of the choicest quotes.

Clymer's excerpt began with a shocking piece of moral equivalency. "It is the fate of Ted Kennedy that his failures outside the Senate have always drawn more public attention than his successes inside it. Millions of Americans, not just viewers of Jay Leno and readers of the National Enquirer, know what Chappaquiddick or Palm Beach stands for in the Kennedy story. They don't know that elderly people who receive Meals on Wheels owe him, as do the children who read to them through national service programs. Yet his achievements as a Senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne."

It's doubtful the Kopechne family takes much comfort in this.

Clymer saluted Kennedy's fights against conservative Supreme Court nominees: "If he failed to keep Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court in 1991, he was central to the 1970 defeat of G. Harrold Carswell, a dull racist whom Nixon nominated to the court. And he blocked Robert Bork in 1987."

On foreign policy, Clymer strangely claimed Kennedy was "a spokesman who conveyed American unity on China and the Soviet Union." And: "Across the world, he has been an advocate of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, never believing that its principles were too advanced for Soweto, Moscow, or Santiago."

After this and praising Teddy's efforts to legislate national health insurance, Mr. Clymer engaged in his own denial of Ted's liberalism. "Still, many people think of him as a doctrinaire liberal, a spokesman for a cause whose time has gone. That is much too simple. There was nothing liberal about denying bail to dangerous criminals or prohibiting parole in the federal system in a 1984 crime bill. Airline deregulation contradicted the liberal orthodoxy that called for as much control of Big Business as possible." Clymer doesn't dare offer a glimpse at Kennedy's career ratings from the American Conservative Union or Americans for Democratic Action. It might dispel a few dated examples.

Clymer concluded with this glowing assessment of Kennedy's Senate career. "He deserves recognition not just as the leading Senator of his time but also as one of the greats in the history of this singular institution, wise in its workings, especially its demand that a Senator be more than partisan to accomplish much. A son of privilege, Kennedy has always identified with the poor and the oppressed. The deaths and tragedies around him would have led others to withdraw. He never quits but sails against the wind."

For all those code words suggesting liberalism's redeeming qualities ("identified with the poor and oppressed,") why can't they call a liberal a liberal?....

     END Excerpt

     To read the rest of MagazineWatch, including another item about how while the "extremist" and "hardline" NRA may have defeated the rush to exploit the Columbine shootings to pass more gun control, Newsweek insisted the NRA still might lose, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/magwatch/mag19990727.html


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Ted Kennedy will certainly fare better in the media's history lessons than Senator Joe McCarthy, for whom his brother once toiled in what the Washington Post on Monday implied was a worthless and misguided effort to identify imaginary "communists."

     In the middle of a July 26 obituary for Martin Agronsky, the former CBS and NBC News reporter who hosted Agronsky & Company from 1969 to 1986, Post reporter Richard Pearson opined:
     "Mr. Agronsky received his George Foster Peabody Award in 1952 for his hard-hitting radio reportage of the scandalous career of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.), who trampled the rights of government workers and private citizens in his vicious and futile search for 'communists.'"


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) The Associated Press put words in Clinton's mouth last week so readers would have no idea Clinton made a false assertion about JFK Jr.'s visit to the White House.

     (See the July 23 and 26 CyberAlerts for details of how the networks covered Clinton's false claim made last Wednesday that "John Kennedy had actually not been back to the White House since his father was killed until I became President," and how CNBC's Chris Matthews showed JFK Jr. recalling visiting the residential quarters with Richard Nixon in 1971. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990723.html#3

     The broadcast evening shows never mentioned Clinton's false claim and while both GMA and This Morning pointed out the Nixon visit, neither castigated Clinton for his misinformation. On Today, Matt Lauer blamed the dead guy: "It could have been just that John Kennedy Jr. was being especially gracious to his host, President Clinton, and made him feel as if this was a special visit.")

     The August 2 Weekly Standard revealed some dissembling from the AP. An excerpt from the magazine's "Scrapbook" page:

When did the White House start doing free spin for the White House? Sonya Ross's initial AP stories duly repeated as fact Clinton's misty-eyed claim to be the first President to invite John Kennedy Jr. back to the White House. Once his prior visit to the Nixon White House had been reported elsewhere, AP amended its dispatch -- not to report Clinton's whopper, however, but to help the White House press office obscure it.

The new improved AP story read: "It was during Clinton's first term, in 1994, that Kennedy visited the White House for the first time as an adult, when Kennedy was serving on an advisory committee on schools, Clinton said." But Clinton said no such thing; this paraphrase was a lawyerly evasion, courtesy of AP.

It got worse. Even this new version failed to account for JFK Jr.'s visit, as an adult, to the Reagan White House in 1981. Thus, the final (unbylined) AP dispatch on the subject: "It was during Clinton's first term, in 1994, that Kennedy visited the White House inner sanctum for the first time as an adult, Clinton said." No he didn't say it that way, either.

Had Clinton phrased it as AP did for him, it would indeed have been true, in a Clintonian sort of way. Maybe AP should just start drafting the President's remarks for him.

     END Except

     He doesn't need that since he already has the media eagerly covering up for his dissembling.

     To watch a clip of JFK Jr., on CNBC's Hardball, recalling his 1971 White House visit, go to the MRC's Media Bias Videos page and click on the July 23 video:http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html. -- Brent Baker


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