Shooter's Anti-Christian Motive Missed & Noted; Nets Avoiding Pardons
1) CBS and CNN were unable to
see any motive for the Fort Worth shooting inside a church, but NBC
reported he was "ranting anti-religious curses" and ABC's
Peggy Wehmeyer relayed how "one witness said the gunman appeared to
be taunting Christians."
2) Only the CNN and FNC
political shows are following the battle between Congress and the White
House over the pardons as FNC noted even Daschle is concerned. The MRC's
fax report detailed the lack of broadcast network attention over past
month to the controversy.
3) A weekend viewing
suggestion: ABC's John Stossel on Sunday night will compare the success
of heavily regulated economies to nations where businesses are left alone.
First, the September 16 CyberAlert quoted Dan Rather using the word "experiencial"
and noted that's not a word. It's not, but "experiential"
is. Second, the September 15 CyberAlert accurately stated that
"ABC's World News Tonight didn't get around to reporting" on
Clinton's August 11 pardon decision for the FALN terrorists until
September 5, but then inaccurately added "that remains the show's
only full story." In fact, ABC aired another piece the next night,
September 6, Labor Day. Since then 17 seconds on September 10 is all that
the clemency issue has received on World News Tonight.
"If 47 year-old Larry Ashbrook had a motive to his madness it
apparently died with him," asserted Bob McNamara on Thursday's CBS
Evening News as CBS and CNN were unable to assign any motive to the
shooter who killed eight on Wednesday night inside Fort Worth's
Wedgewood Baptist Church.
But both ABC and
NBC told viewers about his anti-religious views. NBC's Jim Cummins noted
how "authorities say the gunman...entered the church sanctuary
ranting anti-religious curses." ABC relayed how the FBI discovered
anti-religious writings inside his house as World News Tonight also
provided a very unusual piece for network news -- Peggy Wehmeyer portrayed
Christians as the victims of hate, observing: "What worries many
church leaders is that active Christians are being singled out for their
For third straight
night on Thursday, September 16, the three broadcast networks devoted over
half their evening shows to the hurricane. All made the Fort Worth
shooting their second topic with two stories each.
-- No discernable
motive. Bob McNamara began his CBS Evening News story: "If 47
year-old Larry Ashbrook had a motive to his madness it apparently died
Fort Worth Deputy Police Chief Ralph Mendoza then
explained: "We don't have any significant information in regards to
why he committed this crime."
McNamara later added: "Police say the
shooter had no criminal record, no hate group ties."
Schlesinger looked for a motive but couldn't find one: "In this
case, just like so many of these cases, what happened is painfully clear.
Why it happened will probably never be known."
After a soundbite from an FBI agent describing
Ashbrook as paranoid, Schlesinger continued: "The search for answers
began immediately at Larry Ashbrook's house and yielded details about
his life that were more disturbing than revealing."
FBI agent: "He's trashed his house. He's
punched holes in the walls. Furniture has been destroyed, photographs have
been cut up, faces removed from the photographs."
CNN's The World Today, Anne McDermott avoided suggestions of an
anti-religious or anti-Christian motivation, concluding her story on the
search of his house: "They did not find any recent notes or a
computer or any other clues that might be able to point to a motive and
neighbors are just as puzzled....one law enforcement official here says we
may never know why."
-- Anti-religious motive noticed. On NBC Nightly
News reporter Jim Cummins relayed what Ashbrook did after shooting a
maintenance worker in a hallway: "Authorities say the gunman then
entered the church sanctuary ranting anti-religious curses and opened fire
on a group of kids at a teenage prayer service..."
Reynolds alerted viewers to things found in the house that neither CBS or
CNN noted: "In addition to boxes of ammunition and bomb making
material, the FBI discovered writings that condemned religion and law
After the piece by
Reynolds, ABC's religion reporter, Peggy Wehmeyer, examined how
Christians feel targeted: She began: "Anyone listening to Christian
radio today heard conservative Christians expressing their fears about a
It's hard to
imagine many network types ever listen to Christian radio.
She then played a
clip of Marlin Maddoux of the USA Radio Network, who also serves as a
judge every year for the MRC's annual Best of Notables Quotables issue:
"I think it's time for America to take a good hard look at the
rising tide of anti-Christian bigotry that's growing daily in our
Wehmeyer uniquely added an eyewitness account:
"One witness said the gunman appeared to be taunting
Teen Boy: "And someone pointed a gun at this
man and said you're religion is all fake and he said no it's not, that
I believe in this with all my heart, basically."
Wehmeyer then reviewed the recent cases at
Columbine and Paducah where Christians were targeted, pointing out:
"What worries many church leaders is that active Christians are being
singled out for their beliefs."
As noted in the September 16 CyberAlert, the broadcast networks all
skipped over the House and Senate votes condemning Bill Clinton's pardon
offer to the FALN Puerto Rican terrorists. This week, House and Senate
committees heads have requested documents and the Senate held hearings
with bombing victims, but the activities have only generated stories on
the FNC and CNN political shows. (The latest MRC fax report reprinted a
few paragraphs below details how the big three networks were very slow to
pick up on the FALN pardons and then delivered skimpy coverage.)
Inside Politics on CNN, for instance, featured a full story by Jonathan
Karl on how Republican Congressman Dan Burton and Senator Orrin Hatch are
upset by the White House's assertion of executive privilege in response
to a document request. Hatch appeared Thursday on FNC's Special Report
with Brit Hume.
The night before,
on the September 15 Special Report with Brit Hume, David Shuster recounted
how Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to provide documents led Hatch
to accuse the "Justice Department of muzzling law enforcement
officials who disagreed with President Clinton's clemency offer for
members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN."
"On the House side of Capitol Hill, Government Reform Committee
Chairman Dan Burton, anticipating a similar struggle with the Justice
Department over his hearings, issued subpoenas for documents and testimony
in advance. Burton said that if the Justice Department witnesses refuse to
show up next week as scheduled, Republicans on the committee will vote to
hold them in contempt."
Tuesday night on
the FNC show Steve Centanni recounted the testimony of FALN victims before
a Senate committee, adding: "Even a top Democrat expressed concerns
about the freed prisoners."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "But I
must say I'm troubled deeply by the lack of remorse, the lack of empathy
for the victims on the part of the Puerto Ricans themselves."
Centanni illustrated: "For example, one of
the former prisoners denies his group intended to hurt anyone and says the
U.S. has terrorized Puerto Rico."
Ricardo Jimenez on Meet the Press last Sunday:
"And have no respect for us whatsoever during all these 60
Now to the
September 17 Media Reality Check fax report put together by Tim
Graham, "Little Sympathy for FALN Crime Victims: Big Three
Networks Very Slow and Skimpy on Coverage of Puerto Rican Terrorist Group
Clemency." Here's the text, but you can also read it
online, thanks to Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry, at: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1999/fax19990917.html
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary
Committee held hearings into Bill Clinton's decision to offer clemency
to 16 members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN. Clinton's
decision was criticized by Senators from both parties, including committee
chairman Orrin Hatch and liberal Democrat Robert Torricelli. Victims of
the FALN's bombings spoke emotionally about their outrage over the
release. How much ABC, CBS, and NBC coverage? Zero. It fits a pattern of
In the five weeks from the Associated Press
reporting the offer on August 11 through Thursday morning, Big Three
network coverage has been skimpy:
-- Evening news coverage: A total of six
full stories: two on ABC, two on CBS, two on NBC. Only one August 30 story
by CBS's Jim Stewart preceded Hillary's sudden opposition to clemency.
-- Morning news coverage: A total of 11
segments (seven news stories and four interviews). That's if you count
two partial stories that CBS aired (mixed in with other Clinton news), and
half an interview on Hillary with NBC's Tim Russert. Only one August 31
story by NBC's Fred Francis came before Hillary's flip-flop. Only CBS
interviewed an FALN victim, policeman Anthony Senft. "We'll be
following your testimony," co-host Thalia Assuras promised Senft. CBS
viewers couldn't follow his testimony. It was spiked.
The networks have mostly labored to avoid
occasions where they could underline the unpopularity of Clinton's
clemency offer and the emotional punch of opposition from law enforcement
officials and FALN victims:
-- September 14: The Senate voted 95 to 2
on a resolution calling Clinton's clemency offer "deplorable."
(Only Democrats Daniel Akaka and Paul Wellstone voted no.) Big Three
coverage? Zero, except a sentence previewing the vote on Nightline.
-- September 9: The House of
Representatives voted 311 to 41, with about 70 Democrats voting
"present" instead of standing with Clinton, to condemn the
clemency offer. Big Three coverage? Zero, even though ABC's and NBC's
morning shows mentioned the next day that the Puerto Ricans would be
released that day. CBS Saturday Morning mentioned the release the
-- August 27: The New York Times
reported, "A wide range of federal law enforcement agencies that were
asked to review a clemency petition filed by imprisoned members of a
Puerto Rican nationalist group unanimously opposed any leniency"
before Clinton's decision. Big Three coverage? Zero. Law enforcement
opposition surfaced in only five stories: three on NBC, once on ABC and
-- August 23: New York Police Commissioner
Howard Safir held a press conference featuring police officers
injured by FALN attacks to criticize Clinton's offer. Big Three
coverage? Zero, although CBS's August 30 evening story and NBC's
August 31 morning story both contained a clip from it.
-- August 13: A Wall Street Journal
editorial underlined the rarity of Clinton's offer: "From the time
he took office in 1993 until April 2, the date the Office [of the Pardon
Attorney at the Justice Department] prepared its last report, Mr. Clinton
had received 3,042 petitions for clemency. Until Wednesday, he had granted
a total of three." Big Three coverage? Zero. Only one use of the word
"rare" by NBC's Andrea Mitchell reflected that fact.
Sunday night at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT, ABC will bump 20/20 for a John
Stossel special, titled "Is America Number 1?" As of Thursday
night there were no details about it on the abcnews.com Web site, but a
brief item in USA Today suggested Stossel will deliver another dose of a
pro-free market perspective rarely outlined on network news.
In his September
16 Inside TV column for USA Today Peter Johnson revealed: "In his new
ABC News special (Sunday, 9pm ET), John Stossel examines why some
economies succeed and others fail. In places like the USA and New Zealand,
businesses are left alone, and 'there's an openness to new ideas.'
Weak economies, like India, have many restrictions."
Sounds like a
perspective not often seen on a network, so worth tuning in. --
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