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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday September 22, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 157) 

Pardon Hearing Skipped; Raisa as Jackie; Stossel's Rare Spin; Sam on Pot

1) ABC, CBS and NBC ignored the pardon hearing. FNC noted the FALN's victims were "insulted" by Clinton's letter defending his action while CNN just relayed his view. ABC plugged a hearing on pensions, warning that women "will have to work until they die."

2) CBS on Raisa Gorbachev: "For Russians she was part Jackie Kennedy, telegenic and fashionable, and part Hillary Clinton, criticized for being too outspoken and too influential."

3) ABC brought George Stephanopoulos onto GMA to analyze the race between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, the man he once worked to elect. Stephanopoulos abandoned his analyst role and approved of Bradley's position on gays in the military, declaring it "right."

4) ABC's John Stossel special, "Is America Number One?", provided a rare network consideration of the benefits of economic freedom. He told an Indian his "stupid" socialist rules make India poor.

5) NBC's Must See Liberal Wednesday: Liberal record for the producer of The West Wing and Law & Order goes after gun makers.

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Stories Reported By Sam Donaldson After Smoking Pot."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The House Government Reform Committee convened hearings on Tuesday afternoon to examine Clinton's pardon of the Puerto Rican terrorists, but none of the broadcast networks noticed. Not a word about the topic on the ABC, CBS or NBC evening shows Tuesday night, September 21, though ABC's World News Tonight did lead with another Capitol Hill hearing -- a Senate hearing on companies changing their retirement plans from a pension system to "cash balance" plans, a development Peter Jennings called a "crisis for millions of Americans." Another ABC reporter claimed most women will have to work "until they die."

     The hearing on the pardons captured half a story on CNN's Inside Politics, paired with a hearing about loans to Russia. Bob Franken's story included a brief look at the 1983 FBI video showing two of those now released making a bomb. Broadcast network evening show viewers have yet to see this video as besides Inside Politics it's only aired on FNC and NBC's Meet the Press. Later Tuesday night, CNN's 8pm ET The World Today did not show any of the hearing but allocated 25 seconds to relaying Clinton's defense of his decision. FNC's Fox Report didn't cover the hearing, but Special Report with Brit Hume went to David Shuster for a live update.

     -- FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. David Shuster showed ranking Democrat Henry Waxman reading a portion of Clinton's letter in which the President denied "political considerations" played a role in his decision. After a soundbite from committee Chairman Dan Burton about how the terrorists never helped identify who did the actual bombings, Shuster observed:
     "The hearings also included some pretty riveting testimony from some family members of those who were killed or wounded during the FALN bombings. They said they were insulted that the President would send a letter to the ranking Democrat and explain his decision, but has yet to communicate with those who were most affected by the claim of clemency."

     -- CNN's The World Today gave the whole matter a mere 25 seconds as anchor Wolf Blitzer relayed only Clinton's defense:
     "One note from the U.S. capital. President Clinton today sent a letter to Congressman Henry Waxman defending his decision to offer clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists. The President wrote he has supported clemency for the group for the past six years and he said what he called 'political considerations' played no role in the process. Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the House committee which began hearings today on the clemency decision."

     -- ABC's World News Tonight skipped the House hearing on the pardons but opened with two pieces prompted by a Senate hearing on pension plans. ABC's first story looked at the supposed problem of companies switching from pension plans to cash balance plans. Then ABC identified the real victims: women. Reporter Betsy Stark opened ABC's second story with this dire warning:
     "The harsh reality for millions of American women is that they will probably never be able to retire. In order to survive they will have to work until they die."
     After a bunch of anecdotes about women who never saved any money and assumed others would take care of them, Stark ominously concluded: "For many women retiring to a life of leisure has been impossible for years. Now, with pensions shrinking it can only get worse."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) With analogies to Jackie Kennedy in Paris the networks on Tuesday night, September 20, bid adieu to Raisa Gorbachev, but at least all but CBS News acknowledged that her fashion trips to Paris made her quite unpopular at home.

     -- "Just ahead on tonight's CBS Evening News, the Russian woman who puzzled and dazzled the world," oozed Dan Rather. In the subsequent report transcribed by the MRC's Brian Boyd, David Hawkins announced from Moscow:
     "In her way, Raisa Gorbachev symbolized the revolutionary changes her husband brought about in the Soviet Union. Glasnost and Peristroika for openness and restructuring, she was his most devoted supporter. For Russians she was part Jackie Kennedy, telegenic and fashionable, and part Hillary Clinton, criticized for being too outspoken and too influential. Whatever influence she may have had, came to an abrupt end in 1991. After a hardline communist coup attempt against her husband, Raisa returned from house arrest a broken woman. By the end of that year, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and the Gorbachev's too were history. Except for an unsuccessful presidential run in 1996, Raisa and Mikhail Gorbachev have remained in political obscurity. Largely reviled in Russia for their part in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union. But while Raisa Gorbachev may have been the wife of the country's last communist leader, she'll almost certainly be remembered as the Soviet Union's first First Lady."

     -- On CNN's The World Today. MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed, Eileen O'Connor forwarded the same analogy to Jackie but added that though it made her popular with the press it did not go over well in the Soviet Union:
     "As with JFK and Jacqueline in Paris, it could be said Mikhail Gorbachev was the man who accompanied Raisa to the United States."
     Patricia Schroeder: "It was almost like we were babies discovering our hands. It was like, 'Wow, she's this, she's that.'"
     O'Connor: "The public, the press loved her. Official Washington wasn't so enamored."
     Schroeder: "I think people wanted to pick and snipe at her, saying, well, she thinks she's really got the look, but she's still about ten years behind everybody else. She ruffled all sorts of feathers."
     O'Connor: "Her sometimes unscripted openness was threatening to some, seen by the U.S. First Lady as courting the press."
     Nancy Reagan: "I want to say something. I want to say something. OK, all right."
     O'Connor: "And whatever she did abroad that won praise, cost her back home."

     -- On NBC Nightly News, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Tom Brokaw gushed: "Just as Gorbachev represented a new breed of Soviet leader: younger, charismatic, more accessible, Raisa Gorbachev seemed more like an American First Lady with her stylish clothes and her very public presence....Like her husband Raisa Gorbachev was popular overseas. But just about everything the world liked about Mrs. Gorbachev irritated ordinary Russians. Many of them fighting for survival. They didn't appreciate a First Lady who attended Paris fashion shows."

     -- Only ABC's Peter Jennings avoided the Western comparisons. As MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted, on World News Tonight he stressed her lack of popularity amongst her people as he reported:
     "She was the most public First Lady in Soviet history. Raisa Gorbachev was articulate, intelligent and very fashion-conscious, the kind of thing that many Russians, who had so little, resented. She and her husband, the Soviet leader, had been inseparable for most of their adult lives. They met in college. She was his intellectual equal and an important advisor. Raisa, the former professor of Marxist philosophy; Mikhail Gorbachev, who wanted to change the Soviet Union, but wasn't daring enough. He is described tonight as devastated."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Monday morning ABC News brought aboard George Stephanopoulos to provide the show's only analysis of the race between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, the man Stephanopoulos once worked to elect. Stephanopoulos could not control his personal left-wing views and at one point abandoned his independent analyst role as he approved of Bradley's position on gays in the military, declaring it "right."

     Just a week and a half ago, on September 8, GMA had Stephanopoulos alone interview Bradley. As noted in the September 9 CyberAlert, Stephanopoulos used the opportunity to asked about Bush and cocaine and to hit Bradley with Gore's arguments.

     Putting Stephanopoulos in this kind of position seems to contradict the spirit of ABC News President David Westin's assurance to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz back on August 23 that while ABC is turning Stephanopoulos into a regular correspondent, "we wouldn't have him be the beat reporter on the Gore campaign."

     GMA co-host Diane Sawyer introduced Stephanopoulos on September 20: "Well, Campaign 2000 has begun in earnest. The candidates are beginning to stake out positions, finally, at least in the most contested race. It's Bradley versus Gore, the former Senator versus the Vice President. And ABC News political analyst George Stephanopoulos is here to tell us what the positions are."

     Getting to what Bradley said on This Week, Sawyer noted, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Well, he said why should you allow gay people to be in the Cabinet and not to be in the military. How risky is this position?"
     Stephanopoulos offered his personal opinion: "Well, it's, it's, he's right. I would say he's right, and the President Clinton and Gore both would agree with him. What he's not taking into account, perhaps, is how difficult it was for getting, in those early days of the Clinton administration, to get even the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. The military is fully against this. So it could be risky farther down the road. I think the one mistake Senator Bradley made, he was on This Week yesterday, when he was asked did you consult the military on your policy position, he said no. Well, a President can't really not consult the military, so it tends to seem too casual."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)stossel0922.jpg (11913 bytes) Sunday's ABC special hosted by John Stossel, "Is America Number One?", provided a rare network airing of some libertarian and conservative views of economic freedom, the depressing impact of regulation and how despite the liberal mantra about income inequality the poor in America are much better off than those in other countries.

     After the show aired Stossel appeared in an abcnews.com chat session for an hour during which he held his own against several hostile attacks. He suggested we have a "health care crisis" but not a "food crisis" because the government regulates health care and when asked how many of his ABC News colleagues share his view of the success of economic freedom, he replied: "Almost none of my colleagues."

     In the one-hour program Stossel compared and contrasted three places: the U.S., Hong Kong and India. He explained how despite democracy India is poor because of burdensome socialistic government control while few are poor in Hong Kong because it's so easy to open a business or hire people.

     First some highlights from the show and then some choice answers from Stossel's post-show chat session.

     -- On Hong Kong: "You do see poor people in Hong Kong, but it's nothing like Europe or America. Some say you see less of this in Hong Kong because here it's so easy for everyone to become an entrepreneur. Even a clueless American can open a business. In a day. In my home town, New York City, it takes weeks. I'd have to go to the licensing department and get a state tax number, a federal tax number, apply to the buildings department, the zoning board, and more. Here in Hong Kong, handing in one form."

     -- Government controls drive entrepreneurs to the U.S.: "One out of every five companies here in Silicon Valley was founded by an immigrant. One out of every three engineers, one out of every three scientists is an immigrant."
     Why? He examined the case of a French woman who couldn't expand her business in France: "Another reason she won't go back is that French bureaucrats, to try to protect workers, are so busy passing labor laws that stifle entrepreneurship. One seemingly worker-friendly law says employees may not work longer than 35 hours a week. And so, in the past ten years, 300,000 people, many of France's best and brightest, have left. And they're leaving Germany, Sweden, Canada, leaving countries with lots of restrictions -- for America."

     -- Taking on income inequality claptrap. He let left-wing radio talk show host Jim Hightower claim: "We have unprecedented economic growth. More money being generated than ever before. But it's all going to the top. Eight out of ten Americans have seen their incomes go flat or go down."
     Stossel countered: "Federal Reserve economist Michael Cox says it's just not true -- all these reports about the poor being left behind, about most Americans' income being flat or going down?"
     Cox: "You have to torture the data virtually in order to get it to say that. It's playing games with the numbers. It's telling a big lie to say that we just don't get paid as much as we used to."
     Stossel elaborated: "In fact, the Federal Reserve's wage data that's often cited doesn't count things like commissions salespeople make, retirement contributions, medical insurance. When you include them, average American compensation's risen 20 percent. Still, what about the poorest of the poor? We're told America leaves them behind."
     Clip of Peter Jennings: "Nearly 37 million Americans now live below the official poverty line."
     Cox: "The government says now 13.3 percent of households are in poverty. Let's go see what households in poverty have. Ninety-seven percent of households in poverty have color televisions. Two thirds have microwave ovens and live in air-conditioned buildings. Seventy-five percent have one or more cars."
     Hightower retorted: "It's the old welfare Cadillac story. I mean, this is not a statement about an economy. This is anecdotal B.S. I mean, and it's insulting to poor folks. I would invite you to visit with some poor people and get out there in the in the real world."

     Stossel took up Hightower's challenge and went to the South Bronx where he talked to people in a food line who admitted owning color televisions, VCRs, microwave ovens and having cable television.

     Stossel then observed: "No one says some Americans aren't suffering, but poverty in America is nothing compared to the misery and hunger you see in India, and most of the world. These people in the South Bronx aren't here because they've been going without food. They come because the food's free."

     +++ Watch a RealPlayer clip of this segment of Stossel's show. Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Sean Henry will post it. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

     -- Confronting an Indian socialist. Stossel talked with an Indian official who claimed socialism works better than capitalism:
     "Hashim Abdul Halim is political boss of the part of India I visited. The socialists have been in charge here for years, so it's not surprising that this is the poorest part of the country. And despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the astonishing success of unplanned places like Hong Kong the politician in India says the government has to plan the economy."
     Stossel to Halim: "First it needs your planning."
     Halim: "Yeah. Planning."
     Stossel: "You can't just let it happen. You have to plan."
     Halim: "No, no. Of course."
     Stossel: "Despite the success of immigrant cultures like Hong Kong and America, Calcutta's leader says his people are poor because of immigration."
     Stossel: "Immigration makes Calcutta poor?"
     Halim: "Yes, it does. It's a strain on the resources."
     Stossel: "Calcutta is poor because of your stupid policies."
     Halim: "That's not right. We have risen in the ladder. We have not gone down."
     Stossel: "Socialism just works better." 
     Halim: "A hundred times."
     Stossel, back in studio: "Millions of people have suffered from that conceit."

     To read a transcript of the show, which is largely accurate but does include some clauses not actually aired, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/onair/ABCNEWSSpecials/stossel990919_scriptA.html

     Some interesting chat session exchanges:

     -- Q: "What about health care, our miserable disparity between rich and poor, corporate buying of our politicians and America's policy of violently subverting policy in countries who don't agree with us?"
     Stossel: "Always refreshing to hear some Marxist dogma. I was taught that stuff when I was a student at Princeton. Health care is better in America. Corporations own fewer politicians than the lawyers do. The disparity between wealthy and poor is a by product of FREEDOM that makes all of us better off. But I do hope to report soon on how we subvert (bomb? Wreck with failing drug wars?) other countries."

     -- Q: "What kind of hurdles did you have to cross to get ABC to air the story? Do you think that this story reflects the views of most of your colleagues?"
     Stossel: "Almost none of my colleagues.
     "ABC lets me do these things because it believes many viewpoints should be aired, and my other specials have been commercially successful."

     -- Q: "What about the 43 million Americans who don't have basic health coverage. Do you really believe they can rely solely upon emergency care? What should they do for preventative care, prenatal care or even dental care?"
     Stossel: "Why don't we have a food crisis in America? Or a Sony Walkman crisis? Or a tennis shoe crisis? Because the free market provides all price ranges of goods. American medicine struggles because since WWII we have not had a free market in health care. The customer doesn't pay (and therefore doesn't aggressively shop around) for the service. No system will be perfect, but Medical Savings Accounts would help. Anything that let the market work would help. But more government interference makes things worse."

     If Forbes wins he could make Stossel his communications chief. To read a transcript of the chat session, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/onair/DailyNews/chat_stossel990920.html


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) NBC's Must See Liberal Wednesday? Wednesday night NBC debuts a drama produced by a man who wrote a liberal movie and another series returns with a liberal theme.

     -- The West Wing, about a President and his staff starring Martin Sheen as the President, debuts at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT. It was created by Aaron Sorkin who serves as Executive Producer. His last story about the White House came from the left -- the 1998 movie The American President starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas for which he penned the screenplay.
     In one scene, Douglas as President passionately declares his support for "White House resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction in the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming.
     "The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today it no longer exists. I'm throwing it. I'm throwing it out and writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security and I will go door-to-door if I have to but I'm going convince Americans that I'm right and I'm going to get the guns."

     For more about the movie's plot and script, go to the May 24 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990524.html#8

     -- Speaking of gun control, Law & Order, which devoted a show last season to disparaging Ken Starr, returns for its tenth season at 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT with a trendy plot about suing gun makers. Here's the show plot from the Washington Post's TV Week: "A murderer's shooting spree prompts Briscoe and Green to trace the murder weapon's origination; McCoy makes it his mission to punish the killer and the gun manufacturer."


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) As noted in the September 20 CyberAlert, when pressed by Bill Bradley on the September 19 This Week as to whether he'd ever smoked marijuana, Sam Donaldson replied: "I think a couple of times I've tried it. And I inhaled."

     Now, from the September 20 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Stories Reported By Sam Donaldson After Smoking Pot." Copyright 1999 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "Pat Buchanan: Is That Guy a Narc or What?"
9. "Next -- An Exclusive Interview With This Dude I Met At a Phish Concert"
8. "Trouble In The Balkans What Was I Just Talking About?"
7. "Our Person of the Week -- David Crosby"
6. "Breaking News -- Look At My Hand!"
5. "Some Jerk In a Raiders Jacket Sells ABC Newsman Bag of Oregano"
4. "Cool Ranch Doritos -- Yes!"
3. "The Moon Landing? Fake. Think About It, Dude"
2. "Slobodan. Slooo-Bodan. Slobo-Dobo-Dan"
1. "I'm Hungry"

     With this list the best one didn't make it onto the broadcast, so from the Late Show Web site here are some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."

-- "What Kind of Dumb-Ass Name is 'Cokie'?"
-- "Woody Harrelson For President!"
-- "The Universe: Really Huge, Or Just Huge?"
-- "'Drove My Chevy To The Levee, But The Levee Was Dry'... Suddenly It All Makes Sense"
-- "My Hair: It Looks Like a Delicious Sandwich"
-- "It's So Weird That 'Four' Has Four Letters, But 'Three' Has Five Letters"
-- "Madeleine Albright Is Really Kind of Hot, If You Stare At Her For Three Hours"

     Not an experiment I'd want to try. -- Brent Baker


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