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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday July 13, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 115) |

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Roth's Shift Left Heralded; DNA Proved Guilt But ABC AWOL; Jacoby Support & Double Standards

1) CBS heralded as the most important news of the day Senator William Roth's decision to back Medicare prescription coverage. Dan Rather trumpted: "Chances may be improving for some kind of federal plan to help seniors...." Bob Schieffer's one-sided piece ignored opponents.

2) DNA tests confirmed the man whose execution George Bush delayed really is guilty, but instead of reporting that news ABC's World News Tonight devoted a whole piece to the cause of another condemned Texas prisoner who claims DNA will vindicate him.

3) ABC's Linda Douglass countered Al Gore's assessment of a "do nothing Congress," but hoped they will do more: "They may still get a lot done." CBS Phil Jones highlighted Gore's warm reception from the NAACP: "Gore was welcomed as family by the nation's biggest civil rights organization."

4) Gary Graham had "six last meals" and "if that is not barbaric nothing is," Geraldo Rivera complained before Graham's execution. But in a piece for The American Spectator Online, Evan Gahr showed how Graham actually had never previously received a last meal.

5) A Fortune magazine reporter suggested that by the Boston Globe's standard for suspending Jeff Jacoby "the entire staffs of news magazines might have to be asked to resign." The Boston Phoenix's Dan Kennedy revealed that the editorial page editor "made no secret of her distaste for Jacoby's work" and that a reporter was suspended for just a week for plagiarism in a story about plagiarism.

    >>> Attention East Coast Readers: Check out today's New York Post and Washington Times newspapers for a half page advertisement from the MRC calling upon Bryant Gumbel to apologize for his insult of the Family Research Council's Robert Knight: "What a f***ing idiot." It appears on page A9 of the July 13 Washington Times. MRC Marketing Director Bonnie Goff has created similar-looking quick-loading Web versions of the ads. For the New York Post ad, go to:
    For the Washington Times ad, go to:
    From those two addresses you can also access images of the actual ads. <<<

Corrections: The July 12 CyberAlert quoted CBS News reporter David Axelrod as beginning a story: "No matter how may speeches George Bush makes at NAACP conventions...." The "may" should have read "many." The July 11 CyberAlert cited how FNC's Bret Baier opened a piece on Gore's tenants moving out: "They're not professor movers...." No they are not. They really are not "professional" movers.


"Chances may be improving for some kind of federal plan to help seniors pay for high price prescription drugs," Dan Rather heralded at the top of Wednesday's CBS Evening News. The biggest news of the day for CBS wasn't even mentioned by ABC or NBC. CBS trumpeted the news that Republican Senator William Roth had decided to break with Republican leaders and back Medicare payments for prescriptions. Reporter Bob Schieffer didn't even the consider the views of anyone opposed as he ran two soundbites -- both from Democrats pleased by Roth's shift to the left.

    Dan Rather opened the July 12 broadcast, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Chances may be improving for some kind of federal plan to help seniors pay for high price prescription drugs. A key Republican Senator broke with his party's leadership today by launching moves in the direction of Democratic Party positions on the issue. This could be a defining issue in the election campaign for millions of older voters. CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer has the facts -- medical, financial, and political. Bob."

    A cautiously optimistic Schieffer reported: "Dan, I wouldn't call it a breakthrough yet, but we may be seeing the beginnings of a compromise plan to help seniors pay those skyrocketing prescription drug bills. Bill Roth, the powerful Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who is in a tough re-election fight, informed the committee he is breaking with Republican leaders and will push a plan to let Medicare pay some prescription drug bills -- something Republicans have been against in the past because it is so expensive."
    Senator William Roth: "So what we are seeking here is to develop a program that would have broad bipartisan support."

    Schieffer then outlined the program options: "Republicans and Democrats agree that drug costs for seniors are out of control, but have been at loggerheads over how to provide relief. The issue has been so contentious that two weeks ago, Democrats walked out in protest when House Republicans passed a plan that encourages seniors to buy private insurance to pay drug costs. Insurance companies would get government subsidies to keep premiums low. The President promised to veto that. Democrats want to create a new Medicare benefit to help with drug expenses in return for a $25 a month premium. Republicans have opposed that as too expensive. Now Roth wants something in between. He envisions Medicare paying half the cost of drugs up to $3500 and 80 percent if costs go higher, after a deductible of $500. The first Democratic reviews were cautious but receptive."
    Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "This is a positive event and a welcome event in a season where there are not many such."
    Senator Max Baucus: "This is the first major good news I've had in some time."
    Schieffer concluded by praising the progress: "Even so, we should stress this is far from a done deal. The Roth plan, as written, won't satisfy Republicans or Democrats, but one Senator says it does give them a place to start talking on a subject where they've been so far apart there was nothing to talk about."

    Do you think if a top Democrat were to decide to oppose creating this new entitlement that the CBS Evening News would be so excited about a shift away from gridlock in the other direction?


DNA will vindicate a victim of George Bush's execution machine. Oh, it didn't? Never mind.

    Back in late May ABC's World News Tonight joined the rest of the media in promoting the cause of Ricky McGinn, a condemned murderer in Texas set to be executed but who claimed a DNA test would vindicate him for the rape/murder of a 12-year-old girl, or at least the rape part which was the aggravating circumstance which led to his death sentence. On June 1 ABC ran a full story on how Governor George W. Bush gave McGinn a 30-day delay in his execution so the tests could be done.

    Well, the results are in and ABC told viewers that Wednesday night, sort of, but not really. Instead, ABC moved on to another victim on death row who thinks DNA will free him. Anchor Peter Jennings certainly buried the lead in this story intro on the July 12 show:
    "DNA and death row prisoners in the news again today. It's a much talked about issue in every state now where men and women are waiting to die and in the presidential campaign. A journalism professor and his students at Northwestern University in Chicago generated enormous attention because when they took up the cause of testing prisoners, eight men convicted of murder in Illinois were exonerated. Exonerated. The Illinois Governor ordered a moratorium on executions, the focus shifted to Texas and Governor Bush and so on. Today there's news about a prisoner in Texas whose execution was postponed by Governor Bush so there could be DNA tests. Newspapers are reporting that early tests are working against the prisoner. Here's ABC's Mike von Fremd."

    So, naturally you'd have expected von Fremd to detail what the results showed in the Ricky McGinn case to which Jennings vaguely referred. But no, von Fremd didn't utter a syllable about that case. Instead, he focused his entire story on the effort of Northwestern University professor David Protess to exonerate another condemned man. Von Fremd began:
    "New Year's Eve 1993 in Tampa Texas. A mother and her two sons were found stabbed to death in their home. Live-in boyfriend Henry Skinner was caught nearby with blood on his clothes and his right hand severely cut..."

    Von Fremd outlined how the Northwestern students had taken up Skinner's cause and claim much DNA evidence was not tested. After Protess offered to pay for the tests disgusted prosecutors agreed to do it on their own, but von Fremd noted that Skinner's original lawyer fears the test may hurt Skinner's cause by proving his guilt further, leading his current attorney to object to new testing, but it will go forward.

    (ABC arrived last of the Big Three on Skinner's case. As detailed in the June 29 CyberAlert, the June 28 NBC Nightly News promoted the efforts of the Northwestern students to prove him innocent and the CBS Evening News picked up his cause on July 2.)

    Wednesday's USA Today announced the results on page one, "DNA Tests Still Point to Texas Inmate: Bush Had Delayed Man's Execution." The July 12 CBS Evening News ran a full story on how DNA testing of a pubic hair confirmed it came from McGinn or an immediate maternal relative and NBC Nightly News opened with the development. Anchor Brian Williams relayed:
    "It has dominated the headlines of late, another DNA test frees another prison inmate serving time for a crime it turns out in the end he didn't commit. So, when a Texas death row inmate requested the same test, it was a stunner tonight when it was learned the test backfired. The results only support the conviction."


On the campaign front Wednesday night, ABC and CBS, but not NBC, ran stories prompted by Al Gore's appearance before the NAACP. ABC used it as a jumping off point for a look at his charge about a "do nothing Congress" while CBS stuck to the NAACP event.

    On ABC's World News Tonight Linda Douglass showed Gore shouting about the "do nothing for the people Congress." She countered: "That is not quite accurate. This Congress has already done more than the last one, passing 1700 piece of legislation, 400 more than the previous Congress had passed by this time."

    Douglass stressed how most, however, were minor bills, allowed Norman Ornstein to say Republicans were just passing bills in one house to please voters but which they knew would never become law, noted how Democrats complain that big bills like prescription coverage and gun control were bottled-up by conservatives, but suggested Democrats like the ability to bash Republicans over it, all before she concluded on a hopeful note for more laws:
    "There are still roughly seven weeks of work left for this Congress. The Republicans want a track record, the President wants a legacy. They may still get a lot done."

    Over on the CBS Evening News, Phil Jones highlighted Gore's warm reception: "To the beat of an old spiritual hymn, and to all the emotion of a campaign rally, Vice President Gore was welcomed as family by the nation's biggest civil rights organization....Gore's reception was in stark contrast to the polite but skeptical welcome given Governor Bush earlier this week."


Repeatedly just before Gary Graham's execution Geraldo Rivera condemned the cruelty of his experience in having already received six "last meals" before previously scheduled executions dates were delayed. But the American Spectator Online's Evan Gahr discovered Rivera's claim was baseless as there's no evidence he actually got those "last meals."

    On the June 21 Upfront Tonight on CNBC, Rivera declared: "Gary Graham told me that he has already had six last meals. Coming that close to death a half dozen times. And whatever your feelings about the death penalty, if that is not barbaric nothing is."

    In a piece titled "Food for Thought," Gahr, a former press critic for the New York Post, revealed in a spectator.org piece the full story. Here's an excerpt:

It doesn't quite rank with segregated water fountains. But when he "reported" from Texas last month on the execution of Gary Graham, Geraldo Rivera seized upon a new symbol of the racist American way. Or did he concoct a new symbol?

On CNBC's "Upfront Tonight," "Hardball," and his own show, Geraldo fretted that the poor innocent killer had suffered through six last meals because of last-minute stays of execution....

Actually, it is highly debatable whether six last suppers for the man Jesse Jackson likened to Jesus is barbaric. More importantly, Graham didn't have six last meals, his lawyer, Richard Burr, tells TAS. Did Graham even say what Geraldo repeatedly attributed to him?

According to a transcript of his interview, broadcast June 21 on "Rivera Live," Graham actually told Geraldo a slightly different sob story. He was probably the only "black man in America that's actually been offered six last meals six times." When the interview clip ended, Geraldo upped the ante. He asked Court TV anchor Nancy Grace, "What do you think of a system in which a man will now be getting his seventh last meal?"

Presto: an urban legend was born. The next night, CNN reporter Charles Zewe asserted that Graham refused a last meal but had "picked out" five previous ones.

Says who? "Graham said that" himself, Zewe tells TAS. Does his word alone suffice? "There's a little bit more than that."

Like what? "You have to go through our PR department" to arrange an interview. (Of course, just as CNN never waves microphones in the faces of the kin of plane crash victims without going through the proper PR channels.)

Fine, not everyone is so hopelessly cynical that he won't take a convicted murderer and admitted rapist at his word. But journalists familiar with the case and/or the criminal justice system found the claims by both Rivera and Graham hard to swallow. "That ain't right," says Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk. He witnessed the execution and has covered the Graham case since at least 1993. Moreover, even a cursory Lexis-Nexis search renders both Graham's assertion and Rivera's apparent embellishment highly dubious. Ditto for an exhaustive search for this article. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice had "no idea" how many meals Graham requested or consumed.

Rivera's executive producer referred a call to CNBC's press department. A spokesman asked what's the "difference between having six meals and being offered" them. Actually quite a bit. But it's not like journalists are supposed to worry about facts or anything.

For whatever it's worth, here is a detailed analysis of the six meal whopper.

Graham's lawyer, Richard Burr, tells TAS Graham had six total execution dates (including June 22, when he actually died by lethal injection). According to Burr, only two" came down to the wire" which, of course, is when last meals might have been requested or consumed. Burr says Graham refused a last meal in both close cases -- last month (as was widely reported) and nearly seven years ago. On August 16, 1993, Graham was less than six hours away from execution when a court intervened. On April 28, 1993, then Texas Gov. Ann Richards also saved Graham just in the nick of time.

In 1988, before Burr represented Graham, he also won a stay of execution hours before his client's scheduled execution. But again, no published record of a last meal consumed or requested. In other words, the numbers fall well short of what Geraldo and Graham asserted....

    END Excerpt

    To read the entire piece, go to:

    For The America Spectator Online page, go to:

    On the bright side, Geraldo will soon have one less outlet for his liberal spewing. CNBC has cancelled the 7:30pm ET Upfront Tonight as of July 28 and on July 31 will replace it by expanding to one-hour its 7pm ET business news show.


Outrage over the Boston Globe's suspension for four months, without pay, of Jeff Jacoby, its only conservative columnist, is moving beyond just conservatives to mainstream and even liberal journalists.

    Wednesday brought not only a column in the New York Post, but also condemnation by a Fortune magazine reporter who suggested that by the Globe's standard "the entire staffs of news magazines might have to be asked to resign," as well as links on Jim Romenesko's MediaNews site (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/) to a petition being circulated by a Globe staffer requesting that the suspension be lifted and to a Boston Phoenix piece by Dan Kennedy which revealed:
    * "Two acquaintances of [editorial page editor Renee] Loth told the Phoenix, on condition of anonymity, that Loth has made no secret of her distaste for Jacoby's work."
    * "Perhaps the most unlikely internal critic is Bob Hardman, a copy editor for the editorial and op-ed pages. Hardman is a gay man who has bitterly protested Jacoby's occasional descents into homophobia..."
    * "Overall, the guy is a major asset. Yet his reward, say some sources, has been to be treated like a pariah by those who oppose his politics."
    * "The punishment handed out to Jacoby doesn't come close to squaring with other examples," including a reporter who was suspended for just one week for plagiarism in a story about plagiarism.

    For the background on this situation -- what Jacoby wrote and the Globe's rationale for its reaction -- go to:

    -- The July 12 New York Post featured a column by Eric Fettman headlined, "Too Good for the Globe? Liberal Beantown Rag Nukes its Token Righty." To read this piece, go to:

    -- Brit Hume raised Jacoby's plight as the first subject Wednesday night on his 6pm ET, 9pm PT Special Report with Brit Hume show on FNC. Morton Kondracke of Roll Call declared: "The punishment does not fit the crime."

    Jeff Birnbaum of Fortune magazine noted how Jacoby was suspended for failing to alert readers to how his column was about the same subject and relayed some of the same anecdotes as an e-mail circulating about what happened to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. By that standard, Birnbaum suggested: "I think the entire staffs of news magazines might have to be asked to resign if this were so big an offense. I think he was clearly over-punished for this mistake."

    The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes saw an ideological reason behind the Globe's move: "I think Jeff Jacoby makes the Globe uncomfortable because he's not just a conservative columnist. He is a loud, noisy, conservative columnist who attacks feminists, who attacks the gay rights movement and so on and makes them very uncomfortable. And that had to be a factor. Not just that he's a conservative but what kind of conservative he is."

    Hume added: "This is a newspaper editorial page of uncommon orthodoxy in the sense that he is the only conservative voice that is on the staff there."

    -- Jim Romenesko's MediaNews relayed the text of a memo sent to Globe staffers by Globe tech writer Hiawatha Bray:

To: BG Editorial
Subject: In the matter of Jeff Jacoby

I'm planning to send a letter to our publisher asking him to reconsider Mr. Jacoby's suspension. Would you be interested in signing it? Here's the text:

"Dear Mr. Gilman,
We write to express our concern about the penalty meted out to Jeff Jacoby because of his July 3 column. It seems to us that a four-month suspension without pay is a punishment far out of proportion to Mr. Jacoby's error. He has not been accused of plagiarism, or any other deliberate breach of journalistic ethics.

"Instead, he stands accused of an error of judgment, failing to declare that his column was inspired by the work of others.

"A Globe columnist should avoid any appearance of impropriety, especially in light of the unfortunate events of two years ago. We can understand the impulse to crack down swiftly and sternly, in order to avoid a repetition of that regrettable affair. Still, it seems to us that the penalty against Mr. Jacoby in this case far exceeds the demands of justice. We respectfully request that you reconsider."

Care to sign? Please visit my desk in the Business News department...the one with the Apple iMac half-buried in papers. Thanks. Hiawatha Bray

    END Reprint

    -- Thursday's weekly Boston Phoenix features a lengthy piece by liberal media writer Dan Kennedy, who handles a section called "Don't Quote Me," headlined, "Cruel and unusual: Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby paid far too high a price for an unintentional lapse of judgment."

    Here are some excerpts, picking up with a reference to editorial page editor Renee Loth who inherited Jacoby's column from her predecessor, H.D.S. Greenway, who had hired him in 1994:

To Loth, though, the principles are far from murky. "It was a violation of the Globe's policy on attribution. It's very clear," she says, adding that she had the final call after conferring with [Globe Publisher Richard] Gilman; that she considered the case on its own merits without regard to Smith and Barnicle; and that there is no truth to the accusation being spread by some critics that Jacoby was singled out because he is the op-ed page's only conservative. In fact, she says she'll take steps to ensure that conservative voices are heard from in Jacoby's absence. Jacoby says Loth made it clear that she wants him to leave. Loth's response: "It's not designed to get him to resign." Jacoby also claims that Loth told him that if he chooses to return, he'll have to change the focus of his column. Loth's response: "That was a private meeting, and I'm not going to talk about it."

Two acquaintances of Loth told the Phoenix, on condition of anonymity, that Loth has made no secret of her distaste for Jacoby's work. Loth's response: "I don't know what they're talking about."....

Yet the brutal punishment Jacoby received has sparked an outcry -- not just from conservative outsiders such as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and David Horowitz (and, locally, WBZ's David Brudnoy and civil-liberties lawyers Harvey Silverglate and Chester Darling), but from a number of Globe insiders as well, including business columnists Steve Bailey, Charles Stein, and David Warsh, and sports-media columnist Howard Manly.

Perhaps the most unlikely internal critic is Bob Hardman, a copy editor for the editorial and op-ed pages. Hardman is a gay man who has bitterly protested Jacoby's occasional descents into homophobia, which he charges have been marked by "at least carelessness and sometimes ill will." But he says of Jacoby's four-month suspension: "In this particular case, I want to say that it's extremely harsh, and I agree with those who say it's disproportionate. I believe that in a more collegial and cooperative environment this could not have happened, or would not have happened."....

Loth and Gilman also overlook the fact that Jacoby has been good for the Globe. His loathsome anti-gay columns aside, Jacoby has, for six and a half years, ably provided the conservative voice the liberal Globe had long needed. His twice-weekly column is well researched and well written, one of the better reads on an often dreary page -- and never mind that I rarely agree with him. Just last year he won the first $10,000 Eric Breindel Award in Opinion Journalism, named after a deceased editor at the New York Post. Jacoby is sometimes late to weigh in on an issue, and he occasionally does little more than parrot what other conservative pundits have already said. But, overall, the guy is a major asset. Yet his reward, say some sources, has been to be treated like a pariah by those who oppose his politics. "I've always been saddened by the fact that he's ostracized at the paper," says Living/Arts columnist Alex Beam. "I just feel that the Globe has always held Jeff at a big distance and treated him differently, certainly as compared with our more socially acceptable columnists."....

The punishment handed out to Jacoby doesn't come close to squaring with other examples. In April, the Globe removed Anthony Flint as the City Hall bureau chief and transferred him to the business section after he was found to have solicited letters of recommendation for a Harvard fellowship from Mayor Tom Menino and from developers he covered. Flint didn't miss a paycheck, and this fall he's going to Harvard. In 1996, cartoonist Paul Szep was suspended for just two weeks without pay for blatantly copying two illustrations, one of them a caricature of Texas senator Phil Gramm that had been on the cover of Mother Jones. The suspension was confidential, and would not have come to light had someone not dropped a dime to the Phoenix. ("I wasn't privy to the Szep thing," Loth says.) And for those who think Times Company values [NY Times owns Boston Globe] may finally have arrived at 135 Morrissey Boulevard [Globe building], keep in mind that, in 1991, New York Times reporter Fox Butterfield was suspended for just one week after ripping off several paragraphs from a Globe story about (I'm not making this up) plagiarism. The fact that Butterfield went on to have a great career proves that giving someone a second chance can be the right thing to do. Yes, the Globe has occasionally axed people for plagiarism, but the point is that the paper has been consistently inconsistent. In any case, not even Loth accuses Jacoby of anything that serious....

    END Excerpt

    To read Kennedy's entire story and to see a photo of Jacoby:

    If only the Globe held columnist Tom Oliphant to the same standard. He'd be in permanent suspension for appropriating every thought of Ted Kennedy. -- Brent Baker


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