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
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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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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."
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
"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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
* "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
* "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
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
"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
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
-- 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
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
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
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....
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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