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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday April 18, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 64)

Printer Friendly Version

Bush's Green: Big Business Money; NY Times Editor Admitted Stories Tell "You What to Think"; Gumbel: Race Over Meritocracy in U.S.

1) "Fairly or unfairly," Dan Rather intoned in summing up an image he fueled, "critics of President Bush's environmental policy believe the only green policy he's displayed is the color of big business money." Reporting on Bush's decision to enforce a Clinton rule on lead, CBS on Tuesday night stressed how environmentalists "question the depth of Mr. Bush's commitment."

2) ABC's Good Morning America mocked how after every meeting with a foreign leader President Bush calls the leader "a friend" and insists they had "a good" and "frank discussion." But afterward, ABC's Terry Moran conceded the unfairness of ABC's clips and admitted Bush may have just been displaying "discretion" and "good manners."

3) New York Times Managing Editor Bill Keller let slip that Times stories normally deliver "a little editorial elbow in the ribs," as stories in his paper have usually followed a formula in which they "build up to a fourth or fifth paragraph where the writer stood back, cleared his throat and told you what to think."

4) Accepting an award for "distinguished journalism," Dan Rather was confronted by a question about his bias in the wake of his headlining a Democratic fundraiser. The normal First Amendment advocate refused to offer any comment on the anti-free speech activities against David Horowitz at the Providence campus.

5) Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asserted in the magazine: "We're beginning to get a sense of what the phrase 'compassionate conservative' really means. It's when you talk like Jimmy Carter and govern like Ronald Reagan."

6) To the assertion that in sports "race really isn't that important if you're good," Bryant Gumbel retorted on HBO: "If that's the case, it may be the only place in America that it works."

President Bush can't win with CBS and NBC on the environment. When he decided on March 21 to not enact a new arsenic standard for water ordered at the last minute by Bill Clinton, both networks pounced on him from the left as the CBS Evening News didn't even give a second to any defense of Bush's action and NBC's Campbell Brown focused on how "critics of this administration say the President has declared war on the environment."

     Nearly a month later, however, when the Bush administration decided to uphold a Clinton order making more companies report on the use of lead in their products, NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night ignored the development and on the CBS Evening News John Roberts looked at how environmentalists "question the depth of Mr. Bush's commitment."

     Dan Rather set up the April 17 Roberts story by asserting that "fairly or unfairly, critics of President Bush's environmental policy believe the only green policy he's displayed is the color of big business money." That's an image Rather encouraged. Recall how he introduced a March 14 story: "President Bush insisted today that he was not caving in to big money contributors, big-time lobbyists, and overall industry pressure when he broke a campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. But the air was thick today with accusations from people who believe that's exactly what happened."

     On the April 17 World News Tonight, ABC anchor Peter Jennings read this short item: "The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman, said that she will put in place more stringent reporting requirements for companies that use lead in their products. The Bush administration describes this as an environmental initiative, though it is only keeping in place a requirement President Clinton ordered in his final days in the White House."

     CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather summarized the image his show has helped to create: "Fairly or unfairly, critics of President Bush's environmental policy believe the only green policy he's displayed is the color of big business money. Today the President made moves to change that image, upholding a new rule on industries pumping lead into the environment. So is the Bush push really getting the lead out or just blowing smoke? CBS's John Roberts clears the air on this."

     Roberts began his piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "At the Children's National Medical Center this morning, six-year-old Dinelle Olstin (sp?) was in for his bimonthly checkup. Doctors watching closely for any symptoms of his chronic lead poisoning."

     After a soundbite of a doctor saying how lead poisoning causes serious problems with kids, Roberts continued: "It's children like Dinelle that prompted the Clinton administration to issue last-minute regulations widening the reporting of lead emissions by industry. Today, with great fanfare and with Earth Day looming, the Bush administration announced it would let the rule stand."

     EPA Administrator Christie Whitman: "We have every expectation that this new reporting requirement will result in real decreases in the amount of lead released into the air, water or land."
     Roberts: "The move was clearly meant to rehabilitate the President's environmental image. Activists had pummeled him for diluting rules on arsenic levels in drinking water and abandoning curbs on carbon dioxide emissions."
     Clip of anti-Bush ad: "Send President Bush a message. Let's move forward, not backward, and save our environment."
     Roberts highlighted how liberal groups, which he naturally did not label, are still dissatisfied: "Environmentalists had no choice but to applaud today's move on lead and another announcement to let stand new regulations to protect wetlands. But they question the depth of Mr. Bush's commitment."
     Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club: "He's taking credit for a rule that was put in place by the previous administration, and it suggests that he's trying to buff up his environmental image just in time for Earth Day."
     Roberts: "The EPA administrator bristled at the charge." Whitman: "We have been undertaking an appropriate review of a number of things the previous administration couldn't get done in eight years and now we are taking steps to get them done."
     Roberts concluded: "The new lead rule doesn't actually do anything to reduce lead levels in the environment, but with more companies now having to report their lead emissions, the Bush administration hopes just the embarrassment factor may lead them to cut back."

     A month earlier, as recounted in the March 22 CyberAlert, on March 21 CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts warned: "The new Bush administration is moving quickly to undo environmental regulations of the Clinton administration. The latest action is withdrawal of a rule calling for sharp reductions in arsenic levels in drinking water. CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer has the real deal on the Bush roll backs."

     To Schieffer, presenting the "real deal" meant only presenting the spin of the top Democrat: "Well, John, the President's decision to cancel those new restrictions on how much arsenic there can be in drinking water drew a stinging rebuke from the Senate's Democratic leader. He called it 'baffling.'"
     Senator Tom Daschle: "The level of arsenic that the administration now will tolerate in water is ten thousand times the amount that is tolerated in food. And the National Academy of Sciences has said that the likelihood of cancer at that level is around one in one hundred."

     Without pointing out how the level that will "now" be tolerated is the current level, so by Daschle's reasoning for eight years the Clinton administration allowed a dangerous level, Schieffer gave a passing clause to Bush reasoning before returning to repeating Democratic spin:
     "The new administration wants more study of drinking water protections before taking action, but the decision represents the third victory in less than two weeks for the mining and chemical industries. Last week the President reversed a campaign promise to require power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and delay the ban on logging and road building on a third of federal lands. Daschle says the canceling of the protections for drinking water is the worst of all. Nobody's counting votes yet, but some Democrats now believe they can get enough northeastern Republicans to join them and reverse the President on this one."

     That was it, the entire CBS story.

     The NBC Nightly News also approached the decision from the assumption it was misguided, emphasizing liberal angst, but at least NBC gave a few seconds to those who considered it a reasonable ruling.

     With an on-screen graphic asking "Under Siege?", Campbell Brown told anchor Brian Williams: "Brian, tonight critics of this administration say the President has declared war on the environment, working at lightning speed to undo what President Clinton did. Eleven million Americans, mostly in small towns and rural communities, their drinking water contains what the government deems acceptable levels of cancer-causing arsenic. Today environmental and consumer advocates stunned by a Bush administration decision to revoke stricter safety standards reducing arsenic levels in water. The EPA calling the new standards too costly and in need of further study."

     EPA Administrator Christine Whitman noted not cost/benefit analysis had been completed and that the "science is very squishy."

     Brown portrayed the ruling as a gift to industry: "The decision, popular with chemical and mining companies, dismisses a 1999 report from the National Academy of Sciences that found current arsenic standards, in place since 1942, could result in a one in one hundred risk of certain kinds of cancer. The report recommending the standard be revised quote, 'as promptly as possible.' Bush in Florida today ignored shouted questions from reporters but tells seniors:"
     President Bush: "We need a little common sense environmental policy."
     Brown countered: "Environmentalists contend that's the last thing Americans are getting."
     Philip Clapp, National Environmental Trust: "Every single one of the decisions this administration has been made on the environment has been made to benefit the chemical industry, the oil industry, the timber industry."
     Brown elaborated on the liberal complaints: "A laundry list of decisions charge environmentalists, the latest today for the mining industry. The Interior Department announces it plans to suspend new environmental restrictions for mining on public lands. Last week, the oil and coal industry celebrate as Bush reverses his campaign promise to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, widely viewed as a key contributor to global warming. And timber companies embrace a Bush decision that could lift a ban on road building in national forests."

     On Tuesday night, April 17, instead of informing NBC's viewers of the lead decision, NBC Nightly News ran a full story on the supposed controversy over elephants bred in captivity by the Ringling Brothers circus.


Mocking President Bush, but then feeling sorry about it. Tuesday's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, played a series of video clips to show how after every meeting with a foreign leader he calls the leader "a friend" and insists thy had "a good" and "frank discussion." But afterward, ABC's Terry Moran suggested Bush thinks the content of the meetings should remain private and conceded Bush may have just been displaying "discretion" and "good manners."

     Diane Sawyer introduced the April 17 segment: "Well, earlier, Terry and I were talking about this. We're going to turn now to something pesky reporters, including Time magazine and others, have been noticing about President Bush and what happened in photo opportunities with world leaders -- a certain echo, a similarity. Let's take a look."

     ABC then played a series of clips from various dates this year:
     President Bush: "First, it is my honor to welcome the president of Egypt. We're friends, we will remain friends."
     President Bush: "It's my honor to welcome our friend from Brazil."
     President Bush, with Ariel Sharon: "...honor of welcoming the prime minister of our close friend and ally to the Oval Office."
     President Bush: "It's been my honor to welcome President Kim here to the Oval Office."
     President Bush: "It's my honor to welcome a friend of our country to the Oval Office."
     President Bush: "My opinion hasn't changed after our good, frank discussion today."
     President Bush: "We've had a good, frank discussion."
     President Bush: "Frank and good discussion."
     President Bush: "We had a very good discussion."
     President Bush: "We've had a very good discussion about Colombia."

     Sawyer turned to White House reporter Moran: "So, you cover the White House. Is this really mean of everybody to point this out?"

     Moran admitted ABC's unfairness: "It is, to be fair, not entirely fair, but I think there are a couple of things about that little tape you see. One is, perhaps, that he has a lot of good and frank discussions with world leaders -- that's a real possibility. Another is, perhaps more substantively, and I've noticed, I was in the Oval Office on several of those occasions. He is not as comfortable talking about foreign policy as he is about education or taxes -- his staff would admit that. But finally, I think like his father, he doesn't think his discussions with foreign leaders should be public. He likes to keep them private."
     Sawyer: "So it's a form of discretion."
     Moran: "Exactly. I think for this President, discretion is the better part of diplomacy."
     Sawyer: "I know, I've always wondered what do they expect him to say? 'We had a wild, hilarious and confessional meeting at which we told all of our secrets and had a really good time.'"
     Moran: "And the other thing that you see there is he's very well brought up. There's no question that we have a President who knows his manners and is conscious of the fact that he lives in the people's house and wants to welcome people there, so we're seeing a lot of things going on in that little clip."
     Sawyer: "It's better than a State Department official, who shall go unnamed, when I was covering the State Department, who had a meeting in the morning with a foreign leader and in the afternoon when asked about it, had forgotten he'd had the meeting at all. So it can be worse, let me tell you."


Top Timesman admitted stories normally come with an agenda. New York Times Managing Editor Bill Keller let slip to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz that New York Times stories normally deliver "a little editorial elbow in the ribs," so the lack of a pointed theme was "kind of liberating" in a Times series which won a Pulitzer Prize. The top level Times editor conceded to Kurtz that stories in the New York paper usually have followed a formula in which they "build up to a fourth or fifth paragraph where the writer stood back, cleared his throat and told you what to think."

     The quotes from Keller came buried in the middle of Kurtz's April 17 Washington Post story on who won the Pulitzer Prizes this year. The "Grapevine" segment of Tuesday night's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC picked up on Keller's concession that his reporters have an agenda.

     An excerpt from the relevant portion of Kurtz's article:

The New York Times award for national reporting was based on a 15-part series on racial tensions in America, ranging from a slaughterhouse, a church and a tank battalion to the set of an HBO film.

Managing Editor Bill Keller called the project, which "took 15 reporters out of commission for well over a year," an attempt "to get as deep into the lives of people in interracial relationships as we could. It was extremely hard."

Keller said the Times decided not to have each piece "build up to a fourth or fifth paragraph where the writer stood back, cleared his throat and told you what to think. We trusted readers would draw their own conclusions and maybe disagree." For a newspaper that specializes in "giving you a little editorial elbow in the ribs," he said, the lack of a pointed theme was "kind of liberating."

The Pulitzer for beat reporting went to David Cay Johnston of the New York Times for exposing the proliferation of corporate tax shelters and loopholes.

     END Excerpt

     If it's so "liberating," maybe they could try it more often.

     To read the entire Kurtz story, go to:


Accepting an award at Brown University on Monday for "distinguished journalism," Dan Rather was confronted by a question about his bias in the wake of his headlining a Democratic fundraiser in Texas and, the normal First Amendment advocate, refused to offer any comment on the anti-free speech activities against David Horowitz at the Providence campus.

     Jim Romenesko's MediaNews highlighted two newspaper reports about how Rather decried the decline of international news in U.S. media outlets when he accepted the 2001 "Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism," named after a Brown alumnus killed in Vietnam while a reporter for NBC News.

     On the issue of his bias, Andy Smith reported in the April 17 Providence Journal:
     "One audience member cast aspersions on Rather's political objectivity, saying he had 'taunted' Republican presidents Richard Nixon and George Bush (the senior Bush, not the current President) and went too easy on the Democrats.
     "The questioner also noted Rather's participation in a Democratic fundraiser in Texas last month.
     "Rather acknowledged the fundraiser was a mistake, and said he has already apologized.
     "But he defended his efforts to grill Nixon concerning Watergate and Bush concerning the Iran/Contra controversy. Those were not 'taunts,' he said, but tough questions that deserved answers."

     Rather refused to decry the anti-free speech activities across the country which have greeted David Horowitz's attempt to place ads in college papers which present the case against reparations for slavery. I've only casually followed the story and I know that at Brown a bunch of students seized and destroyed nearly every copy of the Brown Daily Herald which featured the ad. But instead of denouncing the behavior, Rather played dumb.

     Smith recounted in the Providence Journal: "Rather himself ducked a question when an audience member asked about the controversial ad by David Horowitz concerning slavery reparations that ran in the Brown Daily Herald.
     "The ad created a heated debate over free speech and racism on the Brown campus.
     "Rather said he hadn't had a chance to study the issue, and declined comment."

     In the Brown Daily Herald itself, student reporter Kerry Miller relayed in an April 17 story: "Although he joked that Brown 'is a campus where hardly anything controversial or newsworthy ever happens,' Rather had no comment to an audience member's question about his take on the David Horowitz controversy, saying he did not know enough about the situation."

     To read the two stories in full, go to:

     On the up side, it's refreshing to know there are a few students at even a left-wing campus like Brown's who are aware of Rather's political activities and willing to raise them.


Just one more example of how liberal journalists measure caring and compassion by how much of other people's money you want to spend. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter opened his piece in the April 23 edition: "We're beginning to get a sense of what the phrase 'compassionate conservative' really means. It's when you talk like Jimmy Carter and govern like Ronald Reagan."

     In the article headlined, "More Wallet Than Will: The Bush budget reflects a president searching for the courage of his compassion," Alter offered up his proof. An excerpt:

Consider a relatively small but telling example: President Bush and Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which in recent years has expanded rapidly to more than 2,500 after-school centers in poor areas. The clubs serve -- and often save -- 3.3 million at-risk kids a year, a big dent in our biggest social problem.

Bush is a believer. He toured clubs during the campaign. He repeatedly urges businesses to support their efforts. He even donated the $75,000 advance from his autobiography, "A Charge to Keep," to the BGCA and a couple of other worthy youth-service groups "because I believe so strongly in helping children understand that somebody loves them."

Recently he love-bombed Boys and Girls Clubs again with what may be his highest compliment. Although the clubs are strictly nonsectarian, Bush said: "I view the Boys and Girls Clubs as faith-based programs -- based upon the universal concept of loving a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself."

But there are apparently limits to his love. Last week, five days after using a Boys and Girls Club in inner-city Wilmington, Delaware, as a backdrop for a speech and a photo op, Bush released details of his $1.9 trillion fiscal 2002 federal budget. On page 673, last year's appropriation for Boys and Girls Clubs of America -- $60 million -- appears in brackets. The cold budget language explains: "Brackets enclose material that is proposed for deletion."

     Suspend excerpt

     Alter later conceded that Bush has proposed some spending hikes in other areas, but they are not enough for Alter. Resume excerpt:

....[T]he budget is a numerical version of Bush's visits to Boys and Girls Clubs: gestures, not answers. On education, the total increase he proposes -- $2.1 billion -- adds up to one tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget and is a lesser hike than in recent years. His much-heralded tripling of money for early reading comes to $75 million (that's with an "m") -- better than nothing but hardly worth bragging much about.

The rest of the budget is an elaborately constructed straitjacket on future social spending. Bush's proposed prescription-drug benefit is paltry next to what Democrats prefer. Anti-poverty funding (including for "faith-based" efforts) is essentially flat....

     END Excerpt

     Alter concluded by bemoaning: "In 1989 his father, afflicted by the deficit, lamented in his Inaugural address that 'we have more will than wallet.' Today we have more wallet than will."

     To read all of Alter's diatribe, go to:


"Meritocracy" rules no where in American society outside of sports, Bryant Gumbel snidely chortled on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Monday night. The CBS Early Show co-host anchors the once-a-month HBO news magazine show about sports.

     Following a piece by Bernard Goldberg on the perspective of white players who are rare in the black-dominated NBA, Gumbel asked Goldberg if white American players are "viewed differently" than are white European players in the NBA.

     Goldberg replied that the European players who excel have earned respect since "once you prove yourself in the NBA, it doesn't matter if you're from Kansas or from Yugoslavia, you're accepted because I think in basketball, and in sports in general, it is a meritocracy. And once you prove yourself, that's good enough for everybody. Race really isn't that important if you're good."

     Gumbel retorted, as he chortled after his quip: "If that's the case, it may be the only place in America that it works."

     Maybe Gumbel is on to something. Is he an example of how meritocracy rules in network television news? --Brent Baker

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