Media Too Nice to "Racist" Helms; More Proof of Liberal Bias as NY Times is Taken Over By Reagan-Hater; 6% of Media "Conservative"
1) "Those who believe that the 'liberal press'
always has its knives sharpened for Republicans and conservatives must
have been flummoxed by" coverage of the retirement of Senator Jesse
Helms, Washington Post reporter David Broder argued. He complained
reporters were "pussyfooting" since they did not reflect
Broder's assessment that Helms "is the last prominent unabashed
white racist politician in this country." But, in fact, the TV
networks castigated Helms for his racial politics.
2) Inches below Broder, Robert Samuelson argued:
"Among editors and reporters of the national media -- papers,
magazines, TV -- a 'liberal bias' is not so much denied as ignored,
despite overwhelming evidence that it exists." Samuelson's
observation was prompted by Howell Raines ascension to the top of the New
York Times. Raines once whined: "The Reagan years oppressed me
because of the callousness and the greed and the hard-hearted attitude
toward people who have very little in this society."
3) A recent poll of journalists determined nearly seven
times more identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans as a piddling
six percent said they were conservative compared to four times more, 25
percent, who tagged themselves as liberal.
Corrections. The August 28 CyberAlert quoted Peter Jennings as
remarking: "We may tell you all the time that our principle aim in
life is to communicate..." Principle should have read
"principal." That quote aired on Breaking the News, a CBS News
special which CyberAlert reported was produced by the Museum of
Broadcasting. In fact, the August 24 special was produced by the Museum of
Television and Radio.
The August 28 CyberAlert stated that in an ABC story about gas prices a
soundbite aired from a "Tyson Slocum of a group identified on screen
as American Citizen." Actually, Slocum was identified on screen as
being from the recognizable "Public Citizen."
media were too kind Senator Jesse Helms when he announced last week he
would not seek another term, veteran Washington Post political reporter
David Broder argued in a Post column on Wednesday, and so those who
believe in liberal media bias "must have been flummoxed by the
Under the provocative headline, "Jesse
Helms, White Racist," Broder excoriated his colleagues because
"the reporting on his retirement was circumspect to the point of
pussyfooting." Citing the usual litany of how he dared to oppose a
Martin Luther King holiday, referred to the "bloc vote" and ran
an ad one year which opposed quotas in hiring, Broder complained that news
reports "skirted the point" which, he argued, should have been:
"What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent
unabashed white racist politician in this country."
Broder apparently doesn't watch TV news
since, as detailed last week in the August 22 CyberAlert, the ABC, CBS and
NBC evening show stories all castigated Helms for his racial politics.
"On racial issues, he was a lightning rod, unrepentant about his
support for American segregation, firmly opposed a Martin Luther King Day
as a national holiday," declared ABC's Claire Shipman. CBS's Bob
Orr played a clip of the 1990 "hands" ad which so upset Broder
as he asserted: "His opponents have accused him of using race to win
elections." NBC also showed the same ad as Lisa Myers observed:
"Others saw Helms as mean-spirited and accused him in close elections
For more about these August 21 stories, refer
back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010822.asp#2
The next morning, not even CBS's Bryant
Gumbel may have gone as far as Broder wished in relaying Broder's
opinion as fact that Helms is racist, but on the Early Show Gumbel was
hardly positive: "Helms is, let me pick my words here, an
unapologetic right-wing conservative, I guess we could say. Is his
departure good news for all but hard-right Republicans?"
Broder's column only quoted stories from
three newspapers, all of which did raise charges that Helms used race to
win elections, but just weren't negative enough to satisfy Broder. The
Boston Globe, for instance, devoted nearly half its story to the subject,
highlighting how the President of the NAACP in North Carolina remarked:
"Jim Crow Senior is what we call him." A New York Times
editorial proclaimed that Helms "represented the last vestiges of the
Of course, it was the Democratic Party which
nominated candidates who favored segregation in the South years after
Helms was first elected to the Senate in 1972 (recall, for instance, Newt
Gingrich's incumbent opponent in Georgia in 1974 and 1976) and while
Helms may not have adopted the particular liberal policy views of which
Broder approved, he never belonged to the Klan (unlike Senator Robert
Byrd) and never used his office to defy civil rights laws (unlike Senator
Ernest Hollings when he was Governor of South Carolina.)
In fact, Helms should be "remembered as
one of a handful of men who brought white Southern conservatives into a
new era of race relations," Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at
the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an August 23 op-ed in the Wall
Street Journal. Mead explained:
"If Mr. Helms can be seen as one of the
great conservative figures of American history, calling the nation to
remain faithful to traditional values in the midst of rapid social change,
he also deserves to be remembered as one of a handful of men who brought
white Southern conservatives into a new era of race relations."
"This was not my initial impression of Mr.
Helms, when as a young boy in North Carolina during the civil rights
movement I listened to his anti-integration, anti-Martin Luther King
commentaries on WRAL-TV. But once the civil rights legislation of the
1960s was enacted, Mr. Helms -- along with some of his erstwhile
segregationist colleagues like South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond -- did
something very revolutionary for Southern white populists."
"He accepted the laws and obeyed them."
Not a viewpoint shared by Broder. An excerpt
from Broder's column as published in the August 29 Washington Post:
Those who believe that the "liberal press" always has its
knives sharpened for Republicans and conservatives must have been
flummoxed by the coverage of Sen. Jesse Helms's announcement last week
that he will not run for reelection next year in North Carolina. The
reporting on his retirement was circumspect to the point of pussyfooting.
On the day his decision became known, the New York Times described him
as "a conservative stalwart for nearly 30 years," the Boston
Globe as "an unyielding icon of conservatives and an archenemy of
liberals." The Washington Post identified Helms as "one of the
most powerful conservatives on Capitol Hill for three decades."
Those were accurate descriptions. But they skirted the point. There are
plenty of powerful conservatives in government. A few, such as Don
Rumsfeld and Henry Hyde, have been around as long as Helms and have their
own significant roles in 20th century political history. What really sets
Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist
politician in this country -- a title that one hopes will now be
permanently retired. A few editorials and columns came close to saying
that. But the squeamishness of much of the press in characterizing Helms
for what he is suggests an unwillingness to confront the reality of race
in our national life....
Even if you thought, as I did, that he was petty and vindictive in
using his power as a committee chairman to block the appointment of former
Massachusetts governor William Weld as ambassador to Mexico and, just this
year, to force concessions from President Bush on textile imports before
the top Treasury officials could be confirmed, you had to admit that other
senators also have used their leverage to advance personal political
What is unique about Helms -- and from my viewpoint, unforgivable -- is
his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American
history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial
resentment against African Americans....
To the best of my knowledge, Helms has never done what the late George
Wallace did well before his death -- recant and apologize for his use of
racial issues. And that use was blatant.
In 1984, when Helms faced his toughest opponent in Democratic Gov. Jim
Hunt, the late Bill Peterson, one of the most evenhanded reporters I have
ever known, summed up what "some said was the meanest Senate campaign
"Racial epithets and standing in school doors are no longer
fashionable," Peterson wrote, "but 1984 proved that the ugly
politics of race are alive and well. Helms is their master."
A year before the election, when public polls showed Helms trailing by
20 points, he launched a Senate filibuster against the bill making the
birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday....
All year, Peterson reported, "Helms campaign literature sounded a
drumbeat of warnings about black voter-registration drives....On election
eve, he accused Hunt of being supported by 'homosexuals, the labor union
bosses and the crooks' and said he feared a large 'bloc vote.' What did he
mean? 'The black vote,' Helms said." He won, 52 percent to 48
In 1990, locked in a tight race with an African American Democrat,
former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, Helms aired a final-week TV ad that
showed a pair of white hands crumpling a rejection letter, while an
announcer said, "You needed that job and you were the best qualified.
But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota."
Once again, he pulled through.
That is not a history to be sanitized.
To read the entire Broder column, and/or to
see a photo of him which may allow you to recognize him from one of his
frequent television appearances, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10822-2001Aug28.html
As for that 1990 ad, as George Will argued on
last Sunday's This Week after ABC anchor Derek McGinty denounced it:
"I don't think there was anything wrong with that ad. It seems to
me people who favor racial preferences open themselves to exactly that
kind of argument. You can't advocate racial preferences and then say we
can't talk about it as a political issue."
Broder singled out three newspapers for
particular criticism, including the Boston Globe. Through Nexis I
retrieved the August 22 Globe story by Wayne Washington and learned that
much of it focused on liberal criticism of Helms on race. An excerpt:
....Conservative white voters appreciated his unyielding conservatism,
just as many black voters were revolted by it.
"Jim Crow Senior is what we call him," said Skip Alston,
North Carolina president of the NAACP. "Jim Crow Senior is retiring,
but we cannot rest because Jesse Helms has been able to create a lot of
Jim Crow Juniors."
Helms won two relatively close elections over Harvey Gantt, the black
former mayor of Charlotte who challenged him in 1990 and 1996. Race rose
to the forefront in both contests.
Helms beat back Gantt's first challenge after airing a campaign ad
showing a white man's hand crumpling an employment rejection notice. The
ad voice-over said the man did not get the job because "they had to
give it to a minority."
The ad drew howls from critics who said it typified Helms's willingness
to polarize North Carolina's electorate to gain office. But Helms did win.
By 1996, Democrats were so determined to drive Helms from office they
tried to get television actor Andy Griffith, who played the role of
sheriff in the small town of Mayberry, N.C., during a 1960s show that bore
his name, to run against him.
"We thought no one beside Andy Griffith and God himself could beat
him," Alston said. Gantt lost a rematch.
Merle Black, political science professor at Emory University in
Atlanta, called Helms the last of a dying breed of aging southern
There are others who cling to power, most notably South Carolina
Senator Strom Thurmond, but Black said Helms differs from them in one
clear way: The Helms of today is just as conservative, just as
ideologically driven, as the Helms of 1972.
"In one sense, Helms represented the state as an unreconstructed,
Southern conservative," Black said. "Thurmond changed some. He
voted for some of the civil rights legislation. Helms never did. Thurmond
moved to representing the whole state, and not just whites. Helms never
Cobey, the state Republican chairman, said Democrats have long used
race to discredit Helms.
"It's not fair," he said. "He stood up for the textile
industry. He stood up for the farmers of this state. His constituent
services are without parallel."
As for the New York Times, its August 23
editorial harshly condemned Helms on race. After claiming "few
senators in the modern era have done more to buck the tide of progress and
enlightenment than Mr. Helms," the editorial asserted:
"Mr. Helms's admirers have long equated his
obstructionist conduct with the defense of high principles. It is
certainly true that he never bought the idea that politics is the art of
the possible. But Mr. Helms's career has played out like a harsh and
intolerant moral crusade. Whether the issue was civil rights, women's
rights or gay rights, arms control or the Panama Canal, Mr. Helms
approached them all with a deeply rooted and unyielding brand of
conservatism. The senator, who is 79, was felled not by any political foe
or even North Carolina's changing demographics but by age and illness,
probably the only forces that could have persuaded him to quit. Since the
98-year-old Strom Thurmond of South Carolina is also expected to leave the
Senate next year, there was talk yesterday that Mr. Helms's departure
signified the end of an era in American conservatism. That seems off the
mark, since there may be more conservatives in Congress and in the
executive branch now than there were when Mr. Helms came to Washington in
1973, at the beginning of Richard Nixon's second term. But his departure
clearly signifies the end of an era in North Carolina politics, as well as
in the Senate, where Mr. Helms and Mr. Thurmond represented the last
vestiges of the segregationist South."
Broder column detailed in item #1 above, which claimed Helms coverage
undermined the claim of any liberal bias, appeared at the top of the
Washington Post's August 29 op-ed page. Inches below, on the very same
page and on the very same day, the Post ran a column by Robert J.
Samuelson which he couldn't have timed any better. Samuelson contended:
"Among editors and reporters of the national media -- papers,
magazines, TV -- a 'liberal bias' is not so much denied as ignored,
despite overwhelming evidence that it exists."
Samuelson's column was prompted by the
elevation next week of Howell Raines to be Executive Editor of the New
York Times after spending many years as editor of the editorial page where
he directed liberal crusading, such as, and how's this for a segue
between two CyberAlert items, the anti-Helms editorial quoted at the end
of item #1 above today.
Samuelson observed how the editorial page run
by Raines "was pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-campaign finance
'reform.' Last year, it endorsed Al Gore. In general, it has been
critical of President Bush, especially his tax cut." Samuelson
ruminated: "Does anyone believe that, in his new job, Raines will
instantly purge himself of these and other views?"
The media would be in uproar, Samuelson
speculated, if "the Wall Street Journal had named Robert Bartley, its
fiercely conservative editorial page editor, to run its news
An excerpt from Samuelson's August 29 column
as run in the Washington Post:
We in the press are routinely self-righteous, holding others --
politicians, public officials and corporate executives -- to exacting
standards of truthfulness, performance and conflict of interest. But we
often refuse to impose comparable standards on ourselves, leading some (or
much) of the public to see us as hypocritical. A troubling example
involves the recent promotion of Howell Raines from editorial page editor
of the New York Times to executive editor, where he will oversee the
Times' news staff of 1,200, including 26 foreign bureaus. Raines assumes
his new job Sept. 6.
In many ways, he seems superbly qualified. Raines, 58, has been a Times
bureau chief in both London and Washington. In 1992, he won a Pulitzer
Prize. But what ought to disqualify him is his job as editorial page
editor, where he proclaimed the Times' liberal views. Every editor and
reporter holds private views; the difference is that Raines's opinions are
now highly public. His page took stands on dozens of local, national and
international issues. It was pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-campaign
finance "reform." Last year, it endorsed Al Gore. In general, it
has been critical of President Bush, especially his tax cut.
Does anyone believe that, in his new job, Raines will instantly purge
himself of these and other views? And because they are so public, Raines's
positions compromise the Times' ability to act and appear fair-minded.
Many critics already believe that the news columns of the Times are
animated -- and distorted -- by the same values as its editorials. Making
the chief of the editorial page the chief of the news columns will not
quiet those suspicions....
Even more revealing has been the press coverage. Since Raines's
appointment was announced in May, there has been almost no criticism of
possible conflicts. (I examined stories in the Times, The Washington Post,
the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair and in the forthcoming issue of the
Columbia Journalism Review.) The silence suggests that the press tolerates
conflicts as long as they conform to its dominant -- mainly liberal --
beliefs. Suppose, hypothetically, that the Wall Street Journal had named
Robert Bartley, its fiercely conservative editorial page editor, to run
its news columns. Questions surely would have arisen (and properly so)
about his suitability -- about whether he might use the news columns to
promote conservative views. Similar questions apply no less to the liberal
Among editors and reporters of the national media -- papers, magazines,
TV -- a "liberal bias" is not so much denied as ignored, despite
overwhelming evidence that it exists. Consider a recent survey of the
public, the press and "policy leaders" by the Kaiser Family
Foundation and the Public Perspective magazine of the Roper Center for
Public Opinion Research. Among the press, only 6 percent identified
themselves as "conservative" and 4 percent as Republican. Among
the public, the figures were 35 percent and 28 percent and, among policy
leaders, 18 percent and 24 percent. This poll confirms many others....
Among journalists, pressures for intellectual and social conformity
mean that challenges to what "everyone believes" are rare.
Journalists -- like most people -- want to be liked and respected by peers
"The press becomes the unwitting ally of a reform politics which,
in fact, primarily represents a constituency of well-educated,
upper-middle-class whites who respond to the direct mail appeals [of
advocacy groups]," writes Thomas Edsall, a Washington Post political
reporter, in Public Perspective. Although Edsall was referring to campaign
finance "reform," the point applies to many liberal causes, from
strict environmental regulation to women's and gay "rights."
Similarly, the press "has been blindsided by...significant political
developments because so few members of the media share the views of the
voters who have been mobilized by these movements," says Edsall. He
mentions -- among others -- "the conservative upheaval of 1980 that
produced Ronald Reagan...the rise of the Christian Right...the popularity
of welfare reform in the 1990s."...
To read all of Samuelson's column, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10823-2001Aug28.html
For the referenced piece by Tom Edsall, posted
only as a PDF: http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/pubper/pdf/pp12_4d.pdf
As detailed in the May 22 CyberAlert, Raines complained in Fly
Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis that "reporting on President
Reagan's success in making life harder for citizens who were not born
rich, white, and healthy -- saddened me." During a November 17, 1993
interview about his book on Charlie Rose's PBS show, he whined:
"The Reagan years oppressed me because of the callousness and the
greed and the hard-hearted attitude toward people who have very little in
To watch a RealPlayer video clip of Raines
with Rose and/or for more extensive quotations from Raines, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010522.asp#3
highlighted a poll of which I was unaware, about how only a piddling six
percent of the press call themselves conservative.
(MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey
tracked down the poll and discovered that the ideological and party
identification questions were not the thrust of the poll, but like the
Freedom Forum survey which determined 89 percent of Washington reporters
voted for Clinton in 1992, came in some end of survey demographic
questions in a poll about an unrelated topic. Still, about ten percent of
news media respondents refused to identify their party or ideological
The "National Survey of the Role of Polls
in Policymaking," completed by Princeton Survey Research Associates
for the Kaiser Family Foundation in collaboration with Public Perspective,
a magazine published by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, was
released in late June.
The poll questioned 1,206 members of the
public, 300 "policymakers" and 301 "media professionals,
including reporters and editors from top newspapers, TV and radio
networks, news services and news magazines."
The survey found that six times more of the
public than journalists considered themselves "conservative"
while four times as many members of the media called themselves
"liberal" as "conservative." The results to the two
-- "In politics today, do you consider
yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an independent or something else?"
-- "Would you describe your political
beliefs as conservative, moderate or liberal?"
the news media sample, 64 percent were male and just 36 percent female, so
given how women skew more liberal, a newsroom split about evenly between
men and woman is probably even more liberal overall.
To access all the documents posted about this
poll, go to: http://www.kff.org/content/2001/3146/
The actual poll results in full are only
posted in PDF format. It's about 30 pages with the questions cited above
near the end: http://www.kff.org/content/2001/3146/toplines.pdf
I'd bet many of those who said
"moderate" are actually quite liberal given how reporters so
often tagged Senator Jeffords as a "moderate" and consider Gary
Condit to be "conservative."
-- Brent Baker
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