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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday December 20, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 199)

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More About U.S. Abusing Walker; Castigating Only Bush as Partisan; No Bias at ABC? You're "Delusional"; Goldberg Book a Best-Seller

1) Helen Thomas on John Walker: "Are we so primitive that we would ship this man in a box, deny him legal rights, deny him the right to see a lawyer, deny him the right to see his parents? I mean, is that America?"

2) Referring to President Bush's announcement of a bi-partisan compromise stimulus bill which Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle opposes, ABC's Terry Moran castigated Bush for his "'in-your-face, Tom Daschle' move" and asked why shouldn't people "see this as a return to...partisan wrangling?"

3) Former ABC News Political Director Hal Bruno insisted Wednesday on CNN: "I know from the very top all the way on down at ABC, not only was there not a bias, but we constantly were on the alert to make sure that no bias creeped [sic] into our coverage." Ex-CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg, author of a new book, Bias, dubbed Bruno as "delusional, he's absolutely delusional."

4) Bernard Goldberg's book will debut at #13 this Sunday on the New York Times best-seller list. Last week the Wall Street Journal said the book is a "must-read" for "any aspiring journalist. His case is airtight." Even the New York Times lauded his effort.


For the second straight day at the White House press briefing session, Helen Thomas of Hearst Newspapers and Terry Moran of ABC News grilled Press Secretary Ari Fleischer on Wednesday about the rights of John Walker, the American found with the Taliban. On Tuesday, Moran took the lead, as detailed in the December 19 CyberAlert:

     On Wednesday, Thomas took the lead role. She bizarrely suggested that because the U.S. government had not given Walker access to a lawyer he would be confined to a box: "Are we so primitive that we would ship this man in a box, deny him legal rights, deny him the right to see a lawyer, deny him the right to see his parents? I mean, is that America?"

     Which part of the Constitution guarantees a right to see your parents when you are caught with enemy troops?

     The discussion about Walker occurred near the end of the December 19 briefing. MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth checked the WhiteHouse.gov transcript against the MRC's tape of CNN coverage to correct any errors.

     After Fleischer told a reporter that Walker "is considered, under the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, a battlefield detainee," Thomas demanded: "My question falls in line with that. Are we so primitive that we would ship this man in a box, deny him legal rights, deny him the right to see a lawyer, deny him the right to see his parents? I mean, is that America?"
     Fleischer tried to calm down the long-time UPI reporter: "Helen, under the Geneva Convention regarding treatment of prisoners of war, the military and intelligence agencies may question prisoners for information that's of military value in the conduct of war without the presence of a lawyer. That is what the Geneva Convention calls for-"
     Thomas piped up: "You ship him in a box?"
     Fleischer: "-and the Geneva Convention is being followed in this case."
     Moran demanded: "So it trumps his constitutional right to-"
     Fleischer: "No, this is done consistent with the Constitution."
     Moran: "How so?"
     Fleischer: "Because what you're referring to, Terry, deals with custodial interrogation-"
     Moran: "Right."
     Fleischer: "-and that only comes into play, that only comes in as a matter of statute when he is in the custody of law enforcement personnel. He is covered under the Geneva Convention by military personnel, which triggers a different set of statutory requirements."
     Thomas, obsessed with parental access: "He can't see his parents? He's not allowed to see his parents?"
     Fleischer: "Again, Helen, I think that they are moving forward with a review of the facts in this matter. But he is being treated under the Geneva Convention. He is being protected. He has been given medical care which he was not receiving under the Taliban. And he has received the protection of the United States Armed Forces in a very dangerous battlefield condition."
     Thomas charged: "He's being interrogated without a lawyer. Is that fair?"
     Fleischer pointed out: "He is being given all his rights, which are far more than the rights the Taliban or the al-Qaeda extended to anybody living there."
     Thomas sighed: "Well, we're not comparing ourselves, are we?"

     If he really wanted to see his parents would he have decided to live in Afghanistan with terrorists?


Whether you see the roadblock to a stimulus bill as being caused by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle refusing to sign onto a compromise bill favored by President Bush, Republicans and a few Democrats, or being caused by President Bush and the Republicans refusing to accommodate the goals set forth by Daschle, an even-handed reporter would not denounce just one party in the dispute for bringing back partisan politics.

     But that's just what ABC News White House reporter Terry Moran did on Wednesday as he blamed Bush. Referring to Bush's announcement of a bi-partisan compromise, at the December 19 White House press briefing, Moran pounced: "After weeks of working, essentially quietly behind the scenes, with meetings on the Hill at night or the breakfasts here with the leaders, this is really an 'in-your-face, Tom Daschle' move, isn't it?"
     Fleischer replied: "No, this is an achievement, an agreement with the key people on the Hill who can deliver the votes in the center. This is the center speaking out. And this is an agreement that the American people, particularly those who worry about whether they're going to keep their jobs, can be proud of. You know, the fact of the matter is, time is running out on the Congress. They're only here for another day or two. They need to get the job done. There's not much time left to talk."
     Moran followed up: "Well, why shouldn't the American people see this as a return to the partisan wrangling over the nation's business, a return to very sharp-edged, in-your-face politics?"


Bernard Goldberg hit a wall of denial of any liberal bias Wednesday afternoon during an appearance on CNN's Talk Back Live with Hal Bruno, Political Director at ABC News for nearly 20 years ending in 1997. Bruno insisted: "I know from the very top all the way on down at ABC, not only was there not a bias, but we constantly were on the alert to make sure that no bias creeped [sic] into our coverage."

     Goldberg, a former CBS News correspondent, penned the new book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. See the December 3, 5, 7 and 13 CyberAlerts for previous items about the book:





     When Goldberg recalled how at the start of the January 1999 Senate impeachment trial Peter Jennings "identified every conservative who went up to sign that oath book as a conservative" while not labeling the liberal Senators, Bruno dismissed the claim: "Well, I don't think it is an example of liberal bias. And I do not recall such a thing happening." Goldberg retorted: "Well, it happened." Indeed it did, as documented at the time in a CyberAlert.

     Later, Bruno maintained that the fact that the vast majority of ABC News staffers are pro-choice on abortion has no impact on coverage. Goldberg fired back: "He's delusional. He's absolutely delusional." That led Bruno to dismiss Goldberg as "an ideologue," as if anyone who perceives liberal bias must by a right-wing ideologue.

     On the December 19 CNN show hosted by Tucker Carlson, Goldberg outlined his thesis: "The evidence is the way they see the world. They see conservatives very clearly; they don't see liberals. They identify conservatives as right-wing Republicans, as right-wing Christians, as right-wing radio talk show hosts, right-wing Miami Cubans. But the only time you ever hear the term 'left-wing' out of these peoples' mouths is if they're talking about a part of an airplane. It's how they see the big issues of our time, whether it's feminism, whether it's gay rights, whether it's race, whether it's even homelessness. That's where the liberal bias comes in."

     Carlson wondered: "Now, Hal Bruno, in Mr. Goldberg's book he makes an interesting point. Study after study after study shows that the majority of the news media -- particularly at the networks -- vote Democratic. Mr. Goldberg says, look, if the majority of the media were Midwestern Republicans, would it affect the coverage? Maybe on the margins it would. Yes, it probably would. Is that, I mean-"
     Bruno insisted: "It wouldn't affect it in the slightest. First of all, we are professional journalists. Most of my colleagues that I worked with in 50 years in journalism, including 20 years at ABC News, weren't anything. They were mostly middle of the road. Whatever they were, they left it at home when they came to work. I worked 15 years with Peter Jennings every single day on all programs that had anything to do with political coverage. Never once did I have any problems at all with any kind of political bias. It just wasn't there."
     Carlson: "Bernie Goldberg, what are the orthodoxies? What are the things that are taken for granted?"
     Goldberg recalled: "Let me just answer Hal for a second. With all due respect, Hal, during the impeachment hearings all the Senators went up in the Senate to sign an oath book to swear that they'd be fair and impartial. Peter Jennings was doing a live play-by-play. He identified every conservative who went up to sign that oath book as a conservative. He said there is Senator Santorum, a conservative from Pennsylvania. There is Senator Smith, a conservative from New Hampshire. Every conservative who went up there, Peter Jennings identified and rightly so. Because the audience needed to know that these conservatives had an axe to grind. They were conservative, and during impeachment that was going to matter. But then when every liberal went up, Senator Boxer was simply Senator Boxer from California. When Senator Schumer went up, Senator Schumer was simply Senator Schumer from New York. When Senator Daschle went up, he was simply Senator Daschle from South Dakota. Now, Hal, did you miss that or do you not think that's an example of liberal bias?"
     Bruno maintained: "Well, I don't think it is an example of liberal bias. And I do not recall such a thing happening."
     Goldberg: "Well, it happened."
     Bruno: "But if you say it happened, I won't argue with you. But I know that over a period of all these years and, you know, I can only speak for ABC News. I cannot talk about the internal workings of other networks because I don't know. But I know from the very top all the way on down at ABC, not only was there not a bias, but we constantly were on the alert to make sure that no bias creeped into our coverage. And I was directly in charge of the political coverage. We always had a saying in my political unit when the campaign started: 'We don't care who wins or loses. All we want to do is get it right.'"

     Indeed, Goldberg's recollection is correct, though the January 7, 1999 event happened after Bruno left ABC News. An excerpt from the January 8, 1999 CyberAlert:

....Peter Jennings told viewers the names of some of the Senators they were watching. After pointing out but not labeling liberal Democrats John Kerry, Herbert Kohl, Ted Kennedy, and Carl Levin, Jennings found two worth tagging and then a liberal he didn't find label-worthy:
"Senator John McCain here of Arizona, left-hander. More right than left in his politics and intending to run for President of the United States. Senator McConnell of Kentucky, very determined conservative member of the Republican Party. Senator Mikulski of Maryland. It tells you something about how often they're in the news whether they are easily or not easily recognized..."

Seconds later: "Senator Rick Santorum, one of the younger members of the Senate, Republican, very determined conservative member of the Senate. That's Senator Daschle there in the left-hand side of your picture. Behind him Senator Byrd. Senator Sarbanes of Maryland, a long time Democratic Senator just walking across the picture...."

Just after not labeling Democrat Charles Schumer, Jennings warned viewers: "Mr. Smith of New Hampshire, also another very, very conservative Republican intending to run for the presidency..." Finally, he ended by running through the names of the last five Senators, three of whom are amongst the most far-left in the Senate: "Senator Torricelli of New Jersey that was. Senator Voinovich, Senator John Warner of Virginia, and the next one up Senator Wellstone from Minnesota and the last W, having all 100 Senators, in the brown suit there, Senator Wyden of Oregon."

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire item, with my always insightful quips, go to:

     Back to CNN's Talk Back Live on Wednesday, after an ad break Carlson posited: "Hal Bruno, let ask me you this. And honestly, what percentage of the news media, the network news media, how about just ABC News, is pro-choice? It's got to be above 80, don't you think?"
     Bruno: "Well, we have a tremendous number of women that have come into journalism in the last 20 years-"
     Carlson: "But not all women are pro-choice, of course."
     Bruno: "-and most women tend to be pro-choice. So I would have to say obviously, I'd say a majority of the people who work in the news, not just at ABC, but who work in the news, are pro-choice. But I think a majority of the country probably is pro-choice, too."
     Carlson interjected: "Hold on. And you don't think, first of all, that the percentage of pro-choice people at ABC is greater than that in the country and B, that it, you don't think that would affect coverage of abortion at all?"
     Bruno argued: "No. And I'll tell you why. Because when I was in charge of our coverage at the time the abortion issue came back to life in the late 1980s -- and we were very, very conscious of what the dangers might be in covering this story -- we had to make sure that both sides got the same kind of treatment. And we went to great lengths to make sure that that happened. And it did happen on all of our programs. I always took great pride in the fact that the people who worked for me and myself, as well, and most of the people at ABC, had the respect of people on all sides. That the right-to-life people, the pro-choice people knew that when they were in touch with us, they were going to be treated fairly. The same thing is true in our dealings with the people in politics, whether they were conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. They knew that when they talked to us, and when they came to ABC, they were going to be treated fairly."
     Carlson: "Do you buy that, Bernie Goldberg?"
     Goldberg didn't: "Well, I say this with, I want to make clear, I say this with all due respect. I'm sure Hal, I don't know him personally, but I'm sure he's a wonderful guy. I know he's very competent. I'm sure he loves his family and gives money to charity. But he's delusional. He's absolutely delusional. Hal Bruno is part of the problem, not part of the solution. When, and I, here is why I say it."
     Bruno charged: "He's an ideologue and he accuses everybody else has to be the same as him. The rest of us are not ideologues. He's the ideologue."
     Goldberg: "What ideology would I have, Hal?"
     Bruno: "Well, apparently you must be a conservative. Are you?"
     Goldberg: "Oh, you see, that's interesting."
     Carlson: "Did you vote for Ronald Reagan?"
     Goldberg: "That's interesting. Because Hal didn't read the book, I'll just help him out. I'm pro-choice. I'm pro-gay rights. I'm very liberal on many, many issues....But this is what happens when you talk about liberal bias. You must be an ideologue. Why am I an ideologue? Because I'm criticizing liberal bias. Well, Hal, maybe you're the ideologue from the left. Did you ever think of that?"
     Bruno: "Well, you know, you're the one that said that we associate in a world only of our own people. And that's nonsense. Away from work I was a volunteer firefighter for 40 years. My best friends were the people I served with on the fire department. I'm retired now from journalism. I'm chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. We are embroiled in things that affect everybody's life every single day. So when you spin off a silly thing like I'm delusional or that I don't know what the other rest of the world is like because I only associate with liberal journalists, that's nonsense."
     Goldberg challenged him: "Do you think those firefighters think there's a liberal bias?"
     Bruno: "Beg your pardon?"
     Goldberg: "Do you think some of those firefighters, many of them, think there's a liberal bias?"
     Bruno: "I think some do. Certainly. Why not? A certain number of people do believe that."
     Goldberg: "And do you think it's because they're ideologues?"
     Bruno became confused: "Yes, I, well, no, I don't think it's because of that reason. But I think everybody has their viewpoint-"
     Goldberg: "Well, why do you think it's because I'm an ideologue, then?"
     Bruno: "-and they tend to view the media in the viewpoint that they're coming from. I always used to have a saying. For many years, I had to cover the Middle East. And no matter what you the wrote, you got angry letters from one side or the other. There was no way that people wouldn't think you were biased. And on the same story, you would get, you know, angry letters from both sides. And I came to believe if everybody was mad at you, you're probably doing something right."

     That's the ultimate cop-out, though to be fair to Bruno, of all the prominent figures at a broadcast network over the last few decades, he was amongst the fairest. Too bad he won't hold his colleagues to his own standards.

     ++ See a bit of the Goldberg/Bruno showdown. Late Thursday morning the MRC's Mez Djouadi will post a RealPlayer clip of a portion of the above-quoted exchange. Go to the posted version of this CyberAlert article: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalert/2001/cyb20011220.asp#3


Bernard Goldberg's book will debut at an impressive #13 this Sunday on the New York Times best-seller list, the New York Daily News reported on Tuesday.

     While Goldberg's television interviews have been confined to FNC and now two daytime CNN shows, with a blackout so far by the broadcast network morning shows and MSNBC (though MSNBC had him on in June), last week his book earned positive reviews from not only the Wall Street Journal but even the New York Times.

     An excerpt from the December 18 New York Daily News story by Paul Colford, headlined: "Book That Blasts Media, Blasts the Charts." It was highlighted by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/). The excerpt:

A new book that accuses CBS News of liberal bias has become an instant best-seller.

Written by former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News" will debut Sunday to No. 13 on The New York Times best-seller list.

That's no small feat considering that four photo collections tied to the Sept. 11 terror attacks have taken root on the list, making it harder for new nonfiction to break through.

At the same time, the success of "Bias," like the strong sales of opinionated books by commentators Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, reflects the appetite among many readers for criticism of how the media operate.

"For a book to become a New York Times best-seller based on a first week of sales, when it reached only about 15% to 20% distribution, just shows there was a huge demand," said Regnery Publishing president Alfred Regnery....

A prominent report on Goldberg's allegations ran in The Washington Post on Dec. 3. The author later spent an hour Limbaugh's radio show and earned a respectful review last Thursday in The Times (Goldberg "asks questions that are worth asking").

"Bias" was unavailable at several Manhattan bookstores over the weekend. It ranked No. 8 in sales yesterday at the online retailer Amazon.com.

Regnery, a Washington publisher that specializes in conservative titles, started with 80,000 copies, but now has about 200,000 in print....

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire story, go to:

     An excerpt from the December 13 review in the Wall Street Journal by Russ Smith, editor-in-chief of the New York Press:

....This insider's account of Mr. Goldberg's career at CBS is filled with so many stories of repulsive elitism and prejudice on the part of his peers that it elevates "Bias" to must-read status for any aspiring journalist. His case is airtight.

On the network news, Robert Bork is the "conservative" judge; Laurence Tribe, merely a Harvard professor. Mr. Goldberg notes that the major networks, in a fit of political correctness, reported during the 1980s that AIDS was a menace to everyone -- even heterosexuals who engaged in no-risk sex -- despite facts that proved otherwise. Of another favorite social-activist cause, Mr. Goldberg comments dryly: "I could be wrong, but I think homelessness ended the day Bill Clinton was sworn in as president. Which is one of those incredible coincidences, since it pretty much began the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president."...

Mr. Goldberg can be charitable, allowing that his well-paid colleagues are probably so insulated in their cultural bubble -- socializing and working with people who share their prejudices -- that they don't even recognize the bias they display. Mr. Rather told Mr. Goldberg that he considers the New York Times's editorial page to be "middle of the road."

But mostly Mr. Goldberg is disgusted by the men and women he once considered friends. He notes: "They love affirmative action, as long as their own kids get into Ivy League schools. They love handing out jobs based on racial preferences, as long as they get to keep theirs. It's a great deal: it's always somebody else who has to make the sacrifice -- sometimes Asian-American kids, sometimes other white students who don't get into places like Harvard and Yale and Princeton -- while the white liberal elites get to claim credit for being so decent, the saviors of black people in America."...

     END of Excerpt

     For the review in full, go to:

     The same day the New York Times featured a review by Janet Maslin. A brief excerpt:

....Mr. Goldberg has written "Bias," a book larded with specific examples to support his point of view. Although he refers to "the two or three conservative friends I have," he may pick up a lot more of them on the strength of this assault. He examines television's coverage of such issues as race, AIDS and homelessness to eyebrow-raising effect. All this, he says, supports the idea that most of those who shape these stories tilt to the left.

Even among those who reject that premise, or some of the ad hominem bitterness on display here, "Bias" should be taken seriously. Unlike Bill O'Reilly, whose best-sellers (like "The No-Spin Zone") trumpet a bullying brand of conservatism as they recycle transcripts of television interviews, Mr. Goldberg has done real homework and has written a real book. Whatever his conclusions, however shaky his suppositions, he asks questions that are worth asking.

"Whenever you hear an anchorman or reporter use the word 'controversial,' it is usually a signal that the idea that follows is one the media elites do not agree with," he maintains. And whenever you hear the word "conservative" on one end of the political spectrum, he adds, you won't often hear "liberal" on the other. That, he says, is because network heavyweights regard their own opinions as middle-of-the-road and simply assume that the wider world agrees with them....

     END of Excerpt

     To read the entire review, which also takes on some of Goldberg's premises, those registered with the New York Times can go to:

     > This is probably the last CyberAlert until after Christmas, so a Merry Christmas to all, at least to those who are celebrating it.

     And don't forget, Peter Jennings is scheduled to appear Friday night on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman. -- Brent Baker

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