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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday December 28, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 202)

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Time Still Pines for "Gorby"; Geraldo Offers to Quit; First Runners-Up in the MRC's Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting

1) Time may have named New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani its "Person of the Year," but its heart still belongs to "Gorby" as the magazine fondly recalled how it named him its "Man of the Year" in 1987 and its "Man of the Decade" in 1989: "With a Western-style politician's charm and a homey touch, he became...'a symbol of hope for a new kind of Soviet Union.'"

2) FNC is standing by Geraldo Rivera, calling his mis-reporting that he eyewitnessed the results of a friendly fire accident, an "honest mistake." Meanwhile, Rivera has promised to resign if it's determined he did anything unethical.

3) The 15 first runners-up quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2001: The Fourteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

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Time magazine may have named New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani its "Person of the Year," but its heart still belongs to former Soviet communist dictator Mikhail Gorbachev. Or, as Time fondly dubbed him in its latest issue, "Gorby."

     In the middle, literally, of the December 31, 2001/January 7, 2002 issue, with Giuliani on the cover, Time recalled why it picked Gorbachev as its "Man," not "Person" back then, "of the Year" in 1987: "With a Western-style politician's charm and a homey touch, he became, as Time put it, 'a symbol of hope for a new kind of Soviet Union: more open, more concerned with the welfare of its citizens and less with the spread of ideology and system abroad.'"

     The praise of Gorbachev, caught by the MRC's Rich Noyes, occurred in a fold-out center-spread which touted an upcoming "multimedia exhibition, 'Time's Person of the Year at 75' which will open in New York City in the spring and tour eight other U.S. cities over the next two years."

     The center-spread featured Gorbachev as one of the eleven capsule write-ups on well-known winners: Charles Lindbergh, Ghandi, FDR, Wallis Simpson, Pope John XXIII, Martin Luther King, "American Women," Khomeini, Lech Walesa, the computer, and, for 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev:
     "Gorby. Glasnost. Perestroika. Those quaint, inseparable terms entered the global lexicon in the 1980s as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed a new glasnost (openness) in Soviet society and began implementing perestroika (restructuring) in its economy and politics. He sought a more conciliatory relationship with the U.S., negotiating arms reductions. With a Western-style politician's charm and a homey touch, he became, as Time put it, 'a symbol of hope for a new kind of Soviet Union: more open, more concerned with the welfare of its citizens and less with the spread of ideology and system abroad.'

     "What did spread, at home and abroad, was a fever of democratic reform. Soviet satellite states gained independence. The Berlin Wall fell. The cold war faded. The ferment grew chaotic and eventually swept away Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. But for surviving so long and so boldly and so imaginatively as 'the patron of change,' Gorbachev was again Time's choice in 1989, this time as the Person of the Decade."

     As Rich Noyes wondered in an e-mail message: "So Time has found something 'quaint' about the '80s -- not Reagan's America (which grew richer and stronger and more free), but Gorby's USSR, which held political prisoners, suppressed the media and had food lines, shrinking life spans and rampant alcoholism. And it eventually crumbled into nothingness."

     Thanks, I would add, more to Ronald Reagan and other Cold Warriors, than to Gorbachev.

     This isn't the first time since Gorbachev has lost power that Time has raved over him. In an item in the May 3, 1993 "The Week" section, Time gushed: "What do you do for an encore after ending the Cold War and reversing the arms race? That's the latest assignment for Mikhail Gorbachev, having assumed the presidency of the International Green Cross, a new environmental organization..."

     In recalling how it named Khomeini its 1979 "Man of the Year," the center-spread explained how the designation goes to the person "who, for better or for worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year." Obviously, that's a standard they violated this year. If they had followed their own guideline they would have named Osama bin Laden or someone key to the U.S. response to terrorism, such as President Bush or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, not the mayor of a city who may have done great things in the aftermath of a tragedy, but certainly did not have the most influence over events.


"Geraldo Rivera is offering to resign from Fox News," the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz revealed on Monday before adding this catch: "If, that is, a panel of media analysts decides he did anything unethical in Afghanistan. Which, he insists, is ridiculous."

     Kurtz's promise from Rivera appeared two days before the Fox News Channel, calling it an "honest mistake" according to the AP, issued a statement saying it stands by Rivera following controversy over the charge that he falsely reported in early December that he had eyewitnessed the aftermath of a friendly fire incident which killed U.S. soldiers.

     For details about Rivera's mis-reporting as first highlighted by the Baltimore Sun's David Folkenflik, which, now that Geraldo's with FNC, suddenly interested CBS News and CNN, refer back to the December 19 CyberAlert:

     An excerpt from Kurtz's December 24 Washington Post story:

Geraldo Rivera is offering to resign from Fox News.

If, that is, a panel of media analysts decides he did anything unethical in Afghanistan. Which, he insists, is ridiculous.

Rivera acknowledges that he made an "honest mistake" by saying he was at a "friendly fire" incident in which three American soldiers were killed in a U.S. bombing raid. He was hundreds of miles away, near what he maintains was a second such incident in which two or three Afghan opposition fighters were killed.

Rivera denounces the Baltimore Sun television writer who reported the mistake, saying: "The whole basic premise that I lied or was dishonest is absurd on its face, and were it any other reporter, would not even pass the laugh test. This is the most false, hideously absurd allegation I've ever had leveled against me."

Sun writer David Folkenflik "has slandered a journalist who is an honest person and has contributed arguably much more to American society than he has," Rivera says. "This cannot stand. He has impugned my honor. It is as if he slapped me in the face and challenged me to a duel. He is going to regret this story for the rest of his career."

Folkenflik says he was "very careful" in framing the story and could find no military official or journalist in the region who could confirm Rivera's account. "I don't know how many bites of the apple he gets to get a version that works," Folkenflik says. "There may be an explanation for this that bears up to scrutiny, but we haven't seen it."

The day after the Dec. 5 incident, Rivera told viewers he had walked the "hallowed ground" where the Americans had died: "The whole place just fried really and bits of uniforms and tattered clothing everywhere. I said the Lord's Prayer and really choked up."

But Rivera was at Tora Bora, while the Americans died near distant Kandahar; Rivera says he "confused" the incidents....

Rivera says he has unaired footage of the carnage and that if a journalistic panel backs him up, Folkenflik should resign. "The time has come to stop the Geraldo-bashing," he declares....

     END of Excerpt

     For Kurtz's story in full, go to:

     Folkenflik followed up with a December 27 story highlighted by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/).

     An excerpt from David Folkenflik's Baltimore Sun report:

Fox News Channel officials say they have reviewed war correspondent Geraldo Rivera's discredited "friendly fire" report and found it to be an honest mistake.

A statement released by Fox News said the cable news station's executives had viewed tapes of Rivera's work and concluded his errors were inadvertent. The news network said it will take no additional action in wake of the incident.

The Sun first reported that Rivera was hundreds of miles from the site of a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan that he described on the air on Dec. 6.

"Based on Geraldo Rivera's 30-year track record, Fox News has full confidence in his explanation and journalistic integrity," the statement from Fox News read, according to the Associated Press. "This is not the first, nor will it be the last, mistake made in a war zone."

On Dec. 6, Rivera reported he had said the Lord's Prayer over "hallowed ground" where three American servicemen were killed the day before by U.S. bombing raids. The soldiers died outside Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. At the time, Rivera was in Tora Bora, some 300 miles to the northeast.

In an interview with The Sun, Rivera said he had been confused by a similar incident that killed Afghan opposition forces on the same day.

But the Pentagon said that bombing raid occurred after the morning of Dec. 9 -- at least three days after Rivera's initial report. Rivera later said he was referring to still another such event....

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire story, go to:

     If only a few other network reporters who have spent their careers distorting the news would be willing to accept the conclusions of a panel of media analysts. But don't count on that ever occurring: Those at CBS News ostracized one of their own, Bernard Goldberg, when he dared to point out their obvious liberal bias.


The first runners-up quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2001: The Fourteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting," a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 2001 -- actually December 2000 through November 2001.

     The December 27 CyberAlert featured the winning quotes. To view the award winners and the top runners-up, as well as RealPlayer video clips for many of the broadcast quotes, go to:

     To determine this year's winners, a panel of 41 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from a slate of six to nine quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. Point totals are listed in the brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote.

     The names of the judges appeared in the December 27 CyberAlert. You can view the list online at:

     Now, the first runners-up quotes in 15 award categories as presented in the December 24 edition of Notable Quotables:

Swiss Press Corps Award for Remaining Neutral in War Coverage

"We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist....To be frank, it adds little to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack."
-- Steven Jukes, global head of news for Reuters News Service, in an internal memo cited by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in a Sept. 24 article. [67 points]

Media Hero Award

"He's only the most important political leader alive in the world today, historically speaking....If you look over the course of our lifetimes, who was the most, well, you go back to Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt....If I look back over my lifetime, who is the world leader who changed things the most, and I don't actually think it is a close call."
-- Newsweek's Jonathan Alter on Mikhail Gorbachev, April 27 Imus in the Morning on MSNBC. [47]

Pushing Bush to the Left Award

"George W. Bush was so indifferent to the world that in the years before he became President he made only two overseas trips, both for business, neither for curiosity. No wonder he wants to break the missile treaty, alienate NATO, ignore global warming and reinstall Russia and China as enemies: Those foreign countries scarcely exist in his imagination. Why go to Australia when you have the Outback Steakhouse right here at home?"
-- Movie reviewer Roger Ebert in a July 24 Chicago Sun-Times op-ed. [48]

Poisoning the Planet Award for Portraying Bush as Destroyer of the Earth

"Around the world, the anger runs as deep as the flood waters being blamed on the global warming the Kyoto treaty was supposed to fight. President Bush says he's putting American economic interests first in rejecting Kyoto, and in Britain, where they're having their wettest winter ever, they sadly agree....Others point to severe weather conditions around the planet -- flooding for the second consecutive year in Mozambique, drought and famine in the Sudan -- and they say the U.S. is substantially to blame. With only about four percent of the world's population, the United States famously produces about twenty-five percent of the world's harmful greenhouse gas pollution."
-- Mark Phillips on the March 29 CBS Evening News. [36]

Picking the Lockbox Award for Denouncing Bush's Tax Cut

"Democrats, collaborating on a smaller tax cut proposal, have vowed to fight the Bush plan, targeting it as a budget buster that caters to the rich....On the Republican side, Mr. Bush faces a different problem. Already they're talking up adding more tax cuts to his plan. And then, there's the lobbyists who wonder why Mr. Bush gave nothing to corporate America. Critics charge the bill could eventually top $3 trillion....Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice can't forget the last time Congress went on a tax cut spree in 1981. America is still paying the bill."
-- CBS White House correspondent John Roberts in a February 5 CBS Evening News story which cited a critic but not a supporter of Reagan's tax cuts. [36 points]

Carve Clinton Into Mount Rushmore Award

"Now, the return of the Prodigal Son. The, you know, the man who left office disgraced, burdened down by at least three major scandals that I can think of, got a hero's welcome today, and I couldn't be happier....After impeachment, after Pardongate, after the fake stories about their pilfering of the White House, Bill Clinton's appearance today in Harlem must have been the feel-good event of the season for the former President, and he soaked up the sunshine and love."
-- Geraldo Rivera discussing Bill Clinton's "heroic re-emergence" at the opening of his new Harlem offices, on CNBC's Rivera Live, July 30. [40]

Good Morning Morons Award

Charles Gibson: "Have you ever -- it just occurred to me -- have you ever, in the first hundred days, consulted or called former President Clinton?"
President Bush: "No, I haven't."
Gibson: "To talk to him?"
President Bush: "No, I have not."
Gibson: "Don't feel the need?"
-- Exchange during taped interview aired on the April 25 Good Morning America. [47]

Damn Those Conservatives Award

"And we can't let Justice Thomas pass on this. There's no opinion of his in here, he doesn't ask questions in court. Does he do anything besides vote and rubber stamp Scalia?"
-- Bryant Gumbel to CBS legal analyst Jonathan Turley on Bush vs. Gore, Dec. 13, 2000 The Early Show. [38]

Selected Not Elected Award for Claiming Bush Is an Illegitimate President

"Should five of our nation's nine Supreme Court Justices be imprisoned? That's the opinion of famed former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. He says the Justices who supported George W. Bush in the election dispute are almost treasonous white-collar criminals. He'll explain why."
"It is a scathing indictment of the high court of the United States, at least these five conservative Justices. And I really, really, I urge law students especially, but anyone who's interested in the machinations of the Court, to check this out: Vincent Bugliosi's The Betrayal of America."
-- Beginning and end of Geraldo Rivera's interview with Bugliosi, CNBC's Rivera Live, June 25. [50]

Department of Injustice Award for Denigrating John Ashcroft

"In John Ashcroft's America, he said in 1999, 'We have no king but Jesus.' But President-elect George W. Bush has nominated Ashcroft to the position of Attorney General of the United States. In the venerable halls of the Justice Department, where he will work, it is the Constitution that is king....Ashcroft will need to assure the nation that he can enforce the Constitution and the laws of Congress when they run contrary to the laws of Jesus, as they surely will. A larger question, spoken or unspoken, will be: Can a deeply religious person be Attorney General?"
-- Opening of Jan. 16 USA Today op-ed piece by former USA Today Supreme Court reporter Tony Mauro. [51]

Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis

Bill O'Reilly: "I want to ask you flat out, do you think President Clinton's an honest man?"
Dan Rather: "Yes, I think he's an honest man."
O'Reilly: "Do you, really?"
Rather: "I do."
O'Reilly: "Even though he lied to Jim Lehrer's face about the Lewinsky case?"
Rather: "Who among us has not lied about something?"
O'Reilly: "Well, I didn't lie to anybody's face on national television. I don't think you have, have you?"
Rather: "I don't think I ever have. I hope I never have. But, look, it's one thing _ "
O'Reilly: "How can you say he's an honest guy then?"
Rather: "Well, because I think he is. I think at core he's an honest person. I know that you have a different view. I know that you consider it sort of astonishing anybody would say so, but I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things."
-- Exchange on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, May 15. [64]

Euro-Envy Award for Advocating More Government Spending

"The U.S. is actually the least generous of the industrialized nations. In Sweden, a new mother gets 18 months of maternity and parental leave, and she gets 80 percent of her salary for the first year. Mother or father can take the parental leave any time until a child is eight. England gives 18 weeks maternity leave. For the first six weeks, a mother gets 90 percent of her salary from the government and $86 a week thereafter. German women get two months of fully paid leave after giving birth. The government and the company kick in, and either parent has the option of three full years in parental leave with some of their salary paid and their jobs protected."
-- Peter Jennings, April 19 World News Tonight, following a story on a study showing more aggression in children who attend day care. [73]

Nobody Here But Us Apolitical Observers Award for Denying Liberal Bias

Diane Sawyer: "Watching you and watching you cover the news over the past year, you are so much about passion for politics, and it doesn't matter to you, I mean -- I really mean this."
George Stephanopoulos: "Thank you."
Sawyer: "You've been completely non-partisan in covering the news."
-- Exchange on ABC's Good Morning America, July 24. [54]

Blame America First Award

"We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away, that's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, not cowardly."
-- ABC's Bill Maher on Politically Incorrect, Sept. 17. [52]

Glimpses of Patriotism Award

"The United States had a spirit before it had a name -- one of faith and freedom, of ambition tempered by piety. We once were a nation of neighbors and friends, we are again today. We once were a nation of hardship_tested dreamers -- we are again today. We once were a nation under God -- we are again today. Our enemies attacked one nation, they will encounter another, for they underestimated us. Today in our grief and in our rage, our determination and hope, we've summoned what's best and noblest in us. We are again Americans."
-- Tony Snow at the conclusion of the September 16 Fox News Sunday. [54]

     END Reprint of first runners-up quotes in the MRC's awards for the year's worst reporting.

     On Monday, the second runners-up. -- Brent Baker

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