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The 1,246th CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday March 19, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 45)
Printer Friendly Version

Brock Challenged by FNC; Catholics "Allayed" or "Reeling"? Fox's Fun Over Terrorism; Kid on ABC: "I Want to Watch Letterman!"

1) What a difference the network makes. FNC's David Asman on Monday actually challenged David Brock's on his broad accusations and took on some of the specific allegations made in his book trashing conservatives. Last week, in contrast, CNN's Aaron Brown assumed Brock's claims were accurate and empathized with his plight while on NBC's Today Matt Lauer prompted Brock to elucidate on how wealthy conservatives who directed the anti-Clinton conspiracy allowed him to smear people.

2) Same subject, two Sunday spins. The Washington Post's headline: "For Catholics, Crisis of Trust Allayed by Faith." The New York Times the same day: "As Scandal Keeps Growing, Church and Its Faithful Reel."

3) Fox's priority: Don't let terrorism interfere with fun. On The American Embassy: "In the weeks following the Embassy bombing, Emma is still haunted by the terrorist attack. Will this affect the sunny outlook she had on her new life in London?" Plus, the bomb squad discovers "Emma's" buzzing cylindrical object.

4) On an ABC drama Monday night a kid wailed: "It's too early to go to bed! I want to watch Letterman!"

     >>> NQ now online. The March 18 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media, is now online thanks to the MRC's Mez Djouadi and Kristina Sewell.
     Amongst the quote headings: "Clinton Undermined by 'Berserk' 1990s 'Conspiracy' by the Right"; "'Unpatriotic' GOP 'Extremists' Would Have Condemned Clinton"; "If They Hate Us, Blame Bush"; "Conservative = 'Anti-Everything'; PBS's Fears: Media 'Jingoism' ...And Conservative Media Bias"; "Reagan's 'Social Darwinism' vs. Clinton's 'Great Ideals'"; "Jennings, Rather & Brokaw: Fair" and "ABC News Not Liberal Enough." To read the issue:
     To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
http://archive.mrc.org/notablequotables/2002/pdf/Mar182002nq.pdf <<<


NBC's slogan for the Today show is "what a difference Today makes." FNC on Monday illustrated how for the cable network it's "what a difference the network makes." Conservative-basher David Brock, author of Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, was interviewed early Monday afternoon on the Fox News Channel by Fox News Live anchor David Asman. But it was quite a different experience for Brock than the adoring treatment he received last week on NBC's Today from Matt Lauer and on CNN from Aaron Brown.

     Asman actually challenged Brock's broad accusations and took on some of the specific allegations in the book, demonstrating they are inaccurate.

     Asman got Brock to concede he really never was a committed conservative, just one of convenience, suggested that maybe conservatives had "values" beyond just that Clinton "got under their skin" which caused them to criticize him, pressed Brock to say whether he believed the charges leveled by Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey and wondered: "Do you think we've all misunderstood, David, and that Bill Clinton is a moralist?" Brock maintained that "there's a question about where you weigh what Clinton did against versus what the right-wing did to destroy him and what was a greater threat to the country and I think it was what the right-wing did and not what Clinton did."

     Raising Brock's claims that former FBI agent Gary Aldrich misused a baseless allegation Brock had passed along to him, Asman asked: "We're supposed to believe you, a person who has admitted that you've lied in print as opposed to an FBI agent who was assigned to two different administrations?" Asman, who was with the Wall Street Journal editorial page before jumping to FNC, showed how Brock was inaccurate in his claim about how the Journal had identified Aldrich.

     Last Wednesday morning on NBC's Today, in contrast, Matt Lauer did not once question any Brock's claims as he prompted him to elucidate on how wealthy conservatives who directed the anti-Clinton conspiracy allowed him to smear people. Lauer even cued up Brock to endorse Hillary Clinton's insight into the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Setting up the segment, Lauer enthused:
     "His specialty was character assassination and throughout the 1990s he made a living as a right-wing hatchet man. But after years of lies and, some would say, malicious journalism, this Washington insider wants to clear his conscience. In his new book, Blinded by the Right, best-selling author and ex-conservative David Brock, exposes how he says the GOP tried to destroy the Clinton presidency through a series of well-plotted smear campaigns."

     For a complete rundown of the March 13 interview, refer back to the March 14 CyberAlert:

     Last Thursday night on CNN's NewsNight, anchor Aaron Brown assumed David Brock's charges were beyond dispute. Brown set up the segment: "He helped trash Anita Hill, went looking for the illegitimate children of Bill Clinton, took money from conservative patrons, and made things up if it made Mr. Clinton look bad. And then he says he saw the light, the errors of his ways." Baffled by why conservatives would so distrust Clinton, Brown wondered: "What is it about Clinton? I've asked this question on this program about five different times to five different people." After not challenging anything Brock charged as he outlined his claims about a conservative conspiracy against Clinton fueled by anger at Clinton's anti-segregation policies, Brown inquired: "Are you ashamed of that period of your life?"

     More on the Brown interview below, following the rundown of the FNC interview.

     FNC's Asman set up the March 18 segment aired live at about 12:45pm EST, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "We're going to take you back, the book, The Real Anita Hill, that was a book that slashed the woman who brought discussions of pubic hair and porno films into Senate hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The book was used by members of the conservative movement to defend the first black conservative appointed to the Supreme Court. Well, the author of that book has since taken on the conservative movement itself and his own earlier work, both of which he now claims were blinded by arrogance and ideology."

     After Brock explained he had become a conservative in college, what he dubbed his "knee-jerk overreaction" to politically correct criticism of an editorial he wrote in favor of Reagan's liberation of Grenada, Asman observed: "So your conservative beliefs were just based on a reaction to the left, not on solid beliefs about conservatives?"
     Brock conceded and charged: "Originally, yes, and one of the things I write about in the book is that my philosophical commitment to conservatism was never really that deep, and I don't think I'm actually unusual in that. I think in my age cohort among the conservatives I knew in Washington, it was pretty much the same way. It was a marketing device, it was shtick."
     Asman: "Marketing device? Well, again, I don't quite follow you. Marketing device was just to emphasize the outrageousness of the left in order to get more people joining your cause?"
     Brock: "Well, I mean, I think as you know, 'anti-Clintonism' became a very lucrative device in the 1990s for conservatives, and so I think that was part of what was impelling it...."
     Asman: "Well, why do you think they were so obsessed by this guy?"
     Brock: "Well, I think a combination of things. I think one is the better that Clinton did, the more desperate conservatives became. They were lacking issues because Clinton took some good issues away from the Republicans, they turned to scandal-"
     Asman: "Some people would say he co-opted some good issues by Republicans, but anyway-"
     Brock: "Absolutely."
     Asman: "But let me just, David, again, just the attitude that Clinton did nothing other than to get under their skin, I still don't understand what it was about his activity that got under their skin so much?"
     Brock: "Well, as I said, I think it wasn't his activity. I think that was what the Clintons symbolized, the liberal social values that they symbolized, the perception that Clinton played things close to the line, I think, irritated people. And finally, I think a lot of the Clinton hatred was actually a projection, that people saw their own flaws in the Clintons and projected them on."
     Asman pointed out: "So they did have values, these conservatives that were criticizing Clinton, that they reacted against? You can't react against something if you don't have anything of your own."

     Asman soon pressed: "Do you believe the things, do you believe, for example, people like Juanita Broaddrick, like Paula Jones, like Kathleen Willey, all these people that say that Clinton attacked them?"
     Brock insisted: "In the Paula Jones case, I tell a story in the book where her own lead lawyer told me, and he certainly would know more about the case than I would, that he didn't believe her. I looked into the Juanita Broaddrick case myself, and I tell the story here again that the Republicans behind that case, they didn't believe it, either."
     Asman suggested: "But, you know, you get a woman like Juanita Broaddrick, who we're looking at right now, who gives a very plausible case that she was frightened to come forward first. In fact, she contradicted herself. At first, she said President Clinton didn't go after her. Then she said he did. Don't you think she was intimidated by the fact this guy was President?"
     Brock: "She may have been, but, I mean, there's another side of it as well which is that there were Republican operatives in Arkansas trying to put that story out back in 1992 and they didn't believe it-"
     Asman wondered: "So do you think, do you think we've all misunderstood, David, and that Bill Clinton is a moralist?"
     Brock flipped back to disparage conservatives as more dangerous than Bill Clinton ever was: "No, I don't. I just think that there's a question about where you weigh what Clinton did against versus what the right-wing did to destroy him and what was a greater threat to the country and I think it was what the right- wing did and not what Clinton did."

     Following an ad break, Asman picked up: "David, the key here, everybody has different opinions about things. You do, about a lot of social and political things. But was there any lying that took place either in the work that you did or in the work that you participated in with the American Spectator and the other journals you were working for?"

     Brock replied only that "I lied in print" in an American Spectator book review of a book on the Hill-Thomas matter, but that in articles he did not write there were "reams of lies in the American Spectator."

     Asman then decided to assess Brock's accuracy by raising Brock's claims about an FBI agent who wrote a book about what he saw inside the Clinton White House: "Well, the reason, of course, why all this is important is because you are bringing, even in this book, this newest book that you just came out with, you mentioned people like Gary Aldrich, for example, somebody who I happen to know because I used to work at the Journal and published him, was involved in publishing his articles. You mention some things about him that you claim are duplicitous at best and outright lies at worst. Are you calling him a liar?"
     Brock: "Well, I think he himself even conceded that the things in his book were not solid or credible, so-"
     Asman: "Well, no, that's not true."
     Brock: "I mean, you can use whatever you word you want for it."
     Asman: "Yeah, I gotta argue with you because I just talked to him on Friday. He hadn't seen this book. And I read certain passages to him. He claimed that a lot of the stuff that you write about him and about even your introduction to him was a fabrication, that, in fact, you say that you called, you say that he called you. In fact, he says he called you originally to get information from you about Bill Clinton. Is that true?"
     Brock: "No, I was put in touch with him by a friend of his on Capitol Hill when I was doing research for my book on Hillary Clinton and undertook to interview him, which is what I thought he was doing, and then he took some fourth hand information that I gave him and published it as if it were true, and, as you said, it was excerpted on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, which continued to defend him even after it was acknowledged that this wasn't a credible story."
     Asman: "Well, the story he claims was made more credible by insiders that he talked to in the White House, but it all boils down to this, David: We're supposed to believe you, a person who has admitted that you've lied in print as opposed to an FBI agent who was assigned to two different administrations -- one Republican, one Democratic."

     Asman got to a specific allegation: "Well, let me just point out one thing in your book that I take issue with. You talk about Gary Aldrich and say that when his article was published in the Wall Street Journal, and again, I had a hand in this, that Aldrich was identified only as, quote, 'an investigative writer.' Do you stand by that?"
     Brock, anticipating what was coming: "As far as I know, yeah."
     Asman: "Well, you're wrong. And we'll put up the quote that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It described Mr. Aldrich as an 'investigative writer, comma, retired from the FBI in June of 1995.' Are you willing to admit now that that was a mistake?"
     Brock grudgingly admitted: "Well, the word 'only' is a mistake, yeah. But the point is that he wasn't an investigative writer."
     Asman: "The word 'retired from the FBI in June 1995,' your point in the book was the Wall Street Journal wasn't interested in pointing out his connection with the FBI. We did, in fact, point out his connection with the FBI."
     Brock: "No, that wasn't my point. That wasn't my point. My point was you were falsely portraying him as an investigative writer."
     Asman: "He was a retired FBI agent. He was writing a book at the time."
     Brock: "He was not an investigative writer."
     Asman: "He was writing a book at the time, and he was a retired FBI agent. That was an apt description. My point again, David, is we're forced to note little disparages from the truth that appear even in your most recent book."
     Brock: "Look, his whole book was discredited even by his own later statements."
     Asman concluded: "All right. Once again, this controversy could go on a long time. But, David Brock, we thank you very much for joining us."

     Compare Asman's suspicious approach to Brock with how CNN's Aaron Brown bought Brock's premise and employed him to try to teach Brown why conservatives so hated Bill Clinton that they would lie about him.

     Brown introduced the March 14 NewsNight segment with Brock, which came just after a story on the defeat of the Charles Pickering judicial nomination:
     "This sort of partisan battle is nothing new to David Brock. As one of the country's best known young conservative writers, he helped fuel them for a while. He helped trash Anita Hill, went looking for the illegitimate children of Bill Clinton, took money from conservative patrons, and made things up if it made Mr. Clinton look bad. And then he says he saw the light, the errors of his ways. He says he's written a book called Blinded by the Right.
     Brown's first question to Brock, who was in-studio with Brown: "Help me understand something. When you were writing the conservative, in that phase your life, when you were writing that stuff, when you were chasing after the Clinton stuff and all of that, were you a believer? Or were you just doing it for the dough?"
     Brock: "It started out as belief. I think at a certain point, particularly in the Clinton era, it became a really lucrative marketing device. And my heart really wasn't in, you know, attacking or hating Bill Clinton in the way that a lot of other conservatives did."
     Brown: "Yeah, but they were writing you big checks and saying go get him?"
     Brock: "Yeah, basically. And as I said, you know, I came to Washington. I was a young, ideological true believer. But over time, you know, it became an issue of careerism to a certain extent."
     Brown wondered: "Is there something inherently wrong, somebody who has strong conservative beliefs and a fair amount of money in his pocket, to hand you some of the money and say, 'Go see what you could find?' Is that what they were saying or were they saying go 'find this'?"
     Brock: "Well, I think what was wrong with it was they didn't care whether what was found was true or not. And yet, they still pumped it up and they put it on talk radio all over the country. And there was sort of a sort of an echo chamber in the right wing that even extended to The Wall Street Journal editorial page and other places. And these stories were false. They were fabrications. And I think that was wrong."
     Instead of demanding a specific, Brown moved on: "Do you feel distrusted now by both the left and the right?"

     Brown soon got to his favorite topic, trying to figure out why people don't like Bill Clinton: "But are there not, particularly when you deal with former President Clinton, there are blinders out there. People have such incredibly strong feelings on both sides, in fact, that I wonder if anyone will give you an objective view in that regard, anyone on the political right, in this case?"
     Brock answered with his conspiracy theory: "Well, I don't know. I mean, I just hope people outside of the organized political movement would. Because there's conspiracy here that's pretty well documented. And you've seen it in the book. It starts back in 1993 when I did the Troopergate article. And the people behind that were talking about impeaching Bill Clinton. This is 1993, you know, five years before the name Monica Lewinsky surfaced."
     Brown didn't challenge any of it, and remained flummoxed: "What is it about Clinton? I've asked this question on this program about five different times to five different people."
     Brock alleged Clinton's enemies were motivated by his civil rights views: "I think it's complex. I think one is the better he was, the more desperate and crazy the right became. And so when he triangulated and took some of their issues away, he left them nothing but scandal. Two, I think there's sort of a generational issue, where the Clintons were represented, certain social values that the right disagrees with. And so, the Clintons were larger than themselves. And so, when you get to that level, you know, there's no truth or falsity. It's all symbolism. And I think that was part of it. Part was in Arkansas, the people I've dealt, the Clinton haters in Arkansas. Goes back to segregation. And it goes back to Bill Clinton's progressive views on race."

     Brown assumed Brock's current claims are accurate as he wound down the interview: "Let me ask you a final question. Are you ashamed of that period of your life?"
     Brock: "Yeah. I have a lot of regrets about it, sure."
     Brown empathized: "Yeah. It's difficult, isn't it?"
     Brock: "It's been hard."
     Brown: "How old are you now?"
     Brock: "I'm 39. And so, I, you know, I wasted a good dozen years of my life."
     Brown sympathized some more: "It's nice to meet you. I assume this wasn't easy to do? All of this wasn't easy to do?"


Same topic, same day, but the front pages of America's most-influential dailies on Sunday delivered contrasting spins on the status of the Catholic Church and its members in the wake of revelations about priests abusing children.

     The front page headline in Sunday's Washington Post announced: "For Catholics, Crisis of Trust Allayed by Faith." The subhead: "View of Hierarchy Dimmed, But Many Back Local Clergy." The same day, however, the MRC's Tim Jones noticed that the headline over the New York Times story stressed how lay Catholics were disillusioned: "As Scandal Keeps Growing, Church and Its Faithful Reel."

     The leads of the stories matched their contrasting headlines, though both pieces covered a lot of the same ground, emphasizing how the crisis is supposedly leading many Catholics to question the church's conservative hierarchy and the celibacy of priests.

     Alan Cooperman and Pamela Ferdinand began their March 17 Washington Post article:

Monsignor Thomas Kane gave the same sermon four times at St. Patrick's Church in Rockville last Sunday, and at each Mass the parishioners did something he says he had never seen in his 50 years as a priest. They stood and applauded.

Kane's message was that despite a sexual abuse scandal that has spread across the country, the Roman Catholic priesthood as a whole is still worthy of admiration....

The standing ovation was not just for Kane's homily, but for him personally, parishioner Joan Liegey said later. "He has taken this whole thing very hard....I think he needed a little reassurance that we were with him," she explained.

Throughout the country, Catholics are responding in sometimes paradoxical ways to a crisis of trust in the church. They are reaching out to support the clergymen they know and admire, while expressing an excruciating feeling of betrayal by the church's more distant and opaque leadership....

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire Post story:

     In the March 17 New York Times, Laurie Goodstein and Alessandra Stanley led their piece:

By Tuesday, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Me., has promised to turn over to local prosecutors a file containing all accusations of sexual misconduct involving its priests. The district attorney wants to see every accusation ever made against a living priest.

"Even if it was triple hearsay, let me decide," said Stephanie Anderson, the district attorney of Cumberland County, who said she would follow their transfers from parish to parish in search of victims new and old. She wants to track the history of every priest accused of sexual misconduct....

Already, the scandal has traumatized the church's faithful, demoralized the clergy and threatened the hard-won moral authority of its bishops. It has brought down a bishop, removed dozens of priests and tarnished the nation's pre-eminent prelate, Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston. But the real extent of the impact on the church's life, status and future is only now becoming clear.

From schools of theology to dining room tables, a growing number of Catholics are questioning the bedrock on which the church is built -- the all-male, celibate priesthood. Parishioners are calling for open dialogue and debate about a tenet that Pope John Paul II has said is closed for discussion....

     END of Excerpt

     For the New York Times article in full:


Think Celebrity Wrestling with Paula Jones versus Tonya Harding was a low moment for Fox? In fact, even their new drama, The American Embassy, goes for the cheap sexual stunt while making sure terrorism doesn't deflect from having a fun time.

     The American Embassy is a Monday night show about "Emma Brody," played by Arija Bareikis, as a blonde twenty-something consular affairs officer at the U.S. embassy in London. As the premiere ended last week, the embassy is bombed, killing at least an innocent U.S. citizen who had earlier walked into the embassy and taken off all his clothes -- the first "situation" for Emma to handle in her new job. But a little terrorism won't impede Brody from having a fun adventure in London. Check out the plot summary for last night's episode, as posted on the Fox Web site: "In the weeks following the Embassy bombing, Emma is still haunted by the terrorist attack. Will this affect the sunny outlook she had on her new life in London?"

     Apparently not when she's alone.

     Let me explain.

     As the March 18 episode opens, Emma is called downstairs to a secure outdoor area where the bomb squad is using a remote robot device to examine a package addressed to Emma which contains something inside which is buzzing. A hint here: Think of synonyms for buzz which begin with the letter "v." Anyway, via the remote camera she recognizes the address as being written by her sister and she okays having the bomb squad open the package. An officer, fully decked out in bomb protection equipment, sees what was causing the buzzing, picks it up and holds it up above his head so all standing far away can see. And the camera zooms in on what he is holding: a silver cylindrical object.

     In the world of Fox, this is a quality program.

     The Fox Web site for the show which is airing for six weeks at 9pm EST/PST, 8pm CST/MST: http://www.fox.com/embassy/


Oops? Or a sign of how the ABC entertainment division team was hoping to be able to soon call David Letterman a colleague?

     On Monday's Once and Again, ABC's 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST drama about divorced 40-somethings and their kids, a pre-teen kid (looked to be playing about an 11-year-old) wailed to his father: "It's too early to go to bed! I want to watch Letterman!"

     You'd assume that the scene was taped months ago and at some point was reviewed by ABC personnel well before it aired. Guess they didn't mind that particular plug for a competing network.

     I was flipping channels and just happened to catch the scene involving the father, "Sam Blue" played by Steven Weber, the guy who played the free-spirited brother on the sit-com Wings. In Once and Again Weber plays the new boyfriend of "Judy," the sister of "Lily" who is played by Sela Ward.

     I know far too much about this show, especially since it already re-plays on Lifetime, "television for women."

     ABC's Web page for the show:

     > I'm still getting comments on sending CyberAlerts in HTML versus plain text formats. I'll quote more of the comments in an upcoming CyberAlert. -- Brent Baker


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