Bush "Influence Peddling?"; CBS Promoted as "Landmark" a Slavery Reparations Lawsuit; On JAG a Reporter Conveyed "Sincere Regret"
1) The Washington Post, CBS and CNN all hyped how the
release of documents prove the administration consulted industry and not
"consumer groups" in formulating energy policy. When Jane
Clayson dared suggest "there's not much in them," Bryant Gumbel
corrected her. Wyatt Andrews prompted an environmentalist about how some
documents were whited-out: "Do you think the amount of blackout
breaks the law?" On CNN's NewsNight, Connie Chung asked: "Do
these documents confirm the worse suspicions of influence peddling?"
2) The CBS Evening News promoted the legitimacy of a
lawsuit demanding reparations for slavery. Substitute anchor Ed Bradley
imparted great meaning to the effort pushed by radical race-mongers,
calling it "landmark" and stressing how it supposedly has
"major legal and financial implications today and for the
3) An un-bylined Reuters dispatch from San Salvador on
Monday described Kenneth Starr's probe of charges that Bill Clinton lied
under oath and obstructed justice as an "investigation of Bill
Clinton's sex life."
4) Only on made-up TV. CBS's JAG ended last night with a
network news reporter, whose actions led to a SEAL team being ambushed and
civilians being killed, conceding that "I'm guilty of pride, of
smugness, of all-importance." He announced on the air: "To the
American people and to the Afghan people I express my sincere regret for
my conduct. It was inexcusable."
released Monday evening by the Energy Department hardly revealed anything
extraordinary as they showed Bush administration officials with that
department met with representatives of the industry and not any left-wing
environmental groups. But the Washington Post, New York Times, CBS News
and CNN's Connie Chung, for whom it reminded of Enron, all pounced on
the revelation as if it provided some kind of smoking gun demonstrating
underhanded administration policy-making.
"Energy Contacts Disclosed: Consumer
Groups Left Out, Data Show," proclaimed the front page headline in
Tuesday's Washington Post. On CBS's The Early Show on Tuesday co-host
Jane Clayson dared to suggest that "apparently there's not much in
them." Bryant Gumbel, however, immediately corrected her: "Yeah,
except they do show that the administration consulted business leaders and
not consumer groups." Bill Plante soon stressed: "There were
almost no consumer or conservation groups but there were a lot of energy
industry people who were big campaign contributors."
On Tuesday night CBS Evening News anchor Ed
Bradley ominously referred to "a new chapter in the long-running
controversy over President Bush's energy policy and who was consulted
about it in secret." Reporter Wyatt Andrews followed the liberal
environmental group spin, asserting that "one statistic stood out
like a lop-sided sports score. At least 36 times, Energy Secretary Spencer
Abraham met representatives of the energy industry to discuss the policy,
compared to zero meetings with environmental groups." Noting how many
of the documents were "censored," Andrews relayed that
"environmentalists call this a coverup" and then tried to
suggest some kind of illegal behavior: "Do you think the amount of
blackout breaks the law?"
A few hours later on CNN's NewsNight, Connie
Chung hyped how "thousands of documents released last evening are
only making a hot issue hotter." Chung brought aboard Washington Post
Reporter Dana Milbank to elaborate on the scandal. Her first question:
"Tell me, do these documents confirm the worse suspicions of
influence peddling?" When Milbank noted how 29 of the 36 companies
consulted were donors, Chung excitedly repeated: "Once again, 29 out
The faulty premise behind all of this kind of
reporting: That the Bush administration, like any administration, did not
already have a policy formulated upon assuming office and was not simply
going through the motions of allowing its supporters to feel like they had
influence. It's congressional committees that are best at adding little
tax break favors for an industry, not the executive branch. As for not
consulting enough with left-wing groups, "consumer groups" to
Gumbel and the Washington Post, President Bush ran and won on a platform
which rejected most of their policy ideas and so why should they have
deserved meetings? Were reporters upset when the Clinton administration
failed to bring in conservative groups to get their policy advice?
Now, more details about the coverage
-- "Energy Contacts Disclosed: Consumer
Groups Left Out, Data Show," announced the Washington Post's March
26 front page story by Dana Milbank and Mike Allen. An excerpt from the
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with 36 representatives of
business interests and many campaign contributors while developing
President Bush's energy policy, and he held no meetings with conservation
or consumer groups, documents released last night show....
A first review of the 11,000 pages of documents bolsters the contention
of Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups that the Bush
administration relied almost exclusively on the advice of executives from
utilities and producers of oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy while a White
House task force drafted recommendations that would vastly increase energy
Of the corporations that met with Abraham, all but a few were large
contributors of unregulated soft money to the Republican Party during the
2000 election cycle. A dozen of the companies that had meetings with
Abraham contributed $1.2 million to the GOP, mainly for Bush's election.
Ten of the 12 gave more soft money to Republicans than Democrats....
Abraham's meetings, between Feb. 14 and April 26 of last year, included
groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the Independent
Petroleum Association of America and the Nuclear Energy Institute. Top
executives of Westinghouse Electric Corp., Duke Power, Entergy, Exelon
Corp., UtiliCorp United (now Aquila Inc.), American Coal Co. and others
sat down with Abraham.
END of Excerpt
For the entire Washington Post story:
-- The March 26
New York Times headline: "Energy Chief Met Envoys From
Industry." The lead of the story by Don Van Natta Jr.:
The Bush administration released the first wave of documents related
to Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force today. The papers showed
that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, a member of the panel, met with
three dozen energy industry representatives but with no consumer or
conservation groups in preparing the national energy strategy last year.
In the three months before the release of the energy strategy on May
16, Mr. Abraham met on eight occasions with top executives representing
oil and gas interests, coal producers and utilities like Westinghouse
Electric and Duke Power, the documents show.
But the energy secretary did not list any conservation or consumer
advocacy groups in his list of contacts with organizations outside
government. The Energy Department said several advocacy groups had failed
to respond to its outreach....
END of Excerpt
For the story in its entirety: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/26/politics/26ENER.html
-- CBS's The
Early Show of March 26, the only broadcast morning program to devote any
significant time to the subject. Co-hosts Jane Clayson and Bryant Gumbel
highlighted the document release at the top of the show, MRC analyst Brian
Gumbel: "I guess the GAO wins round one
in its battle with the White House."
"As per a court order these thousands of documents have been
released, but apparently, there's not much in them."
corrected her: "Yeah, except they do show that the administration
consulted business leaders and not consumer groups in getting this energy
task force together."
News reader Julie Chen soon reported:
"The Bush administration has reluctantly released documents relating
to Vice President Cheney's energy task force. Bill Plante is at the White
House with the story. Good morning to you, Bill."
Plante explained: "Julie, good morning,
it took a court order but late yesterday the Energy Department released
thousands of pages of documents detailing who gave advice as the
administration formulated its energy policy. There were almost no consumer
or conservation groups but there were a lot of energy industry people who
were big campaign contributors. Box upon box, over 11,000 pages detailing
the secret meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's task force, what maybe
most noteworthy is what you don't see, most of the pages have large areas
whited-out, a frustrating development for the groups who fought to see the
Natural Resources Defense Council: "I have to believe that there must
be something pretty awful in them if they've gone to so much trouble to
keep what's in here secret."
"Conservation groups claim they were shut out of meetings and that
policy was influenced by energy businesses with campaign contribution ties
to the Bush White House. Among those, the Vice President met one time with
Enron chief Kenneth Lay, one of six meetings between the now bankrupt
corporation and the task force. And Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met
dozens of energy executives including those from Westinghouse, Duke Power,
Entergy, Exelon, Utilicorp, and American Coal. President Bush is
unapologetic, he said some time ago that it seemed to him to make sense
when formulating energy policy to listen to the people who knew something
-- Tuesday night, neither the ABC or NBC
evening shows mentioned the matter, but the CBS Evening News anchored by
Ed Bradley treated it as a major revelation. Bradley intoned:
country, there is a new chapter in the long-running controversy over
President Bush's energy policy and who was consulted about it in secret.
Thousands of government documents on the subject have now been disclosed.
But as Wyatt Andrews reports, they've only added fuel to the energy
Andrews began his story, which matched the
agenda of the liberal environmental groups opposed to Bush administration
policy: "Forced by a court order, the Energy Department released
11,000 pages of documents on the making of the national energy policy, and
one statistic stood out like a lop-sided sports score. At least 36 times,
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met representatives of the energy
industry to discuss the policy, compared to zero meetings with
environmental groups. The White House called that misleading, saying
everyone was consulted, just not by the Secretary."
"So people are focusing on one person as opposed to all the people
who were part of the energy plan."
countered, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "But critics
charge that to be part of the energy plan, you had to pay. On the list of
the 36 who met Abraham, 19 were strong Republican donors, including the
Exelon Corporation, which gave more than $900,000, and Kerr-McGee, more
than half a million."
Noble, Center for Responsive Politics Executive Director: "I
definitely see a connection to the money. The energy industry has overall
given far more to the Republicans than to the Democrats. In fact, they
tend to give about 75 percent of their money to the Republicans."
"Meanwhile, the group that sued to see the documents complained they
arrived heavily censored. Scores of memos are wiped clean. Like this one,
blacked out from the 'Joan and Charlie' greeting to the 'Thanks,
Morgo' down below. The administration claims it has the legal right to
protect these internal deliberations, but environmentalists call this a
coverup. Do you think the amount of blackout breaks the law?"
Natural Resources Defense Council: "Yes, we do, and we're going to
challenge that in court. We've got 11,000 pages that have been scrubbed,
sanitized, purged. There's a lot that's been taken out of them."
"The administration defends the energy policy as a carefully balanced
blueprint for what the country needs -- namely, more energy."
"This report is designed for a nation that has an energy problem and
still has an energy problem."
concluded: "Remember all this squabbling is still over Energy
Department documents the White House agreed to give up. The President has
vowed he will never release documents on the bigger question: Who advised
the Vice President when the energy policy was made?"
NewsNight at 10pm EST on Tuesday night was anchored by Connie Chung, whose
mind immediately turned to reviving Enron as a scandal: "The White
House and its connection with the energy business was a hot issue before
any us knew much about that Houston company called Enron. Critics want to
know just how much energy companies, most of them big campaign
contributors, helped shape energy policy. That policy was drafted last
year by a task force headed by Vice
President Dick Cheney. Well, thousands of documents released last evening
are only making a hot issue hotter."
Reporter Kelly Wallace delivered a story which
closely matched the CBS one by Wyatt Andrews. While she referred to what
"environmentalists say" and to "environmental groups,"
she managed to find one group worthy of an ideological tag:
"Administration officials argue the law allows internal policy
deliberations to be held back, but the conservative group Judicial Watch
is not satisfied."
Chung then interviewed Washington Post
reporter Dana Milbank. Her first question seemed to express her hope:
"Tell me, do these documents confirm the worse suspicions of
replied that they do not confirm the worst since there were no suitcases
of money, but 29 of 36 industry groups who got meetings were affiliated
in to emphasize the point: "Once again, 29 out of 36!"
that "a pretty good record" and one which indicates donations
purchase access, which is nothing new.
Chung moved on: "Now, the Bush
administration had repeatedly said that it had a commitment to
conservation. Do these documents support that?"
asserted the document release "throws a little bit of doubt on
that" and that the administration only reached out to environmental
groups last March when energy policy formulation became controversial.
That led Chung
to wonder: "Does that mean that environment groups were correct, that
in fact there was a flurry of activity and that it is not because the
administration clearly did want to include environmental groups?"
answered that it's hard to tell because so much information was
redacted, but that calls to environmental groups went out in March when it
the spin of the liberal groups: "So they are justified in saying that
they weren't considered until sort of the last minute?"
Chung ended where she had begun: "What
effect is this going to have on the Enron investigation?"
Milbank: "Hard to tell."
In total, NewsNight devoted a lengthy seven
minutes to the subject.
liberal crusading night on CBS. The above-quoted story built around the
complaints about energy policy by liberal environmental groups aired a few
minutes after the March 26 CBS Evening News gave time to a one-side story
promoting the legitimacy of a lawsuit filed to demand reparations for
Substitute anchor Ed Bradley imparted great
meaning to the lawsuit pushed by radical race-mongers, calling it
"landmark" and stressing how it supposedly has "major legal
and financial implications today and for the future."
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume also
featured a full story by Eric Shawn on the lawsuit, but Shawn gave more
time than CBS to critics, and FNC followed it up with substitute anchor
Tony Snow interviewing reparations detractor John McWhorter, a professor
at UC Berkeley. He contended that the nation has already acknowledged
slavery with massive welfare spending and affirmative action aimed at
addressing the problems of many black citizens.
Bradley enthusiastically set up the CBS story:
"Here in New York City today, three well-known American companies
were named in a landmark class action lawsuit. The grievance at issue goes
back hundreds of years, but as Mika Brzezinski reports, the case has major
legal and financial implications today and for the future."
Mika Brzezinski, who I'm pretty sure is the
daughter of Cater's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski,
began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In a Brooklyn
court today, descendants of American slaves began an unprecedented legal
battle, filing suit against companies who they say profited off the backs
of their ancestors."
Farmer-Paellmann, plaintiff in slavery lawsuit: "It started out with
my grandfather as a child, always talking about the 40 acres and a mule
that we were promised-"
"Deaddria Farmer-Paellmann, whose great-grandparents were slaves in
South Carolina, is the lead plaintiff. She says the suit is about far more
"This lawsuit sets out to educate the world about what slavery really
"Named in the suit, the Aetna Corporation. Documents like this show
the company more than 150 years ago provided policies on the lives of
slaves. The lawsuit also names Fleet Boston whose earliest bank was funded
by a slave trader, and CSX, which owns rail lines built by slaves."
"Companies that were built on the backs of people who were kidnaped,
raped to breed additional enslaved Africans, tortured -- the list goes
"The lawsuit argues that these companies contributed to the disparity
between blacks and whites today and that African-Americans are still
suffering from the results of slavery. It demands a jury trial and
potentially billions in damages."
Plaintiff's Attorney: "A tenet in United States law is where there
is a law there is a remedy. And that's what we're seeking, is a
finally gave a few seconds to a contrary view: "Aetna released a
statement saying, in part, 'We do not believe a court would permit a
lawsuit over events which, however regrettable, occurred hundreds of years
ago. These issues in no way reflect Aetna today.' Law Professor Anthony
Sebok says this may never get to a jury."
Anthony Sebok, Brooklyn Law School: "This is really a kind of an
interesting game, almost of legal chicken, because the companies do not
want to encourage lawsuits that follow this model because the potential
for damages is open-ended."
concluded: "Others in the reparations movement are targeting the
government. This suit goes after big business, demanding those who took
part in oppression to pay for it."
Of course, no one who took part in the
oppression is still alive. And just how much do U.S. citizens who are
descendants of people who arrived in this country since slavery ended owe
a network news star, such as Ed Bradley, who is paid multi-millions of
dollars a year?
CBS didn't explore any of those issues or
any of the arguments against the idea beyond the one corporate statement.
A story by Christine Hall of the MRC's CNSNews.com
included the concerns of reparations critic Mark Behrens. An excerpt:
...."What standing do the current plaintiffs have to sue for
damages that allegedly may have occurred 150 years ago?" asked
Behrens, who is a partner in the law firm Hook Hardy & Bacon.
In a class action lawsuit, Behrens explained, plaintiffs must show they
have been injured, that they have suffered common injuries, and that they
are representative of the people on whose behalf they are suing. "For
the people who may be alive today and are descendants [of slaves], there
just seems to be a lot of threshold questions they may have to meet,"
said Behrens. "Despite the obvious inhumanities of slavery,...I think
one of the problems will be challenging a system that was wrong but at the
time was legal."
Plaintiffs will face other challenges in bringing their case, said
Behrens, including statutes of limitation (long since passed) and the
difficulty of showing a common injury suffered by slave descendants....
END of Excerpt
For the story in full:
un-bylined Reuters dispatch from San Salvador on Monday described Kenneth
Starr's probe of charges that Bill Clinton lied under oath and
obstructed justice as an "investigation of Bill Clinton's sex
As James Taranto noted in his Tuesday
"Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com (www.opinionjournal.com/best),
"Reuters refuses to call the Sept. 11 attacks 'terrorism' because
it wants to treat terrorists evenhandedly. When reporting on American
politics, though, the British wire service is happy to take sides."
Indeed, the March 25 report headlined,
"Bush Will Sign Campaign Finance Bill," included phraseology
which matched the spin espoused by Clinton defenders. The dispatch, which
did not carry a byline and was datelined San Salvador, where President
Bush held a press conference on Sunday, began: "President Bush said
on Sunday he would sign landmark campaign finance reform legislation with
only a slight hesitation, reflecting his ongoing concerns about the
The fifth paragraph: "Former independent
counsel Kenneth Starr, whose investigation of Bill Clinton's sex life
resulted in the president's impeachment in 1998, is to lead a legal
challenge that will seek to knock down most of the measure as
To read the entire Reuters piece:
made-up TV. CBS's JAG ended last night with a network news reporter
conceding that "I'm guilty of pride, of smugness, of
all-importance" and asking: "To the American people and to the
Afghan people I express my sincere regret for my conduct. It was
On the show, as previewed in the March 25 and
26 CyberAlerts, the actions of "ZNN" reporter "Stuart
Dunston" led to a SEAL team inside Afghanistan being ambushed,
resulting in several SEALs being injured and four Afghan civilians being
killed. The CBS Web page for JAG: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jag/
The March 26 episode of the show about Navy
lawyers, produced by Donald Bellisario of Belisarius Productions, in
association with the Paramount Television Network, began with action
footage of the Navy personnel suddenly being fired on and taking
casualties as they moved in on a Taliban or Al-Qaeda position in an
operation that was supposed to be a surprise. Next, viewers saw "Dunston,"
who had accompanied the Navy team on the mission, reporting how a foul-up
by the SEALs led to four innocent Afghans being killed and the target
JAG lawyers "Commander Harmon 'Harm'
Rabb," played by David James Elliott, and "Lt. Colonel Sarah
'Mac' MacKenzie," played by Catherine Bell, are assigned to
investigate what went wrong. They soon discover that Dunston, in violation
of orders, had used his satellite phone to call his headquarters in the
U.S. less than an hour before the incident. Suspecting the enemy could
have intercepted the call and thus learned of the SEAL team's operation,
Harm and Mac press for Dunston to be court-martialed since as part of a
military operation he could be held to military command rules.
In a huge leap of believability, even though
the Secretary of the Navy had approved of Dunston going on the mission and
opposed filing charges against him, "Admiral A. J. Chegwidden,"
the JAG boss, talks directly to President Bush who approves of bringing
charges. This, naturally, leads to much back and forth amongst Dunston,
his JAG lawyer and Harm and Mac about the First Amendment and freedom of
The case is broken when in the hallway outside
of the trial Dunston's producer, a woman who claimed to be raised in
London and Cairo, is overheard by Mac speaking fluent native Farsi during
a cell phone call. Putting her on the stand, Mac soon gets her to admit
that she's really Iranian and that she blames the U.S. for her
family's death under the shah and that after getting the call from
Dunston she called a contact in Pakistan who alerted the hunted terrorist
to the imminent attack.
This leads Dunston to realize he really was at
fault since his phone call led to the ambush. He's sentenced to 12
months in prison, but because he admitted his guilt it is suspended. As
JAG ended, viewers saw and heard Dunston making this statement on ZNN:
today I threw myself on the mercy of a military court. Now I do the same
with the court of public opinion. I do so because I am guilty, not just of
disobeying an order in a time of war. I'm guilty of pride, of smugness,
of all-importance. To the American people and to the Afghan people I
express my sincere regret for my conduct. It was inexcusable. I'm going
to take some time off after I visit each of the wounded SEALS and
personally apologize for my actions. Then I'll be back on the air, but
with a different attitude."
You'd like to hope a real journalist would
be as contrite if guilty of such irresponsibility. --
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