Newsweek Reporter Concedes Media Taking on Lott for Democrats
Two noteworthy comments in Thursday night stories on Trent Lott: ABC's Linda Douglass invoked Dick Cheney-esque mystery in saying that Lott appeared on radio shows by phone "from an undisclosed location." And Newsweek's Martha Brant conceded on CNBC: "We're now in the media going to give this thing steam. The Democrats may not even need to fan the flames of this."
Time Story Fed by Ex-CNN Chief Who Agreed with Lott
The cable networks all jumped late Thursday afternoon on a Time.com-posted story about how in the early 1960s Trent Lott was a leader of the effort to block blacks from being admitted to his fraternity, but lost in most of the reporting of the story was how it was hardly fresh news since Lott told Time's Karen Tumulty about it in the 1980s and that former CNN President Tom Johnson, who was on the same disreputable side as Lott, was Tumulty's key source this week.
3. Washington Post Impugns All Conservatives as Racists
A Friday front page Washington Post story impugned all conservatives as racists, or at least segregationist sympathizers. Under the headline, "Lott Has Moved Little On Civil Rights Issues; Analysts Say Remarks, Record Consistent," the Post recounted how Lott has failed to adopt liberal positions: "An examination of his record shows that over the past 40 years, he has consistently taken positions at odds with those of the traditional civil rights community." Many of those views matched most conservatives, such as opposing forced school busing. And even media hero John McCain voted against a Martin Luther King Day holiday.
New York Times Hypes "Growing Wave" Against War
The New York Times hyped a few peaceniks. "Protests Held Across the Country to Oppose War in Iraq," read the headline over a story by Lynette Clemetson who trumpeted: "Organizers and participants said the diverse turnout represented a growing wave of popular dissent, even as the country inches closer to military action." How big? Clemetson relayed how "the events ranged in attendance from several dozen at Youngstown, Ohio, and Mineola, N.Y., to several hundred in Santa Fe, N.M." Plus, the "cross-section of activists, celebrities and everyday Americans," included "an evening discussion at a Y.W.C.A. in Detroit."
Newsweek Reporter Concedes Media
Taking on Lott for Democrats
Quite properly all the networks, broadcast and cable, ran stories Thursday night about President Bush's tough scolding of Senator Trent Lott. What I found most interesting, or at least what stood out in a series of similar stories: ABC's Linda Douglass invoked a Dick Cheney-esque mystery in saying that Lott appeared on Sean Hannity's radio show by phone "from an undisclosed location." And Newsweek's Martha Brant conceded on CNBC: "We're now in the media going to give this thing steam. The Democrats may not even need to fan the flames of this."
In her piece on the December 12 World News Tonight, ABC's Linda Douglass tossed in this odd concern about from where Lott talked by telephone with Sean Hannity on Wednesday: "Lott has refused to appear publicly, though he spoke to two talk show hosts by phone from an undisclosed location."
After David Gregory's story about Bush's remarks aired on CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, substitute anchor Forrest Sawyer talked with Time's Karen Tumulty, author of a story published on Time's Web site on Thursday about how Lott led the fight to bar blacks from joining his fraternity, and Newsweek reporter Martha Brant who admitted a media feeding frenzy has begun:
"There's competition now, especially since Karen works for Time. As I was leaving to come over here, Forrest, my boss said, 'You need to find the next scooplet.' There's, we're all pouring over Senator Lott's record looking for just this kind of evidence."
Sawyer, picking up on a soundbite from Gregory's story, wondered: "Now, Martha, that's just exactly what people say. That's what you just heard Pat Buchanan say. There's a kind of blood in the water feel and everybody's piling on."
Brant confirmed the sharks are circling: "That's absolutely right, and maybe it's not fair, but that is the nature of the business. And, frankly, we're now in the media going to give this thing steam. The Democrats may not even need to fan the flames of this."
Time Story Fed by Ex-CNN Chief Who
Agreed with Lott
The cable networks all jumped late Thursday afternoon on a Time.com-posted story about how in the early 1960s Trent Lott was a leader of the effort at his fraternity's national convention to not allow chapters to admit blacks as members, but lost in most of the reporting of the story was how it was hardly fresh news and that former CNN President Tom Johnson, who was on the same disreputable side as Lott, fed details of what occurred to Time's Karen
FNC's Brit Hume pointed out Johnson's role in fueling the story and others may have, but I did not hear it mentioned in what I saw on CNN and MSNBC. Of the broadcast networks on Thursday night, only ABC's World News Tonight mentioned the Time story.
Lott's activities, which Lott told Tumulty about in the mid-1980s but she did not write about until Thursday, occurred at the same time as Senator Ernest Hollings, a Democrat then as he is now, was as Governor of South Carolina using the full power of the state to block blacks from state universities, a time frame context Tumulty's story did not note.
The headline over the December 12 posting: "Trent Lott's Segregationist College Days: At Ole Miss, the Senator helped lead a fight to keep blacks out of his national fraternity." An excerpt concentrating on how Lott told Tumulty about it years ago and the role of Tom Johnson, an aide to President Lyndon Johnson before becoming Publisher of the Los Angeles Times and President, later Chairman, of CNN for most of the 1990s, in feeding the story as Tumulty allowed him to attribute his opposition to blacks as fueled by something other than racism:
....At a time when racial issues were roiling campuses across the South, some chapters of Sigma Nu fraternity in the Northeast were considering admitting African-American members, a move that would have sent a powerful statement through the tradition-bound world of sororities and fraternities. At the time, Lott was president of the intra-fraternity council at the University of Mississippi. When the issue came to a head at Sigma Nu's national convention -- known as a "Grand Chapter" -- in the early 1960s, "Trent was one of the strongest leaders in resisting the integration of the national fraternity in any of the chapters," recalls former CNN President Tom Johnson, then a Sigma Nu member at the University of Georgia.
The bitter debate over the issue took place at the convention in a New Orleans hotel, as Johnson recalls....
Johnson, who voted on Lott's side, now calls that vote "one of the biggest mistakes of my life." Over the years, as Johnson became a media executive, word would get back to him from time to time that Lott was repeating the tale to mutual acquaintances -- to embarrass him, Johnson believes.
Asked about the fraternity vote, Lott responded through a spokesman, who said: "Those were different times in a different era. Senator Lott believes that segregation is immoral and repudiates it."...
It was Lott himself who first told me this story, back in the mid 1980s. He was a Republican Congressman and I was a reporter freshly assigned to cover Capitol Hill for the Los Angeles Times, where Johnson was then the publisher. "In later life, it seemed that Trent felt he 'had something on me,' when he would share the fact that he and I had been on the same side in the national fraternity debate," says Johnson, who later went to work as an aide in Lyndon Johnson's White House and more recently helped lead the battle to have the confederate battle flag removed in Georgia. Johnson recalls of Lott back then: "He was against integration. I was against splitting the fraternity. Yet my vote had the same impact and is subject to the same interpretation -- that I also opposed integration. I am very disappointed in myself. I hope my record for the past 40 years speaks louder than that."...
During his senior year at Ole Miss, violence erupted there when U.S. marshals moved to install Air Force veteran James Meredith as its first African-American student. Lott was not among the students advocating integration, but did succeed in persuading his fraternity brothers not to join in the rioting. In 1997, Lott told TIME: "Yes, you could say I favored segregation then. I don't now. ...The main thing was, I felt the federal government had no business sending in troops to tell the state what to do."
END of Excerpt
For the story in its entirety:
Washington Post Impugns All Conservatives
A front page Washington Post story this morning, Friday, effectively impugned all conservatives as racists. Under the headline of "Lott Has Moved Little On Civil Rights Issues; Analysts Say Remarks, Record Consistent," reporters Thomas B. Edsall and Darryl Fears recounted how Lott has failed to adopt liberal positions on race issues: "An examination of his record
shows that over the past 40 years, he has consistently taken positions at odds with those of the traditional civil rights community."
But that "traditional civil right community" is quite liberal and virtually all of the votes cited by the reporting duo matched the view of most conservatives at the time, including those who certainly do not share Lott's views of segregation, such as media hero John McCain who voted against a Martin Luther King Day holiday.
The Post reporters simply assumed that anti-black racism was the motivation behind the conservative stances when conservatives had other ideological concerns about an intrusive government. For instance, as evidence for why some "say his world view has not kept pace with the changes that other southern politicians
underwent after the civil rights movement of the 1960s," Edsall and Fear recalled: "In 1979, while representing Mississippi in the House of Representatives, Lott joined a bipartisan group that supported a constitutional amendment to prohibit school busing. The proposal was rejected by seven votes."
Note the acknowledgment of a "bipartisan group." Many politicians opposed forced school busing, including those in Northern cities who represented parents who just did not want their kids bussed across town in a scheme which resulted in schools becoming just as segregated as they began, while richer kids in all-white suburbs could walk to a neighborhood school.
Later, the Post reporters complained that "Lott was one of 34 senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1990, which broadened the remedies available in employment discrimination and affirmative action cases." That was 12 years ago, but as I recall, that was a dream law for trial lawyers in expanding the opportunity for harassing lawsuits and threatening lawsuits and so many conservatives opposed it.
An excerpt from the top of the December 13 front page story:
The controversy over incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's praise last week for Strom Thurmond's segregationist 1948
presidential campaign has focused attention on the Mississippi Republican's record on racial issues. An examination of his record
shows that over the past 40 years, he has consistently taken positions at odds with those of the traditional civil rights community....
Lott has declared himself a philosophical conservative opposed to federal intrusion on state and local prerogatives. In a 1996
speech at the dedication of the Jefferson Davis presidential library in Mississippi, he celebrated the Confederate president by
saying, "Most of all, he was a defender of the Constitution. He rightly understood that that document was created to restrain
government, not constrain the people."
On Wednesday, Lott's office issued a three-page list of his legislative achievements in education, trade with Africa, economic
development and community health care....
Some analysts of Lott's record, however, say his world view has not kept pace with the changes that other southern politicians
underwent after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Earl Black, a political science professor at Rice University who specializes in Southern politics, said he "was really just stunned to see him [Lott] go back and discuss the old unreformed Strom Thurmond as a source of wisdom for the nation. It took him a long
time, but the big change for Thurmond was his vote for the extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982. He was fully on board for civil rights. I don't know if Trent Lott ever made such a speech."...
In the 1980s, Lott voted against extending the Voting Rights Act and against establishing Martin Luther King Day as a federal
holiday. On the Voting Rights Act, in 1981, he was one of 17 Republicans and seven Democrats, including most of the Virginia
delegation, voting against extending that law, which struck down obstacles between minorities and polling places. In 1983, Lott
joined 97 other House members, most of them Republicans, in opposing the King holiday, including then-Reps. Phil Gramm
(R-Tex.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
In both cases, Thurmond voted in favor....
END of Excerpt
So now Thurmond is the arbiter of racial tolerance?
To read the story in full:
Most of the rest of the article dealt with specific things Lott has uniquely said and done. My point here is not to defend Lott's personal views of race but to show how, by assuming any variation from the position of the liberal civil rights establishment makes one a segregationist sympathizer, the Washington Post has impugned nearly all conservatives.
New York Times Hypes "Growing Wave"
Hyping a few peaceniks. "Protests Held Across the Country to Oppose War in Iraq," announced a The New York Times headline on Wednesday. Washington bureau-based Reporter Lynette Clemetson trumpeted: "Organizers and participants said the diverse turnout represented a growing wave of popular dissent, even as the country inches closer to military action."
Just how huge is this "growing wave of popular dissent"? Clemetson relayed how "the events ranged in attendance from several dozen at Youngstown, Ohio, and Mineola, N.Y., to several hundred in Santa Fe, N.M., and Oakland, Calif." Oh, I almost forgot, the newsworthy events held by "a cross-section of activists, celebrities and everyday Americans," included "an evening discussion at a Y.W.C.A. in Detroit."
Wow. Several dozen to several hundred and few people gabbing at a Y. Can one now expect that the next time several dozen to several hundred pro-lifers show up that the New York Times will be equally excited about the "growing wave" of opposition to abortion?
Clemetson also highlighted how "In Santa Fe, a children's marimba band joined junior high students, middle-aged Green Party members, Veterans for Peace and hundreds of lunchtime passers-by in singing a version of the Christmas carol 'Deck the Halls.'
'Peace is jolly, war is folly,' sang the crowd.
"On an icy playground in the Boston neighborhood Jamaica Plain, about 50 members of a group called Latinos Together Against the War came together for a puppet show, rap performance and poetry reading for peace."
But before you dismiss the relevance of anti-war Christmas carols and a puppet show, take note of Clemetson's argument about their significance: "Unlike some protests that are dominated by college students, these events had a significant turnout of middle-aged professionals and older people."
Sounds like the demographics of the staff of the New York Times.
An excerpt of the December 11 story:
From a morning blockade of a federal building in Chicago to a lunchtime march to the White House to an evening discussion at a Y.W.C.A. in Detroit, a cross-section of activists, celebrities and everyday Americans held more than 150 events across the country today to oppose a war with Iraq.
Organized by a coalition of more than 70 groups called United for Peace, the events ranged in attendance from several dozen at Youngstown, Ohio, and Mineola, N.Y., to several hundred in Santa Fe, N.M., and Oakland, Calif.
Organizers and participants said the diverse turnout represented a growing wave of popular dissent, even as the country inches closer to military action.
The scattered displays of dissent did not compare to the large turnout at a national protest held in Washington in late October, which attracted more than 100,000 people from around the nation.
But organizers said size was not their intent this time. Instead, by fanning out to small towns, neighborhood squares and workday traffic areas, they said they hoped to emphasize a growing wave of skepticism and dissent to war.
"We want you to hear us, Mr. President," Damu Smith, director of Black Voices for Peace, one of the coordinating groups, said as he stood with a midday crowd of several hundred in Washington. "We hope you hear our voices today."
The hundreds of speeches given nationwide included tributes to Philip F. Berrigan, a former Roman Catholic priest and anti-Vietnam war organizer who died last week, and salutes to President Jimmy Carter, who was being presented the Nobel Peace Prize as some of the events took place.
The day of protests, Mr. Smith said, represent a new phase in coalition building around the anti-war movement, and several more events are scheduled in the weeks and months ahead....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full:
> Tonight on ABC's 20/20: An interview by Barbara Walters with George and Laura Bush which was taped at the White House on Wednesday.
-- Brent Baker
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