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 Magazine Watch

Wednesday March 15, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 11)

No LaBella Novella; Touching on Teamster Crimes; Newsweek’s Yay for Gays

1. Newsweek offered just two paragraphs on revelations from Charles LaBella’s memo to Janet Reno demanding an independent counsel for Clinton and Gore on 1996 campaign cash. But Time and U.S. News & World Report ignored the story and also suggested Buddhist Temple tactics will hurt Bush, not Gore.

2. U. S. News offered a report on the sentencing of convicted former Teamsters political director Bill Hamilton, marking "a messy and ongoing saga that has already caused political damage to the Democratic Party...just at the moment when Big Labor is wielding the kind of clout it hasn’t seen in 30 years."

3. Time whimsically compared Pat Buchanan to termites, and George W. Bush to Darth Vader.

4. Newsweek’s "Gay Today" cover package focused on "the battle for tolerance" on the frontiers of "the family, the schools, the military and the church" instead of the political arena, which allowed them to avoid any mention of Al Gore or the word "liberal."

On the covers of the March 20 editions: Time featured "The Rebirth of Design," U.S. News & World Report explored "Turning 40," and Newsweek promoted its special report on "Gay Today." Going against the news magazine grain, Newsweek columnist George Will wrote on public school hostility to religion and U.S. News columnist John Leo examined the gay censors of talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.


Newsweek was the only news magazine to touch on top Justice Department adviser Charles LaBella’s leaked memo on the fundraising scandal. In their two-paragraph story, they seemed more interested in political gamesmanship than educating the public about new details. They began: "The leak was perhaps more interesting for its timing than its content....What seems curious is that the story appeared just as the Bush vs. Gore race was getting started."

They acknowledged, "The L.A. Times report did have some new details. LaBella accused senior Justice Department officials of using a double standard that protected high White House officials. There is some new evidence, testimony that Gore was "attentively listen[ing]" to a fund-raising discussion that he later could not recall. But the speculation in Washington was over the source of the leak. Administration officials saw a GOP plot to smear Gore...Republicans suspected score-settling among rival staffers at the Justice Department. The only certainty is that the voters will hear more about Gore's fund-raising role in 1996 as the 2000 presidential campaign heats up."

Actually, the only certainty so far is that the media try hard to ignore any evidence against Gore – or downplay it as uncertain.

In U.S. News, Roger Simon suggested that the primaries proved any Buddhist Temple tactics by Bush won’t help: "Bradley raised the Buddhist temple fundraising scandal and Gore's flip-flops on issues and made pointed attacks on Gore's character. The result? Gore not only won every primary but, in so doing, he became a sharper, more focused, more user-friendly candidate, a man whom crowds actually seem to like. Nobody is writing today that Gore is ‘uncomfortable in his own skin.’ Today, people are writing that if Bush doesn't watch out, Gore could skin him alive."

Time bigfoot Nancy Gibbs was much more discouraging, ending her story: "Already last week Bush was trying to carve up Gore's character, charging on Friday that he had misled federal investigators into the White House fund-raising practices of 1996. Bush's advisers believe that going on the offensive against Gore will fix that stature gap, the sense, even among a sizable minority of Republicans, that Bush simply doesn't have the know-how to be President. ‘The best way to demonstrate that he is the right guy for the party is to get in a fight with Gore,’ says a top Bush adviser. ‘That way you become the standard bearer. Fighting the enemy is the classic way you fix that in a hurry.’ It's also the classic way to get killed."


While they whiffed on LaBella, U. S. News did offer a report on the sentencing of convicted former Teamsters political director Bill Hamilton. Reporter Jeff Glasser explained: "The impending downfall of Hamilton, who is set to be sentenced in federal court this week, is part of a messy and ongoing saga that has already caused political damage to the Democratic Party. It also portends another black eye for the "reform" labor movement, just at the moment when Big Labor is wielding the kind of political clout it hasn't seen in 30 years."

Glasser added: "Smack in the middle of the fed's inquiry is the No. 2 official of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, the former head of the United Mine Workers union. He's already violated internal union rules by taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions about funneling money to the [Ron] Carey campaign. John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO boss, has refused to suspend Trumka."

Glasser reported that current Teamsters boss James Hoffa is considering a civil racketeering lawsuit against former boss Ron Carey and his team over their contribution swaps with Democrats and liberal interest groups. "Noticeably absent from the draft are any mentions of Trumka or Terry McAuliffe, President Clinton's master fundraiser, whose name also came up in the Hamilton trial. Critics carp that Trumka is being spared because the AFL-CIO recently gave the Teamsters $500,000 to support a strike against Overnite Transportation. ‘There are rumblings that it is a quid pro quo,’ says Ken Boehm of the National Legal and Policy Center, a union corruption watchdog group that has called for Trumka's resignation. Hoffa's camp denies the charge."

Here’s another Democratic scandal the media will probably ignore or try to talk Bush out of exploiting.


Time's Steve Lopez moved his whimsical liberal eyes to Pat Buchanan this week, with an attention-getting start: "Once you've had termites, as every homeowner knows, you're never quite sure you're entirely rid of them. Maybe the exterminator missed one, and the moment you close your eyes at night, it goes to work. For whatever reason, this thought crossed my mind last week as I drove to McLean, Va., to see what Pat Buchanan has been up to lately." In case you aren’t getting the negative drift, Lopez added: "But for some reason, many think Buchanan -- who has at times found himself in the awkward position of insisting that he is not a Nazi sympathizer -- is a right-wing extremist."

In their review of the kiss-and-make-up strategies of Bush and McCain, Time reporters James Carney and John Dickerson concluded: "Even when he thought Bush had played dirty to win a closely contested primary state, McCain placed the congratulatory phone call, something the Governor did not do after Michigan. So it may be that after the heat of the battle dissipates, McCain will remember a lesson from Luke Skywalker, the Star Wars hero with whom he identified during the campaign: in the end, Skywalker and Darth Vader reconciled."

Yes, even in defeat, McCain can compare Bush to Darth Vader and reporters will list Bush as the only one who "played dirty."


Newsweek’s "Gay Today" cover package focused on "the family, the schools, the military and the church" instead of the political arena, which allowed them to avoid any mention of Al Gore or the word "liberal." It also allowed them to almost completely avoid any advocate or argument against homosexuality, with a few exceptions to display "meanness."

John Leland, usually a music critic, introduced the package: "No longer bracketed by the AIDS crisis or the daily thrum of overt bigotry, gays and straights are engaging in each other's lives in more intimate ways than ever before, with a contradictory mixture of progress and resistance. In the following pages, Newsweek explores the often-disorienting frontiers of a struggle no longer easily defined by protests or rabid rhetoric: the thorny play between gays and straights in the family, the schools, the military and the church."

Leland did have to confront the victory of Proposition 22 in California against recognized gay "marriage" and the brouhaha over talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, but he also pushed the "hate crime" murders against gay student Matthew Shepard and gay soldier Barry Winchell: "For gays and lesbians, as well as their families and friends, this push-pull between progress and resistance cuts directly through their lives -- how to live in a culture that loves [movie star] Rupert Everett but kills Barry Winchell?" The special report also included:

  • Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz sympathized with lesbian parents, with the subheadline: "Being social pioneers is never easy, but the joy of raising their sons together makes it all worthwhile."

  • Gregory Vistica on gays in the military: Billy and Reggie experienced "an epidemic of homophobic grumbling" in Italy. Vistica concluded: "Though they are no longer together, Billy and Reggie share a deep anger at the military's inflexibility toward gays. ‘Throw homosexuality into the equation, and all of my talent and experience becomes tainted as far as Uncle Sam is concerned,’ Reggie says. That talent and experience are heading for a civilian career now."

  • Marc Peyser and Donatella Lorch on gay activism in high schools: "Gay-Straight Alliances have been a major factor in helping teenagers create openly gay lives. First established in 1988, GSAs were designed as both support groups for gay students and -- with the help of the sympathetic straight students -- a bulwark against homophobia. The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Teacher Network estimates there are about 700 GSAs nationwide, most of which were formed -- peacefully -- in the wake of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard."

  • Lynette Clemetson on two "deeply religious" lesbians finding a Michigan Methodist church: "When the church was in line for a new minister two years ago, members told the district superintendent they needed a pastor who was accepting of gays. They got more than they bargained for in the Rev. Marjorie Munger, a straight minister who campaigns for gay rights. A soft-spoken wife and mother of two, she accessorizes her pastor's garb with iridescent gay-pride stickers, includes lessons on homosexuality in her sermons and lists the church in gay magazines."

Leland approvingly cited poll numbers that found new comfort with homosexuality, including a poll showing 46 percent (down from 54 percent in 1998) say they "believe homosexuality is a sin." One can only imagine Newsweek readers sitting before God on Judgment Day saying, "hey, but polls told me it wasn’t a sin."

-- Tim Graham





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