Magazines Call Bush a Captive of Conservatives
PUSHING THE PRESIDENT LEFT
Since George Bush broke his pledge on
taxes, there has been a conservative revolt over his domestic policies,
but you wouldn't know that from the mid-term evaluations of Time
and Newsweek. Both agreed Bush's domestic policies are still
much too conservative and he must move further left to succeed.
Time awarded the "Men of
the Year" title to the two faces of George Bush -- his resolute
foreign policy versus his "feckless approach to America's
ills." Washington reporter Michael Duffy attributed Bush's domestic
shortcomings to "his almost pathological fear of the GOP's right
Now, Duffy continued, "Bush is under
pressure from the right again, this time to adopt its new 'reform'
agenda, a campaign for tax cuts and term limits on members of Congress
and against affirmative action....There are indications that Bush may
try to mollify the right for two more years, even if that means
returning to the racially divisive themes that helped elect him in
1988." Duffy asserted: "Even as he sought to convince
Americans that he was a kinder, gentler incarnation of his predecessor,
he was straining to appease conservatives by opposing most gun-control
efforts and proposing a constitutional amendment against flag
On issues "where Bush has made
improvements in the American condition," by abandoning conservative
positions, "he has worked hard to keep them secret." Indeed, Time
complained "Bush is leery of calling attention to anything that
might upset conservatives. Despite the President's constant wooing, the
hard right never seems satisfied."
Duffy concluded: "All too often Bush
has found himself in the wrong corner. On issues like extending
opportunities to minorities and cutting the deficit, for example, the
President has permitted his indecision and fear of the right to overrule
his better instincts." That's not a pattern, Duffy warned, that
"will, as Bush promised in hs nomination speech of 1988, 'build a
Newsweek followed suit.
"What Jimmy Carter wanted to do but couldn't, George Bush could do
-- but won't," wrote reporter Steven Waldman. "Right now it
looks as if Bush will miss an opportunity, taking no bold action to
reduce energy consumption," like hiking gas taxes. But to satisfy Newsweek,
"he would have to take a few bold steps away from his business
constituency, his conservative aides and his innate political
cautiousness." Throughout his life, Time insisted, Bush
"has demonstrated a willingness to compromise or jettison his
positions to ensure conservative support." That's an ironic charge,
since conservatives are looking for a candidate to oppose him in 1992.
Another Decade, Another Job.
Two reporters who became political operatives in the 1980s have changed
careers for the 1990s. Both have set up public relations firms. J.
Wilson Morris, Director of Information for the Democratic
Steering Committee under former House Speaker Jim Wright, has helped
create Bailey, Morris & Newhall. From 1972 to 1978 Morris was a Washington
William Kling, News
Director for Paul Weyrich's conservative Free Congress Foundation and
Coalitions for America since 1986, left last year to create Kling
Communications. From 1959 to 1971 Kling was a Washington-based national
political reporter for the Chicago Tribune. In 1979 he became
Press Secretary to U.S. Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican.
Before jumping to Weyrich's operation, Kling spent four years reporting
for The Washington Times.
Post's Kind of
Republicans. In November, MediaWatch
recounted a survey which found that every Washington Post
reporter or editor registered to a political party, but one, was a
Democrat. Well, a November Washingtonian story revealed you can
work for the Post after working for a Republican, so long as he
was liberal. Editorial writer Patricia Shakow was a
Legislative Assistant to the late Senator Jacob Javits of New York from
1964 to 1977....
Colbert King, who joined
the editorial writing staff last summer, served as Republican Staff
Director to the Senate District of Columbia Committee under then Senator
Charles (Mac) Mathias in the mid-1970s. King soon reformed himself,
however, becoming Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for
international legislative affairs in 1977 for Jimmy Carter. Two years
later President Carter appointed King U.S. Executive Director of the
Museum Work. The U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum has hired a media relations director, Roll
Call reported. Elizabeth Rose, Press Secretary to
liberal Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) since she left the Dukakis
presidential campaign, will coordinate media for the museum set to open
in 1993 on Washington's Mall. In 1986-87 Rose worked in the Public
Broadcasting Service national headquarters as an editorial associate.
Burke's Back. David
Burke, long-time ABC News Vice President and President of CBS News from
1988 until last September, has joined the Dreyfuss Corporation as Chief
Administrative Officer. It's a return engagement for Burke. He worked
for the New York investment firm for a few years after he left Senator
Ted Kennedy's office in 1971 where he had been Chief of Staff.
No Controversy in
Collaborating with Communists
ARMAND HAMMER & SICKLE
When Armand Hammer died, ABC and NBC went
to work revising his controversial record. On the December 11 NBC
Nightly News, reporter George Lewis noted that "[Hammer's]
favorite hat was that of the humanitarian....Hammer, keenly aware of his
place in history, wanted to leave a positive legacy." ABC's Peter
Jennings claimed that "He will be remembered for many reasons: his
campaigns for peace and against cancer, his long associations with
Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev, his amazing success at
For ABC reporter John Martin,
"Armand Hammer's life symbolized America's wildest dream."
Martin praised Hammer for using "his access to American Presidents
and Soviet leaders to promote peace," concluding Hammer was
"one of the world's richest and most generous citizens."
Neither Martin nor Lewis did much to upset Hammer's polished history. In
fact, Hammer's conviction for concealing a contribution to Nixon's
campaign was the only thing ABC and NBC considered controversial.
It's worth asking how Martin defines the
American Dream. Is it the American Dream to help prop up the Soviet
economy, supply the Soviets with sophisticated chemical technologies and
build Soviet docking facilities that were deep enough for nuclear
submarines? Another interpretation of Hammer's record could conclude he
lived the definition of Lenin's "useful idiot."
Martin and Lewis both observed that
Hammer's parents were Russian immigrants but neither mentioned that his
father was a committed communist. Wrapping up Martin's story, Jennings
noted the confusion between Hammer's name and the baking soda brand
name. Jennings neglected to mention that Hammer's father named him for
the Arm & Hammer, the communist symbols of the time.
In the current lexicon, "civil
rights" no longer describes the promise of equal treatment before
the law; instead, it applies only to special treatment of some races.
Education Department official Michael Williams created a firestorm
December 12 with a ruling that, under the current "civil
rights" laws, race-based scholarships awarded by governments or
colleges are discriminatory and therefore illegal.
Reporters didn't simply describe the
firestorm, they played a large part in fueling it. Most spent more time
analyzing the political opposition to the decision -- roasting Williams
and the vacillating Bush Administration -- than explaining the
decision's legal rationale. For its one-sided reporting of the ruling,
CBS News earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Williams didn't call for a ban on
race-based scholarships out of spite: the "Civil Rights Restoration
Act," passed by liberal Democrats over Ronald Reagan's veto in
1988, mandated that federal aid would be denied to any college that
discriminated on the basis of race in any program. Thus, minority
activists and college officials were objecting to a law they lobbied
hard for only two years ago.
On the night following the announcement,
reporter Eric Engberg's CBS Evening News story focused only on
critics, who "said the new policy will devastate the chances for
minority students to get a college degree," such as NAACP chief
Benjamin Hooks, Notre Dame's Theodore Hesburgh, and a financial aid
officer. CBS also featured potential victims: "Tony Fletcher...is
going to Columbia University on a minority scholarship. Without it, he
says, he'd be in a bind." Engberg concluded: "The American
Council on Education, the umbrella group for colleges, vowed to fight
today's ruling. Officials said they would tell member colleges the
Department of Education is dead wrong on the law." No conservative
was allowed to challenge these statements.
Following Engberg, Chief Political
Correspondent Bruce Morton did air a soundbite of former Reagan official
Terry Eastland saying: "It is an unjustified use of race. They
count by race, they divide by race, they reward by race. They're bad for
everyone involved, though." But Morton dismissed the view:
"That's a philosophical point. But with the country in recession,
with people worried about their jobs, the quota issue taps both racial
resentment and economic fear. David Duke used it...in Louisiana."
Morton repeatedly confused the concepts
of civil rights, quotas and "affirmative action" without ever
defining their meanings. "Democrats [say] 'We're not for quotas,
we're for affirmative action, and the Bush Administration has endorsed
that in a lot of federal programs. The quota issue is a Republican
attempt to blame somebody else for the recession they've created.'"
A few hours later, America Tonight
began with this alarmist synopsis: "Across America tonight -- A
blow to civil rights as minority scholarships are ruled illegal."
CBS wrongly implied minority scholarships as a whole were "ruled
illegal." Williams' ruling clearly did not include scholarships
from private sources, only those from government or college treasuries.
It also did not exclude scholarships awarded to minorities based on
merit or financial need -- only those based solely on race. To top it
all off, notice the abuse of the term "civil rights": Do
minority students now have a right to taxpayer money for
Lesley Stahl interviewed liberal U. of
Wisconsin Chancellor Donna Shalala and former Reagan official William
Bradford Reynolds. Although Reynolds carefully reviewed the legal
rationale behind the decision, Stahl ignored the legal debate and sank
to demagoguery: "I want to ask you one fast final question: Are you
sure this is not politics? Someone said to me today 'This is Willie
Horton goes to college.'"
Over the next week, the Evening News
ran two more stories by Engberg, which included three more opponents of
the ruling. He did interview one black conservative, Alan Keyes, but
only in the capacity usually reserved for conservatives to criticize the
President's vacillation. Another black conservative, David Bernstein of
the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, told MediaWatch
that CBS This Morning producer Christine McHenry interviewed a
student from his group late in the controversy, but the interview never
CBS Evening News
producer Bill Skane told MediaWatch that
getting interviews from anyone in the immediate aftermath of the ruling
was difficult: "Everybody we got was a hard get that day, because
of the timing involved, and when we decided to do it, among other
things. It wasn't until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Everybody was hard
to find...I think by the second or third day of it, Eric had more that
he could do." That hardly excuses putting on just one supporter
versus seven opponents over a week long period. Even if CBS could not
find any sources to support the ruling on the first day, professionalism
dictated two possible courses of action. One, not air soundbites from
either side; or two, summarize the conservative position. Engberg did
BOMBS. The Washington
Post has never used the term "freedom fighter" to
describe Oliver North, according to a Nexis news data system search. But
when two women were sentenced December 6 on charges of conspiracy in the
1983 bombing of the U.S. Capitol, the Post's first eight words
were: "Laura Whitehorn and Linda Evans, self-described freedom
fighters." Is there a lesson here? Perhaps Ollie should have
declined to testify before Congress and bombed it instead.
Introducing a December 4 report on Senate hearings on Iraq, ABC's Peter
Jennings described the testimony of Robert McNamara: "Words of
caution on the Gulf today from the man who helped to get America so
deeply involved in Vietnam, a war, he said, he later came to
Reporter Jim Wooten described him as
"a cold warrior for Kennedy and one of Johnson's hard-eyed hawks,
always telling Congress there was light at the end of the Vietnam
tunnel. But a generation later, Robert McNamara was on Capitol Hill
today counseling patience and prudence in the Persian Gulf, warning the
Senators against slipping easily into war." In truth, McNamara, who
constantly criticized Ronald Reagan's defense build-up, has been an
outspoken dove for years. By ABC's reasoning, the late Whittaker
Chambers should still be called a communist.
PRESS RELEASE POST.
Ever willing to please its liberal soulmates, The Washington Post
served as a bulletin board for the American Civil Liberties Union on
December 17. The ACLU began soliciting government employees to give
Congress classified information detailing "government
misconduct" in the Persian Gulf crisis.
How did Post reporter Ruth
Marcus begin the story? "Wanted: a few good whistle-blowers."
The Post followed with four paragraphs explaining the text of
the ACLU ad, four paragraphs of quotes from ACLU Washington chief Morton
Halperin, and an announcement of the ACLU's news conference later that
day. Did the Post leave anything out? Yes, any opposing voice
that might call the ACLU's campaign a handy way of compromising national
security and helping out Saddam Hussein.
MARXIST OF THE YEAR.
Although Nelson Mandela didn't make Time's Man of the Year, Time
was quick to point out that he was a runner-up. Reporter Scott MacLeod
wrote in the January 7 edition, "In the space of one extraordinary
year, South Africa has moved from its nightmare of eternal racial
conflict to a hopeful dawning of racial reconciliation -- and that is
largely due to Mandela's statesmanship." What about President F.W.
de Klerk, the man who freed Mandela, legalized the ANC and reformed the
South African government? No mention.
FEEDING THE MOUTH THAT BITES YOU.
As 1990 ended, Time Managing Editor Henry Muller made another
plug for Mikhail Gorbachev, Time's Man of the Decade. In a
December 24 "From the Managing Editor" column, Muller ran a
letter from Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky. The inch-high headline
summed up Voznesensky's message: "Feed Perestroika!" In case
anyone was interested in making sure the Red Army eats well this winter,
Time ran the addresses and 800 numbers of groups aiding the
POOR REPORTING. The
unemployment rate jumped 0.2 percent in November, prompting the CBS
Evening News to devote an entire story to "some critics"
who say "the picture is even grimmer." Reporter Richard
Threlkeld summarized the argument: "Whether it's those without a
job or without a home or without money, there are millions of forgotten
men, women and children in this country -- people in economic pain
who've been officially defined out of existence....people who work in
low paying jobs, but are not counted because, critics charge, the
government's using an out-dated system to count the poor. You're poor,
says the government, if you make less than three times the cost of a
week's groceries, or about $13,000 a year for a family of four." He
then turned to an economist, who without citing any studies, asserted 20
percent of Americans really live in poverty. "For now though,"
Threlkeld concluded, "the message to the mothers and
children...who've been systematically overlooked by Washington is 'you
Now, before you fall for Threlkeld's
guilt trip over the plight of those above the poverty line, consider
some facts compiled by the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector on those
below it. The Census Bureau does not even count Medicaid and food stamps
as income. Poor people in the U.S. live in a larger house or
apartment than the average West European. Nearly a third of the
poor today own a home and are more likely to own refrigerators than the
average American family in the 1950s. Rector told MediaWatch,
"as living standards for all improve, people forget what poor
really used to mean."
EASTERN EUROPEAN ENTREPRENEURS.
Time Central Europe correspondent John Borrell offered an
intriguing new interpretation of Eastern Europe's economies on December
3: "Under communism few grew rich, but few went hungry; in many
cases people enjoyed surprisingly high levels of prosperity. In Poland,
for example, wealthy entrepreneurs were able to afford Western luxury
automobiles; in Czechoslovakia ownership of second homes was common. Now
many may no longer be able to afford such extravagance."
Borrell also equated blaming the
communists for Eastern Europe's repressive past with looking for
"scapegoats" and conducting "witch hunts,"
asserting: "East Europeans are now worrying about jobs, rising
prices, their very futures. Some our looking for scapegoats, turning on
minorities and seeking retribution from former communists....[Havel]
opposes witch-hunts against former officials similar to the purges the
communists mounted on taking power in 1948." If Borrell had been
reporting at the end of World War II he might have described the
Nuremberg trials as "looking for scapegoats."
WORSE THAN COMMUNISM?
Communism may not have been great for the women of Eastern Europe, but Boston
Globe reporter Jonathan Kaufman discovered "the region's women
have found democracy a less than liberating experience." Why?
Kaufman's December 27 article quoted a feminist in Warsaw: "There
is no sex education in the schools. The new Parliament canceled all
subsidies for family planning."
"In both Poland and eastern Germany,
the right to abortion has come under attack," Kaufman wrote.
"Even more troubling to many Eastern European women is the
resurgence of traditional -- some would even say sexist -- attitudes in
societies that once enshrined at least a patina of equal rights for
women in their propaganda and official statements."
If communism is a friend to women, who's
the enemy? "Part of the reason many women feel let down by their
revolutions is the emergence of conservative forces, including the
Catholic Church, following the toppling of communist regimes."
NBC'S LOSER. In a
December 2 New York Times Magazine story, reporter John Tierney
outlined a bet between NBC Today show regular Paul Ehrlich, the
doomsaying author of The Population Bomb, and Julian Simon,
economist and author of The Ultimate Resource. In 1980, Ehrlich
bet Simon $1,000 that the price of five metals would rise over a
ten-year period, believing population growth would inevitably drain the
earth's resources. Instead, all five metals declined in price, and
Ehrlich lost. The only question remaining: Will NBC continue to rely on
Ehrlich's unmatched record of incorrect predictions or will they switch
to the winning side and give Julian Simon his own series of Today
Lesley Stahl ever stop whining about Reaganomics? In a December 16 Face
the Nation interview with HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, Stahl charged:
"There's a new analysis that says the American family is worse off
today than it was in 1973. After ten years of Reaganite, supply-side
economics that you so passionately advocate, and that old question that
Reagan used to ask about Carter, 'are we better off,' apparently
families are worse off. Do you really think the American people buy
supply- side anymore? Don't they just think it was debt
Who twisted together the numbers Stahl
used? On America Tonight three days later, Stahl's source
revealed himself. Liberal economist Lester Thurow stated: "If you
take people that the Department of Labor classifies as non-supervisory
workers, they have an income in 1989 that's 17 percentage points below
where it was in 1973. And in terms of reversion, we're almost back to
the real earning capacity of about 1958, '59. And so, when you put all
that together, you've got about three decades with no growth in earning
THE PROSECUTION NEVER RESTS.
Not pleased with the way the Iran- Contra affair turned out, PBS
omnipresence Bill Moyers took the taxpayers' money to conduct his own
personal impeachment proceedings in "High Crimes and
Misdemeanors" on Frontline November 27. Assisted by
"consulting reporter" Scott Armstrong (formerly of The
Washington Post) and Armstrong's liberal National Security Archive,
Moyers set out to impeach Reagan for conducting a "coup"
against the Constitution.
Moyers' entire constitutional lecture
rested on the Boland Amendments, which many find unconstitutional, but
Moyers couldn't spoil the party by pointing that out. You also wouldn't
know from watching Moyers that many consider the independent counsel
unconstitutional. Moyers and the rest of the disgruntled souls at PBS
are free to continue their quixotic crusade, but why give them taxpayer
money for it?
BALANCE DOWN THE TBS TUBES.
In his ongoing campaign to promote abortion, Ted Turner's TBS cable
channel aired a follow up to his 1989 special Abortion for Survival,
titled, Abortion Denied: Shattering Young Women's Lives. As the
title implied, this half hour produced (again) by the Fund for a
Feminist Majority, offered no pro-life voice, though TBS insisted
(again) that it was not propaganda.
The December 7 program attacked parental
consent and notification laws. "Will parental consent laws for
abortion lead to parental consent laws for contraception?" asked
the horrified narrator, actress Christine Pickles. She also expressed a
particular disgust that a "small percentage of these desperate
young women will resort to placing their babies for adoption." That
view is not so surprising given the list of sponsors: Planned
Parenthood, NOW, and several left-wing population activist groups such
as the Center for Population Options and the Population Crisis
What about a post-broadcast discussion
with pro-life voices? "The program is sufficiently authoritative
and fair in its presentation so that we don't think a panel is necessary
to follow this program," TBS Executive Vice President Bob Levi told
the Los Angeles Times. "We believe that the program is
good enough that it stands on its own and that viewers can make up their
TWO ANCHORS AND A LADY.
In NBC's December 30 special, 1990: Living on the Edge, Tom
Brokaw, Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel spouted their opinions between
video clips. At one point Gumbel stated: "But don't you think the
pro-lifers now, Tom and Jane, don't you think that they are, if anything
now, a little reticent to make it an issue because experience has shown
that when they make it an issue they lose." Brokaw replied:
"Yeah, they have not done well politically and if nothing else they
are a smart political movement."
In the January American Spectator,
Fred Barnes took issue with Gumbel's absurd analysis: "But 1990 was
hardly a big pro-choice year. The lesson is that pro-life Republicans
and Democrats, if they don't flinch or flip-flop, are not hindered at
all. In Pennsylvania, Governor Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat, won
re-election with 68 percent of the vote against a pro-choice
Republican...In Kansas, Joan Finney, a pro-life Democrat who attracted
the wrath of the National Organization for Women, handily defeated
pro-choice Republican Governor Mike Hayden, despite being outspent $2
million to $300,000."
Government-funded PBS hailed more government as the cure-all in Borderline
Medicine, a December 17 documentary which paraded Canadian health
care as morally superior to the American system. Narrator Walter
Cronkite concluded, "America must shape its own health care system,
but we can't afford to ignore the Canadian lesson: that it's possible to
cover everyone and still control costs. At its best, American medicine
is the most clinically innovative and technologically sophisticated
system on Earth. But for increasing numbers of Americans who are shut
out, America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a
In the December 12 Wall Street
Journal, John Barnes reported on Canadians crossing the border to
save their lives. In one incident, Barnes recalled, two-year-old Joel
Bondy, in need of cardiac surgery, was repeatedly put on waiting lists
in Canada. Bondy's parents finally contacted an American hospital to
perform the surgery. Barnes explained: "Embarrassed by media
coverage of the Bondys' plight, Ontario officials informed the family
that Joel could have his operation immediately -- in Toronto. After Joel
endured a four-hour ambulance ride, a hospital bed was not immediately
available. The family had to spend the night in a hotel room. The delay
was fatal. Joel Bondy died the next day, four hours before he was to
enter the operating room."
MIRACLE ON 57th STREET.
Last year, a ten-year, $500 million study including the research of 700
leading scientists concluded that acid rain was causing no discernible
damage to crops or forests at present levels of acid rain emission.
Since the results completely contradicted conventional environmental
wisdom, the media made it a big story, right? Wrong. The study, released
by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project (NAPAP), was
virtually ignored until 60 Minutes, purveyors of the Great Alar
Apple Panic of 1989, did penance by devoting a segment to it on December
CBS reporter Steve Kroft captured the
media's panicked, unscientific approach to environmental questions by
asking NAPAP scientist Ed Krug: "The New York Times
reported recently that over the last ten years, while NAPAP has been
doing its study, the number of lakes turned into aquatic deathtraps
multiplied across New York, New England, and the South. Stretches of
forest along the Appalachian spine from Georgia to Maine, once lush and
teeming with wildlife, were fast becoming landscapes of dead and dying
Krug replied: "I don't know where
they got that from. It appears to be another assertion, unsubstantiated,
because we've spent hundreds of millions of dollars surveying the
environment to see if that was occurring and we don't see that
occurring." Now if only 60 Minutes would recruit an
equally credible group of scientists to put its Alar coverage to the
WE CRIPPLE CBS. The
combined viewership of the three network evening newscasts fell four
percent between the fourth quarter of 1989 and the end of 1990, A.C.
Nielsen reported. Specifically, ABC's World News Tonight was up
one percent, NBC Nightly News dropped five percent and the CBS
Evening News fell an astonishing ten percent. It so happens that
during 1990 MediaWatch criticized ABC the
least in our Janet Cooke Awards and Newsbites. CBS was hammered the
most. Once again, MediaWatch's incisive
analysis has done more to cripple CBS News than Kathleen Sullivan ever
Conservative View on Scholarships
A LOPSIDED ROLODEX OF SOURCES
CBS wasn't the only media outlet to
portray the minority scholarship ruling as an issue without two sides.
"The ruling was almost universally condemned," reported USA
Today. In a story that quoted six opponents and no supporters, Time
claimed: "It was hard to find anyone last week in the education
world who did not express dismay." Most media coverage of the
controversy reflected that belief. A MediaWatch
study of sources quoted on the ruling revealed a startling imbalance:
100 opposed the ruling to only 30 in favor, for a liberal advantage of
more than three to one.
analysts studied every story on the controversy from December 12 to 22
on the three network evening news shows and CNN's Evening News,
Time and Newsweek (December 24 edition), and four
newspapers (The Boston Globe, The New York Times, USA Today,
and The Washington Post). The Post led the pack in
getting sources in favor of the ruling, quoting 20 in favor and 32
opposed. Post reporters balanced liberal sources like Benjamin
Hooks of the NAACP and Ralph Neas of the Leadership Council on Civil
Rights with legal analyst Bruce Fein and the Washington Legal
Foundation's John Scully, who's filed lawsuits against race-based
The Boston Globe, on the other
hand, didn't seem to care about two sides: opponents outnumbered
supporters by a shocking margin of 23 to 1. The Globe not only
quoted Hooks, but added Keith Geiger of the National Educational
Association, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), whose call
for Williams' resignation made the first paragraph of the Globe's
December 20 story.
Network reporters also preferred critics,
16 to 4. Even the usually balanced CNN ran a story by Charles Jaco that
included six opponents and no supporters. But the imbalance of sources
was nothing compared to the imbalance of reporters. Take NBC reporter
Jim Miklaszewski's December 17 report: "Throughout his political
career, Bush has courted blacks and donated personally to minority
scholarships. Despite that, he vetoed the civil rights bill and he
refused to condemn the racial tactics in the Jesse Helms campaign...Some
White House officials say that technically the Education Department's
ruling was legally correct, but they acknowledge that politically, and
perhaps even morally, it was a loser." This was the media's
problem, exactly: shaping the political outcome was a greater concern
than the actual content of the law.
A LOOK AT PETER'S
ABC's World News Tonight has
finished first in the network evening news ratings ever since it
surpassed CBS in 1988. At the forefront of this rise is Peter Jennings,
ABC's urbane anchorman. The Canadian native's unpretentious delivery
might lead viewers to consider him the least political of the three
Over the years, however, Jennings has
revealed hints of the driving force behind his journalism. When
self-declared Marxist muckraker I. F. Stone died in June of 1989,
Jennings declared: "He generally found something useful to
say...For many people, it's a rich experience to read or re-read Stone's
views on America's place in the world." MediaWatch has
gathered a representative collection of opinions delivered by Jennings
over the past three years. These quotes demonstrate that Jennings holds
liberal views on a wide range of issues and provide insights into the
mind of an anchor.
Foreign Policy: From
Cambodia to Cuba, Jennings has argued the case of America's enemies. On
February 27, 1989, he declared that leftist students in South Korea
"represent the leading edge of a more general discontent...many
Koreans believe the U.S. is standing in the way of a reunified
nation," ignoring the fact that U.S. forces remain in South Korea
because Koreans realize the North remains a threat.
On April 3, 1989 Jennings anchored from
Cuba. "Castro has delivered the most to those who had the least.
And for much of the Third World, Cuba is actually a model of
development," he proclaimed. Jennings ducked the human rights issue
and praised Cuban society: "Education was once available only to
the rich and the well connected. It is now free to all....Medical care
was once for the privileged few. Today it is available to every Cuban
and it is free....Health and education are the revolution's great
success stories." Jennings concluded by repeating the words of a
Cuban woman: "For me, [Castro] is God. I love him very much."
During the February 1990 Nicaraguan
elections, Jennings put his money on the wrong horse again, predicting a
Sandinista victory. On February 20 he declared: "For the Bush
Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the [ABC News/Washington
Post] poll hints at a simple truth: after years of trying to get
rid of the Sandinistas, there in not much to show for their
Globe-trotting Jennings took his
anti-American show back to Asia in April 1990 with a prime-time special
on Cambodia, From the Killing Fields. The issue was simple for
Jennings: "The United States is deeply involved in Cambodia again.
Cambodia is on the edge of hell again." By not backing the
Communist Hun Sen regime, Jennings concluded, "The United States is
in danger of being on the wrong side of history." That comment led New
York Times reviewer Walter Goodman to note that the phrase
"might have been borrowed from Marxist texts, [and] seems a touch
dated after the anti-communist upheavals of 1989."
Which American politicians interest Jennings? Jesse Jackson, for one.
Appearing on NBC's Later with Bob Costas on January 12, 1989,
Jennings rated Jackson as "probably the most important Democrat
that ran in the year....you could see a man who cared, whatever else you
may think about him, bringing people's attention to focus on something
in a way that in my view no other politician in the country can do
it." Of course, Jackson wasn't the only Democrat he found
fascinating. Jennings praised Bruce Babbitt on the day he ended his 1988
campaign: "When he entered the race nearly a year ago he had the
courage to say that as President he would probably have to raise taxes.
And he never recovered from his courage." Presenting Jimmy Carter
as Person of the Week on May 12, 1989, Jennings noted that since leaving
the White House Carter "continued his life with distinction,
considerable grace, and with a very strong commitment to peace and
all of Jennings' heroes are career politicians. During the Earth Day
hysteria in April 1990 Jennings named Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes
Person of the Week, lauding him as "the true believer whose
reverence for life has always been a calling, never a fashion, who
millions of Americans owe a vote of thanks."
Jennings' frequent environmental
pronouncements suggest the topic is close to his heart. On May 17, 1989,
for example, he called a decision to raise fuel efficiency standards as
"a victory in Washington today," never mentioning that when
the standards are increased the number of traffic fatalities climb.
Evaluating Bush's Clean Air Bill on July 27, Jennings only wondered,
"does the Bush plan do enough?"
The ABC anchor also wasn't afraid to
engage in occasional hyperbole. During a September 12, 1989 Capitol
to Capitol special Jennings ranted: "We are destroying the
global home in which we live....We are literally in the process of
choking ourselves to death." Later, Jennings asked Rep. Claudine
Schneider if we could "alter our lifestyles, use more mass transit,
use less electricity, recycle more, procreate less?"
Health and Welfare:
Various forms of socialized medicine are also in vogue with Jennings.
When Congress repealed the catastrophic insurance program on September
18, 1989, Jennings bemoaned the end of the experiment, which heavily
taxed a few people and redistributed their money to a large group:
"Because five million elderly people are angry, as many as 18
million others may suffer." When the American College of Physicians
supported national health insurance in April 1990, Jennings declared:
"Others have been saying for quite some time that what the U.S.
needs is what already exists in Canada."
Jennings has used his position to lobby
for federally-funded child care. The November 22, 1989 American Agenda
focused on "the system which is acknowledged to be the best outside
the home... The Swedish system is run and paid for by the Swedish
government, something which many Americans would like to see the U.S.
government do as well." When Congress considered such a program in
March 1990, Jennings complained: "It leaves the issue of child care
standards up to the individual states, and according to virtually every
child care expert, that is a mistake."
Abortion has gotten Jennings' attention.
During his November 1, 1990 special, The New Civil War,
Jennings presented the entire debate through the lens of the "right
to choose" side: "There are millions of us in the country who
have not yet made up our minds about how much government interference in
our lives there should be, either to protect a woman's ability to have
an abortion, or to make it even more difficult, even illegal."
Jennings has injected his views into news
stories with surprising frequency. More Americans may get their news
from ABC News than from any other source, but they might do well to pay
more attention to Jennings' substance than his style.
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