Marshall Loss, Thomas Gain Seen as Twin Threats
THE RIGHT AGAINST
The resignation of Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall, the last of the Warren Court's unelected legislators,
caused the media to wax nostalgic about the good old days of liberal
rule by judicial fiat. Marshall was hailed as "legendary," a
"legal giant," and a "fabled torch-bearer for civil
Reporters voiced almost unanimous concern
over the fate of "individual rights" and the twin threats
posed by Marshall's loss and the nomination of a conservative, Appeals
Court Judge Clarence Thomas. Conservatives would argue liberal justices
like Marshall violated individual rights -- the rights of crime victims,
of the unborn, and to do what you wish with your property, to say
nothing about the aggrandizement of government regulatory powers. These
rights were left unaddressed.
Anchoring the June 27 CBS Evening
News, Charles Kuralt reported that "Justice Marshall, the
sturdy old champion of individual rights, has grown increasingly lonely
as a member of the dwindling liberal minority." The next day Christian
Science Monitor staff writer Marshall Ingwerson concurred: "In
practical terms, the Supreme Court's conservative bloc has already
consolidated its majority in most areas of the law...Its effort to roll
back some of the great expansions of individual rights under the Warren
Court in the 1960s is well under way."
In a June 29 CBS Evening News
commentary, Bruce Morton chastised the Court's "nanny
conservatism," charging: "The Rehnquist Court is much more
concerned with the rights of government, the state, authority.
Government can tell the difference between good and evil in this
philosophy and should encourage the one and forbid the other."
Thomas' nomination forced each network to
air at least one story discussing the existence of black conservatives,
and allowed several of them to challenge the mournings of the
traditional liberal "civil rights" leadership. The
nomination's impact on abortion, however, did not receive such balance.
CBS reporter Rita Braver announced on July 1: "The thing that has
most people worried, though, is the statement he once made about what
are called unenumerated rights, the things like abortion that are not
specifically mentioned in the Constitution." But "most
people" voted for Bush, who supported judicial restraint.
The next day, CBS This Morning
brought on Planned Parenthood's Faye Wattleton. A day later Today
devoted a segment to Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights
Action League. On July 6 NBC Nightly News granted an unusual
live interview to NOW Vice President Patricia Ireland. Where were
interviews with their pro-life opponents? Nowhere.
Democratic Convention Control.
In 1984 Anne Reingold helped produce CBS News election
coverage. In 1992 she will direct media relations for the Democratic
National Convention. Before then, Reingold will coordinate media
planning for next year's primaries and will "manage the production
of Democratic debates," Roll Call reported. During her
eight years with CBS Reingold has worked for the Election and Survey
Unit, covered the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidates Gary
Hart and Jesse Jackson, and served as a special events producer.
Reingold will work with Ginny
Terzano, the Democratic Party's Press Secretary who was a CBS
News Election Unit researcher in 1988. In fact, Reingold is at least the
fifth person to make the jump between the Democratic National Committee
(DNC) and CBS. Wally Chalmers, CBS News Political
Editor during the 1984 campaign, served as the DNC's Executive Director
from 1986 to 1988. Bob Ferrante, Director of
Communications for the DNC under Chalmers, was the Senior Producer of
the network's Election News Unit in 1984. Dotty Lynch,
CBS News Political Editor since 1985, served as the DNC's Polling
Director in 1981-82. During the 1988 Democratic Convention Ike
Pappas, a CBS News reporter for more than three decades, set up
and ran the Party's Convention Satellite News Service which provided
interviews and pre-packaged news stories to local television stations.
Leaving Philly's Daily Grind.
Long-time Philadelphia Daily News columnist and Senior Editor Chuck
Stone will leave the Knight- Ridder-owned tabloid on August 1
to become a professor at the University of North Carolina's School of
Journalism and Mass Communication. In the mid-1960s Stone served as a
top aide to U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, a New York City
Democrat forced from office by allegations he misappropriated House
funds. Stone joined the Daily News in 1972 and gained the
Senior Editor responsibilities in 1979. While in the Tarheel State,
Stone will continue to write a weekly column syndicated by United Media,
Editor & Publisher reported.
Post to Police Action.
The controversy surrounding Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates has
kept two of his most vociferous critics, liberal Democratic City
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and his Press Secretary, Katherine
Macdonald, quite busy. A former Washington Post
reporter, Macdonald's been working for Yaroslavsky since last year. From
1978 to 1986 Macdonald served as a Los Angeles-based special
correspondent for the Post, reporting on everything from
earthquakes to California politics. She also frequently contributed to Post
presidential election analysis. Before jumping to politics, she spent
two years as a San Francisco Examiner reporter.
Lyons Lionized. The
Consumer Federation of America presented its 1991 "Outstanding
Consumer Media Service Award" to Good Morning America
reporter Paula Lyons. Senator Joe Biden and U.S. Representative William
Gray were also honored at the June awards dinner. Lyons held various
posts under Boston Mayor Kevin White, a Democrat, in the mid-1970s.
In April, MediaWatch handed
the Janet Cooke Award to CBS for relying on the loaded statistics of the
Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a left-wing lobby for nationalized child
care and increased welfare spending. In June, ABC's World News
Tonight followed the same shameless formula, proclaiming: "The
Children's Defense Fund...is widely recognized for keeping accurate
statistics on children." For uncritical reports on the CDF and a
week of one-sided stories on child poverty, ABC earned the July Janet
THE '8Os. The first sign
of ABC's affection for CDF came on June 2 and 3 when they promoted the
CDF's latest report on child poverty not once, but twice. On June 2,
reporter Kathleen DeLaski led off: "The report also says that while
poverty rates for the elderly decreased in the '80s, poverty rates for
could see for themselves that even the chart ABC displayed on screen
clearly showed a decline since 1983. CDF used 1979 as a beginning
yardstick, thus adding the last two Carter years to the statistics. By
the CDF's own calculation of Census statistics, the number of poor
children dropped from a high of 13.9 million in 1983 to 12.6 million in
1989. Likewise, they calculated that the percentage of children living
in poverty has declined from 22.3 percent to 19.6 percent.
STEREOTYPES. The next
evening John McKenzie again summarized the CDF charges, intoning,
"The stereotype: a black child living in an inner city with a
single mother on welfare and no man in the house. The Children's Defense
Fund now says that stereotype is wrong."
Misleading. While CDF
insists that only one in ten children fits that description, they also
reported that one in three poor children is black and that 43.7 percent
of black children are poor. They reported that 54 percent of poor
families are female-headed. They reported that three times as many poor
children live in metropolitan areas than live in rural areas. It's only
when you add them all together to calculate the number of black,
inner-city, single-parent children, that it appears like an
McKenzie continued: "The study found
that most poor children come from families of just one or two children,
and that most have older family members who are working." On June
18, Jennings added: "Most poor children in America have a
Wrong. In fact, the
government classifies someone as working even if they only work one day
a year. In The New Republic, Mickey Kaus took issue with the
assertions made by liberal groups: "Less than half of poor families
with children field even a quarter- time worker. Fully 40 percent do no
work at all." In responding to Kaus, Robert Greenstein of the
liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities insisted their group's
study pointed out that only one-sixth of poor children live in a family
with a full- time, year-round worker.
report blames the situation on bad economic times in general and
government spending cuts in particular." -- McKenzie, June 3.
Wrong. In constant
dollars welfare spending is at an all time high. CDF did decry the
lessening value of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
benefits, but those levels are set by the states.
NON-CASH BENEFITS. On
June 18, the first day of special broad-casts from Ohio, Peter Jennings
asserted: "A single mother with two children, a fairly typical
example of a poor family, gets a little more than $550 a month in cash
and food stamps from the government, which still leaves that family more
than two hundred dollars a month below the government's official poverty
failed to explain that the poverty line measure counts only cash
assistance, so his calculation did not include non-cash benefits like
housing assistance, Medicaid or school lunch programs. In fact, the
government spends an average of $11,120 a year on non-cash benefits for
every poor household, about 75 percent of all welfare expenditures. This
was the only ABC/CDF contention that ABC allowed a conservative expert
to challenge. In their June 3 report, the Heritage Foundation's Robert
Rector contended: "If you add up all the different welfare benefits
from different programs, the average single parent on welfare with
children has an income above the poverty level, not below it."
DAY CARE WELFARE.
"Here in Franklin County, which pretty much matches the rest of the
country, the number of families on welfare who have access to this kind
of [child] care is ridiculously low. Only two and a half percent get any
financial aid to pay for it." -- Jennings, June 19.
recipients are entitled to day care reimbursement, and the 1988
Welfare Reform Act expanded the amount of money available for it. Only
three percent of AFDC recipents per month claim the reimbursement
because only eight percent of recipients have earned income.
"Analysts often disagree about how many homeless children there are
in America: maybe 100,000, maybe half a million. They do agree that
children represent the fastest growing segment of the homeless." --
Jennings, June 20.
Wrong. CDF promotes the
100,000 figure, citing a 1988 report by the National Academy of Sciences
(NAS). But the NAS didn't do any original research to determine its
number, using three other sources, including an August 28, 1985 front
page story in The New York Times by Josh Barbanel. But the Times
article cited no figures on the number or percentage of homeless
children. The most comprehensive homeless count to date remains the
Census Bureau figure of 230,000, which makes Jennings' numbers look a
little inflated. By Jennings' estimation, then, either half of the
homeless are children, or there are more than twice as many homeless
children as the Census counted homeless people.
On June 20, Jennings went beyond
editorializing to tossing sarcastic cheap shots: "When you get
close to the poor, you recognize right away that very often the level of
assistance doesn't even lift them up to the legal poverty line, let
alone above it, which seems to say your Congressmen and your state
legislators have failed to recognize that children and families in
poverty are a national disaster. In your name, they often argue about
other priorities and welfare cheats. Twelve million Americans who
cheat." This came two days before Jennings' Friday "Person of
the Week" segment on a ten-year welfare mother: "Three years
ago, when most of the welfare money was going for booze, Lisa Krause
Despite all the passion, ABC never asked
the question: couldn't all these programs be causing the further
deterioration of poor families? A recent comparison showed that since
1950, the percentage of female-headed households has almost doubled
while federal social spending has increased threefold as a percentage of
GNP. ABC must consider these questions politically incorrect.
At ABC's request, we faxed a list of the
points made in this article and asked for an item by item response.
Instead of answering any point, World News Tonight Executive
Producer Paul Friedman issued this statement: "We have accurately
portrayed the problem of American children living in poverty. Your
choice of data is not persuasive."
While the nations held together by communist force in Yugoslavia tried
to break away as our own Independence Day approached, NBC correspondent
John Dancy offered an intriguing history lesson. "Yugoslavia,"
he explained, "was patched together after World War I out of Balkan
states with a history of independence. President Tito, Yugoslavia's war
hero, held the country together through his personal charisma." So
Tito had all those tanks and soldiers so he could impress foreign
dignitaries with big parades?
WHAT CUTS? Since late
June, reporters have repeatedly blamed federal budget cuts for state
deficits, as if it were beyond argument. For example, on June 30 NBC's
Bob Herbert charged: "New Yorkers struggled for more than a decade
against the cuts in federal aid imposed by Presidents Reagan and Bush.
Then like a knockout blow came the recession." On July 1 CBS
reporter Bob Faw asserted: "America's cities are also caught
between a rock and a hard place -- new problems, homelessness and AIDS,
but fewer federal dollars to spend, forcing New York City to raise
Before you buy this cop-out from big
states that spent every cent they received and more during the '80s,
take a look at the facts. Federal aid to states and cities has gone up
from $115 billion in 1988 to an estimated $171 billion for fiscal 1992.
If these kinds of "cuts" continue too much longer, taxpayers
won't have any money left.
INDECENT EXPOSURE. The
Washington Post's tender loving care of the National Endowment for
the Arts (NEA) even extends to "artists" rejected by the NEA.
On June 22, critic Pamela Sommers described Tim Miller's
"Sex/Love/Stories" performance as a "compelling
journey" where "gay activist" Miller entertains the
audience by describing "a million and one liaisons in graphic
detail," including one with "a muscular literary type on a
nude beach that provide him (and us) with ample entertainment."
Sommers added: "He yanks down his
pants and has a rank, emotionally charged discussion with his bared
anatomy about the importance of celebrating the flesh, especially in the
midst of disease and censorship and death." The Post
critic concluded that "he must also be lauded for his artistry and
bravery in difficult times."
CANADIAN CANDOR. Media
bias is not a problem limited to the United States. Former Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reporter Barbara Amiel conceded that bias
permeates the government controlled network.
Writing in the April 29 issue of Macleans,
a Canadian newsweekly, she explained: "My association with the CBC
goes back over 25 years when I began working there. A left-wing
political bias existed when I was in news and current affairs during the
1960s and continues today. Back then, we selected program topics and
participants with an eye to confirming our prejudices. Inevitably, this
meant the most strident and foolish people were found to present the
alternative view. We were anti-American, anti-big business and
pro-feminist and accepted uncritically certain assumptions about the
existence of racism and sexism in Canadian society. We took a relentless
approach against apartheid and turned a blind eye to the tyrannies in
independent Africa." If only American reporters were so honest.
HUME'S HONESTY. Well,
one reporter is. In a July 9 interview with Washington Times
reporter Don Kowet, ABC White House reporter Brit Hume charged "a
great many reporters are liberal." Hume offered some examples.
"Take the Kemp-Roth tax cut. That was regarded by reporters I knew
on Capitol Hill as being out there along with the Bermuda Triangle and
getting a telephone call from Elvis."
Another example: "I'm constantly
hearing reporters say, 'Well, Bush says he wants to be the Education
President, but he doesn't come up with any money.' In other words,
they're starting from the premise that the best way to advance the cause
of education is to spend a lot of money on it. They're taking sides on
an important aspect of the debate before they start, adopting one side
of the debate's measuring stick -- the amount of money spent -- as their
'neutral' gauge of how adequate Bush's policies are."
HEALTHY SOCIALISTS. For
the third time in two years, NBC reporter Fred Briggs has shared his
infatuation with Canadian national health insurance with viewers. On the
June 6 Nightly News, Briggs compared the U.S. health care
system to Canada's as he stood at the U.S.-Canada border in Maine. In
one comparison Briggs stated, "The bottom line is that a serious
illness or injury on that side of the border may cause a family
emotional pain, but it won't break them financially. Here it can and
often does." As if Canadians weren't taxed for the government-run
system, Briggs reported, "To get into a hospital or doctor's
office, Canadians only have to present this card. They're insured by
their government, have been for 27 years."
Unlike his earlier stories, this time
Briggs noted that Canadians sometimes die waiting for health care, but
he concluded with an endorsement: "Jane Tuck works in a convenience
store and wonders how Canada seems to do what we cannot do." Tuck
told Briggs, "We can help other countries, we can help this one,
that one. Let's help ourselves." Briggs followed, "To the
Canadian system? Living so close to it makes it seem very
SAME OLD MOYERS. David
Horowitz of the Committee for Media Integrity urged balance in public
television in an April 15 Currents article, decrying the
imbalance of PBS documentaries like the Frontline series and
the omnipresent specials of the self-impressed Bill Moyers.
Moyers responded in the same magazine's
May 25 issue, defending his Frontline documentary on the
Iran-Contra hearings: "Far from being an editorial on Iran-Contra, High
Crimes and Misdemeanors was a plea for renewed fealty to
traditional values so disdained by men like Ronald Reagan, William
Casey, Edwin Meese, Elliott Abras, John Poindexter and Oliver
Moyers extended his assault not only to
Horowitz, but to all conservative critics of taxpayer-supported
television: "Horowitz, you must remember, has his own agenda. He
and his ilk do not want 'fairness and balance' -- they want unanimity.
They don't want 'media integrity' -- they want media subservience to
their ideology. To him and his reactionary allies, criticism equals
subversion, opposition equals treason, and liberalism is a personal
A NEW MOYERS? Has Bill
Moyers gone through a drastic change of heart? In a June 18 PBS special,
titled After The War, he attacked President Bush from the
right. "It wasn't just Washington's indifference toward democracy
that angered the Iraqi opposition. It was also the President's decision
to let Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard escape," Moyers
declared. "General Schwarzkopf later told David Frost what a few
more days of fighting would have meant," he said before chastising
Bush for "pulling back [U.S.] forces while Saddam Hussein was still
strong enough to take his revenge" against the Kurds.
That's ironic coming from a man who, at a
March 8 gathering of House Democrats, derided the war as "a triumph
of overwhelming technology and unchallenged power over a country no
bigger than Texas and with roughly the same amount of people, ruled over
by a paranoid psychopath, who proved to be just a video tiger, all growl
and no guts." Could it be that Moyers is just looking for a way,
any way, to deride conservative foreign policy with taxpayers' money?
LACKING DIVERSITY. In a
June 4 MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour segment Charlayne Hunter-Gault
interviewed David Lawrence, President of the American Society of
Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and Publisher of the Miami Herald,
about affirmative action.
Asked about his company's hiring policy,
Lawrence stated, "We are the information medium for the American
people. We are the filtering system, the prism, through which the people
get their news and information and commentary. If it's all coming from
one kind of person, it is going to be a very incomplete prism indeed.
So, yes, I think more than any other institution in American society, we
need to be a pluralistic, multicultural institution."
He was talking about hiring more
minorities, but Lawrence inadvertently made a great case for hiring more
conservatives. In a 1989 survey by Lawrence's own ASNE, 62 percent of
newsroom employees overall and 87 percent of minority journalists
boasted liberal leanings. Only 22 percent said they had a conservative
bent. So why isn't Lawrence crusading to correct this distorted prism?
PRO-CHOICE POLLS? During
the House debate on a bill about abortion counseling in federally funded
clinics, reporters peddled the canard that most Americans
unconditionally favor the abortion rights of Roe vs. Wade.
ABC's Cokie Roberts claimed on the June
26 World News Tonight: "President Bush must also worry
about anti-abortion activists who have given the Republican Party so
much support in the past. He's promised to veto this and all other bills
supporting abortion rights and Congress is unlikely to override, meaning
the President could win every battle on abortion rights but create
problems for fellow Republicans come election day."
NBC correspondent Henry Champ on the June
23 Nightly News asserted, "Polls indicate Americans are
pro-choice. They want or support the right to decide."
Well, not exactly. According to William
Satelin of the electronic news service Hotline, polls say that though a
plurality may be pro-choice, a majority favors abortion restrictions. In
The Wall Street Journal, Satelin wrote: "When asked which
of three statements best expressed their views 41 percent chose to say
abortion should be 'generally available,' and an opposite 15 percent
felt it 'should not be permitted,' but 42 percent chose positions
favoring legal abortion with 'stricter limits'" for a grand total
of 57 percent who favor either eliminating abortion or restricting it.
Hardly a "pro-choice majority."
TED KOPPEL'S NON-STORY.
On June 20, ABC's Ted Koppel devoted a one-hour Nightline
special to the theory that former CIA Director and Reagan campaign
manager William Casey met in Madrid in late July 1980 with Iranian
officials to delay the release of the American hostages. Koppel thought
he had smoking guns in the testimony of Iranian arms dealer Jamshid
Hashemi, and in a 1988 New York Times story that mentioned
Casey would be available for comment when "he returned from a trip
abroad." The Washington Post, The Boston Globe,
and AP all reported the revelations the next day.
Then, at the very end of the June 26 Nightline,
Koppel meekly noted that Casey was accounted for, in another country,
during most of the time of the alleged meetings. Gulped Koppel: "We
have spoken with several men who attended the Anglo-American Conference
on the History of the Second World War. William Casey attended that
conference at the Imperial War Museum in London."
The Post didn't reveal Casey's
London whereabouts until they quoted Ed Meese in a July 8 news story.
The Globe ran AP's week-late dispatch on July 3 with the
headline: "1980 Casey Trip Draws Fresh Attention." A better
headline: "Oops -- We Were Wrong."
RAY BRADY'S BITTER BUREAUCRATS.
On June 7 the government announced the unemployment rate rose 0.3
percent in May to 6.9 percent. ABC's World News Tonight
emphasized the positive side. "Economists say that the really
important news lies elsewhere in the report. For the first time in
nearly a year businesses hired more workers instead of firing
them," Peter Jennings pointed out. Reporter Stephen Aug then
explained how businesses hired 59,000 people. "At the Gould's pump
factory near Los Angeles, business is booming, and they're hiring,"
Aug told viewers.
But over on the CBS Evening News,
the focus was on the negative, as usual. "Amid all the talk and
some evidence of economic recovery, unemployment hit a four year
high," Dan Rather said. Reporter Ray Brady whined, "the
unemployment numbers jumped last month partly because of workers like
these Massachusetts state employees. They're protesting the cutbacks
that pushed them into the ranks of the 370,000 Americans who lost their
jobs last month. Workers like Marie Shamali, out of work from a job she
thought she'd never lose." But according to Boston Herald
editorial writer Jeff Jacoby, since late last year only 1,700 of the
12,123 state payroll jobs added by former Governor Dukakis in the last
eight years have been cut.
MITCHELL MISSILES. Just
what kind of "reporter" is NBC News congressional
correspondent Andrea Mitchell? When NBC gives her the chance to vent her
opinions, the liberalism comes through loud and clear. During a June 11 Today
appearance, she charged: "While we see George Bush saying that he
doesn't like the racist politics, boy, he's letting his White House
staff play it full bore." The next week, President Bush criticized
Democrats for failing to move on his transportation and crime bills. On
the June 16 Sunday Today, Mitchell showed her displeasure:
"I think that George Bush was terribly cynical and irresponsible in
some of his criticism...that 100 day deadline just didn't make any sense
on the highway bill."
"So just what has Congress been
doing these past 100 days?" Mitchell wondered on NBC Nightly
News on June 13. "For one thing," she answered,
"living with the consequences of budget deal Congress made with the
White House last fall. There is very little money for new social
programs." Little money? Over half the $1.3 trillion federal budget
goes to social programs and entitlements. But $700 billion plus isn't
enough for Mitchell, who added, "With Congress and the President in
gridlock and no money to spend, more and more responsibility is being
dumped on state and local governments, adding to the taxpayer's
dilemma." But Mitchell didn't report that federal aid to state and
local governments has been going up.
CIVIL SLIGHTS. Several
journalists have become cheerleaders and apologists for the Democratic
version of the "civil rights" bill. ABC's Jim Wooten offered a
typical analysis on the June 5 World News Tonight: "For
better or worse, quotas have become a hot-button issue, easily exploited
in the quick context of a television commercial. Look at this one from
last year's Senate race in North Carolina. Republican Jesse Helms was
narrowly re-elected, although his black opponent was as anti-quota as
he." He was? In a March 17 New York Times op-ed, Helms'
opponent, Harvey Gantt, argued that "quotas are as American as
In the June 4 Los Angeles Times,
staff writers William J. Eaton and Sam Fulwood III wrote,
"discussions of the legislation, therefore, have centered on such
abstractions as shifting the burden of proof from employers to
employees, or vice versa, at various stages of litigation."
Abstractions? If the presumption of innocence was taken away from
criminals, would Eaton and Fulwood consider it an
"abstraction"? No, they would probably call it what it is -- a
civil right. One now shared by businessmen as well as rapists and
LAURELS FOR LANCE. The
May MediaWatch called attention to Time
Senior Editor Lance Morrow's April 29 puff piece on Senator Ted "PowerMaster"
Kennedy. Morrow presented Kennedy as "one of the great lawmakers of
the century, a Senate leader whose liberal mark upon American government
has been prominent and permanent... The public that knows Kennedy by his
misadventures alone may vastly underrate him."
University of Southern Mississippi
Professor Glenn Wittig was moved to write Time regarding
Morrow's article and forwarded Time's response to MediaWatch.
Letters Department Deputy Gloria Hammond lauded Kennedy as "a
figure whose name can conjure in the national mind hallmark images of
modern political and social history, ad perhaps for that reason alone
compels a willing-or- not fascination."
Hammond defended Morrow as a "writer
with a singular reputation for applying his stimulating, penetrating and
unmistakable style." Unmistakable alright. He's the same Time
staffer who wrote "The skull is home. We fly in and out of it on
mental errands....Home is the bright light under the hat."
CULT OR OCCULT? Time's
May 6 cover story ripped into the Church of Scientology with an
intensity usually reserved for the Reagan Administration. Time described
Scientology as little more than "a hugely profitable global racket
that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like
manner." Although few people outside Scientology would disagree
with Time's assessment, it's a bit silly coming from Time.
After all, isn't this from the same company which profits from the
Time-Life Books "racket" which pushes its "Mystic
Places" books about astrology and space aliens landing on Earth
with TV ads which once promised "power crystals" as a premium?
Liberals Admit Media
FRAC FLACKS. In April, MediaWatch
reported on a dubious child hunger study by the left-wing Food Research
and Action Center (FRAC). Mickey Kaus of The New Republic
called it "crap." Dan Rather began the March 27 CBS
Evening News: "A startling number of American children are in
danger of starving." Boston Globe reporter Stephen
Kurkjian insisted the study demonstrated one child in eight "goes
hungry every day."
In a June 27 Christian Science
Monitor profile of the Media Research Center, FRAC Executive
Director Robert Fersh agreed that these two reports were wrong: the
study made no claims about starvation and concluded only that one in
eight children had been hungry at least once during a 12-month period.
Fersh added: "I wasn't asked much [by reporters] to clarify
it." Kurkjian told the Monitor: "It never entered my
mind that they weren't hungry every day," conceding his
"inattention" to the facts of the story.
Despite this, ABC promoted the claims on
June 3. But while FRAC suggested 5.5 million children were
"hungry," Jennings more than doubled that number in a June 18
report, saying 12 million children "do not have enough to
Since the days of Watergate, the national
news media have assigned more importance to the executive branch than to
the legislative. The media's logic is largely numerical: the President
is elected nationwide, the legislators in much smaller groups. But this
can lead to a double standard in news judgment concerning scandals,
leaving perceptions of an executive "sleaze factor" while the
transgressions of legislators are just local news.
This double standard is clearly
illustrated in the recent hubbub over the travel of White House Chief of
Staff John Sununu. From April 21, when The Washington Post
published its investigation of Sununu's travel records, to the end of
June, MediaWatch analysts found that the Post
published 27 stories, and put 11 of those stories on the front
page. Using the Nexis news data retrieval system, MediaWatch
analysts looked at four recent controversies involving major abuses of
travel privileges by key congressional leaders and found a glaring
1. WAYS AND MEANS BARBADOS JUNKET:
On October 25, 1990, ABC's Prime Time Live aired an
investigative report on a House Ways and Means Committee junket to
Barbados, authorized by powerful Ways and Means chairman Dan
Rostenkowski. ABC estimated that the trip cost the taxpayers at least
$42,000. Two days later, the Post mentioned the report in
paragraphs 25 and 26 of a story on Congress wrapping up its session.
Reporter Tom Kenworthy introduced the item with the sentence: "But
not every piece of business was so weighty as business adjourned."
Two days later, the Post ran a short 646-word piece on Page
A13. Total number of entire news stories: one.
2. BILL ALEXANDER: When the House Democrats' then-Deputy Whip,
Rep. Bill Alexander of Arkansas, cost the taxpayers an estimated $60,000
to fly with his family to Rio de Janeiro in mid-August 1985, the Post
did one story -- on September 23, more than four weeks after the trip
was first reported by the Associated Press. In fact, AP had already sent
out 11 news stories on the trip before the Post got around to
it. The New York Times ran three news stories and an editorial
before the end of August. Total number of entire news stories: one.
3. LES ASPIN: On
February 17, 1991, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin
(D-WI) returned from Denver to Washington with his girlfriend, Sharon
Sarton. The military plane ride back from his ski trip cost the
taxpayers $28,000. Aspin paid nothing in reimbursement; his girlfriend
paid $178. The parallel to Sununu is remarkable, but the Post
never wrote a word about it.
In fact, the Los Angeles Times
and The New York Times both carried an Associated Press report
on June 2 noting that Aspin, "who is leading efforts for more M-1
tanks than the Pentagon requested, is dating a steel executive [Sarton]
whose company obtained more than $6 million in M-1 contracts." The Post
didn't cover that story, either. Total number of entire news stories:
4. PARIS AIR SHOW:
Despite a number of knowing references to the annual Paris Air Show as a
legendary congressional junket in the past 14 years, the Post
only once put together an investigative story detailing
the flight costs -- on June 15, 1989. (When the Post
did target individual legislators, it mostly stuck to Republicans; for
instance, an entire 1987 news story on Sen. Strom Thurmond.) But the Post
also twice reported controversies involving Reagan Administration
officials: an entire news story on Health and Human Services Secretary
Margaret Heckler in 1985, and a mention of Deputy Transportation
Secretary Darrell Trent in 1983. Total number of entire news stories in
14 years: four.
Publisher L. Brent Bozell III made these results public in a June 27
Washington press conference. In a "Style" section story the
next day, Post media reporter Howard Kurtz looked at the study,
but did not grasp the point -- that the MediaWatch
study focused only on travel scandals.
Kurtz included quotes in the Post's
defense from soon-to-be Executive Editor Leonard Downie, who noted that Post
reporter Charles Babcock broke stories about Jim Wright's lucrative book
deal and Tony Coelho's junk-bond purchases. But the Post had no
day-after-day drumbeat after these revelations, either. Babcock broke
the Wright story on September 24, 1987 -- and then didn't do another
story on Wright for months. Congressman Newt Gingrich repeatedly raised
the issue, but the Post didn't jump on the story until Common
Cause focused on Wright in 1988. Babcock wrote only two investigative
stories on Coelho -- on April 13 and May 14, 1989 -- before Coelho
stepped down in late May.
The Post also noted that Babcock
wrote a recent front-page story on congressional use of corporate jets.
That makes it 27 to 1 in favor of the Sununu story in the last two
months. Kurtz added that "Babcock's stories on travel abuses date
to 1983, when he wrote about the 89th Military Airlift Wing providing
flights to at least 34 senators and 200 House members." The
February 8 story focused almost completely on Republicans. Babcock spent
18 paragraphs (including the first five) detailing junkets by Barry
Goldwater. He worked in mentions of Rep. Jamie Quillen (paragraph 9),
Sen. Paul Laxalt (paragraphs 12 and 13), Federal Aviation Administrator
J. Lynn Helms (paragraph 20), and Sen. Jake Garn (paragraph 37). Babcock
mentioned Democrats in paragraphs 36 and 39. That's hardly a convincing
defense for the Post.
If Sununu's travels strike the Post
as offensive, readers might expect them to report or editorialize on
possible reforms in travel policy. In fact, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-MI)
has been introducing a bill for years that would require all three
branches of government to disclose travel information, but the Post
has only given it one offhanded mention in the last two months. The Post's
approach to Sunuu may be exemplified by retiring Executive Editor Ben
Bradlee's 1989 opinion of how the New Hampshire Governor would be
received in Washington: "A jack-leg Governor from a horse's ass
state. How could he play with us in the big leagues?"
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