Media Restart March of Spending Cut Victims
Welfare Wailing, Factual Failing
Supposed federal welfare cuts have been
newsworthy for ten years, while state welfare budgets have been
exploding. But when a few governors tried to pare down the rate of
increase in welfare spending, the march of the welfare cut victims began
On the Christmas Eve CBS Evening News,
anchor Harry Smith warned that "fear is spreading that California
might once again be a trendsetter" by controlling its burgeoning
welfare expenditures. Reporter Jerry Bowen detailed how poor mothers
would suffer under Governor Pete Wilson's "deep cuts in
welfare" (from $663 to $597 a month). While Bowen let a few workers
complain about their high taxes, he said nothing about the state's
welfare budget, even after cuts.
USA Today reported California's
budget for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) grew roughly
twice as fast as inflation in the '80s, and the benefit level ($663 a
month for a family of three) was the highest of the ten most populous
states. Compare that to Virginia, where the same family would receive
$291. As a result, the AFDC caseload grew four times as fast as
Reporter Bob Faw followed Bowen with a
story heavy on moral intimidation but short on facts: "If the
California plan takes hold in Connecticut, welfare recipients like
26-year-old Nieta Diaz, unmarried mother of four, will feel the pinch.
That's just $800 a month to cover everything for five people. Cut that
to levels of three years ago as some Connecticut lawmakers
propose?" Said Diaz: "If I don't pay my rent next month, my
landlord is going to kick me out, and then where am I going to go? Where
am I going to go with my four kids?"
Faw continued: "Welfare recipient
Kevin Mosley, permanently disabled, says he is also barely scraping
by." Mosley warned: "If there was less money coming in, I'd be
in trouble. I'd be in the street, to be quite honest with you. I'd be in
the street." he added: "That prospect, though, has not stopped
state legislators from slashing welfare spending more this year than any
other since 1981." He concluded with an emotional appeal:
"Spend less tomorrow, as the California plan envisages? `How we
gonna live,' Diaz and others ask, `how we gonna live?'"
Faw's story came at a mysterious time:
the state legislature had adjourned days before without passing any
cuts. In fact, the only proposed cut was a $50 million reduction in
general assistance, not the AFDC program. That means that Faw's
unmarried mother of four faced no cuts, and Faw's comparison to
California's AFDC proposals fell completely flat.
On the Democratic Trail.
Some media veterans have decided to put their talents to work on behalf
of Democratic presidential candidates. Wally Chalmers,
Political Editor for CBS News during the 1984 campaign, is aiding Iowa
Senator Tom Harkin. Chalmers, who works for Cassidy & Associates,
told MediaWatch he helped obtain donations for
a fundraising dinner last fall and continues to do fundraising when he
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton is getting
advice from two media veterans. Robert Shapiro, an
Associate Editor of U.S. News & World Report from 1985-88,
and George Stephanopoulos, who had a brief stint with
CBS News. Shapiro, who was Deputy Issues Director for Michael Dukakis in
1988, is offering advice from his VP perch at the Progressive Policy
Institute. Stephanopoulos was Floor Assistant to Majority Leader Dick
Gephardt until becoming Clinton's Deputy Campaign Manager last fall. He
served as Associate Producer for two 1985 CBS specials on the famine in
Anita Stuffer. At the
annual Christmas lunch for current and former ABC News public relations
workers, Kitty Bayh brought some stocking stuffers. The
Director of News Information in Washington for ABC News from 1978 to
1983 distributed pencils with the words "I Believe Her"
printed on them. Before joining ABC, she spent nine years with the
Democratic National Committee. "I had them printed up after the
Clarence Thomas hearings, not even thinking about the William Kennedy
Smith trial," Bayh told The Washington Post on December
24. Bayh realized: "I should have put `I Believe Anita' on
Night Moves. Deborah
Leff, a Senior Producer for ABC's World News Tonight
since 1989 and previously for Nightline, has taken the same
title with 20/20. For the last two years of the Carter
Administration, Leff was Director of Public Affairs for the Federal
Trade Commission....At the end of November CBS ceased production of Nightwatch,
its overnight interview show. The decision left Executive Producer Deborah
Johnson without a position to return to after her maternity
leave was to end in February. She ran Nightwatch since leaving
NBC in 1986 where she had been Foreign Producer of the Nightly News.
In 1975 she helped found the left-wing Mother Jones magazine.
JFK: The Flacker.
Just before JFK opened, Frank Mankiewicz
arranged a Washington public relations blitz for its left-wing
director/producer/writer Oliver Stone. The President of National Public
Radio from 1977 to 1983 played political favorites. Washington Post
media reporter Howard Kurtz reported that Mankiewicz, a veteran of the
Robert Kennedy and George McGovern presidential efforts, allowed only The
McLaughlin Group's liberals into an advance screening of the movie
which argues a grand right-wing conspiracy murdered President Kennedy.
Jack Germond and Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift were welcomed,
but not Fred Barnes, John McLaughlin or Morton Kondracke.
Equating caring with government spending
is a time-honored liberal tactic. Conservatives have come to expect this
kind of argument from liberal activists, but now it's coming from
reporters. On December 3 and 5, ABC's American Agenda segments
celebrated the top-down bureaucratic children's programs of France,
equating their large government budgets with large hearts. For what
amounts to a one-sided advertisement for French socialism, ABC's
American Agenda earned the January Janet Cooke Award.
On World News Tonight December
3, Peter Jennings began the network's advocacy campaign: "On the
American Agenda tonight, France. One of the things we have found with
every subject we address on the Agenda...is how often there are lessons
to be learned from other societies. It is one thing for the United
States to spend less on children than almost any other country in the
industrialized world. It is another to see what those countries get in
return for their dollar, or in this case, their franc."
Reporter Carole Simpson then told the
tale of the Rechantier family and their new baby. "The infant's
mother...takes comfort in knowing she and her husband don't have to
worry about whether they can afford Romaine's health care or day care or
her education. That's because the Rechantier family lives in France. The
French version of Social Security funds a wide array of government
health and welfare programs targeted to families with children, all
families, rich or poor. The money comes from considerable taxes on
businesses and workers' salaries. Everybody pays and everybody
Simpson never specified what
"considerable" meant. In fact, France's top income tax rate is
a stifling 56.8 percent. When asked by MediaWatch
about the cost of implementing a French-style program in America,
Simpson cited Barbara Bergman of American University, who estimates a
start-up cost of $217 billion. But Simpson left uncomfortable numbers
out of the broadcast.
Simpson was more reckless with claims
like this: "Like the United States, France has its share of poor
people and a large immigrant population. But its poverty rate is one of
the lowest in the world. Only five percent of children in France live in
poverty compared to twenty percent in this country."
Simpson told MediaWatch
her source was the liberal economist Timothy Smeeding, who has arrived
at numbers like this by defining poverty as less than 40 percent of
national median income. In a recent study for the Joint Center for
Political Studies, Smeeding put the poverty rate for families with
children at 17.5 percent for the United States, and 5.3 percent for
France. But of course, the median income in France is below the median
income in the United States, so many of the U.S. "poor" would
not have been classified as such in France.
Liberal activists often skew perceptions
of our all-around standard of living compared to other industrialized
nations. For example, in 1980, 1.8 percent of poor families in the
United States went without a flush toilet in their homes. By contrast,
17 percent of all families in France were without flush toilets in that
year, a worse ratio than Spain, Italy, West Germany, and Britain.
Simpson went on to tell the story of two
Lebanese immigrants who benefitted from France's "free"
services. (Free? Tell that to French taxpayers.) She concluded:
"Free universal health care for children and cash allowances for
parents continue and even increase throughout children's lives, up to
the age of twenty, as long as they stay in school. When you see how
France cares for its children, you can't help but wonder why the United
States can't do the same for our children. Americans continue to study
and debate what to do about poor children and poverty, but the French
decided long ago. Their system of social welfare is based on the belief
that investing in the children of France is investing in the future of
Two nights later, anchor Sam Donaldson
repeated Simpson's vague endorsement of the costly French welfare state:
"In France, all families, rich and poor, share a wide variety of
benefits. The price tag is high, but so is the quality of what they
In this report, Simpson promoted France's
statist day care system: "French parents have what few American
parents have -- high quality day care at low cost, no matter what their
income. That's because day care is regulated and subsidized by the
French government. Five decades ago, with more and more women entering
the labor force, France began instituting family support programs,
including day care and preschool. The country made a national commitment
to produce healthy, educated children and productive, working parents.
Perhaps President Mitterrand put it best: he said France will be strong
in its families and blossom in its children."
Simpson concluded the story: "The
French system works so well that several American organizations are
working to implement a similar national day care policy in the United
States. The biggest barrier seems to be cost. But the French, with
enviable results, have demonstrated their will to spend whatever it
takes to care for their children."
Neither report included any critics.
Simpson told MediaWatch that American Agenda
segments are different than regular news: "They're not the standard
news story where they have both sides and someone will say this is good
and this is bad....There was never any desire or intention to include
someone [critical]. Of course, there were many people who criticized,
and I can tell you, and I've heard many of them, and there were
criticisms in France among the French people, about how much taxes they
Simpson defended her slanted comparison
of American and French poverty: "You do not see the grinding
poverty in France...that I see on the west side of Chicago. The safety
net is much more in place in France. There is no doubt about that."
When asked if we need an expanded "safety net," Simpson
replied "I think so." Asked if the Reagan and Bush
administrations are part of the problem, she responded: "I have
been on the record on that. I've said it on Brinkley, I
have." At the end of our conversation, she joked: "Let me have
it. Slam me. Blast me."
Okay, Carole, here it is: ABC's American
Agenda is supposed to be an in-depth exploration of an issue, but
there's nothing "in-depth" about providing only one side. Any
political activist can do that. Journalists are supposed to do better.
After a long history of praising Gorbachev, NBC correspondent Bob
Abernethy issued one last tribute to his hero on the December 24 Nightly
News. "Well, let me say how I hope history will judge him.
Perhaps in time with help and work, people here will improve their
everyday lives and remember Gorbachev's accomplishments, and that would
seem to me fair. I remember not only the end but the beginning of the
Cold War, and the forty years of fear Gorbachev more than anyone else
ended. He seems to me to have done more good in the world than any other
national leader of my lifetime." So the man who worked to save
communism won Abernethy's favor over champions of democracy like FDR,
Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan.
PETER'S PALESTINIAN PALS.
How well Peter Jennings knows Palestinian leaders might surprise you.
According to the December 30/January 6 issue of U.S. News &
World Report, Jennings dated Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi in
the early 1970s. He served as ABC's Beirut bureau chief when she was a
graduate student. Jennings told U.S. News: "Anyone who has
known Hanan as long as I have is not surprised to see her emerge as a
persuasive spokesperson for the Palestinians."
This might help explain ABC's Middle East
reporting. A new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found
that World News Tonight coverage in the eight months since the
end of the Gulf War had a distinctive, pro-Arab, anti-Israeli tilt.
While all three networks were highly critical of Israel, "opinions
expressed on ABC were seven to one negative compared with five to one
negative at the other networks....By contrast, nearly three out of five
ABC assessments (58%) supported the various Arab proposals, compared to
a minority (45%) at the other networks."
JOAN'S NOW BOW. This
year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Organization for Women
(NOW), the champion of radical feminists. To mark the occasion, on
January 7 Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden interviewed
NOW President Patricia Ireland and liberal columnist Ellen Goodman.
Since ABC failed to bring on a critic,
you'd think Lunden might have challenged her guests. Instead, she threw
softballs such as, "Where do you see the greatest
accomplishments?" At other times Lunden gave up questioning and
endorsed Ireland's assertions. "Interesting," she responded,
"you almost have to take the role of bad girl, so that you can make
the noise, so you can open up that door so the more moderate ones can go
through." When Ireland insisted that young women appreciate the
feminist movement, Lunden agreed: "They recognize, Patricia, that
you've stuck your neck out there and worked really hard over all these
Quick, name a hard-line communist country still remaining. Though many
might name North Korea, New York Times reporter Steven Weisman
probably wouldn't be one of them. In a Dec. 3 article, he reported:
"But here in Pyongyang, random conversations over a day and a half
revealed only the mildest signs of distress, and there are no
discernible signs of dissent. Indeed the uniformity of political
opinions makes it appear that Pyongyang is a city for the loyal elite,
who are well-treated." After decades of portraying the Soviet
people as contented, reporters still mistake silence for satisfaction
instead of the secret police doing its job.
Weisman also noted the pampering the
residents receive: "There seems to be plenty of diversions for the
people of Pyongyang. There are public baths where men can relax and get
a massage and an enormous array of sites for sports. At the city's big
ice rink, a group of high school speed-skating teams were competing as a
small crowd shouted. Two huge `Children's Palaces' -- closed this
winter, perhaps because of fuel shortages -- contain dozens of rooms for
after-school studies and such activities as singing, dancing, painting,
and music making." Makes you want to pack your bags.
TIME STANDS STILL.
Time magazine continues its crusade to solve perceived
environmental problems with big government, anti- business policies. In
the January 6 issue, staff writers labeled John Sununu's resignation the
year's "Best" environmental news. The article called Sununu
"notorious for his hostility to environmentalists and their
agenda," and claimed, "if it was good for the earth but bad
for business, Sununu's opposition generally persuaded the
President." Time hailed the "derailing" of the
Johnston-Wallop energy bill because it "downplayed conservation,
boosted nuclear power and called for oil exploration in Alaska's
pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
Time listed the White House
wetlands policy as one of the "Worst" environmental events,
calling it "all wet....during his presidential campaign, George
Bush promised `no net loss of wetlands.' But under pressure from
business, his administration proposed a new definition of a wetland that
would open at least [30 million acres] of off-limits land to
development." Time failed to explain why it's such a great
idea to violate the Bill of Rights, which prohibits the government's
taking of property without compensation.
NO SAINT PATRICK. During
the December 22 CNN Year in Review special, moderator Bernard
Shaw warned: "I hope that throughout our work in covering campaign
'92, we in the news media do not give Pat Buchanan a free ride."
Not to worry. In Time magazine December 23, Washington reporter
Margaret Carlson didn't exactly salute: "For Buchanan, Bush is
insufficiently Buchanan-like -- not nativist, rightist, homophobic,
authoritarian or anti-Israel enough. Like many ultraconservatives,
Buchanan is unfailingly kind and generous to people regardless of their
background. But he can be just as cruel to the groups to which they
In a December 11 NBC Today
interview with Buchanan, Bryant Gumbel asked: "What do you say to
the idea that any President must be President of all the people and your
written record of insensitivity toward blacks, Jews, gays, Latins,
Asians, et cetera makes Pat Buchanan wholly unqualified?" On Nightly
News the day before, reporter Lisa Myers charged "the
landscape is littered with his, at best, insensitive remarks about
blacks, gays and Jews." This came from the same reporter who, on
October 3, was a cheerleader for Democrat Bill Clinton: "A star
since first elected Governor at age 32, Clinton is less driven by
ideology than by what works...Name a problem, Clinton probably has a
TOO LEGIT TO OMIT.
There's no doubt where The Washington Post stands on taxes. On
December 12, their headline read "Economists Advise Against Rushing
to Cut Taxes." Staff writer Eric Pianin reported how
"prominent economists and financial experts" were against tax
cuts. In case readers missed the Pianin article, Steven Mufson rewrote
the story as a "news analysis" for the December 18 edition,
with the headline: "Economists Take Dim View of Using Tax Cuts to
Stimulate the Economy."
Who were some of the economists and
"financial experts" the Post quoted? The first story
highlighted John Kenneth Galbraith, who in 1984 observed that "the
Soviet economy has made great progress in recent years." Guess what
he advised: more federal spending "regardless of the impact on the
deficit." Most of the experts were liberals: Robert Reischauer,
director of the Congressional Budget Office, which neither reporter
identified as Democrat-controlled; Eugene Steuerle of the Urban
Institute; George Korpius, Vice President of the AFL-CIO; and Roy Ash
and Dean Phypers from the liberal Committee for Economic Development.
Neither reporter gave space to the many economists who support tax cuts.
JASON'S BACK. How bad is
the recession? On December 12, The New York Times pushed the
panic button with the headline: "A Growing Choice: Housing or
Food." The story, by Times reporter Jason DeParle, focused
solely on a study by two liberal groups, the Center for Budget &
Policy Priorities and the Low Income Housing Information Service,
without one word from any conservative or critical source.
DeParle promoted the study's results:
"The report said 47 percent of the nation's poor renters pay more
than 70 percent of their income for shelter." But he failed to
point out that the liberal groups get this number only by excluding the
value of food stamps and other non-cash government subsidies. DeParle's
own story focused on chef's assistant Harold Coleman: "He rings
home $596 a month. He pays about $480 in rent and utilities for an
apartment." But later in the story, DeParle pointed out: "Mr.
Coleman, as earnest as he is poor, feeds the family on $323 a month in
food stamps." Reporters like DeParle aren't satisfied with
portraying social problems honestly. Instead, they distort the truth by
excluding everything the government's already doing for the poor.
NO NOBEL FOR BROKAW. Tom
Brokaw's not much of an economist. Take this little story from the
December 11 NBC Nightly News: "A congressional study
tonight, by the way, says that richest Americans will pay lower taxes
next year than in 1980, an average of $16,000 less. Meanwhile, taxes on
the middle class in this country? Well, they're up and their income in
the middle class has fallen."
Is there any part of this story that
isn't wrong? Nope. First, Brokaw (and his congressional sources) assume
that rich people would dutifully report the same amount of income
whether the rate stands at the current 28 percent or at the pre-Reagan
70 percent level. Higher tax rates cause the rich to evade taxes with
shelters. In fact, the Census Bureau reported that the share of taxes
paid by those making more than $50,000 a year (in constant 1989 dollars)
rose from 21.6 percent in 1981 to 29.0 percent in 1989. As for middle
class incomes declining, may we repeat: average family income went up
across the board. The middle class gained.
ALL TO WALES. Tom Brokaw
opened the January 6 NBC Nightly News, "Here at home, the
three R's have been jolted by a fourth, recession. Fewer teachers, fewer
custodians, larger classrooms." So, out of 15,376 school districts
nationwide, where did NBC find these conditions? In Wales, Mass. (pop.
1,500). That's the same one-school town which Giselle Fernandez focused
on for the CBS Evening News four days before. She found
"kids from different grade levels... crammed together on one
classroom." For anchor Connie Chung, Wales showed how "Hard
times are fueling a growing taxpayer revolt around the country.
People...are refusing to pay more, even at the expense of their own
But Wales is anything but typical. As The
Boston Globe noted on January 5, voters turned down a tax hike in
part because "property taxes in Wales rose about a third last
year." Then again, if Wales were typical, network crews wouldn't
have driven for hours to find the rural town.
PBS Shows Match
Moralizing Moyers. PBS
has announced its schedule of election season specials and it's clear
that balance is of little interest to the tax funded network. For an
hour each week from April through November, PBS will distributer Listening
to America with Bill Moyers. NBC's liberal commentator John
Chancellor will also host a two-hour look at health care.
In addition, PBS is providing a platform
for three specials hosted by Democratic operative and PBS poobah Bill
Moyers. The first, Minimum Wages, aired on January 8. Moyers
spent the hour arguing that businesses are "creating a work force
which can barely afford to buy the goods and services it produces....For
more than a decade, changes in the global and domestic economies have
lowered real wages, creating what some have called `a silent
depression.'" Moyers continued: "Americans are dividing into
two groups, one that works for a living and makes it and one that works
for a living and can't make it. It's a division that threatens to leave
hard-working people permanently poor."
Since official government statistics show
average wages increased during the 1980s, Moyers resorted to anecdotes
to support his liberal thesis. He profiled four Milwaukee citizens
unable to replace their lost factory jobs with equally high-paying ones.
After an hour he concluded: "Today,
making it in America means more family members working longer hours for
less pay and fewer benefits. If the trend continues, it will change
radically America's work force and America's future. Economic progress
will come to fewer and fewer of us, the divisions among us will grow and
millions will find that poverty and a paycheck go hand in hand."
Two more Moyers specials are on the way:
a look at racial prejudice on February 5 and an examination of the
"human services system" on March 25. Democratic candidates
don't need campaign commercials. They have PBS.
Flocking for the
The same networks that snubbed Census
Bureau numbers on the homeless jumped all over the U.S. Conference of
Mayors' December 16 report. On NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw
intoned: "America's homeless situation is going from bad to worse.
Hard times are pushing more people and more families out into the
streets." On the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather moaned:
"There's no joy in reporting it, but the ranks of homeless and
hungry are up sharply and increasing."
CBS reporter Mark Phillips concluded:
"The mayors got some tragic help to their appeal to official
Washington. The other morning, the dead body of a homeless man was
discovered less than a block from the White House. And the theme for the
homeless children's Christmas show? They're acting out a series of
NBC aired four different stories on Today
the next morning. Not one included any skeptics of the report to
question its statistical soundness. More importantly, not one of the
stories stated the obvious: mayors looking for more federal aid have an
interest in high estimates of homelessness.
The mayors also decried a
"backlash" against the homeless. On Today, reporter
Keith Morrison suggested the homeless in cities like Santa Monica faced
"public apathy and even anger. Are they supposed to
disappear?" But the night before, Robert Hager reported that Santa
Monica's "liberal policy toward the homeless has caused it to be
overrun." In the December 23 U.S. News & World Report, David
Whitman challenged the mayors' report and detailed how liberal mayors
are reconsidering right-to-shelter laws over their potential to create
increased local homelessness.
CBS Errs on Senate
Do women's groups really want women in
government? Ask past female GOP candidates. On the November 30 CBS
Evening News, Bob Schieffer reported: "The outrage that many
women felt in the wake of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation
hearings is apparently causing more and more women to run for public
office. And a record number of women are contemplating Senate
Wrong. To date, there are eight women
slated to run in primaries for U.S. Senate seats nationwide, down from
nine in the 1990 general election. Schieffer highlighted only liberal
candidates Geraldine Ferraro, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. But do
women's groups back all women candidates or just ones who support their
Since 1980, 22 women have mounted serious
runs for U.S. Senate seats. If each had won, there would be 14
Republican women and 8 Democratic women in a Republican-controlled
Senate. In 1990 nine women, seven Republicans and two Democrats, ran for
the Senate. The National Organization for Women endorsed only the two
Democratic candidates; the Women's Campaign Fund, two Democrats and one
pro-choice Republican; and the National Women's Political Caucus, two
Democrats and two liberal Republicans.
Feminist groups used the Thomas hearings
to trumpet the need for more women in the Senate, but NOW and the
National Women's Political Caucus backed Judiciary Committee members
Paul Simon and Herb Kohl, not their Republican female opponents, Lynn
Martin and Susan Engeleiter.
ABC's LIBERAL OF
Most Friday evenings ABC's World News
Tonight awards "Person of the Week" honors to the
individual who, in the network's eyes, has "made a difference"
in the world that week. Often ABC chooses an entertainer, sports figure,
or youngster who has caught the public's attention. But when the award
goes to a politician or a political activist, the producers at ABC
reveal their liberal stripes.
analysts reviewed the Person of the Week segments from January 1988
through December 1991. In those four years, out of 181 segments, sixteen
American political officials were chosen. Eleven of those could be
classified liberal or Democratic, while only five could be labeled as
conservative or Republican. When ABC selected political activists, the
disparity was even more pronounced. During the same four-year period, 16
liberal political activists were selected Person of the Week. Not a
single conservative activist made the cut.
Among the liberal and Democratic
officials: Jimmy Carter, Senator Jay Rockefeller, former Senator William
Proxmire, Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown, former U.S. Rep. Morris
Udall, former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Senator Sam Nunn, California
Education Superintendent Bill Honig, Washington D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt
Kelly, Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder and former Colorado Governor Roy
Romer. The conservative and Republican office holders chosen were
Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin
Powell, President Bush (twice) and former Education Secretary William
ABC took an unusual approach with
Bennett, airing three anti-Bennett soundbites and only one pro-Bennett
soundbite. This was a sharp contrast to their normal method of lavishing
the Person of the Week with only flattering talking heads. For example,
the segment on Senator Rockefeller had no opposing talking heads and
even implied that conservatives liked him.
In celebrating left-wing activists, ABC
didn't even mention the radical agendas of some of its honorees. On
October 18, 191, right after the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings,
ABC chose the feminist law professor Catherine McKinnon. Anchor Peter
Jennings insisted she "deserves her reputation as the country's
most prominent legal theorist on behalf of women, whose dedication to
laws, which serve men and women equally, has made it better, though not
yet perfect for women in the work place." But Jennings failed to
inform viewers that McKinnon once said, "compare victims' reports
of rape with women's reports of sex. They look a lot alike....Feminism
stresses the indistinguishability of prostitution, marriage, and sexual
ABC went green on April 20, 1990,
choosing Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes. Jennings fawned: "[Hayes
is] the true believer whose reverence for life has always been a
calling, never a fashion, who millions of Americans owe a vote of
thanks." Again, Jennings didn't mention Hayes' radical agenda. In
Hayes' own words about Earth Day 1970: "I suspect that the
politicians who are jumping on the environmental band wagon don't have
the slightest idea what they're getting into. They are talking about
emission control devices on automobiles, while we are talking about bans
On July 15, 1988, the eve of the
Democratic National Convention, ABC picked 1960s radical Tom Hayden, who
was a DNC delegate. Jennings explained, "we choose him to show how
far he and much of his generation have traveled, since they stood
outside the convention twenty years ago, shaking their fists at
society...[he is] not afraid to admit mistakes, but confident that his
generation made a difference."
But just how far has Hayden traveled?
Hayden wrote a column for the December 30 Los Angeles Times in
which he defended Oliver Stone's new movie JFK. Hayden wrote,
"Now comes Oliver Stone as an incarnation of the 1960s who cannot
be dismissed. Like an Id from our past, he terrorizes the official
subconscious with the fear that a new generation will be infected with a
radical virus that was supposed to have been eradicated....[American
democracy] was a system threatened by invisible elites, illegal
conspiracies and faceless killers, some of them officially
connected." Are these the words of a changed man?
Children's Defense Fund President Marian
Wright Edelman got the nod on March 29, 1991 because she's "always
on Congress' back for coming up with too little money...from her point
of view, as you hear, it is a matter of the whole country's future. The
children are fortunate to have such an advocate." But Jennings
didn't tell viewers Edelman's opinions on defense. "We must curb
the fanatical military weasel and keep it in balance with competing
national needs," she wrote in her 1987 book, Families in Peril.
Jennings also endorsed the views of
feminist leader Betty Friedan, announcing: "And so we choose Betty
Friedan, because she had the ability and the sensitivity to articulate
the needs of women, which means she did us all a favor." Jennings
honored education activist Jonathan Kozol on September 6, 1991: "He
has once again done a masterful job of making us think more clearly
about some of the inequities in American education." About AIDS
activist and journalist Randy Shilts, Jennings opined: "Shilts has
opened some eyes in America, warning a lot of us about what was coming,
helping to make people rethink some of their basic assumptions."
Labor activist Cesar Chavez also caught
Jennings' fancy: "The effects of his struggle have been widely
felt, from the bargaining table to the kitchen table...Today the issue
is pesticides...He says he's fasting as an act of penance for those who,
as he put it, collaborate with an industry that cares little about its
workers." And when the notorious Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
forced the FBI to suspend its investigation of potential terrorist
threats from the leftist Committee in Solidarity with the People of El
Salvador, Jennings said of CCR President Margaret Ratner, "there's
no doubt in our mind that what she and her colleagues accomplished is
good for all Americans."
The people at ABC do fine when they stick
to dancers, actors and football coaches for their Person of the Week
segments. But by repeatedly picking liberal (often radical) political
activists and Democratic politicians, while for the most part ignoring
conservatives, they betray their political bias.
Post Corrects Itself
Three years after maligning Vice
President Dan Quayle with undocumented falsehoods about his
qualifications for office, The Washington Post has boldly gone
where no media outlet has gone before: it's correcting the record.
In the third installment of a seven-part
January series by Post heavyweights David Broder and Bob
Woodward, the duo conceded: "Some serious charges made against
Quayle -- including allegations of academic failure or dishonesty and
manipulation of National Guard rules -- as well as descriptions of vast
wealth appear to be false."
But the Post wasn't bold enough
to admit that some of those false charges were its own. On January 12, The
Washington Times took pleasure in pillorying its rival.
The Times found embarrassing Post
falsehoods, such an August 17, 1988 news story by Broder and Helen Dewar:
"Quayle is vastly wealthier than Bush, and stands to inherit a
large share of a fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
Now, Broder has reported: "Contrary to published assertions and
speculation, Quayle does not stand to inherit part of the estate of his
grandfather." But he didn't tell readers it was his error.
Meanwhile, other reporters responded to
the Quayle series not by reporting the Post's corrections, but
by joking about the Post going soft. The networks, which worked
so hard to damage Quayle in 1988, have been mostly silent. ABC, which
earned a Janet Cooke Award for its false reporting about Quayle's
National Guard record, is especially guilty of failing to make
retractions, even though they did interview Woodward on Good Morning
America on January 13.
Just last month I called economics
columnist Warren Brookes to discuss a Philadelphia Inquirer
series that had earned MediaWatch's Janet Cooke Award.
As always, Brooks offered several powerful statistics to counter the
liberal distortion of economic performance during the 1980s. So it came
as a great shock to learn he had passed away from pneumonia at his
Lovettsville, Virginia home just three days after Christmas.
Brookes began writing columns for the
then Boston Herald American in the mid-1970s, becoming
nationally syndicated just after President Reagan took office. He always
gathered together statistics to disprove conventional wisdom spouted by
liberal politicians and the media, making his columns an invaluable
resource. In the late 1980s Brookes turned his attention to radical
environmentalism, quoting scientific studies to debunk dire claims about
acid rain and global warming forwarded by regulators and environmental
We've collected a stack of Brookes
columns which are packed with persuasive numbers and arguments still
relevant for future MediaWatch articles. That
no more will be written will make our job much harder. That we and so
many other became so reliant upon Brookes is a tribute to the quality of
his work. -- Brent Baker, Editor
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