PBS Omnipresence Scowls At Charges of Bias
BILL "I HAVE NO AGENDA"
Poor Bill Moyers. He spends his life
serving as the moral umpire of the national conscience, dishing out
criticism of our leaders' failures. But he can't take it. Witness Moyers'
appearance at the annual PBS press tour on January 6 in California. In
one press conference, Moyers protested "I have no agenda,"
"I tell you that I have no agenda," " I don't think I
have an agenda," " I can't say that I have a political
agenda," and finally, "I have no agenda."
After publicly declaring his supposed
nonpartisanship, Moyers resentfully scowled at suggestions of liberal
bias: "Anybody who looks at the bulk of my work over the last 20
years knows that it's a fallacious attack to find in it a left-wing
agenda... they've been able to offer no substantive analysis of my work
that would confirm their desire to label me, as I think he [conservative
David Horowitz] said yesterday, 'a left-wing Democrat.'"
This comes from the man who spoke
affectionately to a gathering of Democrats last March: "Down there
in Texas, I was raised on mother's milk and Roosevelt speeches, and over
the years, I still cherish the party's defining stands." Moyers
even claimed: "Many of you have seen programs I've done which have
been quite critical of Democrats." Yes, from the left. Take this
criticism from last year's speech: "By the 1980s, when the
Democrats in Congress colluded with Ronald Reagan and the Republicans to
revise the tax code on behalf of the rich, it appeared the party had
lost its soul."
Moyers offered reporters a new definition
of liberalism: "Liberalism is not another program. What liberalism
is, is a belief that a democracy like ours has to be tolerant. Has to
open itself to ideas, that the answer to a bad idea is a better idea.
Civility. I mean, I'd like to think that's what liberalism is. I define
myself in that sense as a liberal." But the oh-so-tolerant
Moyers also groused: "I find it very hard to have intelligent
conversations with people on the right wing because they want to hit
first and ask questions later. And I just simply don't let that
criticism set my agenda." Earlier, Moyers had declared: "I
have very strong opinions. Strong opinions mean strong enemies, and I
have strong enemies, people who dislike my opinions, who don't believe
they should be on public broadcasting." This from the man with no
Moyers topped all this off by announcing
he would base two or three new programs this spring on the nine-part Philadelphia
Inquirer series on how the middle class lost ground in the 1980s.
The series won our December Janet Cooke Award for its liberal
manipulation of statistics. Said Moyers: "I urge you all to read
the 11-part [sic] Philadelphia Inquirer series."
ABC's Bush Campaign.
Before leaving the Department of Housing and Urban Development in
mid-1990, Sherrie Rollins held the title of Assistant
Secretary for Public Affairs under Jack Kemp. Now, after a year and a
half as Director of News Information for ABC News, she's re-joined the
Bush Administration as Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and
Intergovernmental Affairs. In her new post, Rollins will be working with
another ABC veteran, Dorrance Smith, the long-time This Week with
David Brinkley Executive Producer who toils in the White House
Long Island's Times Mirror-owned Newsday and its companion New
York Newsday have named Elaine Kamarck, an
occasional contributor for four years, "special
correspondent." Kamarck's a veteran Democratic operative. In 1988
she was Deputy Campaign Manager for Bruce Babbitt. In 1984 she handled
delegate selection for Walter Mondale and in 1980 she directed special
projects for Jimmy Carter. A Newsday press release says Kamarck
"will spend the next year reporting and commenting on the
presidential campaign." Kamarck remains a Senior Fellow at the
Progressive Policy Institute which also employs former U.S. News
& World Report Associate Editor Robert Shapiro, now an economic
policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton.
Right Moves. Fox News
Service has named Cissy Baker its Vice President and
Managing Editor. In 1982 Baker made an unsuccessful run for Congress as
a Republican. Baker spent most of the 1980s as a CNN Washington reporter
and then Managing Editor at the network's Atlanta headquarters....Andy
Plattner, an Associate Editor of U.S. News & World
Report from 1985 to 1990 and Director of Communications for the
Office of Educational Research at the Department of Education ever
since, has jumped back to the private sector. He now handles press for
the National Center on Education and the Economy wich evaluates student
skills and the Public Education Fund Network, a group dedicated to
getting business support for schools.
Moving to Moscow. After
a decade of reporting for ABC News, former Democratic Senate aide Rick
Inderfurth is leaving the network. A Moscow correspondent from
early 1989 through mid-1991, Inderfurth has decided to move back to
Moscow to "get involved in rebuilding the former Soviet
Union." Inderfurth told The Washington Post he's looking
at several options and "there's nothing firm yet."
During the first two years of the Carter
Administration Inderfurth served as Special Assistant to the National
Security Council Director, becoming Deputy Staff Director for political
and security affairs for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1979.
When the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1981, ABC News hired
him to cover the Pentagon. As national security affairs reporter from
1984-89, Inderfurth became a familiar face on World News Tonight
In the past few months, network news
watchers have seen increasingly manipulative stories on welfare spending
cuts. Often, reporters stress an emotional portrait of the abandoned
poor and skip over the real statistics. Last month, MediaWatch
noted how CBS reporter Bob Faw dishonestly presented a Connecticut
welfare mother with four kids as the victims of approaching cuts. But
the Connecticut legislature considered nothing to reduce benefits to
On January 12, CBS became a repeat
offender. Sunday Morning aired a heart-tugging profile of
welfare cuts in Michigan. The story ignored many details that would have
contradicted its portrait of conservatives kicking helpless poor people.
For that report, CBS earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Charles Kuralt began with an indictment
of Michigan's lack of compassion: "You know the old saying about
giving a hungry man a handout -- he'll just be hungry again after he's
eaten. But if you teach him to fish, the saying goes, why, then he'll
always be able to feed himself. A lot of states are thinking along these
lines, trying to reduce their budgets by cutting dependence on welfare,
telling a lot of people, in effect, to go fishing. Trouble is, as David
Culhane reports in our cover story, in Michigan as elsewhere, the
fishing isn't very good right now."
Culhane began: "They are praying for
people here in Flint, Michigan, whose general assistance welfare
benefits have been cut off. They are praying for people looking for jobs
in the face of an unemployment rate of almost 20 percent in the city,
almost 10 percent in the state, a state reeling from layoffs in the
automobile industry...Even so, beginning in October, Michigan stopped
welfare payments to 80,000 single adults across the state. And critics
say the overall social services budget has been cut by 20 percent."
Wrong. Chuck Peller, a
research analyst in Michigan's Department of Social Services, told MediaWatch:
"In real dollars, the budget increased. It's the biggest budget
ever." The total budget, including state and federal dollars, added
up to $5.8 billion, up from $5.1 million in fiscal 1990. State spending
slowed, but an increase in federal aid has meant the budget has
continued to grow.
When asked by MediaWatch
about his figures, the producer of the segment, Jim Houtrides, couldn't
say exactly where they came from: "We got this from several people,
including some people on the welfare services or whatever that thing is
called, committee in Lansing. And we said 'critics say' because you can
look at those figures and add them up any which way."
Later, Culhane moralized: "Many of
the people who are taken off general assistance in Michigan are in fact
not able to work because of medical or psychological reasons. Critics
ask: Is it morally wrong to withdraw their aid? And is it morally wrong
to withdraw aid from people eager to work when there are no jobs, people
like George Mongene. He's been sleeping outside in Flint for twelve
failed to tell viewers that Republican Governor John Engler set up a $3
million contract with the state's Salvation Army, which guaranteed that
no state resident should sleep on the streets. The Salvation Army
answers an 800 number, and if no shelter is available, they put the
homeless in motels.
Nowhere in the report did Kuralt or
Culhane cite anything that would make Governor Engler's case. Take the
elimination of the general assistance program for single adults. CBS
failed to note that the average general assistance benefit ($145 a
month) was well below the average welfare program. CBS left out the
damning fact that in the months preceding the cuts, an unprecedented
25,000 people voluntarily left the general assistance rolls. CBS also
skipped the fact that 6,700 general assistance recipients with medical
or psychological problems have been added to the disability fund.
When asked about these statistics,
Houtrides told MediaWatch he hadn't known any
of them. Then, he denied it was his job to provide the other side:
"The Governor could have made his own case if he thought it was
significant that 25,000 had dropped off the rolls."
CBS not only aired just five soundbites
of their 25-minute interview with Engler, they insured that Engler's
point of view would be outnumbered by more than three to one. Seventeen
soundbites expressed gloom or outrage over Engler's proposals. For
example, Culhane reported: "State Representative David Hollister
says the Engler administration...should also be giving unemployed adults
aid and job training so that they're better able to find work."
Misleading. Engler isn't
against giving training to adults. Culhane did not report that Governor
Engler proposed (but the legislature rejected) a basic education
initiative to pay a $100 a month stipend for those seeking training.
When asked about this, Houtrides again responded: "I don't know the
specifics of that."
Culhane aired a clip of social worker
Peppy Rosenthal: "I'm a survivor of the Holocaust, and you know, in
my wildest dream, I never dreamt I would come to this country and have
to protect children from going hungry and homeless."
Misleading. This is not
about children (or the Holocaust). Families with children were excluded
from cuts, as was the state's Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program.
In 1990, before Engler won the gubernatorial race, Democratic Gov. Jim
Blanchard signed a 9.2 percent cut in all state cabinet departments,
including a 17 percent reduction in the ADC program. Under Engler,
funding has been slowly restored, eight percent in July 1991, another
seven percent in November. On January 1, the majority of ADC cases got
another grant increase under a new system. The typical grant to a family
of three: $459 a month. But Houtrides didn't know anything about these
funding hikes, either: "I don't know if that's, in fact, true,
perhaps it's true, perhaps not. I don't think it's true."
Houtrides also objected to the charge
that outnumbering Engler 17 to 5 was unfair: "It is probably a
mistake to add up poor people and Holliste and Peppy Rosenthal as one
side and Engler as the other side. I think the Governor of the state of
Michigan carries with him great weight because he's the Governor."
He also admitted that CBS edited out
Engler comparing his record on welfare to Arkansas Governor Bill
Clinton: "He kept comparing Michigan's positive welfare programs,
constantly with, and only with, Arkansas." But while CBS made
Michigan look like the nation's number one welfare welsher, the state
currently ranks eighth in welfare spending per capita.
In all of its reporting from Michigan,
CBS (like other media outlets) avoids asking questions from the
taxpayer's point of view. Reporters ask: Is it morally wrong to withdraw
welfare? They don't ask: Is it morally wrong to take money from those
who have earned it? Reporters focus on the burdens of the nonworking
poor, but not the tax burdens of the working poor and middle class. The
tax burden in Michigan has been rising steadily, driving business out of
the state, but the government is seen as the protector of the
unemployed, not the destroyer of jobs. But CBS not only wallowed in
liberal assumptions: it utterly failed to check the most basic
information that might have challenged the liberal case.
UNFAIR TO ANITA.
In a Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) poll of 100
journalists, 74 percent thought that the "press's handling of the
leak that broke the Anita Hill story was fair and reliable," but
just 31 percent thought that coverage of the William Kennedy Smith rape
allegations "has been fair and without bias." Clearly the poll
in the January/February issue proved reporters don't view things the
same way as the public. Overall, the CJR poll found that 77
percent of reporters think news outlets "deal fairly with all
sides." Compare that to a 1989 Times Mirror survey. It found that
68 percent of the public believes the media "tend to favor one
SCARY CLARENCE. Now that
Clarence Thomas has written four opinions for the Supreme Court, legal
reporters are warning of his conservatism, and worse. On January 18, Los
Angeles Times reporter David Savage suggested Thomas "may be
showing the first signs of being a conservative hard-liner ready to
sharply restrict the protections of the Constitution."
In USA Today ten days later,
reporter Tony Mauro issued a one- sided salvo on Thomas' decision in an
Alabama case in which the court ruled against a black county
commissioner. Mauro quoted a lawyer for the NAACP, the plaintiff's
lawyer, and liberal black judge A. Leon Higginbotham, who lectured
Thomas for not appreciating what the civil rights movement accomplished
for him. Mauro questioned his blackness further: "But during his
confirmation hearings, Thomas sought to convince the Senate he would not
forget his roots. As soon as he was sworn in, though, doubts re-emerged:
Thomas hired four white males as law clerks."
Legal expert Terry Eastland told MediaWatch
these reporters expect Thomas to rule in favor of blacks regardless of
the wording of the laws, concluding: "By this standard, Antonin
Scalia would always have to rule favorably for Italian plaintiffs, and
Sandra Day O'Connor would always have to rule in favor of women."
SO CONSERVATIVE THEY SING.
In 1978 Stephen Hess surveyed White House reporters and found 42 percent
considered themselves liberal, 39 percent said they were
middle-of-the-road and only 19 percent said they were conservative.
Thirteen years later, the Brookings Institute Senior Fellow did another
survey of the White House press corps. This time 42.4 percent said they
were liberal, 24.2 percent said middle-of-the road and 33.3 percent
called themselves conservative.
Hess concluded: "Thus the White
House press corps might best be characterized as liberal and
considerably more conservative than it used to be." But what is
conservative by Washington media standards? Hess cited ABC White House
Correspondent Brit Hume's observation that he has seen fellow reporters
sing the national anthem. "That is new," Hume remarked.
TASTE OF MILWAUKEE. WISN
radio talk show host Mark Belling has provided MediaWatch
with telling proof of how Bill Moyers operates: If the evidence
contradicts his liberal thesis, then he simply ignores it. Last fall,
two producers from Moyers' production company filmed an hour of
Belling's afternoon show during which callers discussed their attitudes
toward their work and jobs. The producers assured Belling they "had
no idea of the tone of their piece since they hadn't begun to dig into
It turned out the producers were working
on Minimum Wages, a January 8 PBS special analyzed in last
month's MediaWatch. Belling remembered his
show: "Caller after caller eloquently and poignantly talked of
their experiences. Virtually all were positive. Many were former factory
workers who lost jobs in the '80s but recovered and are now doing much
better than they were before." Naturally, he continued, "my
show ended up on the editing room floor." Instead, Moyers painted a
portrait of Milwaukee's middle class as decimated during the 1980s as
workers were unable to replace high-paying factory jobs with anything
but minimum wage positions.
PC PANDERING. The
standard leftist line is that Political Correctness (PC) doesn't really
exist. That's also the theme of Washington Post reporter
Michael Abramowitz's January 3 one-sided press release on the annual
convention of the very PC Modern Language Association (MLA).
Abramowitz repeated the MLA's assertions:
"One group of prominent scholars...held an organizational meeting
here to begin correcting what its leaders term misinformation propagated
by right-wing scholars, think-tanks and commentators." And: "A
common complaint heard at the convention was that the media have
endlessly recycled what one scholar termed 'shamelessly over-simplified
scare stories' to paint a dire, inaccurate picture of a radicalized
Abramowitz didn't ask what kind of
scholarship MLA considers worthy. The 1989 convention produced papers
titled "Literary and Critical Theory from Lesbian
Perspectives" and "The Muse of Masturbation." One wonders
what this year produced.
HEALTH HYPE. If health
care is the issue, then more government is NBC's answer. As part of Today's
week-long "State of America" series, Robert Hager reported on
January 23: "This is a nation aware it has a problem providing
health care but not quite sure how to do it. But it has to do something.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen Health Research Group warns of
disaster." As a loyal employee of Ralph Nader, Dr. Wolfe predicted:
"Our health care system is going to be bankrupt by 1997, when the
Commerce Department estimates we'll be spending a trillion, almost a
trillion and a half dollars."
Hager continued: "Many have
suggested we look to Canada, which has a national system of care. No
Blue Cross, no private insurance. There is one insurer, the Canadian
government. Canada spends forty percent less per person for health care
than we do. The lines are not long and Canadians visit their doctors
more than we do."
But in a January 26 Washington Times
article titled "Canadian System Near Financial Abyss,"
reporter Joyce Price found, "As many members of Congress are
pointing to Canada's health plan as a model for the United States,
Toronto health management consultant Fred Holmes says the system is on
the verge of financial collapse." Holmes told Price: "Medicare
in Canada is poised to disintegrate due to the enormous costs...Even if
it were fiscally sound...he doubts most Americans would be willing to
accept the average six-month waits for coronary bypass surgery or hernia
BETTER IN EL SALVADOR? On
Today January 22, co-host Bryant Gumbel and reporter George
Lewis teamed up to discredit the conservative economic policies of the
1980s. "In the Reagan years economic erosion set in, so much so
that the middle class now finds itself in ever deepening trouble,"
Gumbel began. Lewis then aired sound-bites of Democratic candidates Bill
Clinton, Robert Kerrey and Tom Harkin, liberal economist Philip Mattera
and "conservative columnist" Kevin Phillips. President Bush
got one sentence.
Lewis talked with a woman who immigrated
from El Salvador, but "when the defense plant where Elena had been
working laid her off, she had to take a lower paying job," a
problem Lewis called "typical." Lewis noted that she now wants
to return to El Salvador, prompting him to conclude with this gem:
"A definite measure of middle class discontent -- when people in
America begin talking about El Salvador as the land of
MARILYN VS. HILLARY. Time
has extended its liberal double standard to political wives. In the
January 20 issue, Associate Editor Priscilla Painton reported that as
First Lady, Marilyn Quayle "would make Americans long for Nancy
Reagan -- taffetas, tyrannies and all." Painton included only one
quote from a mostly positive Washington Post series on the Vice
President and his wife. The quote came from an unnamed "Quayle
associate," who said, "Nancy would be considered a woman of
the people" compared to Mrs. Quayle. Ignoring her work for breast
cancer research and disaster relief, Painton called Quayle a
"controlling" woman, a "grudge-bearing campaigner"
and a "watchdog of a wife with an ambition as long as her enemies
But the next week, Time wrote a
love letter to Hilary Clinton, whom writer Margaret Carlson painted as
an "amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa and Oliver Wendell
Holmes," a woman who "discusses educational reform....then
hops into her fuel- efficient car with her perfectly behaved daughter
for a day of good works." Clinton won praise for wanting a
"big city law practice," chairing the left-wing Children's
Defense Fund and her past work on the McGovern campaign. Carlson made
excuses for Hillary Clinton's often barbed remarks: "Running an
official mansion that attracts 20,000 visitors a year can be wearing....
she occasionally tires of the fishbowl."
CENSORSHIP OKAY? As long
as it's done by the Iraqi government, according to CNN's Bernard Shaw.
In a look back at Desert Storm on January 16, Shaw sniped, "some
say Desert Storm coverage was distorted by a government intent on
keeping the real story away from the public." But he was talking
about the U.S. government, not the Iraqi dictatorship. He made no
mention of the blatant censorship and misinformation peddled by the
Iraqi government or how often these untruths ended up on CNN.
Instead, he asked Newsday's
Patrick Sloyan, "Who was behind this intense campaign by the
government to keep the media in check?" Sloyan charged it was
"a Bush decision implemented by Cheney." Shaw asked Sloyan,
"Did the media sufficiently tell people they weren't getting the
whole story?" and questioned at the public's intelligence, asking,
"Does the public adequately know the role of news media in a
democracy?" As the discussion came to an end, Shaw claimed
"the people's right to know suffers when government imposes that
kind of censorship" and then huffed, "I wonder if people
CASTRO THE MAESTRO. Two
years after the fall of the Berlin Wall some reporters are still
insisting "the people" want communism. On the January 21 MacNeil-Lehrer
NewsHour, Canadian Broadcasting's David Halton reported: "In
the '80s, Cubans had gotten used to one of the best living standards in
the Third World. Now suddenly they seemed to be plunged back into the
kind of poverty they thought they left behind."
But this "plunge" under Castro
did not occur suddenly. According to the Latin American Statistical
Abstract, decline in living standards has been consistent during
Castro's rule. For example, infant mortality in Cuba in 1969 had risen
to 46 per thousand from a pre-Castro figure of 32 per thousand.
Although Halton interviewed both
dissidents and Castro supporters, he seemed to have his mind made up:
"But what is remarkable with the Quimares family like many other
Cubans we talked to, is that even in the face of their hardships,
they're still supporting Fidel Castro. Castro, they say, is close to his
people, unlike the old guard of communist leaders who were kicked out in
Eastern Europe. Castro's socialism, they claim, won't collapse because
it is rooted in national pride and social justice." Jose Cardenas
of the Cuban American National Foundation responded: "One has to
only look at Costa Rica to determine that dictatorship is not
'necessary' to improve the social conditions of a country."
NPR BEWITCHED. Guess
what you're missing if you don't listen to taxpayer-funded National
Public Radio? Margot Adler, self- proclaimed witch, NPR reporter and
author of Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshipers
and Other Pagans in America Today. In a profile of Adler, New
York Times reporter Georgia Dullea wrote, "of the many
neo-pagan groups, Ms. Adler said she feels most sympathetic to the
newest: the goddess spirituality movement, which reveres
Adler also said: "What matters is
that goddess spirituality is meeting the needs of women and some men.
People are using the goddess as a metaphor for feelings of creativity,
strength and empowerment." But apparently she's not empowered
enough to feel comfortable going public. U.S. News & World
Report writer John Leo noted in the January 27 issue that Adler
refuses to be photographed with a broom.
Runs Cooke Award
The Charlotte Observer has gone
where no news outlet has gone before: it's published a MediaWatch
Janet Cooke Award that dissected a story the paper had carried. The
December award went to The Philadelphia Inquirer for a
nine-part series that supposedly proved the poor and middle class were
big losers in the 1980s. Instead, as MediaWatch
documented, the series was built on a sea of specious statistics. The Observer
ran a condensed version of the series, prompting Thomas Ashcraft, U.S.
Attorney for the Western Distict of North Carolina, to send the Cooke
Award article to Observer Editor Rich Oppel.
In a letter to Ashcraft, Oppel wrote that
"the series was heavily debated in the newsroom before it was
published. At least one editor argued against publishing it. I decided
it should run." Still, Oppel opted to run the Cooke Award critique
in the Sunday "Viewpoints" section on January 19. Oppel's
willingness to provide a forum for pointed criticism deserves
congratulations. Hopefully, in the future some of Oppel's colleagues
will show the same openness toward balancing one-sided news stories.
There They Go Again
The Philadelphia Inquirer hasn't
learned anything. Far from being embarrassed by its shameless
manipulation of emotions through misleading generalities in last fall's
"America: What Went Wrong" series, the Inquirer did
it again. On February 2 the same two reporters, Donald Barlett and James
Steele, wrote a front page story on the unfairness of a capital gains
Again, the duo made no attempt at
balance. They charged that a cut "would continue the legislative
practices of the last two decades that have tilted the economic rules in
favor of the few at the expense of the many" and would
"encourage another round of corporate takeovers, such as the ones
in the 1980s that led to the closing of plants and the elimination of
Building on the class envy theme, the
reporters argued that "if you were one of the 2.6 million
individuals and families living in New Jersey who earned less than
$50,000 a year, it would have taken every dollar that all of you paid in
federal taxes to offset the tax cut planned for people with incomes of
more than $1 million." Really? In a 1990 study cited by the late
Warren Brookes, economist Allen Sinai, no friend of Reaganomics,
predicted a rate drop from 28 to 15 percent would create "a
substantial tax revenue increase of $30 billion to $40 billion over five
The duo also claimed that "an Inquirer
analysis of the 70-year history of the capital gains preference shows no
evidence linking the tax to the creation of jobs." Well, Sinai
pointed out that "from 1982 to 1986 following the reduction of the
capital gains rate to 20 percent in 1981...new business formations rose
5.7 percent." After the '86 hike to 28 percent, they fell by 3
Nina Destroys Evidence
With no help from the media, the Anita
Hill myth continues to fall apart. In the March Essence magazine,
Hill denied that she was ever a conservative.
She explained: "There is this sense
that I was an absolute staunch conservative, that I was opposed to
affirmative action, that I supported Robert Bork. A lot of that has been
misunderstood. First of all, I have never been against affirmative
action, and while I was extremely uncomfortable with the way the
hearings were conducted, I did not support Robert Bork on the issues. My
position is that the man should not be judged on his personality. We
decided we didn't like him as a person, that he was strident, arrogant,
and therefore he was not a good person for the Supreme Court position.
My position was that he should stand or fall on the issues." Hill
also told Essence that at the EEOC, she "was often
antagonistic to the position of the Reagan Administration."
Meanwhile, NPR reporter Nina Totenberg
offered this lecture on the February 25 CBS This Morning:
"Our job is to make sure the information is accurate, legitimate, a
story." Just what she failed to do.
Asked about new stories on Hill such as The
American Spectator exposť detailed last month in MediaWatch,
Totenberg told TV, etc.: "I had heard a
good deal of that and did not consider it proven.... My standards for
what is good enough to put on the air are high, and I have not found
anything to date sufficient to put on." And when Totenberg told
investigators that she destroyed documents to protect her sources, a
practice that ignited the media during Iran-Contra, The Washington
Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times did
not consider it newsworthy.
The Anita Hill
On February 2, network television's
top-rated news program, 60 Minutes, aired an interview with
Anita Hill. CBS spokesman Roy Brunett told MediaWatch
that 60 Minutes did no investigation of Hill beforehand, and it
showed. The story was 12 days early: in their Valentine, CBS noted that
Hill had received "more than 30,000 letters of support," and
the interview was just as tough. Instead of employing its normal
take-no-prisoners interview style, 60 Minutes treated her not
like a controversial political figure, but like a celebrity to be
adored. In fact, they were actually tougher on Barbra Streisand earlier
this season than they were on Hill.
60 Minutes correspondent Ed
Bradley began by asking Hill: "You've been described as someone who
is conservative in your positions. Is that a fair description of
you?" In a roundabout way, Hill agreed: "I think I am
conservative to a number of people because I do have a religious
background. I do go to church. I'm very close to my family. I have a
strong belief in the family structure. And I work in a very conservative
profession. As a law professor, generally, it's a conservative
profession, so I think in that sense it is fair to say that on some
issues or in some respects I am conservative."
Bradley pushed further: "How would
you describe yourself politically?" Hill admitted "I'm a
Democrat." That's the only revelation the interview produced.
During the hearings, liberal activists asked what Hill would have to
gain from testifying against Thomas, since she was a conservative. One
of Hill's witnesses stressed that Hill supported Robert Bork's
nomination to the Supreme Court. But when Hill publicly contradicted
that conservative image, Bradley failed to probe Hill about Bork, or
about Roe vs. Wade, the primary obsession of the first Thomas hearings.
Instead, Bradley queried: "I'm told
you have a picture of Eleanor Roosevelt on your office wall, with a
quote from her that says: `You gain strength, courage, and confidence by
every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You
must do things you think you cannot.' Is that...you do have that?"
Bradley followed up with softball
questions: "What were the costs to you?....Do you think that's what
in essence happened to you, that you came forward, and they didn't
believe you? That in some ways you were made to be the culprit?....Do
you think you got a fair hearing?....You think it would have been
different if there would have been a woman on the committee?....Do you
think this becomes an issue in the upcoming election?....Are you going
to have any kind of role in that?" During these questions, Bradley
refrained from interrupting, letting Hill speak as long as she wished. In
conclusion, Bradley handed Hill a question that sounded more like a
Barbara Walters question to a movie star: "When someone looks at
you and sees Anita Hill, what do you want that to mean?" What could
60 Minutes have asked Hill about?
The American Spectator Exposť.
Investigative reporter David Brock filed an astonishing exposť on Anita
Hill in the March issue of The American Spectator that suggests
Hill's story may have been built on false testimony. Brock's best
investigative scoop came from the Senate Judiciary Committee's
depositions of Susan Hoerchner, the California judge who testified on
behalf of Hill during the televised hearings. According to Brock,
"In her [Senate] staff deposition and on another occasion,
Hoerchner told interviewers that the call in which Hill said she was
being sexually harassed occurred before September 1981, i.e., before
Hill had gone to work for Thomas." After consulting with her
lawyer, Hoerchner changed her story, telling Senators she could not
remember the precise date when Hill called.
Brock detailed many other revelations. A
former Education Department official told Brock that then-Education
Secretary Terrel Bell "received several allegations of sexual
harassment from Anita Hill during the time she worked at the
department... directed at Education officials other than Clarence
And: "According to Hill's former
co-workers at the EEOC, she knew [Democratic Sen. Howard] Metzenbaum
aide James Brudney quite well. They say that Hill spoke often of going
out with Brudney, and of having spent weekends at his apartment when she
worked there....More than any other Hill staffer, Brudney...made it his
aim to defeat Clarence Thomas." These revelations may be less
ironclad than Hoerchner's lying to Congress, but they do cast large
doubts on Hill's credibility -- and the media's.
Coverup. Newsweek dispatched Supreme Court reporter
Bob Cohn to investigate Hill. But for all Cohn's effort, Newsweek
only printed a tiny one-sided December 2 "Periscope" item on
how "Republican leaders tried to dig up information that would
discredit Anita Hill and applied strong-arm tactics to witnesses
reluctant to come forward against her."
Cohn later summarized his investigation
in The New Republic (January 6 & 13 issue). In it, Cohn
reported revelations similar to some of Brock's findings: "I
tracked down Lawrence Shiles, who had signed a [Judiciary] committee
affidavit describing events that occurred while he was enrolled in
Hill's legal writing class in 1983. In the three-page affidavit and
subsequent interview, Shiles said -- get this -- that he and two male
friends found a dozen short black pubic hairs inside papers returned by
Hill." The Shiles affidavit was signed on the last day of the Hill
hearings, but no one reported it.
Cohn also found: "The former
students seemed to share an aversion to Hill. All complained she was an
incompetent professor whose liberal views infected her teaching. Several
said off the record that she represented, as one put it, 'the worst case
of affirmative action.'"
Like Brock, Cohn mentioned the testimony
of a fundraiser for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL),
who told him that NARAL head Kate Michelman told her: "This will
not be a difficult job. We have Anita Hill. She's agreed to come
forward. We've been working with her since July." Since Hill
assured Senators that she had not been in contact with liberal interest
groups, it would show Hill to be a perjurer. But Newsweek
refused to print any of this, forcing Cohn to turn to The New
Similarly, Lally Weymouth, a frequent
contributor to The Washington Post "Outlook" section,
submitted her investigation of Hill to the Post, but they
rejected it. Instead, the daughter of Post and Newsweek
owner Katharine Graham offered it to The Wall Street Journal,
which printed the story last November 20.
Weymouth revealed that Hill served as an
adviser to a feminist group at the University of Oklahoma, the
Organization for the Advancement of Women. Susan Stallings, a former
member of that group, told Weymouth: "Anita Hill is a liberal...she
was for such things as `comparable worth.' At our meetings, if it wasn't
Reagan-bashing, it was Bush-bashing. They were terrified of Roe v.
Wade being overturned."
Ironically, Brock told MediaWatch
that Cohn and Weymouth appeared to be the only other national reporters
on Hill's trail, and their stories were both rejected by their employer.
Brock saw no sign of the other national media outlets, which spent
months trailing Thomas tidbits, but apparently wouldn't think of
investigating the "Rosa Parks of sexual harassment." Perhaps
avoiding the appearance of insensitivity is now more important than the
pursuit of truth.
For all of the media's pious declarations
of moral indignation over Oliver North lying to Congress, their failure
to investigate Anita Hill's credibility reveals a blind eye to
corruption of the political process by liberals.
The Washington Post Company empire took a much harsher look at Gennifer
Flowers' claims against Democrat Bill Clinton than they did Anita
Hill's. Take Post television critic Tom Shales on Gennifer
Flowers' press conference January 28: "You'd almost think Harold
Robbins and Sidney Sheldon has collaborated to produce dialogue like
But last October 12, it was a different
Shales: "What about the fact that Hill maintained such dignity and
stamina in such sordid and sleazy surroundings? It had to occur to some
viewers as they watched the way she handled herself that she would have
made a much better Supreme Court nominee than Thomas does."
Post Company-owned Newsweek
noted seven inconsistencies in Flowers' story in its February 3 issue.
But Hill's story was beyond reproach. Last October, reporter Eleanor
Clift wrote that Sen. Alan Simpson's suggestion that "stuff"
would come out on Hill was "the lowest of many low points in the
Clarence Thomas hearings." Clift declared Hill had "done
nothing to suggest she has a credibility problem."
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