Media Pretend Skeptical Scientists Don't Exist
HOLES IN THE OZONE STORY
Reporters like to pose as watchdogs of
the government, claiming they are not stenographers to the powerful.
Unless, of course, they agree with the government's policy. Case in
point: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's press release
on ozone depletion, issued on February 3. Reporters treated it not as a
questionable government agency assertion, but a confirmation of their
own views on the greenhouse effect.
On the February 8 NBC Nightly News,
anchor Garrick Utley announced: "The protective ozone layer is
getting thinner over the northern hemisphere and the White House finally
agreed that the chemicals responsible should be phased out more
Six days later on World News Tonight,
Peter Jennings echoed Utley: "This week, President Bush ordered
American manufacturers to end, by 1995, all production of those
chemicals which the Administration finally agrees are
destroying the ozone layer even faster than had been imagined."
Jennings devoted his February 14
"Person of the Week" valentine to Sherwood Rowland, a
scientist behind the ozone panic: "And so we choose Sherry Rowland
because he was right. The Popular Science magazine once referred to him
as 'The Man Who Saved the Planet -- Maybe.' Maybe -- now that the world
Time magazine devoted its
February 17 cover to "Vanishing Ozone: The Danger Comes Closer to
Home." Keeping Time's commitment to one-sided coverage,
Associate Editor Michael D. Lemonick warned: "This unprecedented
assault on the planet's life-support system could have horrendous
long-term effects on human health, animal life, the plants that support
the food chain, and just about every other strand that makes up the
delicate web of nature. And it is too late to prevent the damage, which
will worsen for years to come."
None of the hyped stories on the NASA
"study" mentioned that NASA's findings have not undergone peer
review from other scientists, a crucial step in determining the validity
of any scientific study; and none of the stories included scientists who
disagreed with NASA's conclusions, such as Patrick Michaels or Fred
Singer. The average reader or viewer might have concluded none exist.
More than 40 atmospheric scientists
issued a statement on February 27 criticizing the NASA study and the
science behind the global warming hype, but the media ignored it.
Instead, panic ruled. ABC predicted 300,000 skin cancers a year, despite
what Michaels recently wrote: "An entire network of ground-based
Ultraviolet-B meters (the wave lengths that cause skin cancer)...showed
a decline in irradiance since they started up in 1974."
A just-published novel, A Candidate's Wife, chronicles the
tribulations of the wife of a presidential candidate after her husband's
infidelity is revealed by a tabloid newspaper. The author: Patricia
O'Brien, a Knight-Ridder Washington bureau reporter in the
mid-1980s who put in a seven month stint in 1987 as Press Secretary for
the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.
Clinton Clan. The direct
mail firm that holds the Bill Clinton presidential campaign account has
enlisted a political reporter to open a Washington office. National
Journal reported that Tom Oppel is one half of a
new two person office for Ambrosino & Muir, a Democratic direct mail
firm based in San Francisco. A Jackson Clarion-Ledger political
reporter for six years until 1986, Oppel earlier reported from New
Hampshire for United Press International.
Florida Democrat. Carter
Administration veteran Eileen Shanahan has returned to
the newspaper business after five years as Executive Editor of Governing,
a Congressional Quarterly Inc. published magazine. She's now a
Washington-based economics reporter for the St. Petersburg Times
of Florida. Shanahan served as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at
HEW during the Carter years. A Transportation Department press aide for
the Kennedy Administration, Shanahan was a New York Times
Washington bureau reporter from 1962 to 1977 and Assistant Managing
Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the early 1980s.
Down the Hill. Charles
Seigel, Press Secretary to U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer
(D-MD) and the Democratic Caucus Hoyer has been chairing for the past
two years, has left Capitol Hill to help run an adult education program
at the University of Phoenix. From 1980 to 1983 Seigel was a reporter
for Denver's Rocky Mountain News....Across the
aisle, Republican Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) has lost Rob Rehg,
his Director of Communication. A Hearst newspapers reporter since 1981,
he spent 1988-89 reporting from Washington for the chain's newspapers,
including the Houston Chronicle and Seattle
Mondale Aide Passes Away.
After a battle with cancer, Roger Colloff, Vice
President and General Manager of New York's WCBS-TV since 1984, passed
away in early February. A Legislative Assistant to then-Senator Walter
Mondale for three years, in 1975 Colloff became Director of Governmental
Affairs in Washington for CBS Inc. When Carter won the presidency he
joined the transition team, subsequently holding various Carter
Administration posts until jumping back to Black Rock in 1979 as Vice
President and Assistant to the President of CBS News. In 1981 Colloff
was named CBS News Vice President for public affairs broadcasts, a post
which put in him charge of Face the Nation and 60 Minutes
until he switched back to the corporate side of CBS in 1983.
NBC: NEWS BY KEVIN
In these recession-plagued '90s, you
would think the boom years of the 1980s might be looked on with a sense
of nostalgia. By now, the same critics of a "decade of greed"
might be wondering how to repeat the Reagan recovery. But the media's
ritual critique of the '80s lives on. For the latest installment in the
networks' encouragement of class warfare, NBC earned the March Janet
On the February 7 Nightly News,
Tom Brokaw introduced Keith Morrison's story: "The fact is, for
many American families, the economy has been stuck in neutral for more
than two decades. In terms of 1990 dollars, the average yearly income
for median families has been stalled since the 1970s." NBC aired a
graph which read: "1970s, $34,300; 1980s, $33,900; 1990s,
median income data into decades obscures both the bad news (the dramatic
income decline after Carter's inflationary binge) and the good news (the
persistent income growth of the Reagan years). Using constant 1990
dollars, in 1980, the last year of the Carter presidency, median family
income fell a record $1,209, the largest one-year decline since World
War II. But median family income increased in every year but one from
1982 to 1989, rising a total of 13 percent.
Morrison's '80s fable featured real
estate guru Mike Glickman: "He is the image of the '80s,
super-entrepreneur, who by the time he was 25 had built a huge and gaudy
real estate empire...And he was the prince of laissez-faire who could do
no wrong." But Glickman went bankrupt. By selecting him as an
example, NBC begs the question: so what happened to the "rich"
in the 1980s? Did they get richer or did they fail? In fact, dramatic
social mobility in the last ten years, in which about 33 percent of the
population rose or fell into other income classes in each year, belies
the notion that a certain stratified "rich" are gaining and an
immobile "poor" are perpetually losing.
Morrison continued his social gospel:
"Oh, there was a party alright, one of the biggest, most avaricious
displays of ostentation in a hundred years. But who threw it?" Who
did Morrison select to answer his question? Kevin Phillips, professional
Reaganomics-basher and the media's favorite "conservative,"
whose book The Politics of Rich and Poor tops the Democrats'
reading list. Said Phillips: "The party in the '80s was thrown for
and by people in the top one or two or three percent." Why did
Morrison rely on Phillips? He told MediaWatch:
"I got the idea for the story after reading Kevin Phillips'
Morrison had just been warming up:
"The amazing thing is most people seem content to believe that
almost everybody had a good time in the '80s, a real shot at the dream.
But the fact is, they didn't. Did we wear blinders? Did we think the
'80s left behind just the homeless? The fact is that almost nine in ten
Americans actually saw their lifestyle decline."
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The
Census Bureau's data shows median family income increased in all income
classes from 1981 to 1989, usually measured in fifths (or quintiles). By
contrast, they fell for nearly every fifth from 1973 to 1981. Morrison
told MediaWatch he got the figures from
Phillips' book, but he conceded that it didn't measure just the 1980s,
but 1973 to 1988.
But Phillips' own book proves Morrison
wrong. Appendix C contains a Census table on median family income from
1973 to 1987. In 1973, median family income was $30,820 in constant 1987
dollars. In 1987, it was $30,853, after dipping to a low of $27,591 in
1982. Any reporter who knows math cannot claim that nine of ten
Americans lost incomes if median income gained.
Morrison added: "A median income in
the '80s? George Hooker earned one, still does in the store he
runs." Hooker declared: "You still make the same amount. It's
just harder to get by now than it was then. It's just slowly, gradually
getting worse." He followed with another soundbite of Phillips:
"What you had in the 1980s was the top one percent really making
out and opening up a gap, but the average person didn't realize how much
of the gap was there yet."
Wrong. Morrison (and
Phillips) get their claims from the liberal Congressional Budget Office,
which says the income of the top one percent went up 87.3 percent from
1980-90. But CBO refuses to index capital gains income for inflation and
excludes capital losses over $3,000, and thus overstates gains and
Liberals also ignore the effect of tax
changes. In the 1980s, the government simplified the tax code and cut
marginal tax rates dramatically. In the 1970s, prohibitive income tax
rates (up to 70 percent), inflation, and a myriad of shelters led the
rich to hide their income, while the reforms of the 1980s caused the
rich to come out into the open and declare more income. So the
"rich getting richer" may not simply be an increase in wealth,
but an increase in declared wealth.
Morrison suggested that the American
people didn't really gain in the '80s, but they didn't hear that gloomy
reality in TV ads. Morrison introduced ad executive Paul Donaher:
"What you found was, is that a lot of ads were very image-based and
not particularly rational. We thought imagery perhaps as well as
ostentatiousness was a way to sell a product." Actually,
"image-based and not particularly rational" is a good
description for network economics reporting.
Morrison concluded: "And of course
what they [the advertisers] sold was debt. Here's an eerie echo. Sixty
years ago, the Secretary of Commerce wrote about the '20s: 'It was a
decade of easy wealth for a few, inadequate income for the majority and
a mountain of debt that crushed the economy.' Sound familiar? And if the
pattern holds, the '90s will be defined the way the other eras were, a
backlash by the middle class against the rich." By coincidence (?),
Morrison's conclusion almost exactly echoes the dominant theme of
When asked by MediaWatch
about the tone of his story, Morrison replied: "There are so many
different ways of looking at the current economic situation. I think all
you can rely on is a range of opinion, and you try to report on a range
on opinion." After MediaWatch pointed out
that he had no range of opinion in his story, Morrison wryly responded:
"I would have, except -- here comes the line that you're going to
love -- I wanted to say something with a point of view. I set out to do
that. And I think quite reasonably so. I would not for a moment suggest
that that should be everybody's point of view, or that that will be the
next reporter's point of view."
Morrison explained: "It wasn't even
that I was making a case against Reaganomics. It was that -- look at
what we have today, isn't it amazing given that we were all so
optimistic in the '80s? We're all so pessimistic now. The fact is that
in the '80s, we weren't as well off as we thought we were, and maybe now
we're a little better off than we think we are."
Morrison sounded congratulatory:
"You can go back and tell them `He was out there making a f---ing
statement!'" But where are conservatives making a one-sided
statement for the Nightly News? Morrison responded: "Now
there's a very good point. Maybe we should pursue that. I'll tell you
why. I was thinking about that yesterday, when Bush went to see Reagan,
you know, get the warning that a lot of people aren't that happy. That
seems like a pretty good cue to go into the conservative community and
do kind of a non-candidate-related story." We'll be watching and
The media's double standard on scandal -- executive branch yes, Congress
no -- continues. The Washington Times discovered cocaine
dealing in the House of Representatives' post office. Unlike the
networks, most major papers and wire services ran a couple of stories by
February 6. The next day, the Times reported House postmaster
Robert Rota's charge that Speaker Foley's wife, Heather, had told him to
cover up the scandal. The national media's response: nothing to date.
There's more. The February 2 London Sunday
Times reported a 1983 memo from KGB chieftain Victor Chebrikov, who
told Yuri Andropov that Ted Kennedy wanted a meeting to discuss how to
counter Reagan's arms buildup. Wrote the Times: "It
appeared [the Soviets] understood it as an attempt to boost Kennedy's
own political fortunes with their assistance." Just as they ignored
recent evidence of Democrats plotting strategies with the Sandinistas,
the major media are ignoring Kennedy's indiscretions.
Long-time GOP operative Rich Bond became an instant network target upon
being named new Republican National Committee Chairman. Both NBC and CBS
painted Bond, labeled a mild-mannered moderate in 1988, as the new party
piranha, in part because he refused to repudiate the use of tough
tactics in the 1988 presidential campaign. "People are now calling
you a flame thrower," claimed NBC's Katie Couric on Today
February 5, "Will we see you incorporating some of Lee Atwater's
strategies in this campaign, such as Willie Horton?"
Later that week, CBS correspondent Bob
Schieffer portrayed Bond as the 500-pound gorilla of the GOP. "And
as a protege of Lee Atwater, the late master of hardball politics,
[Bond] makes no apologies for the bare-knuckle Republican tactics in
1988. No apologies," reported Schieffer. "Some people say that
your return means that Willie Horton is back. That dirty politics is
back, the kind of campaign that was waged in 1988. What d you say to
Bond replied, "I say that I'm sick
and tired of hearing about Willie Horton....when we talk about Willie
Horton, this is what I want to talk about. Willie Horton was a no-good
murdering rapist, and that's the point. And Mike Dukakis worked in the
system, and defended the system that let [Horton] out on the
streets." Schieffer shot back: "What did that have to do with
running the United States of America?"
THE WILLIE HORTON AGENDA?
In an attempt to offer voters more substantive, informative campaign
news, the Markle Foundation has donated money to CNN to fund a
"pioneering venture," a series called "The People's
Agenda." But instead of substance, CNN is loading these longer
stories with emotional portraits and maudlin piano music. Instead of
more information, CNN is taking all the same cheap short cuts to make
In the February 13 segment, titled
"The Racial Divide," correspondent Ken Bode reported,
"David Duke's exploitation of white working class fears about
blacks echoes a theme from the 1988 election. This is the Maryland State
Penitentiary. Inside resides the most politically notorious convict in
America. William Horton, Jr., the focal point of a major national
campaign designed to exploit white fear of black crime." Bode
claimed: "The Horton case illustrates the readiness of political
leaders to exploit the racial divide."
Bode then turned convicted murderer and
rapist Horton into an authority on race relations by interviewing him
for the story. Horton concluded: "I think this country, in my
opinion, should not be governed by crime or race in a presidential
election." The "poor Willie" approach harkens back to the
ABC Prime Time Live of March 29, 1990, when Sam Donaldson asked
Horton, "If Lee Atwater should walk through that door tomorrow and
say,'Mr. Horton, I think I did you wrong, I'd like to say something
about it,' what would you say to him....would you forgive him?"
Several columnists have accused reporters of going soft on Pat
Buchanan's campaign. They must have missed NBC reporter Lisa Myers on
the February 28 Nightly News. She reported that "Buchanan
insists that he is not a bigot or racist. Yet many of his remarks are
seen as hostile to blacks." As viewers saw Buchanan placing flowers
by a headstone, Myers continued: "In the South, he pays tribute to
Confederate heroes, who fought to preserve slavery." Myers'
indictment would have carried less weight if she noted that Buchanan had
simply visited the grave of his great grandfather. If leaving flowers at
the grave of an ancestor who fought in the Confederate army makes
someone hostile to blacks, then every native Southern politician,
liberal or conservative, should be condemned.
Myers later charged that Buchanan is
"now fudging his position" on the Gulf War. To illustrate, she
showed a clip of retired Marine Commandant P.X. Kelley saying Buchanan
opposed Desert Storm. "Buchanan claims that Bush ad is false,"
Myers insisted, declaring: "In fact, Buchanan vehemently opposed
the Gulf War." CNN reporter Brooks Jackson thought differently the
same night. He called the Bush ad "misleading" since
"Buchanan did oppose the use of military force in Kuwait, but only
before any shots were fired. That was during Desert Shield. Buchanan
supported Desert Storm and the American military the moment hostilities
began, even before." To prove his point, Jackson showed a clip of
Buchanan on CNN's Crossfire from January 15, 1991 declaring his
support for the war effort.
NO SECOND OPINION. On
February 6, ABC's Nightline had a National Town Meeting on the
health care problem. ABC Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson summed up
the prevailing mood of the panel: "I think maybe the one thing the
government can do well is to run an insurance program. Social Security
is a model for retirement." Two hours into the show, a small
businessman in the audience finally challenged the zeitgeist. He
explained he couldn't afford health insurance, but didn't want
government intervention. "Look at VA hospitals," he pointed
out, "that's your government universal coverage, universally
Did he stimulate debate? Hardly. Johnson
retorted: "I think it's very confusing to throw in words like
`nationalized' and `socialized.' Nobody's advocating a system wherein
the government owns and operates medical care in this country. What some
people are talking about is a national health insurance program that
still allows private doctors and private hospitals to provide care....We
shouldn't be so arrogant as Americans to dismiss learning from other
STEALTH CARE. It is an
unquestioned assumption of the American media that the Canadian system
of nationalized health care is cheaper than the U.S. private system.
This premise leads to articles like the February 13 New York Times
piece by reporter Clyde Farnesworth. He argued: "Although Mr. Bush
assailed the high cost of nationalized health care, Canadian doctors and
health officials pointed to studies that have shown much lower
administrative costs here than in the United States." Similarly
myopic, Newsweek's Tom Morganthau wrote: "Canada spends
less on health care than the United States -- about 9 percent instead of
But in the February 17 National
Review, Jacques Krasny, a Canadian health care consultant, revealed
hidden costs in Canada and unusual U.S. circumstances that make up for
the difference cited by the reporters. Krasny disclosed that Canada's
hospitals were built by the government, and so the capital costs were
not included in Canadian statistics. The Canadians also don't count the
cost of health benefits for health care workers, don't have to care for
so many Vietnam veterans, and have a smaller percentage of elderly
citizens. (The elderly, 12 percent of the U.S. population, account for
more than 50 percent of our health care costs.) And get this: Money
spent by Canadians coming to America for state of the art technology is
counted toward American costs.
FETUS FRACAS. In 1988,
the Reagan Administration placed a ban on federal funding of fetal
tissue research, since the tissue was taken from aborted babies. But
when Today co-hosts Bryant Gumbel and Katherine Couric examined
the issue on February 5, the debate focused on only one side: the
beneficiaries, not the victims. Gumbel presented the heart-tugging story
of Faye Day, a victim of Parkinson's disease who has been helped by
fetal tissue. NBC could have aired a pro-life advocate, who would object
to the taking of a developing baby's life for medical research. Instead,
they found a conservative Baptist minister who favored fetal research
since he lost children to a genetic disease. (That night, NBC
Nightly News pulled the same stunt with conservative Senator Strom
Thurmond, who has a diabetic daughter.)
Couric interviewed Dr. James Mason,
director of the Public Health Service, but instead of questioning him,
she debated him: "But clearly, Dr. Mason, many of these programs
are in desperate need of federal dollars to help them conduct the
research." In a long critique of Mason's arguments, Couric twice
called Mason's views "simply unrealistic." Instead of having
guests debate each other, more and more Today has its hosts
make the liberal argument.
NAZI SPECIALTIES. What
would be the perfect part-time retirement job for a Nazi doctor from
Auschwitz? If you said abortionist, you would be correct, according to
recently released archival documents in Argentina. New York Times
correspondent Nathaniel Nash wrote on February 11 that "Joseph
Mengele, the Auschwitz death camp doctor known as the `Angel of Death'
for his experiments on inmates, practiced medicine in Buenos Aires for
several years in the 1950s. He `had a reputation as a specialist in
abortions,' which were illegal."
But most media outlets weren't too
anxious to let you in on this, and quietly let the story drop. The Los
Angeles Times story on the same day omitted any reference to
Mengele's abortion practice. The Washington Post announced the
pending release of the files on February 4, but ran no story when the
files came out.
BUNGLING THE DEATH MATH.
The Cold War is over, but some of the media still think the communists
could do no wrong. On the February 2 NBC Nightly News
correspondent Robin Lloyd reported on the El Salvador peace accords:
"The war's end has rekindled hopes for freedom and justice. Hopes
that twelve years ago died with the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a
victim of right-wing deaths squads. More than 70,000 deaths followed;
800 death squad victims a month." Charles Lane of Newsweek
also cited the 800-per-month figure in the January 27 issue: "By
1980, 800 death-squad victims a month were being dumped on the dusty
Why was there no mention of the murders
committed by the communist FMLN? According to the National Center for
Public Policy Research, in their last major offensive alone, in late
1989, the communists attacked three cities having no military garrisons.
The FMLN killed or wounded 200 unarmed civilians, including a six-year
old girl and a 75 year-old woman. But Lane and Lloyd couldn't even get
their misinformation mathematically correct. Since Romero's murder in
1980, 800 deaths a month would total 115,200 deaths, not the 70,000
claimed as the total death toll. If reporters have to mimic the left's
claims as news, they should at least get the math right.
HURRAY HAVANA HOSPITAL.
While health care reform was heating up as a hot election year topic in
the U.S., NBC's Joe Garagiola and correspondent Robert Bazell found a
model the U.S. could adopt during Today's visit to Cuba,
February 12-13. Garagiola began: "Among Cuba's successes is its
health care; it's progressive and it's free." Bazell continued
without dispute: "Cuba's health care system is world class. In a
neo-natal intensive care unit; on a burn ward; or in a clinic to treat
epilepsy one can find equipment and procedures equal to those in the
U.S. and only a few other countries....the quality of care remains high
and it is free. Health, a guarantee of socialism, billboards proclaim.
The Castro government has always been obsessed with health, starting
with improving sanitation."
CAPITAL GROANS. Why are
the media covering the debate over the capital gains tax by relying on
estimates which have been proven to be more than 100 percent wrong? On
February 7, Rep. Dick Armey, the ranking Republican on the Joint
Economic Committee, and Chris Frenze, one of Armey's staff economists,
revealed that the Democrat-appointed Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
admitted its forecast for capital gains of $254 billion for 1990 missed
the mark by $134 billion, or an error of more than 105 percent. The
media's response: nothing.
Why the silence? Because the major media
covering the capital gains debate routinely rely on estimates of the
Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), which relies on the faulty CBO
numbers for its calculations. When, for example, the February 10 Time
cites that "families that earn more than $200,000 a year would save
an average of $18,000 as a result of lower capital gains rates,"
it's citing the completely bogus calculations of the JCT. Many reporters
are using these estimates without any concern for their accuracy, but
they haven't asked why the CBO refuses to admit its errors to the media
or Congress. If editors make no corrections, it proves they prefer a
class war fought over fake statistics to an honest debate.
Wrong on Dependency
NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim
Russert, a former aide to Mario Cuomo, appeared on C-SPAN's January 31 Journalists'
Roundtable to comment on President Bush's State of the Union
address: "The one part that troubled me more than anything is when
he began to suggest that welfare was a narcotic, that people were
somehow addicted, and we had to break those bonds."
Russert asserted: "The fact is less
than ten percent of the people on welfare are on for longer than a year.
Then, two paragraphs later, the President said 'Why are we so divided in
this country along the lines of race?' And I said, Mr. President,
because you just reinforced a stereotype which would play to that."
On the February 5 CBS Evening News,
reporter Bob McNamara seconded Russert, suggesting that "most of
the four and a half million families on welfare stay with the system
less than eighteen months."
Wrong, says Heritage Foundation analyst
Robert Rector, who told MediaWatch that
Russert and McNamara aren't considering recipients who regularly go on
and off Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). According to the
House Ways and Means Committee's "Green Book" of income
statistics (a favorite liberal source), if you factor in repeat
recipients, only 30 percent stay on less than two years. In fact, 72
percent of women on AFDC spend more than seven years on the dole.
If one was to consider only current AFDC
beneficiaries, a mere seven percent will stay on less than two years.
None of these scenarios comes close to McNamara's "most
people" or Russert's "less than ten percent."
Greens See Red
Time Senior Writer Eugene
Linden, one of the magazine's regular storm troopers for Mother Earth,
complained in the February 3 issue about the dangers of recognizing
property rights: "Advocates for the wise use movement have come up
with some pretty loopy ideas...But one of their radical notions has been
getting a friendly hearing from the courts, Congress and the Bush
What is this radical idea, that Linden
feared "could ultimately cost state and federal governments
billions"? Compensating property owners when governments devalue
their land through environmental regulations such as the EPA's wetlands
Linden dreaded the Supreme Court's coming
decision in Lucas vs. South Carolina Coastal Council. Developer David
Lucas bought two beachfront lots in 1986 for more than a million dollars
to build two houses. Two years later, the state forbade any building on
his property, declaring it was too close to the ocean. The court will
decide: must the state reimburse Lucas for devaluing his lots?
Linden dismissed the loss: "A broad
decision by the Supreme Court would be disastrous for the principle of
environmental regulation." That "principle" is that the
government may rule over property without paying a penny. Opponents of
that "principle" cite the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of
Rights. But Linden warned: "Some conservative legal theorists and
their supporters within the Administration would welcome a
reinterpretation of property rights that would also open the way to
eviscerating health, safety, and zoning as well as environmental
Bill Clinton's popularity with the major
media's political reporters is becoming legendary. In the March 9 New
Republic, Senior Editor Hendrik Hertzberg wrote of the Clinton
boomlet: "The group of people I'll call The Press -- by which I
mean several dozen political journalists of my acquaintance, many of
whom the Buchanan Administration may someday round up on suspicion of
having Democratic or even liberal sympathies -- was of one mind as the
season's first primary campaign shuddered toward its finish. I asked
each of them, one after another, this question: If you were a New
Hampshire Democrat, whom would you vote for? The answer was always the
same; and the answer was always Clinton. In this group, in my
experience, such unanimity is unprecedented."
Hertzberg went on to explain why:
"Almost none is due to calculations about Clinton being 'electable'....and
none at all is due to belief in Clinton's denials in the Flowers
business, because no one believes these denials. No, the real reason
members of The Press like Clinton is simple, and surprisingly uncynical:
they think he would make a very good, perhaps a great, President.
Several told me they were convinced that Clinton is the most talented
presidential candidate they have ever encountered, JFK included."
So, has this overwhelming preference had
any impact on campaign coverage? To determine the answer, MediaWatch
analysts compared the coverage of four evening news shows (ABC's World
News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News,
as well as CNN's Prime News from 1988 and World News
from 1992,) during times when Clinton and Quayle were under scrutiny
over possible draft evasion and other personal issues.
In the ten days following revelations
about the two candidates, 1988 Quayle stories outnumbered 1992 Clinton
stories by a margin of almost four to one. In the first ten days of
Quayle's National Guard controversy (August 18-27, 1988), the four
networks did 51 news stories solely on Quayle's National Guard service.
(This counts only evening news, not any of the 158 times the networks
raised questions about Quayle's controversies during the prime time
coverage of the Republican Convention.) By contrast, in the first ten
days of Clinton's draft flap (February 6-15), the four networks aired
only 13 stories.
When the February 6 Wall Street
Journal broke a story questioning Bill Clinton's draft record, how
did the networks react? ABC made it story number five. CBS and NBC
completely ignored the story. Two days later on the CBS Evening News,
reporter Bruce Morton declared: "When attacks are made on
character, the press ought to report them and then let the voters decide
who's right and who's wrong." (Memo to Morton: watch your own
newscast.) By contrast, on August 18, 1988, the four networks aired 15
stories on Quayle. ABC did three stories, and CBS and NBC each broadcast
five. The Quayle news led all four evening newscasts.
On February 12, one of Clinton's ROTC
officers, Clinton Jones, released a 1969 letter from Clinton thanking
the ROTC for "saving me from the draft." The response was
again protective. None of the evening newscasts began with it, and each
aired only one story. CBS outdid the others: reporter Richard Threlkeld
referred to Clinton blaming the Republicans for leaking the letter four
times, even though the other three networks corrected him by reporting
that Jones sent the letter to ABC, not GOP officials. The CBS
Evening News never corrected its misinformation.
But the other networks aren't blameless.
On February 15, CNN replaced its 10-11 PM (ET) World News with
a special titled The Battle to Lead. Political reporter (and
former Morris Udall aide) Ken Bode narrated an eight-minute profile of
Clinton. Though Bode reviewed Clinton's personal history, he completely
omitted the draft scandal.
ABC reporters seemed apologetic for
having to report the controversial aspects of Clinton's record. On
February 14, Chris Bury reported: "In the campaign's final crunch,
questions of Clinton's character, his personal life, and the draft are
pursued daily, almost always by the press. And that is the trouble for
Clinton: the press hounds him about his character; voters seem more
worried about other things." Again, Bury must not have watched his
own newscast, which did just four stories in ten days.
All the networks have so far failed to do
any investigative work of their own on Clinton, and have offered no new
details. But in 1988, the networks not only reported on Paula Parkinson,
but also questioned the truth of Quayle's resume and whether personal
influence helped his admission to law school. These investigations
caused another 13 stories on Quayle's personal life during the ten-day
study period. (From January 24-30 this year, the four networks did 14
stories on Gennifer Flowers.)
Clinton's draft record isn't the only
story the networks are ignoring: the networks have whistled by the New
York Post report that Clinton's campaign has a two-million dollar
credit line from Jack Stephens, who's been linked to the BCCI scandal.
Of all the major media, only Reuters reported it, and The Boston
Globe let Tom Harkin raise the issue. But AP and UPI, the major
newspapers, the news magazines, and the networks passed. On February 28,
The Washington Post devoted a story to Bush campaign aide James
Lake's ties to BCCI, but left Clinton out of the story.
Similarly, the media have ignored new
details about Gennifer Flowers. New York Post gossip columnist
Cindy Adams interviewed a Flowers roommate named Lauren Kirk. Kirk says
she shared an apartment with Flowers from 1983 to 1985, and that Flowers
entertained Clinton there three times. In the Dallas Morning News,
reporter David Jackson found another Flowers roommate, Marilyn Roberts,
who also insisted: "It's true." If Clinton were treated like
Clarence Thomas, Kirk and Roberts would be "corroborative"
witnesses demonstrating that Clinton lied.
Bias by omission can make an enormous
difference in campaign season. At a Columbia University seminar in
February, CBS reporter Betsy Aaron explained the dangers: "We're
always going to have this argument between 'do we have an opinion, don't
we have an opinion' -- we have an opinion because we're breathing, and
the largest opinion we have is what we leave out. I mean, it sounds
simplistic, but I always say worry about what you're not seeing. What
you are seeing you can really criticize because you are smart and you
have opinions. But if we don't tell you anything, and we leave whole
areas uncovered, that's the danger."
On February 12, Ted Koppel interviewed Clinton over the letter he wrote
in 1969 about avoiding the draft. Koppel announced at the outset:
"It is, as Governor Clinton himself described it today, the account
of a conflicted and thoughtful young man. It is quite a remarkable
letter, actually, eloquent and revealing."
Koppel never charged Clinton with
hypocrisy or dishonesty. In fact, Koppel appeared to absolve Clinton,
suggesting that his actions at the time are no longer relevant:
"And indeed, if we were electing that 23-year-old man, what he said
and thought and felt at that time would be germane. Now, however, it is
what the 45- or 46-year-old Bill Clinton thinks." Koppel didn't
challenge Clinton when he asserted "all I've been asked about by
the press are a woman I didn't sleep with and a draft I didn't
Compare this to Koppel's treatment of Dan
Quayle on August 18, 1988, after questions first surfaced of Quayle's
National Guard service. Koppel loaded this Nightline with long,
accusatory questions, such as:
"Jeff Greenfield used the term
'elitism.' Let me use another term. How about hypocrisy? Here's a man
who has really, since the age of 17, when he was an unabashed Barry
Goldwater supporter, very early, precocious young man, politically
active, he has been a hawk. He was very much in favor of the war in
Vietnam and yet, as Jeff has just put it, leaves this image now of
having said, 'here, I'll hold your coat, you go and fight in Vietnam,
I'm going to join in the National Guard,' which is a perfectly
acceptable thing to do, but is also something that you do because you
know you probably won't have to go to Vietnam and fight."
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