Networks Predictably Erupt Over Iran-Contra Pardons
The Unpardonable President
President Bush's pardon of six figures in
the Iran-Contra affair generated outrage over Bush's decision, but no
concern for misbehavior by Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh.
Making no attempt at balance, Boston
Globe reporter Lynda Gorov began a December 25 story: "No
legal scholars dispute a President's constitutional right to grant
pardons, but many worry that President Bush may have misused that
authority yesterday to disguise his own role in the Iran-Contra affair.
Those scholars also said the sweeping pardon of the six Reagan-era
officials has denied the American people a full airing of the
arms-for-hostages scandal in court."
That night, CBS Evening News
reporter Bruce Morton wasn't in a holiday mood: "[Lawrence] Walsh's
investigation of the President will continue. The men Mr. Bush pardoned
were all accused or convicted of lying to Congress, and so the question
remains: How can the executive and the legislative agree on a foreign
policy when one branch of government lies to the other?"
The next day, weekend Today co-host Scott
Simon sermonized: "Until the truth about the Iran-Contra scandal is
truly uncovered, and all responsible are made to answer for it, it may
be difficult for any of us to trust that the policies made by the
Congress we elect aren't being overturned by our own spies, suave
diplomats, and good soldiers. President Bush called the men he pardoned
patriots, and no doubt they are. So is Mr. Bush. But patriotism isn't
simply loving your country. It's not looking for pardons from the
On Sunday, ABC reporter Jim Wooten joined
in: "It seems to me that the President with these pardons has
attempted to apply a statute of limitations to the American people's
right to know what went on."
In the January 4 Newsweek, Evan
Thomas wrote: "Bush's pardon also risked tarnishing the President's
legacy. The humanitarian who saved Somalia suddenly looked like the
arrogant elitist who forgave his friends -- and thumbed his nose at the
rule of law."
Bryant Gumbel's December 28 questions on
Today assumed the pardoned men were guilty: "But if, Senator, as it
seems clear, that crimes were committed, that illegalities may have been
done, why not let the process go forward? Why not let justice be
Evans and Novak reported that former
Pentagon spokesman Henry Catto said James Brosnahan, the attorney
prosecuting Weinberger for Walsh, asked him whether Weinberger had an
extramarital affair. Catto believed Walsh wished to "denigrate
Weinberger's character" before a jury, but the networks ignored
this story of improper conduct.
The cover of Mandate for Change,
the Progressive Policy Institute's (PPI) book of policy recommendations
for the Clinton Administration, lists two editors: Will Marshall and Martin
Marshall's no surprise since he's
President of PPI. But Schram's a long-time Washington journalist. Schram
was Washington Bureau Chief of Newsday until becoming a Washington
Post political reporter in 1979. Leaving the Post after
the 1984 race, Schram has kept busy as a CNN analyst and syndicated
In an early January column, he wrote:
"Today's sorry spectacle finds our 41st President, George Bush,
veritably piling the furniture against the Oval Office door, seeming
desperate to prevent the truth from getting out to us, in what looms as
his special Iran-Contratemps."
The book from PPI, known as the
Democratic Leadership Council's think tank, carries an endorsement from
Bill Clinton claiming it "charts a bold course for reviving
progressive government in America." Among the contributors edited
by Schram, PPI Vice President Robert Shapiro, a U.S. News &
World Report Associate Editor in the mid-1980s.
Nessen's New Nest
After a decade as Vice President for News
with the Mutual Broadcasting System, Ron Nessen left
the radio network late last year. He's now the Vice President for Public
Affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the
lobbyist for cellular phone companies. Nessen served President Ford as
Smith Swept Out
Dorrance Smith, an ABC
News producer during the 1980s who joined the Bush White House in 1991,
plans to create his own post- Inauguration day job. The Assistant to the
President for media affairs will join with White House counsel C. Boyden
Gray to form "a television production company that will produce and
syndicate programming to cable stations," The Washington Post
reported. Smith was Executive Producer of This Week with David
Brinkley until taking the same title with Nightline in
Mass Movement to Begin
goes to press in mid-January no members of major media outlets have
joined the first Democratic administration in 12 years. But that won't
last long. The Washington Post has already
begun speculating about several likely revolvers. The January 7 Post
"Transition" column suggested National Public Radio President
Douglas Bennet who "ran the Agency for International
Development in the Carter Administration, is likely to return as
Assistant Secretary in charge of international organizations, although
he also could replace former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh as United
The next day the Post reported
that former Time Washington Bureau Chief Strobe Talbott
who was "Clinton's Rhodes scholar roommate, husband of Hillary
friend and transition aide Brooke Shearer and brother-in-law of Clinton
economic adviser Derek Shearer," is not taking an expected position
at Time Warner. "There has been discussion of Talbott as Deputy
Director of intelligence at the CIA, Ambassador to Russia or most likely
in a job as Senior Adviser to Warren Christopher at the State
Department," wrote the Post's Al Kamen.
20/20 Host Slashes at
Hugh Downs, the long-time host of ABC's 20/20,
used an ABC Radio commentary program, Perspective, to launch a
scandalous attack against the religious right on the weekend before
Thanksgiving. Demons were the theme of his lecture: "The danger
with the majority of human-spawned demons is that they are perpetuated
by sane, and not insane, people."
Downs attacked Pat Robertson: "He
may one day be elected President of the United States of America, and
this very real possibility says more about the degradation of American
values than 1,000 television situation comedies. American values have
indeed degraded. They have degraded from precise, clear-headed
common-sense awareness to fuzzy-brained superstitious nonsense."
He attacked the "war on drugs,"
falsely claiming: "Billions of dollars are cut from American
schools, health care, aid to the elderly, in order to wage a battle
against imaginary Satanic forces and legions of demons. Our reaction to
these demons have created a crime problem out of what is essentially a
medical and social problem. And America refuses to confront its inner
demons and to back off of ineffective approaches. Instead, we regress
into the family."
"Regress" into the family?
Downs repeated himself for emphasis: "During times of social
stress, humanity usually regresses into the family. Nobody denies that
proper family values are worth having and protecting. The argument is
over how the term is wielded; whether the motivation is broad,
generous-hearted, and liberating, or narrow, dogmatic, and designed to
control the lives of others."
He continued: "In the 1920s, the Ku
Klux Klan urged the nation to adopt family values and to return to
Similarly, Adolf Hitler launched a
family-values regimen. Hitler's centered on his ideas of motherhood.
Fanatics in the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party, the Hezbollah, or any
other intolerant organization, refer to themselves as religious
warriors. As warriors, fanatics censor the thoughts of others and love
to burn books. In the modern United States, new proponents of family
values continue this tradition of fear and intolerance." Stalin had
a five-year economic plan, and so does Clinton. By Downs' logic, that
Time's Lance Morrow,
Margaret Carlson Promote the Clintons
Man of the Year -- And Four More?
Of all the reasons Time named
Bill Clinton its Man of the Year, perhaps the best is his skill in
keeping political reporters in love with him all year. For their
magazine's tribute to Clinton (and presumably the effect of its own
year-long biased coverage), Time earns the January Janet Cooke Award.
Time began 1992 with the cover
headline "Is Bill Clinton For Real? Why both hype and substance
have made him the Democrats' rising star." In the same January 27
issue, Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson introduced the
candidate's wife: "Friends of Hillary Clinton would have you
believe she is an amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa, and Oliver
Wendell Holmes. She gets up before dawn, even on weekends, and before
her first cup of coffee discusses educational reform. She then hops into
her fuel-efficient car with her perfectly behaved daughter for a day of
good works." Carlson only moderated the picture slightly:
"Fortunately....[Hillary] is more interesting than that."
The next issue of Time, which
covered the one-week-and-punt Gennifer Flowers controversy, also plugged
for the candidate. Senior Writer Lance Morrow wrote a scolding
pro-Clinton defense titled "Who Cares, Anyway?" Morrow
insisted: "If the public is going to behave like an idiot on the
subject of sex, the candidate will naturally do almost anything to avoid
telling the truth about any behavior less than impeccable. The issue of
a candidate's sex life is essentially a phony....It is time for America
to get serious. At the very least, turn off the television set. And grow
up about sex."
Both of these writers returned in the Man
of the Year issue. Morrow effectively summarized all of Time's
biased campaign articles from 1992: "Clinton's campaign, conducted
with dignity, with earnest attention to issues and with an impressive
display of self-possession under fire, served to rehabilitate and
restore the legitimacy of American politics and thus, prospectively, of
government itself. He vindicated (at least for a while) the honor of a
system that has been sinking fast. A victory by George Bush would, among
other things, have given a two-victory presidential validation (1988 and
1992) to hot-button, mad-dog politics -- campaigning on irrelevant or
inflammatory issues (Willie Horton, the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance,
Murphy Brown's out-of-wedlock nonexistent child) or dirty tricks and
innuendo (searching passport files, implying that Clinton was tied up
with the KGB as a student)."
Time didn't notice the
discrepancy between this grandiose claim and Special Correspondent
Michael Kramer's article about Clinton's post-election strategy in the
same issue. Of Clinton's pounding of the issue of tax avoidance by
foreign corporations and claiming tougher enforcement would raise $45
billion in four years, Kramer wrote: "Among those who have studied
this problem seriously, Clinton is the only person left who still thinks
such a windfall is possible. `Ain't no way,' says [budget director
designate Leon] Panetta. 'Maybe we'll get $3 billion a year -- if we're
lucky.'" But neither Kramer nor Morrow called the foreign
corporation tax a phony issue or demagogic rhetoric.
Morrow also typified the magazine's
divergent views of this year's party conventions. "The President
permitted [Pat] Buchanan, the man who tried to destroy him, to speak at
the Houston convention during prime time. Buchanan delivered a snarling,
bigoted attack on minorities, gays and his other enemies in what he
called the `cultural war' and `religious war' in America. Buchanan's
ugly speech, along with another narrow, sectarian performance by Pat
Robertson, set the tone of right wing intolerance that drove moderate
Republicans and Reagan Democrats away from the President's cause in
November. If Houston represented the Republican Party, many voters said,
they wanted out."
But a page later, Morrow extolled the
Democratic conclave as a healing wonder: "Clinton, whose
stepfather's violent alcoholism shaped his early life, and Gore, who
often borrows recovery language and concepts, turned the Democratic
convention last summer into a national therapy session and display case
for personal trauma and healing. Gore dramatically retold the story of
his son's near fatal accident and the effect on his family.
"The subtext of the
recovery-and-healing line is that America is a self-abusive binger that
must go through recovery. Thus: the nation borrowed and spent recklessly
in the 1980s, drank too deeply of Reagan fantasies about `Morning in
America' and supply-side economics. And now, on the morning after, the
U.S. wakes up at the moment of truth and looks in the mirror. Hence:
America needs the `courage to change' in a national atmosphere of
recovery, repentance and confession."
In her article "The Dynamic
Duo," Carlson returned to puffing Hillary and Bill: "She is
the disciplined, duty-bound Methodist, carrying her favorite Scriptures
around in her briefcase and holding herself and others to a high
standard; he is a more emotional Baptist who sings in the choir and gets
misty-eyed when he introduced his boyhood friend Mack McLarty as his new
chief of staff...Perhaps a First Lady who consults lawbooks rather than
astrologers doesn't look so frightening after all. And perhaps Bill
Clinton, rather than seeming weak by comparison with his wife, has
proved that it takes a solid, secure man to marry a strong woman."
In an interview with MediaWatch,
Carlson criticized her colleagues for being too quick to jump on the
incoming First Lady. "I think that she's probably going to make
some mistakes, and we're going to see them and report them. God knows
the press was absolutely waiting with bated breath for the
tea-and-cookies [remark], and mischaracterized that. So the minute she
stumbles, people are going to leap on that, including me....The tea-and-
cookies remark was about ceremonial duties as the Governor's wife. And
it was reported as f she was saying that in some general way, and she
wasn't. They didn't want to report the next sentence. It's like the
supermarket scanner with Bush."
When asked if she thought her coverage of
Hillary could be described as tough, Carlson replied: "I think it's
down the middle. I try to be that way....I don't have a brief for
Hillary. I think some of the facts were wrong."
The average observer would have a tough
time telling the difference between the work of the Clinton-Gore press
team and Time. The question for the next four years becomes: Is
Time selling Americans the news or selling them the Clintons?
Holiday Homeless Hype.
The holiday season generated another round of exaggerated TV reports on
homelessness. On the December 26 CBS Evening News, reporter
John Roberts found "more than three million homeless in America,
and millions more living in poverty." ABC's Walter Rodgers began a
story the next night, "By all estimates there are now more homeless
in America, three million by some counts, all across the country."
The three million figure remains the
unsupported personal estimate of the late homeless activist Mitch
Snyder. The networks continue to ignore the 1990 Census partial count,
which found only 150,000 in shelters and 70,000 on the streets.
Panetta Pandering. The
media have almost universally proclaimed Clinton Budget Director
designate Leon Panetta as a "deficit hawk." On December 11,
USA Today's Richard Wolf cooed: "His ability to prescribe such
politically perilous medicine with a reassuring smile makes him the
Marcus Welby of deficit reduction." On December 10, ABC's Sheilah
Kast declared: "As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Leon
Panetta has been passionate about the need to cut the deficit."
CNN's Wolf Blitzer proclaimed the same day: "The President-elect
also named California Congressman Leon Panetta, a hard-liner on the need
to cut the deficit, to become Budget Director."
Unfortunately, Panetta's fiscal record
falls short of the hype. He vocally opposed the Balanced Budget
amendment, in addition to crafting the infamous 1990 budget deal, which
raised taxes and doubled the deficit. Two years later he voted to
abolish the budget "firewalls" established by the 1990
agreement, allowing defense spending to be shifted back to more domestic
programs. In 1991, the National Taxpayers Union gave Panetta a pitiful
21 percent score, officially rating him a "Big Spender."
Cold War Casualty?
American forces landed in Somalia to alleviate misery there, but some in
the media still managed to blame America for the starvation. CNN anchor
Patrick Greenlaw demonstrated this on the December 4 World News:
"The situation in the African country is an example of the
lingering fallout of the Cold War."
For Bob Simon in a December 8 CBS This
Morning piece, it was all America's fault: "Successive
American administrations turned a deaf ear to human rights abuses,
Somalia's position on the Horn of Africa was simply too important.
America was Somalia's most important ally in the 1980s. Washington
supplied the dictator [Siad Barre] with guns and butter, and got
strategic bases in return. But then the Cold War ended, Washington
didn't need Somalia anymore, and cut off aid. That's when it all began
On Nightline December 8,
reporter John Hockenberry, who just joined ABC from National Public
Radio, saw U.S. fingerprints on the devastation. "The government of
Siad Barre ran on a potent mixture of repression and advanced armaments,
tucked away in a Cold War side show called the Horn of Africa. Somalia's
leader had no trouble siphoning military aid from the main event, the
confrontation between Moscow and Washington...The Soviet-built naval
base on the Red Sea was abandoned by the Americans and never once
used." Hockenberry called the base "The world's most strategic
garbage dump," and mused, "Maybe this is the best monument to
the Cold War."
Though President Bush abandoned Reagan's economic policies, the Los
Angeles Times continues to blame supply-side policies for Bush's
defeat. In a "news analysis" five days after the election,
business reporter James Risen declared: "Ultimately, Reaganomics
was a failure. It produced big political dividends for the Republicans,
and it may have contributed to rapid economic growth during the 1980s.
But it was, at its core, a governing philosophy based on a deeply flawed
economic notion: that tax cuts, especially large tax cts for the rich,
would not worsen the government's budget deficit. Ironically, it was the
illogic of that theory that helped bring down President George Bush --
even though it seems clear that Bush never fully believed in the theory
Later Risen insisted: "Tax cuts did
not generate higher government revenue, and so did not help balance the
federal budget....In the end, what will be remembered most about
Reaganomics is the debt that it brought America -- towering mountains of
Exactly one month later, New York
Times reporter David Rosenbaum countered this typical media
portrayal of Reaganomics. Deep in a December 8 story on 1980's tax
policies, Rosenbaum wrote: "One popular misconception is that the
Republican tax cuts caused the crippling federal deficit, now
approaching $300 billion a year. The fact is, the large deficit resulted
because the government vastly increased what it spent each year, while
tax revenues changed little."
Holes in Cole's Story.
Almost the entire media ignored the furor over Johnnetta Cole, the
Spelman College President who heads Clinton's transition cluster for
education, arts, labor, and the humanities. Human Events
reported that Cole had worked for the pro-Castro Venceremos Brigade and
the pro-communist U.S.-Grenada Friendship Society in the early 1980s.
Among the networks, only CNN touched the story. On the December 17 Inside
Politics, anchor Frank Sesno asserted that Human Events
"accused her of being a left-wing extremist with Marxist
sympathies. While Cole has denounced the allegations as `vile,' it
appears the publicity has severely undercut her chances of being
nominated to any high- level administration post." Sesno gave
viewers the incorrect impression that the facts about Cole -- her
membership in pro-communist groups -- were in doubt.
That's not the only story about Cole the
media didn't report. In May 1991, a white male English professor at
Spelman, Joe Reese filed a $1 million discrimination suit when he was
denied tenure by Cole. Reese and Spelman settled out of court late last
year for an undisclosed sum. The Clinton team's record on
"diversity" is more interesting than reporters would like to
The Good Old Soviet Days.
"Workers and managers alike say they long for the simpler days when
there was a system to count on and things were affordable." Is this
quote from a speech by an anti-Yeltsin, hard-line Marxist on the floor
of the Congress of People's Deputies? No, it's CNN Moscow correspondent
Claire Shipman on the September 10 World News. On December 3,
Shipman reported on people in Moscow who were scrounging through a
garbage dump for food. As the camera panned from people picking through
the garbage to a shed with a picture of Lenin hanging on it, Shipman
announced: "Communist ghosts still linger around the waste yard,
this one [Lenin] surveying this post-communist scene with what seems to
be an `I told you so' gaze." Shipman struck earlier on CNN's
November 11 World News. As viewers saw a child holding up a
picture of Stalin, Shipman asserted: "As the future looks more
frightening for these Russians, the past is bound to look better all the
"Some people are now unhappy at the
new price of freedom," anchor Susan Rook sighed on World News
last September. Maybe she was referring to western journalists reporting
Hungry for News. With
Somalia's famine dominating the news, CBS and CNN sought to dramatize
hunger in America, using wild and unsupportable statistics. On December
18, CNN's Anne McDermott declared "Yes, even in the U.S., children
die from what might best be called the complications of poverty -- the
violence, disease, and ignorance that poverty breeds. And, in the U.S.,
one out of every five children is poor." Her source? The liberal
Children's Defense Fund, famous for advocacy of greater social spending
and for inaccurate statements, such as claiming two million children go
homeless. McDermott did not provide any proof or balancing view, as
evidenced by her breathless conclusion: "Children's advocates say
they don't really care where the money comes from, all they know is it's
absolutely necessary for these children."
CBS News took exaggeration of hunger to
new heights, as Cinny Kennard cited unprovable and highly improbable
figures on the December 4 Evening News: "Perhaps there is so much
anguish, because there is so much hurting at home. The fact is there are
about 30 million people who are hungry and undernourished in
CBS colleague Scott Pelley, on the
December 17 Evening News, added that "you don't often hear
about hungry children in the U.S. starving to death, that's because
disease kills them first." Pelley maintained that "the hungry
grow by one million per year." However, the Centers for Disease
Control told MediaWatch there are no official
statistics measuring poverty - or malnutrition- caused infant death,
because it's so rare, and none on overall hunger, leaving a factual
vacuum for the networks to fill.
No Abrams Admirer. The
Washington Post's Walter Pincus, who "objectively"
covered President Bush's recent pardons of Caspar Weinberger and five
other Iran-Contra defendants, believes at least one pardon recipient was
undeserving. Pincus wrote a review of Elliott Abrams' new book Undue
Process in the December issue of The Washington Monthly.
The review revealed a very vindictive Pincus: "This is a very
personal memoir, sometimes embarrassingly so. It is riveting because it
portrays a man so different from the Elliott Abrams we have come to know
through the media. If you disliked him and the harm the Contra policies
he espoused caused others (tens of thousands dead in Nicaragua and El
Salvador), you'll not be saddened to hear of his mental suffering"
Pincus attacked the Reagan
Administration's support of the Contras, writing, "Nowhere in this
book does one get the sense that Abrams ever had second thoughts about
the legitimacy of his policies and the terrible loss of life and
destruction they brought to the people of Nicaragua. After all, these
were men, women and children even more innocent than he." Pincus
then took a final whack: "Abrams represents a new breed. He's
someone with so little respect for democratic institutions that when he
violates them he doesn't realize it...if [Abrams] is a model of the new
generation of conservative Republican public servant, we are in for
trouble when they occupy the White House again."
Coverage Limits. On the
November 4 CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer briefly mentioned
term limit measures, successful on all state ballots where they
appeared, noting "Fourteen states passed laws which will limit in
some way the number of years their Senators and Congressmembers can
serve." If implemented, the measures would limit the terms of
Speaker of the House Thomas Foley, House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt,
and Senate Banking Chairman Donald Riegle, but the networks ignored the
issue. Between September 1 and December 30, the four networks did no
full-length stories on term limits.
In contrast, ballot measures in Oregon
and Colorado seeking to prevent homosexuals from becoming a specially
protected minority group were the focus of six in-depth stories in the
same time period. In September, NBC's Scott Simon likened language in
the Oregon measure to the days of Nazi Germany, "language which
some leaders of Oregon's Jewish community recognize and revile." In
light of the disparity in coverage, perhaps the test of newsworthiness
is what the networks do not show.
No Liberal Labels for
Unidentified Elderly Activists
Spending on the elderly is the largest
and fastest growing part of the federal budget. Social Security,
Medicare, and the federal government's civil and military pensions
account for roughly half the fiscal year 1992 budget. The powerful
interest groups behind these regularly growing programs favor an
ever-greater amount of government involvement.
"The Gray Panthers, National Council
of Senior Citizens, AARP, and the Society to Protect [actually the
National Committee to Protect] Social Security and Medicare have been
actively advocating a National Health Program that would provide access
to all for years," reported the Los Angeles Times.
Promoting this kind of creeping socialism should earn them a liberal
label. But are reporters describing them as such?
To determine the tone of reporting,
MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval
system to find every mention of six elderly-advocacy groups in 1990,
1991, and 1992 in four major newspapers (The Los Angeles Times, The
New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post). In
406 news stories, the six groups together drew four "liberal"
labels (1 percent). Despite being powerful and partisan advocacy groups,
reporters described them with labels like "lobbyist" or
"advocate" in only 82 stories (20.1 percent).
Families United for Senior Action, or
Families USA, drew all four of the "liberal" labels used by
reporters in 85 stories (4.7 percent). The group also drew 41 advocacy
labels, probably because of the generic name of the group. (People for
the American Way, for example, also draws more labels than other liberal
groups). But even these labels had a positive sound, such as
"advocates for the elderly and their families" or "an
advocacy group for the elderly poor."
Families USA (known before 1990 as the
Villers Foundation) also makes grants to other groups, not only groups
like the Gray Panthers, but far-left think tanks like the Institute for
Democratic Socialism and the Institute for Policy Studies.
More than any of the other elderly
advocates, Families USA drew media attention with their own studies,
which were the news hook for 30 of their 84 news stories. On October 2,
the newspapers reported the findings of an "independent"
Families USA-organized panel that the Clinton health plan was superior
to the Bush plan. Despite the group's predictable conclusion, the
newspapers used no labels in the story.
The largest and most powerful group, the
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), appeared in 196
newspaper stories without a single ideological label. Despite being
called "arguably the most convincing mega-lobby in American
politics" (Los Angeles Times), "one of the nation's
most powerful lobbying groups" (New York Times), and
"one of the most effective lobbies in Washington" (Washington
Post), reporters used advocacy labels sparingly, 25 times in 196
stories (13 percent). This may be in part because the newspapers often
promoted AARP's informational brochures in news stories. But Los
Angeles Times reporters also described AARP's voter education
programs as "nonpartisan" and The Washington Post insisted
"AARP does not take partisan political positions."
AARP may not endorse or contribute to
candidates, but the September 1992 Washington Monthly used the
headline: "Meet the real Democratic Party bosses: teachers' unions,
government employees, and the AARP." Liberal opinion magazines are
doing a better job of explaining these groups' actual role than
"objective" newspapers, which present them as nonpartisan
advocates for the old and poor.
Most surprisingly, the National Council
of Senior Citizens (NCSC), which does endorse and contribute to
candidates (almost all Democrats), was never identified as liberal in 54
news stories. Despite its partisan bent, the NCSC drew 3 advocacy labels
According to the Capital Research Center
report The Age Lobby, the NCSC, affiliated with the AFL-CIO,
gave $217,000 to 126 congressional candidates in 1986, and all but one
(the late Silvio Conte) were Democrats. The report also revealed the
group's funding sources: "Of NCSC's impressive 1989 budget of
$58,800,000, an astonishing 95 percent -- $55,650,000 -- came from
government contracts and grants." That's an investigative bombshell
waiting to happen.
The National Committee to Preserve Social
Security and Medicare drew no liberal labels and only eight advocacy
labels in 32 stories. Reporters used no labels, even though the Capital
Research Center found "the money spent by the rest of the age lobby
combined pales in comparison to this one organization." In 1986,
the group's political action committee contributed $672,000 to 249
Democratic candidates and $46,000 to 26 Republicans. In addition, the
PAC made "independent expenditures" of $1.9 million, $1.72
million of it on Democrats.
Two other groups also drew no liberal
labels. The Older Women's League received 34 mentions (with three
advocacy labels), while the Gray Panthers appeared in only five. The
pattern duplicated itself in magazine coverage: a Nexis survey of
1990-92 articles in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News &
World Report found 26 mentions, but no liberal labels, and only
four advocacy labels. Like the newspapers, three of those four were
applied to Families USA.
As entitlement spending swells,
identifying these groups' ideological preference may be a good first
step toward informing media consumers that the groups not only promote
the enrichment of the elderly whether they're poor or not, but the
aggrandizement of the federal government as well.
the Bright Side
Cummins on Crime
On the December 9 NBC Nightly News,
reporter Jim Cummins showcased a report on crime by the National Center
for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based conservative think tank. Cummins
found: "The new study seemed to confirm what many people have
suspected for a long time. The crime rate across the nation is rising,
because criminals know the chances of getting caught and doing time are
He reviewed the study data and took
comment from the study's author, NCPA's Morgan Reynolds. Cummins
explained: "Reynolds says obviously those who are caught and
convicted serve more time, but most aren't caught and convicted -- and
that brings the average way down...In fact, Reynolds' crime and
punishment study found that from 1950 to 1974, there was a five-fold
increase in the felony crime rate and a corresponding decrease in prison
time for serious crimes...Reynolds believes the only realistic solution
to this problem is to build more prisons and hire more cops."
Considering the usual network practice of
presenting uncritical reports on studies from liberal groups, it's nice
to see a conservative group get the same treatment. But don't reporters
do their job best when they provide both sides?
Bill and Hillary Clinton's January 5
decision to send daughter Chelsea to a $10,000-a-year private school
prompted CBS and NBC to question the political message sent by the First
But only ABC's Brit Hume and CNN's Wolf
Blitzer highlighted Clinton's hypocrisy, escaping public schools while
opposing policies which would allow those less well off to do the same.
Blitzer noted that "despite his support for public school education
and his opposition to tax credits or vouchers that would help families
send their children to private schools, 12-year-old Chelsea will now be
attending eighth grade in one of the nation's most elite private
schools." On World News Tonight, Hume asserted:
"Clinton's education policy has included support for school choice,
but only among public schools. He's opposed the use of public money to
help those who can't afford it go to private schools."
Not Enough Details on
Iran-Contra, But "Bastards" Kept Honest on Ads
Media Think They Did Great Job
"A substantial majority (55 percent)
of the American journalists who followed the 1992 presidential campaign
believe that George Bush's candidacy was damaged by the way the press
covered him. Only 11 percent feel that Gov. Bill Clinton's campaign was
harmed by the way the press covered his drive." So determined a
December-released survey of 250 members of the media by the Times Mirror
Center for the People & the Press. The sample included 48 people
dubbed the "powers that be," meaning news executives,
Washington bureau chiefs, executive producers, anchors and political
How did these top people rate their
coverage of the 1992 campaign? Remarkably, 84 percent called it good or
excellent. Of all those polled, 80 percent offered the same assessment.
Despite the fact economic indicators released after the election showed
negative coverage during the fall to be way off base, 73 percent overall
and 75 percent of the "powers that be" called economic
coverage good or excellent.
While 72 percent of those surveyed
categorized coverage of Clinton's Vietnam draft status as good or
excellent, reporters thought Iran-Contra didn't get enough attention,
believe it or not. The Times Mirror report explained: "Coverage of
Bush's relation to the Iran-Contra scandal received the harshest
judgment. Over 70 percent said it was only fair (48 percent) or poor (23
percent); one-fourth (24 percent) said it was good."
Journalists were quite proud of their
"ad watch" efforts: "Most applause was given to press
assessments of candidates' commercials during the campaign (77 percent
positive). Such propaganda debunking, said one television newsman, `is
the primary reason why no Willie Horton ads or their cousins have
appeared in this campaign. Our coverage is keeping the bastards
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