Reporters Who Trashed Reagan Deficits Praise Clinton for Bigger Ones
Clinton's "Serious" Deficit
Candidate Bill Clinton harpooned GOP
Presidents for adding $3 trillion to the national debt in the last 12
years. President Clinton's budget, according to the Congressional Budget
Office, will add $1 trillion to the debt in the next four years. Would
reporters fault Clinton like they did Reagan and Bush?
No, they praised him. On CBS This Morning
on April 30, co-host Harry Smith asked Sen. Bob Dole: "Yesterday
you came out and said `Let's give the President an E for effort.'
Shouldn't he get a better grade for at least passing a budget that takes
the deficit seriously for the first time?" On May 28, This
Morning's Paula Zahn asked Ross Perot: "Do you acknowledge that
this is at all better than anything the Republicans attempted over the
last 12 years?"
On NBC, reporter Lisa Myers agreed on the
April 30 Today: "The President deserves great credit for
having the courage to come up with a deficit reduction plan and we
shouldn't lose sight of that." Two days later on Meet the Press,
NBC White House reporter Andrea Mitchell complained that Clinton's image
was all wrong: "This is the first President in a generation who had
the guts to try to do something about deficit reduction and to take on
health care, and he's somehow not selling that. He's still being
perceived as an old-style Democrat." Declared Bob Schieffer on the
May 23 Sunday Morning: "It's a plan that calls for massive
cuts in federal spending."
The canard continued in the news
magazines. Time Chief Political Correspondent Michael Kramer
saluted Clinton on May 3: "Great salesman that he is, Clinton can
be viewed as a victim of his own success. His insistence on deficit
reduction -- and his cajoling of Congress to support a multi-year plan
to accomplish it -- is the very definition of courage in modern American
U.S. News & World Report
Editor-in-Chief Mor Zuckerman crowed on May 17: "The political
climate has changed in large measure because of Clinton's determination
to address the deficit seriously for the first time in 12 years."
The staunchest Clinton defense came from Newsweek
reporter Eleanor Clift on the May 15 McLaughlin Group:
"Essentially, the plan maintains the balance which undoes the '80s:
70 percent of the taxes fall on wealthier people. He does have a dollar
in spending cuts for every dollar in tax increases. It's true...It's the
first serious attempt to cut the deficit in this country."
In the June 2 Washington Times,
Heritage Foundation analyst Daniel Mitchell showed the package consists
of $301 billion in tax increases and $20 billion in actual cuts in
projected spending increases, making the real ratio of tax hikes to
spending "cuts" 15 to 1.
Revolving Door Whiplash
Editor-at-Large for U.S. News & World Report since 1988 and
a former Nixon, Ford and Reagan aide, has spun back through the
revolving door. On May 29, Bill Clinton named him Counselor to the
President. Gergen will coordinate the White House communications
apparatus. Chief Speechwriter for Richard Nixon in 1973-74, Gergen
became Director of Communications for Gerald Ford, a title he later held
under Reagan from 1981-83. In 1986-88 he was Editor of U.S. News.
For six years, Gergen's been the
"conservative" MacNeil-Lehrer commentator. But he
long ago showed that he's no conservative. In a 1990 U.S. News opinion
piece, he argued that to kick the oil import habit, "there are
several cures, but the fastest and surest is a 50-cent federal tax on
every gallon of gas at the pump, phased in over five years."
During PBS coverage of last year's
Democratic convention, he declared: "I must confess to a Tsongas
bias," explaining that Tsongas and Senator Warren Rudman "want
to go to the country with something like Common Cause and build a
citizen's movement for change...pushing for shared sacrifice." A
month later, he aligned himself with liberals, charging that
"intolerant" Republicans were introducing "a sort of
poison in our dialogue that it seems to me is inappropriate." And
in his first press room appearance, he conceded he voted for Clinton.
McGovernite at NBC
In the wake of the Dateline NBC
fiasco, NBC selected CBS Street Stories Executive Producer Andrew Lack
as its new President. Among Lack's first decisions, naming a NBC
Nightly News Executive Producer. His choice: Jeff Gralnick,
Press Secretary during most of 1971 for former Senator George McGovern.
For 12 years before, Gralnick was a
producer and Vietnam reporter for CBS News. Following his McGovern
stint, Gralnick joined ABC News, rising to Executive Producer of World
News Tonight by 1979. In 1985, Gralnick became Vice President and
Executive Produer for special events. He's overseen all ABC election
coverage since 1980.
Around the Cabinet
Journalists are taking up residence as
Clinton Administration PR flacks in several agencies. Los Angeles
Times reporter Victor Zonana, who FEC records show
contributed $100 last year to Clinton, was named Deputy Assistant
Secretary for public affairs at the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A founder of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association,
Zonana's been a New York City-based business reporter since he moved
from the San Francisco bureau in 1990....
David French, CNN
Washington reporter and weekend anchor since the early 1980s, has
assumed the title of Deputy Director of Communications at the CIA....
At Education, the new Director of
Communications is Kathryn Kahler, the Justice Dept.
correspondent for Newhouse News Service. In Jan. 1991 she assumed the
presidency of the National Press Club....
After four years as Press Secretary for
the Democratic National Committee, Ginny Terzano has
moved to the National Endowment for the Arts as Director of Public
Affairs. In 1987 and early 1988 she worked for presidential hopefuls
Gary Hart and Al Gore. When Gore quit, she jumped to the CBS News
Election Unit as a researcher.
Apparently there are different standards
of behavior for Democrats and Republicans. In February 1992, former
Washington Post reporter Sidney Blumenthal wrote in The New
Republic "While George Bush -- all whiteness -- talks about
'family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by confessing to
adultery." Is this attitude an aberration?
When Clinton Justice Department nominee
Webster Hubbell's membership in a whites-only country club threatened to
derail his nomination, the evening news shows said nothing. Apparently
using Blumenthal's logic, the networks thought belonging to a racially
exclusive club was not troubling for a liberal Democrat who had
supported civil rights in the past. That's despite the fact that members
of the Little Rock NAACP charged Hubbell with lying when he claimed
blacks were solicited to join the club.
The networks also ignored Jerry Seper's
May 18 Washington Times scoop that Little Rock investment
banker Roy Drew charged that Hubbell may have used inside information to
score a quick $3,500 profit in 1983. Hubbell ordered Drew to buy 500
shares of stock in the Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Company (Arkla). Hubbell's
college friend, White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty, was named
President of Arkla a month after Hubbell's purchase. Insider trading
accusations may have been a hot story in the Reagan years, but the
networks weren't biting.
ABC's Peter Jennings reflected the ho-hum
attitude toward liberal hypocrisy. During the May 19 World News
Tonight, Jennings reported: "Another lesson today in how
important perceptions are in politics. President Clinton's nominee for
the number three job at the Justice Department, Webster Hubbell, told
the Senate Judiciary Committee today that he resigned from a country
club in Little Rock, Arkansas, a club which admitted its first black
member only in December. Mr. Hubbell said he did not want to appear
insensitive on racial matters." The same night, CBS's Dan Rather
dismissed Hubbell's resignation as only meaning "he did not want
anyone to think he was insensitive to racism." NBC and CNN evening
shows ignored the Hubbell nomination.
Carlson, Washington Post's Martha Sherrill Celebrate the First Lady
Hard News Hillary's Pliant Press
How are the media covering the new First
Lady? On CNN's Reliable Sources, Time White House reporter
Margaret Carlson claimed: "At Time magazine we cover her
just the way we cover the President... I think actually we try to cover
her as hard news." For the kind of reporting actually offered,
one-sided hailing of Hillary and a caricature of conservatives, Carlson,
along with Washington Post reporter Martha Sherrill, earned the
June Janet Cooke A-ward.
Carlson's May 10 Time cover
story was a dizzying parade of compliments: "Every witness has his
or her horror story about getting sick, and Hillary listens as if
hearing such woe for the first time...Ever the best girl in class, there
seems to be no fact she hasn't memorized...When she briefed the
committee, the clarity of her pitch opened a few eyes...When the
President's economic address to Congress was scraps of paper on the
conference table in the Roosevelt Room, she stepped in and pasted it
back together again...She goes through paperwork like butter, scribbling
in the margins of the mail, trying not to touch the same piece
twice...Friends say Hillary fenced off a park of privacy right after the
notorious broadcast on 60 Minutes, when almost every frame of
tape showing her at her best was left on the cutting-room floor...She
has taken to her role like a student, reading 43 White House biographies
and numerous histories."
Carlson concluded: "As the icon of
American womanhood, she is the medium through which the remaining
anxieties over feminism are being played out. She is on a cultural
seesaw held to a schizophrenic standard: everything she does that is
soft is a calculated coverup of the careerist inside; everything that
isn't is a put-down of women who stay home and bake cookies."
But is Hillary Clinton benefitting from a
different double standard -- heading a task force doing the hard-news
work of redesigning one-seventh of the economy while riding a wave of
soft news? The accompanying interview with Mrs. Clinton had 20
questions, three on health care and 17 on her personal life. Carlson
asked about the President doing crossword puzzles: "Does he ask you
for a six-letter word for a river in Germany?" And: "Do you
get a chance to exercise?...Do people stop talking about issues long
enough to date?...You give the President lots of support. Who supports
Carlson relegated the hard-news
controversy over Hillary's violation of the open-meetings law to one
paragraph out of 40: "A group of doctors and industry insiders sued
the White House to open the meetings, arguing that Hillary's presence as
a non-government employee entitled them to attend as well. A federal
judge ruled some of the meetings had to be open. The Administration
appealed, contending it was only trying to keep lobbyists at bay."
After declining to discuss most of the
article on the record, Carlson was willing to tell MediaWatch
about that law: "It's not exactly on point here. The purpose of the
[Federal Advisory Committee] Act was to keep out lobbyists and special
interests... we looked at that ruling several times in the magazine in
different ways. We haven't used it as a vehicle for doing this because
it isn't so on point that it works. I think people look around for a way
to challenge something and they find a statute that might help them.
It's not as clear for journalistic purposes as you might think...By the
time you explain what this is, you've used up thirty lines."
As for the interview, Carlson explained
that Time wanted to include the questions that no one else had
asked: "We have a lot on the record about health care, and three
questions out of 20 about something we have her on the record for seemed
enough when you can get in stuff that nobody'd ever seen."
Sherrill told MediaWatch
she's no Hillary supporter and no Margaret Carlson type (she called
Carlson's articles "press releases"), but her May 4 Washington
Post "Style" section article on the inner Hillary's
political and spiritual influences did not hold back on praise: "In
the midst of redesigning America's health care system and replacing
Madonna as our leading cult figure, the new First Lady has already begun
working on her next project, far more metaphysical and uplifting."
Hillary's mission: "redefining who we are as human beings in this
postmodern age." Sherrill added: "She has goals, but they
appear to be so huge and so far off -- grand and noble things twinkling
in the distance -- that it is hard to see what she sees."
Sherrill told MediaWatch
"People assumed immediately that [the Madonna reference] was
praise. I didn't see it as such. I don't think the White House was
thrilled by this piece." Like Carlson, Sherrill believes her
editors are sour on Hillary: "In the context of the paper, if you
say anything positive about Hillary Clinton, and there are positive
things to say -- she's an admirable woman. She believes in a politics,
and she's worked hard for them, so why are we shooting her down?"
Sherrill wrote in the Post:
"She is both impersonal and poignant -- with much more depth,
intellect, and spirituality than we are used to in a politician."
She admitted that was praise: "Well. I've interviewed a fair number
of politicians, and this is stuff they don't usually talk about."
Both reporters caricatured the
conservative criticism of Mrs. Clinton as extreme and unthinking. Wrote
Sherrill: "All this children business, children business
-- keeps reminding the far right of communist youth camps, early
indoctrination, Marxist brainwashing." Despite claiming she voted
for Reagan twice, had an aunt in the John Birch Society, and is
"the only Republican in the Post building," Sherrill
told MediaWatch "This is something I got
from a couple of people, and I'm not going to say who they were,
conservatives. I think [conservative criticism] comes from a lot of
emotion and not very much thinking."
Carlson also caricatured the Right:
"In a state where Gloria Steinem was considered by some a
communist, Hillary started out being regarded as a stuck-up feminist
from Wellesley and Yale who wouldn't change her name and ended up being
a popular and admired First Lady." Asked by MediaWatch
who considered Steinem a communist, Carlson confessed: "That was
overly glib, and I regret it now. But 20 years ago, a woman came from
Yale Law School and the House Judiciary Committee and kept her own name.
This was a very conservative group of people, and she was deep in a
hole. She had to prove herself."
Both Carlson and Sherrill explained that
they would have preferred to have done these articles after the health
care task force released its plan. That remains the real test: Will
Hillary ever become hard news, or remain a feminist icon and cult figure
to be celebrated, not investigated?
Tax Revolt? "Tax
revolt. You probably haven't heard that phrase in years, not since the
anti-tax wave that started in California and swept the nation a full
decade ago. Well, it could be starting up again in a somewhat different
form," Dan Rather declared on the May 19 CBS Evening News. But
CBS' idea of a "tax revolt" isn't taxpayers pushing
politicians to lower taxes. A tax revolt for CBS means bureaucrats
trying to escape budget cuts by scaring taxpayers into accepting tax
In the May 19 piece on California,
reporter John Blackstone stated: "Tina Kirschbaum was the victim of
a budget cut when she was stopped by carjackers...The sheriff's station
Kirschbaum raced to in a Los Angeles suburb had been closed by budget
cuts." On May 14, reporter Bill Whitaker found "California law
enforcement is the latest victim of the state's bruising recession and
the citizen's refusal to pay higher taxes. All across the Golden State,
thieves, drug offenders, non-violent criminals of all stripes are due to
Herbert's On-Air Column.
Bob Herbert, NBC reporter and newly named New York Times
columnist, believes throwing more money at American cities will solve
their myriad problems. On the April 30 Nightly News "America
Close-Up" segment, Herbert stated: "The neglect of the cities
accelerated mightily in the 1980s." Worse, according to Herbert:
"Clinton's first modest attempt to help the cities failed when
Congress refused to pass his economic stimulus package. For urban
America, it was a terrible sign." Because of this failure,
"The tragedy of the cities goes on. The Clinton Administration has
no specific urban policy and scarce funds seem to be going elsewhere. If
Los Angeles was a wakeup call, America must have rolled over and gone
back to sleep."
Herbert ignored cities such as Raleigh,
San Jose, and Arlington, Texas which, while others declined, grew
dramatically because of lower taxes and smaller city government, not
liberal "urban policy." He also ignored an unpleasant fact
cited by Stephen Moore in a February Cato Institute study: "Since
1989, domestic spending across the board, including spending on urban
aid, has exploded...In real terms, cities and states received more
federal money in 1992 than in any previous year."
NPR: No Putrid Republicans.
In the May 14 Washington City Paper, former Washington
Times reporter Glenn Garvin recounted listening to National Public
Radio in one week in mid-April during the boiling stimulus battle.
"During the first three days of the week, NPR ran 11 stories on
Clinton's campaign for the package, all of them centered around speeches
by the President or Al Gore...It wasn't until the afternoon of April 15,
the fourth day I listened to the network, that I heard a Republican
voice on the subject of the filibuster." Even then, Garvin
reported, the GOP analyst wrongly conceded defeat. NPR (and ABC)
reporter Cokie Roberts found "more than a little racism" in
anyone who opposed the package's aid to the cities.
Garvin discovered that Roberts also found
racist code words in a special congressional election in Mississippi.
Roberts reported: "This is where you really see the words 'city' or
'inner city' become something of a code word for race. The white
candidate, who's a Republican, is saying that his opponent is a liberal
from the city, as opposed to himself, who's a conservative from the
country. And that's just sort of a way of letting people know that the
opponent is black." Garvin called Roberts "ridiculously
wrong," pointing out the district was majority-black, and the
winning Democrat, Bennie Thompson, ran on the idea that only a black
could represent a majority-black district.
Smith's New Math. CBS
has goofed again, decrying nonexistent immunization budget
"cuts." Two years ago on Face the Nation, then-host
Lesley Stahl blamed a measles outbreak on "Reagan-era budget
cuts." On the May 2 Sunday Morning, reporter Terence Smith
asserted: "In 1989, after nearly a decade of federal budget
cutbacks for immunizations, the previously successful measles
vaccination program broke down." The Centers for Disease Control
reports spending actually rose from $32 billion in 1980 to $186 billion
in 1990, and $257 billion in 1992. Some "cuts."
Medical Masquerade. In
the raging debate over health care, CNN is giving voice to all sides of
the issue -- from the left to the far left. In a May 24 story on Hillary
Clinton's task force, CNN's John Holliman included two interviews:
"health care expert" Bob Brandon of Citizen Action, and the
ubiquitous Ron Pollack of Families USA, which Holliman identified as a
"consumer group." In reality, both men represent groups
pushing a Canadian-style system of government rationed health care that
outlaws insurance companies. With such objective expert analysts, who
Colorado Dreaming. NBC
reporter Roger O'Neil has played along with gay activists' anecdotal
evidence in his coverage of Colorado's Amendment 2, which prohibits
localities from enacting "gay rights" legislation. On the May
24 Nightly News, O'Neil quoted a lesbian couple who "have
felt the discrimination of hatred" and "says the
discrimination, although mostly subtle, has gotten much worse since
Colorado voters decided seven months ago to ban gay rights laws at the
state and local level." Without offering any evidence to support
that generalization, O'Neil concluded with another anecdote:
"Kris...is afraid if gay rights are not protected in Colorado, she
and other homosexuals might be forced back into the closet again, to
protect their jobs."
On November 14, 1992, another O`Neil
story featured speculation about the effects of Amendment 2, again
without any statistical proof. He said: "Business owners have
reported that gay bashings have been on the rise since the vote."
In contrast, The Washington Post, no haven for gay-bashers,
reported on May 30: "Gay-bashing reports in Colorado have dropped
since passage in November of a measure against gay rights protections,
state authorities said in announcing 54 anti-gay hate crimes were
reported...In the same period last year, 61 attacks with 86 victims were
Dream or Reality? When
Defense Secretary Les Aspin announced his decision to redirect funding
for SDI to a ground-based Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, the
media cheered the end of ignorance. ABC's World News Tonight
with Peter Jennings began smugly on May 13, "with the end of a
dream, some would argue a pipe dream, that the United States could
leapfrog its enemies and become invulnerable to nuclear attack...In
simple language, Star Wars is dead." The same day, CNN's Jamie
McIntyre reported that, "In the end, Star Wars was simply an idea
whose time came and went." Daniel Schorr reported on National
Public Radio on May 15, "President Reagan's impossible dream of ten
years ago, the impenetrable shield is dead 30 billion dollars
While a few reporters acknowledged the
symbolic value SDI had in arms negotiations, none acknowledged the
arguments of conservatives such as Angelo Codevilla who, in the May 10
National Review, argued it was political and bureaucratic
obstacles, not technological impossibilities, that prevented the
deployment of a system. Codevilla wrote: "If God grants us a year
or so to react, our country will not lack the technologies for
NBC's Bad Trip. NBC's Today
show dropped in on 1968 for the week of May 10. Throughout the week they
paraded leftist activists across the screen as a fair representation of
a "turbulent year," as if conservatives weren't alive in the
year Richard Nixon won the White House.
On May 12, Jamie Gangel interviewed
"three people who thought they could change the world, and one
graduate of the class of 1968 who just might." Gangel interviewed
Eric Foner, a leader of the Columbia protest who is now a professor in
the building he occupied; Sharon Cohen, a student protester at the
University of Wisconsin, now a Vice President at Reebok in charge of
funding "human rights organizations"; Tommy Smith, who is best
remembered for his Black Panther salute at the Mexico City Olympics; and
The next day, Bryant Gumbel interviewed
former Black Panther leader and Congressman Bobby Rush and NAACP lawyer
Elaine Jones. The one exception was their May 11 coverage of the Vietnam
War, with former New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan and
General William Westmoreland. Jamie Gangel said the joke about the 60's
was "if you remembered it you didn't live through it." Thanks
to NBC, we got a good view of what we never missed.
Healy Squeals. Add
former Boston Globe Executive Editor and Washington Bureau
Chief Robert Healy to the list of New Republic Clinton-Gore
Suck-Up Award candidates. Gore accepted a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
for Earth in the Balance. In a May 17 column on Gore's speech,
Healy was beside himself with praise. Gore was introduced by historian
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., "who noted that there was a time in
American history when it was the norm to have distinguished vice
presidents such as Adams and Jefferson. After a period of
less-than-distinguished men in the office, it is good for the nation to
have a literate one."
Healy went on to praise the Clinton
administration as almost divine. "Clinton and his staff might be
better off taking a day off. As one of the comics said about the Clinton
staff, even God rested on the seventh day." Taking a parting shot
at former President Reagan, Healy admitted the Clinton staff may be
arrogant, but "It is better for the nation that it deal with the
arrogance of youth, which will be tempered with experience, than a
President who falls asleep right after lunch."
Editors Concede Bias.
Several surveys over the past decade have proven members of the media
are liberal and/or Democrats. MediaWatch has
come across a survey with a twist: It found newspaper editors and
publishers realize those personal views impact news coverage. Last
September the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) commissioned a poll
of 94 editors, 89 publishers and 22 executives carrying both titles. The
NAA asked: "Do you believe there's bias in the general media's
political coverage?" Yes, responded a slight majority of 51.7
percent. Those who responded affirmatively were then asked "toward
which agenda, onservative or liberal?" 70.8 percent said liberal.
Just 7.5 percent said conservative.
Analyzing their own segment of the media,
however, they saw less bias. The NAA question: "Do you believe
there's a bias in newspapers' political coverage?" This time, 59.5
percent responded no and only 37.1 percent said yes. Of those who said
yes, 61.8 percent saw a liberal slant, 25 percent said bias went against
both agendas and 13.2 percent claimed the bias favored the conservative
Blocking Brock. Some
remain unshaken in refusing to cover David Brock's book The Real
Anita Hill. At U.S News & World Report, reporter Ted
Gest, who wrote a piece summarizing Tim Phelps' pro-Anita Hill book Capitol
Games last year, told MediaWatch he
rejected the notion "that because we wrote about Phelps, we have to
write about Brock...We covered both sides of the story in our big
article last fall, and Brock wouldn't talk to us at that time."
ABC's Good Morning America
spokesperson Kathy Reif told MediaWatch the
crew spent two weeks in Australia and New Zealand, and a Brock interview
would now be too dated. Reif also argued that Phelps' appearance (a
tough interview with Charles Gibson) came because his book was first,
and he'd been leaked the Hill story. When asked if Phelps' book was
better than Brock's on merit, Reif answered "we don't consider
things like that."
National Public Radio
Anchor's Liberal Year at Weekend Today
Scott Simon's Simple Sermons
Most Americans spend their weekends
relaxing, but NBC's Scott Simon, co-host of the weekend Today
shows, has spent his pursuing a special hobby -- indoctrination. Each
Saturday, the former National Public Radio anchor has shared his
"personal thoughts," the only commentary aired by the show,
while also acting as a reporter.
review shows that since Simon's debut last August, his self-described
"pompous, tortuous essays," have reflected the left-liberal
line on nearly every issue, from social spending to gay rights, from El
Salvador to Columbus. So with his June 6 departure from Today,
we have compiled a sampling of his bias -- words to remember him by.
COMMUNISM. Perhaps the
most glaring examples of liberal tilt occurred in Simon's
all-too-frequent attempts to rewrite the history of the Cold War,
finding America as public enemy number one. Take El Salvador, where
Simon could find no good in preventing a communist coup. In a December
20, 1992 report Simon declared: "The United States paid the sticker
price for continuing most of the war years when we saw El Salvador as
another domino in Cuban or Soviet designs, close to a billion dollars.
But Salvadorans paid the real, incalculable costs...For twelve years,
most of us, U.S. taxpayers, who helped finance the fighting, risked
nothing real to keep it going. It was a good policy to pay for a war we
were willing to watch but did not want to risk ourselves."
Simon concluded: "As the war ended
this week in a world which has gone on to other crises, you might wonder
why the treaty Salvadorans celebrated couldn't have been signed twelve
years ago, before 75,000 people died; before, as Oscar Romero said,
people whose pockets are heavy with gold paid poor people to fight for
food and clothes."
Following the release of a controversial
United Nations report on El Salvador (which he accepted without
question), Simon opined on March 20: "How could American officials
not know about the army to which they gave such expensive weapons,
weapons which were turned on Salvadoran civilians?... The army we
supported tried to win the hearts of its nation with cruelty and steel.
But each life taken by torture, by murder, or massacre gave the rebels
new life for their cause."
Simon's willingness to condemn U.S.
policy while ignoring the Soviets and their allies was also evident in
an October 17 report on Vietnam: "For many Americans, including
many who served there, the war in Vietnam wasn't to defend the United
States, but to prop up a corrupt and brutal South Vietnamese
On May 15, Simon even touted a biography
of Walt Disney, refuted by his family, which alleged that Disney
"was an informant for the FBI, that he furnished J. Edgar Hoover
information on some of his own employees he thought politically suspect
during the McCarthy era." Simon relied on the liberal proposition
that the Cold War was overblown, a part of the `paranoia' of the time,
as fodder for his wit: "Did Mr. Disney believe Donald Duck's
peculiar, scratchy speech contained insidious messages only to be
decoded in Moscow?...When Bambi's mother disappeared, was it because
Uncle Walt turned her over to the House Un-American Activities
COLUMBUS. Unable to
contain his revisionism to this century, Simon excoriated Christopher
Columbus on October 11: "For Native Americans, the people who
hardly felt discovered, Columbus' landing commenced a holocaust. There's
really no other word for the death delivered by settlers, as they
scattered, enslaved, and obliterated Indian nations on their own sacred
GAY RIGHTS. Simon's
frequent bashing of conservatives occurred in his reporting too. This
was certainly evident after the Republican convention in Houston, when
Simon pressed the "intolerance" issue with Pat Buchanan on
October 3: "Mr. Buchanan, some surveys have suggested that your
speech at the Republican convention, in which you specifically denounced
gay rights, and some other speeches there have promoted a lack of
tolerance, an incivility, a lack of manners in a sense, among certain
Republicans that has not gone over well with American voters, not just
gay Americans, but people who feel homosexuals rights is a basic civil
rights issue. Have you hurt the Republican ticket with those remarks
Opening the show from Washington before
the April 25 gay and lesbian march, Simon claimed: "The largest
demonstration in U.S history is gathering now...They're here to step out
of the closet and onto the main stage of American history." Simon
did not correct himself when the Park Police estimated attendance at
300,000, far from the largest protest in U.S. history.
ECONOMICS. The free
enterprise system, of course, did not emerge unscathed from Simon's
commentary. Discussing new economic ties between the U.S. and Russia on
April 3, Simon took a gratuitous swipe at the free market: "Some of
the same economists whose belief in a undiluted free market seem to run
to permitting many Americans to free fall into unemployment came to
Moscow to tell President Yeltsin only shock therapy could snap Russia
He saw the opening of fast food
restaurants in Moscow, unthinkable just a few years ago, as a metaphor
for the "quality of the over-the-counter economic advice we've been
giving them. Fast-fix assembly line fast food that still leaves the
store shelves empty....the opportunities for Americans in Russia should
be something more than just the last vast market for our most precious
products or political theories. Helping Russia to be free ought to mean
helping the Russians to be free to find another way."
On September 5, Simon trashed the 1980s:
"We elected politicians who gave voice to our grievances and
reduced what government could regulate and guarantee ...The financial
wealth of the United States has doubled, but the number of poor people
has stayed the same. Instead of trickling down, apparently that wealth
mostly stayed in the tight fists of those who became richer."
what self-respecting alumnus of National Public Radio could refrain from
a few attacks on Reagan and Bush? On January 16, as viewers saw video of
Bush's `Willie Horton' commercial, Simon asserted: "And then there
was the George Bush who could be churlish, almost a child-like bully
when he campaigned. Commercials arousing fear and speeches veering into
the absurd." After President Clinton's staff asked an interviewer
to apply make-up to the President, Simon stretched to include Reagan in
his jibes of May 29: "Reporters were never asked to make up former
President Reagan, although, it often seemed, they were willing to shine
the Bright Side
Myers on Euro-Pork
NBC's Lisa Myers has again rooted out
Congress' servings of pork. On the May 4 Nightly News, she
exposed extravagant waste at the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, funded by U.S. tax dollars: "In the last three years,
thanks to Congress, the bank has received $200 million of your tax
dollars. That money was supposed to provide loans and investments to
help Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union...So far the bank...has
spent $300 million on its own operations, and only $240 million on
loans." She cited the $80 million dollars spent to outfit its
headquarters, and noted: "The marble in the lobby wasn't good
enough, so it was ripped out and replaced with the world's finest. The
cost, more than a million dollars."
Closer to home, Myers examined the U.S
Department of Agriculture, where "bureaucrats with nothing to do
find ingenious ways to justify their existence." Questioning the
need for a USDA office in one of America's wealthiest suburbs she found
the office had given $3,500 to a "ritzy hunt club, where taxpayer
money went to build a loading dock, for horse manure."
Engberg's Clinton Check
After a fall attacking George Bush's ads
and mostly ignoring Bill Clinton's, CBS reporter Eric Engberg's
"Reality Check" has turned to the new incumbent. On the April
17 Evening News, Engberg reported the Clinton campaign paid
many of its young workers as "independent contractors," paying
no Social Security taxes on them, a la Zoe Baird. The other networks and
the news magazines ignored the scoop.
On May 24, Engberg suggested that Vice
President Gore's government waste review start with his five offices,
including a Carthage, Tennessee office with a paid staff of three. On
May 28, Engberg took viewers inside the Clinton tax deal to see what
legislators received in exchange for their yes votes, including a
tougher Haiti policy and a new tariff on peanuts. Little tidbits like
these gave viewers a better grasp of the details lost in the big
The Washington Post must think
no two lisps are exactly alike. On March 18, the Post ran a
front page story focusing on a Virginia GOP roast where Oliver North
imitated a homosexual calling the White House, complete with lisp.
Condemnation quickly followed, much of it from Virginia Gov. Doug
Wilder. Yet on May 8, Post staff writer Donald Baker reported
that Wilder donned his own lisp. Responding to a reporter's question
concerning his future marital plans, "the Governor [Wilder] feigned
a lisp and a limp wrist in replying, `Oh Don, you shouldn't have.'"
While North made Page 1, the Post revealed the Wilder incident
at the end of Baker's story on Page D7, in the Metro section.
Why the differing coverage for two
comparable acts? "If Doug Wilder and Oliver North and the lispings
in which they were involved, are peas of a pod, there's something odd
about that pea patch," wrote former Post Ombudsman Richard
Harwood on May 18. Harwood claimed, "if intent matters, these were
not parallel cases. North spoke, with a political purpose, at a public
meeting and invited press coverage." Harwood added, "Wilder on
the other hand, has been so contrite that he lied about the episode,
denying that it occurred."
Rich vs. Day
On May 9, reporter Spencer Rich passed on
the findings of the Democrats' Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that a
single-payer Canadian-style health system abolishing private insurance
companies would save $24.3 billion in administrative costs. Despite the
odd conclusion (government-run health care will save on paperwork), Rich
quoted no critics of the CBO report.
Twelve days later, reporter Kathleen Day
covered a health report from the National Federation of Independent
Business (NFIB) estimating one million Americans would lose their jobs
if employers were forced to provide insurance for their employees. But
Day spent more than half the story quoting critics and quibbling with
the conclusions, saying the study "did not take into
consideration" the health portion of workers' compensation may be
paid by government, and "focused only on the short-term
effects" of mandated health coverage.
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