Reporters Insist Budget is Half Tax Hikes, Half Cuts
Siding with Clinton's Math
During the Senate debate over the Clinton
budget plan, Republicans insisted the Democrats would raise at least
three times as much money in taxes as they would save in spending cuts.
The Clintonites countered that their plan offered half tax hikes and
half spending cuts. Guess which side the media favored?
USA Today's Richard Wolf claimed
on June 17 that Senate adjustments to Clinton's budget "gives his
five-year, $500 billion deficit reduction package slightly more spending
cuts than tax increases."
In the June 28 issue, Newsweek
Senior Writer Joe Klein complained that "Republicans...have a
curious way of calculating the spending-cuts-to-tax-increase ratio: they
consider loophole closing -- like Clinton's proposal to reduce the
deductibility of business meals from 80 to 50 percent -- a tax increase;
thus, Bob Dole can say that the Clinton plan is 3-to-1 taxes to
U.S. News & World Report
Assistant Managing Editor Gloria Borger also went to bat for the Clinton
budget on the June 18 Washington Week in Review: "The
Republicans argue that it's three dollars in tax increases for one
dollar in spending cuts, but I think it's really more 50-50. That's an
important thing to get out to the American public."
Borger's colleague, David Hage, agreed.
In the July 5 issue he reported the ratio in the Democratic House and
Senate bills "verge on a 50-50 mix of tax increases and spending
cuts, according to U.S. News calculations." Among the
"spending cuts" listed: "Debt service and other."
The networks also adopted the White
House's one-to-one formula. On the June 23 World News, CNN's Susan Rook
noted "the economic package now in the Senate reduces the federal
deficit by more than $500 billion dollars with spending cuts and $249
billion in tax increases."
Reporters didn't cite the figures of the
Democrats' Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which President Clinton
declared to be the official number-crunchers when he introduced his
budget in February. The CBO calculated the tax-hike-to-spending-cut
ratio at about $2.50-to-$1.
Major media reporters also ignored the
House Republican Conference analysis that detailed how $3.45 of the $5
in supposedly new spending cuts shouldn't count. One dollar is really
projected debt service savings from projected low interest rates.
Another $1.35 comes from unspecified cuts promised in the future, 30
cents from user fees. The final 80 cents represent cuts already approved
in the 1990 budget deal, "leaving only $1.55 of true spending cuts
in every $10 of deficit reduction."
City Hall Calling
Christopher Lydon, a former New York
Times reporter, has added his name to the crowded field of about a
dozen Democratic candidates vying to replace Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. A
September primary will narrow the field of those vying to replace the
new Ambassador to the Vatican. Following several years with The
Boston Globe, in 1968 Lydon moved to The New York Times
Washington bureau, where he remained until jumping into television in
1977 with WGBH-TV, Boston's PBS outlet. Lydon anchored WGBH's 10
O'Clock News until its 1991 cancellation.
After 12 years with The Washington
Post, Alison Muscatine has moved to the White House as a
speechwriter for President Clinton. A sports reporter since 1990,
Muscatine previously reported metro news and served as Maryland editor.
At the White House, she has joined a writing team that already includes
Carolyn Curiel, an editor at the Post in the mid-'80s.
Substituting for Brokaw
Tom Brokaw said no, but Interior
Secretary Bruce Babbitt has found someone else with a NBC connection to
say yes. Yes, to becoming Director of the National Park Service. In May,
Roger Kennedy, Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American
History, accepted the job. The Washingtonian reported that
Kennedy started his Washington career by working in the Eisenhower
Attorney General's office, a job he took after losing a race for
Congress against Eugene McCarthy. In the mid-1950s Kennedy was a
Washington correspondent and producer for NBC News.
During an April 16 appearance on C-SPAN's
Journalists' Roundtable, host Brian Lamb noted the political
jobs once held by husband and wife Joe Albright and Marcia Kunstel, both
Cox News Service reporters. They appeared as they were preparing to
leave for a stint in Moscow. Lamb noted that Albright once toiled for Ed
Muskie and Kunstel for Congressman Emilio Daddario. Kunstel worked in
the Democrat's unsuccessful 1970 Connecticut gubernatorial campaign. A
Cox foreign correspondent since 1988, Kunstel was a reporter for the
Cox-owned Atlanta Journal from 1977 to 1982.
Albright told MediaWatch
that he was Newsday's Washington Bureau Chief before jumping to
politics as a Legislative Assistant to then Senator Muskie (D-ME) in
1971-72. He started in the Cox Washington bureau in 1976, becoming a
foreign correspondent in 1983. Returning to D.C. in 1987, he has
continued to concentrate on foreign reporting.
NBC's Narrow Diversity
NBC President Bob Wright, The
Washington Post reported July 6, "has modified NBC's
`performance appraisal' system to include a review of how individuals
support diversity within NBC." Wright explained that NBC will
attract "the majority of television viewers" by
"diversifying our own workforce." He explained:
"Diversity is about inclusion. It's not limited to race or gender.
It encompasses religion, age, education, sexual orientation, work/family
issues, cultural differences etc."
NBC has former aides to George McGovern,
Lyndon Johnson and Mario Cuomo in top positions. So what about a little
diversity through hiring more conservatives? Wright didn't mention it.
Globe Concedes Liberal
Toned Down Bias?
The sale of The Boston Globe to
the New York Times Company shook the newspaper industry. It also
prompted an equally startling admission from the Globe: liberal
bias permeates its news stories. In a June 13 story reviewing the Globe's
history, reporter Charles Stein wrote that the Globe is "a
paper that has become known -- not always fondly -- as a champion of
liberal causes and social justice." Since Editor Tom Winship's 1984
retirement, Stein found "Business coverage has expanded; so has
coverage of the arts. And most readers would agree that the Globe's
liberal bias has been toned down in news stories."
Toned down? The headline over a Dec. 28,
1989 "Living" section review of the 1980s read: "The
decade had its highs (Gorbachev, Bird) and the decade had its lows
(Reagan, AIDS)." An October 2, 1990 front page story by Stein on
the 1990 budget deal began: "The tax package hammered out last
weekend continues a Washington policy established in the Reagan era: It
takes a heavy bite out of the paychecks of working class
In a news story last August 18, during
the Republican convention, Curtis Wilkie wrote: "Bush, the exponent
of a `kinder, gentler' approach to government at the 1988 convention,
was presented with a 1992 platform loaded with puritanical, punitive
language that not only forbade abortions but attacked public television,
gun control, homosexual rights, birth control clinics and the
distribution of clean needles for drug users."
The morning after Bill Clinton's win with
43 percent, Wilkie asserted in a front page piece: "Bill Clinton
called for change, but he never dared ask for a mandate as sweeping as
the one he received last night. The magnitude of the Democratic triumph
was so enormous that it ensures Clinton a strong alliance with Congress
and an incentive to move quickly on his domestic programs. Clinton
marched to victory in state after state."
In a March 26 news story this year,
reporter Peter Gosselin declared: "Clinton has managed to dethrone
Reagan's soaring vision of lower taxes as the national cure-all, and
replaced it with a more pedestrian ideal, that of paying the nation's
bills on time." It's good to know the bias has been "toned
Series Starts Out As Slanted As CBS
Twelve years after leaving the anchor
desk at CBS, Walter Cronkite is coming out of retirement -- just a
little bit -- with a new quarterly series, The Cronkite Report,
on cable's Discovery Channel. Will the series be balanced, or a chip off
the old biased CBS block? The first installment on May 28, "Help
Unwanted," looked more like the latter. For its imbalance of
experts, mangled statistics, and liberal industrial-policy pleadings,
Cronkite earned the Janet Cooke Award.
The show focused on American unemployment
and how to shrink it. But Cronkite's central thesis -- "what this
program was about was the inescapable tragedy of growing unemployment
and the inescapable conclusion that there is a permanency to it that we
are not addressing" -- isn't borne out by the facts. Unemployment
stands at 7 percent, lower than much of the 1980s. As for permanency,
Cronkite may want to debate economics columnist Robert Samuelson, who
pointed out in the June 23 Washington Post: "In 1992,
nearly half of Europe's jobless had been unemployed for more than a
year; in the United States, only 6 percent were."
Cronkite disparaged market solutions to
unemployment: "The free market. While the government helped build
the trains and roads to help bring the United States into the 20th
century, the economic philosophy of this country has been laissez-faire.
Germany and Japan, on the other hand, give industry broad government
support. The Japanese government invests 58 percent more than the United
States in civilian research and development, Germany 42 percent. But
American business always has fought a government-guided industrial
strategy. They called it socialism. Now, many are calling it 21st
Samuelson pointed out that despite their
industrial policies, Europe has more persistent unemployment --
Cronkite's central thesis -- than the United States. Wrote Samuelson:
"Between 1965 and 1991, the European Community generated only 13
million new jobs, less than half the growth of the working
population...In the same period, the United States created 46 million
new jobs...In 1972, the EC's unemployment rate was 2.9 percent; by 1982,
it was 9 percent." In Germany alone, unemployment surged from 0.5
percent in 1970 to 6.3 percent in 1987.
But Cronkite argued that the U.S. needs a
European-style industrial policy, a public-private partnership of
government-led investment in the economy. Cronkite's experts were all
proponents of industrial policy -- Labor Secretary Robert Reich, MIT
economist Lester Thurow, investment adviser Felix Rohatyn, Harvard
historian Paul Kennedy, CEOs John Sculley of Apple and Akio Morita of
Sony, Harley Shaiken of the University of California, and British
official Gillian Shepherd. To round out the wonkfest, Cronkite
interviewed Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Conservatives were ignored, but
Cronkite did find many tearful unemployed workers and union bosses
glumly worrying about their future.
In a long interview, Cronkite asked
President Clinton if his industrial-policy solutions would pass:
"To implement these programs, it's going to take the support of the
people, and through them the Congress. And yet, as they're beginning to
learn more of the details of the sacrifice necessary in taxes and so
forth, some of the support for this is ebbing. Are you getting
discouraged at all?"
Cronkite concluded with a speech laying
out his liberal vision: "Today, government and industry, with the
support of us the people ...must devise a long-term plan, a national
strategy. It would require industry to invest more of its profits, to
make better products, to improve research and development, to modernize
tools and constantly retrain its work force. It would require all of us
to invest more of our income -- that's taxes -- into preparing the next
generation through education and training to give it a chance to live at
least part of, and keep alive, the American dream. And we all would have
to share more, to improve the lot of our disadvantaged, to narrow
considerably the differences in opportunity that are rapidly and
dangerously dividing America."
Cronkite sold his Clintonesque program
with dubious figures: "In the last decade, 60 percent of American
families saw their incomes decline despite the increase in working
women. In 1980, 20 percent of young American men who worked full-time
earned below the poverty line for a family of three. In 1990, that
figure doubled to 40 percent."
In his interview with President Clinton,
Cronkite repeated his charge: "The real income of the American
family has been dropping for 20 years almost now...How do we restore the
American dream?" Clinton subtly undercut Cronkite, acknowledging
family income increased in the 1980s. In fact, Census Bureau data show
that average family income grew in every fifth of earners from 1982 to
As for young men below the poverty line,
Chris Frenze, senior Republican economist for the Joint Economic
Committee, told MediaWatch: "That's a
ridiculous measurement. It's not really meaningful for men aged 18-24 to
have incomes to support families of three or four when most of them
aren't married or have families to support." Frenze said one Census
Bureau report did include numbers close to Cronkite's. But according to
that same Census study, of the year-round full-time workers with
earnings below the poverty line for a family of four, only 15.8 percent
lived under the poverty line for their own family size in 1979. That
fell to 12.9 percent in 1990. For husbands in married-couple families,
the percentage under the poverty line fell from 35.7 percent in 1979 to
21.4 percent in 1990.
But Cronkite pretended the 1980s did not
exist. He asked Al Gore: "Where do we get the large numbers to take
care of our millions of unemployed?" He ignored that 18 million
jobs were created in the 1980s, dropping the annual jobless rate from
9.5 percent in 1982 to 5.2 percent in 1989.
Despite Cronkite's stumbling with
numbers, Jonathan Ward, Cronkite's production firm partner, told the
Boston Herald that with the Cronkite cachet, "We have to be
extremely careful about our facts, our figures and our approach."
Ward failed to return a week of MediaWatch
calls, but an assistant, Karen Gilmore, did call to see what we would
ask. When told of the program's spurious claims on family income,
Gilmore responded: "I think that difference is because of
inflation." When told the Census figures were inflation-adjusted,
Gilmore replied: "I'm sure there are many different ways of reading
But Cronkite found no one who had a
different way of reading statistics than he did. Cronkite's show wasn't
a debate, but a one-sided lecture, too much like the journalism of the
network he long represented.
Dan Rostenkowski, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee,
put another hole in the theory that major media companies are
conservative. Rostenkowski lined up more than 50 corporations to sign a
statement of support for the Democrats' massive tax increase. Signing on
the dotted line: Time Warner and General Electric, the parent company of
"Myth." Boston Globe reporter Peter Gosselin
doesn't think federal overspending is a problem. Gosselin based a June
20 article on one of the media's favorite Republicans, David Stockman,
and his "myth" that Congress has been "beefing up already
bloated bureaucracies, handing out pork-barrel projects, and
distributing government benefits as if they were candy." Gosselin
admitted "federal spending has risen steadily for at least the last
two decades," but "much of the rise was the result of the huge
tax cuts of the early 1980s, which had the perverse effect of stripping
the government of a substantial fraction of its tax revenues, thus
boosting borrowing, and with it, interest payments."
But figures from the Office of Management
and Budget show that tax receipts increased an average of 7.27 percent
per year between 1981 and 1990, while inflation averaged 4.68 percent
for the same time period. By 1984-85, when the Reagan tax cuts were
going into effect, tax receipts grew twice as fast as inflation, rising
11 percent in 1984 alone. Income tax revenue (after inflation) rose 22
percent between 1980 and 1989.
Summer Job Blues.
Convinced that the only summer jobs available for teenagers are
government jobs, the end of the school year has brought, in the eyes of
Garrick Utley, nothing but hardship. On the June 12 NBC Nightly News,
Utley focused his "Final Thoughts" on the President's summer
jobs program, "an important symbol of the new investment in people.
So Clinton put an extra one billon dollars for it in his stimulus
package." Thanks to the GOP filibuster, "in New York City,
20,000 young people eligible for jobs won't get them. In Houston, 8,000
will be disappointed. In Memphis, 2,500."
Utley believed the jobs were lost because
"Teenagers, frustrated for a lack of a summer job and an uncertain
future, don't have a lobby -- at least not in Congress. Their lobby
meets on a hot night, on a city street corner." The other side went
ignored. On April 16, Denver Post columnist Michael Rosen
pointed out: "The 219,000 new jobs promised this year -- half of
which, it turns out, are just temporary summer jobs for kids -- will
wind up costing taxpayers about $75,000 per job."
Herbert Heats Up.
Perpetuating the myth of Ronald Reagan's incompetence has been a
trademark of the journalism establishment during the past twelve years.
It is also taught in the nation's top journalism school. In a June 21 National
Review story, Stephanie Gutmann reported on last fall's orientation
program at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. During the first
panel discussion, NBC News reporter Bob Herbert lamented: "My
generation had a better chance to do good journalism than any other
generation in this country's history...I think the best evidence I can
give that we do a lousy job covering politics is to look at the
politicians: Ronald Reagan was President of us for eight years -- Ronald
Reagan! Reporters should have been writing for the entire eight years of
his reign that this man was gone, out of it...He should have been
covered as a clown."
Herbert, also a columnist for The New
York Times, was equally upset by his profession's failure to
destroy Dan Quayle: "The Washington Post just did a long
series on Vice President Quayle and he came out looking like a
reasonably competent human being...That's not good...The Washington
Post should not be covering Dan Quayle like that."
Braver's Labels. CBS
legal correspondent Rita Braver has shown a penchant for labeling
judicial conservatives as "far right" or
"ultra-conservative" while soft-pedaling the ideology of
liberals. When Supreme Court Justice Byron White announced his
retirement on March 19, she said his "leaving will mean that the
voting power of the far right will be greatly undercut." More
recently, her labeling has shifted into overdrive with President
Clinton's nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Justice White.
On the June 14 CBS Evening News,
Braver declared Ginsburg is "considered a moderate to liberal, but
today she cited this guideline to judging from ultra-conservative Chief
Justice William Rehnquist." During the following weekend's Sunday
Morning, Braver remarked: "You've got to remember this is an
extremely conservative Supreme Court, so [Ginsburg's] not really going
to be terribly liberal." This is the same "extremely
conservative" Court which upheld abortion rights and ruled that
breathing second-hand smoke constitutes "cruel and unusual
punishment" for prisoners.
Leaning Left for Lani.
At President Clinton's announcement of Lani Guinier's appointment to be
assistant attorney general for civil rights, The Washington Post
reported that National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg hugged Guinier. So
the decision to dump Guinier didn't please Totenberg. During NPR's All
Things Considered on June 4, she complained the White House
wouldn't let her help save Guinier: "I personally offered to do an
interview, an on-the-record interview with her so that she could explain
her views in these articles, because I have known her for some time, and
I think she would have trusted me not to do a hatchet job on this. They
were not interested in doing this. They were interested in burying
Examining New Orleans' overworked public defender's office on June 14,
ABC's Day One alleged New Orleans' courts dispense justice
based on the defendant's wallet. "Here's what really happens in a
court system so burdened and broken down that justice is forgotten and
the issues of guilt and innocence become virtually irrelevant,"
host Forrest Sawyer began.
Instead of blaming criminals for their
acts, reporter John Hockenberry charged: "The system encourages
guilt and puts a premium on innocence, all the while churning out more
and more defendants each year." Who are the victims of this
"system?" Hockenberry argued: "On its way from separating
the innocent from the guilty, this system separates the poor from
So if you're poor, justice's menu is
short. "Defendants weigh their choices: jail or pleading guilty to
a felony. For the poor in New Orleans, this is justice enough for
now," lamented Hockenberry. So who ends up behind bars? "The
prison houses the guilty, the innocent, and -- most of all -- the
poor," he mourned. A problem for New Orleans only? Hockenberry
asserted "everywhere in the United States if you can't afford your
own attorney, these are the choices you face."
Gay Rape Ignored. When
U.S. Navy Airman Terry Helvey confessed to beating fellow sailor Allen
Schindler to death, the case received national coverage. A heterosexual
had killed a gay man in the middle of the gays in the military debate.
All the networks, except NBC, reported Helvey's confession on May 24. On
May 27, all four reported Helvey's life sentence. The major print icons
followed suit. The Washington Post carried two stories by T.R.
Reid on May 27 and 28, and The New York Times ran four
consecutive stories by James Sterngold from May 25-28. Sterngold's May
28 article, like reports by ABC's Bob Zelnick on May 27 and CBS' James
Hattori on May 24, raised gay activists' allegations of a Navy coverup
to shield criticism of anti-gay bias in the military.
But where were the media when the
violence was committed by gay soldiers? On June 4, the Times'
Larry Rohter wrote a thorough story on the sentencing of two Navy
homosexuals in Jacksonville, Florida. In separate incidents, the
convicted gays had raped shipmates. The Post covered both cases in a
brief blurb on June 9. And the networks? No story.
Spoon-Fed Hunger News.
When does a press release become news? When it highlights yet another
crisis requiring government action. Tom Brokaw intoned on the June 16 Nightly
News: "Hunger in America. There are some startling facts
tonight. A study conducted by the Center on Hunger, Poverty, and
Nutrition Research at Tufts University claims that 12 million American
children are malnourished." Not simply occasionally hungry, but
malnourished. The Tufts release included no methodology for the claim.
The next night, NBC's Sara James traveled
to Los Angeles to relay anecdotes from advocates and recipients of
government aid. She passed on this assertion from a hunger advocate:
"Demand at food banks and soup kitchens jumped nearly 40 percent in
Los Angeles last year." James followed with a soundbite from local
Hunger Coalition head Caroline Olney: "The War on Poverty hasn't
been fought in the last twelve years." Instead of explaining how
spending for food stamps has grown 71 percent since 1989, James
concluded: a "UCLA report recommends that the federal government
spend an extra twelve billion dollars on food programs but admits that's
a long shot given Washington's cost-cutting mood."
Transafrica Fan Club.
Bryant Gumbel enjoyed guest-of-honor status at the annual benefit dinner
June 4 for the far-left group Transafrica, which spent the 1980s
defending communist governments in Grenada and Angola. Last year,
Transafrica officials told MediaWatch that
Gumbel twice flew to Washington to be briefed by the group's leader,
Randall Robinson, before a week-long series of Today shows from
Africa. At the dinner, Gumbel received Transafrica's International
Journalism Award for -- surprise -- his shows from Africa.
At the dinner, Gumbel told WRC-TV:
"I think it's important for people of color to be able to see an
institution that basically represents their interests and represents the
interests of those countries from which they hail, to which they feel a
certain affinity or bond." Gumbel spoke at the reception for the
group's Arthur Ashe library and the $175-a-plate dinner. Also attending
the reception were ABC's Ted Koppel and CNN anchor Bernard Shaw. Time
Warner gave $100,000 for Transafrica's new building.
Bryant Badgers Banker.
On June 15, Today co-host Bryant Gumbel summarized a survey
attacking greedy banks by the Naderite Public Interest Research Group:
"Even as the cost is going up...the interest you get on a savings
account is going down. From an average of 5.14 percent three years ago,
to now just over 2 and 3/4 percent. While you suffer, bank profits are
While Gumbel threw softballs to the PIRG
lobbyist, he ripped into his other guest, American Bankers Association
head Donald Ogilvy, charging "these numbers seem a terrible
indictment of your industry." Ogilvy argued the growing costs from
federal regulations drove up account fees. He also explained profits
allow banks to rebuild their capital and FDIC funds so stable banks can
make loans to small businesses. Gumbel laughed, shooting back:
"Well, except for small business isn't seeing that money."
Gumbel then returned to his interest rate
canard: "An average savings account...cost is up a whopping 143
percent, but the rate paid [in interest] is down 53 percent."
Ogilvy had to explain the obvious: "The cost, Bryant, and the rates
have nothing to do with one another. The rates are down because overall
interest rates are way down. The government has brought down interest
The Most Common
Politically Motivated Statistical Exaggerations
The Media's "Fabricated
In the heat of political battles, both
sides often march with their own statistics, and it's up to the
journalist to present both sides of the debate. Statistical claims are
complex things to present in a 90-second TV story, and even print
journalists can be too quick to present statistics without real proof.
When that happens, debates can be distorted, and federal spending can
jump billions of dollars to address media-manufactured crises with
little statistical foundation.
To underline the worst examples of the
media's biased number-crunching, MediaWatch
has listed five of the most common statistical exaggerations, dubbed
"The Fabricated Five." Some of these fractured factoids appear
daily, others only occasionally, but they all affect billions of dollars
in tax money.
1. Medicare and Medicaid
"cuts." This is a daily error. On CNN's Inside
Politics June 22, reporter Wolf Blitzer suggested White House aides
know a budget deal "won't be easy, given the difference on such
sensitive matters as the form of an energy or gasoline tax and the
amount of cuts in Medicare and other social programs." Reporters
also made that mistake in 1990. On October 1, CBS reporter Susan Spencer
claimed "Medicare took a direct hit in this agreement -- $60
billion in savings, half the domestic spending cuts."
In fact, Medicare and Medicaid are among
the biggest and fastest growing programs in the budget. From 1989 to
1993, Medicare grew from $85 billion to $146.4 billion, up 72 percent;
Medicaid rose from $34.6 billion to $80.3 billion, a 132 percent jump.
(Inflation rose only 16 percent.) But reporters imply spending is going
down. Occasionally, reporters stumble into accuracy, like Michael Wines
of The New York Times on June 24: "Most of those cuts will
come from limiting the explosive rise of Medicare spending."
2. Mushrooming homelessness.
On the June 10 NBC Nightly News, reporter John Gibson guessed:
"Nationwide now, there are up to three million homeless people, a
problem that seems to defy easy answers." On January 9, weekend Today
co-host Jackie Nespral claimed: "Nationally, right now, five
million people are believed to be homeless...and the numbers are
increasing." ABC and CBS claimed "three million" or more
in the days after Christmas 1992. In 1989, CNN anchor Lou Waters cited a
study on "40 million Americans living on the knife edge of
In 1990, the Census Bureau conducted a
one-night partial count of America's homeless population, employing
15,000 enumerators, the largest effort ever to count the homeless. The
Census Bureau counted 220,000. When they announced the number on April
12, the networks and news magazines ignored it.
Instead, media outlets continue to use 3
million. Of 83 estimates examined by the General Accounting Office in a
1988 study, only the late activist Mitch Snyder claimed a number as high
as 3 million, and it was not one of the 27 studies the GAO considered
"useful." Snyder told Congress in 1984: "These
numbers are in fact meaningless. We have tried to satisfy your gnawing
curiosity for a number because we are Americans with Western little
minds that have to quantify everything in sight, whether we can or
not." Despite the lack of hard proof of mushrooming homelessness,
housing assistance grew 120 percent from 1989 to 1993.
3. The coming explosion of
heterosexual AIDS. On the June 11 CBS Evening News,
reporter Dr. Bob Arnot warned: "Heterosexual AIDS among Americans
is growing faster than any other risk group, up thirty percent in 1992
alone...Heterosexual AIDS...is exploding." Last November 12, CNN's
Susan Rook said "It's just a matter of time before AIDS becomes
widespread among heterosexuals."
Michael Fumento, author of The Myth
of Heterosexual AIDS, told MediaWatch the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found "cases attributed to
heterosexual transmission increased 17 percent in 1992, down from a 21
percent rise in 1991." But dire predictions keep the cash
coming: AIDS receives 20 times as many federal research and education
dollars per death as cancer.
Reporters also overcount teens with AIDS.
On April 11, 1992, NBC reporter Henry Champ claimed: "The
statistics are frightening. A 77 percent increase in AIDS among
teenagers in just two years. There are now 9,000 American teenagers with
AIDS and many, many thousands more with the HIV virus." Three
months later, Surgeon General Antonia Novello wrote in USA Today:
"Through June, 872 cases of adolescents with AIDS were reported in
the United States."
Stories on young children with AIDS were
even worse. On the April 20, 1992 CBS Evening News, Edie Magnus
asserted: "It's no secret that AIDS is ravaging the nation's very
young. Up to 20,000 children have AIDS." On November 11, 1991, ABC World
News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings claimed: "As many as a
million and one-half other Americans have the AIDS virus, more than
one-quarter [375,000] of them children." In June 1992, the CDC said
the total number of people diagnosed with AIDS is 230,209. Of that,
3,898 are children age 12 and under.
4. Falling federal aid to states
& cities. On June 19, CBS reporter John Roberts proclaimed:
"Through 12 years of Republican administrations, payments to cities
decreased 75 percent." On June 20, NBC anchor Garrick Utley
interviewed the chairman of the Conference of Mayors: "Their
concern: the major cuts in financial aid from the federal government
that occurred in the 1980s... What, government spending, or subsidies
from the Washington level were cut 50 percent in the 1980s?" Cato
Institute economist Stephen Moore found federal aid to states and cities
rose from $89.5 billion in 1989 to $142.8 billion in 1993 in constant
1990 dollars, a 60 percent leap. But reporters claimed federal neglect.
In the '80s, Congress sent money directly
to the poor instead of the mayors. Wrote Moore: "While direct
federal aid was cut in the Reagan years, aid to poor people living in
cities increased." Still, the Census Bureau found total municipal
spending rose 26 percent after inflation in the 1980s.
5. The rich grew richer, the poor
grew poorer in the 1980s. In the April 26 U.S. News &
World Report, writer David Hage argued: "The richest fifth of
American families saw their incomes rise by a solid 13.9 percent, while
the incomes of all other U.S. families stagnated or declined." On
February 7, 1992, NBC Nightly News reporter Keith Morrison went
further: "Did we wear blinders? Did we think the '80s just left
behind the homeless? The fact is that almost nine in ten Americans saw
their lifestyle decline."
Claims like these are classic Democratic
campaign slogans, but Census Bureau data shows that average family
income increased in every fifth of income earners from 1982 to 1989.
Median family income increased in every one of those eight years, rising
13 percent after inflation.
the Bright Side
Democrats attract voters by attacking the
privileges of the rich, but in the June 7 U.S. News & World
Report, Senior Writer Edward Pound and reporter Gary Cohen found
two major Democrats lived high on the hog at the party's expense. In
1991 and 1992 alone, the Democratic National Committee spent $250,000 on
limousine services. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown (then party chairman)
and White House aide Alexis Herman (then Brown's chief of staff) were
A 17-day trip to sub-Saharan Africa to
promote democracy cost the DNC $36,000, including a $10,000 advance to
Brown. While the Democrats lambasted John Sununu for free corporate
flights, Brown regularly used a six-passenger jet provided by the Sheet
Metal Workers International Union. Herman, unsatisfied with her stay at
the fancy Waldorf-Astoria hotel, moved to $4,000-a-month apartment while
planning the Democratic convention, partially paid with tax dollars. Did
other reporters leap on the DNC story as they jumped on Air Sununu? No.
The story went nowhere.
WIN Can't Win
What happens when a self-proclaimed
"pro-choice, Democratic" organization recruits prominent
female journalists to be guests at a fund-raising dinner? In the May 29 National
Journal, Paul Starobin chronicled the reaction when the Women's
Information Network (WIN) did just that.
UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas
refused, saying "wire service people have to be as impartial and
objective as humanly possible." Six journalists initially agreed to
the dinner, but when told it was a fund-raiser, five backed out. Bowing
out were USA Today's Judi Hasson, National Public Radio's Mara
Liasson, and The Wall Street Journal's Jill Abramson. The sole
holdout was Dotty Lynch, political editor for CBS News, who had also
been unaware of the abortion-rights character of WIN. Lynch noted
"I don't know if they're aware that they have a pro-life person on
their agenda." In the end, WIN canceled the event.
In a refreshing display of candor, one of
the media's own criticized reporters during a commencement address at
Williams College. On June 8, The Boston Globe's Cate Chant
reported that Jim Lehrer, co-anchor of PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,
took his colleagues to task for "snide arrogance."
Lehrer even suggested that viewers
boycott news media they find offensive. "Do not tolerate lousy,
arrogant, snide journalism," he told the graduates. "If
someone does it in the newspaper you read or on the TV news you
watch...complain. Don't watch those programs." He even said
journalists think they know more than everyone else. "There is a
stench of contempt...only the journalists of America are smart enough to
know what to do in Bosnia, about health care."
`Left-Liberal Line' in Essays
Responding to MediaWatch's
June Review "Scott Simon's Simple Sermons," Simon wrote:
"Thanks for the accurate quotations from my essays on Weekend Today
over these past ten months. I do think, however, you overlooked
instances in those essays where I expressed approval of former
Presidents Bush and Reagan, and criticized old communist regimes and
left-wing rebel movements."
He didn't identify when he criticized
left-wing rebels, but he did explain: "When I `jibed,' as you put
it, that `Reporters were never asked to make up former President Reagan,
although, it often seemed, they were willing to shine his shoes,' the
`jibe' was at my own profession, even at myself." Of course,
thinking reporters were too kind to Reagan's policies reflects a liberal
Simon recalled: "My essays have
defended George Bush on Iraq and assailed Bill Clinton over his
inaugural spending, cabinet choices and for not standing by those
cabinet choices; defended the millions of dollars spent to develop a
toilet aboard the space shuttle, and criticized the firing of Mike Ditka.
I proposed a few facetious plots for New Age Espionage stories....I
ruminated over the significance of a railcar in the Holocaust Museum --
and asked if the crimes we recognize and revile thru the telescope of
history aren't being revisited in Bosnia. Frankly, I don't detect the
`left-liberal line' you see running thru this series of viewpoints. A
skeptic might even call them contradictory, instead of consistent."
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