Networks Legitimize NRDC's Press Release Science
"Passive Conduits" On
New York Times Science Editor
Nicholas Wade conceded that the media often serve as a "passive
conduit" for environmentalists. The quote came in a July 27 Washington
Post story on a Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) poll of
scientists which found "the media overplay minor environmental
threats to health." Wade confirmed to the Post's Howard
Kurtz: "Often we're just doing our duty in following the activism
of environmentalists, who make an issue of radon in houses or abandoned
On June 21, the "passive
conduits" struck again. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
released a report supposedly summarizing a National Academy of Sciences
analysis. CNN and ABC simply passed on the NRDC summary. ABC's Bettina
Gregory warned: "The National Academy of Sciences is coming out
with a report expected to document that children are more vulnerable
than adults to pesticide residues."
But a week later, the actual NAS report
contained no conclusion resembling the NRDC summary. The report said
nothing about the danger pesticides pose to children. The report only
suggested EPA regulations might be altered to account for the tolerance
levels of children. Still, the media ignored what the actual NAS report
said, and continued to parrot the NRDC summary.
The New York Times ran four
stories in a little over a week using the NRDC spin. NBC Nightly
News anchor Garrick Utley warned June 27: "A major new report
ordered by Congress shows that pesticides are a greater danger to
children than previously thought."
Peter Jennings introduced a June 28 ABC
story: "The National Academy of Sciences reports today that
children may be ingesting unsafe amounts of pesticide residue." He
conceded that NAS called for more testing, but reporter Ned Potter
picked up the baton: "Two billion pounds a year. That's how much
pesticide we use on our fruits and vegetables...Is it dangerous? The
National Academy report is only the latest indication it may be."
In the July 16 Investor's Business
Daily, Michael Fumento reported, "The NRDC statement indicated
there was no reason to wait for the NAS report, since the NAS was just
going to say what the NRDC already had. The confusion over who was
saying what may not be coincidental."
Fumento quoted NRDC skeptics who charged
"by pre-empting the NAS report, the environmental groups were able
to get an extremist message tied to a respected scientific body."
No wonder the CMPA survey discovered just six percent of cancer
researchers consider network news to be a "very reliable"
source for news about cancer risks.
For the March 27 World News Tonight,
Kathleen deLaski filed a story on Defense Secretary Les
Aspin's budget presentation. Now, Aspin's her boss. In July, deLaski
became the chief public affairs officer at the Defense Department.
Before joining ABC's Washington bureau in 1988, she worked at WBAL-TV in
Baltimore and covered arms control and defense for National Public
Last year she contributed to ABC's
campaign coverage. In a September 20 story, deLaski looked at candidate
misstatements. After noting that Clinton falsely claimed Bush would cut
Social Security, she continued: "Republican scare tactics are not
so targeted to certain voting blocs. Bush is accused of using Clinton's
tax plan to scare almost everyone." Viewers then saw a clip of Bush
asserting "He says he wants to tax the rich, but folks, he defines
rich as anyone who has a job." To which, deLaski retorted,
"Not true. Middle class Americans, Clinton says, will get a tax
cut, although he has yet to define middle class."
As troops were going to Somalia, she
found: "Some food aid groups are calling for more spending at home,
particularly after a recent study showed that the numbers of
undernourished swelled by 50 percent in the last decade," she
asserted leading into a soundbite from Robert Fersh of the Food Research
and Action Center. Her Dec. 6 story failed to identify Fersh as liberal
or to include a conservative view.
In step with Clintonite thinking that
"tax and spend" equals caring, she concluded that a "poll
suggests that most Americans are already sensitive to the problems of
hunger in America. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they'd be willing
to pay a special income tax of $100 a year to feed this nation's
In July John Chancellor
said goodbye to 40-plus years with NBC, interrupted in 1966 by a
two-year stint as Director of the Voice of America for the Johnson
Administration. NBC Nightly News anchor from 1972 to 1982, he's
offered commentary for the past decade. The Washington Post
bade farewell with this headline: "John Chancellor, Giving the
Voice of Reason a Rest." The Post's Howard Kurtz relayed,
"Chancellor says his own politics are more left-of-center than his
on-screen analysis. `I think you hold back some,' he says. Over the
years, he says, he `probably developed a way of looking the news that
was pretty centrist.'"
Voice of Reason? Centrist? From April 17,
1990: "The overall tax burden for Americans, federal, state, and
local, is actually quite low....The fact is Americans could pay more
taxes and the country wouldn't go down the tube. Taxpayers don't believe
this because they are being conned by the politicians...The truth is
that the United States needs higher taxes and can afford them. Some
political leaders are now starting to say that, but until more say it,
the country will remain in trouble."
Rationalizing the Los Angeles riots on
April 20 last year: "It's not a big surprise that the jury in
suburban Simi Valley sided with the white policemen. Just as it's no
surprise that the blacks in downtown Los Angeles rioted and people
died.... Politicians have fanned these flames with code words about
`welfare queens,' `equal opportunity,' and `quotas.' Language designed
to turn whites against blacks. With two-party politics that favored the
rich and hurt everyone else."
Two Views on the Ozone
ABC vs. ABC
On July 1, ABC's Prime Time Live
repeated questionable environmentalist claims that a decaying ozone
layer is increasing skin cancer rates and blinding herds of sheep on the
tip of South America. "Thanks to ozone depletion, experts are
predicting 300,000 new cases of skin cancer in the future," Sam
John Quinones went to Punta Arenas,
Argentina, supposedly the most affected area. He agreed with the
apocalyptic line: "When it's not filtered by the ozone layer...
[ultraviolet] radiation damages living tissue, causing skin cancer and
cataracts." He noted ominously: "What happens to the people of
Punta Arenas is a valuable lesson to the rest of the world. For recently
scientists discovered that the ozone layer was also eroding over the
Quinones used only two quotes from a
skeptical scientist, but 26 from doom-saying sources, like a local
professor: "[Dr.] Magas believes the entire population of this town
is an endangered species, thanks to the extreme levels of UV."
Quinones didn't put on dermatologist Dr. Frederick Urbach, a consultant
to the U.N., who told Reason magazine: "You can crunch
numbers in a computer and get whatever result you want to come
In fact, ABC-owned KGO-TV in San
Francisco broadcast a special in April 1992 with a much different
conclusion. Reporter Brian Hackney traveled to Argentina, and talked
with the only dermatologist in Punta Arenas, who said skin cancer cases
have not increased. He further reported that the only cancer study done
in the region indicated "sun tanning habits" explain the
majority of skin cancer.
And the blind sheep? Hackney found no
blind flocks, and had to travel hundreds of miles to find even one ranch
with blindness problems (only 2 percent of the herd suffered from it).
Hackney took samples of eyeballs from sheep with vision problems back to
America for study. A biopsy report by a veterinary opthalmologist
determined that a common microorganism caused the blindness, and that UV
was at best a minor factor. After Hackney's investigation, the only
thing damaged is Prime Time's environmental objectivity.
CBS Street Stories
Touts France's Socialist Day Care System, Downplays the Costs
All Things French and
American liberals have a love affair with
Europe. America's failure to emulate Europe's all-inclusive social
programs regularly earns the network put-down that the U.S. is "the
only industrialized nation except South Africa not to have"
subsidized day care, paid family leave, or socialized medicine. On the
CBS magazine show Street Stories July 2, correspondent Harold
Dow promoted France's "free" child care. For one-sided
promotion of a socialist system, Dow earned the August Janet Cooke
The host of Street Stories, Ed
Bradley, began: "Harold Dow found a place where dependable,
affordable child care is available to everyone. You won't find it in the
Yellow Pages, but you will find it on the map. Head east and you could
be heading in the next direction in American child care."
Dow told a tale of two mothers, the
anxious, cost-ridden Tracy Scheinoha of Milwaukee and Nancy Bragard:
"She never worries about day care. She doesn't have to. That's
because Nancy doesn't live in the United States anymore, she lives in
Paris, France." Proclaimed Nancy: "Thank God for French day
care. It's more than I would have asked for, for any of my kids."
Dow made his pitch: "Here in France
they have created a child care system that would amaze most Americans.
Every child in this country, from the richest family down to the
poorest, gets a chance at the same high standard of day care, preschool,
and health care. Not only is it free, or at low cost to everyone, but
the quality is better than what most youngsters get in the United
States." Dow also reported: "What you pay is based on your
income. So, while the Bragards pay nearly three thousand dollars a year
for the Creche [nursery], some families pay slightly more -- but some
pay much less -- as little as a few hundred dollars a year."
Dow never told viewers that the top tax
rate in France is 56.8 percent. On top of that, employers pay an
additional annual premium to the government for the child care system.
Why no details on taxes? The story's producer, Tom Berman, told MediaWatch:
"The French government wouldn't give us a breakdown of costs. They
just don't do it that way. We had our Paris bureau chief, who's been
there for 20 years, try to get some numbers, and even he couldn't get
So how can CBS claim the system's
"free or at low cost to everyone"? Dr. James T. Bennett, an
economist at George Mason University and the co-author of the new book Official
Lies, recognizes the tactic: "Socialism sells itself with the
thought that you never see a bill. It just materializes out of nowhere.
As long as the government is paying, the government can just sort of
conjure it up. But remember to take a look at your paycheck when the
work week's done."
Nonetheless, Dow returned to the notion
of a "free" system repeatedly. "Next fall, Benjamin will
be old enough to leave the Creche for the next stage of the French
government's child care system, the Ecole-Maternelle, or preschool,
which is totally free." Dow also interviewed pleased American
mother Victoria Aubert, whose daughter also attends a government
preschool, and explained: "There's one in virtually every
neighborhood in the country, and almost every single three- to
five-year-old French child goes -- all day -- all for free."
Dow then promoted the French system to
the Scheinohas in Milwaukee: "What if I told you about the French
system? A system that provides total care for your children. They have
beautiful buildings, they've got trained professionals, doctors that
come in. What would you say?"
"Sounds too good to be true,"
Tracy replied. In the story's sole incidence of skepticism, the
Scheinohas turn out to be critical of government. Dow asked: "One
of the ways they do it is higher taxes. The French people pay more than
Americans do, and French businesses pay much more than U.S. businesses.
Would you be willing to pay 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and even
up to 50 percent more by way of taxes, to have that system? Would you be
willing to pay that?"
Answered Tracy: "No. I'd have to
draw the line somewhere. I'm not getting very much for what I pay now,
and I pay a lot in taxes." Her husband, Andy, added: "You
can't just take away the money, promise the services, and not deliver,
which is what I'd be afraid would happen....I'd like to think that they
could, but their track record isn't too good."
Dow may have asked a vague question about
taxes, but he didn't report any details of the French system's total
costs. American University Professor Barbara Bergmann, a supporter of
the French model, suggests a similar system would cost more than $200
billion a year to implement fully in the United States. Dow never
factored in the burdens of the subsidized day care system on the French
economy. France has had almost no job growth -- civilian employment went
from 21.3 million in 1980 to 21.5 million in 1989, while at the same
time the United States grew from 99.3 to 117.3 million jobs. Unemployed
people are more common under Dow's model system in France, where the
unemployment rate is now 11.5 percent.
Why didn't CBS use these numbers? Berman
told MediaWatch "We only had ten minutes
to tell the whole story. We had enough to do a whole hour on the
subject. Is it harder for employers to employ people in France?
Absolutely. But the Americans in France think they have a better
standard of living than their brothers and sisters in America."
Dow also presented the system as
completely uncriticized, bringing Gail Richardson of the French-American
Foundation on to fondly remember Hillary Clinton's trip to France in
1989: "Hillary was tremendously impressed by what she saw in
France, and she was most of all impressed by the consensus. She looked
for some expression of opposition to the programs that she saw, many of
which enjoy considerable public support, didn't find it."
But the Socialists just suffered an
enormous loss at the polls, losing in 484 of 577 districts. Wouldn't
that suggest recent dissatisfaction? Berman responded that "It's
not a complaint about the day care system. There are all kinds of
debates about the school system after day care and other issues, but no
one's complaining about these programs for small children."
A balanced story comparing European-style
social programs with the United States would present the negative
consequences as well as the positive, and deal frankly with the issue of
how much programs cost, both directly and indirectly. But TV news
stories often sound more like ten-minute ads for statism than a balanced
examinations of the pluses and minuses.
It's His Fault.
Why did President Bill Clinton have trouble getting his tax and spend
budget passed? Could it be because Clinton broke his promise to reduce
spending and provide a middle class tax cut? No, it's You Know Who's
fault. In a front page story on August 1, New York Times
Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple explained: "To understand why it
has been so hard for Clinton to achieve his goals...one has to hark back
to the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the political atmosphere he
created. It is still with us, and it makes Clinton look like Sisyphus on
a bad day."
The notion that "most federal
programs were bad, taxes were bad, spending was bad," Apple argued,
"continues to exert a hold over a broad section of the American
electorate. As a result, politicians are terrified to wear the awful
label, `tax and spend,' however much their constituents need government
money for health care or roads."
A Hungry Globe.
Just a month and a half after a Boston Globe story insisted
"most readers would agree that the Globe's liberal bias
has been toned down in news stories," the July 25 Sunday Globe
allocated four full pages to Stan Grossfeld's photos and article under
the title of "Wasting Away: America's Losing Battle Against
Hunger." Citing Larry Brown of the left-wing Center on Hunger,
Poverty and Nutrition Policy, Grossfeld asserted: "Widespread
hunger in the United States was virtually eliminated in the 1970s,
according to Brown, but hunger increased dramatically and steadily
during the 1980s. To put it simply, the rich got richer and the poor got
Grossfeld charged that "during
President Reagan's first term, $12 billion was cut from the food stamp
and school meal programs." In fact, as detailed in a 1986 column by
the late Warren Brookes, in constant 1984 dollars food stamp spending
grew 1.5 percent between 1981 and 1984 as the number of qualifying
recipients fell. In nominal dollars, National School Lunch Program
spending grew from $2.28 billion in 1980 to $2.58 billion in 1985.
Grossfeld noted that "the number of
food stamp recipients reached an all-time high of 27.4 million in June.
One in 10 Americans is now eating courtesy of government handouts."
What was his answer to the hunger problem? Even more spending, urging
passage of the $7.3 billion Leland Hunger Relief Bill. And under the
heading of "What You Can Do," he suggested: "1. Support
legislation to fully fund existing federal food programs."
Brainy, Brave Moseley-Braun.
During the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, USA Today's Jessica Lee reported on July 23
that liberal Senator Carol Moseley-Braun "showed how racial
diversity can have an impact. She...got an apology from Sen. Orrin
Hatch, R-Utah." Lee explained: "While questioning Ginsburg,
Hatch equated the interpretation of a `fundamental right' in the Roe
vs. Wade abortion ruling to that in the 1857 Dred Scott
case upholding slavery. Interrupting, Moseley-Braun called Hatch's line
of questioning `personally offensive.' Hatch promptly apologized."
In fact, Hatch replied: "I apologize if I was inarticulate in what
I was saying, but I don't think I was."
In contrast to the triumph of
"racial diversity" described by Lee, the same day reporter
Joan Biskupic of The Washington Post corrected Moseley-Braun's
condemnation of the Utah Republican. "In fact, Hatch was not
providing a `rationale' for slavery. He compared the two cases as
examples of `judicial activism,' calling Dred Scott the
`all-time worst' court ruling."
Cold War Communists. NBC
weekend Today host Mike Schneider noted the 40th anniversary of
the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on June 20: "Today's
kids may have a difficult time understanding what it was like during the
Cold War, especially back in the `50s. There were fears of atomic bombs
falling from the sky, of communists lurking behind the scenes, almost
everywhere. They told us we were in great danger, all of us in great
danger, and they also, sometimes told us who to blame -- Julius and
Ethel Rosenberg...Forty years later, some still wonder, did the
Rosenbergs really betray their country and endanger the lives of
millions? Or were they victims of a witch hunt, innocents who paid the
ultimate price?" To answer that question, Schneider interviewed
only Robert Meeropol, the Rosenbergs' son, who still maintains his
Jacob Cohen of Brandeis University thinks
otherwise. In the July 19 National Review, Cohen reviewed the
allegations against the Rosenbergs: "It now seemed strongly
possible that Julius Rosenberg was a central player in far-flung
espionage activities, covering the years 1943-1950...who, except the
Soviets, could have told Rosenberg about the secret work at Los Alamos,
including details about the A-bomb itself, before [Los Alamos technician
and Julius Rosenberg's brother-in-law David] Greenglass knew anything
Turner's Page Turner.
For the past five years, CNN employees have been treated to the State
of the World report from Lester Brown's Worldwatch Institute. In a
recent "Dear Colleague" memo, Ted Turner explained his reasons
for distributing the new edition: "The 1993 State of the World
gives the information needed to make intelligent environmental decisions
that can make a difference. I hope that you find it as illuminating,
useful, and ultimately hopeful, as I have." The Institute, however,
can hardly be described as hopeful, as anchor Jeanne Meserve proved in a
July 17 World News report: "The world's population growth
is showing clear signs of outpacing the food supply. That's according to
a report from the Worldwatch Institute."
Steve Haworth, CNN's Vice President for
Public Relations, told MediaWatch the report
was distributed to "inform rather than to influence the editorial
content of the newscasts. Our environmental coverage has always been
fair and balanced and will continue to be so." Yet when asked if
Turner planned to pass out materials with other viewpoints, Haworth
pointed to Turner's personal relationship with Lester Brown and
suggested that the news employees are "amply able" to gather
opposing viewpoints. As for other resources CNN could use, conservative
economist Julian Simon suggested the fashionably liberal United Nations
Food and Agricultural Organization annual report, which shows calorie
production per capita continuing to increase, as it has annually since
Psychologists Call It Denial.
As a few media heavies like NBC's Tim Russert ask what went wrong with
the 1990 budget deal, The Washington Post suggested nothing's
wrong. On July 18, reporter John E. Yang argued that although the annual
deficit is $60 billion higher than 1990, "that's not because the
1990 budget agreement failed, analysts say. The tax increases in that
package have generated additional revenue and the spending limits have
curbed the growth of federal discretionary spending."
But as Wall Street Journal columnist
Paul Gigot pointed out, IRS revenue estimates show tax revenues fell in
1991, the first decline since 1983. Even though "the rich"
were "soaked" by tax hikes in 1990, revenues from those
earning $200,000 or more fell 6 percent, while for everyone
else, revenue rose 3.3 percent. And discretionary spending curbed?
"Nonsense," says Republican economist Stephen Moore.
"Discretionary spending has been going up eight percent every year,
twice the rate of inflation."
Yang continued: "The unhappy lesson
of the 1990 budget battle is that it was overwhelmed by unexpected
developments: a recession that was deeper than forecast, a war in the
Persian Gulf, natural disasters from Hurricane Andrew to Typhoon Iniki
and so on." But the government was mostly reimbursed by allies for
the Gulf War. "We ended up spending maybe $5 billion," Moore
told MediaWatch. And a recession following a
tax hike? That's only unexpected by liberals.
Invasion of the Bible-Thumpers.
A "nationwide Christian fundamentalist movement to take over public
school boards." Is this a new movie plot? No, it's ABC's
"American Agenda" on Pennsylvania education reforms. On the
June 30 and July 1 World News Tonight, reporter Bill Blakemore
targeted Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE), run by Dr. Robert
Simonds. Blakemore questioned the tactics of the group: "There is
nothing illegal about the organized approach the CEE is taking to get
people on school boards. But Simonds' opponents charge that candidates
inspired by him often hide their real agendas until after they're
elected." He also spoke to parents who "believe that the
Christian right needs to be exposed," and found a minister who
called the practices "stealthful."
Blakemore discussed Pennsylvania's
Outcome Based Education (OBE), a new program that sets up state-dictated
guidelines or "values" that all students should have.
Religious activists opposed to the program were twice identified
on-screen as "anti-reform" leaders. Blakemore asserted that
reform leaders believe attacks to their plan are a "smokescreen for
a hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda." And they think Oliver
Stone is paranoid.
Not Even a Brief Briefing.
Despite Bill Clinton's siding with "those who work hard and play by
the rules," the media ignored an August American Spectator expose
of hypocrisy in the Clintons' own finances. Lisa Schiffren discovered
that while the President threw nominees overboard for not paying taxes
on nannies, the Clintons never paid taxes in 1980 on their state-funded
nanny, Dessie Sanders. In 1981 and 1982, when Clinton was out of office,
they claimed a child care exemption for Sanders' services, but still
didn't pay any Social Security taxes for her.
Schiffren also revealed that contrary to
the media myth, Bill Clinton did not earn only $35,000 as Governor. His
expenses were often paid out of various state funds, including a $51,000
"food allowance" and a $19,000 "public relations"
fund, never claimed as income. Schiffren also revealed Hillary Clinton's
aggressive tax deductions, including more than $1,000 a year for used
clothing donations, such as $3 for Bill's used undershirts and $1 a pair
for Bill and Chelsea's underwear. A month after Schiffren's story
appeared, the media which grilled Nancy Reagan for keeping donated
evening gowns had yet to mention it.
ABC's Missing Connection.
Evidence connects both Afghan fundamentalists and Nicaraguan Sandinistas
to the World Trade Center bombing. Which one got network coverage? ABC
blamed America first. Nightline focused its June 16 show on the
U.S.-funded Afghan rebel connection, mentioning it on June 24, 25 and
July 1. Then on July 12, Day One sent John Hockenberry to
Afghanistan to explore "The Afghanistan Connection." Forrest
Sawyer introduced the piece: "One nation did, in fact, unwittingly
pay to train some of these people and at one time supplied them and
others like them with billions of dollars in weapons. That nation is the
United States, and it all goes back to the U.S. involvement in the
Two days later, Douglas Farah wrote a
front page story for The Washington Post detailing how an
explosion in Managua uncovered a Sandinista-owned "guerrilla
arsenal" housing "tons of weapons, including 19 surface-to-air
missiles...documents detailing a Marxist kidnaping ring...and hundreds
of false passports and identity papers." Farah noted that
"fraudulently obtained Nicaraguan passports were discovered in
March at the home of a suspect arrested in New York in connection"
with the Trade Center bombing, Ibraham Elgabrowny. This development led
the U.S. Senate to vote overwhelmingly on July 29 for a one-year
moratorium on aid to Nicaragua. ABC's response? No story.
PBS Documentary Series
Routinely Excludes Conservative Experts, Topics
Stacking the Deck at Frontline
The PBS series Frontline portrays
itself as a tough investigative program willing to tackle any issue. But
how does it stand up to investigation? MediaWatch
analysts reviewed every new Frontline broadcast during the last
three seasons (72 programs) and found:
Conservative arguments and experts were
completely ignored in eight programs on race relations and seven shows
on the environment. In another 15 investigations of domestic politics,
40 percent of topics came from a left-wing issue agenda. In foreign
policy, 42 percent of topics came from the left, 4 percent from the
Race Relations. In eight
programs on race, not a single conservative voice appeared. In 1990's
"Throwaway People," Roger Wilkins, a fellow at the radical
Institute for Policy Studies, expounded on inner-city decline: "In
the '80s.... the old racist libel about moral inferiority that used to
be leveled at blacks was now focused on the poor. It justified crippling
the only programs that provided any ladder at all. The Reagan Revolution
slashed $51 billion in social spending."
Other programs contended that lack of gun
control is the reason black teenagers are murdered more often than
whites, and that racist banks deny loans to deserving black applicants.
In "Black America's War," Anita Hill confidant Charles
Ogletree moderated a one-sided panel discussion with Hodding Carter,
Jesse Jackson, and Newsweek's Joe Klein [then with New York].
A lead-in documentary set the tone:
"The disengagement of the rich, the growing divide between black
and white: the arguments seemed a metaphor for what this country had
become in the 1980s. One writer, looking at how differently the war was
perceived by whites and blacks, dubbed it the Reagan-Bush gap." The
chairman of the Joint Chiefs was called a sell-out: "Domestic
programs were being cut, civil rights leaders protested loudly. [Gen.
Colin] Powell remained loyal to Weinberger and Reagan. They, in turn,
were loyal to him." Powell was even attacked in victory: "This
man would go on to orchestrate in the Persian Gulf one of the most
punishing bombing campaigns ever unleashed....yet few have chosen to
criticize Powell for that."
Environment. In seven
shows, none included conservative voices. The most recent: Moyers' March
30 "In Our Children's Food," linking pesticides to cancer in
children. Other shows included a four-part series on development in the
rain forests, and another Moyers documentary (co-produced by the
left-wing Center for Investigative Reporting) that the United States is
turning the earth into a "global dumping ground" for hazardous
Foreign Policy. Frontline's
favorite topic is foreign policy, the subject of 24 of the 72 programs
(33 percent). Ten of those 24 (42 percent) came from a left-wing agenda.
Programs included a graphic depiction of civilian casualties of U.S.
bombing in Iraq by leftists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn; the allegation
that Oliver North used Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite as a dupe; and
endorsements for a Japanese-style industrial policy for America.
Frontline also enjoyed hunting
down Republican foreign policy scandals. Bill Moyers hosted "High
Crimes and Misdemeanors," a look at Iran-Contra. He saw the scandal
in almost apocalyptic terms. "What happened in Iran-Contra was
nothing less than the systematic disregard for democracy
itself...officials who boasted of themselves as men of the Constitution
showed utter contempt for the law. They had the money and power to do
what they wanted, the guile to hide their tracks, and the arrogance to
declare what they did was legal."
Robert Parry reported two programs
charging that the 1980 Reagan campaign conspired to delay the release of
the hostages in Iran. The first program aired in April of 1991. After The
New Republic, Newsweek, and even the Village Voice
denounced the October Surprise theory as fraudulent, Frontline
devoted yet another hour to renouncing Parry's initial sources as liars,
but suggesting they may have been sent out to lie by the CIA.
Conservatives were allowed to answer
hostile inquiries, but Frontline foreign policy investigations
never aired conservative arguments, such as the illegitimacy of the
Boland Amendments restricting contra aid.
Only one show reflected a conservative
theme. "Cuba and Cocaine" detailed the Castro government's
role in the drug trade, but criticisms of the regime at large were
nonexistent. An October 17, 1992, Castro biography, "The Last
Communist," ignored the drug charges and gave only brief mention to
human rights abuses. It's little wonder. In 1990, Washington Times
television writer Don Kowet reported filmmaker Nestor Almendros was
told: "Frontline does not co-produce anti-communist
Domestic Politics. Of
the 15 shows on domestic politics, six (40 percent) came from the left. Frontline
did not limit its taste for right-wing threats to foreign
affairs."The Resurrection of Reverend Moon" hinted that the
conservative movement is partially controlled by the leaders of the
Unification Church. Last season, Frontline outlined unproven
charges that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was a transvestite.
Topics also included David Duke, with no
corresponding investigation of anyone on the extreme left with
disreputable views; a 60-minute complaint that the U.S. does not have a
"national energy strategy" because of Bush's chief of staff,
John Sununu; and a Bill Moyers look at the supposedly significant
domestic opposition to the Gulf War. Only an April 1992 investigation of
then-Gov. Bill Clinton's child welfare reform program would please a
conservative, even if the critique came from the left.
Reagan-Bush victories were belittled by
former Washington Post editor William Greider in a two-hour
1992 special. "The Republican Party's artful election strategy has
been accomplished not by addressing the real economic concerns of the
disaffected working class but by broadcasting messages attuned to their
resentments," he sermonized. "They concocted a rancid
populism, perfectly attuned to the age of political decay. The party of
money won national elections mainly by posing as the party of the
alienated." Speaking of making money, Greider's essay aired just as
his book Who Will Tell the People hit book stores.
In the last three years, Frontline
has produced some fine non-political shows, on topics such as baseball's
financial troubles. On political issues, however, its bias is beyond
question. Frontline producers have argued that they simply
examine those in power, and Republicans held the White House. But how do
they explain the lack of investigative stories on the misuse of power in
Congress or entrenched regulatory agencies?
the Bright Side
Russert Returns to
NBC Meet the Press host Tim
Russert has added historical perspective to the budget debate by
comparing the Clinton plan to the 1990 deal. On June 27, he grilled
Budget Director Leon Panetta: "You raised taxes, the economy went
further into recession, and there was no deficit reduction. Why is it
going to be different in `92 when it didn't work in `90?" Treasury
Secretary Lloyd Bentsen received the same welcome on July 25.
"1990. Congress got together with the President, raised taxes, cut
defense, tried to limit Medicare growth, promised a $500 billion dollar
deficit reduction....The deficit went up. Why isn't the same going to
happen this year?"
The same day, he asked Sen. Pete Domenici
(R-N.M.): "What do you think of a plan that raises taxes a couple
hundred billion dollars, limits growth on Medicare, cuts a little
defense spending, reduces the interest on the public debt, and promises
$500 billion in deficit reduction?" Domenici condemned Clinton's
plan, and Russert sprung his trap: "The plan I actually talked
about was the one you supported in 1990, vigorously...you raised taxes,
and what happened is you promised $500 billion dollars in deficit
reduction and instead the deficit went up $50 billion."
Eye on Male Bashing
CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg punctured
the politically correct bubble of TV news on the June 24 Eye to Eye
with Connie Chung. His report took a look at feminist
male-bashers. "Male bashing has become part of the American
culture," Goldberg noted. "Redbook magazine says male
bashing is reaching epidemic proportions. Newsweek says 'So
what! White guys are paranoid.'"
Goldberg allowed feminists to defend
themselves, but his questions exposed some zealotry. "At the
Whitney Museum in New York this spring, you got this button as you
walked in: 'I can't ever imagine wanting to be white.'" He asked
the exhibit curator if she would allow the button to read "I can't
ever imagine wanting to be homosexual" or "a woman" or
"black"? Her reply: "I would never have allowed
At an anti-male "rage
conference," he asked two women why they were so angry. They said
men "get all the good jobs, they rape women" and "all
white men share [guilt] simply by virtue of the fact they are white and
they have penises."
Ron Reagan Reports
On the premiere of the Fox Front Page
magazine, Ron Reagan Jr. reported the intrusive effects of the
Endangered Species Act on a Utah developer, Brant Child. "At issue
is what he wants to do with his property. He had big plans: campground,
golf course, curio shop. There was just one little problem. His problem
was the Kanab amber snail."
On the other side, "Carl Pope of the
Sierra Club says all species deserve protection. If any die out it
eventually hurts the human species." But Reagan asked: "There
must be 20 pearly mussels classified as endangered ...How many...mussels
do we need?"
Media's Lack of
Absence of Chalice
Since Washington Post reporter
Michael Weisskopf called Christians "largely poor, uneducated, and
easy to command" in a February 1 story, the media's shallow
coverage of religion received some overdue attention.
In the July/August Columbia
Journalism Review, Time political writer Laurence Barrett admitted:
"Newspapers, magazines and networks frequently assign
African-Americans to cover civil rights stories and related issues.
Women journalists of a liberal bent often write about feminist concerns.
Even if we had more conservative evangelicals in the ranks, I doubt they
would be employed the way blacks and women have been. Conservative
Christians are politically suspect." Barrett blamed "the
cultural chasm dividing most national political writers and editors from
the roughly 20 percent of the population that constitutes the core of
the white, conservative evangelical movement."
Similarly, Scripps-Howard religion
columnist Terry Mattingly described the greatest bias in the July/August
Quill. "Bias of world view. It is hard to write a good story
if you don't care that it exists." Mattingly wondered: "Can
the `media elite' afford to offend a large segment of the population in
an age of declining interest in newspapers and traditional network
news?" Indeed, Barrett found "one reason for the deepening
alienation of religious conservatives is that they've just about tuned
out the mainstream media."
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