Media Dive on GOP in New Jersey, Ignore Democrats in Philadelphia
The One-Sided Dirty Trick Hunt
No story excited reporters in November
more than GOP consultant Ed Rollins' strange story that he paid $500,000
in "street money" to black ministers to refrain from asking
people to vote for New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio. But while reporters
played prosecutor against Rollins and the Republicans, they ignored
proven Democratic vote fraud in Philadelphia.
"Now, there are charges that dirty
tricks may have made the difference, with a prominent Republican
operative from the Reagan years at the center of it all," Connie
Chung announced on the November 10 CBS Evening News. From
November 10 to November 30, the four networks aired 38 evening stories
on the New Jersey allegations. CNN's Inside Politics reported
an additional 13 stories on the New Jersey allegations. Between the Los
Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, and The
Washington Post, 62 stories were filed on New Jersey, 15 on the
Meanwhile, on November 14, The
Philadelphia Inquirer, a heralded pillar of the liberal
journalistic establishment, reported that Latino voters in Philadelphia
were talked into casting absentee ballots for Democratic State Senate
candidate William Stinson even though they did not qualify for them.
Stinson's Republican opponent, Bruce Marks, actually won the regular
vote but lost dramatically in the absentee ballot count. This is
especially important because Pennsylvania's Senate is divided 25-25,
with Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Singel casting any tie-breaking vote.
One week later, the paper's front page
returned to the story, with testimony from people of all races who said
they did not vote in the Stinson race, but had ballots filled out for
them without their knowledge. The Inquirer even reproduced
On November 29, the Justice Department
announced it was investigating the Philadelphia case. When the Justice
Department announced an investigation of the GOP in New Jersey, ABC and
CBS made it the lead story that evening, but the Philadelphia story went
unmentioned. On December 1, CNN's Inside Politics led with the
Philadelphia story (and did one other story, for a ratio of 13-2). But
the same night's World News had no story. As for the
newspapers, The Washington Post did two less-than-200-word
briefs, USA Today filed three tiny items, and the Los
Angeles Times and New York Times never wrote anything.
Even reporters noted the disparity. On C-SPAN's
Journalists' Roundtable December 3, National Public Radio White
House reporter Mara Liasson admitted: "I think the Pennsylvania
story has not gotten the coverage it's deserved...I think the
Pennsylvania story's going to be getting a lot more attention." Not
Democrat Heads PBS
Three months after NPR chose a Democrat
as its new President, PBS has followed suit. Ervin Duggan,
nominated by George Bush to fill a Democratic slot at the Federal
Communications Commission in 1989, has been named President of PBS. He
starts February 1.
Duggan was a Washington Post reporter
in 1964 before moving to the White House as a Special Assistant to
President Johnson. He later worked for then-Senator Lloyd Bentsen
(D-Texas), followed by Senator Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.) from 1971-77. In
the Carter years, he wrote speeches for Secretary of Health, Education
and Welfare Joseph Califano, jumping to the State Department planning
staff in 1979.
Two at USIA
Two network veterans have landed
positions at the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), which runs the Voice of
America. The Washington Post reported that Heidi
Schulman, a reporter at NBC News for 17 years ending in 1990,
"has signed on as a one-year, $330-a-day TV programming
consultant." Last year Schulman worked on Hillary Rodham's staff,
coordinating relations with Hollywood celebrities....Joyce
Kravitz, Director of Information for ABC News in Washington
from 1985-88, is now Senior Adviser for broadcasting. Kravitz was Press
Secretary for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
"Dump the Hump!"
In a September Vanity Fair story
Jacob Weisberg wrote that "Curtis Wilkie of The
Boston Globe once called the White House pressroom `the only day
care center in America Ronald Reagan hasn't abolished.'" An October
31 Boston Globe Magazine cover story revealed that Wilkie's
been a dedicated liberal since at least 1968, when he worked to elect
liberal presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.
In the midst of a tribute to Hubert
Humphrey on the 25th anniversary of his loss to Richard Nixon, Wilkie
recalled his activities during the Democratic convention in Chicago:
"As a small town journalist in Mississippi, moonlighting as a foot
soldier in the revolutions of the 1960s, I went from being an admirer of
Humphrey for his work in civil rights to becoming an antagonist. As a
member of an insurgent delegation from Mississippi, I went to Chicago,
voted for McCarthy, and chanted `Dump the Hump' with thousands of other
demonstrators under his window at the Conrad Hilton. We got tear-gassed
for our efforts."
Wilkie conceded that "I probably
should have been fired from my job for my partisan activities." But
he wasn't quite finished with political activity: "My first brush
with big-time politics over, I went back to covering Rotary Club
speeches and the city council and grudgingly supported Humphrey in the
fall. Wallace sentiment was so strong in the state that I perversely
encouraged my 2-year-old son, Carter, to startle people with childish
shouts: 'Boo, Wallace! Yea, Humphrey!'"
Wilkie's not the only Globe
reporter directly involved in politics in the 1960s. In a June story on
David Gergen's move to the White House, Globe Washington bureau
reporter John Mashek revealed that he "worked
briefly in 1964 for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy." Mashek
toiled for U.S. News & World Report and the Atlanta
Constitution before joining the Globe in the late '80s.
S&L Story Spiked
Serious charges of conflict of interest
have moved from the Resolution Trust Corporation to the Justice
Department's criminal division, charges that could damage the ethical
reputations of the President and First Lady of the United States.
A former Arkansas judge charged that in
1986, then-Governor Bill Clinton had pressured him to make a $300,000
Small Business Administration loan to one of Clinton's financial
partners, Susan McDougal, even though she was not financially
disadvantaged -- a requirement. Prosecutors dropped the case because
documents detailing the business activities of Whitewater Development
Corporation, the Clintons' joint venture, could not be found.
Webster Hubbell, the third-ranking
official in the Justice Department, and Vincent Foster, the White House
deputy counsel who killed himself earlier this year, told federal bank
officials their Rose Law Firm had not represented S&Ls. But Hillary
Clinton, a Rose partner, represented the bankrupt Madison S&L before
state agencies her husband controlled.
Other than one brief question to CNN's
Wolf Blitzer on Inside Politics November 2 and a November 11 NBC
Nightly News story by Andrea Mitchell, the TV networks have done
absolutely zero on this potentially ruinous scandal. The news magazines
dismissed the story with one page or less each.
The only interested media outlets seem to
be Washington's two newspapers. The Washington Times, regularly
breaks embarrassing news about Democrats that the rest ignore. But The
Washington Post has remained interested in the story, placing it on
Page One four times since it returned to the story on Halloween.
Most reporters hated this Clinton S&L
story last year, too. When The New York Times broke the scoop
on March 8, 1992, the four networks did only five full stories between
them. The news magazines were even worse: Newsweek devoted one
clause, while Time and U.S. News wrote nothing. After
a brief rash of stories in March 1992, the scandal disappeared. Other
than two stories in the late summer of 1992 and one this April by The
Washington Post, it never came up again until the new stories
started on October 31.
CBS This Morning's Giselle Fernandez
Hails "Castro's Playground;" Tunnels with Nightclubs
Painting a "Pretty
Postcard" of Cuba
Is the Cold War over? To watch some
reporters in Cuba, you might wonder. The old sins of reporting from
communist countries -- trading journalistic access for positive
publicity, presenting oppressed people's party-line statements as
unforced genuine opinion, and treatment of government statements as fact
without confirmation -- were all evident in CBS This Morning's
live broadcasts from Cuba November 3-5. For repeating almost all the
mistakes of past Cuba trips, CBS reporter Giselle Fernandez earned the
Janet Cooke Award.
Access for Publicity. CBS
This Morning co-host Harry Smith asked Fernandez why the Cubans
granted access to their tourist resorts. She replied: "Why not?
What's to lose for the government? We were giving them the opportunity
to paint a pretty postcard of the country. At the very least, it gives
Fidel Castro a chance to show American businessmen some of the
opportunities that may await them here someday."
On November 3, Fernandez declared:
"Welcome to Fidel Castro's playground, Cuba's Caribbean paradise
few have seen, a Cuba the Commandant is now inviting the world to enjoy.
It's the promised land Cuba is hoping will guarantee a promising future.
In the last two years alone, Cuba and its sultry beaches has become a
major vacation hot spot."
She ended without a hint of sarcasm:
"While tourism may be changing the landscape of Cuba's Caribbean
shores, Fidel Castro is banking on it to lure in foreigners with dollars
to try and save his workers' paradise from becoming a paradise
Fernandez never found one person to suggest that perhaps the economic
crisis is the fault of communism. Instead, it was all the fault of the
U.S. embargo: "On lines for rationed fuel and food, at hospitals
with severe shortages of medicine, most all say the embargo, trying to
force political change, is the reason they suffer." Fernandez
explained pictures of hardship: "The embargo has forced all the
Cuban people to be extremely resourceful here just to get through the
In another story, Fernandez suggested:
"The standoff is rooted in a Cold War mentality that has
disappeared from almost every other place on the planet. Along Havana's
famous seafront, a proud tradition of honoring a revolutionary hero is
passed on to a new generation of Cubans. They sing songs of socialism,
songs of tribute to Fidel Castro, and almost all raise their voices
against the U.S. embargo."
Cubans told the cameras "It's an
injustice against the Cuban people" and "They're selfish
because they want to own us and that cannot be, because in this country
there's socialism" and "We are Cubans, Communists, and we are
ready to die. As old as I am, I am ready to take up arms."
In the only mention of human rights in
three days, Fernandez threw in one soundbite from Jorge Mas Canosa, of
the Cuban American National Foundation, noting: "Members of Miami's
powerful exile community say it's the only way to end political
repression and the violation of human rights here."
On the 5th, Fernandez reported on
defectors, both athletes and soldiers: "You believe it when Cuban
[baseball] players say national pride is their paycheck. Says pitcher
Laslo Vijay, the defectors abandon their families, the love of their
people, because of a bunch of dollars...Once players come to the U.S.,
[defector Rene] Arrocha says, they realize how much they lied to them in
Cuba. But outfielder Victor Mesa has a simple reply. They were tired of
our system so they committed treason." A few weeks later, 50 Cuban
athletes defected in Puerto Rico.
Fernandez did the same in a story on
defecting pilots, marching in Cubans to denounce them as traitors. (At
least in this case, Harry Smith interviewed defector Orestes Lorenzo
back in the U.S. for an opposing view.) But what about dissidents inside
Cuba? "For every 20 or 30 people you speak to...you're very lucky
if you get one to go on camera," Senior Producer Lin Garlick told MediaWatch.
"You have to talk to a lot of
people, not just the Cubans who are within Cuba now, but you have to
talk to a lot of people to understand the Cuban psyche. I don't think
you expect any person outside of America to tick along and think like an
American. And I think maybe what you just said illustrates to me that
you're coming from the American viewpoint."
But aren't Cuban-American exiles part of
the Cuban story? Garlick countered: "Are you counting all the many,
many, many hours and hours and days we've only done on the Cuban
exiles?...When you have an opportunity to go into a country and report,
what you don't do is try your very best to get the information that you
can't normally get there." But the MRC database shows CBS hasn't
done a story on Cuban exiles since at least 1990.
Jose Cardenas of the Cuban American
National Foundation told MediaWatch a
different story: "We gave them a list of dissidents with addresses.
The dissidents were fully prepared to meet with them, dissidents on the
island who are quite open about it and have no fear of being cited by
name or appearing on camera, and somehow they didn't find them. And
they're all in Havana."
Government Statements as Fact.
On the 4th, Fernandez toured Cuba's military tunnel system, passing on
everything the Cubans told her: "The tunnels are built by paid
workers and volunteer brigades." Fernandez asked: "So you have
a club, a nightclub, in the tunnel? You have a barbershop?" Later,
she again said they "told us there are more sophisticated tunnels
with...a nightclub, a barbershop." Smith asked: "Did you see
any evidence of that?" "No," she replied.
Fernandez played up Cuban claims:
"He [the colonel] says they're the largest tunnels in the
world...Hundreds of miles snake through the countryside, and all over
the city." But only a minute before, Fernandez admitted: "We
never saw a completed tunnel." When asked why Fernandez simply
passed on the nightclub claims, Garlick told MediaWatch:
"I think she probably said they say they have. There's a very big
Even if they have a tunnel system, CBS
never asked why the government builds tunnels and opens five-star hotels
while Cubans go without food or medicine. When asked about that, Garlick
replied: "You're a little unprofessional. For someone who's never
been to Cuba...Giselle has been to Cuba before, I have been to Cuba
before, and it's very difficult to fight your pre-judged opinions. You
have set yourself up as expert. You have never been there but you
obviously consider your viewpoint correct. If you're coming from a
journalistic viewpoint, you should get permission to go to Cuba, and
then after you've been there a week or two, feel free to criticize.
After you have some experience."
Clinton on Quayle, Take 2.
Last year, Bill Clinton criticized Dan Quayle's now-famous speech on
family policy that happened to include a mention of Murphy Brown. In
May, Clinton said "The Vice President's address is in my view
cynical election year politics." In his convention speech, he
stepped up the attack: "Frankly, I'm fed up with politicians in
Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values. Our families
have values, but our government doesn't."
So when President Clinton changed his
tune in early December in interviews with NBC and Newsweek and
said "I thought there were a lot of very good things in that
speech," including "it's certainly true that this country
would be much better off if our babies were born into two-parent
families," the rest of the media jumped on the flip-flop, right?
Wrong. There wasn't a word of it in the Los Angeles Times, The New
York Times, or The Washington Post. ABC's Charles Gibson
asked Dan Quayle about it on Good Morning America December 6,
but CBS totally ignored it.
Knight-Ridder reporter Reginald Stuart thinks the Department of Housing
and Urban Development has been starved for funds. On C-SPAN's Journalists'
Roundtable November 5, Stuart asserted: "(Henry) Cisneros got
good grades for running HUD. And HUD is an agency that was gutted by the
Republicans in 12 years and then under the Clinton/Gore performance,
it's going to be gutted some more. So he's doing a good job of running
an agency that's being gutted successively by administrations."
But federal budget outlays to HUD grew
from $12.7 billion in 1980 to $22.8 billion in 1991, meaning HUD has
grown 18 percent more than inflation. And the number of people served by
housing assistance grew 31 percent from 1981 to 1989. If that's
"gutted," what's expanded?
Darling Democrats... Newsweek
examined the first year in the careers of three House freshmen in the
November 29 issue: Democrats Cynthia McKinney and Marjorie
Margolies-Mezvinsky and Republican Terry Everett. To Senior Writer Bill
Turque, the Democrats' shortcomings showed they were learning the
In "The Learning Curve,"
McKinney learns the way things are done in Congress. This self-described
outsider's attempt at playing an insider's game is handled
matter-of-factly: "And despite her problems with the pork-friendly
Appropriations Committee, she quietly lobbied the panel to secure a
$200,000 research grant for Savannah State College." Her cynical
attempt to game the system by refusing to take a hard stand on NAFTA is
described with pride. "A White House in desperate search of
Congressional support on big votes also helped her learn to play the
system... Was she holding out for a deal? She just smiled and said `You
never want to be so definitive that you can't take advantage of a
changing situation.' Cynthia McKinney may find a home in the House after
But in the section titled "Pork, Peanuts, and Promises," Terry
Everett, who ran for Congress on a Perot-like no-business-as-usual
platform, is a hypocrite for accepting PAC money: "Beneath
Everett's reform fervor lurks the soul of a career politician. He
insists he was clear during his campaign about the no-PACs pledge --
that it was a one time offer, good only for 1992. But Everett's caveat
was tantamount to the fine print on the side of a cereal box...Until
Congress passes new limits on PAC contributions -- which he supports --
Everett intends to play the game by the same rules as his
opponents." Turque also disdained Everett for securing the peanut
subsidy: "Reform was on Everett's agenda only when it caused pain
in someone else's district.
Rush to Judge. When
Gennifer Flowers' allegations threatened Bill Clinton's campaign, the
media pronounced it sleazy to report sensational charges. Skeptical
about Flowers' evidence, they held off reporting the story.
A different standard applies to Catholic
clergy. All the networks immediately ran reports on the charges made
against Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin by a 34-year-old AIDS
patient, who had just remembered he was sexually abused 18 years after
the alleged event, and by the way, wanted $10 million for his anguish.
Connie Chung's sensational introduction on the Nov. 12 CBS Evening
News typified media reaction: "The Roman Catholic Church in
America was rocked today by charges of scandal against one of its most
prominent leaders and reformers."
CNN ran a one-hour special on sex abuse
in the Catholic Church two days later, Fall From Grace, which
continued the sensational coverage of unproven allegations. Host Bonnie
Anderson reported "Charges that a Prince of the Church, a man
eligible to become Pope, a Cardinal on the forefront of reforming how
the Church deals with clergy's sexual abuse has himself fallen from
Envy the French.
"If the French can do it, why can't we?" ran the headline over
Steven Greenhouse's story in the November 14 New York Times
Magazine. What do the French do so well? Day care. Not just day
care, but a system that offers children "poached fish and
cauliflower mousse, parsleyed potatoes and Camembert cheese -- not bad
compared with the peanut butter sandwiches served at so many American
According to Greenhouse, the food is just
one advantage of "a free, full-day, public school or école
maternelle," because, "In France, 99 percent of the 3- 4- and
5-year olds attend preschool at no or minimal charge." By
comparison, "Many New Yorkers, Washingtonians and Californians pay
$8,000 to $14,000 a year to send a child to preschool or a day-care
center, if they are lucky enough to find a place." He continued,
"Comparing the French system with the American system -- if that
word can be used to describe a jigsaw puzzle missing half its pieces --
is like comparing a vintage bottle of Chateau Margaux with a $4 bottle
of American wine."
Just what are the "minimal"
charges? "The French spend $7 billion a year to make sure every
child -- rich, middle class or poor -- gets off to a good start. They
feel the benefits outweigh the cost." France is showing some strain
on their "free" system. Politicians are feeling the crunch to
keep taxes (which are already "almost half of their gross domestic
product") down. Greenhouse's answer to keeping taxes down and
keeping the level of day care up: "charging parents, especially the
rich ones, more."
Hunger Hype I.
The liberal Urban Institute released a report on November 16 claiming
that "Between 2.5 and 4.9 million elderly Americans -- many living
well above the poverty line -- suffer hunger and food insecurity."
ABC, CBS and CNN all promoted the study, but none of them interviewed a
conservative skeptic to question it.
Eugenia Halsey's Nov. 15 CNN World
News report featured some complaining elderly; a social worker;
Martha Burt of the Urban Institute; and Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio). On Nov.
16, CBS Evening News put together nearly the same story, with
extra hype. Sandra Hughes interviewed elderly people; a social worker;
Rep. Hall; and Burt.
Connie Chung introduced the piece as a
"disturbing report tonight about older Americans in this country.
Millions of them, even some living above the poverty line, don't know
from day to day where their next meal is coming from." Then Hughes
revised upward the Urban Institute's high estimate: "Up to 5
million Americans over the age of 65 at some point worry about whether
they'll have enough food to survive."
On Good Morning America November
16, Joan Lunden interviewed -- Tony Hall and Martha Burt. Lunden's
questions were PR softballs: "Well, this study does say we do need
to spend more money, in fact it says `We need to shift public resources
from the affluent to the low income elderly through higher Social
Security taxes and other means.' But would that not be a political
Hunger Hype II. On
Thanksgiving Day 1988, CBS Evening News reporter Bob McNamara
claimed: "Today, soup kitchens feed more people than ever, and
sadly, more families, more children." The story ended: "For
more and more young families," there is "little to be thankful
Five years later CBS found another
category of hungry people. This Thanksgiving night, Giselle Fernandez
and Randall Pinkston claimed middle-class and affluent families are
suffering, too. Fernandez began: "A lot of Americans are going
hungry, and not just in the inner city." Pinkston explained:
"Hunger is showing up in the most unlikely places. This is affluent
Columbia, Maryland." Forwarding only anecdotal accounts from food
banks, Pinkston concluded that "middle-class Americans are forced
to look to others for food." Why can't the networks balance stories
on hunger with a conservative expert?
Pork Prince's Integrity.
Democratic Senator Robert Byrd is well-known in Washington as the
"prince of pork." Since the former Senate Majority Leader has
moved to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd has tried to
move any government agency that's not tied down to his home state of
West Virginia. But during the Senate debate over the Packwood diaries,
the media pictured Byrd as the Senate's voice of integrity.
"Like it or not about what you say
about Senator Byrd's background, and his policies, and his politics, he
has a very high sense of integrity," declared the Chicago
Tribune's Elaine Povich on C-SPAN's Journalists' Roundtable on
Nov. 5. Two days before, Washington Post staff writer Helen
Dewar had written: "`None of us is pure or without flaw, but when
those flaws damage the institution of the Senate, it is time to have the
grace to go,' said Byrd, widely regarded as the Senate's foremost
defender of its traditions and integrity." Bernard Shaw also joined
in with this question on Inside Politics: "What was Byrd
trying to do given his esteem?" It's a good thing Byrd doesn't have
any skeletons in his closet, like former membership in the KKK.
Hurray for Halperin.
With a newly acquired vigor for the pursuit of fairness to presidential
nominees, Time reporter Kevin Fedarko chronicled the
confirmation difficulties faced by Morton Halperin, President Clinton's
nominee to a newly created Pentagon position for peacekeeping
operations. In a November 29 article, Fedarko rhetorically asked,
"How did Halperin manage to get himself caught between the cross
hairs of a confirmation hearing so savage it resembled a drive-by
The answer? "Halperin's liberal
views have achieved their most ardent expression in defense policy, a
piece of hallowed conservative turf." These liberal views seem to
be offset, in Fedarko's mind, by Halperin's work for the ACLU, where he
was involved in "defending the constitutional rights of Oliver
North, Lyn Nofziger and the conservative student writers at the Dartmouth
"Despite such ideological
balance," Fedarko lamented, "Halperin has suffered from a
hit-and-run campaign by conservative ideologues." While Halperin's
views at the ACLU may be interesting, opposition to him is based on his
radical positions on military and intelligence issues. But Fedarko
mentioned nothing conservatives found objectionable about Halperin's
work as head of the leftist Center for National Security Studies, his
role as an accomplice in releasing the Pentagon Papers, or Halperin's
well-documented beliefs that "Secrecy...does not serve national
security...Covert operations are incompatible with constitutional
government and should be abolished."
TV Gun Control
Coverage Tilts Its Tone, Talking Heads and Labels to Liberal Side
Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
The networks hailed passage of the Brady
Bill by Congress on November 24 as a triumph in the national battle
against crime. Three days later, NBC Nightly News honored the
gun control measure, mandating a five-day waiting period and background
check for handgun purchasers, as the "Moment of the Week."
To examine if NBC's tone accurately
reflected how the networks covered the gun control debate, MediaWatch
analysts reviewed every gun control policy story on ABC's World News
Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and CNN's World
News for a two-year period from December 1, 1991 to November 30,
1993. (Stories exclusively on assault weapons were excluded.)
In the 107 stories analyzed, a clear
pattern emerged, emphasizing the agendas, spokesmen, labels, and
academic research of gun control supporters. Overall, 62 percent of the
stories devoted substantially more time to pro- than anti-gun control
arguments; talking heads who endorsed gun control outnumbered opponents
by nearly 2 to 1; and in stories concerning the Brady Bill, the bias
against gun control opponents was even greater, a ratio of 3 to 1.
Story Angle. Analysts
timed the length of pro- and anti-gun control statements in each story.
Pieces with a disparity of greater than 1.5 to 1 were categorized as
either for or against gun control. Stories closer than the ratio were
considered neutral. Among statements recorded as pro-gun control: claims
that gun control would reduce crime; that violent crime occurs because
of guns, not criminals; and claims that gun control opponents are
partisan or obstructionist. Categorized as arguments against gun
control: gun control would not reduce crime; that criminals, not guns
are the problem; and that Americans have a constitutional right to keep
and bear arms.
In the 78 non-Brady Bill gun control
policy stories, 46 (or 59 percent) contained an aggressively pro-gun
control agenda , 29 (37 percent) remained neutral , while only 3 stories
(4 percent) in two years were devoted to gun rights.
Talking Heads. The
networks provided far more opportunities for gun control supporters than
opponents to present their case. Of 272 talking heads in non-Brady Bill
pieces, 146 were pro-gun control (54 percent), 26 were neutral (10
percent), and 100 sources argued against gun control (36 percent).
Brady Bill. Of 29
stories covering the Brady Bill, 20 were dominated by the pro-gun
control agenda (69 percent) while the remaining 9 were neutral. None
leaned to the anti-gun control point of view. Soundbites were just as
uneven, as those favoring gun control during the Brady debate
outnumbered anti-gun control soundbites by 75 to 24, a vast 3-to-1
disparity. Brady Bill supporters amounted to 69 percent of all the
sources quoted, compared to 22 percent opposed and 8 percent who were
Among the networks, NBC gave only six
opportunities for gun rights supporters to state their case, while those
who supported the Brady Bill were given 34, a 5-to-1 advantage.
Similarly, CNN aired 16 talking heads advocating gun control, while only
4 disagreed. CBS granted the Bradys and their supporters twice as much
coverage, 13 soundbites to 6, as they did to the National Rifle
Association and their supporters.
On story angles, ABC remained closest to
neutral during the Brady Bill debate. All five ABC stories gave both
sides about equal time, although talking heads favoring gun control held
a margin of 12 to 8. CNN ran 6 neutral stories, and just one heavily
pro- gun control story. Both CBS and NBC skewed their coverage and
sources in favor of gun control. Five of six CBS stories favored the
Brady Bill. But NBC was the most egregious offender: Pro-gun control
themes dominated in 10 of 11 stories (91 percent).
None of the Brady Bill stories mentioned
that the homicide rate in California, with a strict 15 day waiting
period for all guns since 1975, surpassed the national average by 37
percent, according to the FBI.
In two stories, NBC White House
correspondent Andrea Mitchell posited that if the bill had been in
effect, "John Hinckley might have flunked that test." But
attorney and author David B. Kopel wrote in the Winter 1993 Policy
Review: "Hinckley...had no felony record, and no record of
mental illness. The simple police and mental health records check
proposed by the Brady Bill would not have turned up anything on
Labels. As with
abortion, where "anti-abortion" versus "abortion rights
advocates" define the debate in the media, the networks' labels on
gun policy lean to the liberal side. Of 16 labels for gun control
supporters, "gun control advocates" appeared 14 times while
reporters used "gun advocate" and "gun rights
advocate" once each. Apparently only the NRA engages in lobbying
for its position, to judge from network reporters who mentioned the
"gun lobby" 17 times, but only cited the "gun control
lobby" twice. (The networks are not known to have used the term
"the abortion lobby.") On April 3, 1992, CBS reporter James
Hattori called doctors seeking to ban guns as having a "clinical,
Two other labels which often appeared
together were "fear" and "NRA." NBC anchor Tom
Brokaw hit a double when he alluded to the "feared NRA gun
lobby" on the June 5, 1992 Nightly News. ABC's Bill
Greenwood declared on the May 8, 1992 World News Tonight:
"There is evidence that fear does sell. Since the National Rifle
Association began its recent campaign promoting self-defense against
criminals, a thousand new members have been signing up every day."
Candy Crowley of CNN exemplified network
attitudes when she declared on the November 20 World News:
"Nobody really knows how much impact a waiting period will have on
crime, but the Brady Bill has become so symbolic that its actual impact
is no longer the point. It is at once a reminder of how dangerous a
place the world is, but how, with enough work and enough dedication, the
human spirit can triumph." In other words, don't let the facts
interfere with the emotion for gun control.
the Bright Side
The destruction wrought by the California
fires was an inevitable result of building houses in wind-swept canyons,
right? Maybe not. In a November 19 piece for 20/20, ABC reporter
John Stossel suggested the problem rested less with the environmental
risks than environmental regulations, specifically the Endangered
Species Act. Stossel began by asserting that "in the aftermath of
the fires, some who lost their homes now say one cause of the disaster
was the government's rules." As Stossel pointed out, "When the
Endangered Species Act passed 20 years ago, it passed easily. Everyone
wants to stand for protecting nature, especially species like the bald
eagle and the grizzly bear. But laws like this tend to grow."
Stossel reported the law grew to include
the kangaroo rat as a protected species. The result? "These people
believe they could have protected their property, but the government
wouldn't let them because of a rat...One of the best ways to stop brush
fires is to create a firebreak -- to clear out a strip of vegetation so
that when the fire gets here, it won't have anything to burn. Doing it
with this machine is called disking, and the people around here have
disked the property for years, until a few years ago, when the
government told them they could not because... digging into the ground
destroys the burrows of the Stevens kangaroo rat."
Another Side of Canada
CBS reporter Bob Faw began his November
12 Evening News report with a familiar refrain: "Canadians
can go to the doctor whenever they want and never get a bill."
Instead of singing the praises of the "free" single-payer
system, however, Faw introduced viewers to a rarely reported side of
Canadian health care.
After hearing a doctor document the
crowded condition of Canadian emergency rooms, he noted: "Despite a
population of 150,000, rural Sudbury in Northern Ontario is so short of
medical specialists that when Oscar Burnier broke his leg this summer he
had to make a painful flight all the way to Toronto to get care,
enraging his mother." Why? Faw reported: "Doctors...say the
government is making things even worse by interfering and setting limits
on how much doctors can make."
Faw explored the unintended incentives of
the single-payer plan: "Experts agree consumers abuse the system.
One study shows Canadians go to the doctors 30 percent more than
Americans, often for the common cold. Result: Canada, mired in a
recession, has a health care system that is hemorrhaging money."
Faw ended with a cautionary message: "`Our lesson for Mr. Clinton,'
said a doctor, `is that you cannot provide infinite health care for
everyone with finite tax dollars. There have to be limits.'"
P.C. Rules the L.A. Times
The Los Angeles Times has jumped
in with both feet as it joins the ranks of the politically correct
media. Howard Kurtz reported in the November 29 Washington Post that
Times Editor Shelby Coffey III issued a new committee-drafted
pamphlet, Guidelines on Ethnic, Racial, Sexual, and Other
The guidelines ask reporters not to use
such words as "WASP" ("may be pejorative"),
"coed" ("considered derogatory to female college
students"), "Dutch treat" ("an offensive reference
to sharing expenses") "mailman" ("many women hold
this job"), "mankind" ("humanity, human beings and
humankind are preferred") and "man-made"("preferred
words are artificial, manufactured or synthetic.")
The Times urged that phrases
such as "admitted homosexual" or "tidal wave of
immigrants" be avoided. In regard to "the New World," the
guidelines say: "Beware of this usage when referring to the ancient
continent of North America stumbled upon by Christopher Columbus. It
ignores 2,000 separate cultures that already existed on the
The guidelines also outlaw
"biddy," "bra-burner," "Chinese fire
drill," "crazy," "divorcee," "gal,"
"ghetto," "gypped," "handicapped person,"
"hick," "hillbilly," "Hispanic,"
"holy rollers," "Indians," "inner city,"
"lame," "male nurse," "normal,"
"powwow," "queer," "welsher" and
"white trash." The Times did not forbid references to
religious conservatives as "poor, uneducated, and easy to
command." But hey, it's only written by news gathering craftpersons
for descendants of humans who stumbled upon North America.
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