Schieffer Asks 26 Questions About Lying, But No Such Questions for Dems
Oliver North Faces the Nation
Oliver North brings out the anger in the national
press. CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer reflected the media's
bloodlust in a hostile January 30 interview. In just 17 minutes,
Schieffer asked the just-announced U.S. Senate candidate 26 questions
He badgered North: "How can I know when you are
telling the truth? You said that I told the truth once I took the oath
[before Congress]. Is a person allowed not to tell the truth when he's
not under oath?....What's the criteria to know that Oliver North is
telling the truth?....Only under oath or all the time?"
Schieffer switched topics, only to ask North 11
questions about one sentence in one of North's fundraising letters.
After quoting the sentence, "An arrogant army of ultrafeminists
opposed to traditional family values has captured the political
process," Schieffer asked incredulously, "Do you believe that?
I mean, should we take that literally?"
Schieffer then announced he was shifting the
discussion to Russian aid, but asked: "Let's suppose the Congress
says no. Do you think the President would then be justified to have
someone on his staff try to assemble a team to figure out how to go
around the Congress, because that's what you did as a member of
President Reagan's staff."
This is the same Bob Schieffer who in the past year
never asked a Clinton Administration official about the President's
statements on the draft or womanizing, not even after David Brock's
story appeared in December. He never raised either issue during a
January 9 appearance by Al Gore.
Twice in 1993 Schieffer interviewed Rep. Dan
Rosten-kowski, but you wouldn't know the charges against him in the
House Post Office scandal because Schieffer steered clear of the
specifics, tamely asking one question on February 7: "Mr. Chairman,
I'd be remiss if I did not ask you... you've been investigated by a U.S.
Attorney now for I don't know how many months. Can you tell us if you've
been given any indication if that is about to conclude?" On
Rostenkowski's May 16 appearance, Schieffer asked nothing about the
Schieffer asked Commerce Secretary Ron Brown only
three neutral questions on November 21 about Brown's false statements
about not meeting with a Vietnamese businessman. He failed to find fault
with any Democratic Party direct mail letters sent during Brown's tenure
Last year, Schieffer described the Clinton budget as
"calling for massive cuts in government spending." In reality,
the CBO reported that spending would increase by $328 billion in five
years. So how do viewers know when Schieffer is telling the truth?
Bode Moves to PBS
In early March Paul Duke, moderator of Washington Week
in Review on PBS for 20 years, will retire. Taking his place on the
Friday night show: Ken Bode, an aide in Democrat Morris Udall's 1976
presidential campaign. Bode was NBC's Chief Political Correspondent from
1979 to 1989, contributing to CNN's special assignment unit since 1990.
He'll leave CNN, but remain Director of the Center for Contemporary
Media at DePauw University.
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action
League (NARAL) has tapped Karen Schneider, a Detroit Free Press
Washington correspondent, as its Communications Director. In addition to
reporting for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, since 1991 Schneider's
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service stories have appeared in major
newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Dallas
Liberal Legal Beagles
The National Public Radio (NPR) legal team is filling
Clinton Administration slots. Lois Schiffer, NPR general counsel from
1984 to 1990, who has been serving as Acting Assistant Attorney General
in charge of the Environment and Natural Resources Division since last
Spring, has now been nominated to fill the slot. For six years ending in
1984, she served as special litigation counsel in the same division, a
position she took after leaving the Center for Law and Social Policy.
She has served on the boards of the liberal Women's Legal Defense Fund
and the ACLU's Washington chapter.
Named general counsel at the National Endowment for
the Arts: Karen Kay Christensen, assistant general counsel at NPR.
Another ABC Pentagon Pick
After 20 years of working for liberal politicians on
Capitol Hill, William Blacklow has joined the Clinton Administration as
Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for public affairs. Roll
Call's Peter Spiegel reported that in 1969, Blacklow was a production
assistant for ABC's old Issues and Answers Sunday interview show,
"moving up to assistant to the producer in 1970. In 1971, Blacklow
became a writer for ABC's Howard K. Smith, but he left in 1972 to become
New Jersey and Pennsylvania Press Secretary for" George McGovern's
For the past five years Blacklow's been Press
Secretary for Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a position he assumed in
1988 after four years in the same role for Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).
Prior to Miller, he spent seven years as Administrative Assistant and
Press Secretary to then-Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.). At Defense he'll
work with another ABC News veteran: Kathleen deLaski, chief public
Ginny Moves Up
Six months after becoming Director of Public Affairs
at the National Endowment for the Arts, Ginny Terzano moved to the White
House in late 1993 as Deputy Press Secretary. Following stints with the
Gary Hart and Al Gore presidential campaigns, in 1988 she joined the CBS
News election unit as a researcher. At the White House, she takes over
for Lorraine Voles, who replaced Marla Romash, departed Press Secretary
to the VP. In the mid-'80s Romash was a Good Morning America Associate
Media Suffer Memory Lapse
Better Off Before?
Last month, MediaWatch highlighted how the media label
as "right-wing" both fascists and communists in Russia. So it
was cause for celebration when, on the January 23 Nightly News, NBC's
Bob Abernethy (one of those mentioned) declared: "In last month's
election there was massive support for Vladimir Zhirinovsky on the far
right and the communists on the far left."
While it is noteworthy that Abernethy correctly put
communism on the left, he also stated: "Boris Yeltsin's moves
towards free markets brought painful inflation, conspicuous poverty,
unpopular Western influences, flashy new wealth for a few, and all but
uncontrolled crime." This was typical of the coverage President
Clinton's trip to Moscow received, as reporters portrayed life in Moscow
today as far worse than under Soviet communism.
On the January 14 Good Morning America, ABC's Morton
Dean reported: "For more than 70 years, Russia dreamed the Soviet
dream: the dream of a classless society, the dream of a workers'
paradise. The classless state is now a state with a growing population
of haves and an exploding population of have-nots. For many the workers'
paradise has become a homeless hell."
As if economics were the only measure of one's
well-being, that same night Dan Rather announced on the Evening News:
"For the first time in my experience here....there is a rising
anti-Americanism building out there which has to do with saying `Listen,
we've done everything you told us to do and we're even worse off than we
were under the Soviet system.'" Network reporting failed to
acknowledge the relative lack of political persecution, or execution, in
the new Russia.
Ironically, Mikhail Gorbachev, under whose reign the
Soviet economy collapsed, is still celebrated. On the January 14 NBC
Nightly News Tom Brokaw proclaimed: "The man who started it all
here in Russia, the man who cracked the wall of communist rule in this
country, now works quietly at his foundation on two floors of a Moscow
building. Mikhail Gorbachev, driven from power, but still a compelling
figure. We met today in his offices. His prosperity from Western lecture
tours has not dulled his political analysis."
"What A Great Book!"
In a saccharine Sunday Today interview, co-host Jackie Nespral
gushed over 1984 Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. Nespral
began by promoting Ferraro's new book, Changing History: Women,
Power, and Politics, exclaiming: "What a great book!"
Ignoring the inconvenient fact that the Mondale-Ferraro ticket lost the
women's vote to Reagan by 56 to 44 percent, Nespral suggested sexism in
the election results: "When you were a candidate for Vice
President, you were heavily scrutinized. What do you think happened? Do
you think America was just not ready for a woman Vice President?"
Though Nespral never asked Ferraro about her
contentious (and failed) 1992 Senate bid, she ended by tossing her a
softball about the First Lady: "Hillary Rodham Clinton...she has a
lot of power in Washington, do you think she's paving the way for a
brighter future for women?" With tough questions like that for
liberal Democrats, Nespral must have her eyes on Bryant Gumbel's job.
The Gaffe Gap
On June 15, 1992, then-Vice President Dan Quayle attended a spelling bee
in New Jersey where he misspelled the word potato. Over the next four
days CNN, NBC and CBS ran six stories about the gaffe and countless
newspaper articles have since recounted the incident.
On January 6 this year, Al Gore gave a speech in
Milwaukee, comparing the city's ethnic background to the Latin phrase on
U.S. coins. Gore erroneously said America "can be e pluribus unum
-- out of one, many." No network mentioned the incident. The only
major newspaper to run the story was The Washington Post. In a
January 10 article Al Kamen pointed out, "No Al, that's the Soviet
Union. We're out of many, one."
But on January 27, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw told America
about Quayle's upcoming Super Bowl potato chip ad, noting: "It's
about eating potato chips, not spelling them. After all, everyone knows
how to spell potato chip don't they? C-H-I-P-E." The next night,
CBS Evening News anchor Connie Chung quipped: "If you
can't spell it, sell it."
Three Strikes Stink
Despite polls supporting the idea of life imprisonment for a third
violent felony conviction, ABC reporter Chris Bury dismissed it as
pandering. On the January 26 Nightline, Bury asserted "a
giant gap exists between what politicians are demanding and what
professionals and scholars in the field believe will work. The problem
is, they say, mandatory sentences and longer prison terms have been a
reflexive answer to crime for 20 years, yet violent crime has only grown
worse." He concluded: "Washington has yet to demonstrate it
can be tough and smart. The legacy of get-tough politics has filled up
the prisons, all right, but hasn't made the streets any safer."
While host Ted Koppel went on to interview three
opponents of mandatory sentencing, he left out the idea's supporters.
Take Professor Morgan Reynolds, who wrote in a 1992 study for the
National Center for Policy Analysis: "Since the early 1950s, the
expected punishment for committing a serious crime in the United States
(measured in terms of expected time in prison) has been reduced by
two-thirds." For example, in 1990, a murderer "could expect to
spend only 1.8 years in prison," a rapist, just 60 days. Bury
claimed prisons are overcrowded, and each prisoner costs "$4,000
more than a year at Harvard." He didn't mention the cost of
criminals loose in society, estimated at $430,000 per year by a Rand
Corporation survey, which found the average career criminal committed
187 to 287 crimes per year, at an average cost of $2,300 each.
Old Habits Die Hard
Washington Post Ombudsman Richard Harwood lambasted his own
paper in May 1990 for unequal abortion coverage. An April 1990
pro-abortion rally received front-page treatment, generating dozens of
stories and taking up to 15 columns of space. A pro-life rally a few
weeks later received a scant two stories in the Metro section. Harwood
wrote the disparity "left a blot on the paper's professional
reputation." What's happened since Harwood's scolding? The Post
covered the January 1993 pro-life march above the fold on page one. But
this year, the Post once again exiled the annual march to the
Metro dustbin with one story a day for three days.
One possible reason for the continued difference in
coverage may be the composition of the Post staff. At a Center
for Communication panel discussion reported in the December 11 Editor
& Publisher, Post New York correspondent Malcolm Gladwell said
"If you have a staff that is totally unrepresentative of the
national divide over abortion as ours is, you'd have to have a rule
about not marching in a pro-abortion protest because the whole staff
could conceivably be there."
Why Not Impeachment?
Seven years and $40 million later, The New York Times mourned
the end of Iran-Contra. On January 19, the day after Lawrence Walsh
released his final report, a "news analysis" by David
Rosenbaum argued: "Presented so starkly, these matters seem grave
enough to bring down a government, but they were basically lost on the
American public. Under the glare of television lights, the congressional
inquisitors came across as bombastic bullies, and two primary offenders,
Oliver L. North and John M. Poindexter, were seen as patriots."
The primary question Rosenbaum thought needed
answering was why Reagan wasn't impeached: "When the Iran-Contra
case developed, Mr. Reagan was a short-timer, in the third year of his
second term. One reason impeachment was never even considered was that
proceedings could not possibly have been completed before he was out of
office anyway. Then, Mr. North, Mr. Poindexter and others refused to
testify before Congress unless they received grants of immunity. For all
intents and purposes, that meant they could never be successfully
prosecuted and, indeed, their convictions were overturned on appeal
because of the immunity grants."
Rosenbaum admitted that "one reason that
miscreants were turned into martyrs in the public eye was that Mr.
Walsh's investigation seemed at times to be so mismanaged." But the
Times did no "news analysis" on Walsh's election-eve
reindictment of Caspar Weinberger, or Walsh's documented financial
Which Gender Suffers?
Discrimination against girls in public schools was Lisa McRee's subject
on the new cable show Lifetime Magazine, produced by ABC News.
On January 23, McRee promoted a new study by American University
professors Myra and David Sadker illustrating the negative effects of
gender bias in the classroom. According to McRee, gender roles,
"even among 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds, reflect society as a whole.
The Sadker study shows that white males dominate classrooms. Minority
males get the second most attention. White females place third when
teachers call on students." Until this bias is eliminated, McRee
contended, "girls in coed classes will continue to be second-class
citizens in school."
In building her victimization story, McRee failed to
note the actual record of success among these "second-class
citizens." As John Leo reported in the February 7 U.S. News
& World Report, "Women now account for 55 percent of all
college students and 59 percent of those in master's programs."
Further, "Girls are overtaking boys in one area after another. They
now complete more high school courses than do boys in chemistry,
algebra, biology and geometry." Rather than find a critic to
question the Sadker study, McRee asserted "boys are taught
differently than girls." In an ironic way, she may be right.
New Year's Eve Bash
Two segments on the December 31 MacNeil/ Lehrer NewsHour veered
from the show's usual balance and honored a PBS tradition: slamming the
1980s. A repeat of a 1992 report by Paul Solman offered a simplistic and
sometimes silly analysis of the alleged decline in real income in the
Using the wages of Archie Bunker's TV family as an
example, Solman traced the drop's origin to the '70s, but argued things
really fell apart under Reagan. "For the well-dressed and
well-heeled, the data are pretty clear. In general the higher their
income when the decade began, the greater their share of the economic
gains of the 1980s. For awhile, many in the bottom 60 percent or so
believed that the wealth would trickle down to them. But...it became
harder and harder for folks like the Bunkers to maintain their real
income." Solman ignored the fact that median family income
increased every year from 1982 to 1989. Typical of '80s myth
perpetuation, he aired the "greed is good" film clip of
Michael Douglas as corporate raider Gordon Gekko, and concluded,
"The go-go '80s, they were called. But the only direction the All
in the Family guys were going was down."
Happy New Year
Later that night, Robert MacNeil moderated a year-in-review discussion
with the NewsHour's left-loaded panel of "essayists,"
with predictable results. Anne Taylor Fleming began: "I...feel much
more optimistic than I felt last year. It seemed to me that every year
for the last twelve when I would come to the end of a year, during the
Reagan-Bush years, it was with a sense of dread." Roger Rosenblatt
chimed in, saying he was "much, much more optimistic. I think it
has a lot to do with the Clinton administration versus the last
two." Fleming's joy differed from her dismal view of the '80s.
"I mean, during the last twelve years, the country was arming
itself to the teeth, the deficit was growing, the economic classes were
being wrenched apart...Reaganism essentially estranged everybody from
everybody, rich and poor."
Hands Out Across America
ABC's "American Agenda" segment on January 24 featured stories
from four regions of the country that the reporters argued have one
thing in common: a need for more federal money. Aaron Brown reported on
the Northeast's crumbling infrastructure: "Federal dollars are
needed to rebuild. The jobs they create can help make the old Northeast
new." Down South, Linda Pattillo found a tortilla factory in Fort
Worth whose 44 uninsured minimum-wage workers faced possible job loss
from the Clinton health plan. "They're afraid they will have to
close [the factory] if President Clinton forces small businesses to
begin paying for workers' health insurance," Pattillo noted. But
when discussing education, she echoed Aaron Brown: "Schools here
want federal money to give their children a better education, an equal
education. It is something we heard throughout the South."
In the Midwest, Erin Hayes found that "folks here
want national health care reform to bring good health care closer to
everyone throughout the Midwest." Out West, Ken Kashiwahara lassoed
an anti-government view from a Nevada rancher, who accused the
administration of excessive regulation. But Kashiwahara also carried a
plea for federal dollars: "Still reeling from military base
closings and defense cutbacks, states such as California and Washington
want more federal dollars to retrain thousands of defense workers whose
jobs have disappeared with the end of the Cold War." California is
also seeking federal aid to shoulder the costs of illegal immigrants.
"It comes under the category, if the federal government mandates
something, it should help pay for it, a sentiment expressed by states
throughout the West," he concluded. But ABC failed ask why federal
money should pay for basic state responsibilities, such as roads and
Those Conservative Media Owners...
General Electric, NBC's parent company, not only supported the Clinton
tax increase, it's now "leaning toward" the Clinton health
plan. The February 6 New York Times reported that GE joined
other large companies in pressing the Business Roundtable to
"neither endorse nor oppose any plan."
PBS Program on Campaign Finance Laws Boasts Nine Opponents, No Supporters
Bill Moyers Confirms "Pattern of
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, required by
law to monitor PBS programming, declared to Congress on January 31 that
"no glaring or egregious pattern of bias, social slant, or partisan
predisposition has surfaced in CPB's year-long opinion soundings,
including its statistically valid opinion survey."
But CPB's "opinion survey" didn't
specifically ask about biased documentary series on PBS. CPB should take
a look at the January 21 Bill Moyers' Journal before they rush
to declare PBS free of bias. For loading an entire program with nine
critics of current campaign finance laws, and no supporters, PBS earned
the Janet Cooke Award.
At a 1992 press conference, Moyers claimed:
"Anybody who looks at the bulk of my work over the last 20 years
knows that it's a fallacious attack to find in it a left-wing agenda....
Many of you have seen programs I've done which have been quite critical
Moyers' latest show was critical of Democrats,
particularly the Clinton administration's continued high-dollar
fundraising and slowness on campaign and lobbying laws. But the critique
came from the left, that campaign donations are a dangerous influence on
democracy that must be curbed. Moyers began by suggesting that in 1992,
"Millions of Americans had grown disgusted with how money buys
access in this town; they resented the inside traders who rigged the
status quo to benefit themselves, and they were infuriated, to say the
least, with how the last word here often goes to big campaign donors
instead of voters."
The show wasn't so much a documentary as it was a talk
show. Moyers began with a supposedly balanced panel with
"Republican" Kevin Phillips, author of The Politics of
Rich and Poor, a Democratic favorite, and former Washington
Post Assistant Managing Editor William Greider, author of the
left-wing book Who Will Tell the People. Moyers asked:
"Both of you talk about how Presidents surround themselves with the
very interests that they had come to town to try to challenge. And the
question is, can you win the war against the Mafia if you put the
Godfathers in charge of that war?" Moyers also asked: "What
does it mean when, as The Wall Street Journal says, on issue
after issue, the Clinton administration, the government, comes down on
the side of corporate America?"
Moyers then did a segment with Ellen Miller of the
Center for Responsive Politics, a liberal campaign watchdog group.
Miller, like all the other guests, dismissed the Democrats' current
campaign finance bills as not radical enough: "What I see in the
House and Senate versions of reform, in fact, is freezing into place the
status quo. And I think it's ultimately a kind of hoax they're trying to
pull on the American public."
The last third of the show was devoted to a panel of
six activists for campaign finance "reform." Moyers claimed:
"Represented here are Democrats and Republicans, conservative
Christians and progressive labor people." For synthetic balance,
Moyers included Jim Boutelle, a former Reagan-Bush supporter now working
for Ross Perot's United We Stand. But the other five were left-wing
activists supporting the elimination of private contributions to
campaigns, leaving only the taxpayers to foot the bill for elections.
When Moyers suggested that polls show that a majority
opposes public financing of elections, Maine activist Betsy Sweet
replied: "When you package that with...[the idea that] people are
going to take $5,000 to run and that's it -- they're going to get this
money and that's it -- and you really do take everything out of it, then
the numbers actually go up."
Activist Randall Kehler blamed Big Money on the demise
of the nuclear freeze movement, "whose wishes for a halt to the
nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were thwarted
because the big money interests, weapons manufacturers and their allies
in Washington, had the ear of our representatives in a way that the
majority of American people, who supported the freeze, did not."
Moyers never asked for proof of Big Money conspiracies like these.
Moyers ended with a lecture: "As a football fan,
I admire the referees who keep the game honest. They do their work in
public to keep the playing field level. If it were okay for players,
coaches, or owners to contribute to referees on the side, I'd stop
trusting the game or watching the game. Supposedly, government is the
arbiter between the competing claims of citizens. No one, no one should
get a leg up from putting money in the umpire's pocket. When political
donations lead to the selective enforcement of the rules, we can't trust
government any more. Representation becomes determined by a clever form
Moyers ended his hour of advocacy journalism with the
suggestion: "You can work to challenge the system locally, as these
folks have, and you can start by finding out who has bid what for whom.
If you want to know where your members of Congress get their campaign
funds, call this toll-free number for Project Vote Smart."
While Moyers did mention in passing a few arguments
against finance limits -- such as the Supreme Court's decision in
Buckley v. Valeo, linking donations to the exercise of free speech -- he
did not raise other conservative arguments against campaign finance
"reform." For example, Moyers didn't ask Sweet how a
challenger would defeat an incumbent Congressman with a $5,000 budget.
That entire argument -- that campaign finance limits might help
incumbents -- went unmade. (Moyers has yet to devote an hour to term
limits.) Most importantly, Moyers neglected to explore the argument that
since government has expanded dramatically into more and more areas,
those affected Americans have felt the need to band together and lobby
for their own interests, acting as a check on government. If the
government weren't so intrusive, the need for lobbies could be reduced.
When MediaWatch contacted
Moyers' production company, Public Affairs Television, about the
program's advocacy, Debbie Rubenstein responded: "I will have the
producer speak with you, but I can tell you that we were surprised as
well. We had anticipated different responses from our guests than the
ones we got." A few days later, Rubenstein said Moyers and his
staff would not be available for comment.
All the talk of "the inside traders who rigged
the status quo to benefit themselves" apparently did not extend to
Moyers' own company, which has made millions of dollars in royalties
from his PBS Video cassettes -- without ever having to disclose any
financial information to the taxpayers who fund the production of his
shows. If Moyers is really on a crusade about insider deals, we might
suggest a little public disclosure of his own. Or PBS might consider a
Bill Moyers' Journal on Whitewater Development.
ABC Friday Segment Often Used As Vehicle for Unbalanced Praise
"Person of the Week" Celebrates
Two years ago, MediaWatch examined ABC's weekly
"Person of the Week" segment. In an analysis of the Friday
World News Tonight feature from January 1988 through December 1991, our
study found a liberal tilt: in 181 segments aired over the four-year
period, ABC saluted 27 left-leaning political officials or advocates,
but only five who could be labeled conservative.
Last fall, World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings
conceded in TV Guide that ABC's regular "American Agenda"
segments had "revolved around a liberal axis," but promised to
"pay more attention to what conservatives are saying." But ABC
has not shown the same concern for their "Person of the Week"
This month, MediaWatch analysts reviewed the Person of
the Week choices from January 1992 through December 1993. In 99
segments, 21 identifiably ideological figures were honored. These
individuals were classified either as political officials or activists.
During the two-year period, liberal or Democratic officials outnumbered
conservatives or Republicans by a margin of 7 to 2. Among activists the
margin grew, with liberals holding a 10 to 2 advantage. Overall,
liberals outnumbered conservatives 17 to 4.
The seven liberal political figures chosen were U.S.
Rep. Maxine Waters, Harry Truman, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt,
former Sen. William Fulbright, Hillary Clinton, Clinton campaign manager
James Carville, and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joseph
Fernandez. The two who could be labeled conservative were Lynda Owens, a
black GOP candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, and Evan Kemp,
former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
Ironically, ABC chose Kemp for his work in gaining passage for the
Americans with Disabilities Act, a measure opposed by most conservatives
for its regulatory burden.
Among the Democratic pols chosen by ABC, Roll Call
recently ranked Waters as the most left-wing member of the House. On May
15, 1992, Peter Jennings lauded her role in the riots in Los Angeles,
introducing her as "a woman who will not go unheard, with good
reason." As Waters explained, "The fact of the matter is,
whether we like it or not, riot is the voice of the unheard."
On February 12, 1993, Jennings lamented Fernandez's
dismissal. His "Rainbow Curriculum" guide which told teachers
to "include references to lesbians/gay people in all curricular
areas" was opposed by parents and school board members. Jennings
concluded, "and so we choose Joseph Fernandez, who has certainly
helped us to understand what a challenge improving education and
understanding really are, which is why he makes a difference."
In praising Hillary Clinton on September 24, 1993,
Jennings credited the citizenry for finally coming around: "Earlier
this week, it occurred to us that this particular individual had come an
awfully long way in the last year or so. And then we thought, no, maybe
it's the country which has come a long way."
Activists. ABC chose an array of activists. Of the 12
identified, only two could possibly be classified as right of center.
Clint Eastwood, the former Republican Mayor of Carmel, California, was
praised on August 7, 1992 for is work in Unforgiven, a film acclaimed by
Walter Annenberg was honored on June 25, 1993 for
awarding millions of dollars to schools. Jennings mentioned his father's
newspaper campaign against the New Deal and imprisonment for tax evasion
before quipping, "and whether he is atoning for his father's sins
or not, he honors his father's memory by giving his vast fortune
The ten identifiably liberal activists received no
such scrutiny. In fact, elements of controversy and disagreement were
absent, particularly in segments on environmentalists. On February 14,
1992 Jennings introduced "a man to whom every man, woman and child
owes a great debt of thanks." Sherwood Rowland, the alarmist
scientist warning of drastic ozone depletion, was chosen "because
he was right. The Popular Science magazine once referred to him as `The
Man Who Saved the Planet -- Maybe.' Maybe -- now the world is
listening." ABC aired no criticism of Rowland's dubious assertions,
as if none existed.
On June 5 of the same year, Jennings praised "the
world's most tireless cheerleader for the planet," Earth Summit
organizer Maurice Strong. Jennings proclaimed: "Strong warns
delegates from the industrialized nations that the cost in the short
term to clean up the mess we have made and change the way we do business
will be much less than the price we will all pay if we don't."
Among the artists celebrated was dancer Katherine
Dunham, praised on March 20, 1992 for her hunger strike protesting Bush
policy toward Haitian refugees. Diane Sawyer introduced "Susan
Sontag, author, essayist, theater director" on August 27, 1993.
With no mention of her activist past, Sontag was commended for directing
a play in war-torn Sarajevo. ABC never noted Barbara Bush's later
humanitarian mission to Bosnia.
ABC also selected Inaugural poet Maya Angelou, the
former adviser to Malcolm X, and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who wrote
an essay and edited a book attacking Clarence Thomas and praising Anita
Hill. Activist Fran Visco was celebrated because, Sawyer reported, she
"organized women to target the male-dominated government...which
hasn't spent nearly as much time and money fighting breast cancer as
diseases which are more deadly to men."
Also celebrated by ABC were liberal New York Times
columnist Tom Wicker, and TV regulation activist Peggy Charren. Forrest
Sawyer saluted former Stride Rite CEO Arnold Hiatt on May 29, 1992 for
achieving success "with a conscience, unlike some of the leaders of
American industry in the 1980s." ABC then showed a clip of the
Gordon Gekko character in Wall Street.
ABC's Person of the Week selections still retain a
liberal bias. In spite of Jennings' promises about other features, this
one has remained a vehicle for celebrating liberals without the
inconvenience of criticism.
the Bright Side
Not My Fault
CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg has spent the last year
exploring America's cultural decline with unique pieces on Eye to Eye
with Connie Chung. He's explored political correctness, defining
deviancy down, and welfare's harmful effects on its recipients.
On January 27, he peered into an increasing problem:
"What happens if this idea of blaming someone else really catches
on and spreads like a virus through the American culture?" Goldberg
asked. "Some people say it is already happening, that we are
becoming a nation of finger-pointing crybabies. Officially our national
motto is `In God We Trust.' But the critics say it might as well be
`Don't blame me, it's not my fault.'"
He laid out his evidence: from people getting out of
paying parking tickets to the recent criminal trials of the Menendez
brothers, Lorena Bobbitt, and L.A. rioter Damian Williams. All admitted
their guilt, but used the "it's not my fault because" defense.
All got off with either light or no sentences.
Goldberg concluded, "While you could agree or
disagree on any particular case, the critics say the real problem isn't
a few high-profile criminal cases but that this don't-blame-me,
knee-jerk response is infecting everybody, that it's becoming a
dangerous national epidemic."
Keen on Whitewater
On consecutive World News "Focal Point"
segments, CNN's Terry Keenan looked at new angles in the Whitewater
story. For instance, how did the Clintons and McDougals buy property
without putting down their own money? On January 12, Keenan found a
$20,000 loan from Union Bank of Little Rock signed by Bill Clinton and
Jim McDougal, a loan not paid back on time nor with any money from the
Clintons. The loan officer, Don Denton, said he brought the loan to
the Clinton campaign's attention in 1992. It's loans like this and
"the Clintons' reluctance to turn over Whitewater papers [that] has
many wondering just how deep Whitewater runs," reported Keenan.
The next night, Keenan told the story of Henderson
Gaddy. In order to give his son a better life away from his drug-ridden
neighborhood, Gaddy bought land from Whitewater Development, but
Whitewater defaulted on the loan and the former owners sued for the
property. Keenan reported: "In the midst of all this confusion,
many land buyers didn't know where to send their mortgage payments, or
if the money would ever be credited to their property, and some like
Gaddy lost their land."
ABC First to Hire Religion Reporter
Repenting for Past Sins?
In January, ABC News named Peggy Wehmeyer, a local TV
religion reporter in Dallas, to handle the same duties for World News
Tonight. According to the January 26 USA Today, anchor Peter Jennings
had urged ABC to hire a religion specialist for three years, saying that
religion was "one of the great untapped areas in our national
life." Wehmeyer added "that you don't have to be religious to
be interested in people of faith."
Most in the media aren't very religious. In a 1980
poll by Professors Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman, 86 percent of
reporters for major news outlets responded they "seldom" or
"never" attended religious services. That vast cultural divide
between the media and the public was exposed again last year when
Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf wrote on February 1 that
evangelical Christians were "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to
command." Last summer, CBS reporter Jerry Bowen cracked about Pope
John Paul II: "There are some who say that he [the Pope] would have
been more comfortable in the 5th century, but some theologians say that
really, some of the fifth century Popes were more progressive than John
On World News Tonight last August 13, ABC's Jeff
Greenfield pondered why, aside from "protest or conflict or
dissent...religion is so often the untold story?....Only 50 newspapers
in America even have a full-time religion reporter. The major TV
networks have none." Why? Greenfield explained: "The quiet,
daily influence of faith is very hard to cover. Then there's the nature
of media people -- more skeptical, more secular." He concluded:
"The ongoing influence of religion in daily life goes all but
ignored. This, in a country where on any given weekend there are more
people in houses of worship than attend major league baseball games all
year long." As the first network this decade to maintain a religion
beat, perhaps ABC will lead the media from mockery to balance.
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