Media Ignore Sexual Harassment Charges -- When Made Against Clinton
Paula Jones: She's No Anita Hill
At a 1991 ABC News Christmas party, former ABC
spokeswoman and Democratic Party veteran Kitty Bayh brought pencils that
read "I Believe Her," based on the Hill-Thomas hearings. But
since William Kennedy Smith was then on trial for rape, she told The
Washington Post: "I should have put `I Believe Anita' on
In that same spirit, which insists less on the
feminist maxim of believing the woman first than on believing the
Democrat first, the national media chose to ignore the story of Paula
Corbin Jones, who told a Washington press conference on February 11 that
President Clinton, as Governor of Arkansas, had sexually harassed her in
According to Jones, while working for an Arkansas
state agency at a conference, troopers delivered her to a hotel room to
meet Clinton. There, he asked her to perform fellatio on him, and even
exposed himself. Jones has offered two affidavits by corroborating
witnesses, and threatened to sue if she does not get an apology from the
A major scandal? Hardly. Three networks ignored it.
ABC's World News Tonight gave it 16 seconds and The New
York Times a few paragraphs. Three days later in a
"Style" piece on the "primal scream" of hatred for
Clinton expressed at a conservative conference, The Washington Post's
Lloyd Grove discounted it as "another ascension of Mount
Why no stories from the same media which made the
uncorroborated Anita Hill a heroine and sexual harassment the gravest
political sin? In the March 7 New Republic, former Newsweek
reporter Mickey Kaus described the scene at the Jones press conference:
"Afterward...reporters conferred with each other to try to figure
out whether what they'd just seen was `a story' and...whether anybody
was going to report it. The consensus was that if CNN carried it the
networks would carry it, which meant The New York Times might
carry it, in which case it would be a big story."
Kaus explained why that didn't happen: "Clinton
is also the best President we've had in a long time. That is the
unspoken reason the sex charges haven't received as much play as you
might expect. Reporters are patriots, too; it's their dirty little
secret...Few journalists want to see the President crippled now that he
is making some progress in cracking large, intractable domestic
Meanwhile, the February 7 Washington Times
reported that Hill has made half a million dollars in lecture fees, and
recently signed a two-book contract worth more than a million dollars.
All this despite denying that she had any intention of gaining
financially from her testimony, a flip-flop yet to be addressed by the
rest of the media.
Tara Helps Tony
A well-traveled path is getting worn over the five
blocks between ABC's DeSales Street bureau and the White House Complex.
The latest to make the trip: Tara Sonenshine, an ABC
News Washington producer for 12 years, most of them with Nightline.
At the National Security Council she'll be Special Assistant to the
President and Deputy Director for communications. The Washington
Post's Al Kamen reported that she'll handle "longer-term
projects, which some uncharitably call an effort to make NSC chief
Anthony Lake more TV-genic."
A guest booker for Nightline until becoming a
Pentagon producer in 1987, since 1991 she's held the title of Editorial
Producer at Nightline. For a couple of years before rejoining Nightline,
she toiled for Koppel Communications Inc., the namesake's now-defunct
company which produced several specials for ABC. Her byline appeared on
a June 1991 Financial Times story detailing the paper's joint
"investigation" with Nightline of the October
Surprise theory. The one-hour June 20 special promoted the
since-discredited allegations of Gary Sick.
If she needs help on projecting national security
policy, she can turn to the Defense Department's chief public affairs
officer -- former ABC reporter Kathleen deLaski. Or, for international
advice, a deputy to UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright -- former ABC
reporter Rick Inderfurth. And if she wants aid in finding the right
phrase, there's White House speechwriter Carolyn Curiel, a former Nightline
Another Arts Lover
The National Endowment for the Arts has also tapped a
former ABC News producer to fill a slot -- Director of Public Affairs.
In February Cherie Simon replaced Ginny Terzano, a CBS News election
unit researcher in 1988, who recently moved to the White House as Deputy
Press Secretary. Simon served as an operations and broad-cast producer
for World News Tonight in ABC's Washington bureau from 1982
until becoming Washington Bureau Chief for King World's Inside
Edition in 1989. During 1992 Simon handled press relations for
EMILY's List. Simon's press releases for the liberal PAC regularly noted
that it had "raised over $6 million for 44 Democratic women
candidates who favor abortion rights."
A low-profile federal agency has picked up a long time
European- based Associated Press correspondent. Sydney Rubin, an AP
reporter from 1983 to 1992, is now Director of Media Relations for the
Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
From 1983 to 1985 she reported from Texas, moving to
New York for a couple of years before landing in Europe in 1987. Over
the next five years her byline appeared above stories from all over
Europe, Africa and the Middle East, including London, Prague, Timbuktu,
Karachi, Paris and Amman. In 1993 she returned to Texas, assuming the
Press Secretary duties for Democratic Lt. Governor Bob Bullock.
Susan Lindauer, a reporter with U.S. News &
World Report from 1990 to 1991, has switched Democratic offices
within the Oregon congressional team. She's jumped from the office of
Peter DeFazio, where she had been Press Secretary, to handle the same
duties for Ron Wyden.
Crying Over Spilt Milk
Fear Over Science
A technophobe tries to inspire public fear over a
baseless concern. How do the networks react? They publicize the PR
stunt. On February 3 the Pure Food Campaign, a front for Jeremy Rifkin,
staged protests over the FDA's decision to allow the sale of milk from
cows injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). "There is a lot of
concern around the country tonight about milk," declared Dan
Rather. "Some dairy farmers are now giving their cows a growth
hormone to produce more milk per cow. But many consumers say they won't
drink it." ABC anchor Catherine Crier noted the FDA and AMA
"insist it's perfectly safe, but not everyone is convinced."
ABC's Erin Hayes proceeded to explain that
"consumer groups protested from coast to coast." Without ever
identifying the organizer, on the CBS Evening News Dr. Bob
Arnot insisted "consumers around the country were defiantly
pouring" milk on the street since "consumers are angry over
the government's go-ahead for BGH." Who were these
"consumers"? Chicago Sun-Times reporter Neil
Steinberg noted: "Protesters organized by the Pure Food Campaign
dumped an old-fashioned milk can full of milk as part of a national
effort to boycott genetically engineered foods."
Arnot allowed that "seven federal agencies
concluded that BGH is safe and that milk produced with it is
indistinguishable from milk that is not," but his conclusion left
the impression it is something to fear: "Stores that say they won't
carry it will have to rely on the supplier's word that their milk is
really BGH- free. Consumers won't really know for certain whether the
milk that they buy is a product of nature or science." Reading off
the same script, Hayes warned: "With no way to actually test for
BGH and no labels required for milk made with it, it will soon be
anybody's guess as to whether their milk is a product of nature, or a
byproduct of science."
In a Feb. 11 Washington Post column Charles
Krauthammer revealed the agenda behind the hysteria, explaining that
Rifkin is a "leading American Luddite, tireless crusader against
bio- technology, `Stephen King of food horror tales'....He is among
other things, anti-cow. His epic Beyond Beef is a 353-page
polemic about the havoc wreaked by these flatulent, environ-mentally
insensitive grass guzzlers." But viewers learned none of this.
Aborting the Mother
Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, strongly
criticized abortion and its supporters at the National Prayer Breakfast
on February 3. Mother Teresa delivered her condemnation before an
audience which included President Clinton, Vice President Gore and
congressional Democrats. She explained: "I feel the greatest
destroyer of peace today is abortion because Jesus said, `If you receive
a little child, you receive me.' So every abortion is the denial of
Such a strong rebuke in the President's presence by
the world's best-known missionary would, with the presence of conflict
and a compelling picture, qualify as great TV. But while The
Washington Post and The New York Times covered it, the
networks did not.
Gold Medal Gush
Olympics coverage usually inspires an examination of the host country's
customs, and this year was no exception. On CBS This Morning
February 24, co-host Paula Zahn played the role of advocate:
"Children here are not only considered yours, but citizens of
Norway, with the same rights as grown-ups, the right to free education
and free health care, and the right to have their questions and concerns
heard by those in power."
Zahn said Norway provides a year of paid parental
leave for mothers or fathers and, "to ease the financial burden of
raising a family, the state pays an allowance of about...120 dollars per
month for each child, regardless of family income." But
"free" education and health care and state allowances come at
a cost that Zahn failed to mention: Norway is among the highest-taxed
nations in the industrialized world, extracting over 50 percent more in
revenues per capita than the United States.
Undeterred, Zahn then sung the praises of the
Norwegian educational system, which does away with grades until the
seventh grade. Talking with a group of children, Zahn lamented,
"Some children in our country would love that, because we do get
grades at some schools and it makes it very competitive." Following
the report, Zahn's counterpart Harry Smith was giddy for the Norwegian
system: "Paula, you and I have been talking about, we want to send
our kids, we want to, want to move here and put our kids in school here,
the kids are, are treated so well. I think we have a lot to learn from
National Nanny. Is government
spending on child care the best determinant of its quality? According to
Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden, the best Governors
"put their money where their mouth is." On February 10, Lunden
showcased Working Mother magazine Editor Judsen Culbreth, and
her list of "Governors who get it." These Governors, all
Democrats, included Bruce King (N.M.), Barbara Roberts (Ore.), Gaston
Caperton (W. Va.), Roy Romer (Colo.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.). Culbreth
listed her six "worst" states for child care: "Alabama,
Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Virginia." The
problem? Not enough government. Culbreth claimed "They have lax
standards, very little regulation, and they put little money behind
Culbreth's study measured only government-financed
child-care, so big spenders dominated her list. In a new study, Cato
Institute economists Stephen Moore and Dean Stansel graded governors on
their taxing and spending performance and found only two of Culbreth's
"Governors who get it" earned a "B" grade, Bayh and
Romer. Roberts, Caperton, and King all received a "D" for
excessive taxing and spending, while James Hunt of North Carolina got an
"F." Moore and Stansel said "Hunt's pro-spending
philosophy threatens to disrupt a decade of strong economic performance
in North Carolina." When Culbreth concluded "the federal
government has given $2.5 million dollars to the states to implement
programs," Lunden interjected: "We'll end on that good note
The Gore Details
Ted Koppel announced a new way of news gathering at ABC on the February
24 Nightline. Koppel explained that Vice President Al Gore had
presented him with some hit-squad research on the
"anti-environmental movement" which showed it was funded by
Sun Myung Moon, Lyndon LaRouche, and the coal industry. Koppel explored
the charges against global warming skeptics and found them true. So did
Koppel ever consider airing opposition research from say, Dan Quayle?
But Koppel also gave warming skeptics more air time in
a half hour than they've gotten in years of network newscasts, and
delved into the reliability of computer models in forecasting global
warming. He even aired footage of an old Nightline about the
atmospheric effect of the 1991 Kuwaiti oil fires. Skeptical
climatologist Dr. Fred Singer predicted the smoke would dissipate
quickly; Carl Sagan predicted massive environmental damage. Koppel
announced: "The record shows that in this instance Dr. Sagan was
wrong and Dr. Singer was right."
Koppel concluded the show: "There is some irony
in the fact that Vice President Gore, one of the most scientifically
literate men to sit in the White House in this century, that he is
resorting to political means to achieve what should ultimately be
resolved on a purely scientific basis." What Koppel did not tell
viewers was that the "most scientifically literate" Gore has
refused to debate Dr. Singer live on television.
Pick A Number, Any Number
Once again, the press is accepting the largest numbers dealing with the
homeless without question. On the February 6 CBS Sunday Morning, David
Culhane reported: "Homelessness is a national scandal with an
estimated two million people on the streets this year."
On February 17, Jason DeParle of The New York
Times revealed a new homeless plan written by HUD's Andrew Cuomo:
"A draft of the Administration's plan...says the problem is `far
larger than commonly thought' and calls for spending large, though
unspecified new sums on housing, mental health and tax credit
programs." He continued: "Republican Administrations had said
that about 600,000 Americans were homeless on any given night, with the
majority suffering from drugs, drink or mental illness. The
Administration's report, by contrast, endorses recent estimates that as
many as seven million Americans were homeless in the late 1980s."
CBS, NBC, and CNN each did stories on the seven million guesstimate
without noting any lower estimates.
Compare these stories to the type of coverage that the
1990 Census report received. In a count using 1,500 enumerators, the
Census Bureau found there were less than 230,000 homeless nationwide. It
was ignored by ABC, CBS and NBC, and when newspapers picked it up, they
attacked the number as too low.
Rush the Racist?
What does Rush Limbaugh have in common with Louis Farrakhan and Khalid
Abdul Muhammad? According to Time staff writer Christopher
James Farley, they are all racists. In a February 7 article on the
pressure being put on black leaders to distance themselves from
Farrakhan and Muhammad following a hate-filled speech Muhammad made at
Kean College, Farley remarked: "What rankles some blacks is that
some whites feel a need to make all black leaders speak out whenever one
black says something stupid...Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern make
questionable racial remarks, and yet President Bush invited Limbaugh to
the White House, and Senator Alfonse D'Amato attended Stern's book
In his speech, Muhammad called Jews "hook-nosed,
bagel-eatin', lox eatin' impostors." He attacked Pope John Paul:
"The old no-good Pope...somebody need to raise that dress up and
see what's really under there." He even attacked black Harvard
scholar Henry Louis Gates: "Who let this Negro out of the
gate?" Farrakhan has called Judaism a "gutter religion."
How many comparable quotes by Limbaugh did Farley cite? Zero.
The media settled on the "fact" that Tailhook accuser Lt.
Paula Coughlin was the victim in the 1991 sex scandal. When Coughlin
announced her resignation from the Navy, all the networks did stories
with feminist outrage; Tom Brokaw's intro on the February 10 NBC
Nightly News summed up the angle: "The Navy's Tailhook scandal
in this country may be coming to a close without one conviction, without
a single court-martial."
None of the reports explored whether the lack of
convictions was due to an overzealous, politically-tinged prosecution.
The networks didn't interview Center for Military Readiness expert
Elaine Donnelly, who wrote in the March 7 National Review: "The
[Navy] brass allowed themselves to be bullied into capitulation to
feminists [like Rep. Pat Schroeder] on procedural and policy issues, at
the expense of legal safeguards and sound military policy. The farce
came to a humiliating end...when a Navy judge blasted Defense Dept.
officials for bungled, amateurish witness interview reports that could
not stand up in court, and threw out the last of the three pending
Donnelly explained that many airmen resigned or
accepted fines and career-destroying disciplinary actions because of
improper investigative methods. Prosecutors bluffed airmen into
believing they had been implicated by fellow Tailhook attendees, gave
dishonest interview reports, and asked "intrusive polygraph
questions about sexual histories and practices." All this while
many women who were active Tailhook partiers, like Lt. Paula Coughlin,
who asked a man to shave her legs, were never charged for their
infractions. All these facts are available in the public arena. But,
like the Anita Hill controversy, sometimes the cause is more important
than the truth.
Labelphobia. Descriptive labels
affixed to individuals and groups can speak volumes about a reporter's
political perceptions. No one should be surprised that conservatives
frequently end up with a negative label. In Newsweek's February
14 article titled "Homophobia," Senior Editor John Leland
wrote: "Gays are finding increased visibility is a double-edged
sword. They have greater political clout and social acceptance, but
their newfound confidence has energized the far right."
But further into the article, Leland labeled radical
agitators ACT-UP and the Lesbian Avengers "confrontational gay
rights groups," not "far left" activists.
From the people-who-live-in-glass-houses department, Newsweek Senior
Writer Jonathan Alter complained January 24 that some reporters were
overplaying Whitewater details: "News organizations are routinely
conveying misimpressions, including the notion that Whitewater files
were secretly removed from Foster's office at night (they were removed
in daylight in the presence of the FBI)." Alter didn't point out
that ex-Counsel Bernard Nussbaum wouldn't let the FBI see the
files, which are still off limits to the public and Congress.
As for conveying misimpressions, take a look at
Alter's April 6, 1992 Newsweek column complaining that the
media's focus on Whitewater "crosses the line from examination to
vivisection... Jerry Brown was grossly wrong about Clinton `funneling
money' into his wife's law practice...Hillary Clinton takes no share of
state fees, but if she did, it would be peanuts." All the major
papers have now repeated Jerry Seper's March 1992 Washington Times
story that Mrs. Clinton was awarded $2,000 a month to represent Madison
S&L before state agencies. Alter's column asserted that while George
Bush's sons "make Hillary Clinton's activity look like one of those
tea-and-cookies parties she disparages....the less convincing Arkansas
stories [will continue], because of their daily drip-drip quality and
the willingness of Jerry Brown to exploit them."
ABC's Strait, Compton, Kast, Gregory, and Burnes Tout Benefits of Clinton Health Plan
Good Fawning America
On February 7, ABC's Good Morning America
began a week long series "Closeup on Health Care." All five
reports touted the desirability of the Clinton plan. None presented
conservative alternatives, or even asked whether reform was needed in
the first place. For a week of one-sided portrayals of the health care
system, ABC earned the March Janet Cooke Award.
Reporter George Strait set the tone on Monday. He
looked at two businesses, one for and one against the Clinton plan.
Strait cited a truck company owned by the Wilsons, who provide
insurance, and "look forward to health care reform, because they
say it will lower their overall cost of doing business." Strait
recognized that "many entrepreneurs are skeptical," and quoted
furniture maker Dale Guilliland, who said: "The price is going to
end up being more than anticipated, and that will be passed on to the
small businesspeople." Strait ended by dismissing Guilliland:
"Dennis Wilson remembers that same kind of fear when the government
proposed increases in the minimum wage. He says the sky didn't fall in
then, and predicts it won't when health care reform is passed,
But a much-cited study of the plan by Lewin-VHI found
the insurance savings to all firms currently providing insurance would
total just $300 million between 1996 and 2000, if it works exactly as
planned. The study also found employer skepticism was justified:
employers not currently providing insurance would pay an additional
$107.4 billion dollars over the same four year period, and 67 percent of
those firms would pay at least $1,000 per year per employee.
On Tuesday, Ann Compton found nothing but support for
the Clinton plan among doctors. She declared: "Last year President
Clinton complained that paperwork wastes a dime of every health care
dollar. His plan's architects would fix that." She quoted three
doctors: a member of the White House Health Care Task Force, and two
doctors who "like the Clinton promise to manage care and costs the
way HMOs do," though "neither one has confidence the proposed
plans will go far enough."
Compton ignored the controversies which surround HMOs.
In the February 7 New Republic, Elizabeth McCaughey of the
Manhattan Institute noted: "In HMOs, the ratio of physicians to
members averages 1 to 800, about half the ratio of physicians to the
general population. Specialists are particularly hard to see." She
added: "Current HMO cost-cutting methods already are drawing
criticism from Congress, government investigators and worried doctors.
The Clinton bill's premium caps will compel HMOs to use even more
stringent methods of limiting care."
As for paperwork, the Lewin-VHI study said
administrative savings by providers and insurers will be a scant $1.9
billion in 1998, versus the $60.4 billion cut by spending limits
imposed on Medicare and private insurers that year. Contrary to Clinton
projections, the Lewin report stated: "Although managed care
savings are intended to be the primary source of savings under the Act,
the premium caps will...limit the growth in health spending."
On February 9, GMA viewers were given one
side of the debate on the problem of the uninsured. Sheilah Kast visited
the middle class Moodys, where the husband "does not get health
insurance on the job, and can't afford to buy it privately." They
were forced to pay out-of-pocket for a child's injury: "Advocates
of the President's health care reform proposal say the Moodys are
typical, that four out of five uninsured Americans live in families
where someone works."
The Moodys are not "typical." Even the March
7 New Republic stated only "about half (52.4 percent) of
the uninsured live in families with a full-time, full-year worker."
Kast exaggerated the problem by 53 percent.
The Employment Benefits Research Institute determined
nearly three-quarters are uninsured for eight months or less, and fewer
than three percent are uninsured more than 24 months. Dr. Morgan
Reynolds of the Joint Economic Committee calculated that of the 129
million workers in the country, 15 million were without insurance on any
day in 1992, or 12 percent. Kast didn't assess the impact on the 85
percent who are insured.
Bettina Gregory addressed the elderly's drug costs on
February 10, noting: "The American Association of Retired Persons
says at least ten percent of seniors have to choose between buying food
and buying drugs. Horror stories abound." Gregory listed the drug
coverage offered by Clinton's plan, then added: "Because of these
benefits, many seniors' groups heartily endorse health care reform
proposals. Some believe the Clinton plan is the best blueprint for
But the liberal AARP hasn't endorsed the Clinton plan,
and a February 22 Investor's Business Daily editorial
uncovered: "AARP polls show about half its members doubt they'd be
better off under the Clinton plan."
In the week's final report, Karen Burnes pointed out
that "most large corporations currently pay 90 percent of an
employee's medical bills. Under the Clinton plan, they'll only be
required to pay 80 percent, leaving people like the Taylors to pick up
the extra ten...Should they want greater choice, or greater coverage,
the employee will pay more." Quoting three supporters of Clinton
and no critics, she also posited: "Under the plan, everyone will be
covered: employed, unemployed, and suddenly laid off."
Burnes assumed the Clinton plan would achieve
universal coverage. John Merline wrote in the February 22 Investor's
Business Daily: "Hawaii [where universal coverage is
guaranteed] has an uninsured rate equal to or greater than 16 other
states according to the Urban League, and not too far below that of the
U.S. as a whole."
Like ABC's reporters, soundbites were heavily skewed,
with 12 of 18 (67 percent) supporting the Clinton plan. Four were
neutral (22 percent), and only two were skeptical, both from the small
businessman in Strait's story.
GMA Washington editorial producer Lynne
Adrine told Mediawatch: "There was no
pre-set idea going in." Why so many pro-Clinton soundbites? "I
think it just worked out that way...I think it would have been a concern
on the other hand if we were getting a certain type of response from the
calls that we made, in terms of producing the stories, then saying `Oh
my goodness, nobody's objecting to the Clinton plan enough,' and then
really go out of our way to find more criticisms....You don't want to
skew it one way or another."
Only Strait and Burnes mentioned the Clinton plan
might have a negative impact, though both brushed aside criticism,
citing the greater good. Burnes ended her story: "While some may
gain and others lose, it is clear that we are all entering a new era in
how we take care of each other."
Networks Rarely Cover Church News, Ignore Religious Concerns on Social Issues
Television's Deaf Ear to Religion
How do the networks cover religion? To determine the
amount and tone of religion news in 1993, MediaWatch
analysts reviewed every evening, morning, and magazine news story on
religion and its relation to social issues in 1993, and found that TV
coverage of religion reported only a small number of religion stories;
failed to find the concerns of religious opponents of abortion and
homosexuality newsworthy; and sensationalized false charges of sex abuse
against Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.
The five evening programs studied (ABC's World
News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's World News, NBC Nightly
News, and The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on PBS) reported
only 211 stories out of more than 18,000 in 1993, and just 134 of them
were reporter- based stories. (The other 77 were brief anchor reads.)
The Catholic Church was the subject of an overwhelming
majority of the stories -- 79 of the 134 reporter-narrated segments (59
percent), and 47 of the 77 anchor-read stories (60 percent), most of
them from Pope John Paul's visit to America. Other major news events
like the Waco siege and the World Trade Center bombing were not
included, excepting the few stories dealing primarily with religious
On the networks' morning shows (ABC's Good Morning
America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today) religion was
the subject of only 197 stories out of more than 23,000, and only 87 (44
percent) were interviews or reporter-based stories. Of the 197, 73
stories (37 percent) came in the eight days of the papal visit, and 39
of the 87 reporter-based or interview segments (45 percent) came in this
brief period. Accordingly, 48 of the 87 long segments (55 percent)
focused on Catholics, as did 90 of the 110 anchor-read briefs (82
Religion stories were especially scarce on the
burgeoning number of magazine shows, including ABC's Day One, Prime
Time Live, and 20/20, CBS' Eye to Eye with Connie
Chung, 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, and Street Stories, and NBC's
Dateline and Now. Analysts added the Sunday morning
talk shows (ABC's This Week with David Brinkley, CBS' Face
the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press) to further expand
the sample. In all of these hours of programming, only 18 segments in
1993 covered religion. That includes four segments from one edition of
ABC's This Week.
Ten of the 18 stories focused on Catholics, but with
the exception of an August 12 Prime Time Live story on the
papal visit, the six evening magazine show segments on the Catholic
Church dealt either with sex abuse by priests or the church's
"rigid" doctrine on celibacy for priests, which is often
blamed for causing clerical sex abuse.
Abortion. In a year in which two
abortionists were shot and one killed, the networks reported heavily on
the controversial tactics of some pro-life activists. The network
evening shows devoted 78 stories to the topic, the morning shows 67 and
the magazine shows five long segments. While the networks reported a
total of 150 stories on harassment and violence at abortion clinics,
they never focused a story on the violence of abortion itself in
America. None of the networks even mentioned the national estimate of
abortion -- 1.6 million a year.
The only mention of abortion as violence appeared on
the August 5 CBS Evening News, when anchor Connie Chung
introduced an Allen Pizzey story on Bosnian women having abortions:
"The war in Bosnia has claimed the lives of more than 200,000
people. Thousands more have been wounded. Then there are the casualties
who can't be counted: children who will never be born."
On the other hand, on the June 18 20/20,
ABC's Lynn Sherr described self-performed abortions as "similar to
the way abortions are done with vacuum suction machines, but, say the
proponents, kinder and gentler."
When liberals introduced a bill defending abortion
clinics against violence (and most protest), the networks did 15 stories
on the bill. Then, Sen. Orrin Hatch inserted a provision extending legal
protections to obstruction and violence against church services. Gay
activists lobbied the Democrats to kill the bill. None of the networks
reported on that story.
Homosexuality. In morning show
segments focusing on non-military aspects of gay rights, the networks
regularly failed to offer a religious perspective to counter the gay
viewpoint. The networks invited 69 gay-rights advocates to only 23
opponents. Only one (Kerrie Harrison of Concerned Women for America) was
a conservative activist. None was a member of the clergy.
Despite 150 stories on anti-abortion intimidation and
violence, the networks did nothing on gay intimidation and violence.
When U.S. Navy Airman Terry Helvey confessed to beating fellow sailor
Allen Schindler to death, all the networks covered the story. But weeks
later, on June 4, New York Times reporter Larry Rohter wrote a
story on the sentencing of two Navy homosexuals for raping soldiers in
Jacksonville, Florida. The networks failed to report it.
On September 19, parishioners of the Hamilton Square
Baptist Church in San Francisco, which had invited Rev. Lou Sheldon of
the Traditional Values Coalition to speak, found 75 to 100 gay
protesters pounding at the entrances of the church. Church members
claimed the activists obstructed the entrances and threw rocks at the
church. The protest was even video-taped. The networks did nothing.
Bernardin. All the networks ran
reports on the charges made against Joseph Cardinal Bernardin by
34-year-old AIDS patient Steven Cook, who claimed after hypnosis that he
was sexually abused 17 years before, provided no firm evidence, and
filed a $10 million lawsuit.
The Bernardin controversy drew a total of 25 morning
and evening news stories or segments. The evening news programs reported
it in 11 stories (six on CNN), and it led both CNN's and NBC's news on
November 12. Unlike the President's personal life, all three morning
shows devoted interview segments to the Bernardin story. NBC aired 10
anchor-read segments over three days that said nothing new.
the Bright Side
Buried in the adulatory coverage of the "tightest
budget in memory" has been the unpleasant fact that the pork keeps
rolling. But ABC's John Martin and NBC's Lisa Myers both covered the
routinely ignored annual release of the pork-barrel "pig
book" by Citizens Against Government Waste.
On the February 16 World News Tonight, John
Martin found the government "studying screwworms, which the group
says no longer exist in the U.S., $34 million. Subsidizing small firms
and tourism in Ireland, $19.6 million. Modernizing the Philadelphia
Naval Yard, which is closing, $11.5 million." He noted "many
in Congress turn aside questions on pork-barrel spending, preferring to
deliver to their states projects the country can't afford, for votes
they can't do without."
On the same night, Myers recounted the "usual
eyebrow-raising projects: $2.2 million to build a parking garage for 18
federal employees in the district of Iowa's Jim Lightfoot; $120 million
dollars for a new courthouse in Phoenix, dubbed the 'Taj Mahal of
Justice,' courtesy of Senator Dennis DeConcini." Myers reported the
pig book "found about $6 billion in pork-barrel projects last year,
roughly the same as before all the rhetoric about cutting the
Another Woman's Right
On the February 13 Lifetime Magazine,
produced by ABC News, reporter Eileen Douglas focused on women
forced to defend themselves with a gun. Douglas discovered "crowded
self-defense classes make it strikingly clear -- more women are learning
to shoot." Douglas found that for Noelle Miller, who shot an
intruder, "taking one life has made her value her own." Laura
Nazrini was confronted by a criminal and had to "kill or be
killed." Douglas watched a safety and self-defense class where a
female instructor "tells the women in her class that a gun is still
an effective defense against an attacker, if they're willing to use
it." The networks might learn that women's rights include
Reviewers Ignore Gulf War Record
Peter Arnett: The Best?
In the contest for "most congeniality," book
reviewers of CNN correspondent Peter Arnett's Live From the
Battlefield won hands down. Rather than question any of Arnett's
Gulf War stories, New York Times reporter Bill Keller and Newsweek
Senior Editor Russell Watson lauded Arnett as the "quintessential
war correspondent of our half century" and "the best war
correspondent of his generation," respectively in January reviews. Washington
Post "Book World" Assistant Editor Marie Arana-Ward
wrote: "He tells us exactly what he sees and so delivers a tale
that captures the very essence of modern warfare correspondence."
But in February's American Spectator, David
Andrew Price noted that the book "continues to present the
conclusions of some of his more disputed reports [from Iraq] as simple
matters of fact," adding: "For the European reporters who were
with him, a different picture of Peter Arnett emerged."
One of his more disputed stories centered on the
bombing of what Arnett called a "baby milk factory," in which
he declared the plant was "innocent enough, from what we could
see." Price reported that Alfonso Rojo of the Madrid daily El
Mundo "reported to the Manchester Guardian shortly
after the war that the `baby milk factory' was a secret location for
nuclear weapons research and development," as officials claimed.
Ironically, Price wrote: "After being grilled about the story by a
stateside anchor, he [Arnett] recalls, `I felt that even my own news
organization was doubtful of my ability to assess the facts.'"
Another questionable report involved the "Gulf
Peace Team," a group of anti-war activists. Arnett interviewed
American Anthony Lawrence, who denounced the war as an
"imperialistic attempt to wrest the oil resources of this
region." Arnett recalled: "Though I tried to balance his
diatribe with pertinent questions, I got the worst of the
Disputing Arnett's account, Price wrote that
"Duane Stanfield, a Scottish member of the team, remembered the
episode differently in a letter to the International Herald Tribune:
`To represent our views to the world, CNN's Peter Arnett chose an
extremist American member of the camp. Later when I tried to get Mr.
Arnett merely to read the policy statement of the camp's sponsoring
organization which would have set the record straight -- he was not
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