Media Mourn 17-Count Indictment as Tragedy for the Country
Rostenkowski's Free Ride
Some reporters treated House Ways and
Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski's 17-count indictment on embezzlement
and jury tampering not as an outrage, but as a tragedy. On NBC's Today
May 25, Tim Russert declared: "It's sad. It's not something people
are gloating over because the fact is, Bryant, Congressman Rostenkowski
came here as a political hack from Chicago and turned into a very
formidable national legislator." NBC reporter Lisa Myers added:
"It's a big loss for the President, it's a big loss for the
Congress, and I think it's a big loss for the country."
On ABC's Good Morning America
the next day, co-host Charles Gibson pleaded the chairman's case:
"What's involved here is perhaps, what, some $50,000 in stamps and
some phantom jobs for friends?....Here, though, is a guy who passes
bills or is shepherding bills worth billions of dollars risking his
career for small amounts, or you think, amounts significant enough that
there's real corruption here?"
Despite the unfolding of the House Post
Office scandal since early 1992 and an ongoing Justice Department
investigation of Rostenkowski, reporters have failed to ask him about
it. CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer interviewed him
twice in 1993. On February 7, he asked only one question: "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 May 16, he asked nothing about it.
Today's Bryant Gumbel
interviewed Rosty twice in 1993, May 17 and August 15. He also asked
nothing about the investigation. On the day after Rosty won a primary
election in March of this year, Gumbel asked only about the campaign and
nothing about the charges. On June 27, 1993, Rostenkowski appeared on Meet
the Press, but no one asked about his ethics.
The only NBC exception came on the
September 28, 1993 Today, when Stone Phillips asked: "You
have had your own legal troubles of late, subject of an investigation
into the House Post Office scandal. How much of a distraction is that
for you and how much will it continue to be?" On May 18, 12 days
after the news leaked that prosecutors planned to indict Rostenkowski,
Tom Brokaw interviewed him on the NBC Nightly News but failed
to ask anything about it.
In the more than two years before the
indictment leak, the Big Three networks aired only 22 stories on
Rostenkowski's possible crimes. In the first two months of 1988, the Big
Three networks did 26 stories on Ed Meese's connection to an Iraqi
pipeline deal. Meese was never indicted.
A year after assuming the Press Secretary duties for liberal Democratic
Senator Barbara Mikulski, Bill Toohey left Capitol Hill, but he hasn't
left the Senate staff. Roll Call reported that Toohey relocated
to Baltimore as state Press Secretary for Maryland's other Democratic
Senator, Paul Sarbanes. Except for a one-year stint in 1975 with NBC's
now defunct all-news radio service, from 1971 to 1979 Toohey was
National Public Radio's New York Bureau Chief.
One More at NSC
Jonathan Spalter, a MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour producer before
joining the Clinton-Gore campaign, has moved across the Potomac to
become the fourth member of the National Security Council public
relations operation. Since last year he's held the lengthy title at the
Defense Department of Special Assistant to the Principal Deputy
Undersecretary for Policy. Spalter augments a PR team heavy with network
experience. NSC's Senior Director for Public Affairs is Thomas Ross, a
former Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun Times and
Senior Vice President of NBC News. Tara Sonenshine, NSC's
Deputy Director for Communications, was a Nightline producer
for most of the 1980s.
Moving Up, Down & Around
Emil Guillermo, Press Secretary to U.S. Rep. Norm Mineta (D-Calif.)
since early last year, has returned to television as a reporter and
weekend anchor for Newschannel 8, a Washington, D.C. area all-news cable
service. From 1989 to 1991 Guillermo was the weekend co-host of NPR's All
Things Considered. In the early '80s he was a reporter for San
Francisco's KRON-TV....Bob Zelnick, Pentagon reporter for ABC News for
the past six years, has assumed new duties in the Washington bureau as
head of a new investigative unit. In 1972 Zelnick worked as a
Legislative Researcher for Congressman Henry Reuss, a Wisconsin
Democrat....James Rowe, Vice President and General Counsel for NBC's
Washington office, has traveled north to become Director of Federal and
Community Affairs for Harvard University. Before joining NBC in 1992 he
was Chief Counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and
Criminal Justice chaired by liberal Democrat Charles Schumer....Vernon
Guidry, press and policy assistant to Defense Secretary Les Aspin, has
switched bosses. Guidry, who covered the defense beat for the Baltimore Sun
for much of the '80s, is now an assistant to Deputy Defense Secretary
John Deutch....The Washingtonian reported in May that The
Washington Post hired Claudia Townsend, Associate Press Secretary
to President Carter, as its Metro section political editor. Before
joining the Carter White House she was a Cox Newspapers Washington
On the GOP side, Sherrie Rollins, Senior VP for
Communications for Mort Zuckerman's New York Daily News and U.S.
News & World Report, has jumped back to ABC where she had
served as Director of Information for ABC News in the late '80s. She
left ABC to run President Bush's public liaison office. She's now
overseeing the communications operations for the news, entertainment and
Chase Goes Live
In last month's item on Sylvia Chase we misidentified her as a 20/20
correspondent. She works for Prime Time Live.
DDT, Eco-Racism Threats?
What's Not News
Reporters often cover studies embracing liberal
environmental themes, but studies that refute them go unreported. ABC
and CBS both jumped on a study in the Journal of the National Cancer
Institute that claimed the pesticide DDT is a likely cause of
breast cancer. On the April 20, 1993 CBS Evening News, Dr. Bob
Arnot warned: "High levels of DDT are linked to a four times
greater risk of breast cancer...Advocacy groups say contamination of the
environment may be the biggest and most overlooked cause of today's
While admitting the link was preliminary, Prime
Time Live anchor Diane Sawyer on December 9 compared women with
breast cancer who were exposed to the chemical to canaries in coal
mines. Showing old footage of pesticide spraying, she said "How
naive we all seem when after the war DDT was given a hero's welcome. It
was the miracle chemical and all through the '40s, '50s, and '60s, the
Public Health Service marveled that the chemicals were so safe."
The real naivete may lie with reporters who jump on the findings of one
study and present the conclusions as fact.
Last month the same National Cancer Institute journal
published another study which found no link between DDT and breast
cancer. The newer study is considered superior because it included more
blood samples taken from women at a time when DDT levels found in blood
were higher. But only NBC Nightly News ran a brief item on the
Spurred on by "studies" from liberal
interest groups, NBC's Sara James and CBS's John Roberts reported on the
threat of environmental racism. "Three out of five black and Latino
Americans live near toxic waste sites...Studies indicate race is a
stronger predictor than income of where hazardous waste sites are
located," claimed James on the June 7, 1993 Nightly News.
On May 10, The Boston Globe reported researchers at
the University of Massachusetts examining Census data found "'there
is no national pattern of environmental racism'" in the siting of
incinerators and treatment plants. The study "concluded that
facilities are concentrated in industrial areas but are no more likely
to be in areas with large black and Hispanic populations than
elsewhere." None of the networks covered that.
Newsweek Hailed Hill, But Questions Jones' Credibility and Sexual Behavior
St. Anita vs. The "Dogpatch Madonna"
Anita Hill and Paula Jones both charged major
political figures with sexual harassment. To many reporters, Hill
represented women who faced harassment at the hands of men who just
didn't "get it." Reporters did not question her personal or
financial motives. (Since then, she's earned more than $500,000 in
speaking fees, and signed a book contract worth a reported $1 million.)
But when Jones filed suit, some reporters told "tangy tales"
about her past. For presenting the most obvious and graceless double
standard, Newsweek earned the June Janet Cooke Award.
Two days after Prof. Hill testified against Clarence
Thomas, Sen. Alan Simpson announced that critical stories about Hill
were arriving. In the October 28, 1991 Newsweek, reporter
Eleanor Clift protested: "The days of Simpson Chic are over. Now he
is more often compared to Red-baiter Joseph McCarthy. The image of
Simpson flinging open his jacket and declaring he had lots of `stuff'
against Anita Hill -- while revealing nothing -- was the lowest of many
low points in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Any senator with a sense of
history should have said, as attorney Joseph Welch eventually did to
McCarthy, `Senator, have you no shame?'"
As for Hill's past, Newsweek's Eloise Salholz
wrote in the October 21, 1991 issue: "Little in Hill's life
suggested she would one day discuss sexual matters before an audience of
millions. Quiet and intensely private, Hill apparently has always been a
straight arrow. Neighbors say the law professor -- still known back home
by her middle name, Faye, was an unusually bright and determined
child...[Law school colleagues] say it is inconceivable that the
never-married professor would fabricate the allegations against
That same issue of Newsweek devoted much of
its attention to how women needed to be believed. "There was no way
that roughly 4 million years of male supremacy was going to yield to
Robert's Rules of Order," said the introduction. The issue included
a six-page article on sexual harassment, headlined "When Anita Hill
talked last week, [women] heard themselves -- and they're fed up with
the fact that men don't get it." General Editor Laura Shapiro wrote
a three-page article on "Why Women Are Angry," and Eleanor
Clift penned a sidebar headlined "Congress: The Ultimate Men's
Club." Senior Writer Jonathan Alter wrote that Republicans
suggested that Hill was "a peddler of innuendo and anonymously
sourced slander. Anita Hill was hardly that."
Months later, Newsweek reporter Bob Cohn
found a different story. Recounting tales told against both Thomas and
Hill, Cohn wrote one source saw Hill "aggressively jockeying for
position among other staffers waiting outside Thomas's EEOC office so
she could get a seat near the boss." He reported Lawrence Shiles'
affidavit that the professor put pubic hairs in test papers, and another
student who claimed Hill made sexual comments to him, and called her
"the world's kinkiest law professor."
But Cohn's story appeared in the January 6 & 13,
1992 New Republic. Newsweek did not print it, running
only a December 2 "Periscope" item focusing on how
"Republican leaders tried to dig up information that would
discredit Anita Hill." Speaking mostly off the record, Cohn told MediaWatch
that the magazine did not "cover up" the story in 1992, as a MediaWatch
headline then suggested, but decided not to run a story since they could
not establish who was lying.
But Newsweek's May 15, 1994 story on Paula
Jones, authored by reporter Mark Hosenball, with help from Ginny Carroll
and Cohn, quickly made news by uncritically citing Clinton attorney Bob
Bennett (sounding a lot like Alan Simpson), who "says he has
`people coming out of the woodwork' to discredit her story."
Newsweek then quoted brother-in-law Mark
Brown describing a duck hunt: "She went with one man and when she
got there, she spotted another one. She goes right up to him, puts her
leg between the legs of the other man and rubs herself up and down on
him...Promiscuity? Good gosh. Her mother is fixing to get the shock of
her life when Paula's life comes out...She went out and had herself a
good time. I've seen her at the Red Lobster pinch men on the ass."
Hosenball refused to speak on the record to MediaWatch
except to say "the story speaks for itself." Newsweek
may have been trying to balance Hosenball's revelation that Douglas
Harp, a former state police official, said Bill Clinton "actively
sought out rumors and damaging information that could be used against
his opponents," including "tapes of a conversation with a
woman purporting to describe sex-and-drug parties attended by a pair of
Republicans competing for the gubernatorial nomination."
Cohn, the only one to work on both stories, told MediaWatch:
"We've certainly plumbed Bill Clinton's character in our magazine,
and so we plumbed Paula Jones's character as well. In my New
Republic piece, I had anonymous people who had axes to grind
against Anita Hill. It was not for attribution, and I knew from my
reporting that they had ideological or personal reasons to dislike Anita
Hill. In our Paula Jones coverage, whether it was Mark Brown or other
names, these sources were on the record, and seemed to have less of an
ideological interest in the issue." But wasn't Brown embittered?
Cohn replied: "I don't know."
The next week, Newsweek followed with
"Paula Jones's Credibility Gap."No story detailed "Anita
Hill's Credibility Gap." Reporter Melinda Beck wrote that not only
did Mrs. Jones gain merit raises after the alleged incident of sexual
harassment by Bill Clinton, she was a Clinton "groupie" who
"liked to mill around the reception desk in the Governor's
office" and who "stayed almost two years after the alleged
encounter with Clinton -- twice as long as she'd remained at any other
job." She was a "Dogpatch Madonna" noted for
"drinking beer, dancing, and other things that were forbidden at
home," as well as her "flirtatious behavior."
Beck added: "In theory, the tangy tales floated
by relatives and old boyfriends about Paula's past should have little
bearing on her charges against Clinton -- any more than a rape victim's
sexual history should be used against her in court. But defense
attorneys do that all the time."
But is it the media's job to act as defense attorney?
Beck also refused to go on the record except to respond to charges of a
double standard: "To journalists, we go out looking for facts, and
in this case, our story was driven by the fact that there was factual
evidence contradicting charges in the lawsuit she brought...the
circumstances here are quite different [than the Hill case], and that
Paula Jones's life is going to face, could well face this kind of
scrutiny in the courtroom." It's certainly not scrutiny Anita Hill
ever faced in the pages of Newsweek.
Festival of Hate?
In his new book Standing Firm, Dan Quayle recounted the August
1988 afternoon in Huntington, Indiana, where the crowds jeered the media
and cheered Quayle. "After I left office, ABC's Brit Hume, who was
on the press bus that day, told me he had heard some of his colleagues
make ugly personal attacks, of a kind he had never really heard before,
against both me and Bush."
Quayle was especially critical of Maureen Dowd of The
New York Times, who "may be at the top of her profession, but she
doesn't let the facts get in her way." He recalled one day,
"Dowd, objective as always, came into the White House press room
wearing a T-shirt depicting Edvard Munch's famous painting The
Scream (that eerie figure with the open mouth and hands over his
ears) above the caption: 'President Quayle?` The reaction of the rest of
the media? Blasť. I wonder if it would be the same for a reporter who
wore a Slick Willie T-shirt into that room."
No Cheers for NBC in Boston
When Today went on the road to Boston, they remembered to take
their liberal baggage with them. Co-anchor Katie Couric, chatting with
liberal Boston Mayor Tom Menino on May 17, tossed him easy questions on
Bill Weld's budget cutting: "I know the Governor and other state
officials have been cutting funds to cities like Boston, which must make
your jobs extremely challenging. How can you continue to deliver on the
programs and the services with fewer dollars in your coffers?" She
followed up by asking: "I know you get disheartened because often
times the programs that are cut right away are those that deal with
The next day, Couric unloaded a series of hostile
questions at Gov. Weld on issues where he takes a conservative position.
On welfare cuts: "You want to cut an additional 70,000 families,
what's to become of these people...isn't it awfully expensive to retrain
these people, and place them in jobs?" On crime: "[Menino]
said he was very concerned about cutting programs for children and
building more jails, that automatically kids seem to be the ones who get
hurt. When it comes to getting tough on crime, doesn't it make sense to
spend more money on programs for our young people before they end up in
jail?" She ended with a question that's never asked to rich
liberals like Ted Kennedy: "You're described as a patrician Boston
Brahmin who really can't relate to people. One person said...the
Governor doesn't have the economic concerns that drive other people. How
do you respond to that, that somehow you're out of touch with the
Is becoming politically active a good thing? Apparently not if you are a
religious conservative. In an April 25 article, Boston Globe
reporter Brian McGrory described conservative activists as harsh,
vehement, and censorious, declaring: "Staunch conservatives, riding
a wave of moral values that is now lapping against the liberal
Northeast, are seeking municipal office in unprecedented numbers,
turning once-neighborly elections into harsh affairs tinged by religious
baiting and moral righteousness."
Leaving the impression that liberal values such as
abortion, multiculturalism, and condoms in schools are in the political
mainstream, McGrory added: "To be sure, the values this new breed
of candidate espouses are often starkly at odds with the opinions of
many. Most deeply conservative candidates vehemently oppose abortion,
and many are veterans of Operation Rescue protests. Typically, they
favor censorship in schools and local libraries. They often oppose
sexual education programs in public schools and instead push the
teaching of abstinence. In an age of widespread AIDS-related deaths,
many oppose AIDS education." He followed: "With such views,
victories have been rare, despite some estimates that there may be as
many as 10,000 far-right candidates in the 16,000 school districts
across the country this year."
Skipping Pena's Past
In his speech nominating former Denver Mayor Federico Pena for Secretary
of Transportation, Bill Clinton boasted, "His legacy includes the
new Denver International Airport." Originally scheduled to open
last fall, DIA remains indefinitely closed due to problems with its
high-tech automated baggage handling system tossing suitcases off the
tracks. Despite Pena's role in directing the overhaul of the FAA's air
traffic control system, the media have been slow to examine Pena's
legacy. In 11 evening news stories in the past year from the four
networks on the delays and financial difficulties concerning the
airport, Pena has not been mentioned. Similarly, in nine morning show
appearances since taking office, Pena has fielded exactly one question
concerning the problems at Denver International, that from Harry Smith
on the May 3 CBS This Morning.
With further delays costing the city at least $500,000
a day in interest payments, the media have avoided Pena's role. Michael
Fumento documented what he called "Federico's Folly" for the
December 1993 American Spectator. He reported Pena's opposition
to a referendum on the new airport, and his personal connections to
those who could profit from the project. Since that referendum, when an
estimated $1.7 billion would be needed for the project, the cost has
skyrocketed. Fumento wrote that budgeted costs coupled with bond
interest payments push "the costs to about $10 billion, or almost
six times what the voters were told the project would cost."
Fluffing Byrd's Feathers
Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) has never been known for miserliness when
it comes to spending taxpayer money. Yet on the May 9 Inside
Politics, CNN completely overlooked that facet of Byrd's career,
instead choosing to portray Byrd only as "the powerful chairman of
the Senate Appropriations Committee." Candy Crowley described him
as "both feared and respected for his stature. His power, even his
critics will tell you, is awesome. A man who loves words, history and
the Senate, Robert Byrd is a walking, talking history book." Judy
Woodruff added: "A one-of-a-kind politician."
One title Byrd holds that CNN failed to bestow upon
him: King of Pork. On the March 3 Prime Time Live, ABC's Chris
Wallace detailed Byrd's ways: "After becoming chairman of the
Senate Appropriations Committee in 1989, he vowed to get $1 billion in
federal projects for his state; he met that target in two years."
Byrd wouldn't talk to Wallace, but he has no trouble talking for puff
pieces. "There is, in fact, only one place he'd rather be,"
said Crowley as she set up Byrd: "When I'm dead and I'm opened,
they'll find West Virginia written on my heart."
The latest round of politically motivated statistical claims on the
homeless in America was swallowed whole cloth by the media. On May 18
Sonya Ross of the Associated Press reported, "Government officials
estimate that 7 million Americans are homeless, far more than the Census
calculations of 600,000 people and far too many, they say, for current
federal programs to help adequately." ABC's Carole Simpson bit as
well on World News Tonight the night before. Following a
soundbite of HUD Secretary Henry Cisnernos announcing the 7 million
claim, she insisted: "And a number that's even worse today.
Homeless people have become a part of the landscape in many
In neither report was a dissenting view presented to
question the validity of the statistics. Why? In the May 23 New York
magazine, critic Jon Katz suggested, "Reporters, hemmed in by
outdated notions of objectivity, their Rolodex stuffed with the names of
statistics-bearing advocates, are surprisingly easy prey for this sort
of numerical manipulation." Katz, a onetime CBS Morning News
Executive Producer, cited liberal sociologist Christopher Jencks' new
book, The Homeless, as a source the media has buried. As Katz
noted, "The Clintonites and the media have failed to avail
themselves of actual, reliable data...After crunching more objective
numbers, Jencks came up with the almost certainly accurate
300,000-to-400,000 figure -- a whole order of magnitude less
catastrophic than Americans had been taught for a decade." Katz
does not expect these figures to replace long standing media myths.
"As Jencks' book demonstrates anew, journalism is too daily a
business to have even a rudimentary sense of history or
Some reporters claim Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and David
Souter have "grown" in office, and become more
"thoughtful" for espousing liberal positions. The same
standard applied after Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) backed a bill to ban
ABC's Cokie Roberts called Hyde a "thoughtful
Republican" on the May 5 World News Tonight. On CNN's May
7 Capital Gang, Time Senior Writer Margaret Carlson
and Al Hunt, Washington Executive Editor for The Wall Street Journal,
piled on the accolades. Carlson declared "the fact the NRA is still
powerful shows how courageous some of these votes were." Hunt
responded: "Absolutely, Henry Hyde is a profile in courage on
this...a guy who showed incredible guts on this issue." He
concluded that Hyde "did grow on this one because he wasn't part
and parcel of the gun lobby."
In the May 16 Time, Carlson cited Hyde's
prior opposition to gun control, then added: "The white-haired,
20-year veteran of the House is also known for his intellectual honesty.
He follows his deeply held beliefs -- he is a devout Catholic who is
against abortion -- but he keeps an open mind on many issues."
Noting that Hyde's "intellectual honesty" had angered his
constituents, Carlson sympathized: "The experience has made him
wonder whether `people can honestly change their minds and still be
fellow citizens and deserve space on this planet.' The NRA will let him
Nasty NRA, Lovable Gun Banners
Even with the assault weapon ban, the media clamor for gun control
continued. The focus of their attacks once again -- the National Rifle
Association. On the May 20 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather
introduced a story about the NRA's annual convention, referring to the
"once all-powerful gun lobby." Reporter Frank Currier labeled
the NRA as the "powerful pro-gun lobby" and "the once
bullet-proof NRA" and claimed "polls show mainstream Americans
don't support the group or its hard-line stand on firearms." (In a
March 1993 USA Today/CNN/ Gallup poll, 55 percent viewed the
NRA favorably, 32 percent unfavorably.) In contrast to the "gun
lobby," Currier contended "a growing legion of citizen
crime-fighters want some form of gun control." Instead of
championing the NRA's expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment,
as reporters often do with advocates of the First, he concluded:
"Rather than retreat, the NRA plans to attack more ferociously,
with big guns like the Desert Eagle, a new .50 caliber pistol that'll
knock down a rhinoceros with a single shot."
On the May 6 Today, Bryant Gumbel interviewed
Dr. Ellen Taliaferro of Physicians for a Violence Free Society, and
asked: "Has the [assault weapon] vote now suggested the NRA is
defanged, or is that premature?" After Dr. Taliaferro stated
"we support a total ban on handguns and assault weapons of all
kinds," Gumbel wondered: "What has to happen for those like
you, who are in favor of some kind of sensible gun control, to keep the
momentum that clearly seems to be running in your favor right now?"
Ace of Diamonds
When Hillary Clinton witnessed the inauguration of South African
President Nelson Mandela, the media didn't look at the 170 shares she
held in South Africa's DeBeers diamond mines from 1978-81. In a May 2
Los Angeles Times article, reporter Sara Fritz did mention the purchase,
noting "her aides say the shares were purchased by her broker
without her knowledge and were sold quickly because of her opposition to
apartheid." The rest of the media have yet to touch the story.
Network Contrast of Hill and Jones Show Dramatic Differences in Coverage, Tone
From I Am Woman to Who's That Girl?
Those partisans who declare Bill Clinton receives the
harshest media treatment ever should compare network coverage of Paula
Jones' sexual harassment suit with Anita Hill's charges against Clarence
To determine the difference, MediaWatch
analysts compared news stories on Jones and Hill on five network evening
shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's
World News, NBC Nightly News, and PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer
NewsHour) and three morning shows (ABC's Good Morning America,
CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today). On both morning
and evening shows in the first five days of the Hill and Jones affairs,
Hill's story received more than four times as much coverage as Jones'
Evening Shows. On Sunday, October 6,
1991, Anita Hill's story broke. In the five days before hearings began
(October 6-10), all the networks led with Hill every night except CNN,
which led with the story three times. (Due to football, NBC had no East
Coast show on the 6th). The five programs aired 67 stories in five days
on the charges (averaging more than 13 per day).
When Paula Jones announced her charges on February 11
this year, only ABC reported the story -- for 16 seconds. That's 67 to
1. None of the evening shows touched it again until May 4, the day The
Washington Post ran its long-delayed investigation of Jones. CNN's
Wolf Blitzer led World News with it. ABC and CNN read brief
stories on May 5. On May 6, the day Jones filed suit, all five networks
covered the story, but none led the newscast with it. Only ABC and PBS
did more than one story. In the first six days of the Jones story -- May
4-9, the networks reported 15 stories, or less than three stories a day,
for a Hill-Jones ratio of 67 to 15.
Only another six stories aired in the rest of May. In
total, the number of Hill stories in five days (67) outnumbered the
total of all evening news stories on Gennifer Flowers (14), Troopergate
(22), and Paula Jones (21) combined.
CBS had the most dramatic contrast -- 17 stories on
Hill's charges, to one on Jones. On May 6, Rita Braver's story came
fifth, and featured no more detailed description of Jones' charges
(Clinton exposed himself and asked for oral sex) than that she accused
Clinton of "soliticing sexual favors." CNN had the least
contrast, with a ratio of 14 to 7.
ABC had a ratio of 15 to 5, but the tone of ABC's
stories was less favorable to Jones. On May 8, Sheilah Kast reported on
a poll showing most Americans didn't care about Jones' charges. On May
11, five days after the filing, ABC's Jim Wooten did a story on how
Jones' claim of suffering professionally from the charges were
challenged by state pay records. None of the networks have done
investigative stories on the holes in Hill's charges.
The tone and direction of network stories differed
greatly. Although each network relayed GOP charges of a smear or dirty
politics, none of the 67 stories on Hill questioned her personal or
financial motives. By contrast, ABC, CNN, and NBC all forwarded attacks
on Jones' motives by Clinton lawyer Robert Bennett or sister Charlotte
Brown, or both. None of the networks ever reported on affidavits filed
with the Senate questioning Hill's motives or credibility.
While the Jones stories fizzled (from seven stories on
May 6 to none the next day), the Hill story exploded (from three stories
on October 6 to 19 stories on October 9). This could be a result of
process: after two days of incessant media coverage, Hill hearings were
scheduled, while Jones' trial could be postponed for years or dismissed.
But in Hill's case, producers got creative with new story angles. ABC
reported on sexual harassment on Capitol Hill and read passages from
seven newspaper columnists; CBS did a story on women's groups
mobilizing. CBS and CNN both did biographies on Hill, and NBC focused on
black reaction to the affair. Thirteen of the first 67 stories were
feature stories on sexual harassment.
Creativity died with the Jones charges: no features on
sexual harassment, no story sampling Washington reaction, no biography
on Jones. ABC and CNN reporters did features on a possible Clinton legal
defense fund. After the study period, ABC's Jeff Greenfield was the only
one to note women's groups not mobilizing.
Morning Shows. From October 7-10, the
morning shows aired 66 news stories and 18 discussion segments on Hill's
story, building up from 12 news stories (updates every half hour on all
three networks) on Monday morning to more than 20 stories on each of the
other three days.
On the Jones story, the morning shows aired only 14
news stories and 8 discussions. NBC did the most, with 11 news updates
and 3 discussions. (Four of the updates came on the Saturday Today,
which didn't air in 1991.) By contrast, the others barely touched it:
ABC had two stories and two discussions, and CBS had only one news story
and three discussions. Unlike the Hill coverage, most of the discussions
(including all three on CBS) asked one question about the Jones case and
moved on. For example, on May 5, CBS This Morning co-host Harry Smith
asked: "Paula Jones, the state employee who is going to try and get
President Clinton on charges of sexual harassment, is this the real deal
or is this the creation of Arkansas arch-nemesis Cliff Jackson?"
Like the evening shows, the tone of the discussion
differed: in Hill's case, attacks on Hill were an attack on all women,
but Jones was simply a political tool. On the October 8, 1991 Today,
NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell pronounced: "What's at stake here and
what is on trial, I think, is the Senate of the United States, that
all-male institution but two, but for two female senators, the
institution, the Democrats, in which, actually closed the doors on House
members, members of Congress, women who marched over to try to express
their views yesterday and were locked out."
On Today this May 4, Al Hunt of The Wall
Street Journal said of Jones: "This woman, I have no idea
about the details, she has been used as sort of a puppet by the right,
by the political right that wants to discredit Clinton, which I think
certainly detracts from her credibility."
the Bright Side
Blaming the Victim?
CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg began the May 26 Eye
to Eye by proclaiming that "the new national motto should be
`don't blame me.'" During his special hour-long report, Goldberg
examined the "epidemic" of excuses, from the Menendez abuse
excuse to the mob excuse used to justify the beating of Reginald Denny.
He contrasted current criminal defense strategies with a bygone image:
"Remember how Perry Mason would get his client off by proving, at
the last second, that someone else had committed the crime? Well,
today's defense lawyers are....trying to get their clients off even when
they admit they did commit the crime."
Questioning the defense of "black rage"
being used by Long Island railroad murderer Colin Ferguson, Goldberg
noted that Ferguson "wasn't even born or raised in the United
States. He grew up in the Caribbean, in Jamaica in...a fairly opulent
way...He was sent to the best private schools." He then asked
defense attorney William Kunstler, "How is Colin Ferguson a victim
of racism? Give me an example or two...Here you are claiming white
racism, black rage, but your client went on that train and killed people
precisely because of their race, because they were white. Why can't you
make the argument that the real racist was your client?"
The aversion to accepting blame also exists outside
the courtroom and has resulted in such medical sounding excuses as
"chronic lateness syndrome," "failure to file [taxes]
syndrome," and for those unable to wisely spend large amounts of
money, "affluenza, from the words affluence and influenza, which we
all know is a sickness."
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed to
great applause for making buildings more accessible, but four years
later, as Tom Brokaw pointed out on the May 16 NBC Nightly News,
"There has been a downside as well. Out of control costs."
Reporter Bob Kur explained that "some insiders
say it's become a law of unintended consequences fostering frivolous
lawsuits and expensive hassles." Kur reviewed some ADA-based
lawsuits: a 360-pound woman suing a movie theater that provided a
wheelchair section but wouldn't allow her to bring in her own chair, a
woman suing a ski resort that didn't have wheelchair transportation to
the highest slopes so she could enjoy the view, and a student suing his
university for not providing him with a note taker even though his
mother did it for him.
Kur concluded that the ADA "has helped provide
user-friendly equipment and jobs for blind and other disabled workers.
But insiders have begun to question the cost of accommodating everyone
who claims special status under the law."
Raines Rains on Reagan
Howell Raines, Editorial Page Editor for The New
York Times, has generated a bit of publicity for editorials
critical of the Clinton Administration's ethics and decision-making
process. But a new book by Raines reveals where his sympathies lie. In Fly
Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, the former national political
correspondent, who headed the Washington bureau from 1988 through 1992,
fails to criticize the policies of any liberal, but he has plenty to say
"Then one day in the summer of 1981 I found
myself at the L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine. I was a correspondent
in the White House in those days, and my work -- which consisted of
reporting on President Reagan's success in making life harder for
citizens who were not born rich, white, and healthy -- saddened
"In 1981, shortly before the inauguration of
Ronald Reagan, my family and I arrived in Washington. I was
thirty-eight. I attributed any twinges of unhappiness I felt in those
days to bad timing and the cycles of politics. My parents raised me to
admire generosity and to feel pity. I had arrived in our nation's
capital during a historic ascendancy of greed and
"I was taken aback by the news that Alan Simpson,
the Republican Senator from Wyoming, was a fly fisherman. So much for
the ennobling influence of the sport. During Bush's term, Simpson
established himself as the meanest man in the Senate. True, his
hatefulness had a kind of Dickensian grandeur. But there was no way you
could follow his rantings about women, the environment and civil rights
and still believe that fly fishing in the mighty temple of the Rockies
is guaranteed to purify the soul."
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