Home Page
  30-Day Archive
  Notable Quotables
  Media Reality Check
  Press Releases
Media Bias Videos
  Free Market Project
  About the MRC
  MRC in the News
  Support the MRC
  Planned Giving
  What Others Say
  Site Search
  Media Addresses
Contact the MRC
MRC Bookstore
Job Openings

Support the MRC



From the June 1994 MediaWatch

Media Mourn 17-Count Indictment as Tragedy for the Country

Page One

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.


Revolving Door

Selling Sarbanes
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 bureau reporter....

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 sports divisions.

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


Page Three

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 epidemic."

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 newer study.

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.


Janet Cooke Award

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 Thomas."

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 children."

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 average American?"

Rancorous Right

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."

Homeless Mythology
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 cities."

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 statistics."

Hailing Hyde
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 assault weapons.

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 know."

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 Thomas.

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' story.

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."


On 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."

Financial Disabilities

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."


Page Eight

Raines Rains on Reagan

Fly-Fishing Flashbacks

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 about Republicans:

"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 me."

"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 hard-heartedness."

"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." 


Tell a friend about this site




Home | News Division | Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts 
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact the MRC | Subscribe

Founded in 1987, the MRC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit research and education foundation
 that does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office.

Privacy Statement

Media Research Center
325 S. Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314