Reporters Portray Religious Right As Extreme, Take Moderates' Side
Wishing Allen Quist Would Quit
When do the media side with Republicans? When they're
liberals challenged by conservatives. Take coverage of liberal Minnesota
Gov. Arne Carlson's loss to religious conservative Allen Quist in a
party convention. On the June 15 Inside Politics, CNN's Deborah
Potter focused on the concerns of moderates: "To some moderate
Republicans the Quists...and their supporters are extremist zealots who
pack the party caucuses and shut out long-time Republican activists from
the state convention."
ABC's Aaron Brown introduced a June 23 Nightline report
by declaring: "What is called the religious right, the most
conservative element in the Republican Party, staged a coup in
Minnesota, a state where politics, Democratic and Republican, has almost
always been defined by the words moderate and progressive." Brown
claimed: "They have embraced politics with an energy and commitment
and you will forgive both the word play and language, they are scaring
the hell out of the Republican establishment."
Cokie Roberts continued the theme: "This man is
sending chills through the Republican Party. Allen Quist, soybean
farmer, managed to wrest the state party endorsement from the sitting
Republican governor." Echoing the complaints of Carlson and his
supporters, Roberts warned of "the possible McGovernization of the
Republican Party, doing to the Republicans what the Democrats did to
themselves, by being too far left through the primary process. The
Republicans could easily end up being too far right."
Richard Lacayo painted Carlson as victimized by
ideologues in the June 27 Time. He wrote: "[Gov.] Carlson,
a fiscal conservative who eliminated the state's deficit, is a moderate
on many social issues. That means he's out of favor with the troops of
the religious right who have seized power in the state Republican
Actually, Carlson's economic policies have angered
Republicans. In "A Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's
Governors: 1994," the Cato Institute's Stephen Moore and Dean
Stansel rated Democrat Douglas Wilder of Virginia highest, but gave
Carlson a "D." They noted that Carlson "has created
several new spending programs, including a universal health care program
called HealthRight, which will cost state taxpayers $250 million a
year...the income tax and sales tax have been raised by $650 per family
in his first year alone."
Did the media blame Bush's 1990 tax hike deal for
pushing Republicans too far to the left? No, but Lacayo opined
"Christian conservatives did much to set the belligerent tone of
the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston -- which, to put it mildly,
was no great advantage to George Bush."
Price to Urban League
The National Urban League has named a PBS station executive as its new
President. In March, the League selected Hugh Price, Senior Vice
President and Director of Production at WNET in New York for six years
ending in 1988. As one of public television's major production
facilities for all PBS stations, Price oversaw WNET's daily creation of
numerous PBS public affairs programs, including The MacNeil/Lehrer
Reginald Brack Jr., Chairman of the League's Board of
Trustees and also Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Time Inc.,
declared that Price "brings experience, vision, creativity and
leadership to the Urban League at a time when the African American
community is in great need of an effective advocate for equal
opportunities and a defender of hard-earned civil rights."
Into the Wilderness
The Wilderness Society has enlisted two network radio veterans in its
anti-property rights efforts, which include further restrictions of
logging, higher mining rights fees and expansion of the endangered
species list. Brenda Box, National Journal reported in June,
has come aboard the national headquarters staff as Broadcast Director.
An anchor for Westwood One's NBC Radio and previously for the UPI Radio
network, Box will work with Jerry Greenberg, the Society's new Assistant
Public Affairs Director who will handle print media. Greenberg's
experience includes stints as a California-based reporter for the
Associated Press Radio Network and National Public Radio.
A Wynning Team
Sharon McGill, a former ABC News producer, has replaced Sandy Moore,
another television veteran, as Press Secretary to Congressman Al Wynn, a
liberal Maryland Democrat. In the late '80s, McGill served as an
Associate Producer in ABC's Washington bureau. Roll Call reported
that during her four years with the network she worked on World News
Tonight, This Week with David Brinkley and Nightline.
McGill's predecessor, Moore, had come to Wynn's office from a TV
reporting position at Hearst Broadcasting's Washington bureau....
On the GOP side, moderate Republican Amo Houghton of
New York has signed up Chet Lunner, a Gannett and USA Today
reporter, as his Press Secretary. A veteran of newspapers in New York
and Maine, for the past few years he's been a general assignment
reporter out of Washington for Gannett.
Today to Hillary to TBS
After 17 years as a reporter for NBC News and two working for the
Clintons, Heidi Schulman served as co-writer and producer of A
Century of Women, a six-hour, three-night, early-June tour de force
of American feminist history on cable's TBS. Late last year Schulman
signed a one-year programming consultant deal with the U.S. Information
Agency. During the 1992 campaign she worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton's
staff as a liaison with the Hollywood entertainment community. Other
than Phyllis Schlafly talking about the ERA and a woman who spoke warmly
of having been a '50s housewife, no one in the Jane Fonda-narrated show
articulated a traditional viewpoint. The series also offered one-sided
presentations on several controversial topics, including Roe v. Wade
and the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.
CBS Mourns Spies, Traitors
In the most recent media dose of Cold War revisionism,
Dan Rather examined the TV confrontation between CBS reporter Edward R.
Murrow and Joseph McCarthy in a special hour-long June 15 CBS
Reports. Rather began by characterizing the 1950s as "a time
of blacklists and witch-hunts and red baiting; a time that took Senator
[Joseph] McCarthy's name -- `The McCarthy Era' -- a time when America
In a program filled with McCarthy detractors, admitted
communists and fellow travelers, Rather glorified the "integrity
and honor" of Murrow while failing to mention the atrocities that
made the communist threat more lethal in the long term than even Hitler.
Even a convicted spy raised hardly an eyebrow as Rather described Alger
Hiss as "a former US State Department official accused of
spying for the Soviets."
By contrast, columnist Jack Anderson intoned "Joe
McCarthy looked more like he ought to be in prison, where he probably
should have gone, than be in the United States Senate." Former
Washington Post reporter Murrey Marder declared "McCarthy was
the supreme fraud of all times."
Film director Edward Dmytryk and his lawyer Bartley
Crum were held up as victims of McCarthy. Rather reported: "Bartley
Crum committed suicide in 1959, but not before giving into the FBI and
revealing the names of Communist Party members." Rather left out
that Dmytryk was an admitted communist and, in the words of William F.
Buckley, "Bartley Crum was a prominent fellow traveler who ardently
defended the Communists, in print and in court...His suicide, two years
after McCarthy's death, was unrelated to McCarthy."
Rather introduced Murrow as the dragon slayer:
"The question was: Who would stand up to McCarthy? Many people did,
but it was Edward R. Murrow's opposition on television that signaled the
end of Joe McCarthy." According to Washington Post
reporter Paul Farhi, however, "CBS's decision to air the show came
well after McCarthy's power and influence had begun to wane."
Ironically, Farhi wrote, at that same time, CBS "was engaging in
McCarthyite `blacklisting,' preventing writers and actors suspected of
communist sympathies from working on network programs."
Liberal Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation Pays for Pro-Clinton Health Care Special
NBC Takes the Money and Runs...Left
NBC raised a lot of eyebrows by accepting $3.5 million
from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its two-hour,
commercial-free June 21 health care special, To Your Health.
Five foundation fellows served on Hillary Clinton's secret task force,
and when that secrecy became an issue, the foundation spent $500,000 for
four town meetings featuring the First Lady.
In 1991, foundation president Dr. Steven Schroeder
told The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "We are very conscious
that fundamental change [in health] is not going to happen without
government...Many of our recent grants have been predicated on the idea
that we would get government involved."
On CNBC's Tim Russert May 9, Tom Brokaw said:
"I can assure you that I wouldn't be involved with that program in
any fashion if it were being directed or if it were being engineered by
a special interest group."
Several conservatives (including MediaWatch publisher
L. Brent Bozell) wrote to NBC President Robert Wright charging the grant
"constitutes an appearance of partisanship." In a phone
conversation, David Bohrman, the show's Executive Producer, gave Bozell
his word the show would be balanced and pursue all aspects of the
debate. But NBC earned the Janet Cooke Award.
The special, a series of pre-taped segments followed
by discussions with on-stage panels and an audience at Washington's
Warner Theater, tilted in favor of pro-government spokesmen and failed
to explore conservative policy options. Hillary Clinton was the sole
guest for the first half-hour, referring to NBC's anecdotes as proof of
the need for the Clinton plan. On-stage panelists leaned two-to-one in
favor of the Clinton plan or single-payer. Speakers from the audience
also leaned to the liberal side by two to one.
Bohrman told MediaWatch: "We went back
and timed out everything in the broadcast. No matter how you add it up
or take a look at it, it was very well-balanced." But when
MediaWatch suggested the ratio was more like 2 to 1, Bohrman changed his
spin: "Whenever any two people try to add it up, you get a
different number...What adds to the perception may have been that there
was such a large dose of Tom and Mrs. Clinton at the beginning."
The program's pre-packaged news features were mostly
horror stories: uninsured parents of kids with dramatic medical
problems, or a woman who couldn't fund home care for her mother. Those
sufferers were brought into the theater to demand more government.
Reporter Maria Shriver added to one victim's demand: "And you want
Shriver began her series of segments by declaring:
"There are at any one time during the year as many as 58
million Americans who have no insurance." Cato Institute analyst
Michael Tanner, one of the conservatives who spoke during the NBC show,
told MediaWatch: "Shriver misstated that.
According to the numbers everyone uses from the Employee Benefits
Research Institute, the figure is 58 million at some time during the
year, but 37 million at any one time. Of those 37 million, half
of those go uninsured for four months or less; 70 percent for less than
a year. The number who are uninsured and uninsurable is about one
Later, Shriver presented a emotional profile of a
dying man whose insurance company refused to pay for his cancer
treatment because he had a pre-existing condition. But she then
explained this victim filed a claim for cancer treatment just 15 days
after he bought his insurance. Placing no blame on the man's failure to
plan ahead, Shriver declared: "There are few safety nets for Alan
and an estimated 81 million Americans under the age of 65 who suffer
from illnesses that were diagnosed before their medical insurance went
Both the 58 million and 81 million estimates were used
in Bill Clinton's 1994 State of the Union. On January 26, CNN's Jeanne
Meserve monitored the President's speech for accuracy: "It's true
that 58 million are without insurance for some part of the year, but
often only for a few weeks as they switch jobs. The number of hardcore
uninsured is much smaller. As for the claim that 81 million Americans
have pre-existing conditions, impartial experts say they have never seen
such a number and that it defies logic." But Bohrman told MediaWatch:
"We feel very comfortable with the numbers."
Instead of exploring deregulation or medical savings
accounts, which Tanner notes is in "at least 16 bills before
Congress, with nearly 200 co-sponsors," NBC portrayed radio talk
show hosts as rude partisan obstacles to a constructive solution.
"It can get personal and it can get rough," said reporter
Brian Williams. "Health care is what America is talking about up
and down the AM dial. It's where to go for the thunder on the right...If
most of the talk seems negative, that's because it is."
But a 1993 poll by the Times Mirror Center for the
People and the Press contradicted the media stereotype: talk radio hosts
preferred Clinton in 1992, 38 percent to 23 percent for Bush and 18
percent for Perot.
Williams spotlighted ideology: "They don't get
any more conservative than Michael Reagan, son of the former
President....conservative talk show hosts attract conservative
listeners, many of them retirees and well-off financially." None of
the left-wing spokesmen were labeled as "liberal" or
"socialist," including Williams' story on single-payer
activists in California.
NBC focused on the beneficiaries of insurance, not the
payers. In one segment, reporter Brian Williams found one mother who
repeatedly brings her child into emergency rooms: "She never sees a
bill and she likes the convenience." NBC didn't ask: is she a
victim, or the problem? Could our problem be most Americans don't pay
for their care, so they don't have any incentive to economize?
But while Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain was
challenged repeatedly to defend his failure to accept employer mandates,
Brokaw did not follow up with Hillary Clinton or anyone else on other
elements of the Clinton plan, such as community rating or price
controls. Williams found mountains of paperwork erupt "largely
because government and insurance company regulations designed to save
money for patient care require a bureaucracy so large they end up
costing more than they could ever save," but Mrs. Clinton was not
asked how further government regulation would fix that. No horror
stories focused on socialized systems such as Canada.
By show's end, a Kansas businesswoman who worried
about the employer mandate at the start had come around: "I think
there is a way to do it, but it's going to take everybody working
together." Brokaw asked: "Will it take people not simply
working together, but spending a little more of what they have?"
The woman replied: Yes." The crowd applauded.
NBC repeatedly declared that the Johnson Foundation
had no contact with the producers, but the foundation must have liked
what it paid for: USA Today reported June 30 that it's "very
interested in sponsoring another prime-time network special on health
care." But for all of the money the foundation spent and all the
time the network devoted to create an informative, balanced exploration
of a complicated issue, NBC blew it.
Dumping On D'Amato
Senator Al D'Amato should start whining about how tough the media is on
him. He might shame them into giving him Hillary Clinton's kid glove
treatment. When the March 18 New York Times disclosed the
$100,000 Mrs. Clinton made through commodities trades, the networks
ignored it. On ABC, reporter Brit Hume mentioned it in passing one week
later. World News Tonight, led by Executive Producer/Clinton
golf buddy Rick Kaplan, didn't devote a whole piece to the commodities
deal until fully 11 days after it was first reported. When Roll
Call, a small-circulation newspaper about Congress, revealed on
June 16 that D'Amato made $35,000 on stock in an initial public
offering, the very next day World News Tonight devoted an
entire story to it, reported by Jackie Judd.
Why Call Limbaugh?
In the June 16 Los Angeles Times, Mike Clary reported that
"stagnant sales and a stepped-up national boycott" are
"putting the squeeze on the state Citrus Commission to can"
Rush Limbaugh's ads for Florida orange juice. Clary described Limbaugh's
show as "bashing gays, environmentalists, and Democrats."
Unfortunately, Clary managed to squeeze out Rush's side of the story as
well. Rush told MediaWatch: "No one here was contacted by Mike
However, Clary let boycott organizer and NOW President
Patricia Ireland excoriate Rush's "hateful, divisive fanatacism,"
and added a state senator who didn't want "people who will engender
hate, disregard for minorities, or represent any political
philosophy" to represent Florida citrus. The only dissent was a
mild statement from a commission spokeswoman regretting the controversy.
Clary reported that calls and faxes to the Florida Citrus Commission
were running 4-1 against Rush, but failed to mention that Rush told
listeners not to call.
Apparently realizing their error, the paper ran a
follow-up article from Clary eight days later quoting Limbaugh on his
June 17 radio show: "The temptation is great to give you the number
and have you call...the objective is not generating phone calls; we know
we can do that...the single best thing you can do is buy orange
juice." It's nice the Times still believes in getting both
sides of the story. Maybe next time they won't take eight days to do
Putting Feminism First
Reporters rarely admit their political leanings, but on the network
morning shows, the female anchors are never shy in identifying
themselves as part of the feminist movement. The words
"feminist" and "we" are often interchanged as in a
June 2 Today interview when Katie Couric asked author of
Who Stole Feminism, Christina Hoff Sommers, "what should we
be using other than this angry rhetoric" in the feminist movement?
But a much more pernicious form of bias was revealed
when the talk turned to statistics. Sommers is very critical of the now
thoroughly discredited statistic that domestic violence increases after
football games. Sommers thinks the misuse of statistics discredits the
cause. But Couric suggested the feminist cause is more important than
the truth: "Let's say, if one accepts your thesis, that these
statistics are inflated or are used incorrectly. Aren't you worried
about throwing the baby out with the bath water? So Super Bowl Sunday
isn't the biggest day for men battering women, aren't you afraid that
you're going to be dismissing the problem all together if you refute
that, or if you constantly criticize that?"
Paula Jones made the rounds of major media interviews in June, and the
liberals' reviews weren't exactly positive. While her Prime Time
Live interviewer, Sam Donaldson, told The Washington Times
"she tells a plausible story," Good Morning America
co-host Charles Gibson didn't think so in a June 16 interview with
Donaldson. "Sam -- `not trying to hurt the President?' Did she say
that with a straight face?...Why does anyone care what this woman has to
Time and Newsweek failed to use
their interviews with Jones. "We're certainly under no obligation
to print anything," Time Washington Bureau Chief Dan
Goodgame told The Washington Post. Instead, Time's
June 27 issue ran a Michael Kramer column on "Why Paula Jones
Should Wait," in which he touted Clinton's "impressive"
case. Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas told the Post:
"We didn't learn anything we didn't already know."
Instead, Newsweek repeated its attack on Jones in the July 11
issue: "Former Clinton aides from Arkansas are depicting Paula
Jones as a groupie, who, far from acting like a victim of harassment,
hung around Clinton's office `giggling and carrying on' after her
alleged hotel encounter."
Both Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine
published articles identically titled "Reagan's Revenge,"
blaming the former President for leaving Clinton penniless and unable to
implement his social agenda. In the June 19 Times Magazine,
liberal historian Alan Brinkley accused Reagan of forcing the Clinton
administration to consider "a kind of social cannibalism: raids on
such hitherto sacrosanct liberal programs such as food stamps, Medicare,
public assistance to legal immigrants and aid for the homeless."
Economic writer Rich Thomas declared in the July 4 Newsweek:
"The reason Clinton's programs aren't passing -- at least on the
grand scale he once envisioned -- is that there is no money....Bill
Clinton's frustration is Ronald Reagan's revenge. The two-term
Republican President, aided and abetted by a fiscally careless Congress,
left the federal coffers so depleted that it will be years before any
President has the funds to win passage of serious new policy
OMB estimates show the budget is rising $80-100 billion a year. Thomas
blamed "entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid ...(the latter two are rising $32 billion this year)," but
if Clinton held the line he could spend that $32 billion on his
programs. Instead he proposed a new health care entitlement the GOP 1994
Joint Economic Report calls "the largest entitlement program and
tax increase in U.S. history."
The current state of American cities a result of Reagan-Bush budget
slashing? Time thinks so. John Dickerson's May 23 article
propagated the myth of cities suffering from a funding drought during
the '80s. Discussing the new breed of budget-cutting mayors, Dickerson
noted grimly, "The mayors see little alternative. Since 1981,
two-thirds of federal support for the cities has dried up."
Dickerson told MediaWatch he got his statistics from the National League
of Cities, a lobbying group for big-city mayors. Included in the NLC's
tally are programs rejected by both parties, including revenue sharing
and Urban Development Action Grants, which subsidized construction of
five-star Hyatt hotels in inner-city Detroit.
The truth is more complicated. In "The Myth of
America's Underfunded Cities," Stephen Moore and Dean Stansel of
the Cato Institute showed that while direct aid to the cities went down,
"Aid to poor people living in cities increased. Federal social
welfare spending rose from $255 billion to $285 billion in real dollars
from 1980 to 1992." In fact, "In real terms, cities and states
received more federal money in 1992 than in any previous year."
Time's One-Party Ballot
Those who picked up the June 6 Time magazine found a postcard
enclosed, addressed to Congress, asking the reader to give their
preferred solution for the health care system. Billed as "A Chance
to Be Heard," the reader's choices consisted only of three
In a half-page summary of bills before Congress, Time
included the Clinton plan; "an alternative...palatable to many
conservatives, proposed by House Democrat Jim Cooper of Tennessee, would
rely on improved market competition through voluntary purchasing
cooperatives"; and finally, the "bill proposed by House
Democrat Jim McDermott of Washington. Modeled on the single-payer
Canadian system, it puts the government in charge of allocating health
Why no Republican health proposals? Perhaps Time's
favoritism for Democratic reform plans reflects company policy. After
all, corporate parent Time-Warner was the largest single donor to the
Democratic National Committee (DNC) over the past 21 months, according
to Common Cause, adding $508,333 to DNC coffers.
Knocking Sam Brown Down
The same Time magazine that attacked Reagan and Bush nominees
has now supported Clinton foreign policy nominees Morton Halperin,
Strobe Talbott, and Sam Brown. In a June 6 article on Sam Brown's
appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe, Time columnist Margaret Carlson began:
"Why are good people reluctant to serve in government? All the
civics student needs to know can be found in the saga of the nomination
of Sam Brown." Carlson said of Colorado's Republican Senator:
"No one understands why Hank Brown has decided to make Sam Brown
his personal nemesis..Some think Hank Brown simply wants to zing the
President, refight the Vietnam War and triumph over an old rival."
It could be about what the June 9 Washington Times
termed "some very vociferous and anti-American comments and actions
of Mr. Brown's over the years." In 1970 Brown declared: "Part
of me wanted to blow up buildings, and I decided that those who have
waged this war really should be treated as war criminals." In 1977,
while a Carter Administration official, he proclaimed: "I take
second place to no one in my hatred of the intelligence agencies."
That same year he participated in a New York rally staged by the
communist rulers of Vietnam. Yet Carlson claimed Brown "was at the
suit-and-tie end of the antiwar movement and was inside the convention
handling Senator Eugene McCarthy's delegates, nowhere near the Yippies."
East German Justice?
Stephen Wechsler is a U.S. Army deserter and unrepentant communist who
returned from East Germany after 42 years to attend his Harvard reunion.
To reporter Marc Fisher in a June 20 Washington Post
"Style" profile, he's "a soft kid who dreamed of
Fisher quoted Wechsler's recent "dream of a world
without hunger...racist violence...where every nationality and every
human being is equally regarded and equally secured from life's worst
hazards," but didn't mention the East German hazard of getting shot
while trying to escape. Instead, Fisher portrayed Wechsler as the
victim: "Wechsler's decision to lie about his communist activities
on his Army enlistment papers grew out of the intolerance of the
McCarthy years....He decided to flee rather than fight against the
ideological barriers and blacklists." Failing to quote anyone
critical of his support for a murderous regime, Fischer found space to
note that Wechsler informed a New York store clerk that "he had
gone 30 years without seeing beggars, that he had never seen muggers or
Today co-host Bryant Gumbel took on the Lake County (Fla.)
School Board policy stressing the superiority of America's heritage in
the curriculum. During the May 27 interview, Gumbel threw softballs to
Florida Secretary of Education Doug Jamerson, then became aggressive
while questioning State Rep. Tom Feeney, who defended the curriculum.
When Feeney said immigrants rush in because they think the U.S. is
superior, Gumbel retorted: "Don't they come to this country because
it affords them the kind of freedom from the very kind of superior
attitudes you're espousing?" Gumbel concluded: "Well, if they
are that superior, you shouldn't have to order people to teach it, it
seems, either, Mr. Feeney."
Christian Coalition Regularly
Placed on the Right, NAACP Almost Never on the Left
Religious Right vs. "Civil Rights"
Political action sizzled on both sides of the
ideological divide in June. Republican convention victories in Virginia,
Texas, and Minnesota spurred a new look at the dedication and muscle of
social conservatives. On the left, Ben Chavis, leader of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), convened a
summit of radical black leaders that included the anti-white,
anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
But the main difference between the two unfolding
stories was that reporters portrayed the social conservatives as the
"religious right" or even the "far right," while the
NAACP, instead of being criticized for legitimizing black racists like
Farrakhan, was portrayed as not being liberal enough, of trying to shake
itself out of a "moderate" cast.
CBS Evening News promos charged "Dolly
Madison McKenna is a moderate Republican. But hold on: she feels like a
stranger in her own party. Far-right conservatives want to stall her
candidacy. So ask yourself this: can a middle-of-the-road Republican
make it in today's GOP?" The June 13 story by Bob McNamara aired a
Texas Republican calling religious conservatives "more dangerous
than the threat of communism."
In that same newscast, reporter Jacqueline Adams
portrayed the NAACP negatively -- not as extreme, but as not liberal
enough. Adams said "this venerable civil rights organization seems
to have lost many who seem to still need its help" and was
struggling to "retain its relevance." Adams concluded that the
summit was "a far cry from marching on Washington or pushing
through voting rights legislation. But participants believed their
summit has symbolic value...Sadly, the leaders concede that hope is
perhaps the most this summit will produce."
To study the divergence in labeling, MediaWatch
analysts used the Nexis data retrieval system to review every news story
on the Christian Coalition and the NAACP from the start of 1991 to the
end of June in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today,
and The Washington Post. Reporters were 150 times more likely
to label the Christian Coalition "conservative" than tag the
In 157 of 328 stories (47.9 percent), the Christian
Coalition drew a conservative label. When reporters didn't label the
Christian Coalition as "conservative" or "religious
right," they often referred to the group as "Pat Robertson's
Christian Coalition," mentioning the Robertson link in 171 stories
By contrast, in 2,707 stories, reporters described the
NAACP as liberal only 8 times (0.3 percent). Analysts reviewed 281 news
stories on the separate NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (or as
they abbreviate it, LDF), which was labeled liberal only once (0.35
Reporters weren't always satisfied with the term
"conservative" to describe the Christian Coalition. The
Washington Post used "far right" once, "hard
right" once, and "religious zealots" once. The Los
Angeles Times called them "right-wing extremists." The New
York Times found them to be "hardliners." USA Today
turned to the adjectives "zealous" and "vociferous"
So did reporters classify the NAACP as "left-wing
zealots"? After all, in April, Chavis invited 50 black radicals to
a meeting, including rapper Sister Souljah, the Rev. Al Sharpton,
Professor Leonard Jeffries, who calls whites "ice people" who
are inferior to blacks, and Angela Davis, the two-time vice presidential
candidate of the Communist Party USA. Chavis and Davis have led the
National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a legal
defense arm of the Communist Party USA, as reported by Steven Schwartz
in last August's American Spectator. None of the newspapers reported
Reporters never used any label of extremism for the
NAACP. In fact, the NAACP's liberal labels were balanced by reporters
describing them as moderate or mainstream. The Washington Post
identified them as "liberal" twice (counting Clarence Thomas
seeking support from "more liberal NAACP members"), and cited
the group's official claim they're "nonpartisan" twice. The Los
Angeles Times described the NAACP as "liberal" twice, but
also as "moderate" once and "mainstream" once. USA
Today countered its two labels (including "largely
liberal") with one "nonpartisan."
The New York Times described the NAACP only
as "liberal to moderate" and among "groups that exert
great influence over liberal Democrats." But in news stories on
April 10 and 16, 1994, Times reporter Steven Holmes referred to
"conservatives and moderates within the NAACP" as objecting to
new leader Benjamin Chavis, and that the "mainstream"
organization was testing its relationships with "more radical
groups." Holmes did explain about Chavis: "His closest
advisers are a longtime legal counsel to...Louis Farrakhan and a former
official of the Marxist government in Grenada." But in June, the Times
wrote that the NAACP's secret "summit" spurred
"rumbles inside and outside of the traditionally moderate
organization." A Times Magazine article said the NAACP
"represented largely middle-class, politically moderate
Newspapers preferred the term "civil rights
group." On August 8, 1991, the Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights (which includes the NAACP) opposed Supreme Court nominee Clarence
Thomas, and the New York Times story was headlined:
"Another Rights Group Says No to Thomas." Six days later, the
LDF's opposition drew the Times headline: "Another Rights
Group Is Opposing Judge Thomas."
But on November 13, 1992, the Times announced
in a headline: "Conservatives Set to Fight on Judicial
Nominees." Reporter Neil Lewis wrote that Free Congress legal
specialist Thomas Jipping "would work with such groups as the
Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council, both with
unyielding conservative social agendas." The Los Angeles Times
couldn't even keep bias out of its TV listings on September 26, 1992:
"Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and Phyllis Schlafly,
President of the Eagle Forum, discuss the views of the far right on Meet
In the summer of 1992, The Washington Post
described the Christian Coalition when George Bush came to speak:
"the group many credit, and many blame, for pushing last month's
Republican National Convention dramatically to the right...According to
polls, many voters have not taken well to the fiercely anti-abortion,
anti-gay, anti-feminist rhetoric typified by the Christian Coalition,
the political arm of evangelist Pat Robertson."
the Bright Side
Peggy on Prayer
Recently, reporting of conservative Christians has
focused on their supposed "takeovers" of local school boards
and the GOP. But seldom-used ABC religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer began
a three part series of "American Agenda" segments examining
the hostility which Christian children and their beliefs often face in
On the June 21 World News Tonight, she noted:
"The courts banned school-sponsored prayer in 1962 and gradually
raised the wall of separation between church and state. Now many believe
the wall is too high, squeezing out religious expression that's
protected by the Constitution."
Wehmeyer made an often-ignored distinction. "The
First Amendment clearly protects the rights of students to pray and to
express their religious beliefs at school as long as they've initiated
it. It's the teachers or school authorities who aren't allowed to
endorse religion." Citing three students afraid to show their faith
in school, she realized "religion -- particularly conservative
Christianity -- is often unwelcome in the public square" and added
"Bill Bennett says anti-Christian bias is fashionable among the
nation's elite -- intellectuals who shape the courts, media, and
After airing an opposing viewpoint from liberal Barry
Lynn, Wehmeyer concluded that "when...religion is forbidden
altogether, children may get the troubling message that faith and
spirituality are of no value." Equally troubling has been the
rarity of news segments like Wehmeyer's on the networks.
France's Other Face
Running against the trend suggesting that America
emulate France's massive government programs, Newsweek's
Theodore Stanger and Marcus Mabry noted the other side of those
guarantees in a June 20 story: "Labor costs are already higher than
anywhere else except Germany...Total social-welfare costs equal nearly
45 percent of GNP, the highest share in the world." Stanger and
Mabry concluded that the idea of new state-subsidized menial jobs
"is not a solution. But it would be very French."
Dared to Call ABC News Liberal
Why Rooney Was Dumped
Recent comments from some ABC News staffers to The
Boston Globe revealed that Emily Rooney's declaration that the
media reflect a liberal bias was, in fact, a factor in getting her
deposed in January from her position as World News Tonight Executive
Producer. This month Rooney moved to Fox as Senior Producer of Front
Page, a news magazine show returning in new form this fall.
In an address at Harvard in February, Rooney recalled
how she had told Electronic Media last September that in
assembling the American Agenda segments "there is an editing
process that goes on intellectually in the newsroom that has to do with
contrary point of view and largely -- people in the media, because of
their activist point of view, are largely liberal. And my simple
statement was that I wanted to be more inclusive without being ponderous
and lecturing or trying to convert people to another point of
"It seemed honest and forthright and fairly tame
to me, but it created a lot of waves," Rooney explained in an April
17 appearance on Lifetime's Clapprood Live. Indeed. "It
was possibly the most brainless thing I ever saw in print," one
unidentified ABC reporter told Boston Globe TV critic Ed Siegel
in a June 12 article. The ABC reporter explained: "The `liberalism'
of the press is something I get a lot in letters or lectures. For me and
everybody in this business worth a damn, letting your point of view into
a story is something you don't allow to happen...For her to suggest
that's what we're doing -- I was incredulous, I thought she must have
been misquoted. That was an insult to everybody on the broadcast."
Siegel explained the indignation: "It is one
thing to be called a biased journalist by a right-wing talk show
host...it is another to be called that by your new boss." But
another quote cited by Siegel showed the problem may be that instead of
examining ABC's content, staffers believe image over reality: "One
ABC producer laughs at the notion of Arledge, Jennings or anyone else
who has suasion over network news being liberal thought police. `These
guys are millionaires driving around in fancy new cars and worrying
about how much more money they have to pay under the Clinton tax plan.
They're not liberals.'"
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