The New House Speaker's Journalistic Welcome Wagon
Newt Gingrich, "Radical Geek"
The dramatic Republican takeover of both
houses of Congress delivered to Washington a brand new Republican
Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Before the deluge, reporters
shuddered at the very thought of it.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs
found that in political stories on the networks between Labor Day and
October 20, Gingrich drew 100 percent negative evaluations from
reporters and talking heads.
CBS Evening News reporter Eric
Engberg stayed negative on November 2: "From the start, modesty was
not his style. Rejecting the House's gentlemanly ways, he waged such
constant guerrilla war against the Democrats he was attacked for
Engberg sounded like a negative ad:
"It's a record filled with contradictions: the family values
candidate who divorced his ailing first wife, the avowed enemy of dirty
politics who bounced 22 checks at the House Bank, and runs a big-dollar
political action committee that won't disclose its contributors."
Engberg concluded: "Gingrich himself, bombastic and ruthless, would
be the most dramatic change imaginable, a change the administration can
On the Nov. 4 World News Tonight
ABC's Jim Wooten said the Georgian's "slash-and-burn rhetoric
against Democrats has made him the poster boy for political resentment
and rage, and he's proud of it."
Time's November 7 cover story
argued: "Gingrich has been perfecting his ability to disrupt the
majority and move the opposition into an increasingly radical position
on the right." Richard Lacayo found Gingrich less intellectual than
obnoxious: "His ideas, which don't often come to grips with the
particulars of policymaking, may be less important than his signature
mood of righteous belligerence."
Newsweek took the attack to
another level with an article on Gingrich's personal life titled
"How `Normal' Is Newt?" Reporter Mark Hosenball explained:
"The answer is just as normal as many Americans -- at least the
ones who see their marriages fail, change their views and don't always
practice their professed beliefs." Hosenball unearthed such scoops
as his student protests at Tulane in favor of "obscene"
pictures. Newsweek captioned an old photo: "RADICAL
GEEK." NPR's Sunni Khalid remarked on C-SPAN's Journalists
Roundtable Oct. 14 that Gingrich was "looking at a more
scientific, a more civil way of lynching people."
After all this, NBC's Tom Brokaw and
CNN's Bernard Shaw asked on election night if Gingrich would
"moderate" his tone. The next morning between 5:30
and 10, CNN employed the words "partisan bomb-thrower" three
times, "combative" three times, and "fierce
On the Campaign Trail
A former network news
executive and a top level reporter have pitched in to try to re-elect or
elect a Kennedy. The Boston Globe relayed October 18 that David
Burke, President of CBS News from 1988-90, "is spending
the last few weeks of the fall campaign trying to help his old boss win
another term." His old boss? Senator Ted Kennedy, for whom Burke
served as Chief of Staff from 1965 to 1971. The Globe reported
that Burke, Vice President of ABC News from 1977 until taking the
Executive Vice President slot in 1986 for two years, took a leave from
the Dreyfus Fund so he could begin "traveling with the Senator on
the campaign trail and advising him on strategy."
A little to the south, former ABC News
foreign correspondent Pierre Salinger has put his money
behind Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant
Governor of Maryland. The October 23 Washington Post listed
Salinger, the Press Secretary to President Kennedy, as a contributor to
the campaign of Robert Kennedy's daughter.
Clintonite to Nightline
After contributing two producers to the White House staff, Nightline
is finally getting one in return. Dianna Pierce,
Special Assistant to the Counselor to the President, David
Gergen, in November became an Associate Producer of the ABC
show. An Administrative Editor at U.S. News & World Report starting
in 1990, where she worked for then Editor-at-Large Gergen, in mid-1993
she left with Gergen for the White House. A few months ago, Gergen and
Pierce moved over to the State Department. Gergen will begin teaching
political science at Duke University in January.
As she tries to book guests, Pierce will
have some administration contacts with a soft spot for the show to call
upon. Tara Sonenshine, an editorial producer for Nightline
until February, is now a Special Assistant to the President and
Deputy Director for Communications for the National Security Council.
Another Nightline producer through 1992, Carolyn Curiel,
currently writes speeches for the President.
A Frank Church Republican?
The new Executive Producer of CNBC's Equal Time, the nightly
show hosted by George Bush campaign aide Mary Matalin, has worked both
sides of the aisle, but only one has her heart. Susan Morrison,
who has spent the last three years with the PBS female talk show To
the Contrary, served as Deputy Communications Director for the 1980
Bush presidential campaign.
She took the job after two years as
Director of Communications for the Democratic National Committee. But
she hardly had a change of heart. "It was more selfish than any job
I've ever taken. I did it to see a presidential campaign from the
inside, period," she told The Washington Post. The 1980
story recalled that "there were moments... when Morrison is clearly
troubled by the ideological tenor of the Bush campaign. After a speech
in Concord, N.H., in which Bush waxed particularly Reaganesque, Morrison
confessed, 'I started thinking about issues today. I got
During the 1980s, Morrison, the field
coordinator for Frank Church's 1976 presidential attempt, served as
political assignment editor for ABC News, assignment manager for CBS
News and political reporter for the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.
Media Get One Wish in Senate
All Over Ollie North
The prospect of Senator Oliver North sent
reporters into attack mode. With 19,000 troops in Haiti, North worried
about the ability to adequately deploy to a second front. On October 12,
Lisa Myers insisted on the NBC Nightly News: "North has
been in hot water...since suggesting that Clinton has cut defense so
much, U.S. forces could not stop another attack on Kuwait by Saddam
Hussein....Most military experts say North is wrong."
Maybe, but Myers failed to check with one
expert. AP reported on October 18 that Defense Secretary William Perry
said in Beijing that the U.S. "is not yet ready to fight two wars
nearly simultaneously, Perry added, because of shortcomings in strategic
sealift and airlift capability and shortages of precision-guided
After Nancy Reagan and Al Gore criticized
North, on the October 28 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather declared:
"Despite these statements that North is a documented liar, North,
according to the polls, has a strong chance of defeating incumbent
Democrat and former Marine in Vietnam, Charles Robb....What's going on
here?" Eric Engberg summarized North's life: "He's been fired!
He beat felony jury convictions only on appeal! And, he's been condemned
by leaders in his own party."
Engberg marveled: "As incredible as
it may seem, many Virginians think this record of Oliver North's is
actually a qualification to be a Senator." He noted North would
benefit "from personal and public scandals that have touched the
incumbent." Engberg failed to describe Robb's scandals, but warned:
"A North victory...would hit Washington like a cavalry charge.
North's first confrontation with Congress was an epic. To the Washington
establishment, Senator North would be like Nightmare on Capitol
Hill, Part Two: Ollie's Back."
Robb ads falsely claimed North would cut
Social Security, driving 20 percent of the elderly into poverty, but the
cover of the November 7 Newsweek blared "Down &
Dirty" over a photo of North. On October 28, Gore claimed North's
support came from the "the extreme right wing, the extra-chromosome
right wing." Advocates for those with Down's syndrome, caused by an
extra chromosome, reacted with outrage, The Washington Times
reported. But Vice President Gore's remark was never reported by the
ABC Devotes Almost Two Hours to New Book Full of Sexual Allegations Against Thomas
Another Rerun of I Believe
For more than two years, the national
media have insisted that the personal life of politicians, in particular
Bill Clinton, have no relevance to their public careers, and have
followed through on that belief by refusing to devote any substantial
air time or column inches to the questions surrounding Clinton's
personal life. The stories of Gennifer Flowers or the state troopers on
Clinton's personal security detail have been downplayed, as have the
sexual harassment claims of Paula Jones.
That is not a standard these same
journalists feel compelled to uphold for conservative officials, proven
most dramatically by the sexual harassment allegations against Justice
Clarence Thomas. Six days before the November 8 elections, ABC News
decided to promote a new book by Wall Street Journal reporters
Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer, Strange Justice, that argued that
Democrats did not look hard enough into the sexual proclivities of
Thomas before his confirmation. For boldly demonstrating a liberal
double standard without the benefit of relevant new evidence against
Thomas, ABC earned the Janet Cooke Award.
ABC's World News Tonight
reported only three stories on Flowers in 1992, six stories on the
trooper allegations in 1993, and nine so far on the Jones story in 1994.
But ABC reported 15 stories in the first five days after Hill's 1991
allegations. While Good Morning America did interview pro-Hill
reporter Tim Phelps on his book Capitol Games, it failed to
interview pro-Thomas reporter David Brock on his book The Real Anita
Hill. At the time, Media-Watch asked GMA
spokesperson Kathy Rehl why. She said Phelps got an interview because
his book came first. When asked if merit was considered, Rehl replied
"We don't consider things like that."
ABC devoted not only 60 minutes of Turning
Point and 30 minutes of Nightline on November 2, but
also another three interview segments on Good Morning America
November 2 and 3. But what did it have that was "news"?
Forrest Sawyer began Turning Point by suggesting that Anita
Hill was "breaking her long silence." In addition to making an
estimated $500,000 on the lecture circuit, she has done at least eight
network interviews since the hearings, the latest earlier this year.
Sawyer called it the "untold story" of the unheard testimony
of Angela Wright, Rose Jourdain, and Sukari Hardnett. But U.S. News
touted the same "untold story" in 1992.
The "untold story" not only
lacked much of anything new, but also anything truly damaging. None of
this testimony offered direct evidence of Thomas harassing Hill. None of
the women claimed Thomas had sexually harassed them. ABC's only new
claims came from Kaye Savage, who only claimed that she had seen Playboy
centerfolds and magazines in Thomas's apartment in 1983, and Edward
Jones, who suggested Hill's claims sounded like the Thomas he knew in
Turning Point pretended to be
balanced by airing comments from former White House counsel Boyden Gray,
Republican Sens. John Danforth, Alan Simpson, and Hank Brown, and former
minority counsel Thomas Dadou. A few soundbites defended Thomas. But ABC
focused only on evidence against Thomas; any refutation of that evidence
or focus on Hill's credibility was omitted or ridiculed -- by a
McQueen asserted: "Behind the
scenes, Thomas's allies were organizing an aggressive attack on Hill's
credibility." Anti-Hill affidavits were described by GOP staffer
Dadou: "Letters from former students of hers with outlandish and
outrageous allegations...They all sounded similar. They all had
allegations of pubic hairs in blue book exams. I read them and I just
thought they were ridiculous and I threw them in the garbage."
Later, McQueen reported that the four
women stood by while attorney John Doggett testified against Hill.
McQueen again turned to Dadou: "The women staffers were just, you
know, sort of howling at the idea of this nymphomaniac going around. It
just seemed ridiculous." On the other hand, ABC promoted the
anti-Thomas witnesses never called. David Brock mentioned all but Savage
in The Real Anita Hill, especially Wright. Like Hill, Wright
did not come forward voluntarily, but unlike Hill, she denied she had
been sexually harassed. ABC noted Wright had been fired by Thomas, but
not that she had been fired by Rep. Charlie Rose (D-N.C.), by the
Republican National Committee, and the Agency for International
Development (AID), where she accused supervisor Kate Semerad of racism
when Semerad appeared before the Senate for confirmation. Former AID
Deputy Administrator Jay Morris wrote the Judiciary Committee saying
"I am struck by the startling parallels between what Ms. Wright did
then and what she is doing now. She vowed vengeance on a former
supervisor for dismissal on the basis of competence."
The woman who "corroborated"
Wright, Rose Jourdain, was also fired. While ABC mentioned the firings,
it omitted Brock's finding that "the details in Jourdain's
statement...were not contained in Wright's own statement." Diane
Holt, Thomas's assistant, told Brock that Jourdain "was writing a
book, and she worked on her book all day. She never did any work."
Jourdain told pro-Hill reporter Tim Phelps she was fired over political
differences with Thomas.
Sukari Hardnett's statement to the Senate
Judiciary Committee plainly declared "I am not claiming I was the
victim of sexual harassment." She claimed there was a "sexual
dimension" to the office, but provided no specifics. Barbara
Lawrence, who shared an office with Hardnett, told Brock that Thomas
"spent a lot of time trying to help her. But I know there was
nothing more than that. I saw them every day." Hardnett also tried
to interest the liberal group Alliance for Justice in her allegations
when Thomas was nominated, according to David Savage's book Turning
ABC refused to return repeated phone
calls. But David Brock contacted ABC when he learned of the program, and
received a letter from McQueen dated November 2 that read: "We are
not doing a `survey of the literature' and thus we did not interview
you; or Timothy Phelps of Newsday; or Nina Totenberg, who
occasionally contributes to Nightline; or Toni Morrison, who
edited a fine collection of essays from the hearings; or the authors of
several academic papers....We focused on the principals, who are the
Senators and some staff members, and potential witnesses."
But ABC also refused to interview
pro-Thomas witnesses from the EEOC like Armstrong Williams or Phyllis
Berry Myers. "They did not want to disturb their story line,"
Brock told MediaWatch. "It's a lot like
ABC's hour on the October Surprise [on Nightline June 20,
1991]: they invested two years in it, they had nothing, but they had to
air it anyway."
Liberal of the Week
From January 1988 to December 1993 ABC's World News Tonight
awarded 44 identifiable liberals or Democrats with the title
"Person of the Week" while only nine conservatives received
the same acclaim.
On October 14, the tradition continued
when Forrest Sawyer heaped praise on Fred Wertheimer, President of
Common Cause. "For 24 years, he has been Washington's most visible
and, arguably most powerful ethics watchdog....and has nothing nice to
say about Republicans Bob Dole or Newt Gingrich." Sawyer explained
that Wertheimer "wants to free our politicians from the purse
strings of special interest groups," forgetting that Common Cause
is itself a lobbying organization for federal funding of congressional
elections, another reach into taxpayers' pockets.
Another Erroneous Rush
Under the headline of "The Wicked Late Night Ways And Bad Advice of
Rush Limbaugh," Washington Post economics columnist Hobart
Rowen did just what he condemned Limbaugh for doing: spreading
disinformation. Noting that a recent panel discussion explored how
"radio and TV talk shows have become a chief source of
disinformation for the public," Rowen charged: "No one is more
responsible for that trend than Rush Limbaugh."
Rowen recalled how Limbaugh, on his TV
show, "ran a brief segment of the first TV debate between
Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Republican challenger Mitt
Romney, in which the Senator's voice was slowed so much that it sounded
like he was talking guttural nonsense. He played it over and over, and
his studio audience loved the childish exercise."
It's hard to imagine how a professional
reporter could confuse a debate in ornate Faneuil Hall with a Kennedy
rally in a high school gym, crowded with people including a clapping
Bill Clinton, but that's just what Rowen managed to do. On October 25,
in a show taped hours before the Senate debate even occurred, Limbaugh
ran a clip of Kennedy speaking a week earlier as his words became
unintelligible. For a bit of humor Limbaugh suggested what Kennedy may
have uttered, scrolling across the screen: "We're gonna start on
the '96 campaign to elect Bill Clinton as unelectable as any of us
are." Maybe Rowen should stick to promoting liberal economic
When Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Prize, Time magazine
lamented that Arafat and past winners have engaged in violence. In the
October 24 issue, the "Chronicles" section reminded readers
that the "Nobel Peace Prize...often goes to leaders with less than
Gandhi-like resumes." Among those listed, former Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger, because "Kissinger and [North Vietnam's Le Duc]
Tho played key roles in the prosecution of the war in Indochina. Total
dead between 1965 and 1975: more than 2 million." Time
also chastised a President on Mount Rushmore, claiming "as Vice
President and President, [Theodore] Roosevelt promoted imperial
adventures like the Spanish-American War and the Philippine
Insurrection. Total dead: more than 205,000."
Notably absent -- Time "Man
of the Decade" Mikhail Gorbachev, who dispatched tanks into
Lithuania to crush their rebellion. Even Today's Bryant Gumbel,
interviewing former Nobel Committee member Kaare Kristiansen on October
14, asked if Arafat had "any more blood on his hands than F.W. de
Klerk, or Mikhail Gorbachev, who converted to peace only after years of
Author, Scholar, Rich White Boob
With the release of The Bell Curve, co-author Charles Murray
found himself the subject of much media scrutiny. Rather than keeping
the focus on the book, some in the media, like NBC's Brian Williams,
chose instead to dismiss Murray as less scholar than ideologue, a
"darling of many on the political right." Others suggested he
was just out of touch.
In an October 9 New York Times
Magazine piece titled "The Most Dangerous Conservative,"
reporter Jason DeParle mused: "The man who would abolish welfare
was flying to Aspen, Colo., sipping champagne in the first-class cabin
and spinning theories about the society unraveling 30,000 feet
below." He later added: "He will never be the country's most
famous conservative, but he may well be the most dangerous." In a
letter to the Times, Murray's wife revealed that her husband
used frequent-flyer miles to bump himself and DeParle up to first class
so that DeParle could "interview him in peace." ABC reporter
Judd Rose went further on the October 27 Prime Time Live: "He
lives well with his wife and children in a lovely home in a lovely area.
From there, it's awfully easy to lecture the poor about being solid
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Sound like
the media on the Reagan years? No, it's the state of the economy during
the "Clinton recovery." But unlike coverage of Census poverty
reports during the Reagan and Bush years, the media drew no tie to
Clinton. On the October 6 Nightly News, NBC's Robert Hager
noted: "The number of poor people living in America grew to a
three-decade high of 39 million last year -- a year that was supposed to
have been one of economic recovery...[and] compares to just 32 million
in 1989." Hager also found that "Median household income
dropped to $31,200." Rather than decry the Clinton administration's
policies, Hager said meekly that "White House economic adviser
Laura Tyson says this year should be better."
ABC and CNN both ignored the story, while
CBS's coverage of the rise in poverty to the highest level in ten years
consisted of a brief report by anchor Connie Chung, quickly followed by
a story on increased car sales. But back in 1991, CBS led the newscast
with the news of a rise in poverty. Reporter Richard Threlkeld claimed:
"Over the past 20 years, the rich have been getting richer at the
expense of the middle class" and asserted "the social safety
net is the weakest it's been for any recession in the last 40
years." What happened to CBS's compassion for the poor?
Justice Savaged Again
In the October 9 Los Angeles Times Magazine, David
Savage's cover story "Lone Justice" reprised the "silent,
aloof and frequently dogmatic" Justice Clarence Thomas. Savage
rehashed the old thesis of how an agenda-wielding right-winger in
compassionate clothing lied his way onto the Supreme Court.
Savage wrote that after his confirmation
hearings, "Thomas retreated into the silence that protects a judge
who is even more rigid and dogmatic than his opponents feared. He has
compiled the most conservative record on a conservative court and
lambasted his opponents for refusing to go further in changing the
law.... Some had expected him to show a special sensitivity because of
his background, but instead he urged the court to overturn past rulings
So how did Thomas, who "staked out a
position on the far right," secure his seat? By misleading the
Senate, of course. "There is ample reason to believe that he did
not honestly describe his legal views in his testimony before the
Judiciary Committee." Savage quoted University of Virginia law
professor Pamela Karlan: "He's shown no capacity for growth....He
clearly lied to them about legal issues. I think he perjured
himself" when he said he hadn't discussed the legal issues behind Roe
v. Wade. We await Savage's analysis of how David Souter's liberal
record corresponds to his conservative confirmation statements.
In a fully-built, but yet to be opened, Denver International Airport has
again become news, but the media continue to ignore the role of DIA's
biggest backer, former Denver mayor and current Transportation Secretary
Federico Pena. In an October 18 CBS Evening News report, Bob
McNamara cited a "baggage system savaging suitcases, runways that
are cracked, and questionable contract awarding...the litany of problems
has led to [FBI and GAO] investigations." He concluded: "The
new airport has become an expensive reminder that the old airport wasn't
so bad." McNamara never mentioned Pena, but in the December 1993 American
Spectator, Michael Fumento revealed Pena's opposition to an airport
referendum, and his cronyism in awarding contracts. Though Clinton in
nominating Pena declared "his legacy includes the new Denver
International Airport," reporters continue to ignore Pena's role.
CBS, which hypes links between pesticides and cancer, took another angle
when a new study suggested abortions lead to an increased cancer risk.
On the April 20, 1993 Evening News, reporter Dr. Bob Arnot
warned: "DDT could help explain the sharp increase in breast cancer
over the last 20 years. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute
reports today that high levels of DDT are linked to a four times greater
risk of breast cancer, even if women weren't otherwise at risk....80
percent of cancer risks are unknown, but advocacy groups say
contamination of the environment may be the biggest and most overlooked
cause of today's epidemic."
When the new abortion study appeared in
the same journal, Dan Rather grew cautious on the Oct. 26 Evening
News: "A new medical study tonight indicates a possible
connection between abortion and breast cancer," adding "The
researchers say more study is needed to confirm the findings." NBC,
ABC and CNN issued similar disclaimers. On CBS This Morning the
next day, co-host Paula Zahn asked epidemiologist Janet Daling, who
headed the study: "You hear this number, fifty percent increase in
risk, and you say this sounds terrible. Put this number into perspective
for us this morning. How big of a deal is it?"
Soured by the loss of health "reform," PBS omni-presence Bill
Moyers explained "how media and money buried" Clinton's noble
effort. In The Great Health Care Debate on October 7 Moyers
theorized why the people's reform wishes failed: "The Clintons had
brought forth a nightmarish creature from Jurassic Park, so
frightening in size and strangeness that people panicked. Powerful
forces, unwilling to share their turf, rained down boiling propaganda on
the beast, and Republican holy warriors, eager to finish off the
creature and bleed its master, too, scorched the earth with
Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, funded
by the pro-Clinton Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, scorned Clinton's
opponents, whose ads frightened people with "false" labels
like "socialized medicine." Leading the list: Rush Limbaugh,
who Moyers said "repeatedly resorted to fear and scare
tactics....all of that talent, almost all of it, devoted to the politics
of destruction." Jamieson complained: "For three hours you can
listen to Rush Limbaugh and you don't get to listen to the other
side." This being a Moyers show, it featured only liberals: Moyers,
Jamieson, and Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity.
CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer devoted his October 8 "Washington
Notebook" feature to "The filibuster -- once the exception,
now the Senate's favorite pastime.... Whoever's at fault, one thing is
certain; filibusters are more popular than ever. There were only sixteen
of them in the entire 19th century. In this session of Congress alone,
there have been more than 60." If Schieffer had interviewed Sen.
Don Nickles (R-Okla.), he would have explained the 103rd Congress
enacted 424 laws, 17 of them subject to filibuster, of which four were
killed, three by the Republicans. But Schieffer, reflecting the media
attitude that passing laws is always good, could only complain:
"You have to wonder, though, if they ever wonder about [how] it
makes the rest of us feel."
Conservatism Gets Little Credit After Election-Night Tradition of Blaming It For Losses
The Non-Ideological GOP
November 8, 1994 may become known in
Democratic circles as "Bloody Tuesday," the historic day in
which they lost eight Senate seats and 52 House seats to a new GOP
majority in both houses of Congress. Not one Republican incumbent lost
in House, Senate, or gubernatorial contests. Could it be a repudiation
of Clinton's liberal policies, or a vote for conservative policies in
the Contract with America, as Republicans claimed? Or was it a surly
electorate voting against incumbents in favor of generic
"change" as Democrats asserted?
To determine the media's initial
reaction, MediaWatch reviewed seven hours of
CNN on election night, broadcast network prime time [portions shown on
Washington, D.C. affiliates] as well as the special Nightline,
plus the three broadcast network morning shows Nov. 9. The networks
failed to portray the sweep as a GOP or conservative mandate. Overall,
the four networks portrayed it as a result of voter anger or of their
non-ideological anti- Clinton feelings, not an affirmation of their
desire for con- servative policies or a rejection of Clinton's liberal
In the past reporters haven't hesitated
to blame conservative policies for causing GOP losses. During CBS
coverage of the 1990 mid-term election, Ed Bradley declared: "If
there's anything that we heard at the polls today, it was the sound of
Reaganomics crashing all around us. If there's anything left of Reagan's
trickle-down theory, Dan, it seems to be anxiety which seems to be
trickling down through just about every segment of our society." In
1992 on CNN Catherine Crier, now with 20/20, offered this
analysis of Bush's loss: "We remember the convention in Houston,
the Patrick Buchanans and the very conservative movement that took over
-- looks like it may have hurt the President."
This year the network take matched the
Democratic spin 20 times: On ten occasions reporters and anchors blamed
an angry electorate. Four times they blamed an
"anti-incumbent" or "anti- Washington" mood. In six
instances, three from CNN analyst Bill Schneider, reporters read the
results to mean the public voted for bipartisan cooperation. In
addition, generic "anti-Clinton" attitudes were cited 12
In contrast, on just five occasions did
reporters specifically raise voter concern about Clinton's liberal
policies, usually health care. During NBC's prime time coverage, Tim
Russert suggested that "in the eyes of the American people"
Clinton's health care proposal was "a large, liberal program"
and "tonight the voters have been saying, `No, we don't want that.
We want to check that and we want more modest and incremental
Only ABC explicitly suggested, in a
comment from George Will on Nightline and in a question from
Charlie Gibson on Good Morning America, that the results showed
the public wished for more conservative policies. Other than Cokie
Roberts noting how one winner "was so proud of the Republican
contract," and Brit Hume noting on GMA that "Mr. Gingrich was
right" about its popularity, the networks failed to credit the
Contract. In fact, reporters criticized it more often. On Today,
Lisa Myers asserted: "It doesn't add up Katie, there's no way that
they can pass all of it or implement it." Some representative
Angry Electorate. Dan
Rather to Bob Dole during prime time: "Obviously there's a lot of
anger and frustration out there. Republicans have tailored their
campaigns, nothing wrong with that, around that. How do you transform
all that anger into something positive for the country?"
Paula Zahn to Bob Dole on CBS This
Morning: "It is interesting that you have so many victories to
celebrate this morning, but at the same time, our exit polling shows
that people are more angry at politicians than they are excited about
having Republicans back in power in both houses."
NBC's Gwen Ifill on Today:
"They're dissatisfied with the idea that nothing happened. In fact,
Bill Clinton did a lot of things, he kept a lot of his promises. But
there's a real surliness afloat out there of people who feel as if
things they were entitled to didn't come to them. We talked a lot this
morning about the angry white male, the people who feel like they had
been pushed aside and other people are benefitting." A few minutes
later Katie Couric asked Senator-elect Olympia Snowe: "What do you
think is behind the so-called surliness of the voters that Gwen just
described. Why do you think they're so angry?"
Anti-Incumbent Mood. Ted
Koppel to Tony Coelho on Nightline: "To what degree does
this represent not so much perhaps a rejection of President Clinton, or
even Democratic programs, but just this sort of cycle of frustration
that has the American voter every year two years throwing out whoever is
CNN's Schneider election night on why
Senator Jim Sasser lost: "Because the top issue in Tennessee was
the voters felt it was time for a change. That was the top issue and
almost all of them voted for the Republican candidate, Bill Frist."
Schneider on Democrat Bob Carr's loss in Michigan: "Carr has been
on the defensive in this, because he's been depicted by [Spencer]
Abraham as a Washington insider."
Tom Brokaw offered this bizarre
explanation as to why the more conservative candidate won the Texas
gubernatorial race: "George W. Bush, a lot of people believe,
including some friends of the former President himself, that Texans are
in a way paying back the family because, after all, George and Barbara
Bush did move back down to Houston. A lot of other folks think that
maybe the women in Texas took a look at Barbara Bush and thought that
her son was running, `We can help her out this time.'"
A Vote for Bipartisanship.
Schneider on election night: "I think the American people were
actually sending a message and it wasn't a partisan message. They voted
for a Democrat for President, now they voted for a Republican Congress.
Could the American people be saying `We want bipartisanship, we want to
put an end to bipartisanship'? That could be the message in the election
returns from 1992 and 1994." And a half hour later: "The
cynics would say this was a vote for gridlock, but I think it's easier
to say, and the data points to the conclusion, that it was a vote for
bipartisanship, for centrism."
Bad News for GOP! Late
on election night, CNN's Mary Tillotson managed to twist the news back
onto the "Festival of Hate" GOP: "My memory after that
'92 convention the Republicans held in Texas, is that a lot of people,
even Republicans, said `Good Lord, what have we done?' because the party
seemed to have skewed to the right. Well the whole country gets to see
that now. It's at least conceivable they set up their own defeat in '96,
the Bright Side
In an October 26 special The Blame
Game: Are We a Nation of Victims? ABC's John Stossel examined how
traditional American precepts of self-reliance and responsibility have
given way to dependence and victimology. Earlier this century, he noted,
immigrants "risked their lives to get here...There was no welfare,
no Medicare, no safety net except the kindness of friends. Nothing was
offered them but freedom and opportunity. What they brought was their
self-reliance, the sense that they were responsible for their
destiny...the immigrants built the most successful, most prosperous
society the world has ever seen." That era is gone.
Stossel explained: "If you steal
money, mutilate your husband, kill your parents, it's because you're a
victim. If you're caught smoking crack, you're a victim of a racist
plot...If we're victims, we're not responsible for what we do...[and]
lots of us turn to the government, where good intentions can lead to
some pretty outrageous results."
Take the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He exposed the "ADA we hear less about. This is a powerful
law." He cited an $800 million suit by government workers claiming
that because of 'multiple chemical sensitivity,' their building made
them sick. Despite eight years and thousands of dollars in renovations,
Stossel noted "there's debate in the medical community whether
multiple chemical sensitivity even exists." Wondering "what is
a reasonable accommodation?" he found "laws this vague invite
so-called victims to be inventive." He added "the ADA is just
the newest of five civil rights laws establishing special protections
against discrimination for lots of other groups. And suing under these
laws is now more lucrative than ever."
After interviewing Al Sharpton, who
claimed blacks were victims of a racist society, Stossel questioned
Caribbean immigrants, "whose skin is just as dark, whose ancestors
were also cruelly enslaved. They come to America with no money,
sometimes even unable to speak English...the Census Bureau says they are
more likely to find jobs, less likely to go on welfare." The
difference? "Marcos [an immigrant] says the American welfare system
He concluded on a somber note:
"We've come a long way since Ellis Island. To try to make America a
kinder place we created huge bureaucracies to help every victim. We
built a system that rewards victims. Unfortunately, when you do that,
you get more people acting like victims."
Reporters Believed Clinton Sex Tales
The Sultans of So What?
The media continue to snub allegations of
Bill Clinton's sexual impropriety, documents a new book from the Center
for Media and Public Affairs. In When Should the Watchdogs Bark? authors
Larry Sabato and Robert Lichter found the allegations by Paula Jones and
the Arkansas state troopers were "barely touched by most media
outlets." From November 1993 to August 1994, CMPA found the network
evening news shows broadcast 34 stories about Paula Jones and the
troopers, compared to 277 stories about Whitewater. Still, scandal news
accounted for only five percent of Clinton's network coverage.
Why the disparities? Many reporters were
embarrassed by the allegations. Even after 10 hours of interviewing the
troopers for a never-aired story, CBS reporter Scott Pelley told the
authors: "'We just felt, not to sound pompous in any way, but it
didn't rise to the level of something that we wanted to put on the
Evening News." Many reporters who talked to the troopers
believed them. The Los Angeles Times' Bill Rempel said,
"When we were done reporting, we didn't have any doubt that the
stories we heard were true in substance." ABC's Jim Wooten told the
authors, "Yeah, I think [the troopers] were telling the
truth," but "I don't have any interest in who he was sleeping
with then or who he's screwing now."
Lichter and Sabato noted that while most
believed the troopers, 77 percent of stories on them were negative. At
the same time, "Almost half (49 percent) of all evaluations of Mr.
Clinton's behavior in scandal-related news stories supported the
President." Almost twice as many stories were broadcast about
Jones' credibility than her accusations and her coverage was 67 percent
negative. Compare that to a previous CMPA study which found Anita Hill
received 66 percent positive coverage during the Thomas battle. The
snubbing continues: Jones' October 25 press conference received only a
brief mention on the NBC Nightly News.
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