Use of "Far
Right" and "Extreme" Labels Link Conservatives and Terrorists
McVeigh: Newt's Protegé?
It took just two days after the FBI tied
Timothy McVeigh to the April 19 Oklahoma City bombing for conservatives
to be blamed. Sam Donaldson asked Morris Dees on This Week April 23: "To
what extent, if any, do you think the political rhetoric to which you
just referred has helped cause a climate in which people could go in
that direction...rhetoric which says, not just against big government,
or liberal government, or dishonest government, but `government is the
On CNN's Capital Gang that night, The
Washington Post's Juan Williams argued: "You have angry white men here,
sort of in their natural state, and you know, gone berserk.... some
fanatic extreme, and I will grant you that. But it's the same kind of
idea that has fueled so much of the right-wing triumph over the agenda
here in Washington."
"Public antagonism toward government,"
Boston Globe D.C. Bureau Chief David Shribman wrote on page one April
25, "has been voiced and amplified by the new Republican House, which
just this month completed its 100 days of action, much of it aimed at
paring back the growth of the federal government. But now that an attack
on a government building has left scores dead, including children, the
allure is coming off the anti-government rhetoric."
Michael Kramer held Newt Gingrich
culpable in Time on May 1: "Gingrich recently praised incendiary
language as a key to winning elections." He noted "there is of course no
straight line between any of this and Oklahoma," but Kramer nonetheless
charged: "If the perpetrators...really view government as the people's
enemy, the burden of fostering that delusion is borne not just by the
nut cases who preach conspiracy but also to some extent by those who
erode faith in our governance in the pursuit of their own ambitions."
"Can GOP candidates keep the support of
the powerful far right and still repudiate its scary fringe?," read the
subhead over a May 8 Newsweek piece. But reporters implied there's
little difference between Republicans and anarchists. Exactly one week
before the bombing, Bernard Shaw asked presidential candidate Bob Dornan
on Inside Politics: "What do you say to people who say that you are an
extremist, that you're a right-winger, that you're a nut, that you're a
The next day, CBS's Connie Chung
announced that Dornan "claims he's the right man for the job, as in far
right." The day before the bombing, Today looked at a Colin Powell
candidacy. Bryant Gumbel wondered: "Is it realistic to think that angry
white males and far-right extremists, who are now so politically active,
would ever vote for a black man for President, no matter how qualified?"
Former CBS and ABC News executive David Burke,
described by John Carmody in the April 28 Washington Post as a
"longtime Democratic adviser and confidant," has revolved back into
politics. President Clinton nominated Burke, President of CBS News from
1988 to 1990, to serve as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of
Governors for the International Bureau of Broadcasting. According to the
Post, the board is "responsible for policy and budgetary oversight for
all non-military and international broadcasting services under the U.S.
Last fall The Boston Globe learned that
Burke, Chief of Staff to Senator Ted Kennedy from 1965 to 1971, was
pitching in as an adviser to the Senator's re-election effort. In
February, Burke, who served as VP of ABC News for 11 years before
jumping to CBS, accompanied Clinton on a trip to California in order to
"provide political and communications tips," The Wall Street Journal
Too Irrelevant to Stay?
Several Clinton officials with media ties have decided
to move on. At the State Department, Douglas Bennet Jr., Asst. Secretary
for International Organization Affairs, resigned to become President of
Wesleyan University in July. President of National Public Radio for a
decade from 1983 until Clinton tapped him, Bennet headed the Agency for
International Development in the Carter administration....
Over at the Defense Department, Vernon Guidry Jr., a
policy assistant to Deputy Secretary John Deutch, has left to form a
lobbying and PR firm. Former Defense Secretary Les Aspin brought Guidry,
a defense reporter for the Baltimore Sun from 1980 to 1987, with him to
the Pentagon from the House Armed Services Committee where he had been
Staff Director under Chairman Aspin....
Closer to the White House, Thomas Ross, Special
Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Public Affairs at the
National Security Council, is moving to the private sector in New York,
The Washington Post reported. Thomas, Senior Vice President of
NBC News from 1986-89, had been Washington Bureau Chief for the
Chicago Sun Times until President Carter named him Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
Speechwriter Eliot Brenner is now pounding out the
words for his third boss since leaving United Press International. After
handling the defense beat for UPI, in late 1991 he signed on with
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. In 1993 he moved across the Potomac to
the Treasury Department where he toiled for Secretary Lloyd Bentsen.
Clinton's second Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, has decided to keep
Brenner as his speechwriter.
Jack Kole, Press Secretary to Democratic Congressman
David Obey since 1989, has moved to the Appropriations Committee to
serve as Press Secretary for the minority side. From 1964 to 1989 Kole
was the Washington Bureau Chief for the Milwaukee Journal....David
Beckwith, Press Secretary to Vice President Quayle and Communications
Director for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for the past two years, has
left the Texan to run the government affairs office in Washington for
EDS Corp. For most of the 1980s Beckwith covered politics and the White
House for Time magazine.
Hosts Blamed For Bombing
Blasting Talk Radio
Even before President Clinton criticized radio talk
shows, reporters had targeted hosts for culpability in the April 19
Oklahoma bombing. Just four days later, on the April 23 Face the
Nation, Bob Schieffer asked White House Chief of Staff Leon
Panetta: "There's been a lot of anti-government rhetoric, it comes over
talk radio, it comes from various quarters. Do you think that somehow
has led these people to commit this act? Do they feed on that kind of
When Clinton articulated his criticism the next day,
ABC's Peter Jennings surmised "he clearly had the words of many ultra-
conservative talk radio hosts in mind." Jackie Judd then showed excerpts
of "anger and fingerpointing" on shows before concluding that "President
Clinton's plea to lower the volume seemed lost today in all of the cross
On April 25, Today's Bryant Gumbel slyly
noted that "while no one's suggesting right-wing radio jocks approve of
violence, the extent to which their approach fosters violence is being
questioned by many observers, including the President."
Two papers weighed in. In a Washington Post
column that morning, political reporter David Broder was more specific:
"The bombing shows how dangerous it really is to inflame twisted minds
with statements that suggest political opponents are enemies. For two
years, Rush Limbaugh described this nation as `America Held Hostage' to
the policies of the liberal Democrats, as if the duly elected President
and Congress were equivalent to the regime in Tehran. I think there will
be less tolerance and fewer cheers for that kind of rhetoric."
In an April 26 front page Los Angeles Times
"news analysis," Nina Easton declared: "The Oklahoma City attack on
federal workers and their children also alters the once-easy dynamic
between charismatic talk show host and adoring audience. Hosts who
routinely espouse the same anti-government themes as the militia
movement now must walk a fine line between inspiring their audience --
and inciting the most radical among them."
Time's Richard Lacayo
added in the May 8 issue: "In a nation that has entertained and appalled
itself for years with hot talk on the radio and the campaign trail, the
inflamed rhetoric of the '90s is suddenly an unindicted co-conspirator
in the blast."
ABC Uses First "For the
Record" Segment to Attack Republican "Legislating by Anecdote"
Sticking Up for
Beware the network "truth squad," for their monitoring
talents are designed almost solely for Republican arguments. In 1992,
ABC and the other networks decried the "lying" of Bush ads claiming
taxes would go up in a Clinton era. In 1994, anti-Clinton health plan
ads drew the ire of ABC’s Tom Foreman. For again singling out the GOP as
inaccurate, reporter Ned Potter earned the May Janet Cooke Award.
Peter Jennings began the April 3 World News Tonight
story: "As Congress goes on debating the Republican Contract with
America we’ve been hearing a lot of claims and counter-claims used to
justify or oppose specific provisions. Tonight we’re going to create a
regular segment where in the past we’ve done occasional reporting. The
idea is to identify in the Congress what is truth and what is political
rhetoric. We’re going to call it For the Record."
Potter explained: "This story is about stories told in
Congress. Like the one about the regulators who wouldn’t let kids take
their first baby teeth home from the dentist. . .Then there’s the tale
of the pineapple pesticide. Congressmen complain every city has to test
for it, even though it’s only used in Hawaii. . .Stories like those were
common in Congress even before the Contract with America. But for the
record, you sometimes find they’re not quite true."
Who said? "OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, claims the tooth fairy story is simple: medial offices
must follow safety rules against hepatitis and AIDS, but you can still
give a child his own tooth. And as for that pineapple pesticide, it was
a carcinogen used on 40 different crops. It’s still found above safety
levels in 19 states."
Potter added: "Take the tale of the white-out bottle,
told by Congressman John Mica." ABC showed a clip of Rep. Mica (R.-Fla.):
"EPA rules force a dentist to keep logs for possession and disposal of
white-out. Is that a good use of our resources?" Potter rebutted: "Not
so, says OSHA. Its rules are meant to protect against major health
risks, not against a bookkeeper using correcting fluid."
The May 1 National Review questioned ABC’s
claims: "OSHA’s Blood Borne Pathogen Standard labels bodily tissues as
biohazards. Teeth are considered tissue, and technically must therefore
be placed in a red bag and picked up by a licensed disposer.
Furthermore, because certain brands of white-out contain toluene, OSHA
requires the Manufacturers Safety Data Sheets be kept in office files.
Dr. Edward Stein, a health scientist at OSHA, says that white-out’s
levels of toluene are far below those which concern OSHA and that the
requirement does not pertain to offices with fewer than 10 people.
However, he concedes that if an individual in an office with fewer than
10 people filed a complaint about white-out, OSHA would be free to
The story noted a dentist refused to return a tooth to
a boy because he was concerned about the rules, but OSHA unofficially
claimed this was unnecessary, despite the regulations.
Potter implies that OSHA, allowed two soundbites for
rebuttal, had the monopoly on truth: "Some agencies feel so under attack
that they’ve formed truth squads, churning out fact sheets and letters
to shoot down false stories." Potter put no burden on OSHA for vague
regulations that cost people a lot of time and money to follow, only to
learn they are not to be taken seriously.
As for the pineapple pesticide, DBCP, which is "still
being found above safety levels in 19 states," Potter failed to
distinguish between municipal wells and private wells. Why? Jonathan
Tolman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told MediaWatch:
"In November 1990, the EPA released its National Pesticide Survey. Not
one community well exceeded EPA levels for DBCP. That’s why Ohio
officials are complaining: ‘Why should we pay to test for a pesticide
when we keep our wells clean?’"
But Potter claimed: "One group complained that
Congress is legislating by anecdote: using all sorts of stories even
after they’ve been refuted. Now that may be politics as usual, but
several Congressmen privately admit that in the rush of these 100 days,
it’s happening more than usual."
Why unnamed sources? It could be because "one group"
issuing a report was the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which
promoted the Alar scare in 1989, panicking parents and ruining apple
farmers over a minute health risk — hardly Exhibit A in an accuracy
lecture. Potter failed to answer repeated MediaWatch phone calls.
ABC’s posturing against "legislating by anecdote" failed to consider the
accuracy of their own anecdotes:
- October 18, 1994: ABC promoted a study by the NRDC
and the Environmental Working Group "challenging the drinking water
that 14 million people drink every day." Months later, former EPA
official LaJuana Wilcher called the study "misleading because 90
percent of the data points were from raw, untreated source water. .
.No one in his right mind would drink water straight from the
Mississippi River." ABC never explained that.
- October 28, 1991: Potter reported that two Nader
groups, Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety, denounced as
inaccurate a Department of Transportation collision video showing that
smaller cars save gas, but are less safe. Potter concluded: "Fuel
economy will be a bruising battle in the Senate, with both sides
saying the arguments are based more on politics than the facts." ABC
ignored a Wall Street Journal report days later siting eight
examples of Naderite literature warning small cars were less safe.
- July 25, 1989: Potter traveled to Camel’s Hump
Mountain in Vermont to declare pictures from 1963 and 1989 revealed
that "40 percent of the trees were dead." Potter blamed it on acid
rain: "Clouds that blow in here carry sulfur, lead and more." But the
late columnist Warren Brookes called the story a "fraud," citing Yale
tree expert Tom Siccama, who said the dying trees all dated from
before 1962, which saw "a very severe drought followed by an
especially killing winter." But Potter cited the anecdote to
underscore "why a new Clean Air Bill is so urgent."
Potter ended his 1995 story: "Ironically, many
agencies concede there are too many rules. But if the debate is
distorted, they say, useless regulations cannot be told from the ones
the country really needs." Potter not only distorted the debate, but
it’s not the first time he has fought regulatory review.
When Vice President Quayle tried to review useless
regulations with his tiny Competitiveness Council, Potter conducted a
two-part attack on August 4 and 5, 1992: "Its very presence makes
regulators flinch. . .senior EPA officials. . .said the effect of the
Quayle council on their day-to-day work has been devastating." Potter
added: "Critics say the council. . .is unaccountable to Congress or the
public and its actions may be illegal. . .Trimming regulations is one
thing, but critics say doing it in secret is another."
Los Angeles Times reporters Sara Fritz and Rich Connell revealed on
April 9: "Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown has effectively concealed
his personal investment in a trouble- plagued, low-income apartment
complex that is part of the rental empire of a Los Angeles businessman
whom federal officials consider a notorious slumlord."
Brown is not the first prominent Democrat revealed to
have ties to "notorious slumlord" -- and Democratic Party contributor --
A. Bruce Rozet, who's been accused by HUD officials in both the Bush and
Clinton administration of abusing low-income housing programs. On
February 3, 1990, The New York Times reported "The Reverend
Jesse Jackson repeatedly sought meetings with Housing Secretary Jack F.
Kemp last year" on behalf of Rozet. The networks were silent then, and
five years later, nothing's changed. The network evening news shows
failed to run a single story on the Brown revelations.
Burying the Big Story.
Years after the Cold War ended, anti-anti- communism still rules. Last
year, CBS canonized Edward R. Murrow in a special hosted by Dan Rather
in which he labeled the 1950s as "a time of blacklists and witch-hunts
and red-baiting." CBS Sunday Morning host Charles Osgood
attacked the FBI file on conductor Leonard Bernstein: "It is a milepost,
I think, to be reminded how irrationally suspicious and fearful we once
Now the new book The Secret World of American
Communism, by Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Fridrikh
Igorevich Firsov, using recently released secret documents from Soviet
archives, demonstrates the extensive financial and political links that
the Communist Party USA, Armand Hammer, and even journalists had with
the Soviet Union. The Boston Globe put the story on the front
page April 11. The Washington Post picked up on the story on
page A6 the next day with Michael Dobbs underlining that "The documents
provide corroboration from Moscow's side to back up the view that the
Soviet Union succeeded in using left-wing front organizations such as
the American Communist Party to penetrate U.S. government agencies." But
The New York Times, home for "all the news that's fit to
print," didn't note it until two weeks later. The April 26 story by
Serge Schmemann failed to even mention the author's names or any details
of the charges, such as Soviet funding of U.S. communists. Instead, the
Times focused on debates about the reliability of the archives.
The book also provides corroborating evidence
supporting the conviction of Alger Hiss, yet CBS, which last year
suggested Hiss was simply "accused" of being a spy, ignored it -- as did
ABC, CNN, NBC, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and
the Los Angeles Times.
Only Angry White Males?
ABC reporter Julie Johnson provided the Angry White Male update on the
April 2 World News Sunday: "Republicans have found an issue
they can sink their teeth into -- ending affirmative action." Johnson
said opposing quotas "resonates with white men. An ABC News poll shows
that more than 80 percent of them oppose preferences for women and
minorities. That's too many potential voters to write off."
In a column in the April 14 Washington Post,
Charles Krauthammer pinpointed Johnson's report as "a textbook case of
willful distortion by way of a fact. Yes, 81 percent of white men oppose
preferences. But what ABC omitted is that the same ABC poll showed that
practically the same percentage of white women (77-79 percent) oppose
preferences as well" -- 77 percent against preferences for women, 79
percent against preferences for minorities. The poll also showed "three
out of four Americans said they opposed affirmative action programs that
give preference to minorities to make up for past discrimination, and a
virtually identical proportion felt the same way about programs for
women...more than two out of three said those programs should be changed
More Ned Dread.
Scientific evidence to the contrary, the media continue to trumpet dire
warnings of global warming and press for government intervention. On the
April 5 World News Tonight, ABC devoted the "American Agenda"
to what Peter Jennings called "new evidence that man may be turning up
the thermostat." Reporter Ned Potter cited oceanographers worried about
declining plankton, and warned: "The ocean is giving a signal of global
warming -- the much-debated prediction that industrial air pollution
will trap the sun's heat and warm the Earth in coming decades." Potter
claimed: "There is evidence, tentative but increasing, that the climate
has already begun to change, affecting people's lives in a range of
ways." He wondered: "Polar ice, tropical disease, dying oceans -- do
these prove a warming pattern?...Among the believers is the White
Potter noted the Clinton Administration "promise to
protect the global climate could not come at a more chilly political
climate," even as environmentalists continue "building up evidence that
the world's climate may already be changing." But John Merline provided
a less hysterical scenario in the April 21 Investor's Business Daily.
He quoted a study released April 3 by the George C. Marshall Institute
(and ignored by ABC) which said "a growing body of scientific evidence
shows global warming is not a serious threat." Merline pointed out
"concerns about global warming rest on computer simulations of the
Earth's climate," but "the study concluded that these simulations are
unreliable as a source of solid information." Merline found "highly
accurate satellite data show that global temperatures haven't budged in
the past 16 years."
Paving the Everglades?
CBS reporter John Roberts rode a boat through the Everglades on the
April 16 Sunday Morning to mark Earth Day and warn of the new
Congress: "There are some areas of the country where things aren't
getting better. They're getting progressively worse....The Everglades is
a perfect example.... environmentalists are now worried that
Republican-sponsored legislation in Congress could be the final nail in
Roberts quoted liberal representatives from the
Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Friends of
the Everglades, as well as Al Gore. The only anti-regulation view in the
10-minute segment was two sentences from a former Republican
Congressman. Roberts painted a simplistic picture of helpful regulators
versus harmful developers, although historically, the federal government
has not been a friend of the Everglades. Jonathan Tolman of the
Competitive Enterprise Institute, told MediaWatch
"the Department of Agriculture has an incredible tariff scheme for
imported sugar. They restrict imports so that the price for domestic
sugar is twice the price of international sugar," encouraging use of the
Everglades for sugar production. "They can grow it there because the
Army Corps of Engineers drained the Everglades in the '50s. They took
the Kissimmee River that meandered and channeled it so it ran straight."
But almost everyone Roberts talked to was convinced
that the government was the Everglades' only hope: "Conservation
activists fear that the new Republican-dominated Congress is well on its
way toward implementing policies that would inflict great damage to the
environment....pushing through all of these policies under the heading
of regulatory reform."
Washington Post reporter Guy Gugliotta devoted his April 12
"Capital Notebook" feature to a sarcastic attack on conservatives for
proving corporations fund liberal causes. As a prelude to his assault,
Gugliotta wrote: "As House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey pointed out
in a March 24 letter to GOP House colleagues, Forbes 250 corporations
have an irritating habit of giving money to liberal organizations, the
lefties who think big government is the solution to everything....To
bolster his claim, Armey enclosed copies of the Capital Research
Center's Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy, a conservative publication
that rates corporations according to the ideology of their philanthropy
Gugliotta explained: "For the GOP, the welfare state
thus appears to have replaced the Soviet Union as the source of almost
everything bad that happens, whether it's drug trafficking, the 32-cent
stamp or Elvis's untimely disappearance. Nobody knows exactly what the
welfare state is, but it's always easy to blame." Gugliotta then took a
swipe at CRC: "Patterns said Monsanto in 1992 donated $10,000
to the Children's Defense Fund, which the GOP suspects of links to
COMINTERN (just kidding), and also kicked in for American Lung
Association ($250), the Humane Society, of Greenville, S.C. ($1,100),
the NAACP of East St. Louis, Ill. ($500) and other allegedly dangerous
groups." If Gugliotta took his job of reporting more seriously, he could
have explained CRC has monographs documenting how these groups lobby for
ABC on Drugs.
"Legalize it!" was the mantra on the April 6 ABC special America's
War on Drugs: Searching for Solutions. Host Catherine Crier
promoted European drug policies: "The main goal is to keep addicts
functioning in society. Give them treatment, not punishment. Give them
clean needles. Legalize marijuana. And even, under supervision, give
hard-core addicts their drugs."
Crier claimed Dutch experiments with legalization of
marijuana, cocaine, and heroin were a success. But as former Secretary
of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano pointed out in a New
York Post op-ed, from 1982 to 1992, marijuana use soared 250 percent
among Dutch teens. Crier said Dutch coffee houses, where marijuana can
be legally sold and used, allows the Dutch to "spend very little money
policing the coffee shop scene because, they say, there's virtually no
crime associated with the use of marijuana." But Crier ignored that
because these shops have become havens for dealers of heroin and
cocaine, Amsterdam will soon prohibit any more from opening. Crimes to
fund drug use have skyrocketed in the Netherlands as well: 43 percent of
burglars describe themselves as drug users. Crier declared America's
"striking lack of success" in combating drugs. "There's not much
disagreement that we're losing it," she said. But Califano again
corrected her: the number of cocaine users has dropped 75 percent in the
last 10 years, and the number of teens trying marijuana has also dropped
In January, 60 Minutes broadcast a segment focusing on the
left-wing group Call to Action's criticism of Catholic doctrine. Mike
Wallace aired 25 soundbites from dissenters and not one soundbite
defending Church teaching. Prompted by letters of complaint about his
report, Wallace took a second look at the debate in the Catholic Church.
His new piece was not much better.
On the April 16 60 Minutes, Wallace
interviewed Catholic spokeswoman Helen Alvare and Los Angeles Cardinal
Roger Mahony. In both, Wallace promoted Call to Action's agenda items:
ordaining women, allowing contraception and abortion. Wallace peppered
the Cardinal: "Why shouldn't women be ordained?....It has nothing to do
with equality as far as you and the hierarchy are concerned. It has a
great deal to do with equality with a lot of women who give their lives
to the Church."
Wallace said of Mahony's liberal actions like opposing
Proposition 187: "Just when you think it would be hard to be more
conservative than the Cardinal, you run into archconservative Catholics
so outraged by the Cardinal's actions that they've been picketing these
annual [conferences]." Wallace added "archconservative" once more, and
"far right." Wallace used no labels for the longtime Sandinista
supporters of Call to Action, who were "hardly wild-eyed
radicals...They're sober church workers, nuns and priests, and just
plain concerned Catholics."
Network News Dominated by Arguments and
Soundbites Against the GOP Contract
Fighting the First One
The election of the first Republican Congress in over
40 years gave the media an opportunity to cover a wide new range of
issues in the Contract With America. With the House Republicans
promising votes on all ten provisions in the first 100 days, what kind
of treatment did the Contract receive?
To learn if the networks gave equal coverage to the
arguments of both sides, MediaWatch analysts reviewed all policy stories
on the Contract which aired on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening
News, NBC Nightly News, and CNN's World News from January 1 to April 8.
(Policy stories addressed a specific provision in the Contract, or the
likely effects of passage. Stories updating a bill's progress or
focusing on personalities were excluded.)
Soundbites: In 229 total policy stories, talking heads
opposing the Contract outnumbered supporters by 442-330, or 58 to 42
percent.The count obscured how the networks especially cheered for pet
programs like Clinton's AmeriCorps and the National Endowment for the
Arguments: Analysts counted the number of arguments
made for or against the Contract in each story, and the number of
talking heads in support or opposition. Stories with a disparity greater
than 1.5 to 1 in the arguments or talking heads of one side were
categorized as pro- or anti-Contract. Stories within the ratio were
classified as neutral.
In the most controversial items of the Contract (the
Balanced Budget Amendment and spending cuts; welfare reform; tax cuts;
the crime bill; regulatory and legal reform), stories dominated by
opponents and their arguments outnumbered those tilted in favor by 127
(56 percent) to 21 (9 percent), and 81 were neutral. (Since almost all
stories on term limits focused on the legislative battle, they were
classified based on who was blamed for its failure.)
Balanced Budget: The media derided Republican efforts
to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment, and attacked efforts to reduce
spending. Stories asserting a balanced budget would hurt the poor or
defending government spending totaled 34, while each network aired just
one story on the need to downsize government. In the face of the
election results, only two stories focused mainly on taxpayer demands
for smaller government. ABC was the most one-sided, with 14 stories
defending spending or displaying "victims" of cuts, to one positive look
at the GOP Medicare reform plan.
A typical defense of spending came from Carl Rochelle
on the March 18 CNN World News. He examined a Great Society program
eliminated by Republicans, claiming the Job Corps "helped hundreds of
thousands of people," and aired three supporters of the program,
including Labor Secretary Reich and inner city participants, to one
CBS defended the NEA on March 31, with Connie Chung
noting some "call it a taxpayer subsidy for wacky or tacky artists who
play to a cultural elite. Is that really where the money goes?" John
Blackstone visited Louisiana and concluded: "While the budget cutters
sharpen their ax, the folks at the Piney Woods Opry say the value of
this music can't be measures in dollars. It can only be felt."
Welfare Reform: Coverage tilted heavily to the left,
with 45 of 68 stories (66 percent) devoted to liberal arguments.
Conservative policies merited just 10 reports (15 percent), and 19
percent were neutral. Reports on school lunch "cuts" outnumbered reports
covering reforms in states like Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan and
New Jersey by 18 to 5. Amazingly, in 68 stories, welfare fraud was
covered once, on a February 10 ABC report by Ron Claiborne.
The plan to fold food programs into block grants to
the states drew fire. Of 17 school lunch stories, reporters in 15
claimed Republicans would "cut" lunches. On March 21, Bob Schieffer of
CBS claimed: "Republicans want to wipe out some heretofore untouchable
federal programs; such things as aid to poor single mothers with
children, school lunch programs, foster care, and aid to disabled
Only NBC's Joe Johns mentioned Republicans were
slowing the lunch program's growth rate from 5.3 percent to 4.5 percent.
CNN's Eugenia Halsey was the only one to note that any student is
eligible, not just the poor. Even so, she concluded February 23: "The
GOP must battle the perception that the Contract with America is a
contract against children."
Tax Cuts: Both the $500 per child tax credit and the
capital gains tax cut were scorned: 18 stories detailed liberal
arguments that tax cuts went to the wealthy or were too expensive. Just
three highlighted public demand for tax cuts. Talking heads opposing tax
cuts prevailed over tax cut supporters by a 3-2 margin, 58-39. Only
CBS's Ray Brady, on April 4, explained how high capital gains taxes
inhibited investment by ordinary people.
Regulatory Reform: Sixteen stories dealt with
legislation to overhaul regulations and reduce government takings. Eight
stories cited intrusive regulations as evidence for reform, but 14
stories (88 percent) warned that loosening regulations would harm the
environment. Soundbites from environmentalists outnumbered reformers by
23-16 (59 to 41 percent).
Legal Reform: In nine stories on attempts to reduce
liability suits, eight were dominated by the liberal agenda. Talking
heads opposed reform by a more than 2-to-1 ratio (17-8). ABC's Tim
O'Brien declared on March 7: "According to the National Center for State
Courts, there is no litigation explosion." O'Brien passed on that after
reform,"most consumer groups insist only the wealthy could sue."
Crime Bill: In rewriting the Clinton crime bill,
reporters favored administration claims. Five stories cited the loss of
Clinton's "prevention" programs, but only one story (by ABC's John
Cochran) noted GOP complaints about waste in such programs. Just as in
the 1994 debate, in 13 stories the net- works uncritically passed along
the Democrats claim of putting 100,000 cops on the street, 57 percent of
crime bill stories. Soundbites were skewed towards the liberal agenda,
with 30 Contract supporters (39 percent) against 46 opponents (61
Term Limits: Even though 82 percent of Republicans
voted for a term-limits constitutional amendment, versus 19 percent of
Democrats, in 12 stories reporters blamed Republicans for its loss,
Democrats were blamed six times. Just three of 17 stories (18 percent)
noted the vote was the first ever held on term limits in the House.
Newt Gingrich's book deal received 27 evening news
stories in the six weeks ending February 1, more than they devoted to
regulatory reform, legal reform, or term limits in 100 days. The
networks, which claim to favor change, defended the existing welfare
state, and attacked the document which confronted the status quo.
the Bright Side
Welfare Reform Ripoff
Tom Brokaw put the fraud in one welfare program in
perspective on the April 12 Dateline NBC: "Imagine enough real
money to pay for five aircraft carriers, or, as some investors did just
today, to make a bid to take over the entire Chrysler Corporation.
That's the kind of money the government says it lost over the last two
decades because of mistakes and cheating on just one program: the Earned
Income Tax Credit."
The problem has only grown in the Clinton years,
Brokaw revealed: "The EITC has become the cornerstone of President
Clinton's welfare policy. Since he took office, refunds have more than
doubled to $23 billion a year....The increase in the Earned Income Tax
Credit led to a whole new class of tax cheats." Brokaw found fraud stems
from not taking into account net worth, allowing well-off people with
low yearly incomes to collect, and some file for multiple refunds.
Estimated total cost:$25 billion.
On the April 19 Nightly News, Kelly O'Donnell
reported on San Luis, Arizona where "thousands of Mexican residents rent
post office boxes here and use them as American addresses to collect
welfare checks and food stamps and to enroll their kids in U.S.
schools." She also found an EITC connection: "The IRS put a hold on
5,500 tax returns this year after detecting widespread abuse of the
Earned Income Credit."
ABC's John Stossel exposed the shoddy statistics
produced by activist groups, and the willing media that promote them, on
the March 31 20/20. Stossel talked to Wall Street Journal
reporter Cynthia Crossen, author of the book Tainted Truth, and
Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism? "[Sommers]
found some wildly inaccurate claims, like `150,000 women a year die of
anorexia.' The real number's closer to 1,000. Then there's `domestic
violence causes more birth defeats than all medical causes combined.'
The news reports say they come from the March of Dimes." But the March
of Dimes issued no such study.
The left-wing Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
issued a 1991 child hunger study claiming one in four U.S. children was
hungry or "at risk" of hunger. Stossel found: "Some reporters made the
story even more alarming," showing Dan Rather claiming: "A startling
number of American children in danger of starving tonight."
Crossen explained: "Their definitions of hunger were
what I would call very loose -- `Have you ever had to limit the number
of foods that you could chose from to serve a meal,' for example. Well,
is that hunger?" Stossel asked FRAC's Robert Hersh: "`Do you ever cut
the size of meals? Do you ever eat less than you feel you
should?'....Isn't this silly? You were looking to get a result and you
Today Sounds Like Talk Radio?
Bryant Invites Invective
As part of his April 25 indictment of talk radio's
role in the Oklahoma bombing, Bryant Gumbel charged that right-wing
radio hosts "take to the air everyday with basically the same format:
detail a problem, blame the government or a group, and invite invective
from like-minded people."
In a testy interview with Oliver North, who said he
welcomed liberal calls, Gumbel charged: "You do give them an opportunity
to speak up but then you basically shred them in the angriest tones."
North shot back: "You know, Bryant, I don't think anybody ought to take
themselves quite so seriously as you do every morning." Gumbel got
angry: "Well, clearly not. Perhaps the oath should have been taken more
seriously before lying to the government, too." When North complained
the liberal media can't get the story right, Gumbel replied: "On people
who were convicted like you."
But Gumbel's outrage was absent on March 22, 1994,
when he interviewed Nathan McCall, a convicted armed robber turned
Washington Post reporter. He asked: "It's just too easy to put a
black face on the problems of crime, of drugs, of poverty, and just say
it's a lost cause and walk away from it?" And: "It's been written that
being black in America is like being witness at your own lynching, why,
why didn't your experiences make you more resentful than you are today?"
Near the end, Gumbel asked: "Those who say, `just lock them up, throw
away the key, incarcerate them, warehouse them, whatever,' do you think
they are even conscious of just how racist this country is?" Gumbel
could have defined his own approach: "Detail a problem, blame the
government or a group, and invite invective from like-minded people."
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe