"News Magazine" Devotes Cover Story to Diatribe Against Arts Funding
Time: Conservatives Are Stupid
If Republicans succeed in reducing federal funding for
cultural agencies, the move "will depress the quality of life for
everyone, and it will undermine the kind of democracy America has always
aspired to." So read the table of contents page describing Time's August
7 cover story by Senior Writer Robert Hughes, just below the moniker
reading "the weekly newsmagazine."
The subhead for the eight pages of slurs and
innuendoes, declared: "The conservatives' all-out assault on federal
funding is unenlightened, uneconomic and undemocratic." About the GOP
"ideologues... squeaking with Newtish zeal," Hughes charged, "These boys
and girls aren't even cultural Neanderthals. They're Jurassic. On
culture, the limbic forebrain can hold one sound bite at a time,
courtesy of Rush Limbaugh or George Will."
Assuming culture equals what the government funds,
Hughes contrasted these conservative cretins to the "dedicated" artists
on the dole: "By what meanness, through what smug Philistinism...do our
Jacks-in-office decree that the arts and humanities are beneath the
interest of the American people and unworthy of their collective
support?" He added that "Losing the NEA would be a disgrace; but the
loss of the NEH [National Endowment for the Humanities] as well would be
a cultural tragedy for all Americans." This despite his admission that
"corporate and foundation support for the arts outweighs federal support
-- $16 to $1."
On federal interest in education, he offered this
insult: "Other Americans, whether ordinary, short-sighted materialists
or mere yahoos, have often opposed this noble idea." Going biblical, he
painted opposition to arts funding as a "vengeful current of
Fundamentalist apocalyptic religion" and with those who "have no idea
that there is a vast, complex and valuable tract of images between
Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving turkey and Andres Serrano's photo of a
crucifix in urine." But he didn't deign to trace this trail.
If the cuts pass? "Some will not notice it; others
won't care; ...perhaps the next generation won't know what happened.
Partial lobotomies work that way. They favor Beavis and Butt-head. Is
that the business of American government?"
Time has yet to devote a cover story to denouncing
liberals, so why give Hughes a platform? His editor, Christopher
Porterfield, explained in the publisher's letter that "we give him a
little more leeway, as long as it's clear that what you're getting is
Bob Hughes opinion." But Time did not label it in any way as opinion.
Newt Gingrich, Time's Nancy Traver wrote in 1989,
takes on "his mission with a humorless holier-than-thou style that makes
him easy to dislike." Hughes should know.
ABC Goes Goofy
Even before Capital Cities/ABC was purchased by Walt
Disney, the network indulged in its own trip to Fantasyland. World News
Tonight's July 12-14 American Agenda series on the environment conjured
up a dystopia of dirty air, bad water and poisoned meat, all a result of
GOP reform plans.
Peter Jennings foreshadowed the tone in a July 9
promo: "Next week on ABC's World News Tonight, a series of reports about
our environment which will tell you precisely what the new Congress has
in mind: the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years." Of
the eight stories aired over three nights, only one touched on job and
property rights loss. The others consisted of defending the current
system from efforts to "roll back," "weaken," or "gut environmental
Jennings explained July 12 that Republicans "are
engaged in the most dramatic overhaul or assault, some would say, on
environmental legislation in 25 years." While there is "hostility toward
excessive regulation in many parts of the country, there is no public
outcry...to rewrite environmental regulations."
Jennings set up Republicans as bullies: "The reason
why the Republican plan has set off such a furious debate is that by
many measures the environmental laws of the past 25 years have worked.
During that time, the number of clean lakes has doubled, average smog
levels are down a third, lead from auto exhaust has practically been
eliminated." But if the reforms pass, he claimed, "the clean up of
hundreds of toxic waste sites would become less of a priority" and the
Endangered Species Act (ESA) would be changed. ABC assumed the liberal
policies have succeeded. But as the Heritage Foundation's John Shanahan
noted, the Superfund program has only cleaned up 24 percent of the
"worst" sites as the liability rules encourage costly litigation. On the
ESA, David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research
noted, it "has been an abysmal failure because it actually encourages
the destruction of species habitat." Fearful of having an endangered
species identified on their land, property owners destroy their wildlife
On July 13, Jennings warned before an Erin Hayes
report: "There is a strong clue to what [state environmental autonomy]
may mean in the state of Washington, long considered progressive." To
Hayes it meant dead shrimp. She interviewed Bill Taylor, a fisherman
whose livelihood had been saved by rules making paper mills remove
pollutants from their discharges. No one from the paper mill was
interviewed, or anyone criticizing the regulatory burdens of the Clean
Hayes ended: "There is concern that protection of
natural resources could suffer if state and local governments, given too
much freedom and under pressure to cut budgets, gut environmental
programs. And that worries those like Bill Taylor, who know firsthand
exactly what could be lost if environmental safeguards are rolled back
On July 14 Catherine Crier focused on the evil of
corporate lobbyists, as if left wing environmentalists never influenced
laws: "Many Republicans say they're simply using lobbyists the way
Democrats did for years. But few can remember lobbyists having such
unprecedented power. And the price of that influence, some fear, could
be weaker environmental protection." In this series, the only endangered
species was journalistic balance.
Pushing Quotas, Spiking Critics
Victims of Fairness
When it comes to affirmative action, it seems NBC and
CBS favor only racial, not political, diversity. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw
fired a warning shot on the July 18 Nightly News, accusing California
Gov. Pete Wilson of "playing the race and immigration cards hard," by
coming out against preference policies in the California university
system. On July 19, both CBS's Jacqueline Adams and NBC's Gwen Ifill
focused on potential victims of the loss of government preferences,
while ignoring the real-life victims of the policy itself.
CBS's Jacqueline Adams cited AT&T as a former "white
man's paradise" that had the courage to change, noting, "Publicly, that
support," for affirmative action, "is shared by 81 percent" of Fortune
500 companies. "Many minority businessmen, though, suffer the costs of
the private view." Adams spotlighted one such "victim," printer Frank
Flores. "Over the last five years, he's had to fire almost half of his
largely Hispanic workforce. One reason: a major beverage company no
longer felt compelled to hire him." Ifill profiled Winston Chan, "who
owes his success to affirmative action....it took the federal government
to jump start his ambitions with a program that set aside contracts for
minorities and women." One soon saw why: Half the money Chan's company
makes comes from government affirmative action contracts.
Without opposing comment, Ifill asserted that "a
handful of studies conducted between 1977 and 1991, compiled by the
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, shows affirmative
action programs have had a generally positive effect." The median black
male income, she explain-ed, has risen from 60 to 74 percent of white
income between 1964 and 1993.
But is improving black economic data simply a function
of preferences or did other factors, like the Reagan boom, have their
own impact? National Review's Ed Rubenstein cited Census Bureau data
showing "from the end of 1982 to 1989, black unemployment dropped 9
percentage points (from 20.4 percent to 11.4 percent)....the median
black family's income increased 15.7 percent....According to the Census
Bureau, the number of black-owned businesses increased from 308,000 in
1982 to 424,000 in 1987, a 38 percent rise."
ABC Special Contends
U.S. Dropped the Bomb Unnecessarily to Stoke the Cold War
Professor Jennings' Fractured
The Smithsonian Institution's National
Air and Space Museum is currently exhibiting a newly refurbished Enola
Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima 50 years
ago. But the museum's curators originally planned a confessional
exhibit, displaying America's guilt and Japan's innocence in World War
II. One museum passage would have read that for Americans, fighting
Japan was "a war of vengeance. For most Japanese, it was a war to defend
their unique culture against Western imperialism."
That canceled leftist exhibit in a
tax-funded museum became the center of ABC's July 27 Peter Jennings
Reporting 90-minute special, "Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped." ABC
told viewers U.S. officials overstated the casualty estimates of an
invasion of Japan; that the Allied demand for the dumping of the
Japanese emperor delayed an imminent surrender; and that the U.S.
dropped the bomb not to save lives, but to play a cynical Cold War game
of intimidating the Soviets. For presenting a one-sided version of
revisionist history much like the rejected exhibit, ABC earned the
August Janet Cooke Award.
Jennings began by mourning the original
Smithsonian vision, implying that the facts were no match for the
politicians: "Many veterans insisted that by dropping the bomb, the U.S.
avoided a ground invasion of the Japanese mainland. One million lives,
they argued, had been saved. But when the Smithsonian responded that
such a claim had no historical basis, the vets went to Capitol Hill.
Eighty-one Congressmen took up their cause....the Smithsonian bent to
pressure....There would be nothing on the decision to drop the bomb and
there would be no pictures of the victims."
Jennings later repeated his claim of
nonexistent estimates: "The most single enduring fiction...was the
notion most of us have long believed, that one million American lives
were saved by the bomb. There is no documentary evidence as to where the
number came from." Jennings didn't deal with the questions: Since there
was no invasion, how can there be an accurate estimate? And if the bomb
only saved 200,000 U.S. lives, would that have been unimportant?
One expert ABC interviewed, Robert
Maddox, a historian from Penn State University and author of the
forthcoming Weapons for Victory, told MediaWatch: "They were flat wrong
on that. I provided [ABC] with my manuscript on that. The figure did not
come out of thin air, but from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on August 30,
1944, which told the President there could be 500,000 deaths and many
more wounded. Herbert Hoover met with Truman, and in a later memorandum,
Hoover suggested 500,000 to 1 million casualties. ABC said in a press
release the morning of the show that the number `came out of thin air.'
I called [producer] Elizabeth Sams and said `He's going to embarrass
himself tonight.' But she said the show was already in the can, or
something like that."
Maddox added: "The worst atrocity in the
show is that they just jump over the bitter struggle in the Japanese
government between August 7 and 15, because that would undermine the
rest of the program. They pretend that retention of the emperor was the
sole obstacle to peace, but hardliners still refused to give in after
both atomic bombs and the Russians' entry into the war. So why would
they surrender after a ground invasion? "
Jennings claimed that two days after
Hiroshima, "In Tokyo, the shock that Russia had entered the war forced
military hardliners to begin talking surrender. They were still arguing
on the morning of August the 9th. At 11:02 A.M., the second atomic bomb
was dropped on Nagasaki. There might have been a moment when the bombing
of Nagasaki could have been stopped or at least delayed. But no second
order from the President was needed to drop the second bomb." ABC spent
almost no time on Japanese atrocities (unlike CBS Reports a week later)
and no time on how a Soviet invasion of Japan could have left them
occupied like Eastern Europe.
Maddox was outnumbered by 10 revisionist
historians including Barton Bernstein, who claimed invading Japan would
have cost fewer than 50,000 casualties, despite estimated troop strength
of almost 900,000 on the island of Kyushu alone, and Gar Alperovitz, who
once claimed the bomb was "totally unnecessary." The revisionists
spouted 39 soundbites to two non-dissenting informational quotes from
Maddox. Other non-revisionist historians with new books, including
Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen, writers of Code-Name Downfall, or Robert
P. Newman, author of Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, were not included.
Maddox told MediaWatch: "You didn't get the sense there was a defense
[of the decision to drop the bomb] from legitimate scholars."
Senior Producer Martin Smith, failed to
return repeated phone calls, but told The Washington Times: "I reject
the notion that we used a small circle of historians. We talked with
most of the leading historians of the field." Smith, a former Frontline
producer, worked on two PBS documentaries on the October Surprise
conspiracy, which was dismissed by Democrat-led House and Senate
But Smith was one of a cast of long-time
liberal producers working on the special. David Gelber served as
Executive Producer, but is best known as the 60 Minutes producer behind
the hoax that tagged Alar as "the most potent cancer-causing agent in
the food supply." Producers Sherry Jones and Elizabeth Sams are PBS
Frontline contributors as well. Jones co-wrote the Hiroshima special
with Jennings, and also wrote the January Frontline on "What Happened to
Bill Clinton?" (Her answer: Clinton failed to be liberal enough).
The Jennings special was produced by
Jones' firm, Washington Media Associates, which also contracts with
Frontline. An end credit read: "A Production of Washington Media
Associates for ABC News." "They certainly did work for us, but we had
complete editorial control," ABC spokesman Eileen Murphy told MediaWatch.
"We never take an hour and let them put their thing on the air."
Jennings ended the show with a gripe:
"It's unfortunate, we think, that some veterans' organizations and some
politicians felt the need to bully our most important national museum,
so the whole story of Hiroshima is not represented here. That is not
fair to history or to the rest of us. After all, freedom of discussion
was one of the ideals that Americans fought and died for." ABC failed to
air a free discussion.
Instead, Jennings employed the classic
left-wing dictum that whenever the left loses a fight over publicly
funded propaganda, free speech has been squelched. Jennings apparently
did not think it was a violation of free speech to take millions of
dollars from Americans who fought in World War II in order to denigrate
them as pawns in an evil Western imperialist war machine that victimized
Opposed to Infants and Lepers.
In attacking efforts to reduce the deficit, ABC's
Carole Simpson and George Strait used sensationalistic examples on the
July 9 World News Sunday to shame the public into continued funding for
Strait led the charge, claiming that "commitment to
reducing infant mortality is threatened by congressional budget cuts,
which public health officials say would make a bad problem worse."
Minutes later in the same program, Simpson introduced a report on the
nation's last leper colony by clucking at efforts to close it down.
Simpson, ignoring the fact that the disease is treatable and no longer
requires isolated sanitariums, lashed out: "For more than 100 years
Louisiana's Guillis W. Long Center, known as Carville, has been both a
prison and a safe haven for people with leprosy. It's the last treatment
center of its kind and now federal budget cutters want to close it
Flat Wrong on Flat Tax.
USA Today reporter William M. Welch's July 7 article
on income tax reform included a table comparing Rep. Richard Gephardt's
plan and Rep. Dick Armey's flat tax with current law. The problem?
Instead of providing figures by advocates of each plan or an independent
source, USA Today used the figures of Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) to
critique each plan. Welch termed the liberal, union-funded CTJ "a
non-partisan citizens group" and "a group advocating tax fairness."
The CTJ table claimed that at a 17 percent rate under
Armey's plan, a family of four with an income of $25,000 would pay a
total of $3,600 in taxes, with over $1,800 of that coming from income
taxes and $1,160 in business sales taxes. The table insisted that the
same family would get a $240 refund under Gephardt's plan. But as
economist Dan Mitchell pointed out in MediaNomics, "A family of four
pays absolutely no tax on the first $33,300 of income ($22,700 personal
allowance for a married couple and $5,300 allowance for each child). To
somehow claim, as Welch did, that this family will pay $3,600 of taxes
clearly involves a gross misrepresentation of the plan." A more
independent analysis by the Tax Foundation showed that even at a 20
percent flat rate, Armey's plan would reduce the tax burden for those in
the $20,000 to $50,000 range.
The Meat-Poisoning Party.
Instead of explaining the reasoning behind opposition
to more burdensome USDA meat inspection rules, CBS focused on how
Republicans would unleash E. coli on the unsuspecting public. On the
July 9 Evening News, reporter Sharyl Attkisson highlighted a
seven-year-old victim of E. coli. "With the promise of safer meat
threatened by delay, consumers are frustrated," she said leading into a
soundbite of the victim's mother, who insisted: "When it happens to you
it makes you realize how important having safe meat inspections and
regulations are." Attkisson then concluded: "And those who have learned
by near tragedy the dangers of unsafe meat don't want to be forgotten in
Reporters called those favoring more regulation
"consumer advocates," instead of liberals. The next night reporter Bob
Schieffer referred to liberal Public Citizen activist Joan Claybrook as
a "consumer advocate." Newsweek's Sharon Begley did the same in a July
24 story on victims: "But smack in the middle of the Senate debate came
news that five children in Tennessee had gotten E. Coli poisoning...Such
outbreaks, say consumer groups, will become ever more common if Dole
gets his way."
Contradicting these sensationalistic stories, in a
July 13 Washington Times column David Ridenour pointed out that the
regulatory agencies failed: "The regulations lobby will always be able
to produce their `victims' to press their case for additional
regulations because there is no such thing as a risk-free world...the
victims they cite were not spared by the 64,914 pages of regulations on
the books, backed up by 130,000 federal bureaucrats."
Senator Jesse Helms sparked a furor among Washington
reporters after a July 5 New York Times interview with reporter
Katherine Seelye. He argued that AIDS funding under the "Ryan White Care
Act" should be reduced since AIDS sufferers brought the disease on
themselves. Seelye sought to refute Helms' assertion that AIDS accounted
for more federal dollars than diseases that killed more people: "Public
Health Service figures show that when all federal money, including
Medicaid and Medicare, is taken into account, total annual federal
outlays on heart disease and cancer dwarf those on AIDS."
That night, CBS Evening News reporter Bill Plante
aired two Helms critics, but no one supporting Helms' view. "Ryan
White's mother says it's unfair of Senator Helms to blame the victims."
Plante added: "Helms also maintains...[AIDS] receives greater funding
than diseases which kill many more people. That's not true, says the
administration's director of AIDS policy."
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby quibbled with the
media's take, reporting the Associated Press "calculated that the U.S.
government was spending about $79,000 for every American who died of
AIDS -- as against only $7,300 for every death from cervical cancer,
$6,300 for diabetes, $2,800 for breast cancer, $800 for prostate cancer,
and $600 for stroke." Jacoby also pointed out that the U.S. Public
Health Service says the federal government "will spend $2 billion a year
on AIDS," compared to only $800 million on heart disease. It is
estimated that heart disease will be responsible for 33 percent of
American deaths this year, while AIDS will make up only 2 percent of
Time magazine got a little bit label happy in a July
10 story about religious conservatives. In the article, "Outfoxing the
Right," Senior Writer Jill Smolowe repeatedly used labels such as
"ultraconservative," and "right wing" to describe Christian activist
parents. The subtitle of the story, "Moderates recapture a handful of
school boards by publicizing the obsessions of ultraconservatives," set
the tone for the entire piece.
Smolowe's angle in the one-page story was that the
"moderates" were restoring sanity to the school board with their
victories. Smolowe wrote, "moderates, many of whom stayed home when the
first wave of ultraconservatives marched into office three years ago,
are now mobilizing themselves....moderate teachers and parents parried
with a simple strategy....in the end moderates regained a majority,
The labeling tally in 13 references to Christians:
five "ultraconservative," four "conservative," four "Christian right" or
"religious right" and one "right wing." By contrast, Smolowe used only
one "liberal" label, for People for the American Way (PAW) -- although
the story also tagged PAW and the National Education Association as
Et Tu, Harry Wu?
You would think someone brave enough to have
repeatedly risked his life exposing child and slave labor, uncovering
forced organ donation, and highlighting a corrupt system of political
oppression would be a champion to reporters. But human rights activist
Harry Wu has come in for some odd criticism as the media rationalized
his arrest by communist China. Maybe Wu, a U.S. citizen, should have
criticized the injustice of his adopted country instead.
In a July 10 piece, USA Today's Marilyn Greene
suggested that China's trumped-up charges may have merit: "The Wu
indictments, however, carry just enough validity to give the Clinton
Administration pause as it expresses outrage over his detention to
Beijing. Wu, 58, has used methods that could be described as shrewd at
best, illegal at worst, to roam remote areas of China gathering
incriminating evidence against the government."
Greene pronounced Wu guilty of the charges for which
he may face the death penalty. "For example, his Chinese name is Wu
Hongda. The name on Wu's passport is Peter H. Wu, his U.S. name. Beijing
says this is an attempt to fool officials and enter China under a false
name. And in a trip back to China last year, Wu gathered information for
reports on the sale and export of human organs from executed prisoners."
The current talk in Los Angeles is not just about
actor Hugh Grant's illicit misconduct on a famed Hollywood thoroughfare,
but of how Los Angeles County may end up suffering from one of the
largest municipal bankruptcies in U.S. history. The media's culprit as
usual, was tax limitations, not the lack of spending limitations.
On the June 19 World News Tonight ABC reporter Brian
Rooney suggested: "L.A. County's long fall may have begun with the
passage of Proposition 13, the law to limit property taxes." In the July
10 issue, U.S. News & World Report Los Angeles reporter Betsy Streisand
added: "No longer able to rely on the state to cover budget shortfalls
brought on by Proposition 13, which drastically cut California property
taxes, L.A. County for three years has made ends meet with lots of
Similar blame rang July 17, as CBS This Morning
co-host Paula Zahn ignored the spending side in an interview with
liberal County Supervisors Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and Gloria Molina.
The supervisors blamed "a structural deficiency from Proposition 13" for
the fiscal meltdown. Zahn asked helpful questions like "Who gets hurt
the most if these cuts are enforced?" and stressed the need for more tax
money: "I know you have a California congressional delegation that will
meet with President Clinton, what is their expectation? Can they get
$400 million?" Zahn concluded: "What is your greatest fear as you all
try to lobby for more money, not only from the feds, but from your own
All three reports ignored soaring spending,
specifically the public employee workforce. As John Barnes pointed out
in the July 25 Investors' Business Daily, public employee pay outgrew
pay increases in the private sector in the last decade, and L.A. County
exemplified the trend: "Between 1980 and 1995, the number of public
workers in the county jumped 15 percent to more than 88,000." In
addition, employees got a 7.5 percent raise one year so now "no fewer
than 2,230 employees -- nearly two percent of the work force -- make
more than $100,000 a year in base salary."
Quitters Never Win.
When Wall Street Journal Deputy Washington Bureau
Chief Jill Abramson co-authored Strange Justice, a book-length attack on
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, she refused to do joint media
appearances with opponents, such as David Brock, author of The Real
Anita Hill. In an American Spectator review, Brock called the Abramson
book "one of the most outrageous journalistic hoaxes in recent memory."
Brock documented numerous misquotations, errors, and lapses in judgment,
such as quoting Frederick Cooke as seeing Thomas with a triple-X movie
though he refused to confirm or deny the allegation.
But when a caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal on
July 10 asked Abramson when she would rebut Brock, Abramson refused to
defend her book: "This is a topic I'd like to skip. I do that rarely but
I'm just....He's talking about a review in The American Spectator, which
is an ideological tabloid publication here that attempted to criticize a
book I wrote with [former Journal writer] Jane Mayer about the Clarence
Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. But it was so long ago that I think there
are more current topics of interest to be talking about." An August 8
Washington Times editorial suggested a reason why: former White House
lawyer Mark Paoletta demanded the book's publisher apologize for the
suggestion that he'd broken an anti-lobbying law. The publisher
apologized and will remove the passage from the paperback edition.
Networks Show Little Zeal to Cover Revelations
from New Hearings on Whitewater
Media Bridge Over Silent Waters
The weekend after Whitewater hearings began, on the
July 23 World News Sunday, ABC anchor John Cochran insisted the hearings
were examining charges "that have been the subject of countless
television, newspaper and magazine reports." Really?
Last summer the Democrats held narrowly focused
hearings on White House contacts with the Treasury Dept. Over two weeks
the four network evening shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening
News, CNN's World News, and NBC Nightly News) devoted 40 reporter-based
stories to the Democratic show.
On July 18 this year Whitewater hearings under
Republican control of Congress began. An August 14 Washingon Post news
analysis reported the hearings drew "a more comprehensible picture of
the controversy than has ever been presented before in a public arena"
as "they made a strong case that the first family has not told the
complete story of its relationship with former business partner James
McDougal." Would the networks give equal or greater weight to these
revelations in areas avoided by Democrats?
MediaWatch analysts reviewed the same four evening
shows from July 16 (two days before the Senate hearings began) to August
10. The time frame covered the four weeks of Senate hearings and one
overlapping week of House hearings. For the three morning shows (ABC's
Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today) MediaWatch
reviewed through Aug. 4.
The study found that anyone relying on network news
would have missed significant discoveries and contradictions. In the
evening, the networks offered 24 reporter-based stories, almost half of
what aired last year. This year they ran another 25 anchor-read briefs.
In the morning, the Big Three aired only seven reporter-based stories,
on six morning shows it made an anchor-read brief, and Whitewater was
raised at least once in seven interview segments.
CNN and NBC barely noted the hearings, each airing
just three even-ing reporter-based stories compared to ten and seven
respectively last summer. CBS led with ten reporter-based segments (12
last year) and five items read by the anchor in the evening, plus
another six morning reporter-based or interview segments and three
anchor briefs. But CBS also appeared the most hostile to the hearings.
On July 17, Dan Rather introduced a preview story: "From another
offensive wave on Whitewater to a sweeping rollback of federal
regulations on health, safety, and the environment, it's a political
carpet-bombing attack, wall to wall, House to Senate." And nine days
later: "The Republicans' all-out offensive on Whitewater today featured
ABC came in second with eight reporter-based stories
(11 last year) and two anchor-read briefs on World News Tonight, as well
as four reporter or interview items and two days with anchor briefs in
the morning. Not until the House opened hearings on August 7 did CNN's
World News air its first reporter-based story. CNN offered eleven
anchor-read items. NBC Nightly News aired only three reporter-based
segments and four anchor-read briefs. Today had four reporter or
interview segments and anchor briefs on two other days.
NBC wins for going to any length to avoid Whitewater.
On August 8 the other three networks did full stories on RTC
investigator Jean Lewis telling the House that after Clinton became
President officials tried to obstruct her investigation of Madison
Guaranty that found McDougal involved in "rampant" fraud and check
kiting to siphon money to the Whitewater project and Clinton campaign.
NBC led with the O.J. trial and devoted three minutes to a convention of
Elvis "scholars," but gave Lewis 13 seconds.
What revelations did evening news viewers miss?
July 19: Patsy Thomasson, a friend of the President,
who did not have security clearance, sat at Vince Foster's desk hours
after his death while the FBI and Park Police were denied access to his
office. ABC and NBC: no story. CBS did a story on bungling the night of
the death, but failed to note this news. When Dan Rather asked "what in
terms of substance have they come up with?" Bob Schieffer responded:
"Well, not a lot really." CNN dedicated two and a half minutes to a
photo exhibit of movie kissing scenes, but just 18 seconds to Whitewater
without mentioning Thomasson.
July 27: Foster's family lawyer testified, The
Washington Times reported, that White House lawyer Clifford Sloan "saw
torn pieces of a yellow legal pad" in Foster's briefcase "two days after
the deputy counsel's July 1993 death but made no effort to retrieve them
and later told FBI agents he never saw any scraps." At the time
then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum had "declared the briefcase
empty." Four days later Foster's torn suicide note on yellow paper was
found. ABC, CBS and NBC: no story. CNN's 17 second anchor brief failed
to note this new charge.
August 2: Former Deputy Attorney General Philip
Heymann charged that Nussbaum betrayed a promise to allow a joint review
of documents in Vince Foster's office. CNN ignored the story, but found
time for a piece on the health benefits of tofu. After two weeks without
a reporter-based piece, that day NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reported an "In
Depth" segment on the history and political impact of Whitewater, but
NBC relayed nothing about Heymann's testimony.
August 10: A second Justice Dept. lawyer, David
Margolis, backed Heymann by testifying that Nussbaum had reneged on an
agreement to let investigators review documents in Foster's office
before they were moved to the White House residence. CNN and NBC: no
story, but CNN had time to report on Joe Namath donating to Planet
Hollywood pantyhose he wore in a TV ad. NBC squeezed in video of a
tie-dyed flag flown in honor of the late Jerry Garcia. CBS ignored
Margolis as Rather reported "the Whitewater tag team offensive by
Republicans in Congress is winding down, at least for now. In the Senate
more heat but no real new light today" as Nussbaum "denied any law
breaking or cover-up on his part."
the Bright Side
Rotten to the Corps
It was a busy week on the subsidy beat for NBC
reporter Lisa Myers. First she revisited Clinton's pet program,
AmeriCorps. Myers first questioned the youth service program's
efficiency in a February Nightly News report. Her suspicions were later
confirmed by the GAO, as she noted on her July 11 Nightly News
follow-up: "It may not be a good deal for taxpayers....Last year
AmeriCorps estimated the program would cost taxpayers $6.43 per hour of
service to the community. But preliminary GAO findings say overhead and
other costs have driven the price tag way up, to $15.65 per hour of
service. Also, AmeriCorps had estimated costs at $17-18,000 per
participant, most of the bill footed by taxpayers."
Myers noted wryly, "The highest costs occurred when
AmeriCorps gave money to projects run by other federal agencies. Take
this anti-hunger project in Vermont, run by the Agriculture Department.
Cost? Almost $44,000 per job."
After soundbites from Senator Charles Grassley, a
program critic, and AmeriCorps President Eli Segal, Myers concluded: "A
big selling point for AmeriCorps was that as much as half the money for
projects would come from private donations. But so far, GAO says,
federal taxpayers are picking up 80 percent of the tab."
Three nights later on Dateline NBC Myers exposed the
federal peanut program, which artificially boosts the price consumers
pay for peanut products and restricts farmers' freedom to sell them: "In
a free country you might think everyone has that right, but believe it
or not, your government decides who can sell peanuts and who cannot."
After explaining that the subsidy, a Great Depression
holdover, currently goes to many large farmers and high-income people,
Myers disputed Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman's assertion that
minorities benefit from the program: "Records from Glickman's own agency
tell a far different story. While 13 percent of all quota holders are
minorities, the government allows those minority farmers to grow just a
tiny 4 percent of all peanuts sold in America. In fact, this is a
program that almost systematically discriminates against minorities,
because the right to grow peanuts was doled out in the 1930s, when white
farmers owned most of the land. A lot of white farmers today inherited
peanut quota from their grandfathers."
Myers interviewed House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a
program critic, who is "among a growing number of Republicans and
Democrats troubled by a program that enriched 76,000 farmers at the
expense of 200 million consumers." She then queried Glickman: "When the
Clinton administration was forced to choose between the interests of
middle class families and the peanut farmers, you're essentially
choosing the peanut farmers?"
Worrying About Rosty, Not Newt
A Tale of Two
On February 7, 1993, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.)
appeared on CBS's Face the Nation. A very apologetic Bob Schieffer
waited until the end of the interview to slip in a tepid question about
an ongoing ethics investigation: "I'd be remiss if I did not ask you,
your office has been investigated, you've been investigated by a U.S.
Attorney now for I don't know how many months. Can you tell us if you've
been given any indication if that is about to conclude and do you feel
in any way if that's going to impede your authority to work on these
On the July 9, 1995 Face the Nation, Schieffer and
U.S. News & World Report Senior Wri-ter Gloria Borger fired four
questions at Speaker Newt Gingrich about his ethics.
This year Schieffer lacked the "when can we get on
with business" tone. While he was concerned that a long investigation
into Rostenkowski may have impeded his authority, with Gingrich it
smelled of a cover-up: "Maybe this sounds as an odd question, but, you
know, until the ethics committee announced on Friday that they were
indeed going to call you and Rupert Murdoch, there had been charges,
most of them from Democrats, that the whole thing was being, been
dragged out. That the ethics committee had taken no testimony under
oath, that they had subpoenaed no documents. Eric Engberg of CBS had
reported that they hadn't even gotten a briefing from any relevant
agencies. Do you think the ethics committee has been dragging its feet
on this? And would you like to tell them to speed up to at least clear
up all of this?"
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