Reporters Love Pontiff's Message for the Poor, Not the Unborn
Claiming a Piece of the
Before Pope John Paul II landed in the
United States, Washington Post Style writer Henry Allen suggested
millions of American Catholics think he "speaks with the voice of a
conservative crank when he stonewalls on abortion" and other Church
doctrines. But when the Pope called on America to do more for the poor,
reporters turned him into a star witness against the Republican
Robert McFadden covered the Pope's
arrival for the October 5 New York Times: "Without naming names, or
even mentioning the Republican-dominated Congress, the Pope also seemed
to admonish the supporters of proposed laws to restrict immigration and
dismantle many of the nation's programs for the poor. In doing so, he
appeared to echo many of President Clinton's warnings."
The next day, after the Pope called legal
abortion a "moral blight" on America, Times reporter Celestine
Bohlen pronounced: "Though he mentioned the rights of the `unborn
child' at Giants Stadium last night, his most striking statements...have
been warnings against what he perceives as a rising movement to limit
immigration, reduce subsidies for the poor and weak, and retreat to an
The same spin made its way onto
television. On Good Morning America October 6, ABC reporter Bill
Blakemore proclaimed: "He's striking a theme that runs directly
counter to Republican plans to limit welfare programs for the
On October 10, CNN anchor Judy Woodruff
asked Pat Buchanan on Inside Politics: "How do you as a Catholic
reconcile that with what your own party has done this year and is
talking of doing with regard to cutting back programs for the poor in
this country?" Neither ABC nor CNN asked Democrats how the Pope's
pro-life message reconciled with their pro-abortion position.
NBC's appointed papal expert in three
morning interviews, Andrew Greeley, a millionaire priest and author of
sexually explicit novels, told Today co-host Giselle Fernandez on
October 7: "The Pope has come to the United States when it's in a
very mean-spirited period when it's bashing immigrants, bashing poor
people, bashing minorities. And the Pope has come to say `Hey, stop
that!' He isn't talking about specific legislative measures but he's
certainly addressing himself to the spirit that elected and sustains the
But when asked about Catholic reaction to
the Pope's authority on sexual matters, Greeley replied: "Where
they think the Pope really doesn't understand, they reserve the right to
follow their own consciences and appeal to a God who does
White House Fall
In moving personnel around in preparation
for the 1996 campaign, the White House has shifted three media veterans.
Donald Baer, Assistant Managing Editor (AME) of U.S. News & World
Report until becoming President Clinton's chief speechwriter last year,
has taken the title of Communications Director. While a lawyer in 1984
he organized a $75,000 fundraiser in New York City on behalf of Democrat
James Hunt, the unsuccessful nominee that year against North Carolina
Republican Jesse Helms. He joined U.S. News in 1987 as an Associate
At the Labor Department, Clinton will
nominate Susan King as Assistant Secretary for public affairs. She spent
the first half of the year as the presidentially appointed Executive
Director of the Commission on the Family Medical Leave Act. In the early
'80s King was a White House and general assignment reporter for ABC News
until taking an anchor slot at NBC's station in Washington, D.C.... In
Foggy Bottom, The Washington Post reported that Secretary of State
Warren Christopher has gained a new Senior Adviser: Bob Boorstin, a New
York Times metropolitan reporter in the '80s who has spent the last year
writing speeches for NSC chief Anthony Lake.
"Andie Tucher is editorial producer
of the ABC News Twentieth Century Documentary Project," read the
identification tag on an article in the Summer issue of the Freedom
Forum's Media Studies Journal. In the piece exploring the media's
unpopularity, Tucher and co-author Dan Bischoff recalled their positions
when attending MTV's inaugural ball: "One of us had toiled as a
speech writer in the Clinton campaign's War Room...and the other was
then political editor of the Village Voice." A check with Nexis
found that Bischoff worked for the Voice, leaving Tucher, a writer and
producer of Bill Moyers documentaries in 1991-92, as the Clintonite.
The duo argued in their article that
"the rampant dissatisfaction with the `fairness' of the media may
well stem from one fundamental misunderstanding: People seem to believe
that the definition of objectivity is `agreement with me.'"
USA Today's Carter Column
To beef up its presidential campaign
coverage USA Today has brought aboard a Carter Administration veteran.
Walter Shapiro, Press Secretary to Labor Secretary Ray Marshall and
later a speechwriter for President Carter, has begun "Hype &
Glory," a weekly news section column that will appear twice a week
starting November 22. Shapiro, a Senior Writer for Time from 1987 until
Clinton's inauguration, when he became Esquire's White House
correspondent, will remain in that slot for the monthly.
John Scali, the ABC News reporter who
became an intermediary in the Cuban Missile Crisis and later a part of
the Nixon Administration, passed away on October 9. Scali gained fame
after it became known in 1964 that in October 1962, a year after he
joined ABC News, he had carried a critical message from a KGB Colonel to
U.S. officials. He left ABC in 1971 to serve as a foreign affairs
adviser to President Nixon, becoming U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations in 1973. Scali re-joined ABC in 1975 where he worked until
retiring in 1993.
Watching the Detectives?
The official determination of suicide in
the 1993 death of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster led to much
controversy. Some homicide detectives raised questions about
inconsistencies with suicide in the park. Former FBI Director William
Sessions called the investigation "compromised" from the
So when 60 Minutes decided to take a look
you'd expect a serious examination of all the evidence. Instead, on
October 8, Mike Wallace tried to debunk any notion of mysterious
circumstances by taking potshots at a few of the less important
questions. Wallace laid out the official story: "Vince Foster's
family, the U.S. Park Police, the FBI, the Senate Banking Committee, and
independent counsel Robert Fiske have all concluded that Vince Foster
killed himself. But according to a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans
still are not sure. The question is: Why? In large part, because of the
work of this man, investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy."
Wallace grilled Ruddy of the Pittsburgh
Tribune Review, portraying him as part of a right-wing conspiracy:
"Ruddy's paper is owned by a prominent conservative, Richard Mellon
Scaife. Scaife also supports a tiny conservative outfit that calls
itself the Western Journalism Center (WJC) and they've turned Ruddy's
stories into full page newspaper ads across the country. The ads ask for
contributions to keep Ruddy investigating and Ruddy's reporting is the
basis for two videotapes."
Wallace focused on two issues: A disputed
quote from a medical examiner, Dr. Donald Haut, and Ruddy's initial
mistaken reporting that Foster was left-handed. In a statement after the
show, WJC wrote: "Wallace never mentions that it was the Boston
Globe which first reported Foster was left-handed," and that Ruddy
had been first to report the correct information.
Wallace talked to medical examiner Haut,
who contradicted Ruddy about the amount of blood around the body. He
told Wallace it was consistent with suicide. But that's not what Haut
initially told Ruddy and the FBI. The WJC pointed out several major
discrepancies raised by forensic scientists that Wallace never
mentioned: powder burns on Foster's hand inconsistent with suicide,
eyeglasses 19 feet from his body, missing car keys, and the lack of soil
on his shoes.
Scientist Says U.N. Report Includes Acknowledgment That Global Warming Will Be Slight
The hyperbole bandwagon behind the theory
of global warming has lost a lot of steam since its panicky debut in the
summer drought of 1988. Gloomy scenarios of a fiery, dying planet have
almost disappeared from the nightly news. But true believers in liberal
environmentalism remain, and foremost among them is ABC reporter Ned
Potter. For the second time this year Potter issued a one-sided warning
of a greenhouse catastrophe, which has again earned him the Janet Cooke
Back on the April 5 World News Tonight,
Potter took to the sea: "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...There is
evidence, tentative but increasing, that the climate has already begun
to change, affecting people's lives in a range of ways." ABC
ignored a report two days earlier from NASA's George C. Marshall
Institute which said "a growing body of scientific evidence shows
global warming is not a serious threat."
So when the United Nations issued another
report on global warming, ABC returned to the subject, but kept ignoring
the skeptics -- and the real positive message buried in the report.
Peter Jennings began the September 18 World News Tonight story:
"And here is a weather problem that has an effect on the entire
globe, which is why they call it global warming. After years of debate a
consensus is forming. A United Nations report presents persuasive
evidence that the earth is already growing warmer because of man."
Potter began: "Larger and more
frequent hurricanes, longer and more intense droughts, coastal cities
slowly flooded by rising oceans. This is the worst case scenario of
global warming. The United Nations convened thousands of scientists to
argue over the problem. Instead, in a new report, they agree that the
earth is warming partly in response to human activities."
The story turned to Michael Oppenheimer
of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the most prominent advocates
of an approaching catastrophe: "For the first time, the scientific
community has stated clearly that human beings are a probable cause of
much of the warming that's occurred over the last century." Potter
added NASA's Cynthia Rosenzweig to echo Oppenheimer.
Skeptics reject the notion of scientific
consensus. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at
the University of Virginia, testified to Congress on September 20:
"I want to state clearly that there is no scientific consensus on
ozone depletion or its consequences. `Consensus' is a political concept,
not a scientific one. It is used mainly to gain reassurance for an
ideological position and to avoid having to examine scientific arguments
in detail. Consensus has also been claimed on the global warming
The one time Potter allowed an opposite
point of view -- on June 9, 1992 -- he identified Fred Singer as "a
scientist who often defends industries like coal and oil, which are less
concerned about the climate than about drastic economic measures being
proposed to protect it."
Potter continued his September story with
exposition: "When coal and oil are burned in cars and factories,
they release gases like carbon dioxide that can trap the sun's heat in
the atmosphere and warm the earth. Scientists say the earth's average
temperature has increased about one degree in the last hundred years and
could increase in the next hundred by another one to six degrees. That
may not sound like much but scientists say it could mean dramatic
changes, with food shortages in some places and oceans drowning low
lying areas as they rise a foot and a half."
Potter ended by underlining the need for
onerous government action: "Industry is worried that it may be
forced to make drastic changes, closing down coal-fired power plants or
switching cars from gasoline to much more expensive batteries. But with
scientists so clearly labeling industry as part of the problem,
politicians may not give companies a choice."
Potter would have gotten the opposite
message if he'd interviewed Patrick Michaels, professor of environmental
sciences at the University of Virginia, who told MediaWatch: "This
is another example of a reporter ostensibly reporting on science who has
not critically read or investigated the subject of his report. It is
astounding to me that a person who has followed this issue as closely as
Potter did not read between the lines in this report." Michaels
explained: "The real story is not that it implicates humans in
climate change. It is that the United Nations now says the climate model
that best tracks the past, and is therefore most reliable in the future,
one that predicts very little future
The U.N report cited an August 10 paper
in the journal Nature by a British team of scientists led by J.F.B.
Mitchell, which begins: "Climate models suggest that increases in
greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere should have produced a
larger global mean warming than has been observed in recent decades,
unless the climate is less sensitive than is predicted by the present
generation of coupled general circulation models."
Michaels told MediaWatch: "That's a
polite way of saying the so-called cynics were right." He explained
that the British team's model projects that a doubling of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere would cause an increase in global temperatures of 2.5
degrees Celsius by the year 2100, lower than most models. But the model
also includes the offsetting cooling effect of sulfate aerosols, which
reduces warming by a third, leaving a net warming of only 1.7 degrees
from 1900 to 2100.
Michaels added: "Mitchell's model
accurately projects a 0.4 degree warming `since the 1930s and 1940s,'
which should have been more specific. But if you subtract that
four-tenths from the 1.7 degrees the model predicts, we would only see
1.3 degrees warming by the year 2100."
How does this make scientific
"cynics" right? In his 1991 book Sound and Fury: The Science
and Politics of Global Warming, Michaels predicted: "The warming
that will have occurred between 1900 and the time CO2 effectively
doubles in the next century will be on the order of 1.0 to 1.5 degrees
Celsius." Michaels told MediaWatch: "The media's attempt to
create policy and subsidies in the latest spasm of global warming
apocalyptism is so transparent. But if this U.N. report doesn't kill the
issue before this Congress, I don't know what will."
As usual, Potter failed to return
repeated MediaWatch phone calls. In a 1993 Nightline, Ted Koppel
concluded the show with what would be good advice for Potter: "The
measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the
people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of
hypotheses into the acid of truth. That's the hard way to do it, but
it's the only way that works."
Defund the Nonpartisans?
The Washington Post devoted a September
19 front-page story to the Republican bill aiming to stop activist
groups from using taxpayer money to lobby for more government. But the
bill's liberal critics never were identified as liberal. Reporter
Stephen Barr listed "the bill's harshest critics -- including
Independent Sector, a coalition of more than 800 corporate and nonprofit
groups, and OMB Watch, a public interest group." Barr also
introduced without a label the National Committee for Responsive
Philanthropy, the American Association of Retired Persons, the Aspen
Institute, and Georgetown law professor David Cole, who Barr didn't
mention is active in the far-left Center for Constitutional Rights. But
Barr ended his story by turning to Leslie Lenkowsky of the
"conservative Hudson Institute."
Mother of All Assaults.
As Congress prepares to vote on allowing
oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and logging
in the Tongass National Forest, environmentalists are launching a
counter-attack. Their weapon of choice? The media.
Reporter Martha Brant took aim at
Alaska's Republican delegation in an October 2 Newsweek piece titled
"The Alaskan Assault." Rep. Don Young, described by Brant as a
"hot-tempered trapper," and Senators Ted Stevens (who's
"given to sudden fits of rage") and Frank Murkowski (who lacks
Young's "menacing flair") have been shepherding the
legislation to supposedly destroy Alaska and kill all the caribou
through the committees they control.
Brant set the debate:
"Environmentalists try to depict the current conflicts as a
morality play that pits helpless animals and sparkling streams against
rapacious developers. The problem is that these lawmakers -- arguing
that jobs for loggers and oil drillers outweigh traditional preservation
worries -- are happy to wear the black hats."
Just how big is this "assault"
on Alaska's natural resources? It's tiny, Steve Hanson, Communications
Director for the House Resources Committee told MediaWatch. The Tongass
National Forest is 17 million acres large. Only 1.5 million acres of
Tongass can be harvested for wood. Since 1952, the most wood harvested
in a single year was 13,997 acres. The ANWR is 19 million acres, the
size of South Carolina. Hanson pointed out that "the actual
footprint of the oil facilities is about 12,000 acres."
The media buildup for the 1996 Clinton
campaign is beginning. An August 20 Knight-Ridder story was headlined in
one Pennsylvania newspaper, "Polls Show that Clinton's Tough Stance
is Gaining More Public Support." Washington bureau reporter Robert
Rankin detailed Clinton's popularity-earning moves: "Ordered
sweeping regulation over sale and marketing of cigarettes and chewing
tobacco to children," "restricted lobbyists' access to
executive branch officials," and appointed two proponents of
"clean government" to "spearhead campaign-finance
In addition, Rankin reported that over
the summer Clinton "Ordered his Education Department to notify
every school in America about the religious rights of students, and his
Justice Department to defend students whose religious rights are
infringed upon." Glowing phrases like "flexing his executive
muscles" and "the public seems to like the newly assertive
Clinton" permeated the story. To show the popularity of all this
plus moves like ordering "equal access to security clearances for
homosexuals in government" and defending "affirmative action
programs as unequivocally necessary," Rankin cited poll numbers
showing Clinton beating Bob Dole.
But according to a poll in the October 2
U.S. News and World Report, "only 40 percent of the voters approve
Clinton's job performance and 46 percent disapprove -- no change from
Newsweek contributor Gregg Easterbrook is
no conservative. National Journal reporter Paul Starobin wrote in the
September 2 edition that "he volunteered at a recent lunch with EPA
administrator Carol Browner to endorse the Clinton Administration's
environmental agenda." Then why has A Moment On the Earth,
Easterbrook's book on the environment, been greeted with such hostility
on the liberal environmental beat? Because Easterbrook's thesis is that
the environmental news today is basically good, a theme insufficiently
gloomy for some statist environmental journalists: "Not only
Easterbrook's science, but also his motive and credentials, have been
questioned in a raucous, at times petty, spat that has important
implications for the direction of policy."
Starobin noted Time reporter David
Seideman penned a poisonous book review for the Los Angeles Times.
Seideman wrote that the book "sinks beneath a landfill of
falsehoods and sophistries." In an interview Seideman called him a
"bully" who "makes caricatures of environmentalists...I'm
absolutely appalled by what
he's writing but in awe of his
[publicity] skills. He's very good at playing the provocateur -- maybe
we're all unwittingly playing into his hands." A second Times
review said the book was "powerfully persuasive, both in detail and
Also angry is Philip Shabecoff, the
ex-New York Times environmental reporter, who accused Easterbrook of
sending "a jarringly wrong message to environmental
journalists." And what's the correct message? Shabecoff wrote in a
recent newsletter of the Society of Environmental Journalists: "Our
role is to probe beneath the veneer placed over our continuing
environmental ills by industrial political and ideological
propaganda," not "feel-good fluff."
Shabecoff told Starobin his big worry was
a "corporate culture in the media that looks askance at
environmental reporting." In his 1993 book A Fierce Green Fire,
Shabecoff cited approvingly the "valuable role" professional
activists play in environmental journalism as "intermediaries
between the scientific community and reporters." Starobin noted
that "[Shabecoff] left the Times in 1991 after he was pulled off
the environment beat by editors who, he said, told him that his coverage
was pro-green -- an accusation that he disputes."
Back and Roth.
Senator Bob Packwood's resignation led to
some confusion in the media. Reporters worried about the loss of another
moderate as they went searching for a label for Senator William Roth,
his successor as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
On the September 8 Good Morning America's
7:00 a.m. news summary, correspondent Bob Zelnick anointed him moderate:
"Bill Roth, the Republican of Delaware, will take over, a moderate
but not quite the power Packwood is." Thirty minutes later,
however, anchor Morton Dean changed the label: "The moderate
Packwood leaving the Senate and giving up the chairmanship of the
powerful Senate Finance Committee, and favored to replace him, the more
conservative William Roth of Delaware."
U.S. News & World Report Senior
Writer Steven Roberts worried in the September 18 edition that Roth's
ascension would leave "fewer GOP moderates, more hardline
conservatives and a Senate where compromises are harder to reach."
Specifically, he described Roth as "a more timid lawmaker who is
far less likely to assert his independence from conservative
orthodoxy" than Packwood. If Dean or Roberts had checked they'd
have learned that Roth is hardly a hard-line conservative. In 1994 he
earned a 35 percent rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic
Action and a 68 from the American Conservative Union which gave Packwood
67 percent approval.
The U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing
gave the media a convenient hook to hang their large feminist hats,
celebrating abortion as women's liberation and the good old days of
gender equality under communism. ABC World News Tonight reporter Beth
Nissen suggested September 3 that American women shared the plight of
the Third World: "American women are still underrepresented among
those who enforce the law, who make the law," she said, describing
America as "a society that often fails to treat women equally,
fairly, or well."
Eight days later, on September 11, ABC's
Jim Laurie noted the Beijing conference was "making important
breakthroughs," among them a sexual rights manifesto "likely
to urge the decriminalization of abortion around the world. With such
strides in women's rights, said one delegate, disputes between George
Bush and Bella Abzug are unfortunate diversions." But neither
Nissen nor Laurie discussed the victims of these "rights," as
China's forced abortion condemns many infant girls to death.
In the August 24 Los Angeles Times,
reporter Robin Wright noted approvingly that "China's constitution
is among the few that openly pledges `women enjoy equal rights with men
in all spheres of life.'" Wright lamented women's lack of good
authoritarian opportunities in the new, freer societies:
"Opportunities have actually diminished for females in many of the
formerly socialist countries that are embracing democracy and free
markets. East European governments have far fewer women than their
communist predecessors. And China admits that women hold limited
positions of influence in the government and Communist Party -- and none
in the Politburo."
As if that weren't enough demonstration
of a blind eye to the reality of communism, a week later, Los Angeles
Times reporter Maggie Farley blandly recounted how Shen Huiqin
reminisced about her "good old days when they were young women at
the forefront of China's Cultural Revolution two decades ago. `I was a
Red Guard then, and we had power.'" Indeed, those at the
"forefront of the Cultural Revolution" from 1966 to 1976 are
estimated to be responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million men
and women. But Farley never mentioned that -- only that "most of
the gains made by Chinese women" came during that murderous decade.
wistfully noted: "Now, as communism
gives way to capitalism, in many ways women are bearing more than half
the burden of change."
Respect for Life?
Newsweek Senior Editor Melinda Beck wrote
without irony about home abortion methods in 1989: "Sadly, many
home remedies could damage a fetus instead of kill it." In the same
style, Debra Rosenberg, Michelle Ingrassia, and Sharon Begley returned
to the subject in the September 18 issue, graphically describing a few
women's experiences using RU-486 to abort babies.
They recounted how after one women took
the drug, she went into the bathroom, yelling to her boyfriend:
"Richard! Come here -- look at this!" Newsweek described the
scene: "There is a fist-size glob of red and white at the bottom of
the toilet. Becky can see the curled-up fetus, the size and color of a
cocktail shrimp. `Look at that, honey,' Becky says to Richard. Its hands
are curled into tiny fists. `It's sad. It's sad,' Becky murmurs, turning
away." Another woman had a different experience: "Unlike
Becky, Sarah has not expelled the fetus within 24 hours...nine days
after the misoprostol -- she is taking a shower when she suddenly expels
the pregnancy sac. It doesn't go down the drain. She scoops it up, wraps
it carefully in toilet paper and flushes it away. `It really emotionally
hit me,' she says later."
Newsweek related the story of
"Claudia, a 23-year-old computer programmer from Connecticut who
lives with her boyfriend, had an experience starkly different from
Sarah's: the night after taking the drug at the Planned Parenthood
clinic she passed the fetus, without even taking the
contraction-inducing misoprostol. She had never had an abortion before.
`At first I cried,' she says. `It's a mourning process. It's respect for
Republican "Cuts" Portrayed as Horrific, While Clinton's Unreal Budgets Hailed as Terrific
The Media's More-Spending Bias
The media play an important role in what
political scientist James Payne calls "the culture of
spending." Like many other Washington players, reporters have a
bias in favor of more activism by the federal government, with an
emphasis on more spending. This leads to a very distorted difference in
the way Republican and Democratic spending proposals are reported.
In 1993, when President Clinton proposed
a "$500 billion deficit reduction package," reporters promoted
a vision of serious deficit reduction without mentioning a planned
dramatic expansion of entitlement spending -- the Clinton health plan,
which the public was told would require very little in new taxes or
spending. With this year's Republican budget proposals, they provided
hostile word-pictures of "slashing" and
"bloodletting," even as spending is projected to grow well
beyond the rate of inflation.
In the Bush years alone, Medicare grew 72
percent, and Medicaid jumped 132 percent. Republicans have proposed to
reduce the growth of federal spending on Medicare from over 10 percent a
year to about 7 percent. Spending per recipient is projected to increase
from $4,800 per recipient to $6,700. For Medicaid, the Republicans plan
to send the program's administration back to the states, but also plan a
39 percent increase over seven years, from this year's $89.2 billion to
But reporters have sounded the alarm in
frightful tones. "March madness has begun on Capitol Hill, and
almost as predictable as a B horror film, the slashing has begun,"
warned CNN's Judy Woodruff on March 16. When the Republicans sought to
pass an overall budget, CNN's Bob Franken announced on May 9: "The
House Republican budget bloodletting will infuriate lots of people.
Besides the Medicare cuts, Medicaid, the government health plan for the
poor, loses $184 billion."
In September, the formal introduction of
a Medicare reform plan drew more of the same. Bryant Gumbel charged on
Today September 15: "Republicans in Congress are beginning to
detail how they intend to cut $270 billion from the Medicare
budget." Five days later, Dan Rather declared on the CBS Evening
News: "There's no doubt that Medicare spending will be cut. The
question is how much and for how many." The next day, Rather
announced for effect: "Republicans in Congress today unveiled their
long-awaited and potentially most explosive proposal of all -- to cut
Medicare spending increases by more than a quarter trillion
CBS This Morning co-host Paula Zahn
warned on September 29 that "The Republican plan to slash $270
billion from Medicare cleared its first hurdle in a Senate committee
last night." On PBS, anchor Robert MacNeil reported October 2 that
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle proposed a Medicare plan that
"would cut $89 billion over seven years, a third of what the
Republicans have proposed to slash."
But when Clinton introduced a budget plan
in April 1993 which included no estimates of how much his proposed
health plan would cost in the coming five years, media reaction was not
hostile. Most reporters touted the fiscal solidity of a budget with a
massive magic asterisk in the middle, with no estimate of the increased
costs of adding 37 million Americans to a nationalized health program.
NBC's Lisa Myers declared on the April 30
Today: "The President deserves great credit for having the courage
to come up with a deficit reduction plan and we shouldn't lose sight of
that." On May 28, CBS This Morning's Paula Zahn asked Ross Perot:
"Do you acknowledge that this is at all better than anything the
Republicans attempted over the last 12 years?" This is the same
person who accused the Republicans of "slashing" Medicare.
Reporters also claimed inaccurately that the new budget (which
completely excluded new spending on health care for the uninsured) would
actually lower overall spending. The Clinton budget clearly stated the
budget would grow from $1.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion by 1998.
"Three months after Mr. Clinton
outlined his plan to lower the deficit, by a combination of lower
spending and higher taxes, the tax portion has passed its first
important test on Capitol Hill," announced Peter Jennings on the
May 13, 1993 World News Tonight. Declared CBS Face the Nation host Bob
Schieffer on May 23: "It is a plan which raises taxes and reduces
government spending to bring the deficit into line."
When the initial numbers of the health
plan were introduced in September 1993, reporters continued to present
the White House line that health reform would require no massive tax
increases. ABC's Jim Angle touted savings on World News Tonight
September 2. "Though many analysts are skeptical of the
administration's numbers, they say universal care will save the
government money....In all, some $31 billion a year could be saved by
shifting insurance costs for the working poor and elderly from the
government to their employers."
On the September 15, 1993 CBS This
Morning, Linda Douglass explained: "They have a very elaborate plan
to pay for this revolution in health care. It doesn't provide for much
new in the way of taxes, just a sin tax, cigarette tax. They claim the
money's going to come from savings in spending."
Time Washington Bureau Chief Dan Goodgame
announced in the September 20, 1993 issue: "The Clinton plan is
surprisingly persuasive in supporting the longtime claim of the
Clintons, and their top health care strategist, Ira Magaziner, that
reform can be almost entirely from savings, without broad-based new
taxes and with enough left over to reduce the federal budget
deficit." Not every reporter found the fantasy alluring. In the
September 20, 1993 issue, Newsweek economics correspondent Rich Thomas
charged: "It is the biggest exercise in wishful thinking since
President Reagan promised to cut taxes, increase defense spending, and
balance the budget."
The Congressional Budget Office
eventually calculated the Clinton plan as costing $1 trillion a year by
1998. Since Clinton had no balanced budget deadline, reporters never
reported that as a "seven-trillion-dollar health plan over the next
seven years." The public relies on the national media for accurate
information about the federal budget, but it often doesn't get it. Will
next year's budget really spend less than last year? Will Medicare
spending actually go down? Reporters know that the pollsters have found
that the word "cuts" helps the Democrats, but "slowing
the growth" does not. They seem more interested in curbing
Republican budget balancing plans than providing the most basic
statistical information, finding numerical calculation less necessary
than political calculation.
the Bright Side
Recalling the Gulag
In a rare post Cold War look at the
political oppression that existed in the Soviet Union, Newsweek's Andrew
Nagorski reported about the horrors of Soviet prison camps in his
September 25 piece, "Back to the Gulag."
He traveled to Perm, 700 miles east of
Moscow, to relate the horrors of those who had been trapped in the
gulag. "What most gripped the survivors was the memory of being
hungry and cold. Their jail diet was watery soup, bread and weak tea --
meager at best, and often forsworn by prisoners on hunger strikes."
Nagorski learned: "Prisoners lived in terror of catching a cold,
because they were so weak that any illness could prove fatal...And
guards played on that fear by often forcing prisoners to repeatedly
submit to strip searches in the cold."
Nagorski noted that Soviet oppression
ended only recently. "Several inmates died in Perm as late as
1985." He concluded that most former prisoners "aren't looking
for retribution. But they do want some wider recognition of how they
Death to Women
NBC's Lucky Severson took advantage of
the UN women's conference in China to explore the danger women there
face under communism. On the September 3 Nightly News he explained:
"Hidden in this mass of humanity, there's an alarming statistic. By
the year 2000, China will have eighty million more men than women."
Why? "They're missing because China has strictly enforced a one
child per family policy" which is "a death sentence for
Citing a human rights report, he asserted
that women become "the silent victims of abortion, and murder, or
they are simply abandoned" since a boy can work the fields. Now,
"it is not uncommon to find the bodies of baby girls floating in a
river." Ultrasound "was designed to save lives," but
Severson said it "is the reason 97 percent of abortions in China
are performed on female fetuses."
A Reagan Salute
After criticizing Ronald Reagan for
years, Newsweek ran two upbeat articles October 2 on the ailing
ex-President. The first was au-thored by Contributing Editor Eleanor
Clift, who once praised Kitty Kelley's 1991 book about Nancy Reagan
(that alleged she had a lesbian affair, performed oral sex acts on
various men, and cheated on her husband) as "a contribution to
This time, she provided a largely
touching portrait of a family brought together by tragedy, detailing the
reconciliation of daughter Patti with her parents. Clift described how
"Ronald Reagan has always believed in happy endings, and now, in a
way, he is living one. The onset of Alzheimer's in the 84-year-old
former President's brain has brought peace to his once-warring
family." Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan's appreciation
followed Clift: "Other Presidents have loomed large. Nixon loomed,
but like a shadow. Reagan looms like a sun, lighting the stage on which
the year's contenders [for the presidency] stand. But his light is so
bright they squint in the glare and seem paler, washed out."
Audience Not "Angry White Males"
Talk Radio Realities
Countering those who dismiss talk radio
as a forum for ignorant and angry white men, a new survey has
determined that regular listeners are better educated than the general
public and a minority are Republican. "Only 22 percent of those
who listened to political radio talk shows `today or yesterday' are
Republican men," found the poll of 3,035 people released in
September by Adams Research Inc. The Arlington, Virginia firm is the
publisher of a new fax newsletter, Talk Daily.
Talk radio has a vast audience, with 47
percent of adults saying they listen occasionally and 17 percent
tuning in within the past 48 hours. Of these frequent listeners, 40
percent are women. Only 38 percent identified themselves as
Republicans, 23 percent as Democrats and 39 percent as independents.
Frequent listeners "are disproportionately better educated"
as 39 percent have a college degree compared to 21 percent of all
adults, and while 20 percent of Americans earn more than $60,000
annually 30 percent of talk show listeners take home that much.
On NBC Nightly News in January Bob Faw
lashed out, asking if "talk radio is not democracy in action, but
democracy run amok?" Re- porters may have reason to fear the
rival: Asked "How important to you is talk radio as a source of
political information and ideas," 67 percent said
"very" or "moderately."
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