Reporters Unable to Master 2nd Grade Math, Call Spending Hikes "Cuts"
Media vs. a Balanced Budget
Under GOP House plans spending per
Medicare recipient will soar from $4,800 to $6,700 by 2002, or six
percent per year. Considering this slight slowing of the previously
planned increase a "cut," reporters spent October aiding
liberal efforts to turn people against the GOP plan to balance the
Indeed, The Washington Post reported
October 29 that polls for the House leadership "showed that the
public reacted negatively when told that Republicans would cut Medicare,
but positively when informed that spending would increase but at a
On the October 12 Good Morning America,
news anchor Morton Dean claimed "The Republican plan would cut $270
billion in Medicare spending over seven years." Opening the October
14 Today, Giselle Fernandez promised "we're going to get to the
very latest on Republicans' plan to slash the Medicare budget."
Five days later on CBS This Morning news anchor Jane Robelot said
Democrats were attacking the bill "which slashes $270 billion in
Medicare spending." That night, NBC's Tom Brokaw referred to
"big cuts in Medicare." Linda Douglass insisted on the October
20 CBS Evening News that the President "promised to veto the
Republican plan to cut Medicare."
Newspapers were no better. Under the
October 15 Philadelphia Inquirer headline "GOP's Budget Plan Is
Seen as Cutting Poor to the Quick," Knight-Ridder's David Hess
falsely asserted: "The biggest single cut in the budget-balancing
drive would be $270 billion in future spending for Medicare."
The scaremongering work-ed. Today aired a
story October 20 from Miami in which reporter Kerry Sanders observed
"senior citizens gathered around the big screen TV to watch the
House vote on Medicare cuts. They did not like what they saw....there's
concern about the planned cuts." After four soundbites predicting
disaster, he concluded: "Seniors say they'll show their anger by
voting against Republicans in 1996."
A New York Times poll provided
respondents with misinformation and then trumpeted the result on page 1
on October 26: "Americans Reject Big Medicare Cuts, A New Poll
Finds." The poll asked which people preferred, "balancing the
federal budget" (27 percent), "or preventing Medicare from
being significantly cut" (67 percent).
But Medicare isn't the only budget issue
on which reporters could not pass a second grade math quiz. Today
co-host Jack Ford asserted that the budget included "huge cuts in
social programs." The day before Halloween Robelot announced the
"plan would slash spending." But as Tim Russert noted on Meet
the Press October 29, under the seven year plan overall "spending
goes up 22 percent."
Gergen: Still a Clintonite
A year after leaving the Clinton
Administration where he served as Counselor to the President and then
Counselor to the Secretary of State, David Gergen has been taken back by
his old employers. This fall he re-joined both U.S. News & World
Report as Editor-at-Large and the newly named NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
where he now conducts a weekly interview. Gergen was Director of
Communications during the early Reagan years and held the title of
Editor of U.S. News in 1986-88.
Though he's spun both ways, his November
13 back page editorial made clear that he views politics from the left:
"But in their eagerness to satisfy one principle, fiscal
responsibility, the Republicans would ask the country to abandon
another, equally vital, principle -- fair play. This is a false, cruel
choice we should not make....Congress now seems intent on imposing new
burdens upon the poor, the elderly and vulnerable children while,
incredibly, delivering a windfall for the wealthy. Proposals passed by
the House and Senate would rip gaping holes in the nation's social
safety net, already low by standards of advanced nations and once
An October 12 Washington Post story on
Hillary Clinton's weekly column for the Creator's Syndicate divulged who
puts words to paper for the First Lady: a former Washington Post
reporter. Mrs. Clinton tapped staff speechwriter Alison Muscatine, a
sports reporter and Metro section editor in her 12 years with the Post,
to write the column begun in late July.
Post reporter Lloyd Grove recounted the
writing process: "Some weeks, according to aides familiar with the
column-writing process, Muscatine works from Mrs. Clinton's handwritten
drafts or sits down with her to flesh out anecdotes and ideas; other
weeks, when the First Lady is pressed for time, Muscatine cobbles the
column together from speeches, plugging in facts and figures as she
No Bills for Bill
A prominent network television veteran
has offered free help to the Clinton-Gore re-election effort, a short
item in the October 14 National Journal revealed. The magazine reported
that Pierre Salinger, the Chief Foreign Correspondent for ABC News from
1983 until last year, is among "a group of Democratic public
relations bigwigs in Washington" who have offered their services
gratis. "In a July memo, the honchos outlined what they could do as
`an extension of the Clinton/Gore '96 reelect effort.' The proposal has
been well received. Ann Lewis, Deputy Campaign Director for Clinton/Gore
'96, said that `we're always glad to hear from our friends.'"
Salinger, Press Secretary to President
Kennedy and briefly an appointed Democratic Senator from California, is
now Vice Chairman of Burson-Marsteller.
Jumping to PBS in September as Director
of Communications and Public Relations: Tom Epstein, a Special Assistant
to President Clinton for the past two plus years in the White House
political office. The Los Angeles Times reported he "served as the
administration's eyes and ears for California issues and helped arrange
presidential itineraries during Clinton's numerous visits to the
"Right Wing" Hate Assailed
Gramm Should Die?
The assassination of Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin put "hate talk" back in the news. On
the November 7 Dateline NBC, former New York Times Executive Editor A.M.
Rosenthal warned that the First Amendment may need some retooling:
"I think that American society, and I think other democratic
societies, have to review their tolerance toward dissemination of hatred
which inevitably will lead to death." Dateline reporter Dennis
Murphy transferred the issue from Israel to America, citing "words
nurturing hate, hate turning murderously explosive," while flashing
pictures of a neo-Nazi rally and the bombing in Oklahoma City.
Al Hunt joined the global leap from
"right-wing" Israelis to "right-wing" American
politicians in his November 9 Wall Street Journal column: "Most of
the hate rhetoric in American politics today comes from the right, not
infrequently under the pretenses of religion. It is Pat Robertson who
has accused feminists of encouraging women to `kill their
But when "hate speech" comes
from Democrats against Republicans, it's not seen as part of an
all-encompassing "climate" of global anti-conservative hatred,
but barely makes a blip on the news screen. White House Press Secretary
Mike McCurry said in front of a roomful of supposedly gaffe-loving White
House reporters October 26 that Republicans would like to see Medicare
"just die and go away," adding, "that's probably what
they'd like to see happen to seniors, too, if you think about it."
Although Gingrich demanded McCurry be
fired, only CBS and CNN covered the incident the day it happened. ABC
mentioned it on Good Morning America and in a question on Nightline.
Despite a White House apology to Gingrich, NBC ignored it.
A New Hampshire AFL-CIO convention
newsletter dated October 29 contained this advice for conference
participants: "Drive home safely and remember: If you must drink
and drive, try to do it when Phil Gramm is crossing the street."
Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times picked up the story, but The
New York Times and The Washington Post did nothing. The networks
completely ignored it, despite the presence of Vice President Al Gore as
the main speaker. None demanded that Gore distance himself from such a
ABC's World News Tonight Excludes Hate Speech, Numerology, Libyan Financing
Mainstreaming the Million Man
When it comes to left-wing protest
marches, the networks often prefer public relations to reality. The
marches are "mainstreamed" -- purged of extreme rhetoric, hate
speech, and other public opinion-crashing embarrassments.
For example, two January 1991 marches
against the Gulf War featured flag-burning and cheering for Iraq, but
the networks aired average Americans speaking in moderate tones. ABC
producer Juliet Cassone admitted to MediaWatch: "We were looking
for mainstream demonstrators."
If Americans followed the October 16
"Million Man March" on C-SPAN, they would have seen the whole
picture -- inspirational calls to self-reliance, fatherhood and
community service, as well as angry attacks on whites and Jews and
bizarre numerology theories. For ignoring the extremism and hate speech
of Farrakhan's march, a dramatic contrast from its coverage of
conservative events, ABC's World News Tonight earned the Janet Cooke
Littered among the positive messages from
the podium were negative ones. A young girl ended a Farrakhan-amended
poem by calling blacks "God's divine race." Greenpeace's Damu
Smith blamed "rich white men in power" for "wreaking
havoc on our community," including "rolling back voting
rights" and "putting toxic waste in our communities."
Former U.S. Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.) declared: "Blacks should atone
not for our anger, but for not being angry enough at the growing racism
and incipient fascism of white America. We should atone for not
developing more political independence, more cultural identity, and more
control of our economy, in defiance of white power, in defiance of
Jewish influence....White dreams have crippled many black children and
white values have maimed many black families because the selfishness and
greed of whites do not serve us well."
Then there was the hours-long address by
Louis Farrakhan. Among his remarks: "In the middle of the mall is
the Washington Monument, 555 feet high. But if we put a one in front of
that 555 feet we get 1555, the year that our first fathers landed on the
shores of Jamestown, Virginia as slaves. In the background is the
Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. Each of these monuments is 19 feet
high. Abraham Lincoln is the 16th President. Thomas Jefferson is the 3rd
President. And 16 and 3 makes 19 again." These were a few of
Farrakhan's errors: the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials are much higher
than 19 feet, and the first blacks arrived at Jamestown in 1619.
Farrakhan also claimed God told him to
organize the march: "There is no prophet of God written of in the
Bible that did not have a defect in its character. But I have never
heard any member of the faith of Judaism separate David from the Psalms
because of what happened in David's life, and you never separated
Solomon from the building of the temple because they say he had a
thousand concubines, and you never separated any of the great servants
of God, so today, whether you like it or not, God brought the idea
How would ABC have covered Pat Buchanan
decrying "Jewish influence" or Pat Robertson claiming he was
selected by God? After Buchanan's 1992 GOP convention speech, Jennings
immediately suggested: "Took a number of shots at Hillary Clinton.
Didn't get that altogether accurate, but that'll come out in the debate
as time goes on." ABC's Prime Time Live investigated Pat
Robertson's finances last October. By contrast, ABC didn't fact-check
Farrakhan's address, or investigate his financial empire (documented
last March by the Chicago Tribune), including $5 million from Libya's
In devoting almost the entire October 16
World News Tonight to the march, Peter Jennings downplayed Farrakhan:
"We begin here in Washington today with a massive demonstration of
black togetherness that was much more, and perhaps much different, than
its original speakers had intended...the hugely popular entertainer
Stevie Wonder may have got this crowd's mood right when he said that
this was bigger than any one leader." Minutes later, he repeated:
"For most of the hundreds of thousands who came here today, the
event far overshadowed the man who organized it." Jennings went on:
"But Louis Farrakhan delivered the keynote address, if you can call
it that, on the Mall this afternoon, and it made an enormous
Reporter Ron Claiborne insisted:
"The entire day was spiced with lavish praise for the Black Muslim
leader, from the podium....praise from many in the crowd...But others
insisted the occasion was more important that Farrakhan or any
individual." Claiborne summarized that in a "sometimes
rambling speech, Farrakhan urged black men to change their destructive
behavior, behavior responsible for crime, drug abuse and broken
families." ABC aired only Farrakhan calling for atonement and
urging the audience to "join some church, synagogue, temple, or
mosque that is teaching spiritual and moral uplift."
Jennings ended his show: "It would
be astonishing if this public performance by Farrakhan were to end or
even minimize the controversy which he inspires in the country as a
whole, but it would be a terrible mistake not to recognize that here
today he inspired many people, and in a broader sense, as one
participant here after another has reaffirmed, this day, at this time
and at this place, really did mean unity over division." That's
odd, considering speakers like Gus Savage. Would ABC hail a march for
white "unity" which disparaged blacks?
With the exception of President Clinton's
cautious remarks, World News Tonight aired no one questioning Farrakhan
in any of its nine stories. When asked by MediaWatch for comment, ABC
spokesman Arnot Walker sent a transcript of a mid-afternoon
breaking-news segment that included Farrakhan opponents Rep. Gary Franks
(R-Conn.) and David Friedman of the Anti-Defamation League. Asked why he
wouldn't answer questions about ABC's coverage, Walker replied:
"Until you start reporting by unbiased standards -- maybe we'll
talk to you someday."
During the march, Jennings claimed:
"We will, as always, put our confidence in the Park Police."
But when Farrakhan complained the "racist" U.S. Park Police
crowd estimate of 400,000 was false, ABC News took the unprecedented
step of hiring an "expert" to challenge the Park Police:
Farouk El-Baz of Boston University, a geologist who analyzes aerial
photographs. El-Baz had never counted a crowd before, but estimated
there were 870,000 attendees, with a margin of error up to a million.
From October 19-27, World News Tonight
and Good Morning America hyped their own number in 12 stories. In
promoting the march and its hate-spewing leader, ABC acted more like a
publicity arm of the Nation of Islam than an "objective" news
Several new developments renewed
questions about White House actions related to the Travel Office firings
and the death of Vince Foster. But you wouldn't know it from watching
network news. On October 24 the House Government Reform and Oversight
Committee released a May 14, 1993 memo from then-White House aide David
Watkins in which he said the First Lady told him to replace career
Travel Office employees with a private firm partially owned by a friend.
That contradicted statements made by White House officials over the past
two years. The next day, three handwriting experts asserted that Vince
Foster's suicide note was a forgery, thereby implicating White House
employees in a grand deception.
With the exception of a brief mention on
NBC's Today on October 29 the networks were silent. Today co-host Jack
Ford asked Tim Russert about "new questions raised about the death
of Vince Foster" which "curiously didn't get much coverage at
all, the idea now that some experts are questioning the legitimacy of
that suicide note."
In a November 2 hearing, Senators
questioned the First Lady's top aide Maggie Williams and friend Susan
Thomases about early morning phone calls placed two days after Foster
died. Phone records show Williams called the First Lady in Arkansas and
then a call was made from the Arkansas number to Thomases, who then
called then White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum. That day Nussbaum
reneged on an agreement to allow Justice Dept. officials to examine
files in Foster's office. Network coverage: CBS Evening News aired a
full story from Bob Schieffer, CNN's World News ran a brief anchor-read
item, but no story appeared on the ABC or NBC evening newscasts.
Afraid of Change?
CBS launched two attacks on Medical
Savings Accounts (MSAs), which allows Medicare recipients to buy a
high-deductible catastrophic insurance policy with government funds. Any
remaining money would be used to open a tax-free savings account to pay
for medical expenses below the deductible. With the goal of motivating
people to spend their health care dollars wisely, recipients are able to
keep unspent money.
Linda Douglass warned on the September 28
CBS Evening News that critics insist only "healthy seniors who
don't expect to need much medical care would be attracted to the savings
accounts. That means those who stay in the traditional Medicare system
are likely to be sicker people...By one estimate that could increase
Medicare costs by nearly $3 billion over seven years, just the opposite
of what Republicans want."
On October 9, Eric Engberg suggested the
movement to "anoint medical savings accounts as a miracle solution
owes much to one businessman's well-financed political crusade...which
could bring rich rewards to his company." Engberg cited a CBS News
study that found J. Patrick Rooney and others connected to Golden Rule
Insurance gave $1.2 million to Republican campaigns in the last four
years. "Gingrich insists he likes MSAs because they work,"
Engberg conceded. But he quickly added "Democratic opponents smell
an influence buy."
HMOs Then and Now.
Back on September 22, 1993, NBC's Jim
Maceda listed "myths" about the Clinton health plan. One
"myth" was "the specter of managed care, something good
for those so-called socialist countries abroad, but not us. But guess
what? American health care is already largely managed...Managed care
already works in ten states, and, the reformers insist, is saving
Two years and one election later, NBC had
a different view. On the October 16 Nightly News, the prospect of
seniors opting for managed care under GOP Medicare plans was cause for
concern. Tom Brokaw asked, "Under the reforms now before Congress,
many more would be encouraged to do the same thing, but will they really
save money?" Reporter Robert Bazell warned that "experts"
expected that use of HMOs would result in "increasing costs for the
traditional Medicare program as it covers more of the sickest people,
and at least for now, big profits for the companies that run HMOs."
Tax Hike or Welfare Cut?
Lisa Myers' calculator must have been on
the fritz when she called a reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit a
tax hike on the poor. In her October 12 NBC Nightly News report, Myers
claimed: "Under Republican plans to balance the budget, some 17
million working poor families face tax increases of as much as $7
billion a year." An October 2 Newsweek article noted, "They're
about to raise taxes on 18 million families."
In her piece, Myers profiled two women
who supposedly would be hurt by the GOP reforms. Myers found a
receptionist who earned "barely enough to take care of her two
children." Myers went on to say that she was supposed to get back
$2,200 through EITC, "but Republicans would cut that by $400, which
amounts to a tax increase." Myers interviewed a woman who feared
that the GOP would force her out onto the streets: "71-year-old
Edith Fader of New York City, and others who live in subsidized housing,
face rent increases of about seven percent. She says she already lives
on tuna fish and can't pay any more." Myers did not answer the
question of how you can call the EITC change a tax increase when many
recipients receive more in the refund than they pay in taxes.
Myers and Newsweek also did not mention
that the Republicans' proposed $500 per child tax credit relieves the
tax burden of many lower income American families. According to the Tax
Foundation, a two-earner family with two children making $27,400 will
see their income tax liability drop from $3,999 to $3,103. While
families earning less than $15,000 will see a smaller payment from EITC,
thanks to the child credit, they will still be better off than they were
before the EITC became more generous in 1993.
Got Mugged? Blame ABC.
The debate over racism in the wake of the
O.J. Simpson verdict provided the perfect opening act for the latest
study from the left-wing group the Sentencing Project, which predictably
blamed the criminal justice system and not the criminals. On the October
4 World News Tonight, ABC's Barry Serafin passed on the liberal group's
report without any critics: "The report says inner cities are
targeted for drug arrests...And crack cocaine carries a harsher
punishment than powdered cocaine. One answer, says the report, is less
money spent on law enforcement and more on prevention and
treatment." Michael Fumento gave a different view in an October 25
Washington Times op-ed: "Arrest and conviction data suggest that
violence and participation in drug selling are more strongly associated
with crack." Serafin indicted the politicians: "But Congress
has proposed less money for prevention, more for block grants and
prisons. In the meantime the new report reinforces the view held by many
African-Americans of an unequal justice system."
Unlike ABC, Tucker Carlson of The Weekly
Standard did some digging for the October 23 issue. In a report to one
New York locality, the Project recommended ways to let criminals out of
jail early, and disdained "setting bond to assure the safety of an
alleged spousal abuse victim." They suggested judges not set bail
at all, and find "means other than incarceration for providing
community safety." Who funds this liberal advocacy? The Clinton
Justice Department. But the Project's Marc Mauer told Carlson: "I
have a stack of news clippings this high from reporters covering our
report, and not a single one of them asked about our funding
"Clinton Knows Everything!"
Former Washington Post Executive Editor
Ben Bradlee's tour for his new book A Good Life included a September 25
stop at the PBS chatfest Charlie Rose. Discussing Reagan, Bradlee
complained he "had kind of a magic sway over this country."
Sensing sarcasm, Rose invited Bradlee to elaborate: "He had
something, didn't he?" Bradlee replied: "He sure did. And it
really was stunning because I haven't seen the evidence that he knew
that, you know, he knew what was going on. He really didn't. I mean,
they didn't bother to tell him, they didn't have to tell him.
Interesting, they didn't have to tell him. And yet when he got up and
sort of cocked that smile and said, `Well, you newspaper men always get
it wrong,' the whole country bought it. And so it's awesome."
Bradlee had a much higher opinion of Bill
Clinton: "I think he's an enormously interesting man and I don't
think any President I've known has been brighter than he. I've yet to
hear him say, `I don't know,' and it seems to me I remember Kennedy
saying `I don't know' all the time. Whenever Sarah McClendon would ask
him these questions about some dam in Southwest Texas that he'd never
heard of he'd say, `I don't know, Sarah, but I'll find out,' but Clinton
knows everything. I'm very impressed."
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to
Joseph Rotblat of the Pugwash Institute gave journalists another
opportunity to glamorize the strategically incorrect -- those who
insisted a defense buildup would lead to disaster, when it led to
victory. All three networks honored the choice, but didn't explain that
Rotblat dropped out of the Manhattan Project when he learned the bomb
might be used against the Soviets. On the October 13 CBS Evening News
Dan Rather labeled Rotblat "a little-known, but highly respected
veteran foe of nuclear weapons." ABC's Peter Jennings applauded
Rotblat as "Person of the Week" that night: "Their
purpose was to educate the world to what they saw as a disastrous
In the October 23 Time, Senior Writer
Michael Lemonick declared: "Too often such courageous behavior is
not rewarded." He saluted Pugwash's work in the 1980s: "The
Pugwash organization was considered especially influential...when Ronald
Reagan began pushing his Star Wars program, it gave scientists an
unofficial channel through which to discuss the tricky arms-reduction
Eric Breindel had a different spin on
Pugwash in the October 30 Weekly Standard. In 1982, Pugwash met without
protest in communist Poland during martial law. In 1983, the supposedly
anti-proliferation group condemned Israel's attack on Iraq's Osirak
nuclear facility, destroying Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program, a
position they did not retract after the Gulf War. Breindel wrote the
group conducted "an all-out campaign against Star Wars...Happily
Ronald Reagan wasn't listening, either to Pugwash or to Mikhail
Gorbachev, who advanced the identical argument at the Reykjavik summit
FDR and the Reds.
Translated documents recently released by
the National Security Agency show many of the warnings about communist
efforts to infiltrate the government during the Cold War were true. The
documents show Franklin Roosevelt may have been surrounded by KGB spies.
On October 13, The Washington Times reported the documents suggest the
KGB intended to recruit Eleanor Roosevelt by using the wife of a wealthy
American. But, as reporter Bill Gertz wrote, the documents are
"inconclusive about whether the KGB ever attempted or succeeded in
recruiting the wife of a President."
Another entry is a reference to a KGB spy
code-named "Agent 19." The text suggested this agent was a
close confidant of FDR's who attended his meetings with Winston
Churchill. Analysts believe "Agent 19" was either Vice
President Henry Wallace, who later ran for the presidency on the
socialist Progressive Party ticket, or FDR aide Harry Hopkins, who was
fingered as a Soviet spy by a former KGB officer in 1990. Who covered
these stunning historical revelations? Other than the Times, the AP
filed a story which the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune picked up.
But the rest of the media remained silent on the subject.
Networks Attack Role of Talk Radio, CBS Taints All Hosts with Racist and Extremist Labels
Chopping at the Competition
Even before the elections of 1994, some
reporters were turning up the heat of accusation on talk radio. On
November 4, CBS Evening News anchor Connie Chung complained: "There
is a lot of anger in the air these days. If you have any doubt tune in
to talk radio, where there's often more shouting than
conversation." Reporter Richard Threl-keld proceeded to impugn talk
radio as "a kind of air pollution as close as your car radio"
which consists of "a daily dialogue of hate and anger."
Is this attack on the competition
typical? MediaWatch reviewed ev-ery 1995 news story on political talk
radio on four evening news shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening
News, CNN's World News, and NBC Nightly News). Stories with a disparity
greater than 1.5 to 1 in the reporter's statements of one side or the
other were categorized as pro- or anti-talk radio. Stories within the
ratio were called neutral.
The MediaWatch study found that of the 22
stories in the time frame, negative stories aired about three times as
often as positive ones: 14 were negative, five were positive, and three
were neutral. ABC aired a neutral piece and two negative attacks after
the Oklahoma City bombing. CBS was the most negative, with six negative
stories to one positive, beating out NBC which had a ratio of three
negative to one positive and one neutral. The most balance came from CNN
with three positive, three negative, and one neutral story.
The study confirmed that Threlkeld
represents how the networks portray the rise of talk radio: Not as a
positive development which has provided a forum for many divergent
voices, including those of conservatives who feel their views are
ignored or disparaged by the networks, but as a divisive source of hate
and negativity. On January 3 NBC's Bob Faw provided time for promoters
and detractors, but did include this zinger: "The issue is whether
what's going out over the airwaves here and elsewhere is fanning the
flames, is making the situation worse, that talk radio is not democracy
in action, but democracy gone amok."
That week a San Francisco station decided
to replace its liberal hosts with conservatives, prompting negative
stories from two networks. CNN's Rusty Dornin declared: "KSFO radio
dumped its talk show mix last week and made a switch to the far right of
the dial -- all attitude, all the time."
"It is not just Congress that is
taking a sharp turn to the right. The surge to the right on Capitol Hill
is making waves all over the country on openly politically partisan and
sometimes racist radio," Dan Rather announced January 4. CBS
reporter John Blackstone, equating conservatism with anger, then
intoned: "Even San Francisco, famous for its left-wing sympathies,
took a harder edge this week." Blackstone concluded with the
discovery that the station wasn't conservative, just greedy:
"Should Americans feel comforted or betrayed, knowing that at least
some of those angry and committed voices on the air may be committed
mainly to a dollar?"
Just two days later CNN's Bruce Morton
allowed talk hosts to defend themselves, as he presented both sides:
"Some say talk shows are America's newest political town meetings.
Certainly they can influence issues, can produce floods of mail to
congressional offices. Critics say truth is the first casualty on talk
shows and that the hosts have an agenda."
January also brought the only upbeat CBS
story, a look at positive audience reaction in Boston to
libertarian-conservative host David Brudnoy's revelation that he has
AIDS. But even that story drew this introduction from Dan Rather:
"The hottest thing on the radio these days is the call-in talk
show. Most of the hosts are self-described conservatives, what their
opponents call reactionaries, and their topics are about what you might
expect. Well, something quite unexpected happened on one of these
programs, and perhaps the only thing more surprising than the host's
revelation was the audience reaction."
The Oklahoma City tragedy led the
President on April 24 to denounce "promoters of paranoia" on
the "airwaves." Peter Jennings relayed: "Clinton did not
say so specifically but he clearly had the words of many
ultra-conservative talk radio hosts in mind. All you have to do is
listen to some of them to hear how they react to those with whom they do
Jackie Judd blurred regular commercial
hosts with shortwave broadcaster, Mark Koernke, whose violent rhetoric
attracted Timothy McVeigh, the accused bomber. Judd summed up the
medium: "On talk radio shows today across the country, it was a
free-for-all of anger and fingerpointing. In Detroit, a caller actually
claimed the administration benefited from all this...Talk show host G.
Gordon Liddy advised listeners to shoot first and ask questions later...Liddy,
one of radio's most militant hosts, said even in the
aftermath of Oklahoma, he has no
responsibility to cool the rhetoric." Judd did not explain that
Liddy meant shooting in self-defense.
Tom Brokaw said Clinton appeared to aim
at "talk radio programs that cater to the far right of the
political spectrum" and that talk had "achieved a machine gun
reputation in recent years." NBC's positive story came on April 25,
in which Ollie North, Rush Limbaugh and Phil Gramm were allowed to
criticize Clinton's assertion.
A CBS promo featured G. Gordon Liddy:
"The words are shocking... What he says may not be illegal, but is
it dangerous? Has free speech gone too far? Hate radio under fire, and
firing back -- the story tomorrow on the CBS Evening News."
Introducing that story the next day with a visual that read "Hate
Radio," Rather once again tainted an entire profession: "Even
after Oklahoma City, you can turn on your radio in any city and still
dial up hate talk: extremist, racist, and violent rhetoric from the
hosts and those who call in. President Clinton, among others, suggests
that all this violent talk risks encouraging violent action. But is
there any law to stop them from pumping out that venom?" Anthony
Mason concluded: "Many people are saying it's time to turn down the
volume on talk radio."
When talk hosts convened in late June,
CBS focused only on an award Liddy received. Rather began: "The big
game is a convention of big mouths. They're all in a twitter about an
award to one of their members. He's the former convicted Watergate felon
who's now on the air promoting the shooting of government agents."
Reporting from the convention for CNN,
Lisa Price discovered "Staight talk. Lively conversation. Talk
radio and a rapidly growing nationwide audience." But that was the
exception to the rule in 1995, as the networks were not disposed to see
talk radio as just another way of informing the public in a democracy:
they saw it as an enemy which must be discredited.
the Bright Side
"Al Capone of Apple Juice"
On November 17 the new CBS Evening News
feature "Bernard Goldberg's America" showed a country whose
government has lost all sense of proportion. Goldberg focused on Ben
Lacey, 73, a Virginia business owner who makes sparkling apple cider. He
is also a convicted felon. He could be sent to prison for up to 24
years, longer than most convicted murderers, and fined up to $2 million.
Goldberg noted, "He's even been called `the Al Capone of apple
What could he possibly have done to face
such prison time? Goldberg explained: "Ben Lacey is in big trouble,
not because he killed anyone or robbed a bank. No, it's a lot worse than
that: Ben Lacey has been convicted of falsifying environmental reports.
Each month he had to fill in numbers, numbers about how much oxygen and
nitrogen and ammonia was in the apple juice run-off and the bathroom
waste water that was being discharged into this tiny stream behind the
plant. The government found seven wrong entries that it said Lacey
intentionally falsified. Seven out of thousands."
Lacey says the incorrect entries were
mistakes, not intentional. Goldberg found that even a local
environmental group agreed the stream was not polluted. But the
bureaucrats won't bend: "The government says Lacey's no victim,
he's a big time polluter who years ago was fined for violating labor
laws involving his apple pickers...So whether he's the monster the
government says he is, or whether he's the victim of a bureaucracy run
amok, Ben Lacey could face 24 years in prison, and while no one really
thinks the judge will give him the maximum, at 73 he faces the
possibility of some time behind bars and a stiff fine."
Wehmeyer: Faith Works
Every once in a while the media admit
that sometimes the private sector is more efficient than government
bureaucracies. Even less often do they admit that religion can
accomplish something that government cannot. On the November 7 World
News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings made a startling discovery: "In
Texas there is a faith-based program which has been remarkably effective
in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. It does not cost the
taxpayers a cent."
ABC religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer
asserted: "At 130 Teen Challenge centers across the country,
addicts are taught that Jesus Christ, not Prozac or psychiatrists, can
help free them from addiction....A recent University of Tennessee study
showed that 70 percent of Teen Challenge graduates were drug free after
six months," compared with a state-funded rehab specialist's
suggestion that a 25 percent rate would be "very good."
Despite their success, Wehmeyer found Texas state auditors are looking
at revoking their license over, among other things, the accreditation of
the counselors: "Teen Challenge doesn't want to pay for training
they don't believe in. They use their own reformed addicts as
Networks Ignore Foley, Gephardt
Nipping at Newt...Again
Acting on a story in the October 23 New
York Daily News, CBS reported on that night's Evening News that bulk
sales of Newt Gingrich's book To Renew America may have violated House
ethics rules. That same night, CNN Prime News anchor Linden Soles
introduced a Bob Franken story: "This could be a case of what goes
around comes around," referring to former Speaker Jim Wright's bulk
book sales. Franken also mentioned Wright and noted that on a visit to
Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Gingrich "slipped into a back
room and autographed books, 100 books, purchased on the orders of
Liberty President Jerry Falwell."
The next day, Washington Post reporter
John E. Yang brought up Wright: "Gingrich also sought to refute
comparisons with the bulk sales of a book by then-House Speaker Jim
None of these stories compared the
dramatic differences between the two deals. Wright had an unusually high
royalty of 55 percent from a publisher who was a former employee
(Gingrich earned the standard 15 percent). Wright's book Reflections of
a Public Man was never sold in bookstores -- it was offered instead
almost exclusively in bulk to lobbyists like the Fertilizer Institute in
order to get around House limits on honoraria income. Wright was charged
with 69 counts of ethics violations and resigned in disgrace before
being indicted. Gingrich's book was a genuine commercial property, a
12-week number-one bestseller with sales approaching the half-million
mark. Yet two networks and The Washington Post ran stories on five bulk
orders totalling just over 500 books.
The media missed two scandals involving
leading Democrats Dick Gephardt and Tom Foley. Paul Rodriguez detailed
in the August 28 Insight that a "review of how Gephardt wound up
with a luxury beach house worth more than $700,000 suggests that the
Democratic leader may have violated various banking and tax laws, as
well as financial reporting requirements of the Ethics in Government
Act. As a result, the 10-term Congressman could end up under close
scrutiny by the House ethics committee."
But he's had no scrutiny from the press.
Gephardt, an avid opponent of capital gains tax cuts, effectively
avoided the tax by swapping a property he owned for a vacant lot in a
beachfront community. He later reported it as rental property, a
possible violation of the terms of the swap.
The October 3 Boston Globe reported the
SEC fined an investment firm $100,000 for giving friends preferential
treatment with new stock offerings, one being former Speaker Tom Foley.
Small investors like Foley are generally not privy to initial public
offerings (IPOs), which allow large investors to purchase new stock
before it reaches the trading floor. Roll Call noted in 1993 that Foley
had made money on eleven out of twelve IPOs offered him the previous
year. Except for a single story on CNN's Inside Politics on July 26,
1993, the networks ignored the story both then and now. But ABC did
devote a full story to IPOs in June 1994 -- when the beneficiary was
Republican Sen. Al D'Amato.
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