Media Tied Talk
Radio, Conservatives and Gingrich to Oklahoma City, But...
The Unabomber's On His Own
After the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing the media
hurled charges of complicity at conservatives. Referring to Newt
Gingrich's language, Time declared that the "burden of fostering the
delusion" that government is the enemy "is borne not just by the nut
cases who preach conspiracy but also to some extent by those who erode
faith in governance in the pursuit of their own ambitions." Asked Bob
Schieffer on Face the Nation: "There's been a lot of anti-government
rhetoric, it comes over talk radio...Do you think that that somehow has
led these people to commit this act?"
But this April, even after ABC detailed the
Unabomber's left-wing ties, the rest of the media failed to pick up the
Two days after suspect Ted Kaczynski's April 3 arrest,
Brian Ross reported on World News Tonight that his "name appeared...in
connection with an FBI investigation of a radical environmental group
called Earth First...Over the years, Earth First has been best known as
a violent group spiking trees and blowing up logging equipment, and in
many respects its anti-corporate philosophy parallels that of the
Ross noted "that authorities believe Kaczynski was at
a meeting attended by top Earth First members." A private investigator,
Ross relayed, "says the bomb last year that killed the head of the
California Forestry Association clearly can be tracked back to a hit
list published in one radical environmental journal." Instead of being
consistent, reporters buried the tie. On April 8 the environmental angle
made it into the 35th paragraph of a USA Today story as well as the 15th
paragraph in The New York Times that day and The Washington Post the
next. Insisting "there is no proof," NBC's David Bloom dismissed the
link April 10.
The Unabomber manifesto rails against capitalism (it
begins "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a
disaster for the human race"), but the April 15 Time noted no one
recalled him having contact at Berkeley "with the leftists he would
later excoriate in his manifesto."
Some were sympathetic. USA Today's April 11 front page
read: "UNABOMBER: A Hero to Some." Richard Price reported he's "being
romanticized for his intellect" as "some people even feel sorry for him,
seeing him a brilliant boy gone astray." On C-SPAN's Sunday Journal
April 7, Time's Elaine Shannon found parts of the manifesto she agreed
with, such as, "industrialization and pollution are all terrible
things." She reasoned: "He wasn't a hypocrite, he lived as he wrote."
Kaczynski "carried it to an extreme, and obviously murder is something
that is far beyond any political philosophy, but he had a bike, he
didn't have any plumbing."
Oklahoma Bill's Hate Radio
After a year away to deal with heart trouble, Bill
Moyers, a former Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, returned
to NBC on April 12 to host a Dateline NBC special "Oklahoma City: One
Year Later." The day of the show, the New York Post quoted Moyers as
insisting that he went to Oklahoma City "with nothing but a desire to
find out what was happening. There was no agenda."
In reality, Moyers implied conservative rhetoric led
to the bombing. But instead of having the integrity to name names or
cite statements, Moyers offered an hour filled with vague generalities
which held culpable "hate radio" and "the rhetoric of politics this
season." Dateline featured this exchange with service station owner Bud
Welch, whose daughter was killed:
Welch: "I thought, the first few months, that there
was probably going to be more unity in the country, politically." Moyers:
"That this tragedy would bring us together?" Welch: "Yes, that this
tragedy would bring it together, but we're seeing through the elections
that's going on right now, the same negative thoughts, the militia
groups, the hate radio." Moyers: "And you think that contributed to the
tragedy, the bombing here?" Welch: "Absolutely, without a doubt. Because
it justifies a lot of the angry feelings that people have."
As Welch listened to G. Gordon Liddy on his car radio,
Moyers charged: "The airwaves are still saturated with militant
rhetoric. Day and night you can hear a stream of rage and insult
directed with unremitting hostility at government and others. It rubs
like salt in deep wounds and some of the families are trying to counter
Then, as viewers saw several victims being interviewed
by KTOK's Carole Arnold, Moyers explained: "Emerging from their private
grief, they appeal for an end of hateful talk and political invective.
Their experience is their message. What a society sows, it reaps....This
local station has given the families a forum, but it also carries
several hours of talk every day that they find inflammatory." The
station does not carry Liddy, so the broadside against "hate" and
"inflammatory" talk goes undefined. Welch proceded to tell Arnold: "Of
course I think the media need to be involved a little bit in a little
bit of control of the hate radio going on. I'm very disturbed about
that. I mean where's the responsibility?"
Having impugned talk radio, Moyers turned to the
government shutdown: "Just as federal workers were coming out of shock
from the bombing, there was another blow, this time from Washington." He
asked a HUD supervisor who survived the blast: "It's been a tough year
for you federal workers here. The bombing, the furlough, you lost pay
for a while. You continue to be demonized in the rhetoric of politics
this season. What does that do to your idea of yourself?"
Finally, Moyers concluded the hour with this seeming
indictment of House Speaker Newt Gingrich as co-conspirator: "It will
never be the same. The bombers saw to that. The tears and grief, the
pain and the sorrow were all intended. Terrorism is the politics of
murder. We should have seen it coming. Hate was in the air. Government
had been vilified, found guilty and sentenced to die. It didn't matter
who was in the way. There are lessons for us here, something to take
away from the wreckage of that day, if we're listening, one year later."
The Latest Science Fiction
Rotten in Denmark?
The media have often promoted liberal claims about the
dangers of "overpopulation." Now that a new book, Our Stolen Future
(with an introduction by Al Gore) theorizes that man-made chemicals are
responsible for impending sterility, the media reaction is the same:
unquestioned acceptance of ominous liberal claims.
Time science writer Michael Lemonick wrote March 18
that "In study after study, sperm counts in men the world over seem to
be dropping precipitously." He claimed the book contains "powerful
evidence" to support the hypothesis that "reproduction-related ills may
be caused by chemical pollutants in the environment, including DDT." The
book is based on data from a Danish scientist, Niels Skakkebaek, whose
meta-analysis of 61 sperm count studies found a 50 percent decline since
Though Lemonick wrote "the evidence for a
chemical-infertility link does remain largely circumstantial," he warned
of apocalypse: "Extrapolating from Skakkebaek's admittedly controversial
data, it's conceivable that the average man will be infertile within a
century. Even if things are only half that dire, it would be bad news
indeed for the human race."
Today's Bryant Gumbel
used the same tone with book cowriter Theo Colborn on March 12: "The
extinction of the human race has long been a staple of science fiction,
but according to a group of scientists, it could one day prove to be all
too true, and they say the cause of the problem may be man-made
chemicals." In a letter to Today, Dr. Glenn Swogger of the American
Council on Science and Health claimed Colborn's "claims of lower sperm
counts relates to a subsequently discredited study a number of years ago
and is stale news in the scientific community...We run the risk of so
limiting pesticide use through excessive regulation and discouragement
of research that we will lose the valuable contribution they make to
producing cheap and healthy fruits and vegetables." Gumbel only
mentioned the ACSH to note they're "partially funded...by industry."
Robert Hager provided a more sober account on the
April 1 NBC Nightly News, noting critics claimed the book was "bad
science." Journalist Ronald Bailey was then allowed to critique the
book's science in NBC's "In Their Own Words" segment.
Janet Cooke Award
CBS, NBC Suggest "Extremist" Bishop Guilty of
"Witch Hunt" for Upholding Church Teaching
In the sophisticated ambiance of TV newsrooms, freedom of association is
a concept apparently as outmoded as traditional religion. The notion
that in America, a church is a voluntary association, bound together by
commonly held theological beliefs, is a strange and alien argument. For
holding up a Catholic bishop as a symbol of "extremism" enforcing a
"blacklist," CBS and NBC earned the Janet Cooke Award.
On the March 25 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather began:
"In Lincoln, Nebraska, a bishop is taking the Catholic Church's battle
over personal morality a step further. He is threatening to
excommunicate any parishioner who joins groups advocating positions the
church opposes. That threat puts this bishop in the forefront of a
national furor, as we hear from Scott Pelley."
Pelley began: "Critics call him an extremist, a danger
to the Catholic Church. What has thrust national notoriety upon Bishop
Fabian Bruskewitz is a list, his own blacklist of organizations, he
says, threaten the mortal soul...Bruskewitz has decreed that
parishioners in his diocese of southern Nebraska have seven weeks to
resign memberships in the listed groups, or be excommunicated, severing,
the bishop says, their relationship with God."
He added: "The list includes pro-choice Planned
Parenthood and the Hemlock Society, which advocates a right to die. But
it also includes some organizations that consider themselves to be
Catholic, even though they stray from Vatican teaching. One of them,
known as Call to Action, advocates the ordination of women."
Call to Action's Robert McClory claimed: "The
organization was founded to promote dialogue on issues, about which
Catholics are seriously divided. He would prefer, evidently, that there
be no discussion, and he's ordered those people, who think so, to simply
get out of his house." Pelley noted: "The Bruskewitz list may be unique
in America. Bishops rule their own diocese; parishioners are welcome to
appeal to the Pope. Randall Moody faces excommunication. He is a
parishioner and a member of Planned Parenthood's [national] board of
directors." Moody oozed: "The organizations affected by this
excommunication order are mainstream America, and it paints the church
into the corner of being an extremist organization."
Pelley allowed Bruskewitz to speak: "These groups
mislead people into thinking that they're compatible with the Catholic
religion when they're not....It's not a question of not wanting to
discuss issues. It's a question of an organization, which is, by its
very constitution, inimical to the Catholic faith, which is destructive
of church discipline."
Pelley ended: "The controversy is an example of
tension in the American church, with a conservative Vatican on one side
and reform-minded Catholics on the other. Now in Nebraska, there is a
deadline for those who must decide whether they live their conscience or
keep their faith."
NBC Nightly News had a similar take on April 1. While
the on-screen graphic read "Blacklisted," Tom Brokaw pronounced: "A
controversy is splitting apart a church as it prepares to enter its
holiest week. At issue: A threat by a Catholic bishop in Nebraska to
expel members from the church, for reasons his critics say belong in
another era. Here's NBC's Linda Vester."
Vester began: "Last night in Lincoln, more than 60
Catholics gathered to figure out how to avoid being kicked out of their
church...They're angry with the bishop of Lincoln for threatening them
with the ultimate punishment: excommunication. Their crime: belonging to
any of twelve groups the bishop has blacklisted, including Planned
Parenthood, the Freemasons, and Call to Action, a nationwide
organization that advocates women priests, married priests, and birth
Bruskewitz said: "Membership in these organizations
that are listed certainly imperils the Catholic faith." Vester
countered: "But a blanket order of excommunication, for any reason, is
rare, unheard of in modern times. Some members of Call to Action, like
Rosalyn Carr, are afraid and are quitting the group." Carr charged:
"Well, I think the bishop has ways to retaliate."
Vester added: "But at Call to Action's meeting last
night, others were defiant. Those who defy the bishop's order will be
excommunicated May 15, which means they can attend mass, but they can't
take communion or get married in the church. The bishop says he won't
enforce the order; he expects people to police themselves....But the
bishop is getting help. The pro-life group, Rescue America, is going to
give him members' names from the local Planned Parenthood."
Vester asked: "Is it a witch hunt? One theologian
thinks it may turn people away from a church already struggling with its
image." Father Richard McBride of the University of Notre Dame
exclaimed: "It reinforces the prejudice that a lot of people have that
it really is a new, a modern form of authoritarianism."
Vester wrapped it up: "Despite what critics say,
Bishop Bruskewitz insists his order stands." Bruskewitz said: "Oh, I
have no intentions of waffling." Vester's conclusion was almost
identical to Pelley's: "Which leaves some Catholics here feeling forced
to choose between their conscience and their church." When contacted by
MediaWatch, both reporters were said to be on assignment. Despite
numerous calls and faxes, neither responded.
William Donohue, President of the Catholic League for
Religious and Civil Rights, told MediaWatch the networks are guilty of
"rank hypocrisy" in their coverage of freedom of association: "The
American Civil Liberties Union has a policy that every officer is
pro-choice. If an officer were to evolve into a pro-life position, he
would become a pariah, like Nat Hentoff, who was thrown off the board of
directors. That's their prerogative. But where's the charge of
Donohue said the same is true for reporters: "I asked
a newspaper reporter: what if one of your colleagues went on the local
TV station and denounced your newspaper? If a secular organization won't
tolerate that kind of insubordination, why is the Church held to a
different standard?" This is especially pertinent in the case of CBS
News after reporter Bernard Goldberg was kept off the air for months
after he denounced the liberal bias of his own network. A CBS statement
said Rather "disagrees with Mr. Goldberg's opinion...and its
Perhaps the networks' blind spot is unique to
religion, where they imply that dissent is noble and church doctrine
autocratic, that theology is subject to a vote and salvation is
accomplished by focus group. CBS and NBC had three possible ways to
present its story: Bruskewitz as hero for standing up for tradition,
Bruskewitz as author-itarian villain, or a balanced presentation of both
views. Instead of pursuing the professional third option, they opted for
the bishop as villain.
First Pitch Glitch
NBC's Tom Brokaw swung and missed when he tried to
cover for the President. During the traditional first pitch thrown by
the President on baseball's Opening Day, Bill Clinton was roundly booed
by many in attendance at the April 2 Orioles game. Brokaw delivered the
"President Clinton taking the mound for the ceremonial
first pitch. All the way from the pitcher's rubber, it was a little on
the high side, and watching from the stands and not booing like most of
the rest of the crowd -- Pat Buchanan. By the way the boos, like the
first pitch, are traditional whoever the President.
Dan Rather didn't even mention the boos on the same
night's CBS Evening News. Viewers only heard cheering at Clinton's lob.
But on that day's CNN Inside Politics Bruce Morton replayed five recent
Opening Day first pitches, one from Ronald Reagan, three from George
Bush, and a previous Clinton throw. In all five, including Clinton's
earlier pitch, the President was cheered.
The Nadir of Coverage
GOP presidential candidates like Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm were not
only labeled as conservative but as "hard right," "extreme," and
"hard-line." Then it would only make sense that someone to the left of
Bill Clinton would be considered, at the very least, a liberal. But in
the midst of Ralph Nader's campaign for President on the Green Party
ballot, reporters referred to the outspoken leftist as not "hard left"
or "far left" but as merely a "consumer advocate" or "consumer
Since the media started paying attention to the Nader
candidacy, reporters have failed to mention liberal in the same sentence
as Nader. NBC's Gwen Ifill referred to him as "the consumer activist" on
the March 24 Nightly News. On The World Today the same night, CNN's
Martin Savidge reported: "Consumer advocate Ralph Nader says he'll be on
California's presidential ballot this fall." In a search of Time,
Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, The New York
Times, and USA Today, only U.S. News mentioned the "L" word: the March
25 issue called Nader a "liberal alternative to Clinton."
What's "Risky and Radical"?
On the March 12 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather warned of coming Social
Security reform proposals: "The stock market could play a big role in
major changes in Social Security. A bipartisan commission is due out
soon to officially propose some radical changes in the whole Social
Security system that would include privatizing Social Security, allowing
some of your Social Security contributions to be invested in the stock
market. Now, this may or may not prove to be a good idea, but it could
be risky business."
CBS reporter Bob Schieffer, who also called the plan
"radical change," stated on the March 26 CBS This Morning that "even
more radical, [is] a plan favored by some commission members to allow
taxpayers to invest, any way they want, almost half of what they now pay
in Social Security taxes." How does the media's take on Social Security
reform stack up against other large-scale changes proposed in
Database searches reveal that not once did a network
reporter refer to the Clinton health care plan as "radical." The plan
Hillary Clinton and Ira Magaziner cooked up amounted to a government
take-over of one-seventh of the economy. That's not radical -- but
allowing people to invest their own retirement money is.
During this year's Lenten season, when Christians examine their faith
and commitment to God, the Los Angeles Times decided to show its own
hostility to religion. In the March 28 issue the paper ran an editorial
cartoon with the image of Bob Dole crucified. The crown of thorns on his
forehead read "Christian Coalition."
Three days later, the paper spiked Johnny Hart's Palm
Sunday B.C. comic strip, featuring the character Wiley writing a poem
honoring Christ's death for man's sins. Los Angeles Times spokeswoman
Ariel Remler told The Washington Times that "lately he's [Hart] been
running cartoons with religious overtones." Then in an April 2 statement
quoted in The Washington Times, Remler announced that the paper would
spike the strip on all three days of the Easter weekend. After receiving
hundreds of protest calls, the paper reversed itself, announcing it
would run the Friday and Saturday strips.
Two years ago, the Times played a similar game,
spiking Hart's "inappropriate" Easter Sunday strip with a resurrection
theme, but then ran in June a series of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury
strips featuring John Boswell's controversial claim that the Catholic
Church sanctioned same-sex marriages in the middle ages.
No Liberal Lobbies.
In March, the House of Representatives voted on repealing the assault
weapons ban and outlawing partial-birth abortion. But the media found a
narrow "lobby" on only one side of these issues. During the gun debate
in late March, the networks employed the term "gun lobby" over six times
on the morning and evening news to denote those who opposed the ban.
Most happened on CBS, like the March 21 CBS Evening News piece where Bob
Schieffer announced: "With Republicans knowing they lack the votes to
override a veto and with little enthusiasm for any of this in the
Senate, the House effort may turn out to be little more than a publicity
stunt to impress the gun lobby."
In the liberal lexicon of Washington, an industry is
termed a "lobby" when it pushes narrow interest for its own gain. But
those who opposed the partial birth abortion ban were pushing a narrow,
extreme interest to satisfy their own backers. Yet not once during the
congressional wrangling over partial birth abortions did anyone on the
networks use the term "abortion lobby."
Like they do every presidential election year, reporters are raising the
so-called gender gap, claiming that Republicans have problems attracting
women. On the March 25 NBC Nightly News, essayist Anne Taylor Fleming
stated: "Polls show a huge gender gap brewing. Women, like these we
gathered, are more upset than men by budget cuts and family issues that
they feel are being ignored." So do Democrats have a problem attracting
men? Yes, but this didn't interest ABC and NBC.
On Good Morning America Sunday March 24, ABC's Jack
Smith recalled the budget fight: "Where men saw deficit reduction, women
worried about what the cuts were doing." In the ensuing discussion,
co-host Willow Bay asserted: "If you're still making 70 cents to that
male dollar, you're probably more reluctant to see cuts in social
spending -- your safety net."
While some attributed the gap to social spending,
others cited the GOP's pro-life stance. NBC's Lisa Myers began her
report on the March 5 Nightly News: "Republicans have a problem with
women....And today, polls show women leaning even more heavily in favor
of Democrats. The big reason: Pat Buchanan." Myers spoke to Maine Sen.
Olympia Snowe and stated: "Snowe says even though Buchanan won't be the
nominee, his polarizing anti-abortion rhetoric has done lasting damage."
Myers concluded that Clinton's lead over Dole with women is "not a
gender gap, [it's] a chasm."
If reporters believe the gap is due to abortion, they
need to examine the polls. A May 1995 Tarrance Group poll found that 47
percent of women (compared to 44 percent of men) believe that abortion
should be "illegal and prohibited under all circumstances" or "illegal
except in cases such as rape, incest, or to save the life of the
Guilt by association is still a handy media tool. The March 21
Washington Post headline read: "Industry Funds Global Warming Skeptics."
Reporter Gary Lee began: "A Washington environmental group charged
yesterday that three researchers who are outspoken critics of the
scientific evidence for global warming have received hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the petroleum and coal industries, and that
this funding has influenced their views."
Lee described his source, Ozone Action, only as "an
environmental group that lobbies on the issues of air quality and global
climate change." Lee didn't use the word liberal or note they've even
criticized Vice President Gore for being too soft on the environment.
While Lee did call the researchers for comment, and quoted Patrick
Michaels calling the charges "ludicrous," Lee excluded one obvious
point: liberal environmental groups also take in hundreds of thousands
of dollars from oil companies. The Capital Research Center noted that
Exxon gave the National Audubon Society $112,500 in 1991 alone. The Post
didn't do that man-pays-for-dog-to-bite-him story.
Gannett Fires Like America.
The Gannett-owned Burlington [Vt.] Free Press fired Paul Teetor for
reporting a story accurately, another victim of political correctness.
But now he's been vindicated. In August 1993, Teetor angered black
activists by reporting that a white woman was escorted from a community
forum on racism after she tried to address it. A black city official,
Rodney Patterson, told her the microphone they had set up for comments
was for people "of color" only, not whites. After the story appeared,
black activists demanded Teetor be fired for publishing an inaccurate
story, even though a videotape confirmed Teetor's account. The Free
Press canned him and ran a piece whitewashing Teetor's account of the
meeting in accordance with the activists' demand.
Teetor filed a lawsuit against the paper. According to
the March 29 Washington Post, the paper settled in his favor for an
undisclosed sum. At trial, Teetor's lawyer alleged the real reason for
the firing was the Gannett chain's "All-American Contest" where papers
are evaluated and scored on how many minorities the paper hires and how
positively minorities are depicted in news stories. Free Press editors
were worried how the town meeting story would affect their scores
because the contest results could be a factor in their own job
The day before Steve Forbes ended his presidential bid, CBS reporter
Phil Jones declared on the Evening News: "He struck fear in the hearts
of his opponents by launching what may turn out to be the most massive,
negative TV attack campaign in the history of American politics." Jones
failed to mention the role CBS played in promoting negative politics.
The network provided opponents with a free negative ad when it ran Eric
Engberg's February 8 hit piece on the Forbes flat tax. Engberg referred
to Forbes' "number one wackiest flat tax pro- mise." No wonder the
Center for Media and Public Affairs found that with 87 percent
derogatory comments, Engberg was the most negative reporter during the
Goldberg Survives, for Now.
Speaking of Eric Engberg, CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg returned to the
air April 9 with an Evening News "Eye on America" segment on rising
youth crime caused by a deficit of values. Goldberg had been off the air
since his February 13 Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing Engberg's story
"set new standards for bias" and the liberal bias charge is "blatantly
The CBS Evening News had been airing "Bernard
Goldberg's America," but CBS News President Andrew Heyward dumped the
feature and has assigned him to the "Eye on America" beat. Goldberg's
eight-week shunning and loss of his signature piece, however, may not be
his only punishments. The Washington Post's John Carmody reported March
22: "Heyward would not comment on Goldberg's future when his contract
expires at the end of the year." So much for promoting free speech.
Network Religion Coverage Still Limited to
Roughly One Percent of Total Coverage
Social Liberalism Rears Its Head on TV
In their survey The Churching of America, Roger Finke
and Rodney Stark reported that virtually all Americans believe in God or
a universal spirit. The vast majority believe the Bible is either the
literal or inspired Word of God. Sixty percent can be found in houses of
worship in a given month. This "silent majority" still worships under
the radar screen of a secularized media elite.
The Media Research Center's first study of TV news
coverage of religion in 1993 found a surprising paucity of coverage and
overt advocacy against traditional values: only 212 evening news stories
and 197 morning show segments dealt with religion. Prime-time magazine
and Sunday morning interview shows broached religion on only 18
occasions. Religion coverage declined in 1994. Evening news stories rose
slightly to 225, but morning segments fell to 151, and Sunday talk show
and magazine show segments dropped to nine.
Out of an estimated 18,000 segments last year on the
five programs evaluated (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News,
CNN's World News, NBC Nightly News, and The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on
PBS) the networks devoted only 249 stories to religion, a slight
increase (11 percent) from 1994.
Despite more than 26,000 segments in 1995, the major
network morning shows (ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and
NBC's Today) devoted 224 morning show stories to religion in 1995.
That's a one-third increase over 1994, but still less than one percent.
The blind spot to religious news remains especially
noticeable on Sunday morning shows and prime-time magazines. Analysts
reviewed the Sunday shows (ABC's This Week with David Brinkley, CBS's
Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press) as well as the prime-time
magazine lineup (ABC's Day One, Prime Time Live, and 20/20; CBS's Eye to
Eye with Connie Chung, 48 Hours, and 60 Minutes; and NBC's three-night
Dateline format). Out of roughly 400 shows, the number of religion
stories rose from nine in 1994 to 15 in 1995, including segment repeats.
But that also included three one-hour programs on religion, one on ABC
and two on CBS.
Institutions: The Catholic Church again led the
coverage with 111 stories, up eight from 1994. Generic religion stories,
often on subjects like school prayer or church-state relations, came in
second with 70 stories. News of Protestant denominations was again
The networks again portrayed the Catholic Church as an
oppressive, narrow-minded, outmoded hierarchy. When Ireland moved to
lift its ban on divorce, CBS Evening News reporter Cinny Kennard
applauded on November 18: "It's another example of the country's move to
reinvent itself as a more modern and progressive Ireland, an Ireland
that is more tolerant and open. Recently, there has been legal reform on
contraception, abortion, and homosexuality; signs that the traditional
Church grip on Ireland has been loosened; signs that the country is
increasingly run from government buildings and not the Vatican."
Kennard repeated her line on the November 30 CBS This
Morning: "It's been like an awakening. Ireland, long positioned on the
world's stage as a church-dominated backwater, has reinvented itself as
a new and energized Emerald Isle. A more open, a more tolerant place."
Abortion: Due to the lack of further violence against
abortionists, coverage of violence around abortion clinics on all shows
amounted to 142 stories, compared to the 247 in 1994 and 150 segments in
On January 3, 1995 Jane Pauley promoted an upcoming
segment on Dateline NBC by charging: "Still ahead -- the latest round of
bloodshed and violence at abortion clinics. The anti-abortion movement
has been creeping to the edge of bloody fanaticism for a decade." With
coverage like that, reporter David Culhane could convey the results of a
new poll during the January 8 CBS Evening News: "A new CBS poll shows
that three out of four Americans say the protest tactics of some
anti-abortion activists can be blamed for leading to the recent
shootings at several abortion clinics."
What about violence perpetrated by abortion advocates?
In 1994, only CNN reported that Ernest Robertson Jr. tried to shoot a
pro-life protester after picking up his wife outside a Baton Rouge,
Louisiana abortion clinic. In 1995, Daniel Adam Mahoney became the first
pro-abortion activist indicted under the Freedom of Access to Clinic
Entrances Act. Alice Hand was arrested in January 1995 for making at
least three phone calls threatening to blow-up a Catholic church and
school in Suffern, New York. But the networks were silent.
While the networks devoted 142 stories to
anti-abortion violence outside clinics, only three alluded to violence
inside. CNN's September 12 World News broadcast one segment about
abortionist David Benjamin, who was convicted of second degree murder in
New York City for allowing a woman to bleed to death from a perforated
uterus during an abortion. Two 1995 segments aired estimates of 1.5
million abortions a year, two more mentions than in 1993 or 1994.
Social Issues: The number of stories primarily about
homosexuality increased from 105 in 1994 to 113 in 1995, still a
fraction of the 1993 total of 756. But the networks demonstrated a
liberal orientation once again: in the few morning show interviews that
aired, proponents of homosexuality outnumbered opponents, 13 to 3. Once
again, the networks portrayed the religious right as a negative force in
the Republican Party. While the networks would not suggest that a
liberal group like the NAACP doesn't represent all black people, CBS
suggested the Christian Coalition did not represent all Christians -- or
suggested they were less than Christian.
Dan Rather introduced a September 8 story by noting
Phil Gramm "was at a meeting of preacher Pat Robertson's political
group, the one calling itself the Christian Coalition." Four months
earlier, on May 15, Rather charged: "The group calling itself the
Christian Coalition is aligned with hard-right stands on issues ranging
from gay rights to school prayer, and it's demanding its due for its
help in getting Republicans elected."
the Bright Side
CNN's Brooks Jackson was first out of the gate to
critique the presidential candidates in their ads and speeches. On the
April 1 Inside Politics he critiqued Republican charges that Clinton
judges were soft on crime. But in a surprising turn Jackson has also
slammed Clinton's newest set of ads. His April 4 "Spin Patrol" segment
challenged each claim made in the Democratic National Committee ads.
CNN aired the ad: "The President proposes a balanced
budget protecting Medicare, education, the environment. But Dole is
voting no. The President cuts taxes for 40 million Americans. Dole votes
Jackson replied: "Dole voting no to a balanced budget
and tax cuts? Let's see that again...True, Clinton's latest budget would
balance in 7 years on paper, but experts are skeptical." Jackson used
moderate-to-liberal Carol Cox Wait of the Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget and Robert Reischauer of the Brookings Institution.
Jackson found the ad's claim "The President cuts taxes
for 40 million Americans" was "Not the whole story." He pointed out that
the Clinton administration arrived at the 40 million number through the
1993 budget bill's expansion of the earned income tax credit to "15
million low wage families, 40 million if you count their children."
Jackson countered they also raised taxes on 1.5 million high-income
families and 5 million Social Security recipients, not to mention higher
gas taxes for everyone.
Another ad claimed Republicans cut school lunches.
Jackson: "Not so. The Republican Congress appropriated more money for
school lunches this year....And the Agriculture Department says it has
increased the number of children served."
The same ad charged the GOP cut Head Start: "Money for
the Head Start pre-school program has been cut four percent this year,
temporarily. But Republican leaders have agreed to a one percent
increase once a permanent appropriations bill is passed. Meanwhile not a
single child has been affected. In fact Head Start enrollment is up this
And the DNC's claim that Republicans "cut child health
care" did not go unchallenged. Jackson explained that Republicans only
reduced the rate of Medicaid growth and that there is not much
difference between the GOP and Clinton's proposal.
Bryant Gumbel, a Conservative?
Denying While Displaying
The March 21 Radio & TV Correspondents Dinner drew a
lot of pressattention to the remarks of talk show host Don Imus, but the
betterstory came from Marc Morano, Rush Limbaugh's man in D.C. He asked
reporters in attendance about liberal bias, and the reporters only
demonstrated their liberalism.
Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite admitted: "Everybody
knows that there's a liberal, that there's a heavy liberal persuasion
among correspondents." Cronkite argued, however, this is justified:
"Anybody who has to live with the people, who covers police stations,
covers county courts, brought up that way, has to have a degree of
humanity that people who do not have that exposure don't have, and some
people interpret that to be liberal. It's not a liberal, it's
humanitarian and that's a vastly different thing."
When asked about the new Whitewater book, Blood Sport
by James Stewart, ABC's John Cochran felt the book was beneath him: "I
haven't read it. I'm just now going through Elizabeth Drew's book, which
is about the battle between the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton White
House and it's fascinating. It has nothing to do with gossip or
Whitewater or what happened with Vince Foster or any ofthat, it has to
do with what's happening with issues of importance to the American
people." CBS's Bill Plante felt the issue was a waste of time: "The
problem with the media coverage of Whitewater is that it has been done
over and over and over again. I haven't read the book yet, but I
understand that there's nothing basically new in it."
CNN's Judy Woodruff retorted to a query about Bernard
Goldberg's comments about liberal bias: "I think Mr. Goldberg went a
little bit too far...I don't think there's any blatant, rampant bias in
the news media. If there were, then we wouldn't last in the jobs that we
have." Most incredibly, Today weatherman Al Roker claimed:"I don't think
there's a liberal bias in the media. Let me put it this way, I've never
worked with a liberal anchorman, they're all very conservative." This
from the man who shares a studio with Bryant Gumbel.
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