Ten Washington Reporters Voted for Clinton; Are Liberal by 6 to 1
Media Clique Clap for
When Americans went to the polls in
1992, 43 percent voted for Bill Clinton and 38 percent for George
Bush. But the results were very different in another America, the news
media's Washington bureaus. A poll of 139 bureau chiefs and
congressional reporters discovered 89 percent pulled the lever for
Clinton and seven percent picked Bush.
In mid-April the Freedom Forum released
a report examining media-congressional relations. Buried in the
appendix were "a few final questions for classification purposes
only." These were part of a 58 question Roper Center survey completed
by mail in November and December 1995.
Asked "How would you characterize your
political orientation?" 61 percent said "liberal" or "liberal to
moderate." Only nine percent labeled themselves "conservative" or
"moderate to conservative." The poll also found that 59 percent
considered the Contract with America "an election-year campaign ploy"
while only three percent thought it was "a serious reform proposal." A
decisive 85 percent admitted they were "very" or "somewhat" surprised
by the 1994 GOP win.
So do these views affect the news?
Study chief and former Chicago Tribune reporter Elaine Povich told the
April 18 Washington Times: "One of the things about being a
professional is that you attempt to leave your personal feelings aside
as you do your work." Boston Globe Editor Matthew Storin insisted on
CNN's Reliable Sources April 21: "I think, actually, those figures are
a great endorsement for the professionalism of our business. Has
anyone looked at the coverage of Bill Clinton's administration? I
mean, it's been, almost from the get-go, negative."
On the April 28 Fox News Sunday Linda
Chavez opined that people realize reporters' personal views influence
their reporting, prompting Wall Street Journal Executive Washington
Editor Al Hunt to coun-ter: "If that poll is correct, it basically
reaffirms the argument that Linda just argued against. Which is, would
anyone argue that Bill Clinton has gotten an easy press the last three
years? If 89 percent voted for him, he's gotten an awfully tough
press." Later he asked incredulously: "You think his health care
proposals got a good press?"
One reporter on the CNN show realized
the impact. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz explained: "Clearly
anybody looking at those numbers, if they're even close to accurate,
would conclude that there is a diversity problem in the news business,
and it's not just the kind of diversity we usually talk about, which
is not getting enough minorities in the news business, but political
diversity, as well. Anybody who doesn't see that is just in denial."
Snow on Sunday
To moderate its new Sunday morning public affairs
show, Fox News Sunday, the network tapped Tony Snow. Those hired by the
media who have liberal ties don't raise a concern in the journalistic
world. But the selection of the conservative Snow prompted some
reporters to question the slant of the show, although Marty Ryan, former
Executive Producer of NBC's Today, will hold the same title with Fox
News Sunday. "A rabidly conservative columnist and former speechwriter
for President George Bush, Snow knows that his right-wing image may put
off lefties," declared Philadelphia Inquirer television reporter Gail
Shister on April 8. Shister explained that "as for some critics'
contentions that Snow could be `tainted' by his Bush connections, he
says: `I've worked for half as many politicians'" as Meet the Press host
Tim Russert, who toiled for former Governor Mario Cuomo and Senator
Daniel Moynihan, both New York Democrats. The show, which premiered
April 28, is aimed at younger viewers and will include questions sent
via the internet.
Filling the Slate
Michael Kinsley, Editor of Microsoft's new online
publication, Slate, has built his team. Among those tapped by the
liberal former co-host of CNN's Crossfire: Jodie Allen, Editor of the
Washington Post Outlook section since 1990, who served under President
Carter as Deputy Secretary of Labor for policy evaluation and research.
For Slate, to debut May 31 on the internet, she'll be the Washington
First she reported the news, then she spun the news.
Now Kathleen deLaski will do both in cyberspace in a post which involves
covering Clinton's re-election effort. America Online, the on-line
computer service, National Journal reported March 16, "has hired deLaski
to direct campaign coverage for its politics channel." In 1988 she
became an on-air Washington reporter for ABC News. She jumped to the
Clinton team in 1993 as Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Defense
Department. For the past year she's been Deputy to the Undersecretary
for Policy Liaison.
Since late last year Walter Shapiro, Press Secretary
to Carter Labor Secretary Ray Marshall and a Time Senior Editor from
1987 to 1993, has penned a twice-weekly news section column for USA
Today. 20 Shapiro began his April 12 "Hype & Glory," in which he fawned
over Victor Morales, the Democratic Senate nominee in Texas, by
recalling his own early partisan foray: "Nearly a quarter of a century
ago, at the height of the Vietnam War, I was seized by the quixotic
notion that anti-war students deserved representation in Congress." At
the time he was a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of
Michigan. Shapiro lost, but he noted "I did come within 1,400 votes of
winning a six-way Democratic Primary. My partisan days are long behind
Willie Hortonizing CNN
CNN announced in March that Ken Bode, a top aide in
Democrat Morris Udall's 1976 presidential run, will be a national
political analyst. An April 26 Washington Week in Review look at Bob
Dole's claim that Clinton has nominated liberal judges, offered a
preview of Bode's analysis. From his perch as moderator of the PBS show,
Bode asked: "So, federal judges are going to become this year's Willie
Sunday Night Soap Opera
CNN vs. the GOP
CNN Presents offered a
perfect example of how the media help block anything that lessens
federal power or control. The April 21 hour served up emotional
anecdotes about the evils of House GOP reforms, combined with
melodramatic music most reminiscent of Hard Copy and Inside
Depression-era photos of sad-looking children
accompanied by gloomy music underscored Kathy Slobogin's opening:
"Republicans want to end the 60-year federal responsibility, and give
the power to run welfare back to the states. But some fear history may
repeat itself, that when states face hard times, programs for poor
people will be the first to go."
CNN's David Lewis then followed with a report on the
Georgia state legislature. "Georgians across the political spectrum,
worry that the state, by choice or by necessity, won't be able to do
what the federal government has done. Putting those least able to care
for themselves, people like Emily Clark, at the greatest risk."
Lewis asked the mother of Emily, a three-year-old
epileptic: "What would happen if they [government programs] werenít
there?" She replied, "A shiver ran through me when you said that. I
can't even imagine not only what her life would be, but what our life
would be." Lewis asserted: "There are Emilys in every state. Their
parents face an uncertain future."
Slobogin returned to accuse the GOP of risking
disaster by challenging new regulations by the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) in a sinister scheme to reward
contributors: "OSHA, the federal agency that's supposed to protect
workers...is under attack in the Republican Congress. UPS is leading the
charge. Proposals in the House would slash OSHA's enforcement budget and
keep it from cracking down on companies like UPS." As if it were
anything new, she charged: "Especially galling to critics, a UPS
lobbyist was invited to write a draft of the legislation weakening OSHA
An angle not broached: What really improves safety. A
February National Association of Manufacturers survey of members found
that when asked the sources theyíve used to identify and correct safety
problems, 77 named insurance companies, 70 percent said "employee
suggestions," but just 9 percent cited OSHA.
Janet Cooke Award
CBS Reporter Terence Smith Touts Politicized
Lawyers' Work "For The Poor"
Legal Services or Liberal Services?
To convince Congress they deserve more funding,
advocates of government programs regularly highlight examples of all
those the program benefits. Reporters should look for the reality. For
touting the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) as if he were on staff,
CBS's Terence Smith earned the Janet Cooke Award. His April 28 Sunday
Morning story focused on Legal Services of Greater Miami: "They deal
mostly with bread-and-butter issues: housing, employment, custody,
divorce. The concept of helping the poor with their problems would seem,
on the face of it, to be something most Americans could agree upon. But
Legal Services is one of those hot-button issues that divides people on
political, practical, and ideological grounds." CBS did not present a
balanced slate of proponents and opponents, with 18 soundbites of LSC
backers and three from LSC opponent Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), who
revealed: "Many of the cases that I've seen are very extreme, radical
areas that are being funded by the taxpayers...It is not the average
elderly person being evicted from homes that you would have people
believe that you defend. There's more of this radical view, I see,
funded by the taxpayer." Smith never allowed Taylor to elaborate. For
decades, the LSC has used its grants to fight against conservative
policies. As LSC chairman, Hillary Clinton funneled taxpayer money into
defeating a 1980 California ballot initiative (Proposition 9) to cut
state income taxes in half. In 1983, the General Accounting Office cited
the LSC for violating statutory bars against partisan activity. In 1994,
The Washington Times reported the state of California was forced by the
LSC-funded Western Center on Law and Poverty to revoke a 2.3 percent
reduction in welfare payments, costing an estimated $5.6 million a
month. They also filed successful suits to increase payments to MediCal,
the state's Medicaid plan, and force the state to pay day been
terminated by this particular time." 20 Smith moved on: "Barbara Goulsby
is the Legal Services attorney for Damon Johnson, and 36 families who
lost their possessions when Miami police suddenly evicted them from
their apartment building in a drug-infested neighborhood. The city said
the building was a center for drug activity." To complete the picture of
victims, Smith added: "Daniel Barker, another Legal Services attorney,
is helping Deborah Williams fight eviction from her apartment...He
interceded with the public housing authority, which had accused her of
having unauthorized persons living in the apartment." Smith asked
Williams: "Where would you have been without Legal Services?...On the
street?" Williams agreed: "Yes, exactly, okay?" CBS did not investigate
whether LSC grantees use tax dollars to fight the eviction of drug
dealers from public housing. The August 15, 1994 New York Times reported
a group representing 500,000 New York tenants entered a case to back
expedited eviction of drug dealers, only to be opposed by the Legal Aid
Society, an LSC grantee. (New York public housing officials declared
drug-related arrests in their complexes grew from 813 in 1973 to 11,092
in 1993). As Boehm testified to Congress: "A program determined to use
public funds to keep drug dealers in public housing -- in the name of
helping the poor -- is a program that's lost what it means to help the
poor." Smith asked: "So what are the prospects for Legal Services, given
the current political climate?...Charles Taylor wants to kill the
program." Taylor declared: "We've been able to take it from $400 million
down to 283, right at the moment. We need to take it to zero." Smith
noted: "That won't happen this year. But last week Congress imposed new
restrictions on Legal Service attorneys, barring them from bringing
class-action suits, challenging welfare reform, and representing many
immigrants." Smith did not explain why the new restrictions were
necessary. Taylor's press secretary, Jack Cox, told MediaWatch the CBS
story followed a formula: "Every single time we've done an interview,
the reporter finds one local group, interviews a few nice little fuzzy
cases where people say `I couldn't live without them,' and then they
quote us saying `Zero it out.' They never let us give the justifications
for zeroing it out. I sat in on the CBS interview for more than an hour.
[Taylor] must have hammered home the drug-dealer issue about 40 times to
get it into the piece." It didn't get in. Smith told MediaWatch he stood
by his use of Taylor: "I would argue that's a very full description of
his view of Legal Services." As for the story's imbalance, Smith
declared, "Obviously, I think it was fair." When asked about
drug-related evictions, Smith protested that he was unfamiliar with the
New York case and insisted: "Taylor did not cite a single specific case.
When I asked attorneys in Florida, they said they'd never represent a
convicted drug pusher."
Time and Time
Again. "Raise Gas Taxes Now!" blared the
headline over a May 13 Time piece by contributing editor Matthew
Miller. The subhead: "The U.S. pays a huge price for still-too-cheap
gasoline. Higher fuel taxes can clean the air and lower the deficit."
The gas tax debate allowed Time to return to old form. Back in
1993 MediaWatch determined that at least 24 times in the
previous for years the magazine had demanded a gas tax hike.
Miller argued: "At roughly a billion dollars a penny
in annual revenue, a 50 cent gas tax would slice a quarter off our
budget deficit by 2000, while still leaving prices 20 percent below
their 1981 high and less than half what motorists abroad pay." He
decried a stingy public: "In 1993 Americans found 4 cents on top of
$1.20-per-gal. gas almost too much to bear, even while we bequeath our
children dirtier air, the continued risk of war over oil and a trillion
dollars in fresh debt every four years. Now Doleís trying to get that
nickel back for us. He ought to know better."
Faw Pas. NBC's Bob Faw
surprised Today viewers April 10 with footage of Bill Clinton
leaving a memorial service for Ron Brown. Clinton laughed until he
spotted a camera -- and then dropped his head and began to wipe phantom
tears from his eyes. NBC was the only network to air the video but even
Faw tried to soften Clinton's moment of fraudulence: "Rituals like this
do matter, while they hardly define a presidency or make up for its
shortcomings, they help a nation heal, and in the process they shed
light on whether a president is compassionate, an actor, or both."
But journalists would rather eat their own than
criticize Clinton. The media panel on CNN's Reliable Sources
unanimously bashed Faw on April 14. Martin Schram of Scripps-Howard
scowled: "I used to think that the low for television was that
in-your-face journalism, when they would put a camera and a microphone
in a guy's face and chase him down the street. This is worse, this is
in-your-head journalism." PBSís Ellen Hume added: "In this case Bob just
went way overboard, and he went into territory he has no idea what was
genuine and what wasn't."
In a spin-control job the White House would envy,
Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz made up a new scenario: "You
could be at the funeral of a friend and you could be talking and
accepting condolences, and then when you go up to make a speech, you
kind of choke up because you're emotional about it. What's so crazy,
what's, what's noteworthy about that?" Host Bernard Kalb concluded: "How
does a reporter trivialize the President's emotions or the President's
sincerity? I don't know where the starting point is for that sort of
journalism, but I find it, as you do, Ellen, clearly unacceptable."
The Very White House.
President Clinton's trip to a Miami public school to announce his salvo
in the war on drugs set off controversy. According to an AP story in the
May 3 New York Times, "At issue was a decision by a White House
aide to reject a local group's recommendation that Mr. Clinton be
introduced at an anti-drug event by a black teenager and to request a
white speaker instead." But the race-conscious "mainstreaming" received
no network coverage. Neither did Hillary Clinton's racial gaffe in a
speech to the liberal womenís PAC Emilyís List. On April 27, Los
Angeles Times reporter John Broder noted she affected a black accent
to recount San Francisco mayor Willie Brown asking who is this "Emily
List":"She's supportin' all these people. She's supportin' Sen. Dianne
Feinstein. She's supported Sen. Barbara Boxer....She supported
everybody. Why won't she support me?"
Ed Rollins didn't get the same benefit of the doubt
when he spoke at a May 1995 Brown roast, when Brown was Speaker of the
California Assembly. Rollins, putting words into Brown's mouth, said
that if elected Mayor of Los Angeles, Brown "could show those Hymie boys
Berman and Waxman [Democratic Congressmen] who were always trying to
make Willie feel inferior for not being Jewish." CNN devoted five
stories to Rollins' remark (with Jill Dougherty calling it a "slur") and
his subsequent resignation from the Dole campaign.
Morales Boosters. Victor
Morales and Al Salvi surprised their respective party establishments
during recent Senate race primaries, with Morales winning the April 9
Democratic nomination in Texas and Al Salvi gaining the GOP nomination
in Illinois on March 19. But judging by network coverage, the
similarities ended there. After Morales' victory, he garnered in-studio
guest slots on CBS This Morning and ABC's Good Morning America,
as well as CNN's Inside Politics. NBC's Today show had
already profiled Morales in March, before any votes were cast. In all,
Morales' win garnered six network stories.
Meanwhile, Al Salvi, who shocked moderate Lt. Gov. Bob
Kustra, only made the CNN show Inside Politics. Even in the
mostly favorable "Play of the Week" story by CNNís Bill Schneider, Salvi
was labeled a "very conservative" surprise who demonstrated how
conservatives can lose "the nasty edge a lot of conservatives seem to
have these days." Schneider referred to Salvi's conservatism five times.
The Big Three completely ignored the race.
Rosty Dearest. On April
9, former Illinois Congressman and Ways and Means Committee boss Dan
Rostenkowski pled guilty to two felony counts of corruption while in
Congress. The night of and morning after the plea, the Big Three
networks read anchor-briefs on his conviction. Time, U.S. News and
World Report, and Newsweek also kept the conviction to tiny
one- or two-paragraph blurbs in their April 22 editions (although
Newsweek broke the plea story the week before).
ABCís Cokie Roberts was the only network reporter to
address the story. On the April 14 This Week, Roberts hurled a
softball to Rosty about his good intentions. She recalled that in 1992
she asked him, "'Why are you running for re-election when you could just
go home and have this money.' You said 'I want to get healthcare done, I
want to hang that scalp on my wall.' Here it is four years later, you've
spent $2 million in legal fees, you're about to go to jail and health
care isn't done. What are you feeling?"
Invisible Cardinals. On
April 1, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored a
candlelight vigil with two Cardinals outside the White House to urge
Clinton to sign the partial birth abortion ban, but the broadcast
networks ignored it. Today gave 11 seconds to the protest, but
didnít mention the Cardinals. Only CNN gave it a full story plus
Crossfire.(ABC's This Week with David Brinkley later
interviewed Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston on April 21.) The vigil got
even less publicity in print; no major newspaper or news magazine
touched the event.
It was another story when President Clinton vetoed the
bill on April 10. That received front-page coverage in the Los
Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.
The Postís Ann Devroy wrote: "The veto came in an emotional
Roosevelt Room ceremony where five women sometimes tearfully described
having had such abortions." NBC's Tom Brokaw also described the ceremony
as "emotional." Every evening news program reported on the veto
ceremony, but ABC's World News Tonight was the only network to
include comments from pro-life advocates.
But when the bishops criticized GOP welfare reform in
march 1995, ABCís Good Morning America, CNNís Inside Politics
and NBC Nightly News aired full stories.
What Liberal Judges? Bob
Dole's insisted that Bill Clinton names liberal judges. "Are Clinton
Judges Too Liberal?" asked USA Today's May 7 front page. The
answer in the subhead: "Dole May Be Out of Order." Tony Mauro asserted:
"Studies indicate that the 187 men and women Clinton has placed on the
bench are markedly moderate."
The Washington Post's
Joan Biskupic felt so strongly Dole was wrong she wrote a Sunday Outlook
section editorial on April 28 charging "Dole's characterization of the
judiciary is way out of date." In a March 9 news story, Biskupic had
insisted "the 'liberal' justices appointed by President Clinton are
hardly extreme...[Pat] Buchanan often targets [Justice Ruth Bader]
Ginsburg, who was appointed in 1993 and on the Rehnquist court is
comparatively liberal." Later she found ideology in Justice Antonin
Scalia, calling him "distinctively brash, opinionated and far to the
right in his view of constitutional limits." Other reporters agreed on
Clinton's moderate picks. On March 23, New York Times reporter
Linda Greenhouse found "the Clinton nominees compromise a moderate,
mainstream group." Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Barrett
argued on April 3: "the White House angered liberal activists by picking
many moderates and steering away from some strongly ideological
But the Free Congress foundationís Thomas Jipping
managed to learn, as he noted in the May 20 National Review, "some of
Clintonís appointees...have ruled for the defendant in every
criminal-law opinion they have written."
Fine Distinctions on the Left...The
national media were quick to connect the dots between the Oklahoma City
bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh and conservative talk radio hosts and
politicians, blurring any distinctions. But the discovery of Unabomber
suspect Ted Kaczynski led reporters to draw precise distinctions between
the Unabomber and his sympathizers.
On the April 17 World News Tonight, Peter
Jennings ignored the Unabomber's trail of deaths: "A small but
determined group of rejectionists traces its roots to the Luddites of
the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago. English workers, in that case,
who destroyed the machinery they thought would rob them of their jobs.
Today's movement is kinder and gentler." After talking to people from
both sides of the anti-technology spectrum, reporter Ned Potter
insisted: "In truth, anti-tech sentiment runs the gamut, from extremists
like the Unabomber to radical environmental groups like Earth First to
ordinary people, uncomfortable with the pace of the modern world."
New York Times reporter
Dirk Johnson also excluded the Unabomber in an April 15 piece on a
Luddite gathering: "Today's Luddites differ from their forebears in
other important ways as well. For one, they oppose violence....The
Unabom case has focused more attention on antipathy toward the advances
of technology. In fact, the Unabomber's published manifesto included
references to Luddism. While nobody here agreed with the actions of the
bomber, several people said his fears were rational."
...No Distinctions on the Right.
Reporters still weave a conspiracy between talk show hosts, the militia
movement, the NRA, and Newt Gingrich for the Oklahoma City bombing.
NPRís Mara Liasson asked on the April 19 Washington Week in Review
on PBS: "When the President went out to Oklahoma City last year and made
those comments about loud and angry voices, he also made some other
comments about certain conservative talk show hosts, that was very
controversial. Do people in Oklahoma City connect the loud and angry
voices with what happened to them?" Gloria Borger of U.S. News &
World Report replied: "Yes, they're not happy about the G. Gordon
Liddys of the world. They're not happy about the name calling that goes
on on talk radio....We used to be able to passionately disagree about
issues without threatening each other." When Borger noted the need to
"lower the decibel level," host Ken Bode interjected: "Well, one of the
people who has got to take some of that advice is the Speaker of the
CNN's Marc Watts made a similar connection to Oklahoma
City on the April 19 Inside Politics: "After that tragedy the NRA
was accused of promoting the anti-government sentiment that may have
spurred the bombing...The organization said it was all a
misunderstanding and it denies any involvement in the blast."
Who said the NRA was "involved"?
McDougal Trial, Senate Hearings Filibuster, and
Other Whitewater News Downplayed
Trial? What Whitewater Trial?
On Sunday, April 28, President Clinton videotaped
testimony in the fraud trial of James and Susan McDougal, his business
partners in Whitewater Development, and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.
Recognizing the gravity of a President testifying for the defense of his
business partners, most of the networks covered the story that night.
But what about the rest of the trial?
To determine how much coverage the Whitewater trial
and related stories generated, MediaWatch analysts
reviewed network morning news and evening news programs on ABC, CBS,
CNN, and NBC from February 29, a few days before the trial began, to
April 30, as the trial neared its end. Analysts also reviewed
corresponding news magazine coverage in Time, Newsweek,
and U.S. News & World Report from issues dated March 4 to May 6.
In nearly two months of the trial, the four networks aired only 16
reporter-based Whitewater stories on the evening news shows -- an
average of less than four per network over a two-month period. Seven of
the 16 (44 percent) were on the President's testimony. Although Time
carried a long cover story excerpting James Stewart's Whitewater book
Blood Sport, the news magazines devoted fewer pages to the
Whitewater trial than to the Jackie Onassis auction.
Some significant stories barely or never made the air.
On February 29 and again on March 7, Senate Democrats blocked votes
extending the tenure of the Senate Whitewater Committee. The Democrats
upheld further hearings until agreeing to a deal on April 18. One Jackie
Judd report on ABC's World News Tonight and an anchor brief on
ABC's Good Morning America and on CNN's The World Today
were the only coverage of the Democratic filibuster until hearings
resumed April 24. Jennings introduced the Judd story by calling it the
"endless Whitewater saga."
On March 15, a federal appeals court removed Judge
Henry Woods from the Jim Guy Tucker case and reinstated four fraud
counts struck down by Woods, finding the judge was too close to the
Clintons. Despite several network stories and a Nightline on the
integrity of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, the networks never
covered this story.
On March 24, an ABC News/Washington Post poll
found 52 percent of respondents believed the First Lady was not telling
the truth about Whitewater and 49 percent said they thought she acted
illegally. While the Post published the poll on page A16, ABC
never reported it. When word leaked on April 29 that the FBI found
Hillary Clinton's fingerprints on the long-missing Rose Law Firm
documents discovered in the White House, it drew only four anchor
briefs. To break down the coverage by network and show:
Evening News. The most
stunning lack of coverage came from NBC Nightly News, which did
not air a single reporter-based story in two months -- and only two
anchor briefs. (Due to NBA basketball coverage, NBC had no newscast the
night of Clinton's testimony.) CNN's The World Today aired six
reporter-based stories, one of which was followed with analysis by CNN
legal expert Roger Cossack. ABC's World News Tonight aired six
reporter-based stories from Jackie Judd. CBS Evening News aired
four reports, including an April 24 story by Phil Jones questioning the
integrity of Starr. (The evening shows aired 25 anchor briefs, 16 of
them on CNN.)
Morning Shows. The three
network morning shows aired only 12 reporter-based stories and five
interviews in two months. Again, around half the coverage (seven of the
12 stories and two of the five interviews) concerned Clinton's
testimony. Here, surprisingly, NBC's Today did the most, airing
four reports and two interviews with Blood Sport author James
Stewart. CBS This Morning and Sunday Morning aired four
reports and one interview with Stewart. ABC's Good Morning America
aired three reports and an interview with ABC's Cokie Roberts and
Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson on Blood Sport. (The
shows ran 26 anchor briefs.)
None of the magazine shows covered Whitewater -- but then, from 1992
forward, the magazine shows combined have aired only two segments on it.
In the last two months, CNN's Late Edition did
the most, asking one question to Sen. Al D'Amato on March 24, and airing
a Bob Franken report on April 28, followed by five questions to guests.
NBC's Meet the Press had four Whitewater questions on two shows.
ABC's This Week with David Brinkley asked Leon Panetta one
question on April 28 about Clinton's testimony. Whitewater never came up
on CBS's Face the Nation.
Nightline, which did five
shows on Whitewater in January, posed one question to Bob Dole on
whether Whitewater should be wrapped up, and an April 24 program on the
"controversy raging" around Ken Starr.
News Magazines. Time
set itself apart from the competition with its 15-page excerpt of
Stewart's book in the March 18 issue. But Time did no reporting
on its own. Its only coverage of any length came in two Margaret Carlson
columns pooh-poohing the scandal's importance.
U.S. News & World Report
reviewed the upcoming trial in two pages on March 4, but did no other
article a page or longer. The March 11 issue had a brief on the hearings
debate headlined: "Whitewater: Time for the Curtain?" U.S. News
owner and Editor-in-Chief Mortimer Zuckerman wrote a two-page editorial
attacking "The Silly Hillary Pillory" on April 1. Newsweek ran
one-page pieces on aspects of Whitewater on March 4 and 11, but nothing
substantial after that. In their May 6 editions however, Newsweek
devoted six pages to the Jackie Onassis auction. Time made it its
cover story and gave it eight pages. U.S. News kept its Jackie O
coverage to two pages.
Zuckerman may have captured the media's collective
death wish for Whitewater on CNBC's Cal Thomas show March 24: "I don't
think there's anything there unless Kenneth Starr does come up with
anything. And the fact that there is a trial going on, I think is not
going to be relevant to what the elections are going to be all about.
You can't run an election based on attacking the President's wife."
the Bright Side
NBC: Tough on Criminals?
Any suggested link between crime and welfare
dependency is usually dismissed by the media as Willie Horton redux.
However, Elizabeth Vargas' March 26 Dateline report showed that
current welfare rules pay scofflaws while keeping them safe from cops.
Vargas noted there are "more than 415,000 fugitives on
the lam across the country, men and women wanted by the law for serious
crimes." After a fruitless morning with an Ohio Sheriffís department,
knocking on doors searching for fugitives, she noted that "just a few
blocks away from the sheriff's department is all the information those
officers say they need. Here in this office are the names, addresses,
phone numbers, even photographs, of some of those fugitives from
justice. People fleeing from the law but not from the welfare
Vargas found the irony: "So, while one government
agency spends your tax dollars to find fugitives from the law, another
govern-ment agency gives more of your tax dollars, welfare, to fugitives
in hiding." After local welfare director Joseph Garcia told Vargas the
police were on a "fishing expedition" targeting the poor, Vargas noted
that after the sheriff went public with his battle against privacy laws
preventing welfare agents from sharing names and addresses, "deputies
are getting some information."
Robert Hager probed the same politically incorrect
line in his "Fleecing of America" report on the April 24 Nightly News,
reporting the General Accounting Office findings of prisoners calling
the Agriculture Department -- collect: "652 collect calls accepted from
18 prisons in all, in just the four months auditors sampled." Hager
explained, "The prisoners had found dishonest employees at the
Agricultural Department's Washington head-quarters, willing to forward
on their calls long-distance to whomever the prisoners wanted to talk
to, private individuals, anywhere, at taxpayers expense," -- even calls
to sex lines in the Dominican Republic.
In 1931, Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act, prompted
by white laborers who were upset that blacks were underbidding them on
government contracts. Davis-Bacon sets a high wage level for contractors
that build government buildings. On the April 12 20/20, ABC's
John Stossel looked at how this regulation continues to cost taxpayers
millions while benefitting unions.
Stossel started at the Labor Department, the agency
that enforces Davis-Bacon: "Dozens of them [employees] here, and others
in state and city labor departments, spend their time deciding what
construction workers on government projects must be paid. The result?
Government buildings cost more and poor people who want to work can't."
Stossel explained:"A side effect of fixing wages is
that some workers end up being excluded." At Cabrini Green in Chicago,
one of the nation's poorest housing projects, the government is doing
repairs. Cabrini Green residents would like to do the work, but as
Stossel learned: "They can't get hired because when contractors are
forced to pay high Davis Bacon salaries even for the simplest jobs,
they're not going to take a chance on inexperienced strangers."
ABC's Avuncular Star On the Left
Hugh Downs' Hate Radio
Hugh Downs may seem harmless hosting 20/20, but
in the Spring Forbes MediaCritic Steve Kroll revealed another
side -- a liberal ideologue in weekly commentaries for ABC Radio's
Perspectives. From 1990: "The Reagan-Bush team did more than just
support dictatorial rule around the world. It helped foster a climate of
dictatorship at home." In 1994, on the Gulf War: "Nobody in his right
mind would incinerate or blow up innocent children, but that's exactly
what the United Nation's said that American bombs did in Iraq."
Downs had quite a conspiratorial view of the
discredited October Surprise theory, which he said "has tentacles that
reach deep into the empire of Manuel Noriega, into the scandal at BCCI,
and into the...destruction of Iraq....For 11 years suspicions have grown
that renegade intelligence officers illegally seized the American
government....There is a growing number of reasons to believe that the
October Surprise is true."
Finally, Kroll noted that Downs attempted to "liken
Ronald Reagan to a communist dictator because he entertained the idea of
repealing the 22nd Amendment, which limits a President to two terms.
While Gorbachev attempts `to liberalize the Soviet Union by adopting
Thomas Jefferson's democracy,' opined Downs, Reagan `in almost
mirror-like fashion,' moves `toward absolute rule.'"
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