Over "Too Generous" Tax Cuts, Hype False Spending "Cuts"
The "balanced budget" plan, Tom Brokaw explained on
the May 16 NBC Nightly News, "contains $325 billion dollars in savings
from cuts in defense and domestic programs. There will be some new
spending involved as well, $32 billion dollars, most of it will go for
education and health care.... NBC's David Bloom is telling us tonight
the administration's financial analysts are already saying the tax cuts
may be too generous for the savings in the budget if they want to keep
it all in balance."
Brokaw encapsulated the most common misreporting on
the budget deal. A viewer would conclude that the plan cuts spending,
with about one-tenth of the amount saved allocated for new spending,
leaving tax cuts as a threat to a balanced budget. Wrong on all counts,
but Brokaw was not alone. "Spending cuts will include defense, Medicare,
Medicaid and housing," insisted Phil Jones the same night on the CBS
In fact, as Heritage Foundation budget analyst Scott
Hodge discovered, "non-defense discretionary spending will grow by a
cumulative $73 billion over the next five years, and defense spending
will receive about $23 billion in new funding." As for the promised tax
cuts, they amount to "less than one penny for every dollar taxpayers
will send to Washington" as taxpayers "will receive only 67 cents in tax
relief for every new dollar of spending."
Yet, tax cuts most worried NBC's David Bloom on May 2,
the night the plan was un-veiled: "This balanced budget deal was on
again, off again over the last 48 hours, but today when Republican
leaders in Congress agreed that the tax cuts in the plan would not
explode over the next five to ten years, well the deal got done."
The next day, NBC's John Palmer focused on the
"worries" of liberals. "There will be money for broader health care
coverage and expansion of the Head Start program for pre-schoolers, but
critics say that's not enough." He concluded: "Congress still has to
vote on the actual appropriations that will directly effect people's
lives. And there could be trouble, from those who worry that the budget
is weighted too much in favor of the rich at the expense of the poor."
In a surreal report, on the May 3 World News Tonight,
ABC's Karla Davis intoned: "The plan calls for $115 billion savings in
Medicare. It's the biggest reduction in a social program ever endorsed
by a President. Even President Reagan, painted by critics as the
destroyer of the social safety net, didn't rein in Medicare spending. It
grew from $45 billion to $90 billion during his two terms."
But Davis had just made the same error. Medicare was
projected to soar 54 percent over the next five years. The new plan
reduces that to 46 percent. Quite a "reduction."
Former NBC News reporter Carl Stern would
loan money to Web Hubbell, the former Associate Attorney General who
served 18 months for stealing law firm funds. Michael Isikoff, in an
April 14 Newsweek story, discovered: "Though he is the highest-ranking
Justice official to go to prison since Watergate conspirator John
Mitchell, few of his former colleagues speak bitterly about him. 'If Web
Hubbell walked in the door today and asked to borrow $100, I'd give it
to him,' says Carl Stern, the department's former spokesman."
Before joining the Justice Department in
early 1993 as Director of Public Affairs, Stern spent 25 years as a
Washington reporter for NBC News, covering the Supreme Court and Justice
Department in the 1980s.
I'm Doing Good for Bill
"I like knowing that I'm doing something
that will help make a difference in a good way," Clinton speechwriter
Carolyn Curiel told a meeting of student reporters at the American
Society of Newspaper Editors' (ASNE) convention in April.
Curiel, an editor at the New York Times
and Washington Postbefore jumping to television in 1992 as a Nightline
producer, long ago wanted to write speeches for a President, but she
faced an impediment. As recounted in a report on the ASNE Web site,
Curiel "was at The Washington Post when she first confessed to a
colleague her interest in a White House speechwriting job. The only
problem was that Ronald Reagan was President."
NSC to NBC
NBC News tapped a Clinton Administration
spinster to fill the slot of Vice President of Communications. Julia
Moffett, Director of Communications for the National Security Council,
joined the network news division in April.
Moffett leaves behind a network veteran:
Tara Sonenshine, an ABC News producer in Washington for twelve years
until coming aboard Clinton's NSC in 1994 as Deputy Director for
Communications. In 1995 she revolved back into the media to cover
national security issues for Newsweek until spinning back to the NSC
again earlier this year to help with the second term transition.
Democratic Pollster for CBS
CBS News has just promoted Dotty Lynch,
Political Editor since 1985, to take over the division as Senior
Political Editor in charge of the Washington staff of three. On May 8
The Washington Post's John Carmody reviewed her background: "Lynch began
her political research career as a researcher for the NBC News election
unit in 1968, went on to become Vice President of Cambridge Survey
Research, which did polling for the presidential campaigns of George
McGovern and Jimmy Carter...then served as Director of Survey Research
for the Democratic National Committee in 1981-83."
Carmody could have added that Lynch also
handled polling for Ted Kennedy's 1980 presidential run and the 1984
ABC's Liberal Web Master
In charge of ABCNEWS.com, ABC's Web site
launched in mid-May: Jeff Gralnick, a one-time aide to former liberal
Senator George Mc-Govern. Back in 1971 Gralnick toiled as Press
Secretary for McGovern. Gralnick soon joined ABC News, rising to
Executive Producer of World News Tonight by 1979 and Vice President in
1985. He jumped to NBC in 1993 to serve as Executive Producer of NBC
Nightly News. ABC lured him back last year to run their since- scuttled
all-news cable channel.
Worries About Welfare Victims
Here's a radical idea for
reporters covering welfare: Cover it from the perspective of those
paying for it. NBC typically ignored taxpayer concerns in favor of a sob
story from a welfare recipient. On the April 10 NBC Nightly News Tom
Brokaw ominously warned: "In Southern California, the welfare reform
requirements could have a disastrous effect. That's the conclusion of a
university study out today. Too much expected too soon of too many."
As viewers saw video of an overweight
woman walking up some stairs, reporter George Lewis asserted: "April
Boyd is a single mom with six children. Because of a hip injury suffered
in a car accident she says she's unable to work. Boyd is one of a half a
million Los Angeles-area residents who could lose part or all of their
After airing Boyd's desperate claim that
she can no longer work anymore Lewis explained that a USC study
predicted welfare reform would "put thousands of people deeper into a
life of poverty and overwhelming personal problems." Lewis reeled off
some of the dire numbers about unsupported disabled children and how
21,000 more children will end up in foster care.
Although the Census Bureau's 1990
homeless count estimated 235,000 nationwide, Lewis preposterously
charged: "And homelessness could rise by as many as 190,000 people.
Economically depressed neighborhoods, like L.A.'s skid row, will be hit
the hardest. But the prediction is that the economic impact for the
entire community could go as high as a billion and a half dollars a
Lewis did toss in that Governor Pete
Wilson "predicts that most people kicked off welfare rolls will find
work," but countered that "April Boyd is not so sure." Boyd said that
"if you don't walk in a person's shoes such as myself you'll never know
how we feel and what we going through."
NBC never considered what taxpayers are
going through. Instead, over more video of a supposedly disabled Boyd
going up steps unassisted, Lewis concluded by portraying her and other
takers as the victims: "Most everyone thought that overhauling the
welfare system would be a good idea. Now, there are new concerns being
raised about the human consequences of doing that."
Janet Cooke Award
ABC Uses Volunteer Summit As Staging Event for
Liberal Complaints, Even Against Clinton
Volunteerism: A Scam to Mask "Cuts"
The Philadelphia "summit" urging Americans to
focus on volunteerism underlined the shallow approach of network news.
Thrusting microphones into politicians' faces, the reporters demanded
"Is this going to be more than a photo-op?," but the cameras did not
arrive to chronicle what would be said as much as who would be there
President Clinton, three ex-Presidents, Colin Powell, not to mention
ABC, CBS, and NBC may have avoided the substance of Clinton scandal
coverage, but they did follow White House publicity wishes by making
room for 24 evening stories and 45 morning segments in five days
surrounding the volunteer summit. But a more political theme emerged,
placing the media well to the left of Bill Clinton: volunteerism could
never replace government action, and it wouldn't be so necessary if
social programs hadn't been slashed over the last 15 years, with special
scorn reserved for last year's welfare reform bill. For turning a summit
supposedly about individual effort into another statistically challenged
sermon for statism, ABC earned the Janet Cooke Award.
On the April 27 World News Tonight, ABC reporter Karla Davis
declared: "The Presidents involved in today's summit are the very same
people who are being blamed for the state of crisis that's facing the
nation's children. Opponents say that a few days of goodwill will not
make up for years of neglect. Critics are calling it 'Clinton's Cutback
Summit.' Protesters from all over, Indiana, Georgia, New York, gathered
in front of Independence Hall to deliver a message of their own."
Davis aired a snippet of Larry Holmes of the National People's
Campaign: "Talking about volunteerism sounds like a substitute for the
programs that you are cutting and instead of being a good thing, which
volunteering should be, it amounts to an attack on social progress."
While ABC has allowed liberal groups and Democrats to denigrate
conservatives as "extremists," they made no attempt to explain the
National People's Campaign. Founded to attack the Contract with America
in 1995, one of the group's most fervent passions is seeking the freedom
of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer.
(ABC video showed Abu-Jamal's picture all over the protesters' signs).
Isn't championing cop killers "an attack on social progress"? ABC had no
time for that question.
Davis continued: "Protester Frank Alexander spent the morning as he
does every Sunday feeding the homeless. Advocates for the poor report
homelessness is increasing, since President Clinton signed a bill last
year to cut welfare by $55 billion over six years." Alexander told the
ABC audience: "It's just a hypocritical thing to eliminate social
programs and cast millions of people into poverty at the same time
you're calling for volunteers."
Davis chose to simply pass on the claims of "advocates for the poor,"
without asking elementary questions, such as: What social programs are
being cut, and which have been cut by Bill Clinton? How can increased
homelessness be attributed to last year's welfare reform bill which
hasn't gone into effect yet?
While Davis aired a brief snippet of conservative summit backer
Arianna Huffington, she had no time for a conservative counter-argument
to the protesters' claims of "cuts." The Heritage Foundation argued that
in 1996, federal and state spending on 70 means-tested welfare programs
"reached over $400 billion, a historic high equaling 5.3 percent of
Gross Domestic Product. Despite political promises to end welfare as we
know it, the Clinton budget proposes to increase federal means-tested
welfare spending by five percent per year, twice the rate of inflation."
On the next evening's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings continued to
tout the theme of leftist protesters: "Among those who find fault with
this summit, there is concern that all this enthusiasm for volunteering
not be seen as a substitute for what government should do....We asked
ABC's Tom Foreman to go to Wichita, Kansas, to see whether pure
volunteerism is enough."
Foreman began: "If you ask many people in Wichita, they will say
there are more volunteers that work here than ever before. Dozens of
people every weekend, fixing up low-income neighborhoods....A hundred
people a day delivering Meals On Wheels to the sick and elderly. But 15
years after the government first began retreating from social programs,
some volunteers say they have been strained to their limits, especially
when it comes to solving the most time- consuming, difficult societal
Proclaimed Nick Mork of Wichita's Big Brothers and Sisters: "There
needs to be some support from our government to help solve these
problems. The problems are just too large." Foreman explained that after
Mork's federal funding "dried up....The number of young people served
was cut in half, and the agency has never fully recovered. Today,
although 800 kids are being served, as many or more are on the waiting
Foreman then abandoned all pretense of news gathering and launched
into an editorial: "Many hard-core social problems, such as inadequate
health care for children, require a degree of skill, dedication and time
most volunteers do not have or will not give....Volunteering for most
people means running a bake sale or coaching a soccer team. And as
useful as such things are, it is still clear that volunteers cannot
shoulder the burden of society's more pressing concerns."
Like Davis, Foreman ignored the many poverty programs whose budgets
have grown dramatically in the last five years. Cato Institute budget
analyst Stephen Moore has noted that in constant 1995 dollars, all sorts
of programs have grown: food stamps (up 53 percent), Medicaid (110
percent), housing assistance (67 percent), and a Clinton favorite, the
Earned Income Tax Credit (up 150 percent). Foreman also ignored any
substantive philosophical counter-argument from the right, for example,
the notion that welfare dependency, not spending cuts, have worsened the
plight of the poor; or that an ever-increasing tax burden (now an
estimated $2.465 trillion in federal, state, and local taxes in 1997,
according to the Tax Foundation) might cause people to work harder to
make ends meet, leaving less time for volunteering. Neither Foreman nor
Davis returned MediaWatch phone calls.
As if the leftists weren't advertised enough, Jennings repeated after
Foreman's story: "Incidentally, there was another gathering on
volunteerism here in Philadelphia today, not unimportant at all. Several
hundred people attended a people's summit organized by union, government
and religious leaders as a reality check on the President's summit,
which they called a 'glorified Hollywood photo op.'" The protesters were
right about the summit, but also about the summit coverage: for what is
a lot of heart-tugging pictures of "cutbacks" without any statistical
context but a "photo opportunity"?
Schieffer Goes Soft.
When Oliver North announced he was
running for the Senate in Virginia in 1994, CBS Face the Nation host Bob
Schieffer assaulted him with 26 questions about lying in 17 minutes:
"How can I know when you are telling the truth?...What's the criteria to
know that Oliver North is telling the truth? Only under oath or all the
So how would Bill Clinton fare on the
same show April 27? Schieffer asked only 18 questions in the whole show,
and didn't ask about Clinton scandals until 20 minutes in. Schieffer
never once asked Clinton about lying about anything.
Larry, Meet Lanny. If the White
House ever needs a new spokesperson, they could always call Larry King.
King did nothing but defend the White House when he had James McDougal
and Hillary Clinton as guests on his CNN program.
On April 21, McDougal and King spent time
discussing McDougal's claim that President Clinton attended a meeting
where he urged David Hale to grant an illegal $300,000 Small Business
Administration loan to Susan McDougal. King repeatedly spewed out the
best White House spin possible, asking McDougal: "But that day, in that
office, wasn't he helping your wife when he said give her the help with
that loan, wasn't he doing you a favor?...No matter what the reason,
wasn't he doing something nice for your wife?...But that gives you no
less feeling about turning the tide?" Later, King asked: "Do you think
Mr. Clinton might say President Clinton might say you know, Jim, got me
started in this whole thing to begin with. He's the one that called me
about Whitewater. I don't know from land deals McDougal took me down
Things were no different six days later
with the First Lady. On possible hush money given to Webster Hubbell,
King asked: "A couple of things that you may not want to talk about, but
we'll ask them. Mr. Hubbell were you just being a friend?" Later King
wondered: "The fundraising, did that surprise you how far the DNC went
or were you did you was it knowledgeable to you?"
Pity for Plunderers. Susan
McDougal is incarcerated on a contempt of court charge. She could be
released tomorrow if she agreed to appear before a grand jury to answer
specific questions about Clinton's Whitewater role. You'd think the
media would portray her as someone blocking Ken Starr's attempts to get
at the truth. Instead, the media portray McDougal as a martyr.
On the April 23 CBS Evening News, Dan
Rather introduced their interview: "Susan McDougal says special
prosecutor Kenneth Starr is trying to pressure her to lie and implicate
the Clintons. She's been jailed for refusing to talk to the grand jury
and can be kept as long as the grand jury exists." Reporter Phil Jones
conducted the interview via cell phone while standing outside Los
Angeles' Sybil Brand Prison because the sheriff allegedly would not let
the CBS camera crew inside.
While never explaining why McDougal is
being held in California (to face embezzlement charges in a
non-Whitewater case), Jones dwelled on her living conditions inside the
jail: "She claims she's in solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a
day...There are 12 cells, housing women on charges including murder.
McDougal is in cell five. It has an upper and lower bunk, a closet, a
sink, and a toilet." Jones noted, hinting at a conspiracy, that a "local
judge has issued orders for McDougal to be moved to better facilities,
but it never happens." Jones didn't get to the substance of her
imprisonment until story's end, and CBS interviewed no one to counter
McDougal's self-serving description of her predicament.
Agitators vs. Philanthropists. The
April 21 issue of Timemagazine featured its list of the "25 Most
Influential" people of 1997. According to Time, if you're a millionaire
and you help conservatives, you're contributing to the breakdown of
society. If you're a billionaire who gives solely to liberal causes,
you're seen as a savior.
On one page Time profiled Richard Scaife,
whom the magazine labeled a "Conservative Agitator." His bio began: "If
conservative thinkers like Bill Bennett and Paul Weyrich are the
brainpower behind the resurgent American right, the horsepower comes
from Richard Mellon Scaife. For close to four decades, the 64-year-old
Pennsylvanian has used his millions to back anti-liberal ideas and their
proponents." Later, Time added: "He controls the Sarah Scaife
Foundation, which helps subsidize rabidly anti-Clinton magazines as well
as conservative social-policy projects." If Scaife is considered a
"conservative agitator," it would follow that George Soros would be
tagged a "liberal agitator," but Time's subhead labeled him a
"philanthropist." Soros' bio read: "And he has been stirring controversy
by directing his dollars to an array of hot-button political causes tied
to his personal ideal of an 'open society' and by writing an
iconoclastic critique of free-market capitalism." Among the projects
promoted by this "philanthropist," Time noted: "$1 million to help pass
initiatives in California and Arizona last year that legalized medicinal
use of marijuana," and "$50 million for a fund to help legal immigrants"
overcome welfare reform.
Planet-Savers vs. Partisans. On
Earth Day, both The Washington Post and New York Times focused on
conservative Michael Sanera's criticism of left-leaning environmental
"education" in schools. But when it came to labeling, it was the same
slanted story: Liberals were apolitical "environmentalists," while those
favoring more balance were "conservatives." The Post's Joby Warrick
described the Sierra Club as simply "the environmental group," echoed by
"the California-based Center for a Commercial-Free Public Education."
But Sanera's and Jane Shaw's Facts Not Fear was a book "hailed by
New York Times reporter John Cushman also
cited Sanera as "a policy analyst at the Claremont Institute, a
conservative research organization in California" and was complemented
by "a conservative research center in Washington, the George C. Marshall
Institute." But Cushman left off the labels for Sanera's critics:
"Environmentalists argue that nothing short of the future of the planet
is at stake." Liberal Environmental Defense Fund activist Michael
Oppenheimer called the Marshall Institute document "a distortion," but
was not labeled as liberal. Neither was the Wilderness Society, cited
merely as a "leading national environmental organization."
A Smoking Double Standard. When
Bob Dole gave House Speaker Newt Gingrich a $300,000 loan to cover the
Speaker's ethics penalty, Democrats called it a sweetheart deal and some
reporters joined the Democratic chorus. On the April 17 CBS Evening
News, Bob Schieffer noted the reaction: "It set off a row on the House
floor when Democrats noticed a newspaper story that Dole was joining a
law firm that works for tobacco companies." Schieffer then aired a
soundbite from Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.): "We now have the chief
lobbyist for Big Tobacco financing the payoff of the Speaker's fine for
lying to the Congress." Schieffer continued: "Ignoring that allegation,
Dole called it a personal gesture."
Substitute anchor Paula Zahn introduced
the next report: "The suggestion of some kind of tobacco connection to
the Gingrich-Dole loan deal comes as the tobacco industry is reportedly
working on a $300 billion deal to settle government and private health
lawsuits." The CBS duo failed to note the Washington Post report that
the firm Dole joined is "stocked with several heavy-hitting Democrats,"
including former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, former Texas
Governor Ann Richards and former Treasury Secretary and VP candidate
Easy on Al Gore. CNN's Claire
Shipman, soon to join NBC's White House correspondent team, totally
ignored the Democratic Party's tobacco connections when she lobbed
softballs at Vice President Al Gore on the April 25 Inside Politics. She
even left it out of a question on the government's latest tobacco
ruling: "First, on the tobacco ruling. That would seem a significant, at
least partial, victory for you. But on the advertising front, the fact
that the judge says the federal government can't control the tobacco
company's advertising, that seems to be a loss, because of course that
would have a major impact on influencing young kids to start smoking.
Are you disappointed? What can you do about that at this point?" Shipman
made no mention of the hypocrisy of Gore's speech at the 1996 Democratic
convention claiming he'd fight tobacco to the death as the DNC was
soliciting tobacco funds for his campaign.
Shipman worried that Gore's image had
been soiled in the fundraising scandals, as if he's an innocent
spectator to what happened: "Are you frustrated at all at the impact
this seems to be having both the China stories and the campaign finance
stories on your own popularity and approval rating? Do you think that
that's going to continue to be a problem for you personally, especially
as the hearings come up?"
Lovable Hostage-Takers? After the
dramatic rescue of hostages at the Japanese Embassy by Tupac Amaru
terrorists in Lima, Peru, The Boston Globe sympathized not with the
hostages, but with one of the slain terrorists, a young woman named Luz
Dina Villoslada. "From a Sense of Injustice to a Rebel's Death: Peruvian
Dreamed of a Career as Nurse, but Died in Raid" read the headline.
Reporter Steve Fainaru wrote of an ambitious girl who ran with the wrong
crowd: "Luz Dina was the only person in her family to graduate from high
For years, "she believed a career in
nursing would help her to lift her family out of the poverty and
violence that had ravaged their village." But "her plan changed
dramatically four years ago" after her sister was raped and no charges
were filed. "Luz Dina, then 16, joined the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Fairanu asserted Villoslada's life story
"provides, if only from the biased perspective of loved ones, an inside
portrait of the Tupac Amaru rebels, many of whom were recruited as
teenagers, lured by promises of steady cash and payback for injustices
committed by the government." He mentioned "the violence that surrounded
her," but only detailed government violence: "Relatives said they were
often harassed by Peruvian security forces. Soldiers and local police
officers sometimes extorted money and were involved in beatings of local
A less starry-eyed view of Tupac Amaru
comes from Mark Falcoff, an American Enterprise Institute Latin America
scholar, who detailed in the February 26, 1996 Weekly Standard how they
are "a terrorist group that, in recent years, has been involved in
assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, robberies, and attacks against
innocent people, many of them poor."
Byrd on Dogs. A major fuss erupted
April 15 when a blind aide to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was denied access
to the Senate floor with her guide dog, a violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
CBS anchor Dan Rather announced: "An
unidentified Senator's complaint, apparently kept this blind
congressional aide, Moira Shea, from entering the Senate chamber
yesterday because of her guide dog. Well today she and her dog, Beau,
were officially invited in for a brief visit." NBC and ABC named the
impeding Senator. NBC's Lisa Myers noted: "Robert Byrd, a zealous
guardian of Senate rules, objected." ABC's Peter Jennings also put the
best spin on Byrd's objection, saying Byrd is "well known as a stickler
for Senate privilege and procedure." One fact skipped by the networks
Byrd is a Democrat, a fact not likely ignored if a conservative had been
Networks Bail Out of Fundraising Scandal
Coverage in Mid-March, Go AWOL in April
Government Watchdogs' Spring
President Clinton's twisted knee
may have caused him great pain, but the media effects were salutary.
Scandal coverage was relatively intense in the wake of Al Gore's clumsy
March 3 press conference until news of Clinton's injury came the night
of March 11. Then in April, the Big Three coverage of new fundraising
revelations lost all momentum with only CNN showing signs of staying
with the emerging storyline.
MediaWatch analysts reviewed all March
and April fundraising stories on the evening programs of ABC, CBS, CNN
(The World Today), and NBC, as well as morning shows on ABC, CBS, and
Fully 75 percent of the Big Three's
network fundraising reports in March came in the first 12 days. Those
evening shows aired a combined 52 full reports and 20 anchor briefs in
March, but 39 of those reports and 8 briefs came in the first 12 days.
Matching what we found in February coverage, for a majority of broadcast
days in March, ABC (19), CBS (14), and NBC (16) aired no evening story
on the fundraising beat. CNN beat the other networks in intensity with
27 full reports and 25 anchor briefs. The morning shows aired 50 full
segments and 46 anchor briefs but aired 37 of the segments and 36 briefs
in the first 12 days. Combined, the morning shows had 48 days without a
In April, coverage dropped dramatically.
The Big Three evening shows aired only 13 full reports and 6 anchor
briefs. ABC led with nine reports and two briefs, CBS had three of each,
and NBC just one of each. (Nonetheless, Tom Brokaw insisted in a
May/June Columbia Journalism Review article on the softening of the NBC
Nightly News: "There are no important stories we have missed.") The
networks aired 71 evening newscasts without a fundraising story.
While CNN did more reports than the other
three combined, their numbers fell to 17 full reports and 15 anchor
briefs. The morning totals also plummeted, with 22 full segments and 14
briefs, adding up to a combined 72 mornings without a story.
That disinterest did not spread to
Republican stories. When Democratic lobbyist Mark Siegel told The
Washington Post in the March 19 edition that Rep. Dan Burton, Chairman
of the House committee probing DNC fundraising, had "shaken him down"
for $5,000 in donations from friends of Pakistan, all the networks aired
The networks leaped on the story of Newt
Gingrich's $300,000 loan to reimburse the House ethics committee from
Bob Dole. But when John and Alice Martin, the Florida Democratic
activists who illegally taped and distributed a cellular phone call of
Gingrich and other GOP leaders, agreed to plead guilty to wiretapping
charges, the networks did nothing. Neglecting Democrats continues:
March 20: The Boston Globe
reported: "On January 15, 1996, John Huang...received an extraordinary
memo. It spelled out how to 'convert' Democrats to back favorable trade
status for China. And, most mysteriously of all, it included a
handwritten notation that the strategy was being discussed 'with the
embassy,'" presumably the Chinese embassy. Network coverage? Zero.
March 21: USA Today explained the
DNC may have to return another $200,000 in donations, as the paper had
identified another 36 improper contributions: "In one case, a donor
considered legitimate by Democratic auditors listed a used car lot as
his home. In other cases, donors gave the address of a Buddhist temple
as their address." Network coverage? Zero.
March 27: The Boston Globe wrote
that Lebanese businessman Roger Tamraz "received support from Clinton
for the general concept of his oil pipeline proposal in October 1995."
Tamraz contributed $180,000. The Globe noted before its story "it has
not been reported that Clinton announced support for a position sought
by Tamraz after the businessman made his contributions." TV coverage?
March 30: The Boston Globe struck
again with a Bob Hohler report that "27 corporations that sent
executives on trade trips with the late Commerce Secretary Ronald H.
Brown obtained part of a multi-billion-dollar commitment in federally
guaranteed assistance from the Overseas Private Investment
Corporation...what has previously gone unnoticed is the massive amount
of OPIC support given to companies that traveled with Brown and donated
money to the Democrats." Network coverage? Zero.
April 1: The Wall Street Journal
broke a big story: "Charlie Yah Lin Trie, a central figure in the
controversy over foreign contributions to the Democratic Party, received
a series of substantial wire transfers in 1995 and 1996 from a bank
operated by the Chinese government. The transfers from the New York
office of the Bank of China, usually in increments of $50,000 or
$100,000, came at a time when Mr. Trie was directing large donations to
the Democratic National Committee." Network coverage? Nothing.
April 4: The New York Times
discovered cocaine smuggler Jorge Cabrera "was asked for a campaign
contribution in the unlikely locale of a hotel in Havana by a prominent
Democratic fundraiser." When he returned to the U.S. days later, Cabrera
gave $20,000 to the DNC from an account including proceeds from cocaine
smuggling into America. Network coverage? Zero.
April 7: Developing further an
April 3 USA Today story that Tipper Gore hosted a fundraiser that
spurred a $25,000 donation from tobacco giant Philip Morris, CNN
business reporter Kelli Arena announced "tobacco executives tell CNN
Financial News they were solicited repeatedly by Democratic fundraisers.
Two companies, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, complied when the
national party told them to write their checks to state parties to avoid
press scrutiny." On April 11 The Washington Postdeveloped the story
further, noting the Democrats "channeled millions in contributions to
state Democratic parties last year, effectively hiding contributions
from tobacco, gambling and other special interests." Despite the
networks' laser-beam focus on the tobacco industry, this scoop of
Democratic hypocrisy got no story from ABC, CBS, and NBC.
April 8: The Washington Post
reported the White House supplied "top-secret intelligence information
to the Democratic National Committee to block a Latvian businessman with
alleged ties to organized crime from attending a $250,000 fundraising
dinner...The effort was successful, and the businessman, Grigori
Loutchansky, who had been formally invited to attend the DNC fundraising
dinner in 1995, was abruptly disinvited." Network coverage? Zero.
April 30: Attorney General Janet
Reno faced a tough Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on why she failed
to appoint an independent counsel in the fundraising scandal. But CBS
and NBC devoted more time to Chelsea Clinton's college choice than Janet
Reno's testimony. CBS gave Reno 19 seconds, NBC nothing.
the Bright Side
Frontline Finally Arrives
More than four years in, the PBS documentary series
Frontlinefinally aired its first program investigating a Clinton
administration scandal. In the April 15 program "The Fixers,"
correspondent Peter Boyer plowed new ground on the Asian fundraising
connection of Eugene and Nora Lum of Hawaii.
Boyer explained how the Lums were major Democratic
fundraisers among Asian Americans during the 1992 campaign, and came to
know party chairman Ron Brown. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, utility
regulators with the state Corporation Commission were uncovering a
regular pattern of bribery and corruption in the awarding of natural gas
contracts, including bribery by Arkla Gas led by Mack McLarty, soon to
become White House Chief of Staff.
One gas supplier sued to bring the corruption into the
open. In came the Lums, offering to buy the supplier if they'd drop the
suit. Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony told PBS the Lums
had "no experience, no reserves, and they end up getting a contract to
sell enormous volumes of natural gas over a 10-year period of time, and
their biggest claim to fame seems to be their political
connections....Mack McLarty had a motive and an interest in seeing that
these lawsuits and the discovery and the public disclosure go away."
This story was compelling enough to provoke (at least
in part) the expired independent counsel probe of Ron Brown, whose son
was enriched by the Lums. Boyer is the first TV correspondent to shed
any light on these forgotten scandals. Will the other networks care to
Liberals Rule Newsrooms
Media Leader Urges Denial
Newspaper staffs have become even
less conservative over the past eight years, a poll for the American
Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) found. But the finding led a media
think tank leader to pen an article titled, "The Myth of the Liberal
Slant." Last fall, ASNE polled 1,037 journalists at 61 papers of all
sizes. Released in April, The Newspaper Journalists of the '90sreport
- "In 1996 only 15 percent
of the newsroom labeled itself conservative/Republican or leaning in
that direction, down from 22 percent in 1988" when the ASNE last
conducted a comprehensive survey. Those identifying themselves as
independent jumped from 17 to 24 percent while the percent calling
themselves "liberal/Democrat" or "lean" that way held steady, down one
point to 61 percent.
- The bigger the paper,
the more liberal the staff: "On papers of at least 50,000 circulation,
65 percent of the staffs are liberal/Democrat or lean that way. The
split at papers of less than 50,000 is less pronounced: still
predominantly liberal, but 51-23 percent."
- "Women are more likely
than men to fall into one of the liberal/Democrat categories," as just
11 percent said they were conservative or leaned that way. Minorities
"tend to be more liberal/Democrat," with a piddling 3 percent of
blacks and 8 percent of Asians and Hispanics putting themselves on the
right. The least liberal: 20 percent of those 50-plus in age were
conservative or leaned that way.
Ideological imbalance isn't a concern,
however, to ASNE which believes skin color and sex has the most impact
on reporting. The poll plugged in three groups as responders were
asked "How would you describe your newspaper's commitment to...." The
three: "ethnic and race diversity," "gender diversity," and "fairness
on sexual orientation."
The January-February edition of ASNE's
magazine, The American Editor, included a preview of the results as a
sidebar to the cover story denouncing the very thought of liberal
bias. Everette Dennis, Senior VP of the Freedom Forum, charged: "There
is no convincing evidence that journalists infect their stories
intentionally or otherwise with their own political prejudices." Then
he dismissed evidence to the contrary: "While a few studies suggest
such a link, most are the handiwork of right-leaning groups and
critics whose research methods can't withstand scrutiny." Dennis
failed to cite any shortcoming in a study by the MRC or any other
Ignorance fuels public perception of
bias, as Dennis told editors they "need to explain these realities to
the public: that the press is guided more by professionalism than by
politics, that partisan viruses are often inoculated by the realities
of the marketplace, that journalists do, in fact, police each other's
behavior." And if that doesn't convince people, he urged more
aggressive denial: "The credibility of the media is not suffering
because of a liberal bias; it's suffering, in large part, because of
the continuing charge of bias that has gone unanswered for too long."
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