Media Jolted by
Lewinsky Story After Years of Saying Truth Wasn’t Relevant
Dismissing Monica’s Predecessors
As the allegations erupted that President Clinton told
White House intern Monica Lewinsky to lie about their sexual
relationship, the combination of sex and perjury charges jolted the
media into action. But when questions of Clinton lying about his sex
life arose in the past, the media suggested that whether Clinton was
telling the truth was beside the point.
When the Gennifer Flowers story arrived in Time
in 1992, writer Lance Morrow scolded: "If the public is going to behave
like an idiot on the subject of sex, the candidate will naturally do
almost anything to avoid telling the truth about any behavior less than
impeccable." Morrow added: "Given the size of the job that needs to be
done, it is time for America to get serious. At the very least, turn off
the television set. And grow up about sex."
After the election, Morrow crowed in Time that
Clinton "served to rehabilitate and restore the legitimacy of American
politics" and that a Bush victory would have rewarded the use of
"irrelevant or inflammatory issues...or dirty tricks and innuendo."
In December of 1993, The American Spectator
broke the story of then-Governor Clinton using state troopers to secure
sexual conquests. National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg noted:
"When the American people hired Bill Clinton for this job, they knew he
was no saint. He virtually told them he was a sinner." Newsweek’s
Joe Klein argued: "As long as the peccadilloes remain within reason, the
American people will have great tolerance" for Clinton.
Paula Jones’ 1994 allegation of earlier sexual
harassment by Clinton got 16 seconds on ABC’s World News Tonight;
zilch on CBS and NBC. Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift complained on
C-SPAN: "It seems to me that the discussions about Bill Clinton’s sexual
life came up during the campaign."
When Jones filed suit in May of 1994, Tom Brokaw
defended NBC’s three-month smothering of the story by echoing Eleanor
Clift, insisting on CNBC’s Tim Russert: "It didn’t seem to most
people, entirely relevant to what was going on at the time. These are
the kind of charges raised about the President before. They had been
played out in the Gennifer Flowers episode." Had the American voters
clairvoyantly known that Clinton would be accused of sexual harassment?
It shouldn’t have been surprising that the media’s
most desperate Clinton defenders stuck to the same voters-don’t-care
mantra in the Lewinsky case. On January 21, Clift defended Clinton in
live coverage on MSNBC: "Well, he’s been elected twice with people
knowing that he has had affairs. Now is the fact that this woman is 21,
I mean she’s still of age I suppose." Besides, Clift argued, "libido and
leadership is often linked."
Kaplan’s Clinton World
CNN’s new President once hired Hillary Clinton
to work for ABC News 12 years after he toiled as an operative for a
Democratic presidential candidate. Those are just two of the revelations
from a January Vanity Fair profile of Rick Kaplan, a Clinton
friend. Here are some excerpts from David Margolick’s piece:
- Conservatives are Liars: "Right-wing critics such
as Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media and columnist Brent Bozell have
charged that Kaplan let his friendship with the President cloud his
news judgment at ABC, and will now turn CNN into the ‘Clinton News
Network.’ Kaplan brushes Irvine and Bozell aside contemptuously. ‘If
they weren’t such liars they wouldn’t make whatever money they make,’
he said. ‘There’d be no purpose for them on the planet’..."
- Rescued from Boring ‘88 Speech: "When, in the
1980s, Clinton considered trading politics for a million-dollar job on
Wall Street, he sought out Kaplan’s advice. It was Kaplan’s shoulder
Clinton cried on, over Chinese takeout in Nightline’s New York
studio, following his much-ridiculed 32-minute speech-a-thon at the
1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta. ‘He was sitting there saying,
‘My career is over. I’ll never be anything,’ Kaplan recalled. ‘And we
all said, ‘You know, have a sense of humor about it. If you joke about
it first, everyone else will joke about it.’ Then he ended up going on
The Tonight Show, and, by being great, he actually vindicated
- Hired Hillary for ABC: "If anything, Kaplan was at
least as close to Hillary, who shares his Chicago roots; he even hired
her to work on coverage of the 1980 Democratic convention. When
Chelsea Clinton was searching for a 49th-birthday present for her dad,
Kaplan sent along a titanium golf club fashioned from a melted down
- Promoted McCarthy: "Kaplan was born in the Rogers
Park section of Chicago. His childhood was filled with friends and
Democratic politics; Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and John F.
Kennedy were icons in his home. He envisioned a life of political
activism and joined the 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Eugene
McCarthy as an advance man. A week later, when Bobby Kennedy won the
California primary, Kaplan prepared to switch sides, and headed to
Kennedy’s hotel to meet him. He ended up that night alone on a Santa
Monica beach, watching the waves, listening to radio reports about
Kennedy’s slow death. He contemplated a radically altered future
- Spiked Anti-Clinton Stories at ABC: "In late
October 1994 [while Executive Producer of World News Tonight],
Kaplan killed Jim Wooten’s exclusive interview with an Arkansas state
trooper who claimed a Clinton aide had tried to muzzle him; after
that, Wooten refused to do any more pieces on Whitewater. Wooten
clearly likes his former boss, whom he called ‘a character in an age
without them.’ But on Clinton, he said, Kaplan had ‘a blind spot.’
"Also convinced that ‘the bar kept getting higher’ for putting
Whitewater stories on the program, Chris Vlasto, World News Tonight’s
investigative producer for Clinton-related stories, would sometimes
shop them around to other ABC News shows. True, in February 1994,
World News Tonight devoted an extraordinary 18 of its 22 minutes
to a primer on Whitewater. But that segment had been held for a month,
and ran only after Nightline tried to run it first."
800 Percent Increase?
Hunger in America
A recent study focused on a country where hunger has
increased over 800 percent in the last 12 years. War-ravaged, famine-
stricken Ethiopia? Stalinist North Korea? Nope. According to the
Conference of Mayors annual report, it’s America.
This year it was ABC that fell for the annual
holiday-timed report. Farai Chideya reported on the December 14 World
News Tonight: "According to a new study of Philadelphia and 28 other
cities, [the] need is greater than ever. Requests for emergency food
assistance in those cities rose by 16 percent, the biggest increase in
five years. Two major reasons, according to the study, are low wages and
high housing costs. About 20 percent of the time, people who asked for
food didn’t get it."
She continued: "Ironically, the rise in urban hunger
comes at a time when much of the economy is booming. Unemployment is at
the lowest level in years, and many employers can’t find enough workers
for the Christmas rush. That’s little consolation for Americans left
hungry during the holidays."
Chideya didn’t question the veracity of the findings
from big city, mostly Democratic mayors, although a quick bout with a
calculator indicates that if the report’s annual findings from 1985 are
to be believed, hunger in America has mushroomed by a staggering 861
percent since then. In no year has there been less than a nine percent
jump in "demand for emergency food."
On January 11 NBC focused on welfare reform as the
root cause of increased hunger. Nightly News Sunday anchor Dawn
Fratangelo introduced a Roger O’Neil story: "One reason for the balanced
budget is welfare reform. While many former recipients may be working,
often there is not enough money for one basic need: Food."
Bucking liberal claims that most people spend only
brief periods on welfare, O’Neil found a man who had been dependent for
14 years: "For the new working poor like James Bobo this is the dark
side of welfare reform." O’Neil surveyed food banks in Colorado, Georgia
and Virginia and found nothing but trouble: "The demand for food is now
greater than the supply. Those who serve the poor worry about empty
shelves if welfare reform continues to leave the working poor hungry,
even if they have a job."
Janet Cooke Award
ABC Goes Beyond Promoting "Choice" to Lamenting
Declining Number of Abortionists
Abortion: Not Available Enough
Journalists love anniversaries, and the 25th
anniversary of the "landmark" Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion
promised to be no exception — until the latest charges of adultery and
perjury against the President broke. But ABC’s World News Tonight
celebrated early, devoting half of its January 16 show to abortion. For
presenting the concerns of abortion advocates to the almost total
exclusion of the pro-life viewpoint, ABC earned the Janet Cooke Award.
The only story addressing pro-life concerns that
evening came at the end from religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer, who noted
that Catholic women who’ve had abortions can seek forgiveness within the
church through a program called Project Rachel. But even in that story,
the network kept its focus on the woman who needs, wants, or had an
Politicians who seek to round the harsh edges of
abortion call for them to be "safe, legal, and rare." But ABC’s coverage
suggested more than a million abortions a year is not a tragedy, or even
a social problem. A decline in abortions was scary, and a decline in
abortion’s availability was a tragedy.
Peter Jennings began the series of reports: "We’re
going to take a closer look at abortion tonight. It makes some people
cringe, it makes some fighting mad. And ever since the Supreme Court
guaranteed women a constitutional right to abortion 25 years ago in the
Roe v. Wade case, it has been as divisive as any social issue the
country has ever had cause to debate. And in recent years the places
where a woman might go to have an abortion have often been under siege.
It’s a year ago today that two bombs went off at an abortion clinic in
Atlanta. Today, security at all of Atlanta’s abortion clinics is very
tight. There has been intimidation, some of it violent, at clinics all
over the country and the effect has been apparent. When the Supreme
Court legalized abortion in 1973, the number of abortions went up, until
in 1988 more than a million and a half woman had legal abortions. But
with all this pressure on the clinics [video of corpses being covered by
blankets], five people have been killed and others wounded during these
campaigns to close the clinics down, it has made a difference."
Again, Jennings demonstrated the strange calculus of
the pro- abortion journalist: five shootings of abortion doctors carried
more moral impact than the killings of millions of the unborn. Jennings
continued: "While it is still the law and woman do have a constitutional
right to have an abortion, still in some places it is almost as
difficult to get an abortion today as it was before Roe v. Wade. Here’s
ABC’s Cynthia McFadden."
With the exception of one soundbite, McFadden’s whole
story tilted toward portraying the lack of abortion access as a very
ominous development: "Ketchum, Idaho, is a small town with most of the
amenities of a big city — from the best wine to the best medical care.
But there is one thing you cannot get in Ketchum: an abortion." Julie
Caldwell claimed: "You can have anything you want, except the simple
abortion procedure is not available here to the public."
McFadden explained: "Julie Caldwell runs the local
abortion rights group, and while few people in Ketchum want to discuss
abortion at all, she says if you need an abortion you must travel eight
hours to Salt Lake City, or three hours to Boise...Doctor Ed Boas
performs abortions in Boise. At 59, he’s younger than most providers.
Nearly 60 percent of all U.S. providers are 65 years old or
older....Which is part of the reason why there are fewer places to get
an abortion today in Idaho than there were 15 years ago. Then there were
25; today there are four."
Then she focused on the threats and violence: "Doctor
Boas’ first clinic was fire-bombed three times. He moved out of his next
clinic because his landlord no longer wanted an abortion provider as a
tenant. He asked us to not give out his newest address."
McFadden concluded: "What’s happening in Idaho is
happening all across the country: 45 states have fewer providers today
than they did 10 years ago. In fact, fewer doctors are being trained to
perform them. Of all the OB-GYN training programs in the country, only
12 percent offer the training routinely. In part that’s because doctors
are trained in hospitals and only seven percent of abortions are now
performed there. State restrictions are making it more difficult to get
an abortion. Last year alone, 31 states enacted laws to limit access to
abortions in some way. Currently: 12 states have a mandatory waiting
period, 29 states require parental notification or consent and 33 states
prohibit using Medicaid funds for abortions. Idaho is one of 30 states
with two or more of these restrictions." McFadden didn’t address why
restrictions may be arriving: a majority of voters are deciding
late-term abortions, taxpayer-funded abortions and abortions without
parental notice are wrong.
After battling soundbites from pro-life state Sen. Sam
Hawkins and the director of Planned Parenthood in Boise, McFadden
concluded: "The latest trends suggest that in the future women who want
an abortion may have to travel further, pay more, and wait longer to get
one — quite different from what was predicted when Roe v. Wade became
law 25 years ago."
Without noting any conflict with his earlier theme
that violence drove down abortions, after an ad break Jennings noted how
technology can impact how one see abortion. He showed a 16-week fetus as
seen on a traditional sonogram, and then with a new 3-D view, but he
reassuringly insisted: "This, by the way, is at a time when very, very
few women ever, ever have an abortion. But it is partly because of such
technology that people are having such an intense debate about late term
abortion, which is after six months." Jennings turned to Cokie Roberts:
"The Republican Party has tied itself in knots over this question of
late term abortion. What’s happening?"
Roberts explained that a Republican National Committee
meeting would soon vote on a proposal to deny campaign money to
candidates who support partial-birth abortions: "It’s already a problem
for the party. There was a primary election in California this week
where the candidate who opposed partial birth abortion won over the
establishment candidate of the Republican Party. So this is a tough one
and Democrats are thrilled the Republicans are fighting because it’s
even a tougher one for them."
At that point, just as Roberts broached the Democratic
Party’s disunity, Jennings jumped in: "Okay, Cokie, you’ve covered all
the ground I wanted to, thank you very much."
The bottom line: ten minutes of air time and not one
story reflecting how a pro-lifer sees abortion 25 years after Roe v.
Wade. ABC did not return MediaWatch calls for comment. The
bias of a network which laments the lack of abortions and abortionists
cannot be described as "pro-choice." It’s simply pro-abortion.
Gore’s Goofs. When
Vice President Dan Quayle made the occasional error, reporters couldn’t
wait to assail his intelligence. But when Al Gore made two goofs in
December, the networks didn’t find it newsworthy.
In a recent Time article by Karen Tumulty, Gore
boasted that he and wife Tipper were the inspiration behind Ryan
O’Neal’s and Ali McGraw’s characters in the book and movie Love Story.
On the December 15 Today show, NBC’s Stan Bernard cleared the
record: "[author Erich] Segal told The New York Times he was
befuddled by the Time magazine story. He said only one aspect of
the O’Neal role was inspired by Gore. The rich kid with a controlling
father. But the ‘tough, macho guy who’s a poet at heart,’ was inspired
by [actor Tommy Lee] Jones." While it generated derision on the weekend
talk shows, none of the other Big Three network evening or morning news
shows mentioned Gore’s false boast.
The December 24 Washington Times noted that
while Gore attempted to promote the administration’s homeless policies,
he remarked: "And speaking from my own religious tradition in this
Christmas season, 2,000 years ago a homeless woman gave birth to a
homeless child in a manger because the inn was full." (Joseph and Mary
weren’t homeless, just inn-less: they traveled from their home in
Nazareth to Bethlehem.) No network reported the blunder. On December 23,
ABC’s Good Morning America showed a clip of Gore’s homeless
speech without airing the error.
Lying Ira. When government
officials are caught in a lie it is always big news, right? Not if
you’re in the Clinton administration. On December 18, Judge Royce
Lamberth fined the Clinton Administration $286,000 because White House
officials lied under oath regarding the large membership of the Clinton
health care task force. Network evening and morning show coverage? Zero.
In 1993, the Association of American Physicians and
Surgeons sued to open secret meetings of Hillary Clinton’s health care
working group to the public. According to federal law, advisory panels
that include non-government employees must always meet in public. To
keep the panels closed, Clinton health care "czar" Ira Magaziner swore
in court documents that they were composed of federal employees only.
Lamberth discovered Magaziner must have known he was
lying under oath, since the task force included employees of Magaziner’s
own private consulting firm. In his opinion, he rebuked the White House,
writing "It is clear that the decisions here were made at the highest
levels of government and the government itself is — and should be —
accountable when its officials run amok." The networks also failed to
pick up on House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Archer‘s
(R-Texas) letter demanding that taxpayers not be responsible for the
fine. The story got its only network air time ten days after Lamberth’s
decision, when Tim Russert asked Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel about it on
Meet the Press.
Your Pal Bill. When
President Clinton announced his new $22 billion government-funded child
care plan on January 7, the media obediently heralded the plan as
deliverance for beleaguered parents. On ABC’s World News Tonight
Peter Jennings remarked: "From President Clinton, another proposal for
Congress to consider when it gets back to work. This one to help more
working parents find and pay for child care. The total cost to the
government if Congress agrees: $21 billion." Jennings apparently forgot
that it is not government but taxpayers — including those working
parents with child care needs — who will bear the cost of any government
child care program.
CBS and NBC also ignored the taxpayer angle, focusing
on Clinton as an advocate for working parents. On the CBS Evening
News, Dan Rather reported: "President Clinton today proposed a
centerpiece of his policy agenda: federal help for working parents who
need safe and affordable child care." On the NBC Nightly News,
Tom Brokaw proclaimed: "The dilemma of every working parent is front and
center tonight at the White House, President Clinton unveiling a
multi-billion dollar plan to provide more and better care for America’s
children." CBS reporter Scott Pelley implied the sense of a personal
crusade in Clinton’s initiative, saying to Rather: "Dan, the President
was raised by a single mother who left him with his grandparents when
she went off to school. Today, Mr. Clinton proposed what may be the
largest increase in child care funding in the nation’s history." The
networks never questioned the necessity of federal child care subsidies
or whether federal programs might in the end result in more costs for
As Darcy Olson, entitlements policy analyst at the
Cato Institute discovered, parents are happy. Citing The National Child
Care Survey, 1990, Olson wrote, "ninety-six percent of parents are
‘satisfied’ or ‘highly satisfied’ with their child care arrangements — a
finding that did not vary with the employment status of the mother, the
type of care used, family income, age of the child, or race."
Cool to Differing Opinions.
On January 8, government scientists at the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claimed that 1997 was the warmest year
on record. The networks all presented the NOAA study as proof that
global warming is a reality, while all but CNN ignored evidence that
1997 was actually quite cool.
On World News Tonight Peter Jennings relayed
the bad news, "1997 was actually the warmest year since scientists began
keeping records...Nine of the warmest years this century have occurred
in the last 11 years. And only a little of the warming last year was
apparently due to El Nino according to scientists." CBS reporter Eric
Engberg declared on the Evening News: "Government weather experts today
declared 1997 the warmest the world has experienced in 100 years with
temperatures averaging three-fourths of a degree above normal. Part of
the cause: pollution."
On NBC Nightly News, reporter Robert Hager
insisted that the findings were above politics: "Today the government’s
best climatologists, experts with no agenda to influence debate on
public warming, had dramatic news. Worldwide, 1997 was the hottest year
of this century." PBS’s Jim Lehrer offered the NOAA claims as fact as
well: "1997 was the hottest year on record researchers from the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today....The rise was
attributed to human activity such as factory and auto emissions, as well
as natural causes including warming ocean currents." Although CNN
treated the story as proof of global warming, Carl Rochelle’s piece did
mention that "some groups say that atmospheric temperatures taken by
satellites conflict with NOAA’s data." ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS all
In a January 8 press release, the Science and
Environmental Policy Project revealed: "Temperature readings taken from
U.S. Weather satellites, the most reliable and only global temperature
data available, put 1997 among the coolest years since satellite-based
measurements began in 1979. With December readings finally in, the year
ranked 7 out of 19, with 1 being the coldest."
Center for Budget Bias. In
the mainstream media’s continuing effort to promote class warfare, ABC
and CNN reported on a liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
study which argued that the gap between rich and poor is growing. Both
networks ignored conflicting evidence on the wage gap.
On the December 17 World News Tonight Peter
Jennings touted "a new study out which highlights the winners and the
losers in the current economy. The report, from the Center for Budget
Policy and Priorities (sic) makes absolutely clear what people can
already feel. The top 20 percent of the country’s wage earners are
managing to take full advantage of a booming service economy and they’ve
done very well in the stock market, the rich are getting richer. And the
bottom 20 percent, on the other hand, in a declining manufacturing
sector have seen their salaries stay the same or go down." CNN’s Joie
Chen at least alluded to the politics of the CBPP in her story: "A
liberal-leaning research group says that over the last 20 years, the gap
between the rich and the poor in this country has gotten wider."
Some perspective on "wage stagnation" would have been
nice. Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute argued: "Many of the
households that show up as ‘poor’ in the Census Bureau statistics are
senior citizens who are income ‘poor’ but asset rich...wages, when
properly measured, are not falling. They are higher than ever before.
The National Center for Policy Analysis has provided invaluable
information showing that because of the increasing value of fringe
benefits — such as health care coverage, pensions and more leave and
vacation time — median hourly worker compensation has doubled since the
mid-1950s and is up by 20 percent since 1980."
Top Secret Smaltz. A federal
investigator who wins convictions, indictments and millions of dollars
in fines on behalf of the people of the United States deserves
attention, right? Not if he’s dealing with a former member of the
Clinton administration. Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz’s most recent
accomplishments have gone unnoticed. On November 26, Smaltz announced
he’d won the conviction of Richard Douglas, the Vice President of Sun
Diamond Growers, for giving $7,600 in illegal gifts to Espy. On December
2, Smaltz won a conviction of Ronald Blackley, Espy’s top aide at the
Agriculture Department, for lying to investigators about receiving
$22,000 from companies with business before his department. Neither
received any network coverage.
On December 29, Tyson Foods agreed to pay a $6 million
fine for its illegal gifts to Espy. CBS Evening News and CNN’s
Prime News gave it a brief mention as did ABC’s Good Morning
America, but there was nothing on NBC or on ABC’s World News
Tonight. The networks were AWOL on yet another conviction in January
when two top-level employees of Tyson Foods, Inc. were charged with
giving illegal gifts to Espy. AP’s Curt Anderson explained: "The charges
against Archibald L. Schaffer III, the Tyson executive, and lobbyist
Jack L. Williams involve the same $12,000 in gratuities that Tyson
pleaded guilty in December to giving Espy: playoff football tickets,
tickets to a Presidential inaugural dinner, travel to an Arkansas party
and a scholarship for Espy’s girlfriend." Why is this not shocking? In
the two years and 11months between his indictment on 39 counts of
accepting illegal gifts, the networks aired two full stories on the
Revolutionary Retirees. CNN
Impact host Stephen Frazier began a December 28 tribute: "During
this year-end holiday, on a weekend when so many families gather to
celebrate, we thought it timely to hear next from some people we can
thank for the idea of the weekend — people who devoted their lives to
improving the lot of workers."
Frazier explained: "They are radicals whose lifelong
activism was no holiday, whose work for labor reform and social reform
left them blacklisted, red-baited and shunned by neighbors." Frazier
visited the Sunset Hall retirement home in Los Angeles, profiling a
group of residents who "formed their own community, a refuge where the
glory days of the American political left can live on." One resident
claimed socialism was more "broad-minded," while another proclaimed
CNN panned the retirement home’s library: "A portrait
of Vladimir Lenin graces the top shelf of the library, where the 36
residents of this Los Angeles retirement home meet. An unlikely hero,
perhaps, for most Americans, but these are the foot soldiers of the
American political left, radicalized, they say, by the events of their
youth." CNN said nothing about the many victims of Leninist regimes who
never made it to the retirement home.
Pro-Life Groups Labeled Conservative, Abortion
Advocates Hardly Ever Labeled Liberal
Subtly Shifting the Spectrum Leftward
Over the last decade, studies of ideological labeling
in print reporting have revealed that journalists often identify
conservative groups as conservative, but rarely call liberal groups
liberal, which suggests that reporters are sending their readers a
subtle warning of partisanship about one side and a subtle reassurance
of nonpartisanship about the other. Does this pattern of suggesting
political battles are fought between conservatives and nonpartisans
extend to the abortion debate?
As abortion advocates celebrated the 25th anniversary
of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, MediaWatch
analysts explored the labeling of groups active in the abortion
debate. Using the Nexis news data retrieval system, analysts located
every news story in 1995 and 1996 on four pro-life groups, and compared
them to stories on four abortion advocacy groups in The New York
Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post. In 1,050 news
stories, the pro-life groups were described as "conservative" or some
variant in 178 out of 378 news stories (47 percent), while abortion
advocates were labeled "liberal" or a similar term in only 19 of 682
stories (2.8 percent).
The pro-life groups’ labeling percentage was lowered
by the National Right to Life Committee, whose self-explanatory name
might have contributed to its comparative lack of labeling, with only
seven ideological labels in 119 news stories (6 percent). USA Today
did not apply a conservative label in 22 stories. One label came in a
Washington Post story on activist Kay Coles James, who "became
nationally known as a champion of conservative family values" during
stints with the NRLC and the Bush administration.
With the NRLC sample removed, the three pro-life
groups remaining were labeled "conservative" or "religious right" in 171
of 259 news stories, or 66 percent. The Family Research Council
attracted 115 conservative labels in 183 stories (63 percent). The June
17, 1996 USA Today carried a story by Richard Benedetto on how
Bob Dole might create "a nasty confrontation with those on the right who
see no room for compromise [on abortion] — Pat Buchanan and the Family
Research Council’s Gary Bauer among them." Benedetto added: "Many
moderate and independent voters already believe the GOP is caught in the
grips of extremist elements hard to the right."
Concerned Women for America was tagged with an
ideological label in 17 of 24 news stories about them (71 percent). The
October 12, 1995 Washington Post noted "In 1989 and 1993, the
Democratic Party used state law to stop the distribution of [voter]
guides by conservative groups that included Concerned Women for
Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum drew the most
ideological warnings, in 39 of 52 news stories (75 percent). USA
Today labeled Eagle Forum in all ten news stories on the group.
The Washington Post noted Schlafly was part of the "conservative
alliance that challenged Dole’s tolerance language, the group that
became better known as the ‘fearsome foursome.’"
By contrast, the National Abortion and Reproductive
Rights Action League (NARAL) drew the highest percentage of "liberal"
labeling, with seven tags in 131 news stories (5 percent). The New
York Times never employed a liberal label in 47 stories. Five of
NARAL’s seven labels came from The Washington Post. A May 18,
1995 USA Today story by Richard Benedetto noted NARAL as one of
the "liberal lobbies which the [Christian] coalition has jousted with
from time to time."
Only one New York Times story kept the Feminist
Majority Foundation from going unlabeled in 38 stories (2.6 percent). A
March 2, 1995 New York Times story was headlined "Defending
Affirmative Action, Liberals Try to Place the Debate’s Focus on Women."
The Washington Post gave FMF no label in eight stories despite
calling them "a group that advises abortion clinics on security."
Despite being the nation’s largest provider of
abortions, Planned Parenthood was described as liberal in only seven
stories out of 315 (2.2 percent). USA Today never applied in a
liberal label in 64 stories, even as the newspaper noted Planned
Parenthood’s New York affiliate bought an ad charging conservative
evangelist Pat Robertson "broadcast the words which have caused a
rampage of anti-choice terrorism." Two of the liberal labels referred to
spokesman Ann Lewis, who came to Planned Parenthood from the Democratic
National Committee. New York Times religion reporter Peter
Steinfels called Planned Parenthood an "obvious nominee" for the
The National Organization for Women drew the lowest
percentage with four labels in 198 news stories (2 percent). In a May 5,
1996 Washington Post story, reporter Thomas B. Edsall wrote that
North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Harvey Gantt, "claiming the
backing of the AFL-CIO, NOW, most black organizations and gay interest
groups, is carrying the banner for the liberals." A story in the March
19, 1995 New York Times contrasted an unlabeled NOW with new
conservative allies: "Kim Gandy, executive vice president of the
National Organization for Women, which is working with conservative
groups that oppose the welfare cutoffs."
The Times didn’t add a label
in a story on an April 1996 "Fight the Right" rally at which NOW founder
Gloria Steinem sounded the alarm: "An extremist ultra right-wing has
taken control of one of the two major centrist political parties. They
are racist, they are sexist, they are homophobic."
The lack of newspaper labeling came despite millions
of dollars in the last election cycle on behalf of liberal Democratic
candidates by the political action committees run by NARAL, NOW, and
Planned Parenthood. Journalists have dissected the Republican rift over
abortion as pro-life "conservatives" vs. "moderates" who support even
partial-birth abortions. In addition, the newspapers’ pattern of
labeling presents the pro-life movement as "conservative" (or
"ultra-right") and the advocates of abortion on demand as moderate or
nonpartisan. All in all, this labeling inequality represents a dramatic
media-induced leftward shift in the political spectrum.
On the Bright Side
During last year’s racial preferences debate many in
the media feared a return to the days of de facto segregation. On June
8, Meet the Press Tim Russert declared: "California and the state
of Texas ended affirmative action for college and law school
applications. This year, at California Berkeley, California UCLA law
schools, the number of black students in the fall class is down 80
percent, number of Hispanics, 50 percent. The University of
Texas....This fall, zero blacks enrolled. That is the result of the
affirmative action policies in California and Texas."
But a December 5 U.S. News & World Report
article detailed what really happened in those states. Julian Barnes
noted the results of a U.S. News survey: "Most Texas and
California public universities that ended affirmative action have seen
black and Hispanic enrollments hold steady, or actually increase. The
University of Texas-Austin enrolled 163 black freshmen this fall, one
more than the year before, and 807 Hispanics, 35 more than the year
before. The University of Texas-Dallas registered 29 black freshmen,
four more than last year, and new Hispanic enrollment stayed steady at
38. At the University of California medical schools, new black and
Hispanic enrollments remained roughly the same. Black enrollment in the
system’s graduate academic programs increased slightly."
Barnes cited a reemphasis of non-race-based standards
as the reason for steady minority enrollment by "giving more importance
to applicants’ leadership skills and community work." Barnes went on to
quote Proposition 209 opponent Ward Connerly as saying it was "absurd"
for schools to rely on grades and test scores alone. In the article
Connerly boiled the issue down to one of individual merit and not skin
color. "You owe it to these kids to give them an individual review."
ABC Decries Reckless Internet News
Casting the First Stone
The January 8 Nightline warned viewers of the
dangers of new media outlets found on the Internet, suggesting they
lacked ethics and accountability. But the show failed to note the old
media elite aren’t necessarily any better.
The piece, narrated by Washington Post media
critic Howard Kurtz, used cyberjournalist Matt Drudge, whom he dubbed
the "poster boy for the alleged evils of the Internet," as a hook to
denounce the Internet trend: "In one sense, Matt Drudge represents the
triumph of the little guy, the fist-shaking critic shouting at the world
through the World Wide Web."
Then, in front of a video board which showed, among
others, pages from the Media Research Center Web site, Kurtz warned:
"There are thousands of Drudges out there — political opinion mongers,
college professors, neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists dissecting the death
of Vince Foster, or more recently, of Ron Brown. They’re all folks that
have broken the stranglehold of the big media corporations. But, and you
knew a but was coming, there is a down side to this vast place called
cyberspace, where the normal rules often don’t seem to apply. There are
lots of words floating around out there and words can wound."
As a case study, Kurtz reviewed a tip Drudge
distributed claiming that White House staffer Sidney Blumenthal beat his
wife. The hot tip turned out to be false. Drudge retracted the story the
next day and apologized for his error. Not good enough for Kurtz:
"Drudge insists he was simply reporting that anonymous Republicans were
spreading the Blumenthal rumor, as if that gets him off the hook."
Not mentioned: Nightline has been reckless in
its reporting — and they never apologized for it. Back in 1991,
Nightline latched on to the October Surprise theory dreamed up by
former Carter White House staffer Gary Sick. According to Sick, the
Reagan-Bush campaign struck a deal with Iran to delay the release of the
hostages until after the election. The problem? There was no evidence.
But the evening news shows broadcast 27 stories on the theory in 1991.
On June 20, 1991, Nightline aired an hour-long report on it.
Koppel interviewed Sick, whose credibility he tried to boost by
referring to him as "serious, knowledgeable, Gary Sick."
In 1993, after a long investigation, Congress
exonerated the Reagan-Bush campaign. The widow of William Casey, the
late CIA director, demanded an apology from Nightline. Asked
about the possible apology in 1993, ABC spokeswoman Laura Wessner told
MediaWatch ABC wouldn’t apologize because "the
congressional committee report did not contradict what we reported on
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