Scientists Don't Scare Viewers
Networks Ignore 15,000 Scientists Opposed to
National news reports on global warming often
underline that dire warming scenarios are endorsed by the "overwhelming
majority" of scientists. Imagine the journalistic inconvenience on April
20, when the Science and Environmental Policy Project released a
petition from 15,000 scientists around the world declaring there was no
convincing evidence linking greenhouse gases to "catastrophic heating."
The networks did what they thought was the only responsible thing. They
ignored it. Two nights later, after one scientist claimed the Earth is
warmer than ever, CBS, CNN, and NBC all presented full evening news
stories without any opposing views.
On the CBS Evening News, reporter John Roberts explained
Michael Mann of the University of Massachusetts thinks 1995-97 are the
warmest years since 1400. Roberts ended: "It will take years of research
to determine exactly what's behind this trend and what if any dangers it
might pose, but one thing is certain, the heat is on. Global
temperatures for the first three months of 1998 were the warmest on
CNN anchor Martin Savidge contended on The World Today: "Don't
believe in global warming? Well, this next story could change your
mind." Reporter Ann Kellan's one-sided story concluded: "The scientists
say if carbon dioxide levels keep rising at the current rate, the
warming trend could get even stronger. They warn that global warming
could cause problems ranging from drought to flooding caused by polar
NBC's Tom Brokaw asked: "Does it seem like the world is getting warmer?
More hard evidence it's not just your imagination. In Depth tonight."
Robert Bazell added: "A Department of Energy report out today says
greenhouse gas emissions will rise by as much as 80 percent in the next
20 years. So there seems to be little question but that the Earth will
continue to get warmer, probably a lot warmer."
The 15,000 skeptical scientists, including Frederick Seitz, a past
President of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a statement urging
rejection of the Kyoto treaty: "The proposed limits on greenhouse gases
would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and
technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind." Seitz
asserted: "This freely expressed vote against the warming scare
propaganda should be contrasted with the claimed 'consensus of 2500
climate scientists' about global warming. This facile and oft-quoted
assertion by the White House is a complete fabrication." But TV viewers
Exemptions for Al Gore.
When it came to spending the taxpayer's money Al Gore was among the
Senate's most generous, but when it came to donating his own cash the
Vice President was less charitable. While the weekend TV talk shows were
abuzz, ABC and CBS morning and evening newscasts remained mum.
NBC's David Gregory highlighted the hypocrisy on the April 16 Today
show: "Al Gore and his wife Tipper are no grinches when it comes to
giving of themselves. Touring tornado damage, building homes for the
poor, feeding the homeless. But when it comes to giving their money 1997
was a down year. A single line in the Vice President's 1997 income tax
return says the Gores gave $353 to charity. $353 out of an income of
nearly $200,000. That's less than they spent for example on pest
control, $389, and it's raising some eyebrows." NBC Nightly News
also aired a story the next night, as did CNN.
Burton Bashing. When House Government Operations Committee
Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) called Bill Clinton a "scumbag" in an
Indianapolis newspaper interview session, both ABC and NBC reported it
and liberal ranking member Henry Waxman's shocked reaction to it.
On April 23, Today's Ann Curry introduced a Gwen Ifill story on
Burton's comments: "The Congressman who heads the House committee
investigating campaign financing is in trouble. This after some remarks
he made about President Clinton...It's not the most dignified way to
describe a fellow lawmaker."
ABC's Asha Blake introduced a Good Morning America story the
same morning: "A controversy has erupted over some unusually caustic
comments made by a top Republican about President Clinton....Ann, things
appear to be getting personal." Ann Compton reported: "Such personal
name-calling is forbidden on the floor of the House, where the
President's defenders called Burton's words outrageous and vile."
But last December, when committee member Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) compared
Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz forgetting to mention that he is a
Republican to Kurt Waldheim, who "conveniently forgot several years when
he was a Nazi," not one of the broadcast networks touched it.
Math Problems. In April, the Senate took up a Republican
proposal for tax-free education savings accounts, and TV reporters took
up class-baiting. CBS's Dan Rather didn't even give the Republican side
on the April 21 Evening News: "President Clinton today attacked
a Republican proposal in Congress. This Republican proposal would let
people set up education savings accounts that earn tax free interest.
The President said this GOP version benefits the rich and private
schools at the expense of already decaying public schools."
On CNN's The World Today April 22, anchor Martin Savidge noted
the GOP plan, but endorsed the Democrats' worry that "tax breaks for
private tuition would benefit the wealthy at the expense of public
education. And Democrats have numbers on their side. A Treasury
Department report says 70 percent of the benefits would go to just the
top 20 percent of income earners." Savidge ignored the Heritage
Foundation's argument that "nearly 60 percent of the children whose
families qualify for these accounts are from households making less than
$50,000 a year."
These outlets neglected to mention that the GOP program, (which allows
families to deposit after-tax income into interest-bearing savings
accounts) is eligible only to families making under $95,000 a year.
Census Bureau figures show the top 20 percent of income earners begins
at $75,000. So the only "rich, wealthy" folks referred to by CBS and CNN
are families earning from $75,000 to $95,000 a year.
Contrast the media's reaction to the GOP plan to their response to
Clinton's own college tuition proposal, the education tax-credits
program known as HOPE scholarships. By the same Treasury Department
analysis CNN used to criticize the GOP, Clinton's HOPE plan also
unfairly benefited the top twenty percent of earners, since even those
making $100,000 a year were eligible. Network mention? None.
Print Media Never Discovered Any "Reagan
Only Conservatives Qualify as "Haters"
Students of history make distinctions of quality:
there's history, which builds a story based on documented fact,
research, and interviews; and there's psycho-history, which instead of
dwelling on evidence, simply puts historical actors on the couch and
attempts to read their mind as events unfold. Likewise, there's
journalism, based on facts, and psycho-journalism, which simply seeks to
guess the motivations of public figures.
In the last few years, reporters have introduced a new
term into the media lexicon to describe Bill Clinton's adversaries:
"Clinton haters." The April 11, 1994 Time published a story
titled "Clintonophobia! Just who are these Clinton haters, and why do
they loathe Bill and Hillary Clinton with such passion?" Reporter Nina
Burleigh didn't seem to care if her mind-reading was accurate: after
tagging conservatives like Rush Limbaugh as "haters," Burleigh casually
added: "Both profess not to hate Clinton." She then referred to "Clinton
haters" twice more.
Is "hater" the standard way the media describes a President's opponents,
whether they're Republicans or Democrats? To determine the journalistic
usage of "hate" terms, MediaWatch analysts
used the Nexis news data retrieval system to find all mentions of the
terms "Clinton-hater," "Clinton-basher," and "anti-Clinton," (compared
to "Reagan hater," "Reagan basher," and "anti-Reagan") in Newsweek,
Time, and U.S. News & World Report, as well as The New
York Times and The Washington Post. For Reagan, analysts
reviewed stories from 1981 through 1988; for Clinton, from 1992 through
mid-April 1998. These publications contained: 63 uses of "Clinton
hater," compared to one use of "Reagan hater"; 106 references to
"Clinton-bashers" or "Clinton-bashing," compared to 17 references to
"Reagan-bashers"or "Reagan-bashing"; 55 mentions of "anti-Clinton"
groups or efforts compared to two mentions of an "anti-Reagan" force.
Analysts also checked these variants for independent counsel Ken Starr
since 1994 ("Starr-hater," "Starr-basher," or "anti-Starr." Time,
U.S. News & World Report, and The New York Times have
never carried these terms. Newsweek made one mention of Hillary
Clinton as a "veteran Starr-basher." The Washington Post
carried two mentions of "Starr-bashing." No one was a "Starr hater."
Magazines: Leading the Hate Hunters. Time led
the hate-labeling pack, with 28 designations of "Clinton hater," with
almost half of them (13) in the last four months. Time carried
11 mentions of "Clinton-bashing," and 14 mentions of "anti-Clinton"
activists or activities.
By itself, "anti-Clinton" seems an inoffensive term, but Time
regularly applied modifiers like "fiercely" or "virulent" or "obsessive"
or "right-wing" to the term. The April 13, 1998 Time referred
to "Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and
The American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that
Scaife has supported." A February 9, 1998 article called Scaife a
In the June 9, 1997 edition, Time reporter George Church
described Paula Jones' first press conference, "where she shared a stage
with Clinton haters. That helped to convince many that Jones was a tool,
witting or unwitting, of the rabid right." In the Reagan years, Time
ran only three uses of "Reagan bashing."
Newsweek carried 17
references to "Clinton haters," 14 uses of "Clinton bashing," and 19
"anti-Clinton" designations. In a May 16, 1994 article, Mark Hosenball
argued "It is true that Paula Jones has been egged on by an odd
collection of right-wingers and Clinton haters." In the April 27, 1998
issue, Hosenball wrote: "The evidence linking Starr to conservative
Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure: Richard Mellon
ScaifeScaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who has spent millions
trying to undermine the President."
Newsweek carried four mentions of "Reagan-bashing" and one use
of "Reagan hater." In 1987, Jonathan Alter explained Sam Donaldson's
jobs as both an ABC reporter and commentator "exposes him to critics who
label him a Reagan-hater...In truth, his politics don't interfere with
U.S. News & World Report carried 16 designations of "Clinton
haters," nine of "Clinton bashing," and 21 "anti-Clinton" mentions. In a
November 7, 1994 election preview, the magazine charged: "The most
virulent Clinton haters charge that Hillary Rodham Clinton holds the
real power and blackmails her husband." In a May 17, 1993 column,
Mortimer Zuckerman began: "The media may be in a frenzy trying to bash
Bill Clinton, but the public is focused on something else: the sagging
U.S. economy." Only one U.S. News story cited "Reagan bashing."
Newspapers: "Bash" Is The Preferred Term. In eight
years, The New York Times never labeled anyone a "Reagan
hater," although three stories carried the term in quotations from
political analysts. Only one story carried the word "anti-Reagan," and
only two mentioned "Reagan bashing." In a 1987 review of the PBS show
The Kwitny Report, TV critic John Corry dismissed the episode
alleging Reagan's connections to the Mafia as "dreary Reagan bashing."
By comparison, the Times applied the term "Clinton hater" once,
and variants of "Clinton-bashing" 17 times.
The Post discovered conservative hate in a May 27, 1994
front-page Sunday story by Ann Devroy: "Bill Clinton's enemies are
making their hatred clear, with a burning intensity and in some cases
with an organized passion." Variants of "Clinton-bashing" were employed
52 times by Post reporters.
The Sunday before the 1992 convention, Post reporter Dan Balz
began an article "Get ready for the bashing of Bill Clinton." Four days
later, Ruth Marcus started her piece: "The Republican gathering here was
expected to be a festival of Clinton-bashing. As it turned out , the
target has been not only the candidate, but his wife Hillary." (Two
additional articles mentioned "Hillary-bashing.")
In January 1997, the Post's Kevin Merida described the Paula
Jones complaint as announced at "a convention of
Clinton-bashing conservatives." Five months later, Merida repeated the
In the Reagan years, Washington Post reporters never used
"Reagan hater," although two articles carried the term in quotations.
Seven Post news stories mentioned "Reagan bashing." In one 1985
piece, business reporter Peter Behr decried both sides of the trade
debate, writing "Reagan is inviting the bashing by continuing to avoid
the trade dilemma."
Politics creates passions that inflame the whole range of emotions --
joy and sadness, inspiration and disillusionment, love and hate. Bill
Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, fuels all of these. But reporters proved
their liberalism when they suggested in their stories, subtly or
unsubtly, that only one President was subject to unrelenting attack by a
group of obsessed "haters."
We Knew Reagan Was Phony
Leave it to CBS. They can't even keep their
anti-Reagan vitriol out of a week-long retrospective series marking the
50th anniversary of the CBS Evening News. To CBS the Reagan
years denoted when image surpassed reality. Lesley Stahl recalled on
April 16: "They just, in a Hollywood way, put together tableaus,
pictures, that were so imprinted on the public's brains that they
overrode what people were saying because they were so powerful."
Over video of Ronald and Nancy Reagan walking across the South Lawn to a
helicopter, Stahl complained: "She'd give him the gaze. These are all
visual images that said, extremely powerfully, what a happy family they
are. Well we knew that he never saw his kids and he didn't even know his
grandchildren. We knew that, but the picture was more powerful. I think
we began to change the way we covered the President after that. I think
everybody realized, as I did, that they were using pictures to drown us
Speaking of Presidents creating family images that contradict reality,
recall the video every network broadcast, from a week and a half after
the Lewinsky story broke, of Bill Clinton with his arm around Chelsea as
they walked to the helicopter for a Friday night ride to Camp David.
But the March American Spectator noted in its "On the Prowl"
column: "As for the 'family' weekend at Camp David, Mom flew off to
Switzerland while Dad logged more than six hours Saturday on the golf
course, and then two more holed up with personal attorney David Kendall
after dinner. Chelsea left early Sunday to be back at Stanford in time
for Monday morning classes."
CBS never reported that reality over the image. Neither did the other
the Bright Side
Fox on China.
It took the Fox News Channel a week and a half to catch up with an
April 4 New York Times front-page story on how Clinton
approved of letting a company, headed by a large DNC donor, export
missile technology to China. But that's sooner than ABC, CBS, CNN, or
NBC, which have yet to mention the development. Jeff Gerth and Raymond
Bonner reported that a federal grand jury is investigating whether
companies "illegally gave China space expertise that significantly
advanced Beijing's ballistic missile program," but officials said "the
criminal inquiry was dealt a serious blow two months ago when
President Clinton quietly approved the export to China of similar
technology by one of the companies under investigation." The Chairman
of the company involved, the Loral Corporation, the Times
observed, "was the largest personal contributor to the Democratic
National Committee last year."
On FNC's April 13 Fox Report, Carl Cameron explained that
after a crash, Loral gave the secret report on the mishap to China.
Cameron concluded: "The Pentagon says national security was breached
and perhaps seriously. Though Loral denies wrongdoing, investigators
say if the firm donated to the Clinton camp, then got the President's
permission to do business with China and shared secrets, it could be
the worst example yet of just how much the White House was willing to
risk for the big bucks of '96."
Disreputable NOW. When NOW decided against filing a
brief on behalf of Paula Jones' appeal, in the evening, ABC skipped it
and CBS just relayed NOW's attack on "disreputable right-wingers."
Only NBC saw any hypocrisy.
On the April 22 NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw introduced a
piece from Andrea Mitchell: "Supporters of the Paula Jones sexual
harassment case tonight are accusing America's largest feminist
organization of hypocrisy." Mitchell featured NOW President Patricia
Ireland denouncing "disreputable right-wing organizations," but also
gave rare air time to Anita Blair from the Independent Women's Forum,
who asserted this proves NOW does not represent all women.
On the April 23 Today show, Katie Couric cornered NOW's
Patricia Ireland: "And yet as you know the implicit message that
perhaps some might feel you are sending is if you accuse a
conservative Republican of sexual harassment NOW will be right there
with you backing you all the way. But if you accuse a Democrat perhaps
with more liberal sensibilities the National Organization for Women
will turn the other cheek."
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