Why Did CNN, Time Push Gaseous Lies?
Itís All About Ratings, Ignore the Liberal Bias
and Timeís retraction of their unsubstantiated NewsStand
documentary charging U.S. special forces used nerve gas on U.S.
"defectors" in Laos in 1970 stirred a new debate in media circles. What
fueled this fiasco? Despite the fact that network meltdowns in the 1990s
have been aimed at liberalsí villains (GM, Food Lion, the U.S.
military), liberal bias wasnít blamed. It was the demand for juicy
ratings-grabbing magazine shows on a 24-hour news channel.
Quoting establishment expert Tom
Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, NBCís Jim
Miklaszewski relayed the majority view on July 3: "So whatís going on?
Media critics claim the explosive growth in 24 hour news outlets has
created an unhealthy competition."
On ABCís World News Tonight,
Carole Simpson talked with Harvardís Marvin Kalb, formerly with CBS and
NBC, about how ratings lust is to blame. She offered another theory:
"Older people are leaving. Do you think young people are lacking some of
the wisdom that the old heads could provide, because theyíre not there
in the newsroom anymore?" Thatís odd considering the advanced ages of
reporter Peter Arnett, fired producer Jack Smith and CNN President Rick
Kaplan, who created the NewsStand concept.
If CNN had simply been competing for a
Nielsen bonanza, why not focus on Princess Di or JonBenet instead of a
war that seems ancient to many viewers? CNN didnít spice up its promos
with the explosive charge of Americans killing Americans: "A tightly
held military secret of the Vietnam War now exposed.... American
warriors with the lethal weapon the U.S. swore never to use." In
bragging up the "multiply sourced" report, CNNís Jeff Greenfield only
told Don Imus on his MSNBC/radio show: "All I can tell you at this point
is that both the target of the mission and the means used to try to
carry that mission out are really most disturbing."
One leading media figure was willing to
acknowledge the fiasco at least aided the liberal bias argument. ABC
This Week host Cokie Roberts said July 5: "This plays into the whole
conservative view of the liberal media, which is that itís a fundamental
view of an America that is essentially anti-American. It is saying that
the American military is such an evil institution that it will go out
and do this to its own people." CNNís Vietnam revisionism doesnít bode
well for their upcoming project: a 24-part documentary on the Cold War
produced with consultants from the leftist National Security Archive.
Al Goreís Airball.
The media pounced whenever
Dan Quayle fumbled, but it looks like Al Gore will face no such obstacle
as he bumbles toward 2000.
The latest example: on June 15 before
cameras, Gore marveled at the Chicago Bullsí NBA championship: "That
Michael Jackson is unbelievable isnít he, unbelievable?" The Bulls star
player is Michael Jordan. Jackson is the pop singer. Total TV coverage:
a few seconds on CNNís Inside Politics.
Six days later Fox News Sunday
played Goreís goof. Host Tony Snow wondered: "If Dan Quayle said that
would that be headline news?" On June 27, CBS News Saturday Morning
co-host Russ Mitchell recalled how "Gore congratulated the NBA champion
Bulls and their unbelievable team leader, Michael Jackson," but he
couldnít refrain from nullifying Goreís flub by highlighting one by
Quayle. Mitchell declared: "Dan Quayle thought that was very funny, but
then the Democrats say he upped the ante by declaring in an interview
that any Republican nominee will beat Bill Clinton in the year 2000. Of
course, Mr. Clinton will not be running."
Harry Wu, Hypocrite?
Previewing Clintonís nine-day China trip, Timeís Johanna McGeary
wrote "How Bad Is China?" for the June 29 issue. Her verdict: "There is
no simple answer, just ambiguous facts."
She glossed over satellite sales and
illegal campaign contributions as part of "a string of unfortunate
events," while blaming "the hot air of partisan politics" for puffing
the scandals out of context. She called Clintonís Ď92 election rhetoric
about getting tough with China "demagoguery," wisely jettisoned in favor
of the more responsible "constructive engagement."
In the next paragraph, McGeary termed
every group disagreeing with Clintonís position a hypocrite, including
Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in Chinese prison labor camp: "No country
today brings out more of the passions - or the hypocrisy - in Washington
politicians. Every time they get the chance, those who see profit in it
pummel the Ďbutchers in Beijingí about all manner of failings, aiming
their blows as much at Clinton as at Chinaís communist die-hards.
Anti-abortion activists rail at Chinaís forced abortions. Exiled
crusader Harry Wu charges China with harvesting human organs from
executed prisoners for sale."
McGeary claimed "Chinese citizens today
lead remarkably free lives, as masters of their own fates and fortunes"
and "can even mock their leaders and criticize government politics ó in
the privacy of their homes."
McGeary despaired at "the tendency of
some activists to narrow the focus to the most sensational charges, like
forced abortions. Human-rights experts in and out of government have
found some anecdotal evidence that these abuses happen but no proof that
the government promotes them." Just before McGeary penned her piece,
clinic worker Xiao Gao, who just escaped from China, told a
congressional hearing about post-birth injections to kill fetuses.
McGeary faulted both "the hard-line
right" and "liberals" for their "simplistic tone," but also claimed:
"While the religious right has tarred Beijing with a reputation for
wholesale repression, religious freedom is officially guaranteed." Talk
Spin of the Week.
While issuing convicted felon Susan McDougal the "Political Play of the
Week" on June 26, CNNís William Schneider asserted that she wished to
prove that "Whitewater doesnít amount to anything.... Most Americans
agree. They feel the Whitewater investigation has not turned up any
serious wrongdoing." Thatís a point supported by polls, assured
Schneider, who explained McDougalís contention while displaying a CNN/USA
Today/Gallup poll showing that when asked about Whitewater 29
percent of the public felt the President did something illegal, 42
percent something unethical, while only 24 percent said he did nothing
In other words, 71 percent think Clinton
did something illegal or unethical. But by not considering unethical
actions to be "serious wrongdoing," Schneider presented Clintonís
numbers in the best possible light, thus earning himself the Political
Spin of the Week.
The Subtle Seduction of a
Feminist Time Reporter
Former Time White House reporter
Nina Burleigh recounted in the July/August Mirabella how she was
"quite willing to let myself be ravished" by Bill Clinton. The
magazineís headline touted how Burleigh "thought she was beyond being
seduced by a manís power, his status, his job. Then she played cards
with the President on Air Force One."
Filling in for Timeís regular
reporter on Clintonís trip to Jasper, Arkansas last summer for a
funeral, Burleigh, now a Time contributor, recalled how she was
asked to join Clinton in a game of hearts. Things quickly heated up:
"The Presidentís foot lightly, and presumably accidentally, brushed mine
once under the table. His hand touched my wrist while he was dealing the
cards. When I got up and shook his hand at the end of the game, his eyes
wandered over to my bike-wrecked, naked legs. And slowly it dawned on me
as I walked away: He found me attractive."
Burleigh revealed her feminist standard
of how men can ogle her if they are powerful: "We all know when weíre
being ogled. The weird thing was that I didnít mind. There was a time
when the hormones of indignant feminism raged in my veins. An open gaze
like that, at least from a man of lesser stature, would have annoyed me.
But that evening, I had the opposite reaction. I felt incandescent. It
was riveting to know that the President had appreciated my legs, scarred
as they were.
"If he had asked me to continue the game
of hearts back in his room at the Jasper Holiday Inn, I would have been
happy to go there and see what happened. At the time, that seemed quite
possible. It took several hours and a few drinks in the steaming and now
somehow romantic Arkansas night to shake the intoxicated state in which
I had been quite willing to let myself be ravished by the President,
should he have but asked."
Burleigh is still ready to go, telling
The Washington Postís Howard Kurtz what specific sex act sheíd
perform on Clinton to reward his pro-abortion stand. (See the
accompanying issue of Notable Quotables.)
TV Still Spiking
Fundraising, Missile Scoops
When in China, Skip China
Imagine if, just a couple of
months after the Iran-Contra affair broke, Ronald Reagan had planned a
nine-day trip to Iran, with the President featured at a historic joint
news conference with Ayatollah Khomeini. Then imagine that the networks
and news magazines helpfully said nothing about Iran-Contra, and praised
the President for his "constructive engagement" toward a new "strategic
partnership." Sound absurd? But thatís what these national media outlets
did for President Clintonís trip to China.
Before Clinton departed, Boston Globe
Washington Bureau Chief David Shribman warned the trip was not
politically smart: "Presidents usually go abroad to avoid their
problems, not to underline them. No President has ever flown right into
the winds of his problems the way Clinton does tomorrow.... Clinton is
under fire for his fundraising practices. Many of them lead right to
Beijing, the second stop on his China trip....Heís under fire for
compromising American security by permitting China to enhance its
missile capabilities. One of the principal rationales for this trip is
American national security." While TV reporters intermittently focused
on Chinaís poor human rights record, the networks avoided the China
scandals the entire time Clinton was on Chinese soil.
Despite their tendency to reduce almost
everything politicians do to political calculation, none of the networks
noted the effect a China trip undisturbed by scandal could have. If
Clinton could convince the public that China is not a potential enemy,
but a "strategic partner," then their thefts of American technology or
illegal campaign donations could seem less threatening.
On June 24, the day Bill Clinton left for
China, Eric Schmitt of The New York Times reported a
congressional hearing had revealed that the Chinese stole a secret
circuit board from the crash of an American satellite. "For five hours,
American officials said, Chinese authorities barred them from the crash
site, saying it was for their own safety. When the Americans finally
reached the area and opened the battered but intact control box of the
satellite, a supersecret encoded circuit board was missing." But only
the Fox News Channel (and a night later, NBC) aired a report.
ABC, CBS, and CNN aired nothing.
The fundraising scandal surfaced twice in
connection with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, both in events that provided
ready-to-air video highlights. In the June 27 joint press conference,
Jiang claimed without prompting that China had no role in the 1996 U.S.
elections. CBS Evening News gave the comment one sentence leading
into a quick soundbite, and Bill Plante mentioned it on Sunday
Morning. But ABC, CNN and NBC didn't utter a word about it. At
Clinton's wrap-up press conference on July 3, a reporter asked him if he
had pressed Jiang Zemin about sending campaign money to America. That
night, only CNN alluded to campaign donations funneled from China. In
his story on The World Today, Wolf Blitzer led into a soundbite
from Clinton on how he accepts Jiang's denial of any knowledge,
observing: "On several sensitive issues Mr. Clinton seemed to take
President Jiang at his word. The Chinese leader, for example, had
forcefully denied China had funneled campaign cash into Mr. Clintonís
Democratic Party." But ABC, NBC, and CBS said nothing.
The satellite technology transfer only
came up on NBCís Today July 29, not as a dangerous strategic
mistake, but as a foresighted political move. Geraldo Rivera boasted:
"It is fair to say it is undeniable that the President has raised the
issue of human rights. He hasnít just raised it. He has trumpeted it
from virtually every rooftop in China. Ninety percent of all Chinese
homes have television. Interestingly one of our NBC national security
experts tells me that but for that controversial transfer of satellite
technology from our country to theirs, neither of those live broadcasts
[press conference and Beijing University] would have been possible."
Not even fresh developments could prod
the networks into caring about the China scandals. As Clintonís trip was
winding down on July 2, both The New York Times and The
Washington Post delivered scandal revelations, but all the networks,
both in the morning and evening, ignored them both. In the Times,
Jeff Gerth reported that Shen Rongjun, the son of a commander in the
Peopleís Liberation Army, had his State Department license "suspended
last week, while Congress presses questions about the role of the United
States in Chinaís rocket and satellite projects. Officials are examining
Shenís role in the project as well as the capabilities of the
sophisticated satellites, which are to be the cornerstone of a
commercial mobile phone network planned for China and 21 other Asian
countries but which also could be used to eavesdrop on thousands of
phone calls in the region."
Post reporter George Lardner added
new details about Johnny Chung, who has admitted funneling thousands of
dollars from the Chinese government into the DNC: "Johnny Chung, boosted
by the Democratic National Committee, secured a meeting at the Treasury
Department in the fall of 1995 on behalf of Chinaís biggest oil company,
according to new information released by House GOP investigators....The
documents from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee
reveal that then-DNC Co-Chairman Donald L. Fowler helped Chung arrange a
meeting at Treasury for a delegation headed by Huaren Sheng, President
of China Petrochemical Corp. (SINOPEC), a huge state-owned conglomerate
that employs 900,000 people."
Not only did the networks ignore China
scandals, they ignored small details of the trip, like the cost of the
Presidentís huge delegation. Greg Pierce of The Washington Times
noted Rich Galen of GOPAC compared that price tag to the Kenneth Starr
probeís alleged waste of taxpayer money: "1,200 people accompanied
President Clinton on his vacation to China at a cost of upwards of $40
million. That, as luck would have it, is about the same amount as the
White House Spinsters have been complaining Ken Starr has spent on
investigating the same President Clinton." But the same networks which
repeatedly remind viewers of Starrís costliness ignored the story that
the Clinton administration may have spent as much in nine days as
Starrís spent in the last four years.
ABCís Firearms Fearmongering
Greeted by a graphic of gunshots
shattering through a headline, ABCNEWS.com readers were subjected to an
unbalanced special series titled "Armed in America." ABCNEWS.com found
little space to run the pro-gun rights side. In a series of six
articles, just 13 scattered paragraphs were given to gun rights
advocates, five of which were just brief audio files. Most of the series
focused on firearms fearmongering.
In an article headlined "The Land of Guns
and Death," ABCNEWS.com reporter Jorgen Wouters declared: "America is
carrying on a deadly love affair with firearms that kills some 35,000
people every year." Wouters castigated America for not being as
enlightened as Europe or Australia: "After a particularly shocking
killing several countries have chosen to ban handguns outright. But that
hasnít happened in the United States, which has a constitutional
protection for gun owners, and a lot of scared people who want
protection in a society thatís starting to mirror its movies. The death
In an article on "solutions," Wouters
added: "Everyone agrees America will never pass a British or
Australian-style gun ban, but short of such measures, what can be done
to reduce the number of American gun deaths?" An encouraged Wouters
extrapolated current trends into a utopian liberal future: "Time and
demographics may offer some hope. The NRAís membership peaked at 3.5
million in the mid 1990s, and now stands below 3 million. The number of
Americans that hunt ó the NRAís core constituents ó is declining, and if
current trends continue, hunting may all but disappear in the U.S by the
middle of the 21st century, says Robert Spitzer, professor of Political
Science at SUNY Cortland and author of The Politics of Gun Control."
Wouters repeatedly held up the European
model: "While even draconian gun control probably wouldnít reduce U.S.
gun deaths to European rates, many experts agree the amount of deadly
violence would approach more civilized levels." But the strangest
passage came when Wouters quoted Harvard professor David Hemenway,
making this absurd assertion about the NRA argument that the Second
Amendment is not an "anachronism" open to loose interpretation: "The NRA
repeats it over and over again. And the media repeats it and people buy
it." The people may buy it, but the media arenít selling it.
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe