Up Before Your Words Kill Again!
Violence Tied to Pro-Life
Advocates, But Not to Green Groups
murder of Buffalo abortionist Barnett Slepian topped all the evening
news shows on October 26, and ABC and CBS didn’t wither from blaming the
pro-life movement for inciting the violence with its rhetoric. That
didn’t happen to liberal environmentalists when all the networks devoted
full stories four days earlier to the "Earth Liberation Front" burning
buildings in Colorado.
Dan Rather announced Slepian "was just
the latest abortion provider to be targeted by a violent, sometimes
murderous, section of the pro-life movement." ABC’s John Miller noted:
"Activists on the most radical end of the pro-life camp make no
apologies for the sniper."
CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger
suggested the whole movement was to blame: "Abortion rights activists
now believe some leaders of the mainstream anti-abortion movement are
inciting supporters on the fringe to violence." Schlesinger underlined
the election: "It might be hard for voters to remember that the vast
majority of anti-abortion protests are peaceful so soon after a doctor
was shot to death in his own home."
Connecting the abortion procedure itself
to death was anathema: "What they’ve got to stop doing is saying these
people are murderers," abortion advocate Kelli Conlin told CBS. ABC’s
Bill Redeker even put a priest on the defensive: "Today a Catholic
priest defended the provocative mock cemetery marking hundreds of
abortions performed in New York state this year."
But the arson of ski resort buildings in
Colorado was reported differently. ABC’s Tom Foreman did not place the
"Earth Liberation Front" on "the most radical end of the
environmentalist camp." He declared "militant environmental groups such
as Earth First say it’s fair game to attack property" and suggested
sympathetically: "many environmentalists in Vail...are afraid their
cause will be tainted by the violence."
On CBS, Bob McNamara didn’t go out to
find that "property rights activists now believe leaders of mainstream
environmental groups are inciting supporters to violence." He read a
press release: "Urging a skier boycott of Vail, the group threatened
more trouble, saying ‘putting profits ahead of Colorado’s wildlife will
not be tolerated.’"
But perhaps the best measure of the
media’s ideology on these stories is the overall trend: while the
networks have devoted more than 500 news stories since 1993 to violence
and threats against abortion clinics, only a handful of stories have
touched on hundreds of cases of organized eco-terrorism in the West.
Walt’s Love Boat
Walter Cronkite refuses to discuss the details of his chat with Bill
Clinton when he had the President on his boat in Martha’s Vineyard. He
isn’t so reticent with his disgust for Ken Starr.
On October 13, Cronkite told CBS This
Morning’s Mark McEwen that unless "peccadilloes got in the way of
performing the job" we should ignore it since "I don’t think we should
be digging into other people’s private lives." Despite Monica’s favors
occurring in work areas and during official phone calls, Cronkite
maintained it met his "private affair" standard.
Hours later at a luncheon with reporters,
Cronkite called Starr’s investigation "more divisive" to the country
than Vietnam, Peter Johnson reported in the October 14 USA Today.
After accusing Starr of "considerable excessive zeal," Johnson relayed
that Cronkite "says he’d ‘like to get Kenneth Starr out on the boat,’
presumably to give him a piece of his mind."
In a fawning October 22 World News Tonight piece, Dean Reynolds
portrayed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) as an idealistic iconoclast for
his fight for "campaign finance reform." While grousing about how
Feingold was a casualty of outside soft money interests, Reynolds
neglected to tell viewers that the AFL-CIO and the League of
Conservation Voters have run ads against his Republican opponent Mark
Neumann and that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would the
next day launch ads attacking Neumann as "too extreme." (The ads ran for
a few days until Feingold requested that the Committee pull the ads from
An indignant Reynolds averred that
Feingold’s troubles stemmed only from his decision to support campaign
finance reform. Reynolds insisted that it was GOP-funded anti-Feingold
commercials, not Feingold’s record, that was causing his support to
erode: "The reality on the ground is that he’s being outspent with the
very kind of money he’s tried in the Senate to regulate. And with his
self-imposed spending limit, Feingold lacks the funds to adequately
rebut the attacks suggesting he favors things like late-term abortions
or flag burning."
If the viewer had not grasped Reynolds’
point of view by now, there was the not so subtle suggestion of
Feingold’s political martyrdom. After a reporter for the Wisconsin
State Journal stated "What he preached may be his own fire and
brimstone. It really could damn him to the Hell of losing a re-election
race," Reynolds sighed: "That would say a lot about the way campaigns
are run and whether fighting to change that way is political death."
Hawks Shut Out
After the House and Senate passed the latest budget bill on October 21
and 22 none of the broadcast networks mentioned that some fiscally
restrained Democrats and Republicans voted against the legislation,
instead examining silly pork projects. A week before, NBC and CNN raised
conservative criticism of the bill, but ABC and CBS viewers never
learned that conservatives opposed the deal.
ABC’s Linda Douglass on the October 15
World News Tonight advanced the pork line and concluded by hitting
both parties, but without citing conservative criticism, saying spending
came from the surplus, "the one the Democrats wanted to save only for
Social Security and Republicans tried to dip into for a tax cut."
That night CNN’s Jonathan Karl at least
briefly raised the conservative stance on the budget. Leading into a
soundbite from Representative David McIntosh of Indiana, Karl relayed:
"Even before the deal was announced conservative Republicans complained
their leaders caved into the White House, citing nearly $20 billion in
so-called emergency spending not covered by last year’s balanced budget
Over on NBC Nightly News David
Bloom relayed how the White House is "euphoric" over the budget deal and
"triumphant Democrats were not shy about proclaiming victory." Bloom
noted, "Republican leaders insisted both sides deserved credit. But
Democrats were less magnanimous, pointing to the $1.1 billion dollars
for 100,000 new teachers." Bloom continued,"The White House boasted that
Republicans had turned quote, ‘Democrats for a day’ and conservatives
Is Sex the
TV Still AWOL on Missile Technology
In a front-page story for
the October 19 New York Times, reporters Jeff Gerth and Eric
Schmitt followed up on the controversial sale of missile technology to
China with a story on how Clinton’s decision to relax export rules, made
after he met high-tech executives who later contributed to the DNC,
"enabled Chinese companies to obtain a wide range of sophisticated
technology, some of which has already been diverted to military uses."
So did the networks jump at the chance to
cover a story involving something other than Monica Lewinsky? No. After
spending months lamenting their obsession with sex scandals, the
networks did not devote a single word that night, the following morning
or rest of the week to the substantive issue of China diverting U.S.
technology for military use. While all the networks focused on Clinton’s
role in negotiating a new Middle East peace accord, none have aired a
single story on the missile technology diversion story since early June.
Gerth and Schmitt reported: "The
President delivered, personally presiding over what industry executives
and government officials agree was one of the most sweeping relaxations
of export restrictions in American history....the new rules helped
Clinton fulfill his vision of a centrist Democratic Party with close
ties to American business. Grateful high-technology companies showered
the Democratic Party with campaign contributions, cementing a new
financial base for a party that has historically struggled to raise
money from corporate America."
Gerth and Schmitt also reported that
"critics, including Republicans in Congress and some former Clinton
administration officials, argue that the high-technology exports had a
serious side effect, strengthening countries like China, which some view
as a potential adversary....House and Senate committees are examining
whether China took advantage of the looser rules on exports to enhance
its military and to obtain technology that it passed on to rogue states,
including North Korea." Like so many other angles of the fundraising
scandal, the networks have ignored ongoing congressional investigations.
Even the Times seemed uninterested
in their own scoop: It was absent from the front page of their Web site
on the day it was published. So much for the media shucking the sex
scandal to focus on "real issues."
Promote Gay Left’s Guilt by Association
Shepard’s Mudbath Memorial
vicious pistol-whipping of gay college student Matthew Shepard and the
vivid imagery of its aftermath insured the attention of the national
media. (Newsweek wrote the killers "left him tied like a fallen
scarecrow — or a savior — to the bottom of a cross-hatched fence.")
Liberal gay activist groups were quick to use the tragedy for political
gain. First came a flurry of stories on the need for "hate crime"
legislation. Then came guilt by association: the gay left charged
Shepard had been killed not by two men, but by a climate — by
conservative arguments that homosexuality was wrong and could be cured.
When conservatives have connected social
outrages to an opponent’s beliefs or rhetoric, the media quickly
denounced the conservative, tried to refute the argument, or both. But
in the wake of Shepard’s death, several media outlets were guilty of a
double standard, promoting without skepticism on the left what they
denounced on the right.
On October 12, Today co-host Katie Couric asked Wyoming Gov. Jim
Geringer: "Some gay rights activists have said that some conservative
political organizations like the Christian Coalition, the Family
Research Council and Focus on Family are contributing to this
anti-homosexual atmosphere by having an ad campaign saying if you are a
homosexual you can change your orientation. That prompts people to say,
if I meet someone who’s homosexual, I’m going to take action and try to
convince them or try to harm them. Do you believe that such groups are
contributing to this climate?"
Today repeated the charge the next
day. Reporter David Gregory declared: "Gay rights groups rushed to
condemn the killing, portraying Shepard as a casualty of a new cultural
war against gays and lesbians. A war declared this summer by a coalition
of religious-right groups, including the Christian Coalition, which
funded advertisements in major newspapers and commercials on TV
promoting a campaign to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality...And the
campaign followed the divisive comments of Senate Majority Leader Trent
Lott, who said in an interview that homosexuals should be helped like
alcoholics, sex addicts, and kleptomaniacs. Have the ads fostered a
climate of anti-gay hate that leads to incidents like the killing of
Matthew Shepard?" Couric interviewed gay-left activist Elizabeth Birch,
but didn’t question whether her tone was uncivil, or even a "stretch."
Compare that to NBC’s tsk-tsking of Newt
Gingrich. In a hostile November 15, 1994 Dateline profile, Tom
Brokaw announced: "When Democrats tried to reform lobbyists recently, he
called their efforts Stalinist." Brokaw asked Gingrich: "Stalin is the
man who, after all, created the Gulag, who killed hundreds of millions
of people, one of the great tyrants of the 20th century. Don’t you see
how people react to you?" After reeling off other Gingrich statements he
felt were inappropriate, Brokaw asked: "I get the impression that you’re
so pugnacious that what you say is hard for you to reel it back right
On May 7, 1995, Meet the Press
host Tim Russert asked Gingrich: "When you were asked after the bombing
whether it was appropriate to link your anti-government/bureaucratic
language creating the climate of the bombing, you said that was
grotesque. In retrospect, do you think your comments about Woody Allen
sleeping with his companion’s daughter, or Susan Smith driving her car
into the water, which you linked to the Democratic Party, is also
grotesque?" He added: "When you suggest that Woody Allen sleeping with
the daughter of his companion is covered under the Democratic Party
platform, that's a stretch." Russert demanded: "You suggested that the
Democratic Party is the enemy of normal Americans. Shouldn’t that
rhetoric be lowered?"
In the October 19 issue, Time Assistant Managing Editor Howard
Chua-Eoan connected the dots: "The brutal assault came at a time when
the U.S. is buzzing with a dissonant debate over sexual orientation. It
is a controversy fueled by reports of increased violence against
homosexuals and a new campaign by religious conservatives touting the
power of faith to overcome what they proclaim to be a sinful
In the October 26 issue, Time
underlined guilt by association again with a graphic headlined "Can
Politics Cause Hate? Gay activists linked recent conservative
pronouncements (like ads saying gays can be ‘cured’) to the Shepard
murder, saying such talk nurtures bigotry."
But Time didn’t take the same
approach to the left. In April 1996, when Ted Kaczynski was identified
as the Unabomber, ABC’s Brian Ross reported the FBI found his name in
connection with the radical-left group Earth First. Would Time
note the connection? No. Time claimed no one recalled the
Unabomber having contact "with the leftists he would later excoriate in
his manifesto." Time reporter Elaine Shannon praised Kaczynski on
C-SPAN, noting "he wasn’t a hypocrite, he lived as he wrote. His
manifesto and there are a lot of things in it that I would agree with
and a lot of other people would, that industrialization and pollution
are terrible things, but he carried it to an extreme."
In an October 26 essay titled "Trickle-Down Hate," Jonathan Alter
suggested: "At first, it seems unfair to link the anti-gay remarks of
political leaders to a heinous crime they don’t condone...But just as
white racists created a climate for lynching blacks, just as hate radio
created a climate for militias, so the constant degrading of homosexuals
is exacting a toll in blood." In his unbylined "Conventional Wisdom
Watch" feature, Alter gave the Christian Right a down arrow: "Old: In
touch with moral America. New: Paves way for gay-lynchers."
In the July 10, 1995 issue, Alter had a
different take on the validity of less-than-modern ideas when the
Unabomber demanded the publication of his manifesto in major newspapers.
Alter found him to be a "twisted neo-Luddite," but not all bad, and
perhaps the papers ought to excerpt the good parts: "The [New York]Times
described the statement as ‘closely reasoned,’ which is a better review
than many authors receive in the paper. Whoever he is, this man is
clearly expressing an anger at the modern world that is not only
well-articulated but representative of the anxieties of lots of other
Newsweek also distanced the
Unabomber from the left in 1996, quoting a source claiming Kaczynski was
"‘disgusted with the widespread drug use and liberal politics’ at
Berkeley. Maybe so: the Unabomer [sic] manifesto is harshly critical of
the Bright Side
FNC Corrects Hit on Starr
About Limo Talk
In July, Ken Starr’s subpoena of Larry
Cockell, the head of the President’s Secret Service detail, drew the ire
of many TV reporters and legal analysts, who accused Starr of using him
and other agents to circumvent attorney-client privilege between Clinton
and his lawyers. Three months later, only David Shuster on FNC’s Fox
Report corrected the error, discovering it in evidence released by
the House Judiciary Committee.
Dan Rather’s opening to the July 17
CBS Evening News typified the media reaction: "At least three
active-duty Secret Service employees were forced today to appear before
special prosecutor Ken Starr’s grand jury to give testimony. This
happened after Chief Justice William Rehnquist cleared the way for
Starr’s unprecedented push to make the Secret Service tell him at least
some of what it knows about the President’s personal life."
A day later on ABC’s World News
Tonight, Mike von Fremd got specific: "The White House fears that
Ken Starr wants to know what Cockell overheard during this limousine
ride, when the President was with his attorney immediately after giving
his deposition in the Paula Jones case." Not one TV story on either
night included Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly’s assurance from the July
18 Washington Post: "We have never intended to question Secret
Service agents about privileged conversations they may have overheard
between the President and his private lawyers."
But on the October 15 FNC Fox Report,
Shuster explained how grand jury transcripts and subpoenaed records
revealed that Starr’s team didn’t even know Cockell was Clinton’s top
protector. He was only called in because of his role as a supervisor, to
explain Secret Service procedures. Shuster also found prosecutors never
asked Cockell about what he overheard in the limo on the way back from
the Jones deposition. Shuster reported: "Restricted by grand jury rules
of secrecy, prosecutors were powerless as the Clinton team went into
battle mode," and the media presumption about Starr’s motives "was
driven in part by some speculation at the White House, speculation
that...the White House liked to see out there because it was highly
critical of Ken Starr."
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