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From the January 1999 MediaWatch

Opening with Imbalance

ABC Begins Trial with GOP Labeling

The opening of President Clinton’s impeachment trial on January 7: a moment in history marked with solemnity and seriousness by Senators on both sides of the aisle. But on ABC, a time to tag Republicans with ideological labels, with none for Democrats.

Linda Douglass began just before Chief Justice Rehnquist’s swearing in, identifying two groups of Senators on the floor, one of Republicans and the other of Democrats. The Republicans: Slade Gorton, Fred Thompson, Connie Mack and "Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania, very conservative member, one who wants witnesses." The other group, Douglass informed viewers, included Senators Tom Daschle, John Breaux, Joseph Lieberman and John Kerry. No labels for any of them.

Then as Senators each signed the oath book, Peter Jennings identified Democrats John Kerry, Herbert Kohl, Ted Kennedy, and Carl Levin, all without labels. He then labeled two more Republicans, and ignored a liberal: "Senator John McCain here of Arizona, left-hander. More right than left in his politics and intending to run for President of the United States. Senator McConnell of Kentucky, very determined conservative member of the Republican Party. Senator Mikulski of Maryland. It tells you something about how often they’re in the news whether they are easily or not easily recognized..."

Just seconds later: "Senator Rick Santorum, one of the younger members of the Senate, Republican, very determined conservative member of the Senate. That’s Senator Daschle there in the left hand side of your picture. Behind him Senator Byrd. Senator Sarbanes of Maryland, a long time Democratic Senator just walking across the picture...."

After not labeling Charles Schumer, Jennings alerted viewers: "Mr. Smith of New Hampshire, also another very, very conservative Republican intending to run for the presidency." Jennings rounded out his identifications with the final five Senators, three of whom are among the Senate’s most liberal: "Senator Torricelli of New Jersey that was. Senator Voinovich, Senator John Warner of Virginia, and the next one up Senator Wellstone from Minnesota and the last W, having all 100 Senators, in the brown suit there, Senator Wyden of Oregon." ABC only warned of conservatives in our midst, not the liberals.




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