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From the February 1999 MediaWatch

Networks Nix Newt News

IRS Clears Gingrich's History Course

The IRS announced on February 3 that it cleared Newt Gingrich and the Progress and Freedom Foundation of any violation of the tax laws in the controversy over his cable TV history course "Renewing American Civilization." The IRS found that PFF properly accepted tax-deductible contributions to fund it.

So after running a series of reports challenging Gingrichís ethics as he sought re-election as Speaker of the House in 1997, did the networks prominently feature Gingrichís vindication? No, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired nothing on any of their programs.

Only CNNís Brooks Jackson filed a TV report, placed at the very end of the early-evening show Inside Politics. Jackson began: "It was legal after all. Newt Gingrichís oh-so-controversial college course that he started back in 1993, before he was Speaker. Remember how Democrats denounced it?" He then showed old footage of Democrats David Bonior ("Mr. Gingrich engaged in a pattern of tax fraud") and John Lewis ("We now have a Speaker under investigation for lying to the outside counsel, investigating his involvement in a massive tax-fraud scheme").

Jackson quoted from the IRS decision: "The course was not biased toward particular politicians, or a particular party. The facts show the class was much more than a political platform." In prime time, CNN just aired a 22-second brief on The World Today.

Despite the IRS ruling, some reporters didnít even think corrections or apologies were necessary. On the February 7 Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams argued: "David Bonior was engaged in a fight with a man who was the head of the Republican revolution at the time and who was standing up on his high horse and pretending to be totally above any impropriety." Bonior was just "playing politics." National Public Radio reporter Mara Liasson agreed that Newt only got what he deserved: "I think it was recognized that Bonior was taking a page out of Newt Gingrichís book. Newt Gingrich mounted an attack on Jim Wright. That was considered audacious and insurrectionary at the time and Bonior learned his lesson from him."

Such rationalizing upset FNCís Brit Hume: "Here you have a man accused of a crime and the agency charged with identifying such crimes comes out and says absolutely not and you guys are shrugging this off and saying itís all politics....Bunk. This was wrong...David Bonior ought to be offering an apology." So should the networks.




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