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See it, Decree it -- I'd Rather Not

A column in January 25, 2002 the Daily Oklahoman

By Patrick B. McGuigan

     Columnist Cal Thomas, a frequent contributor to The Oklahoman's editorial page, served as master of ceremonies and as a judge at last week's 2001 "Media Dishonors" awards.

     The event was held in the atrium of the mammoth Ronald Reagan International Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation's capital. Thomas, critical of naming the building for his favorite president, was in fine form. Curiously, no "winners" accepted in person, necessitating a lineup of conservative celebrities to pick up the trophies. (The evening included an optimistic update from columnist David Limbaugh, who reported his brother Rush, the radio commentator, had recovered most of his hearing after an operation.) The Wall Street Journal's John Fund named Time magazine's Margaret Carlson winner of the "We're All Going to Die and It's Bush's Fault" award for environmental reporting. Decrying steps by George W. Bush to balance regulations, Carlson observed in a commentary that "soon we won't be able to eat, drink or breathe." Helen Thomas, formerly of United Press International, won the "Bring Back Bubba" award for remarks at a Washington dinner in October, where she praised Bill Clinton for personifying "the human spirit."

     Poor David Westin, president of ABC News, had already gained nationwide attention, and prior recognition from MRC, for his confused answer, soon after Sept. 11, on the Pentagon as "a legitimate target" for terrorists. At the "dishonors" he got the "Peter Arnett Award (for Hopelessly Foolish Wartime Reporting)." Bryant Gumbel was a double nominee in the "Damn Every Conservative We Can Think of to Hell Award." Gumbel won for repeated assaults, a year ago this month, on Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft.

     CBS News anchor Dan Rather won the "Sore Losers" award recognizing those who can't get over the 2000 election. His winning quote, from Nov. 26, 2000, repeatedly denigrated Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris for certifying election results "as she sees it and decrees it." Rather also won the Gilligan Award for the year's flakiest comment. In an exchange with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, Rather called former President Clinton "an honest man." In a final presentation, Rather won further honors for the "honest" comment - the 2001 "quote of the year."

     The evening concluded with serious reflections from L. Brent Bozell III, the center's founder. He defended the awards as focusing needed attention on stunning mainstream news media bias and unfairness, fulfilling the center's goals to bring "political balance and responsibility to the media."

     Bozell then introduced a video compilation of the best news coverage and commentary on and after Sept. 11, when terrorists in the name of Islam attacked the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon. Rather and Geraldo Rivera, frequent targets earlier in the evening, were honored for poignant reflections during "live" coverage of a day of infamy. Bozell said it was only proper to lift up powerful and positive reporting as an antidote to the normal fare of liberal bias in television journalism.

     Judging the competition were well-known conservative and libertarian journalists or analysts, including Bozell, Fund, Thomas, columnist Robert Novak, National Review writer Kate O'Beirne and others. The gala "dishonors" awards dinner is a relatively recent project at the MRC. The event grew out of and builds on the annual "Notable Quotables" competition, for which I still serve as judge. Columns drawn from the 2001 "quotables" appeared here recently. Much of the organizational work for the competition is performed by Brent Baker, a veteran critic of the national press corps.

     For more information on the work of Bozell, Baker and their colleagues, contact: Media Research Center, 325 S Patrick St., Alexandria, VA 22314, telephone (703) 683-9733; fax: (703) 683-9736; e-mail (mrc@MediaResearch.org) and Web site (www.MediaResarch.org).

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