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July 29, 1998

NBC's Couric and O'Donnell:
Blame Reagan for Capitol Hill Shooting

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- NBC's Today Show has once again provided more evidence of how the media cannot go too low to exploit tragedy and blame it on Ronald Reagan. This morning, host Katie Couric and reporter Kelly O'Donnell suggested Reagan-era budget cuts in mental health programs are part of the reason alleged Capitol Hill shooter Russell Weston was allowed to commit his crime.

O'Donnell, in her package report: "Could it have been prevented? Did the mental health system do enough? ... During the Reagan era federal spending for mental health dropped about 25 percent. Funding has continued to go down ever since. Today as many as half of the homeless are believed to be the untreated mentally ill."

Couric, in a follow-up interview with two psychologists: "Quickly, we're almost out of time. But it seems to me that money is an issue. That funding was cut 25 percent during the Reagan administration. It's gone down ever since. Don't we need to funnel more money into helping these people? The fact that half of the homeless population may be untreated mentally ill is a real tragedy don't you think?"

"The morning after Americans said goodbye to the tragically killed Capitol Police officers, NBC has tastelessly exploited the tragedy to once again lay the blame for every societal problem at the door of so-called Reagan-era budget cuts. It's one thing to blame the Reagan Administration for everything from flammable pajamas or sexual harassment in public housing, as the Today show has done in the past, but this is a new low in exploitation of a national tragedy. It's a disgusting cheap shot, plain and simple," said Media Research Center Chairman Brent Bozell.


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