CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday January 20, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 11) |
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Thanks to Clinton "Less to Worry About"; Indignant About Q’s to Hillary

1) Peter Jennings trumpeted how Bill Clinton "wants more health care for more Americans" so that millions "have something less to worry about." Reporter Dean Reynolds deplored how George Bush "has done almost nothing to slow down or limit" executions in Texas.

2) An incensed Bob Schieffer condemned a Buffalo talk show host for daring to ask Hillary if she had an affair with Vince Foster. Dan Rather warned that Bush launched "a heavy-money television campaign to unload negatively on McCain."

3) An Un-Rather point. NBC’s George Lewis: "Scientists say the temperature shift influencing the weather is a natural occurrence not caused by global warming."

4) Just like ABC and NBC, CNN also uncritically relayed the claims of two liberal groups about how the rich are getting richer, but "the poor are by no means keeping pace."

5) The FCC thinks TV has too much religion and has set out to cut it,’s Justin Torres recounted in The Weekly Standard.

>>> MRC at CPAC. The near-annual Sam Donaldson versus Bob Novak debate about media bias will take place from 2 to 3pm Thursday afternoon during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference being held this year at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, Virginia. MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell will serve as moderator. At 4pm on Saturday the MRC’s Tim Graham will take part in a panel titled "Why Certain Stories Don't Get Covered by the Media." And for all three days MRC Marketing Director Bonnie Goff has set up a booth featuring many of the MRC’s fine products. So, if you plan to attend CPAC, stop by. Some portions of CPAC will probably air on C-SPAN live or later on tape. <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Peter Jennings opened Wednesday’s World News Tonight by campaigning for President Clinton’s latest health care plan, heralding how Clinton "wants more health care for more Americans" so that millions, "especially with lower incomes, have something less to worry about." Minutes later reporter Dean Reynolds campaigned against George W. Bush, lamenting how "he has done almost nothing to slow down or limit" executions in Texas. Reynolds contrasted Bush’s support for capital punishment with how he "has frequently cited his faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ and his own belief that conservatism can also be compassionate."

    The up front show tease from Jennings on January 19: "On World News Tonight this Wednesday: President Clinton wants more health care for more Americans. Is it politically realistic and what does it do for Vice President Gore?"

    After the theme music, Jennings continued his promotional tone: "President Clinton, who’s a lame duck President now, is making another effort to expand health care coverage. It is the number one issue for many American families. The President said today that over the next ten years he wants the government to spend $110 billion more than it does now, so that millions of Americans, especially with lower incomes, have something less to worry about. Health care has been an issue for Mr. Clinton ever since he was elected. He and Mrs. Clinton tried to do too much at first. Today the President was more modest and he may be more successful."

    Jennings sure seemed to hope so.

    John Cochran outlined Clinton’s plan and pointed out how the health insurance industry is now on board because Clinton’s plan has them getting money to cover many of the currently uninsured.

    Next, picking up on a theme pressed on Tuesday’s Today, which was detailed in the January 19 CyberAlert, ABC jumped on George W. Bush for not taking up the cause of reducing the number of executions in Texas. From New Hampshire Dean Reynolds filed a story which assumed Bush is on the wrong side of the capital punishment issue. Reynolds began by noting how Texas has had more executions since 1976 than any other state, over 200, with over half of those occurring during Bush’s five years. Two more are scheduled this week and another four next week.

    After playing a soundbite of Bush saying capital punishment is a deterrent which "saves people’s lives," Reynolds countered that Bush had no evidence and then assumed that Bush should have been doing things to limit executions:
    "Bush says he believes the death penalty is a strong deterrent, but he admits he has no proof. Moreover, while he alone among presidential candidates has the executive power to influence executions, he has done almost nothing to slow down or limit them. Last year he opposed a bill that would have banned the death penalty for the mentally handicapped. And though critics of capital punishment say many Texas death row inmates were badly served by court appointed attorneys, some of whom slept or were on drugs during trials, Bush insisted reform in the public defender’s office was not the answer. Rick Helperin is a former Amnesty International official who opposes the death penalty."
    Halperin, Southern Methodist University. "I think the Governor continues to pander to the basest fears about the nature of violent crime in Texas."

    What, like dangerous violent criminals are dangerous violent criminals?

    Reynolds then set Halperin up to finish out his leading thought: "In his campaign for President, Bush has frequently cited his faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ and his own belief that conservatism can also be compassionate."
    Halperin: "The compassion must be for all Americans even if they have done very terrible reprehensible things that we can all condemn."
    Reynolds concluded: "When pressed on this issue Governor Bush says he has not executed anyone, Texas has. He is upholding the law, he says repeatedly, ‘it’s the law.’"

    One which Reynolds and ABC seem to find troubling. In haranguing Bush Reynolds failed to explain that unlike how it is in many states, the Governor of Texas has very little power to stop any particular execution.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)"Mrs. Clinton came under a barrage of very personal questions about her personal life," rued Dan Rather in plugging a story only CBS, of the broadcast networks, mentioned Wednesday night. Like ABC, the CBS Evening News led with Clinton’s health care plan, but they soon got to condemning the personal questions posed to Hillary by a Buffalo talk show host.

    Rather opened the broadcast: "Good evening. The President and the First Lady were front and center in Campaign 2000 today, separately and, in Mrs. Clinton’s case, unintentionally. The President weighed in with an ambitious plan for health insurance reform. It looked a lot like Al Gore’s. And, in a sign of what’s to come in the Senate race in New York, Mrs. Clinton came under a barrage of very personal questions about her personal life."

    Following a piece by John Roberts on health care, Bob Schieffer looked at Hillary hitting the reality of a Senate campaign in some media interviews in Buffalo. He noted that "her debut on Letterman went swimmingly, but last night in Buffalo New York she was blind-sided by a TV reporter who asked, are you planning to leave your husband when his presidency is over? Clearly taken aback she responded, ‘I certainly intend to spend the rest of my life with him.’ But that was just a warmup for a Buffalo radio interviewer who followed up this morning."
    Audio of host Tom Bauerle on WGR Radio: "Mrs. Clinton, you’re going to hate me, you were on television last night talking about your relationship with the President, Bill Clinton. Have you ever been sexually unfaithful to him and specifically the stories about you and Vince Foster. Any truth in those?"
    Hillary Clinton on WGR via phone: "I do hate you for that, because you know, those questions I think are really out of bounds and everybody who knows me knows the answers to those questions."
    Bauerle: "Is the answer no?"
    Hillary "Well yes, of course it's no, but it’s an inappropriate question."

    Welcome to the real world, Hillary, outside of the protective cocoon provided by Washington media elite.

    Schieffer acted as if a personal question is a novel new concept, complaining that the Buffalo incident "underlines just how rough modern politics has become, says Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz."
    Kurtz: "While I think it’s fair game to ask the First Lady whether she plans to stay married to her husband, these questions about infidelity and whose she’s been fooling around with are completely salacious, appalling, and shouldn’t be part of what we call journalism."
    Schieffer indignantly concluded: "There is an old saying among reporters that there are no bad questions, just bad answers. But today even some veteran reporters are shaking their heads and wondering what will someone ask next?"

    Note that while Rather warned of "a barrage of very personal questions," CBS could only cite two. A very small "barrage," though I understand that Bauerle also asked her if she’d ever used cocaine, which would make it a "barrage" of three queries.

    Bauerle’s questions may have been "inappropriate," but at least they were about the 1990s. Last year CBS provided no protective cover or denouncement of questions on the subject when George W. Bush was pressed about long ago drug use. Back then, CBS joined in the pursuit, running full stories two night in a row. Reporters didn’t leave it up to a talk show host to pose personal questions, as Eric Engberg noted in an August 19 CBS story: "As for whether Bush ever used cocaine or other drugs, his plan to refuse to reply directly to such questions has been modified on the fly as the press and opponents pursue the issue."

    Bauerle appeared Wednesday night on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor. He defended his inquiries to host Bill O’Reilly, who characterized the Foster question as "over the line."

    Minutes after slamming the Buffalo media, Dan Rather used loaded terminology to report on some new Bush ads, as if only CBS News is allowed to say anything less than glowing about anybody:
    "George W. Bush has launched a negative campaign attack ad against John McCain in New Hampshire. It centers on McCain’s proposal for a tax cut which is half as big as the one Bush is proposing. McCain has called the $483 billion Bush plan ‘a giveaway to the rich that doesn’t help protect Social Security.’ This is the first time Bush has used a heavy-money television campaign to unload negatively on McCain."

    An interesting example of journalism. In an item ostensibly about Bush’s ad we learned not what it says but what Bush’s opponent said.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)A little rationality on global warming at NBC News. As noted in the January 19 CyberAlert, after repeatedly blaming global warming for winter warmth, Tuesday night Dan Rather attributed this week’s frigid temperatures to global warming.

    But concluding a Wednesday Nightly News piece on a new NASA forecast for new weather patterns bought on by shifting ocean currents, a change which will mean more snow and more drought, NBC’s George Lewis cautioned:
    "Scientists say the temperature shift influencing the weather is a natural occurrence not caused by global warming, and though humans can’t be blamed for causing this, they’ll have to suffer the consequences."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)Just as ABC and NBC had highlighted Tuesday night, MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed that CNN also failed to properly label two liberal groups as the network uncritically relayed their ideologically-driven findings. See the January 19 CyberAlert for details on the January 18 ABC and NBC stories as well as a counterpoint from the Heritage Foundation about how the numbers are misleading.

    The same night, on CNN’s The World Today, anchor Joie Chen announced:
    "The booming economy during much of the 1990s certainly made the rich richer, but it turns out that the poor are by no means keeping pace. A study by two Washington think tanks show that over the past ten years, earnings for the richest one-fifth of the nation's families jumped 15 percent to an average of more than $137,000 a year, but for the poorest families, earnings rose just one percent, to almost $13,000 a year."

    The Heritage report outlined how the joint Economic Policy Institute/Center on Budget and Policy Priorities "study" was based on Census data which failed to account for much non-cash aid to the poor and ignored how much money the wealthy have confiscated through taxes.

    Let me take this opportunity to make an obvious point: Even by the numbers issued by the liberal groups, all income levels rose. Liberals measure things "relatively," so by that reasoning it’s better to have a society where the poor earn $10 a month and the rich $15 a month than a society where the poor make $1,000 a month and the wealthy pull in $100,000.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)A couple of weeks ago Justin Torres of the MRC’s was amongst the first reporters to notice an intriguing aspect of the McCain-FCC controversy: How in the midst of the station swaps McCain was trying to jump start, the FCC issued an advisory declaring that religious broadcasting could consume no more than 50 percent of the programming on stations licensed to noncommercial, educational frequencies. So, while this does not impact the majority of religious stations, which operate with commercial licenses, the revelation piqued the interest of The Weekly Standard.

    This week’s magazine features a two-page article by Torres in which he recounted what he discovered the FCC did and then spelled out the implications. Since the article is not up on the Standard’s Web site, you should go to your newsstand and plunk down $3.95 for it if you’re not already a subscriber. Or, read the excerpt below of the January 24 piece titled, "TV As a Religion-Free Zone."

When the Boston Globe broke the story of John McCain's phone call to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of a campaign contributor, the media briefly savored the spectacle of America's chief campaign finance reformer caught in a little old-fashioned influence peddling. What they didn't do was read the decision the FCC had coughed up in response to McCain's strong-arm tactics.

They should have, for the real story of FCC Order 99-393 is not McCain's letter at all, but the bombshell buried deep in the innocuous-sounding "Additional Guidance" portion of the ruling: the imposition of unprecedented content restrictions on noncommercial religious broadcasters.

The ruling came in the case of two Pittsburgh television stations -- one public (WQED), the other a commercial religious broadcaster (Cornerstone TeleVision) -- that had applied to swap licenses. After the swap, McCain supporter Lowell "Bud" Paxson planned to buy the public station's license for use by his family-friendly network (Pax TV). The commission consented to the swap and purchase, but 43 paragraphs into the routine ruling, it announced that henceforth 50 percent of all noncommercial religious programming must serve "an educational, instructional, or cultural purpose in the station's community of license" -- and programming cannot qualify as "educational, instructional, or cultural" if it includes "religious exhortation, proselytizing, or statements of personally-held religious views or beliefs."

The commission was taking direct aim at that minority of religious broadcasters who operate under "educational" licenses, some 95 stations. According to the new rules, 50 percent of the programming on these noncommerical stations must be free of what is their stock in trade: church services, sermons, Bible study, prayer, and all manner of discussion by believers, including syndicated talk shows hosted by the likes of James Dobson and D. James Kennedy. The ruling goes on to insist that programs may explore religion in relation to science, technology, or culture; apply religious principles to real-life ethical dilemmas; probe the psychological effects of prayer; and even discuss religious texts from a historical viewpoint -- so long as the purpose is not to convince listeners that religious teachings are true.

The commissioners express the hope that their decision will clarify the rules for noncommercial broadcasting. Plainly, it does the opposite. Even apart from First Amendment concerns, problems of interpretation loom. It's hard to imagine, for example, how one might apply biblical principles to ethical dilemmas without tipping one's hand as to whether one subscribes to the Ten Commandments. Moreover, members of the board issued a flurry of separate dissents and concurrences that further cloud the regulations. Commissioner Susan Ness, in a concurring opinion marked by handwringing about "tread[ing] carefully to preserve... cherished objectives," wonders, for example, whether a "performance of Handel's Messiah [would] be primarily educational if it were performed at the Kennedy Center, but not primarily educational if it were performed in a church." The implication is that the FCC will be forced to consider not just the content but the context of tens of thousands of hours of religious programming....

As startling as the abruptness of the FCC's policy shift is the stealthy way it was accomplished. By issuing the new guidelines in an adjudicatory proceeding, the FCC avoided the hearings normally used to elicit public comment before broad regulatory changes are enacted. And the decision was released on December 29, 1999, when public attention was focused on the turn of the millennium and Y2K.

Despite the commissioners' reassurances -- "discussion of religious matters during a program," they say, does not necessarily "disqualif[y] the program from being a 'general educational' program" -- the vagueness of the regulations leaves many uneasy. Commissioners Harold Furchtgott-Roth and Michael Powell note in their dissent that the guidelines "invite unnecessary battles over the content of noncommercial programming." They provide groups like the American Civil Liberties Union the chance to tie up noncommercial licensing applications in drawn-out legal maneuvers, as lawyers parse programs for signs of proselytizing. Few noncommercial religious broadcasters can afford protracted legal battles, and many may decide not to take the risk.

Caught in the middle, the broadcasters face two equally unpalatable choices: secularizing their programs, and attempting to comply with vague regulations almost certain to yield lawsuits. No one knows, for instance, whether the new guidelines apply to future licensees or stations already in operation. The latter prospect has the National Religious Broadcasters Association itself mulling legal action.

With a year to go before a new president could reorient the Democrat-controlled FCC, the broadcasters' best hope lies in congressional action. On January 11, representative Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) unveiled legislation reversing Order 99-393 and requiring the FCC to use its normal rule-making procedures, with opportunity for public comment, should it seek to regulate in this area in the future. As of this writing the half-dozen co-sponsors include House majority leader Dick Armey and one Democrat, Ralph Hall of Texas. Riding a wave of support from evangelicals, Oxley is undeterred by FCC chairman William Kennard's disingenuous protestation that the guidelines merely clarify existing policy. The FCC, for now, is standing firm. And why not? It has no constituency to please but the administration.

    END Excerpt

    To read the latest news from, go to:

    To read other stories in the latest Weekly Standard, go to:

    It’s almost over! Just one more year left in the Bill and Hillary Clinton presidency. -- Brent Baker



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