Unsure Elian Better Off in U.S.; Pro-Castro Bias Dissected; Gore Exaggerations
1) Would Elian be "better off" in Cuba or the U.S.?
"There’s not a simple answer," insisted ABC’s Peter Jennings.
Morton Dean touted the "free" medical care and lack of crime in
Cuba, though he also noted the bread lines, but did not mention political
2) "Geez," Morton Kondracke exclaimed after hearing
FNC’s Brit Hume read aloud from a Newsweek article on how Elian can expect
"a nurturing life in Cuba." He conceded liberal bias and even
NPR’s Mara Liasson was perplexed by the pro-Castro reporting.
3) ABC, CBS and NBC all reported how Elian was taken to the
home of Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, but none reminded viewers how after seeing
Elian with his grandmothers she had decided he should stay.
4) After updating viewers on the case of Walter Polovchak, Dan
Rather assured viewers "it is not our intention to take sides or advocate
any particular solution to the Elian Gonzalez case."
5) NBC Nightly News relayed without skepticism the claim that
4,223 children a year are killed by guns, but then devoted a whole story to
discrediting the claim of gun advocates for how often a gun is used to prevent
6) Another Gore "exaggeration" was caught by
abcnews.com and the Boston Globe detailed Gore’s record of
"embellishing truth," but ABC-TV instead focused on how Bush’s
"record as Governor raises questions about his commitment" to
spending enough on health care.
7) Letterman’s "Top Ten Signs President Clinton is
not a simple answer," judged ABC’s Peter Jennings to the question
of whether Elian Gonzalez would have "a better life" in the
democratic and free United States or the communist and bereft Cuba.
Reporter Morton Dean described what kind of life awaits Elian in Cuba,
touting the "free" medical care and lack of crime, but also
highlighting the bread lines. Without mentioning political repression or
the lack of freedom of speech, Dean concluded by acknowledging how Cubans
"know they cannot match the material things available in the United
States," but they "promise a warm welcome and a normal life for
World News Tonight anchor Jennings set up Dean’s
April 12 piece after stories on the day’s latest developments in south
Florida with Janet Reno’s arrival:
questions of custody, the Cuban-American community in Miami has always
argued, almost everyday in fact, that Elian Gonzalez would have a better
life here in the United States than in Cuba. It’s been argued before,
and there’s not a simple answer. But at this late date ABC’s Morton
Dean has been again to the boy’s hometown of Cardenes."
Let’s pause here for emphasis. The star of a U.S.
television news operation, which is able to tilt its news to the left all
it wants because of the First Amendment, believes there’s "not a
simple answer" to whether someone would be "better off" in
a democratic and free nation or in a repressive communist one where free
thought is not allowed and the command economy causes widespread poverty
From Havana, Dean began by showing Cubans looking a
pictures of Elian inside a new "Elian room" in the Cardenes city
Upon his return,
Dean related, "Elian will quickly learn his old classmates chant his
name daily and that his desk became a place of honor and the subject of
billboards urging his return."
Over video of a
cinder block structure painted aqua, Dean continued: "Other than a
new government paint job on the Gonzalez home, Elian would find little
else has changed. Ask Cubans what the pluses are in this society and
they’ll quickly mention free medical care, free education, the lack of
serious crime and that their children live in a safe environment.
like all of Cuba, shows ample signs of the central government’s economic
mismanagement and the severe effect of the U.S. embargo. Today, as
everyday, a few blocks from the Gonzalez house, a bread line. The rum
factories are a principal employer in Cardenes and a principal cause of
pollution [video of belching smokestack]."
Over video of a man
talking Dean relayed his word: "‘I earn 224 pesos, about $10
dollars a month.’ He says it’s not enough, even teachers and doctors
earn no more than $30 a month."
What kind of quality health care do you get for
"free" from a doctor paid $30 a month?
Dean went on to outline how the "dollar
economy," which included Elian’s father, has improved things in
Cuba: "The relatively new dollar economy makes a difference.
Elian’s father, and others from Cardenes, work at a nearby resort and
are paid and tipped in dollars."
Over video of
another man, Dean noted: "‘Having dollars,’ he said, ‘allows me
to buy some necessary things.’" Dean then concluded: "People
here know they cannot match the material things available in the United
States, but they promise a warm welcome and a normal life for Elian."
A "normal life" by communist standards.
Dean failed to utter one syllable about political or religious freedom or
human rights, nor what Elian has to look forward to in Castro’s youth
indoctrination group, the Young Pioneers, whose meetings he will attend
without having any milk to drink.
don’t understand why the news magazines and the networks...weren’t all
down in Cuba to figure out what is it like, what kind of life can Elian
Gonzalez expect to live in Cuba in the Young Pioneers, you know, and all
that kind of stuff." So wondered Roll Call Executive Editor and proud
"moderate" Morton Kondracke on FNC Wednesday night after
acknowledging that recent media coverage, which has admired Castro’s
Cuba, can only be explained by liberal bias. NPR’s more liberal Mara
Liasson was equally perplexed by the contention that life would be better
for Elian in Cuba: "I can’t think of anyone in the United States
who would agree with that."
Well, several reporters for major media outlets do,
especially NBC’s Jim Avila as shown in previous CyberAlerts.
Picking up on some of the same news magazine quotes
cited in this week’s MRC MagazineWatch, FNC’s Brit Hume raised in his
show’s panel segment with the "Fox All Stars" the issue of
media coverage of Castro and Cuban-Americans. To watch a hunk of this
discussion via RealPlayer, go to the MRC home page late Thursday morning
where MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post it: http://archive.mrc.org
Hume introduced the April 12 segment on his 6pm
ET/9pm PT Special Report with Brit Hume:
about another issue that’s come up, and that is the portrayal in the
media of the Cuban American community in Miami, which is, I think it
raises the question of whether this is the one ethnic group in America
that it’s okay to bash. Let’s look at a couple of quotes from the
current round of newsweeklies. Here’s what Time magazine says:
‘banana republic’ label sticking to Miami in the final throes of the
Elian Gonzalez crisis is a source of snide humor for most Americans.’
And now from Newsweek: ‘In some ways, young Elian might expect,’ this
is if he went back to Cuba, ‘a nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from
the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in
Miami.’ Now, is it, what is that?"
The latter quote caused Morton Kondracke to start
laughing as he exclaimed "geez!" Kondracke, as transcribed by
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, answered Hume by conceding bias exists:
"You know, half the time when Fred [Barnes], when Fred beats up on
the press as being, you know, automatic chronically left-wing, I sort of
scoff at that. I gotta say that there’s not much else that, I don’t
understand why the news magazines and the networks, for that matter,
weren’t all down in Cuba to figure out what is it like, what kind of
life can Elian Gonzalez expect to live in Cuba in the Young Pioneers, you
know, and all that kind of stuff."
(Reporters are there for Time and Newswek, but they
like the network reporters are using their stories to tout the "Cuban
good life," as NBC Jim Avila put it, with five free gallons of gas a
month and a bag of beans and deodorant. See the April 5 CyberAlert for
Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard explained
what’s behind the media take, suggesting reporters are indulging in
"an old genre that some people have recognized for a half century
anyway, and it is ‘anti-anti-Communism.’ Mort, you remember it during
the whole Nicaraguan Contras thing where then the thing was the Contras,
they’re worse than the Sandinistas. In Vietnam, you know, Diem, he’s
worse than the Viet Cong and so on. The American Left always attacks any
group that is anti-communist by saying they’re worse than the
communists, and here we see it again. And the Cuban Americans are the
latest victims of that. There’s all this, or at best there’s moral
equivalence, you know, gee, it’s totalitarian in Cuba, it’s
totalitarian in Little Havana, which is nonsense."
Even panelist Mara Liasson of National Public Radio
was befuddled by the Newsweek view: "To make those kinds of
assertions, that somehow his life would be better in Cuba. It’s one
thing to say that a child belongs with his father, it’s another to say
that growing up in a communist country is somehow better than being in
Miami. I can’t think of anyone in the United States who would agree with
Memo to Liasson: Please talk to Peter Jennings.
Hume quickly reminded her of the media quotes he had
read earlier, adding: "You heard this out of the mouth of Katie
Couric on NBC about Miami being the place where, she set up a description
of what most people would say about Cuba and said well they were talking
about Miami, that there is this equivalence thing out there."
Indeed, Couric opened the April 3 Today by
announcing: "Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to
expect Elian Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or
freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes
on South Florida and its image this morning. Another writer this weekend
called it 'an out of control banana republic within America.' What effect
is the Elian Gonzalez story having on perception of Miami? We will talk
with a well known columnist for the Miami Herald about that."
Back to the FNC discussion, Kondracke reminded
viewers: "When you’re seven years old in Cuba, you cease to get
your milk allotment because they don’t have enough milk down there. Now
that’s something I haven’t seen. Cuba is regarded as some sort of
paradise for workers and health care and stuff like that."
I haven’t seen it either on network television
from their reporters in Havana.
To hear something about the downsides of growing up
in Cuba, check out a rare network outlet for a less than glowing
assessment of Cuba from actor Andy Garcia whose comments astonished Matt
Lauer last week on Today. Garcia described the indoctrination of the Young
Pioneers and maintained that he’d rather have his son in the U.S. if he
were trapped in Cuba. To watch and read Garcia:
For much more from the two magazine articles quoted
by Hume, go to this week’s MRC MagazineWatch painstakingly compiled by
Tim Graham. (This is the same edition sent Wednesday via CyberAlert.) Go
CBS and NBC all led with stories Wednesday night about how Elian’s
relatives took him to stay at the home of Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, but
none mentioned how after seeing Elian meet with his grandmothers a few
months ago she had changed her mind and decided he should stay with the
ABC’s Peter Jennings opened the April 12 World
News Tonight by boosting Reno’s abilities: "Good evening. Can she
do it. That’s the question. Can the Attorney General bring this chapter
in Elian Gonzalez’z life to a close gracefully with the force of her
personality or will she have to use the declarative power of the
Introducing a story on the day’s activities,
Jennings announced: "The Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez have taken
the boy to the home of a nun, who is to some extent sympathetic to their
cause. ABC’s Ron Claiborne is there this evening. Ron, do the Miami
relatives know the time is almost up?"
Yes, he answered,
before running a soundbite from O’Laughlin, President of Barry
University. But he didn’t remind viewers of how, after seeing the fear
the grandmothers had of the Cuban security personnel who accompanied them,
she had changed her mind and decided Elian should stay.
Dan Rather began the CBS Evening News by intoning:
"Attorney General Janet Reno flew to Miami this evening intent on
persuading the boy’s relatives to obey the law and give him up."
CBS’s Jim Axelrod, as well as NBC’s David Bloom
on NBC Nightly News, both featured soundbites from O’Laughlin but
didn’t mention her change of view.
is not our intention to take sides" in the Elian case Dan Rather
assured viewers after running a piece recalling the 1980 case of Walter
For the Fidelity-sponsored "The American
Dream" segment on the April 12 CBS Evening News Rather profiled
Polovchak, now 32, who as at age 12 asked to stay in the U.S. and not
return with parents to Ukraine. Six years later, at 18, he was granted
how, like Elian, Polovchak was at the center of media attention back in
1980, Rather updated viewers, though he didn’t mention what kind of
career Polovchak has pursued: "Today, Palovchak is married with a
six-year-old son and a new house. He is living his American dream."
"American dream means to me freedom, the ability to practice any
religion you want to, the freedom of speech. The American dream is what I
got when a government allowed me to stay in this country."
Back on camera after the taped piece ended, Rather
noted how Polovchak has twice visited the now independent Ukraine and
"re-established warm relations with his parents."
Rather then added this unusual advisory: "And
this editor’s note. In reporting Polovchak’s story tonight, it is not
our intention to take sides or advocate any particular solution to the
Elian Gonzalez case."
running highlights from Tom Brokaw’s afternoon town meeting in Denver on
guns with President Clinton shown on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News Wednesday
night relayed without skepticism the claim that 4,223 children a year are
killed by guns, but then devoted a whole story to discrediting the claim
of gun advocates for how often a gun is used to prevent a crime.
Reporter Roger O’Neil began his story by showing
how by going to a private dealer it’s easy to buy a gun in Colorado
without a background check. O’Neil then, as transcribed by MRC analyst
Brad Wilmouth, looked at two men with opposing views:
Colorado legislature convened in January, it killed a proposal to close
that [gun show] loophole, and for two fathers with very different views,
it’s the new moving target in the gun war. Kelly Barnett, teaching his
six-year-old about guns, NRA member, says more laws won’t stop more
"I believe that it’s the, America’s moral fiber that’s in
Tom Mauser, whose son was killed at Columbine, is dedicating his life to
sensible gun control."
"I’m sure he would say, ‘Dad, I’m glad you’re walkin’ in my
shoes. Keep up the fight.’"
In the media’s world is any gun control not
O’Neil proceeded to promote a publicity gimmick as
he walked among thousands of little shoes: "This week at the State
Capitol, 4,223 pairs of shoes were laid out, pressure on lawmakers to pass
more gun control legislation. Why 4,223? That many children are killed in
a year by guns."
He added that all
the shoes show a "sobering picture" of gun violence.
4,223 would be 81 "children" a week. I
don’t have the numbers to cite here, but I’m quite sure the
"children" number includes those up to age 19 or 20, so includes
older teenagers killed in drug fights and gang violence, not the picture
conveyed by NBC in showing small shoes worn by elementary school age kids.
But NBC wasn’t interested in dissecting that
number. They had to make time for Pete Williams to discredit a number
forwarded by gun rights advocates. Williams opened his piece by recounting
the story of a man who used a gun to thwart an intruder by pointing it at
him. Williams noted that the NRA says self defense with gun happens 2.5
million times a year, or 6,800 ties a day. He allowed Gary Kleck, who did the phone survey which came up with those numbers, to say
the actual number might be higher.
Then Williams countered: "But many
criminologists think there’s no way to be sure and that the number is
likely much smaller. They say a phone survey is a bad way to estimate
something that happens to a small segment of the population."
Ludwig, Georgetown University: "Especially rare events like defensive
gun use, where people view them as a heroic or a laudable act, and so
there’s some tendency for people, or there may be some tendency or
temptation for people to exaggerate or brag."
fact, few scholars think the number of guns used for self-defense each
year is in the millions. Many say it’s more like several hundred
thousand, and Kleck notes that he counts not only the time a gun owner
actually points or fires it, but also when the owner just threatens to use
it without even showing it."
another anti-gun argument: "But even counting those examples,
advocates of gun control warn that it’s actually more dangerous to have
a gun at home. They cite figures that show the risk of suicide is five
times higher in homes with guns, and they say accidental deaths are
Williams did return to the case made by the man in his original anecdote:
"Still the debate is over for Mike Merz. For him the only number that
counts is one -- the number of times he thinks a gun made him safer."
criticisms of the pro-gun arguments, but where’s the equal scrutiny of
the claims made by the other side?
brought another Gore "exaggeration" as detailed by abcnews.com
and on Tuesday a front page Boston Globe headline read, "Record Shows
Gore Long Embellishing Truth," but ABC’s TV news broadcasts ignored
both. Instead, on Tuesday night ABC focused on how George W. Bush’s
"record as Governor raises questions about his commitment" to
spending enough taxpayer money on government health care programs.
Peter Jennings introduced the April 11 World News
Tonight story, the only full campaign report run so far this week by a
today, presidential candidate George W. Bush took his first stab at a
health care plan for the nation. Mr. Bush proposed tax credits to help the
working poor buy health insurance. Anything approaching universal health
care is an issue that the Democratic candidate Al Gore would claim is his.
Mr. Bush is trying to move in."
Instead of approaching Bush’s big spending
plan from the right and questioning the need for another program
transferring money from earners to the poor, reporter Dean Reynolds took
on Bush from the left for not having made enough people in Texas rely on
government. Reynolds opened, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica
aides have long claimed Bush is a different kind of Republican candidate,
one who reaches out to those who've seldom voted Republican in the past.
Today in Ohio was a perfect example. The Texas Governor toured a job
training center catering to Latinos in Cleveland and then unveiled a $40
billion proposal to help low income Americans buy health insurance from
After a soundbite from Bush saying low income
families must have access to health insurance, Reynolds pounced, measuring
commitment by how much of other people’s money he had spent: "But
Bush's record as Governor raises questions about his commitment. While he
has raised spending for some health care programs, a quarter of his
state's people still lack health insurance, and the state health
commissioner Bush picked is quoted as saying he doubts insurance coverage
makes much real difference to health. Moreover, Texas ranks near the top
of the nation in the rates of AIDS, diabetes and tuberculosis, and near
the bottom in immunization, mammograms and access to doctors. To win the
election, Governor Bush will need support of independents and conservative
Democrats, but while his rhetoric reaches out to those voters, his record
in Texas on key issues of concern to them may undermine his appeal."
World News Tonight this week skipped Gore’s latest
misstatement of fact and they didn’t have to go far to learn about it.
The abcnews.com Web page featured an article: "At it Again? Gore
Prone to Exaggeration." In the April 10 piece, Kendra Gahagan
From inventing the Internet to inspiring the film Love Story, Al
Gore’s penchant for exaggeration is well known. Today, he may have
stretched the facts again.
In a speech honoring his mother at the Nashville City Club in
Tennessee, the Vice President told an anecdote about how Pauline LaFon
Gore was invited for lunch at the club in 1971, only to be summarily
kicked out of the main dining room due to the club’s all-male policy.
Gore went on to recount how his mother’s ouster drew local outrage
and she was a key instigator in the club’s changing its rules toward
women: "The resulting outrage, especially among young professional
women here in Nashville, caused a revolution -- a minor one, albeit -- but
a major change in the life of this club and a few days later, this city
club was opened to women and the charter was changed."
It was a speech by a doting son honoring his mother, who was also being
awarded a bachelor of arts degree 67 years after she attended, but never
completed, university classes. And Mrs. Gore was indeed ahead of her time,
as one of the first 10 women to earn a law degree from Nashville’s
Vanderbilt University in 1936.
But what the vice president didn’t mention was that the minor
"revolution" his mother sparked at the Nashville City Club did
not open the club’s membership to women, as his comments implied -- only
its dining rooms -- and even that didn’t happen until weeks after Mrs.
Gore’s visit, not a mere "few days later," as Gore claimed.
The Nashville City Club did not go on to admit women as members
until September 1985, 14 years after Mrs. Gore’s visit....
To read the entire story, go to:
"Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing
Truth," announced the headline over a lengthy April 11 Boston Globe
story by Walter V. Robinson and Michael Crowley, which began:
Vice President Al Gore brings a remarkable life story to the
presidential race: His father was such an unwavering supporter of civil
rights that it cost him his Senate seat. His older sister was the
first-ever volunteer in the Peace Corps, that heroic outpost on President
Kennedy's New Frontier.
By Gore's account: He was raised in hardscrabble Tennessee farm
country. He was a brilliant student, in high school and at Harvard. And
despite his political pull, he received no special treatment, opting
instead to go to Vietnam where he was "shot at."
After his Army service, he spent seven years as a journalist, and his
reporting at the Tennessean in Nashville put corrupt officials in prison.
As a junior member in the US House, he was a major force: He wrote and
then spearheaded passage of the Superfund law. He even authored the US
nuclear negotiating position. And at a time when President Reagan and
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev faced off on the superpower stage, Gore
had his own meeting with Gorbachev.
And, of course, he created the Internet.
At various times in his political career, Gore, the presumptive Democratic
presidential nominee, has said all those things about himself and his
None are quite true.
Some are exaggerations grown up around kernels of biographical fact.
Others are simply false. A few, like the boastful claim about the
Internet, have become comic fodder, even for Gore....
To read the entire story, go to "Record
Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth."
The Globe also provided a list of 18 of Gore’s
assertions with counterpoints for each at "A
long history of questionable statements and claims."
Both pieces are featured on the Globe’s
campaign page, which has a normal length URL:
the April 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top
Ten Signs President Clinton is Bored." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide
10. Spent weekend alphabetizing thousands of lawsuits pending against
9. Weekly radio address features less talk, more rock
8. Every twenty minutes, calls Area 51 to ask "Any new aliens?"
7. Often cuts cabinet meetings short to catch "Judge Judy"
6. Hefty intern starts working in Oval Office, and he doesn't even grab
5. Watched every episode of "Falcone"
4. To stir up controversy, gave Delaware to the Dutch
3. In addition to Leonardo DiCaprio, agreed to do an interview with little
girl in Pepsi commercials
2. Has started smoking cigars
1. Actually tried to sleep with Hillary
And, from the Late Show Web page, some of "the
also-rans" which didn’t make the final cut:
-- Keeps complaining to staff, "There's no one to do"
-- Installed some windows in the damn corridor
-- Says nailing 300-pound interns "Just not what it used to be"
-- He's now harassing himself
-- Finds himself looking forward to daily chats with Al Gore
-- Calls in Secret Service several times a day to frisk him
-- While having sex with interns, does crossword puzzles
Well, that’s better than discussing troop
deployment with a Congressman --