The 1,231st CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Tuesday February 19, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 30) |
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Bush’s Unwise "Saber Rattling"; Racial Counting Mandated by ABC; Time: "Noble" Campaign Finance Reform; Expose of Bill Moyers

1) ABC and CBS depicted President Bush’s "axis of evil" term as dangerous, describing it as "saber rattling" and "harsh," as CBS even tossed in a mention of how protesters denounced Bush as a "death merchant." But the networks conflicted on Bush’s tone in Tokyo. ABC’s Charles Gibson insisted Bush "sounded very different" while on CBS Dan Rather held that "Bush has no intention of changing his language or his policies."

2) Diversity of skin color, but not ideology, mandated by ABC. USA Today reported: "ABC News has compiled a database of 480 people -- all minorities -- to turn to for on-air or taped comments" and "employees have been told evaluations will be based in part on how many of these sources they call."

3) "Like the hero of a paperback thriller, campaign finance reform keeps dodging bullets," wrote an exhilarated Douglass Waller of Time. Waller hoped Shays-Meehan becomes law because "it should help clean up the money game....that’s a noble fate for a bill that has been so often given up for dead."

4) George Will cited a Katie Couric quote, first highlighted by the MRC, to illustrate media support for legislation he dubbed the "Shays-Meehan-Times-Post-Couric bill."

5) Bill Moyers "has directed funding to numerous media outlets on the left," the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes documented. While Moyers condemns how, in Hayes’ words, "big companies -- with help from Washington conservatives... -- are using public vehicles to enhance their private interests," Moyers’ foundation doles out grants to PBS shows for them to highlight liberal issues favored by Moyers. Plus, he gave $2 million to the Columbia Journalism Review, which lauded him as the "leading television intellectual."


ABC and CBS heard President Bush say the same things in Tokyo, but Monday night the two networks delivered conflicting spins on whether he’s changing his tone to appease South Koreans upset by his "saber-rattling" and "harsh rhetoric."

     ABC anchor Charles Gibson asserted that Bush has been "saber rattling" with his "axis of evil" characterization of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, "hinting at military action, but today," Gibson insisted, "the President sounded very different." Over on CBS, however, Dan Rather referred to Bush’s "strong, some say provocative, language about the war on terror" as he maintained that "Bush has no intention of changing his language or his policies."

     Gibson opened the February 18 World News Tonight:
     "Good evening. We start tonight with the Bush administration and a change of focus. Last month, the President first used the phrase ‘axis of evil’ to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea. He has been sounding awfully tough ever since, saber rattling, talking about those countries in an expanded war on terror, hinting at military action. But today, as he began a week’s tour of East Asia, the President sounded very different. ABC’s Terry Moran is joining us from Tokyo. Terry?"

     Moran cautioned, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Charlie, the President and other top officials are trying to calm jittery nerves in Asia and dispel images of Mr. Bush as a dangerous warmonger. The President was all smiles meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi. And at a nationally televised news conference after their talks, he sounded a rare non-confrontational note about his ‘axis of evil’ countries."
     George W. Bush: "We want to resolve all issues peacefully, whether it be Iraq, Iran or North Korea, for that matter."
     Moran: "What a contrast to the language the President used in Alaska just two days ago to rally the troops and the U.S. public."
     Bush: "The best way to secure the homeland is to unleash the United States military."
     Moran: "But today Koizumi embraced the President’s soft sell in terms clearly meant to soothe the Japanese public."

     Moran soon explained: "Diplomacy was the order of the day here. In a striking development, Mr. Bush asked Koizumi to deliver a message to Iran, the same country the administration has described as a leading state sponsor of world terrorism. The message, aides say, is aimed at bolstering moderates in Tehran and marks the first clear sign that the Bush administration is reaching out to the reformers there."

     Moran concluded: "Mr. Bush has been warmly received here. There’s been just a small scattering of protests, but his next stop promises to be far more tense: South Korea, where, Charlie, the President’s placement of North Korea squarely in the cross-hairs of the war on terrorism has stirred deep anxiety and anger."

     Dan Rather set up the CBS Evening News piece by stressing how Bush isn’t altering his rhetoric: "President Bush is on a whirlwind tour of Asia, preparing now to move on from Japan to South Korea. The President got a warm welcome in Tokyo, but officials there avoided commenting on his strong, some say provocative, language about the war on terror. But CBS’s John Roberts reports Mr. Bush has no intention of changing his language or his policies."

     From Tokyo, John Roberts noted how U.S. special forces are now in the Philippines tracking down terrorists. Roberts then asserted: "Meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister in Tokyo, President Bush again put terrorists and states that support them on notice: He will do what is necessary to protect America and its allies."
     George W. Bush: "I also explained to him that all options are on the table and that I will keep all options on the table."
     Roberts warned: "Fears that military action could expand to the Korean peninsula erupted in a wave of anti-American protest in Seoul. On the eve of his visit to South Korea, radical students denounced President Bush as a death merchant and barricaded themselves inside the offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Police were forced to repel down the building and go in a window to get them out. Both protesters and politicians alike in South Korea worry that by labeling North Korea part of an ‘axis of evil,’ President Bush has set back by years efforts at reconciliation with the North. Veteran negotiator Bob Gallucci, who in 1994 convinced North Korea to put its nuclear program on hold, says the harsh rhetoric is a prescription for deadlock."
     Robert Gallucci, Former State Department negotiator: "I don’t sense that this administration is very interested really in making concessions of any kind to the North to get the concessions that they want from the North."
     Roberts: "President Bush said today he would prefer to eliminate the threats posed by so-called ‘rogue states’ peacefully, if possible. And he brushed away criticisms from nervous allies who complain he is pursuing a simplistic go-it-alone policy."
     Bush: "History has given us a unique opportunity to defend freedom, and we’re going to seize the moment and do it."
     Roberts concluded by reassuring viewers that though Bush has supposedly caused damage, he’s not a war-monger: "President Bush, despite all the tough talk, sent a very strong signal to his coalition partners that the United States is not about to go in with guns blazing, but it did little to ease concerns in South Korea where they fear the political damage has already been done."


Diversity of skin color and ethnicity mandated by the President of ABC News, but what about some diversity of ideological opinion? ABC producers have a good incentive to air soundbites based upon racial identity politics, USA Today’s Peter Johnson revealed on Monday, because "ABC News has compiled a database of 480 people -- all minorities -- to turn to for on-air or taped comments" and "employees have been told evaluations will be based in part on how many of these sources they call."

     In his February 18 "The Media Mix" column, Johnson quoted from a January 19 e-mail sent by ABC News President David Westin:
     "The goal here is to make sure that when we are seeking experts outside the news division to help explain stories we're working on, we include in the group we're considering a wide variety of possibilities, rather than simply going back to the same, limited group."

     Somewhat reassuringly, Johnson noted that "word around ABC News is that the memo was largely ignored, which prompted Westin to revisit the issue last week with top producers."

     Making sure the threat was clear, these producers, Johnson learned, "reminded staffers that evaluations would include a diversity component."

     But ABC may just be catching up with the other networks. Johnson reported: "Both CBS and NBC say that they have rules similar to ABC's and grade producers on the issue accordingly. CNN has diversity plans but doesn't grade producers on it." Fox News spokeswoman Irena Steffan conveyed a novel approach: "We pick knowledgeable people who know what they're talking about."

     ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider proclaimed to Johnson: "We're proud of our efforts to try to reflect the great diversity in our country."

     Except any ideological diversity.

     For the entire USA Today article:


Even liberal reporters are usually restrained enough to refrain from describing a proposed government regulation as "heroic" or "noble." But Time congressional correspondent Douglass Waller was so overjoyed that the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill passed the House last Thursday morning that he trumpeted the success: "Like the hero of a paperback thriller, campaign finance reform keeps dodging bullets."

     Waller added his personal endorsement: "If Shays-Meehan becomes law, it should help clean up the money game....that’s a noble fate for a bill that has been so often given up for dead."

     Of course, as the MRC’s Rich Noyes noted in preparing this item for CyberAlert, it’s glowing media coverage like that which has given the so-called "reform" bill its protective armor.

     Under a sidebar titled, "Rx for a Broken System," the February 25 Time assumed money in politics is bad. It listed a "downside" for four of the new provisions. In every case, Time was concerned not about how the rules limited free speech, but by how politicians will find a way around them. The first three:

     -- "SOFT MONEY: The two national parties would no longer be able to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in unregulated donations.
     "DOWNSIDE: State and local parties could still rake it in -- subject to a $10,000 limit per donor, a loophole that would let millions flow in."

     -- "HARD MONEY: Limits on individual contributions would be raised from $1,000 to $2,000 for candidates, $25,000 for parties
     "DOWNSIDE: Money still shouts. Over two years a fat cat could hand out up to $95,000 in hard money to different pols and parties."

     -- "BROADCAST ADS: Interest groups could no longer use soft money for radio or TV ‘issue ads’ that attack candidates just before a primary."
     "DOWNSIDE: But groups could still make the attacks through a variety of other means, such as direct mail, phone banks and e-mail."

     Although his was ostensibly a news article, Waller painted the campaign bill as an amazing survivor story, with "reform" under furious fire from deviously clever conservatives and special interests:
     "Like the hero of a paperback thriller, campaign finance reform keeps dodging bullets. Legislation meant to clean up the political-money game was almost left for dead last summer, but the Enron scandal revived it again. And last Wednesday evening the bill survived yet another near-death experience, when its backers in the House went head-to-head with one of their most powerful opponents, the National Rifle Association. Republicans, led by Tom DeLay, the majority whip from Sugar Land, Texas, offered a clever ‘poison pill’ amendment that would have exempted gun-rights groups from the bill’s limits on paid issues advertising."

     "But the reformers rallied again," Waller reassured readers. "Senator John McCain, his nose bandaged because of a recent skin-cancer surgery, camped out in an office on the House side of the Capitol -- across the hall from DeLay’s suite -- and pleaded with Republican supporters not to break ranks."

     In case you doubted where Waller’s sympathies lay, he closed: "If Shays-Meehan becomes law, it should help clean up the money game, at least until its reforms are slowly strangled by loopholes. That’s a noble fate for a bill that has been so often given up for dead."

     To read the entirety of Waller’s article:,9171,1101020225-203529,00.html

     In the early 1980s Waller served as Legislative Director for liberal Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Nearly twenty years have passed, but he still sounds like a liberal advocate.


George Will cited a quote first highlighted by the MRC as he illustrated media support for legislation he dubbed the "Shays-Meehan-Times-Post-Couric bill."

     MRC analyst Patrick Gregory noticed that in his column on the back page of the February 25 Newsweek, Will cited "media cheerleading." Will contended:
     "Media cheerleading for the bill has been relentless. For example, NBC’s Katie Couric, advocating passage of what should be called the Shays-Meehan-Times-Post-Couric bill, wondered whether Enron’s collapse would make "people say, ‘Enough is enough! This has got to happen!’" The media know that their power increases as more and more restrictions are imposed on everyone else’s ability to participate in political advocacy."

     For Will’s column:

     The February 4 Notable Quotables included Couric’s polemic point in the form of a question. For more about it, refer to the the January 28 CyberAlert:


Bill Moyers "has directed funding to numerous media outlets on the left: the Washington Monthly, the Nation, Mother Jones, In These Times" and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes documented in a lengthy expose in this week’s magazine.

     In addition, while Moyers condemns how, in Hayes’ words, "big companies -- with help from Washington conservatives, including President Bush -- are using public vehicles to enhance their private interests," Moyers is doing the same by having his foundation give grants for PBS programs to promote his liberal issue agenda.

     Hayes also discovered how Columbia Journalism Review, which effusively praised Moyers a few months ago as the "leading television intellectual," recently pocketed a $2 million grant from the foundation controlled by Moyers.

     An excerpt from "PBS's Televangelist: Bill Moyers preaches on...and on" in the February 25 Weekly Standard.

When PBS executives asked themselves the question so many Americans asked after the September 11 attacks -- what can we do? -- their answer was obvious: Bill Moyers. We can give America Bill Moyers. Lots of Bill Moyers....

Moyers agreed to create what became "Now with Bill Moyers," an open-ended series of weekly, hour-long, primetime shows that debuted on January 18....

[T]he choice of Moyers to lead a national reflection in the wake of September 11 was strange. Moyers hardly qualifies as politically nonaligned, a neutral moderator respectful of all sides....

Moyers's difficulty conversing with people on the right seems to have impaired his ability to report their opinions fairly, particularly on issues of race. "The right gets away with blaming liberals for their efforts to help the poor, but what the right is really objecting to is the fact that the poor are primarily black," he told [Eric] Alterman....

An address he delivered to a gathering at the LBJ library in Austin, Texas, on January 4 offers an instructive sample of his thinking. It elaborates what has become a favorite theme: Democracy is threatened not only by terrorism but also by the sinister forces of money and the market....

Big companies -- with help from Washington conservatives, including President Bush -- are using public vehicles to enhance their private interests, Moyers argued. Worse, he said, they're doing it in the name of those who died on September 11. A "mercenary crowd in Washington" is exploiting the terrorist attacks to enrich themselves. Moyers singled out Rep. Dick Armey, who opposed government-paid health insurance for laid off airline workers, as serving the interests of corporate types who contribute mainly to Republicans. Said Moyers, "Mr. Armey and his band of true believers went along."

Moyers eventually connected "right-wingers" with bin Laden by suggesting that the Bush administration is more interested in protecting its wealthy contributors than in fighting "terrorists' dirty money." The passage deserves to be quoted in full:

"Last year, a year ago this month, the right-wingers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington teamed up with deep pocket bankers, some of whom support the Heritage Foundation, to stop the United States from cracking down on terrorist money havens. I'm not making this up, it's all on the record....The president of the powerful Heritage Foundation spent an hour with Treasury Secretary O'Neill, Texas bankers pulled their strings at the White House, and, Presto!, the Bush administration pulled out of the global campaign to crack down on dirty money. How about that for patriotism? Better terrorists get their dirty money than tax cheaters be prevented from evading national law. And this from people who wrap themselves in the flag and sing 'America the Beautiful' with tears in their eyes. Bitter? Yes."

....[U]pon closer examination, some of Moyers's "facts" aren't what they seem. According to a report by the Treasury Department, none of the money that financed the terrorists has been traced to the so-called tax havens; much of al Qaeda's banking was done in countries like Germany, Great Britain, and even the United States....

The first several episodes of "Now with Bill Moyers" develop the theme of the dual threat to American democracy, from terrorism and money....

The second show took up where the first one left off, with a lengthy Enron segment recycled from another PBS show, "Frontline." In a tip of the hat to ideological balance, Moyers interviewed Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley, badgering him about why the paper doesn't consider Enron another Whitewater. And Moyers returned to the subject of tax havens that he says benefited "the terrorists."...

One need not be a campaign finance reform zealot to find unpalatable some of the subsidy-seeking by industries and money-grubbing by individuals after September11....

Still, it seemed odd that these accusations should come from Moyers, who has himself made so many programs since September 11. When I approached Moyers to discuss the series and elucidate their funding, I was told he couldn't talk....

So I sent him a fax. I didn't come up with this idea on my own. Last February, the American Chemical Council had resorted to faxing back and forth with Moyers when he was working on an expose of the industry....

I tried one more time to reach him. "One piece of information I am hoping you can provide me," I wrote in my faxed letter, "is how much money your company Public Affairs Television has made in post-September 11 public television." Surely he wouldn't be lobbing those rocks at the "mercenary crowd in Washington" from the front porch of a glass house.

Moyers called two hours later. He apologized for not calling sooner, and we had a brief chat. I asked him about the money.

"I've never discussed my earnings in public," he said, clearly agitated that anyone would ask about them. "I'm not a publicly held company, I'm a small independent producer who makes a reasonable income."

If he's criticizing others for exploiting September 11 for a buck, I ask, isn't it fair to inquire how much he'll earn for his work on these public television broadcasts?

"I didn't say the questions were unfair," he said. Still, he wouldn't answer them. Finally, he said he simply doesn't know how much he's made. "I actually don't know." Much of the work, he suspects, may have even been done pro bono....

When I asked Moyers if he sees any irony in the fact that he's a wealthy man owing in no small part to his long association with public television, the MVP of PBS told me that he's no different from any other public servant -- fireman, policeman, or teacher. But when I reminded him that their salaries are matters of public record, he once again reverted to the status of private contractor....

Though he’d be loath to admit it, given his frequent complaints about media consolidation, Moyers has become something of a clandestine media magnate. He quietly earns $200,000 a year as president of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, which has assets of $90 million-plus. From that nice perch, which he has held since 1990, he has sought to influence public debate in three main areas: the environment, "effective government" (i.e. campaign finance reform), and "independent media." Moyers has directed funding to numerous media outlets on the left: the Washington Monthly, the Nation, Mother Jones, In These Times, (run by Moyers's son John), and, most generously, the American Prospect. In some cases, this support runs well into the millions.

What his work with the foundation makes clear is this: Moyers isn't opposed in principle to buying influence. He just insists it be done in what he sees as the public interest. And he's very specific about that.

For example, a 1994 grant for $52,000 supported "a detailed report in The Washington Monthly on the influence of selected lobbyists in Washington." A 1997 grant for $100,000 went to Mother Jones for "promoting important money-in-politics investigations" by the magazine....

These gifts to private magazines or foundations associated with them aren't a big deal. True, they make Moyers look a little silly in his oft-repeated public proclamations that he has "no agenda." But, as he reminded me several times in our short chat, he can do whatever he wants as a citizen -- he has First Amendment rights....

Things get a little sticky, though, when we consider Moyers's grants to public television and radio. His $42,000 to WETA "to support a series of special features on money in politics to run four consecutive weeks in the Fall of 1997 on the PBS program 'Washington Week in Review.'" Or, that same year, $296,500 "to fund production of three 15-minute segments for the 'PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer' on campaign finance reform." Still in 1997, $127,000 to NPR "to support the special 'Money, Power and Influence' reporting position" and another $100,000 to "support an additional reporter to cover the 'Money, Power and Influence' beat outside the Beltway."...

The list, as they say, goes on. A "Frontline" documentary on campaign financing for the small fee of $200,000 in 1995....

And when nasty conservatives suggest that all of this reinforces a left-leaning public affairs bias at PBS? Or that public broadcasting in America is for sale? Just give $15,000 to help Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting run an op-ed ad "in support of the independence of public television." As Moyers might say, I'm not making this up.

On his own shows, Moyers frequently draws on the "expertise" of the interest groups he funds through his foundation. In 1999, all of this back-scratching caught up with him when an enterprising reporter from Knight Ridder named Frank Greve pointed out Moyers's duplicity.

"No TV journalist has reported more aggressively on the influence of money in American politics than Bill Moyers," wrote Greve. "His triple roles as journalist, advocate and financier have made Moyers one of the nation's most influential champions of tighter restrictions on campaign contributions. In fact, with the Senate set to begin debate on campaign finance this week, Moyers is using his control over money and media to influence public policy in ways that would be the envy of the special interests he deplores."...

These apparent conflicts have nicked Moyers's reputation, perhaps, but they haven't kept him from winning effusive praise from the nation's television writers and earning dozens of broadcast journalism awards over the course of his career. He won the prestigious Alfred I. DuPont/Columbia University Gold Baton award for 1998-99, honoring a documentary on South Africa. And the Columbia Journalism Review, in a Moyers tribute for its fortieth anniversary issue this winter, gushed, "Moyers's conversational ease, his earnest delivery, his fierce intelligence -- all of it has transformed him into our leading television intellectual, and a worthy successor to Edward R. Murrow." Moyers has been "an invaluable presence on television" and remains "one of our most astute press critics." In sum, "serious journalism is Moyers's legacy to us."

Moyers left another legacy to the Columbia Journalism Review, this one undisclosed. It's the serious funding his foundation has provided for years, including a recent $2 million grant to help "save" -- his word -- the publication that praises him so effusively.

     END of Excerpt

     That’s barely a third of the article. There’s plenty more good stuff I left out. To read the Hayes piece in full:

     Weekly Standard subscribers can access the PDF version:

     > Another reminder: Dick Cheney is the scheduled guest tonight on NBC’s Olympic Tonight Show. -- Brent Baker



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