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The 1,237th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Monday March 4, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 36) |
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EPA Bush-Basher Extolled; Cronkite Helps Liberal Group; New Book Details How Media Distort Polls; Burleigh Now Worried for "Unborn"

1) An EPA official who resigned by denouncing Bush environmental policy was rewarded with a boomlet of laudatory media coverage with stories in major newspapers and on ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as an interview on This Week. MSNBC’s News with Brian Williams featured the NBC Nightly News story, but three nights earlier, when Nightly News aired a piece about how "Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years," MSNBC’s prime time newscast not re-air that story.

2) Walter Cronkite has lent his name to a coalition organized by liberal environmental groups to fight oil drilling in the Alaska tundra and to push for legislation to force automakers to increase fuel efficiency.

3) At a congressional hearing on Thursday, Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Robert Coonrod was questioned about NPR reporting practices, including why the radio network suggested the Traditional Values Coalition was being investigated for Anthrax attacks against Democratic Senators.

4) In a new book, Mobocracy: How The Media's Obsession With Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy, Matt Robinson details how the media use polls to push liberal political agendas.

5) Nina Burleigh referred to slain journalist Daniel Pearl’s "unborn child," but four years ago she argued that to thank Bill Clinton for fighting pro-lifers, "women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs."

6) Letterman’s "Top Ten Reasons I'm Proud to Be in the United States Navy." Plus, tonight on CBS’s Family Law...


1

Denouncing Bush administration environmental policy as he resigned in a way orchestrated to generate publicity by, for instance, releasing a letter to EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman, EPA official Eric Schaeffer earned a boomlet of approving media coverage on Thursday and Friday last week with stories on ABC, CBS and NBC as well as in the New York Times and Washington Post. Both NBC and ABC implied that since Schaefer began working at the EPA during the first Bush administration he couldn’t have been motivated by any ideology.

     The event showcased an especially obvious case of bias by story selection on NBC’s MSNBC cable network. On Thursday night MSNBC’s The News with Brian Williams, but anchored by Bob Kur, re-ran the same Bob Hager story about the EPA official lashing out at Bush policy as aired on the NBC Nightly News. Three nights earlier, however, when the Monday, February 25 NBC Nightly News featured a story from Lisa Myers about how "Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years" as Ken "Lay played golf with the President, and Enron received $1.2 billion in government-backed loans for projects around the world," MSNBC’s prime time newscast didn’t air the story or any mention of it. For more on the February 25 story: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020226.asp#1

     NBC’s Bob Hager highlighted on the February 28 NBC Nightly News how "Schaeffer accuses the Bush administration of letting electric power plants that burn coal ignore the law, ignore rules that say if they expand, they have to clean up. He says as a result the plants are pouring out nearly five million extra tons a year of choking sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, causing acid rain, bad for soil and plants, and worse, unhealthy and unsightly smog leading to asthma and bronchitis and thousands of deaths every year."

     Dismissing any political motivation, Hager stressed how "Eric Schaeffer insists his charges are accurate and non-political, points out he began work under a Republican administration 12 years ago, actually the first Bush administration." Since Schaeffer was not a political appointee, by that reasoning Linda Tripp was pro-Clinton because she worked for the Clinton administration.

     That same night, ABC’s Peter Jennings relayed Schaeffer’s claims without any contrary perspective, announcing on World News Tonight: "In Washington today an important officer at the Environmental Protection Agency resigned in protest. Eric Schaeffer was the EPA's chief regulatory official for 12 years. And he says, 'the Bush administration is destroying the agency's power to enforce the rules that keep corporations from polluting the environment.’"

     CBS caught up with the story on Friday night and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed Schaeffer on Sunday’s This Week where Stephanopoulos referred to Schaeffer’s "principled resignation."

     Tom Brokaw introduced the February 28 NBC Nightly News story caught by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
     "There’s also word tonight that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, has quit in strong protest of the Bush administration’s policies on air pollution. This is a story that was first reported today by msnbc.com, and NBC’s Robert Hager has more tonight."

     Hager began: "The Environmental Protection Agency’s chief cop, the enforcement officer charged with going after companies that pollute, quits his job after 12 years today, charging that instead of cracking down on polluters, the White House is working to weaken rules against dirty air. This from Eric Schaeffer, until now EPA’s director of regulatory enforcement."
     Eric Schaeffer: "I think the current administration is saying if you don’t want to comply with a law the way it’s written, you can just get it changed."
     Hager elaborated: "Specifically, Schaeffer accuses the Bush administration of letting electric power plants that burn coal ignore the law, ignore rules that say if they expand, they have to clean up. He says as a result the plants are pouring out nearly five million extra tons a year of choking sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, causing acid rain, bad for soil and plants, and worse, unhealthy and unsightly smog leading to asthma and bronchitis and thousands of deaths every year. The EPA has sued the power plants but so far has succeeded in forcing only two small companies to agree to clean up. Schaeffer says other companies are resisting settlements because they believe the White House is no longer serious about pursuing the cases."
     Schaeffer: "The most frustrating thing for me at EPA was to have two big companies that agreed to cut these pollutants by 750,000 tons basically get up and walk away from the table."
     Hager concluded: "Tonight the White House insists it is pursuing court cases vigorously and says legislation it’s proposed would actually make the skies the cleanest they’ve ever been. But Eric Schaeffer insists his charges are accurate and non-political, points out he began work under a Republican administration 12 years ago, actually the first Bush administration."

     Friday night, the CBS Evening News looked at Bush energy policy as Dan Rather proclaimed: "True or untrue, fair or unfair, the debate includes criticism that President Bush is trying to conceal the actual extent of the energy industry's influence on his policies. CBS' Bill Plante reports on new revelations about big oil and other political campaign money, influence and access."

     Plante soon arrived at Schaeffer’s claims: "Eric Schaeffer, who resigned this week from the Environmental Protection Agency, charges this administration doesn't want to enforce environmental laws."
     Eric Schaeffer, former Environmental Protection Agency Director of Civil Enforcement: "I think the administration is in lockstep with the energy industry on almost every issue."
     Plante: "The charges of access for money take on new urgency as the White House turns up the pressure for its energy bill, which calls for a revival of nuclear power and exploring for new gas and oil fields in places like the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, known as ANWR, a bitterly disputed idea...."

     Sunday on This Week ABC had George Stephanopoulos conduct the interview with Schaeffer. Stephanopoulos began: "You worked for a Republican member of Congress, you joined the EPA under President George Bush, do why leave with this swipe at his son’s White House?"

     Indeed, as the March 1 New York Times story reported, "he worked for several years on Capitol Hill for Representative Claudine Schneider, Republican of Rhode Island." But that hardly proves he’s not a liberal. In her last year in office, 1990, Schneider earned a mere 25 percent vote rating from the American Conservative Union.

     Stephanopoulos did ask Schaeffer to respond to Bush administration claims that it has won a big lawsuit over emissions in New Jersey and its "Clear Skies" initiative is tougher than existing law, but he wrapped up by characterizing Schaeffer’s resignation as "principled." Stephanopoulos inquired: "Principled resignations are pretty rare in American politics. Do you think you’re going to make any difference?"

     Thanks to the media, he already has.

2

Walter Cronkite has lent his name to a coalition organized by liberal environmental groups to fight oil drilling in the Alaska tundra and to push for legislation to force automakers to increase fuel efficiency.

     The ad-hoc group of liberal Democrats and Republicans, joined by Cronkite and actor Harrison Ford, called Americans for Energy Security, ran a full-page ad in the February 28 Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill. That day the Washington Post’s Judy Sarasohn described it in her "Special Interests" column on interest groups. An excerpt:

What does actor Harrison Ford have in common with former Reagan national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane or former CIA director R. James Woolsey? Or with former GOP governors Tom Kean (N.J.), William Milliken (Mich.) and Russell W. Peterson (Del.)?

Indeed, why is news icon Walter Cronkite hanging out with this crowd?

They and others, including a bunch of former Republican senators, are members of the national organizing committee of Americans for Energy Security, a new group that is pushing for raising fuel-economy (CAFÉ) standards and opposing the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling for oil.

With the Senate possibly taking up energy legislation today, the group is running an ad in Roll Call with Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves in front of a car and the headline: "We Want You...to Boost America's Mileage."...

Americans for Energy Security apparently came together somewhat spontaneously.

"It was a collective effort," said Larry Rockefeller, a lawyer, member of the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council and member of the organizing committee....

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire column:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15263-2002Feb28.html

     Amongst the other signers: former liberal Republican Senators Mark Hatfield (Oregon), Charles Mathias (Maryland) and Robert Stafford (Vermont) and Clinton’s Energy Secretary, Bill Richardson.

3

An update. At a congressional hearing on Thursday, Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Robert Coonrod was questioned about NPR reporting practices, including why the radio network suggested the Traditional Values Coalition was being investigated for Anthrax attacks against Democratic Senators, CNSNews.com reported.

     As the January 31 CyberAlert noted, NPR conceded that it was "inappropriate" for reporter David Kestenbaum to have suggested that the Traditional Values Coalition was a suspect in the anthrax letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy. For more:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020131.asp#4

     Jeff Johnson, Congressional Bureau Chief of the MRC’s CNSNews.com, filed a report on February 28. An excerpt:

Members of Congress Thursday demanded that the president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting explain questionable reporting practices by National Public Radio.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) President and CEO Robert Coonrod appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to argue in favor of the corporation's fiscal year 2003 funding request.

After his testimony, however, members questioned Coonrod about a Jan. 22, 2002, report by National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent David Kestenbaum concerning the FBI investigation into the mailing of letters containing anthrax powder to members of Congress.

"Two of the anthrax letters were sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, both Democrats," Kestenbaum reported, according to an NPR transcript. "One group who had a gripe with Daschle and Leahy is the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), which, before the attacks, had issued a press release criticizing the senators for trying to remove the phrase 'so help me God' from the oath."

Kestenbaum added, "The Traditional Values Coalition, however, told me the FBI had not contacted them and then issued a press release saying NPR was in the pocket of the Democrats and trying to frame them. But investigators are thinking along these lines. FBI agents won't discuss the case, but the people they have spoken with will."

Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) said the incident was an example of the type of "irresponsible journalism," that would "erode the credibility of public broadcasting." He further described the accusation as "libel."

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif) was especially critical of NPR for suggesting a possible link between the TVC's criticism of Daschle and Leahy and the mailing of anthrax....

Coonrod's response was that CPB does not monitor the editorial content of NPR news broadcasts. He added that many of the reports carried by NPR are produced by grant-funded entities not under the direct control of NPR or CPB.

Following a furor over the NPR report, the organization did admit it was "inappropriate" to single out TVC in the story.

"Reporter David Kestenbaum contacted that group to ask if it had been contacted by the FBI. The TVC said it had not, since there is no evidence that it was or should be investigated. The TVC said it was inappropriate for it to be named on the air," the correction stated. "The NPR editors agree."

That statement was read during the Jan. 29, 2002, airing of NPR's "Morning Edition."

Cunningham said the NPR announcement was not an apology. He added that both the language and nature of the statement were "off-target."...

NPR receives approximately $3 million annually from Congress, according to Cunningham's office, approximately one percent of the organization's budget. A spokeswoman for Cunningham said the congressman believes NPR should be held accountable for its actions if it is going to accept money from U.S. taxpayers....

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire CNSNews.com story:
http://www.cnsnews.com/Politics/archive/200202/POL20020228b.html

4

Bernard Goldberg isn’t the only one out with a book documenting the media’s bias. Matt Robinson, a former editorial writer for Investor’s Business Daily who is now the Managing Editor of Human Events, has recently penned Mobocracy: How The Media's Obsession With Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy.

     The February 25 Human Events, "the national conservative weekly," carried a review of the book by Robert D. Novak. Though the review is not posted on the Human Events Web page (http://www.humaneventsonline.com), I was able to obtain the text of Novak’s review. An excerpt:

Early in 2001, a Newsweek national poll asked: "Do you think Congress should approve Bush's choice of John Ashcroft for attorney general, or reject Ashcroft as too far to the right on issues like abortion, drugs and gun control to be an effective attorney general?" Only 37% of the sample said yes, while 41% were against confirmation.

"With that kind of wording," writes Matthew Robinson, "it's a wonder only 41% opposed Ashcroft." Those distorted poll results were enough for other media outlets, picking up the Newsweek survey, to pronounce President Bush's nominee for attorney general an unpopular choice and give Ashcroft's Senate opponents political cover to vote against his confirmation.

That technique is part of the process described by Robinson in Mobocracy. Biased wording of questions combines with a distorted polling sample to undermine the entire democratic process. "At the same time that polling has metastasized," he writes, "voter disconnect has surged" -- as evidenced by low voter turnout and distrust of government. "The likely effect of sample after sample will be to drain the health and vitality of the nation as Americans tune out."

Mobocracy is a serious, meticulously researched account of the causal relationship between polls and the decline of what used to be known as republican virtue. Robinson cites The Federalist Papers, especially James Madison, to demonstrate what the Founding Fathers conceived as the new nation's politics, compared to how the "proliferation of polls" has produced an "age of spin."...

The big liberal news media poll incessantly, not just during elections. "In the wake of an airline crash, school shooting or similar tragedy," Robinson writes, "polling is now one of the hallmarks of the media feeding frenzy. In this context, polls make public opinion as much as they observe it." The supposedly "detached and objective" pollster "becomes part of the political struggle."

The wording of the poll controls the outcome. A CBS News-New York Times poll used negative wording in asking whether parents should "get tax-funded vouchers they can use to help pay for tuition for their children to attend private or religious schools instead of public schools." Nevertheless, 49% of voters said yes -- "amazingly," comments Robinson. When the poll changed the wording to whether parents should "get tax-funded vouchers even if that means public schools would receive less money," support falls to 33%.

If changing what is asked can transform the outcome, changing who is asked even more definitively distorts the result. Thus, using the answers to poll takers by all "registered" voters rather than employing the more expensive technique of limiting results to "likely" voters tilts the results to the left. With legitimate voters increasingly reluctant to respond to poll questions, the people sampled are "grossly ignorant and even apathetic." People who don't bother to vote are enfranchised in the pollster's "mob."

Robinson sees the polls yielding "half-baked opinions based on little more than momentary impressions." The propensity for manipulation was never greater than in the flawed debate over the impeachment of President Bill Clinton when he survived "almost solely due to his support in public opinion polls."

What is to be done? Robinson offers a laundry list of changes: End overnight polls, which are notoriously unreliable. Question only "likely" voters in polls. Use samples with a minimum of 1,000 voters. Release all information about surveys, including the exact wording of questions. Draft questions that precisely define terms (such as "voucher" in a school choice survey).

Don't count on any of the Robinson reforms being implemented. Even if they were, a poll would still be a poll. "Polls are not and can never be a surrogate for debate," Robinson writes.

Indeed, Matthew Robinson sees the republican ideal as envisioned by James Madison undermined by the sophisticated appeal to the "mob" through the symbiotic relationship between politicians, the media and pollsters: "The noblest expression of liberty and self-rule isn't found in the questions written by a pollster working in New York for a newspaper story about a Washington controversy and then tested on a busy and uninformed citizen. Liberty values action and rewards individual decisions in every life where the margin of error is contained by personal responsibility and government is limited to allow the full expression of every belief and private opinion."

     END of Excerpt

     For a bio of Robinson:
http://www.humaneventsonline.com/features/About%20the%20Editors.html

     Robinson’s book is published by Prima, which summarizes it on their Web site:
http://www.primapublishing.com/books/book/5711/

     You can buy Robinson’s book online via Amazon.com, which pairs it with Goldberg’s book at a discounted price: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0761535829/
qid=1014774915/sr=1-10/ref=sr_1_10/102-0359391-0578508

5

A sudden appreciation for the unborn from a woman who just a few years ago urged all women to thank Bill Clinton for keeping abortion legal by doing on their knees for Bill Clinton what Monica Lewinsky became famous for doing? [Be advised, this item contains slang terminology for an oral sex act.]

     Former MRCer Clay Waters alerted me to how, in a February 25 column posted on the left-wing TomPaine.com Web site, in which former Time magazine reporter Nina Burleigh paid tribute to slain journalist Daniel Pearl, she wondered: "None of the column inches can tell us whether Pearl believed that glowing eulogies and presidential mention, at the age of 38, were worth the price of never seeing his unborn child, or for that matter, not living the rest of his life."

     His "unborn child"? Back in 1998 Burleigh displayed no such reverence for unborn life as she argued that "American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude" to President Clinton "for keeping the theocracy off our backs" -- the theocracy which wants to make aborting a fetus illegal.

     In the July 20, 1998 New York Observer, Burleigh recounted her rise to fame after she wrote in Mirabella that she’d like to be "ravished" by Bill Clinton and then told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz how she’d be willing to perform oral sex on Bill Clinton to thank him for keeping abortion legal:
     "When he [The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz] called back, I decided my only defense would be to give him a quote that would knock his socks off. I also wanted to test the Post’s new ‘sizzle’ -- the paper’s post-We Broke the Lewinsky Story advertising hook. So when Howard asked whether I could still objectively cover the President, having found him so attractive, I replied, ‘I would be happy to give him a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.’ I recognized Howard’s visceral response to my words by his sudden intake of breath and the spurt of pounding fingers of keyboard. I’d never been on that side of a good quote before. It was better than sex!"

     To read the entirety of her TomPaine.com column, "Dying For A Scoop: Reflections On The Murder Of Daniel Pearl," go to: http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/5179

6

From the February 28 Late Show with David Letterman (http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/), as read by ten submariners from the U.S.S. Seawolf at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut, the "Top Ten Reasons I'm Proud to Be in the United States Navy."

10. The Navy is my favorite branch of the armed forces and my favorite color
(Machinist's Mate Chief Andy Kuvent)

9. The way people stare when you pull up to the marina in a fast-attack submarine
(Machinist's Mate First Class Dave Padgett)

8. It's fun to be seasick
(Sonar Technician Third Class Mike Doehring)

7. Best chance I'll ever have to meet Popeye
(Sonar Technician First Class John Hawkins)

6. You didn't hear it from me but we've got flying submarines
(Mess Management Specialist Second Class Jeffery Lay)

5. Remember that game Battleship? We get to play it with real ships
(Machinist's Mate Second Class Jesse Yoast)

4. Best chance I'll ever have to meet Olive Oyl
(Machinist's Mate Second Class Christopher Reed)

3. You can fish off the stern of the ship -- try doing that in an F-16
(Lieutenant Jason Biegelson)

2. I look sweet in uniform
(Machinist's Mate Firemen Apprentice Chris Yacur)

1. I'd like to see some skinny late night talk show host drive a submarine
(Chief of the Boat Dean Irwin)

     > Tonight on CBS’s Family Law at 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST, as recounted in the Washington Post’s TV Week: "After a black teacher with 12 years of service is fired for failing a standardized test, Joe sues the State Board of Education arguing its exam is racially biased." -- Brent Baker


 

 


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