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The 1,239th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday March 7, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 38) |
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CBS Firsts: Too Far Left & Klan; Pentagon Reporters Assume Worst; Ted Koppel’s Liberal Prism; PBS Discovered Media Bias...on FNC

1) Dan Rather cautioned that Bill Simon’s victory in California "could hurt President Bush’s hopes of making campaign 2002 inroads in the Golden State" since incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis "believes Simon is too far right to win in November." But Rather unexpectedly balanced that claim by adding: "Simon thinks Davis is too far left." And the Los Angeles Times warned: "Simon's Conservative Image Could Play Into Davis' Hands."

2) CBS’s Bob Schieffer picked up on a "swipe" from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and informed viewers that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd once belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

3) Assuming the worst and demanding that their personal curiosity get higher priority than managing the war, at Wednesday’s Pentagon press briefing reporters obsessed about immediately determining the cause of death for one U.S. serviceman. The AP’s Thelma LaBrecht suggested the Pentagon may be covering up the incident for fear of reminding the public of a military fiasco a decade ago in Somalia.

4) Ted Koppel is receiving accolades from the media for his high-brow journalism, but on quite a few occasions he has delivered reporting which favored the liberal spin on current events -- from promoting Gorbachev’s "dream" of "peace" and environmentalism to condemning Dan Quayle for "hypocrisy" on the draft while praising as "eloquent" Bill Clinton’s letter on why he avoided the draft to bemoaning how Bill Clinton "is receiving little or no credit for his accomplishments."

5) Terence Smith fretted on PBS’s NewsHour over FNC’s conservative bias. Part of his proof, that Andrew Tyndall found that of six analysts featured by FNC "three were from explicitly right-wing publications and three were from mainstream publications. None was from an explicitly left-wing publication." Amongst those from the mainstream: Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift.


1

Buying into the premise that being conservative is a hindrance, Dan Rather asserted that the victory of Bill Simon in the Republican gubernatorial primary "could hurt President Bush’s hopes of making campaign 2002 inroads in the Golden State." Rather defined Simon by what liberal policies he was against, noting that losing GOP candidate Richard Riordan "had campaigned for some gun control and for some abortion rights. Simon flatly opposed them."

     Rather also maintained on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News that incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis "believes Simon is too far right to win in November," but Rather unexpectedly balanced that by adding: "Simon thinks Davis is too far left."

     "Too far to the left." Those are unheard of words out of Rather’s mouth.

     Rather read this short item on the March 6 CBS Evening News:
     "There was a political upset of sorts in the Republican gubernatorial primary in California, one that could hurt President Bush’s hopes of making campaign 2002 inroads in the Golden State. The President’s candidate, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, lost to political newcomer Bill Simon. Riordan had campaigned for some gun control and for some abortion rights. Simon flatly opposed them. Simon now faces incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis. Davis spent millions on ads to help defeat Riordan. Davis believes Simon is too far right to win in November, Simon thinks Davis is too far left."

     Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times played into the agenda of Davis by warning in a front page headline: "Simon's Conservative Image Could Play Into Davis' Hands." In the March 6 story reporters Michael Finnegan and Nicholas Riccardi wondered if Simon will be perceived as "a rich, right-wing extremist who opposes abortion rights and gun control?" An excerpt from the top of the story:

The struggle to define Bill Simon Jr. started just hours after the polls closed Tuesday night. Is he a former prosecutor and successful businessman who can pull the state from its fiscal morass and fix its broken school system? Or a rich, right-wing extremist who opposes abortion rights and gun control?

The battle over which portrait of Simon voters embrace will be crucial in determining whether Democrat Gray Davis becomes the first California governor since 1966 to lose a bid for reelection.

If Davis persuades swing voters that Simon is an extreme conservative, the governor stands a better chance of overcoming his own anemic poll ratings. In his victory speech Tuesday, Davis began that effort. He called Simon "out of touch" and cited their views on abortion as a key difference between them. If Simon convinces voters that he's a capable, mainstream fiscal manager with a soft spot for education, he may be able to take votes away from Davis, who faces a $17-billion budget shortfall and a skeptical public.

Simon's main task is to stop Davis from focusing the race on hot-button social issues, where Davis' views are more in line with those of the state electorate....

     END of Excerpt

     And more in line with most journalists.

     For the article in full: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/
la-000016757mar06.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dfrontpage

     I saw the LA Times article cited in a piece on the primary by George Neumayr posted on a new Web site created by those behind the American Spectator site before that magazine was sold last year. Wlady Pleszczynski, the former Managing Editor of the American Spectator, is the Editor of the American Prowler site: www.americanprowler.com. For Neumayr’s piece:
http://www.americanprowler.com/article.asp?art_id=2002_3_6_13_29_18

2

A night of firsts on the CBS Evening News. After Dan Rather acknowledged a concern that Gray Davis is "too far to the left," Bob Schieffer picked up on a "swipe" from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and informed viewers that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd once belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

     In a March 6 story on how Bush appeared in the Oval Office with Charles Pickering to push Pickering’s nomination for a federal appeals court judgeship, a nomination opposed by the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Schieffer played a clip of Bush insisting the opposition is political. Schieffer agreed: "In fact, some insiders say Democrats are opposing Pickering to send the President a message, that if he ever tries to nominate someone they consider too conservative to the Supreme Court, they want him to know they have the strength and will to block it."

     Following soundbites of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle denouncing Pickering’s civil rights record and from the brother of the slain Medgar Evers, who insisted what Pickering thought in 1959 about inter-racial marriage is no longer relevant, Schieffer quoted Fleischer: "If actions taken 40 years ago were the criteria, there would be some Senators voting on this whose very history would come into play."

     Schieffer explained: "That was an obvious swipe at 84-year-old Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan as a young man. But for all the tough talk, and whatever the motives, when the Judiciary Committee meets tomorrow it’s expected to bury the nomination of Charles Pickering."

     That "swipe" could also have been an accurate reference to how Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings used his power as Governor of South Carolina in the early 1960s to block integration of that state’s public university system.

3

Demonstrating an insistence on assuming the worst and demanding that their personal curiosity get higher priority than managing the war, at Wednesday’s Pentagon press briefing reporters obsessed about immediately determining the cause of death for one U.S. serviceman who apparently fell out of a helicopter and was then killed by Al Qaeda operatives.

     The AP’s Thelma LaBrecht suggested the Pentagon may be covering up the incident for fear of reminding the public of the military fiasco a decade ago. CNN’s Barbara Starr found it outrageous that General Tommy Franks had not yet personally reviewed the videotape and informed the family of what happened, as if the dozens of personnel in the command structure between Franks and the Navy SEAL could not talk to the family: "The family has now, since last night, heard this report. They must be wondering what has happened. They must want some fairly immediate word from the military."

     The MRC’s Rich Noyes caught these exchanges during the March 6 briefing.

     -- Thelma LaBrecht of the AP Broadcast service: "You had made a point earlier, I wondered if you could elaborate on it. It was on the issue of the video of the one sailor, one brave American, falling to his death. And you had said that this demonstrates the U.S. is not going to pull out. It does, however, send a reminder of that Black Hawk Down, when Americans were, came out of the helicopter and were dragged through the streets. I wonder if there was any concern about mentioning the video of the sailor falling and being dragged away by al Qaeda because of concerns that the American people might start being more aghast at the deaths of Americans?"
     Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "There is, other than very brave people being involved, this has nothing to do with Mogadishu. And the individual who was killed, his body has been retrieved, and so too have the wounded. And I don’t see any comparison."

     -- After Franks and Rumsfeld said they had not watched the tape of the incident as recorded via an un-manned aircraft, CNN’s Barbara Starr demanded: "Do you have, General Franks, I mean, with great respect, sir, the family has now, since last night, heard this report. They must be wondering what has happened. They must want some fairly immediate word from the military, who can tell them with some precision, and I would think the military would-"
     Rumsfeld: "Well, look, let’s be realistic. The general has got an enormous area of responsibility. He’s got -- how many countries?"
     Franks: "Twenty-five."
     Rumsfeld: "Twenty-five countries. He has a general officer engaged in this operation, who is doing a good job."
     Franks: Right."
     Rumsfeld: "He has been engaged with me in thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next month and the next months. And the people on the ground are addressing this. And I think that that is exactly the way these things ought to be handled."

4

In the wake of the revelation that ABC is pursuing David Letterman to replace Nightline, Ted Koppel is receiving widespread accolades from the media for his high-brow journalism and the value of his show. But a review of quotes in the MRC’s archive reveals that while Koppel may not consistently advance a liberal agenda, he has on quite a few occasions delivered reporting which favored the liberal spin on current events -- from promoting Mikhail Gorbachev’s "dream" of "peace" and environmentalism to condemning Dan Quayle for "hypocrisy" on the draft while praising as "eloquent" Bill Clinton’s letter on why he avoided the draft to bemoaning how Bill Clinton "is receiving little or no credit for his accomplishments."

     Plus, denying there’s any liberal bias.

     At the suggestion of former MRCer Tim Graham, my MRC colleague Rich Noyes culled through the MRC archive for the most glaring examples of Koppel’s slant, starting with how back in 1991 he used Nightline to push the discredited anti-Reagan "October Surprise" theory. But when, a year-and-a-half later, a bi-partisan House task force fully exonerated the Reagan-Bush campaign of the charge that it interceded with Iran to ensure the hostages would not be released until after election day, Koppel’s Nightline refused to report the vindication.

     -- As reported in the February 1993 MediaWatch, the MRC’s then-monthly newsletter:

....On June 20, 1991, Nightline devoted a hour-long special to promoting the "October Surprise" allegations of two dubious Iranian arms dealers, Cyrus and Jamshid Hashemi. Their reporting played a major part in spurring a congressional investigation that kept the story alive through 1992.

On January 13, 1993, the bipartisan House "October Surprise" task force fully exonerated the Reagan-Bush campaign. Would Nightline devote an evening to the task force report? ABC spokesman Laura Wessner told MediaWatch the answer was no: "What would we say? We're not World News Tonight. That is not a broadcast for Nightline. That is a headline. That is not a half hour show."...

     END of Excerpt

     A November 1991 MediaWatch article picked up on reporting by Stephen Emerson and Jesse Furman in The New Republic and by a team led by John Barry in Newsweek which proved the sources used by Nightline lacked credibility. Nightline’s hour-long special also failed to include a conservative journalist who had debunked the theory. For the MediaWatch article: http://www.mediaresearch.org/mediawatch/1991/mw19911101p1.asp

     -- Rationalizing Clinton versus Condemning Quayle. In 1992 Koppel admired Bill Clinton’s letter about avoiding the draft, praising its as an "account of a conflicted and thoughtful young man...a remarkable letter...eloquent and revealing," but four years earlier he had condemned Dan Quayle for "hypocrisy" for joining the National Guard in order to avoid the draft. From the March 1992 MediaWatch:

On February 12, Ted Koppel interviewed Clinton over the letter he wrote in 1969 about avoiding the draft. Koppel announced at the outset: "It is, as Governor Clinton himself described it today, the account of a conflicted and thoughtful young man. It is quite a remarkable letter, actually, eloquent and revealing."

Koppel never charged Clinton with hypocrisy or dishonesty. In fact, Koppel appeared to absolve Clinton, suggesting that his actions at the time are no longer relevant: "And indeed, if we were electing that 23-year-old man, what he said and thought and felt at that time would be germane. Now, however, it is what the 45- or 46-year-old Bill Clinton thinks." Koppel didn't challenge Clinton when he asserted "all I've been asked about by the press are a woman I didn't sleep with and a draft I didn't dodge."

Compare this to Koppel's treatment of Dan Quayle on August 18, 1988, after questions first surfaced of Quayle's National Guard service. Koppel loaded this Nightline with long, accusatory questions, such as:

"Jeff Greenfield used the term 'elitism.' Let me use another term. How about hypocrisy? Here's a man who has really, since the age of 17, when he was an unabashed Barry Goldwater supporter, very early, precocious young man, politically active, he has been a hawk. He was very much in favor of the war in Vietnam and yet, as Jeff has just put it, leaves this image now of having said, 'here, I'll hold your coat, you go and fight in Vietnam, I'm going to join in the National Guard,' which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, but is also something that you do because you know you probably won't have to go to Vietnam and fight."

     END of MediaWatch reprint

     > Now, a collection of some Koppel quotes as published over the years in the MRC’s Notable Quotables newsletter:

     -- "Stocks nosedived, in part because investors are worried that George Bush’s ‘no new taxes’ pledge may prevent him from reducing the deficit." -- Substitute anchor Ted Koppel on ABC’s World News Tonight, November 11, 1988.

     -- Gorbymania. "Imagine a world where everyone is guaranteed freedom of choice, where all nations work together with space technology to protect the environment, where poor countries are forgiven their debts, and where nations trust one another enough to unilaterally reduce their armed forces. Who would dare to dream such a dream?...In his first speech before the United Nations, Soviet leader Gorbachev dropped a diplomatic bombshell by making a global appeal to peace." -- Koppel opening the December 7, 1988 Nightline.

     -- "A testament to courage: the courage of some unabashed trade unionists and civil rights workers, Leftists and yes, American Communists, who fought for principles that we now take for granted." -- Koppel’s 1989 endorsement of Carl Bernstein’s book Loyalties.

     -- Earthquake: It’s Proposition 13's Fault. "We all remember a few years ago Proposition 13 which rolled back taxes and at the same time the point was made you roll back the taxes. That’s fine, but that means there are going to be fewer funds available for necessary projects. Any instances where the money that was not spent because of the rollback of Proposition 13, where that money would have made a difference?’" -- Koppel on Nightline, October 18, 1989.

     -- Koppel’s Peacekeeper: The Soviet Union. "We may well over the next 10 or 15 years come to view the Soviet Union as being the power, the only power, that has the capacity of keeping China out of Europe, the only power that has the capacity of keeping Moslem fundamentalism out of Europe, the only power, in fact, we may find ourselves looking back wistfully five or ten years from now at Eastern Europe and saying ‘Boy, I remember when Eastern Europe used to be nice and quiet.’" -- Koppel on McLaughlin: One on One, June 3, 1990. The Soviet Union ceased to exist 18 months later.

     -- Intimidated by Hillary? "Let us not for a moment be confused into believing that this is only a conservative Republican thing, this business of some people feeling threatened by smart, assertive, professional women....Women who speak their minds in public are still swimming upstream in this country." -- Koppel opening Nightline, August 18, 1992.

     -- Poor Bill Doesn’t Get Enough Credit. "He is receiving little or no credit for his accomplishments. He has, after all, cut the deficit, slashed about a quarter of a million jobs out of the federal bureaucracy, presided over a strong economy with low inflation, and deserves, one would think, some points at least for boldness of vision on welfare and health care reform. How does all that, and NAFTA, and the first assault weapons ban, weigh against the President’s alleged indiscretions and shortcomings?" -- Koppel on the President’s low poll ratings, August 16, 1994 Nightline.

     -- Ted Koppel: Rationalizing Criminal Behavior. "Crime doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If we were obliged only to deal with sociopaths, with men and women who commit crimes for the simple satisfaction it gives them, the solutions would be relatively easy. But we are disproportionately hard on the poor and ill-educated in this country. It is absolutely true that even within that disadvantaged segment of our society there are more honest men and women by far than criminals. But to be poor and uneducated in America already constitutes two strikes, and to automatically sentence someone to prison for life on a third strike, without regard to circumstance or context, is unjust, imprudent, and will not solve our problems." -- Nightline host Ted Koppel concluding a series in a North Carolina prison, November 18, 1994.

     -- Insult Those Who Don’t Buy Global Warming Mantra.
     Karen Kerrigan, Small Business Survival Committee: "To say that the science is conclusive, maybe from a bunch of those elitist scientists over in Kyoto, but certainly there are plenty of scientists here in the United States -- those who actually have expertise in this area who say that the conclusivity is actually bunk."
     Koppel: "I was just going to make the observation that there are still some people who believe in the Flat Earth Society, too, but that doesn’t mean they’re right." -- Exchange on the December 9, 1997 Nightline.

     -- McCain No Moderate. "ABC News has taken a brand new poll and we have the underlying evidence – one answer appears to be that a huge percentage of the voting public knows little or nothing about John McCain’s voting record. Now, when they find out, it may or may not make a difference. But when it comes to most of the issues, there is absolutely nothing liberal or moderate about John McCain." -- Koppel on Nightline, February 25, 2000.

     -- Not A Hint of Gore Scandal? "At the same time, he will have to find a way to disassociate himself from the President’s extremely low personal approval ratings. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Al Gore has been perhaps the most active Vice President in American history, and there’s not a hint of scandal associated with Gore’s personal behavior. So much for logic." -- ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel, August 16, 2000.

     -- Need Facts, Not Koppel’s Opinion. "This administration was, and I think, remains ready to spend nearly $10 billion next year alone on the initial development of a missile defense system. This, in spite of the fact that many in the Pentagon consider a nuclear missile attack by a rogue nation against the United States to be among the least likely threats facing our country. Bio-terrorism, on the other hand, is near the top of that list. The purpose of town meetings like this one tonight is not to frighten, but to inform. Maybe we should talk a little about those billions of dollars and how they should be spent – against the most or the least likely threat? To make that sort of decision intelligently, we don’t need reassuring platitudes, especially at times like these. We need facts." -- ABC’s Ted Koppel wrapping up a 90-minute Nightline "town meeting" on October 5, 2001.

     -- In 1996, reacting to Bernard Goldberg’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, Koppel denied there’s any liberal bias. "Forgive me, but I thought it was a little facile. I don’t agree with Bernie [Goldberg] on that. I don’t think that people are by-and-large conservative or liberal. I mean he was making the point that they tend to be more liberal. I think that we are anti-establishment. I think that journalists, you know, can make their bread and butter going after the establishment, whoever the establishment happens to be. And whether that establishment is conservative or whether that establishment is liberal makes very little difference to most of my colleagues." -- Koppel on Goldberg’s charge of liberal bias by the networks, February 29, 1996 Charlie Rose on PBS.

5

Space today does not permit an adequate evaluation of the Tuesday night assessment on PBS’s NewsHour of the three cable news channels. But the premise behind one piece of evidence for how FNC tilts to the right requires immediate exposure: That when FNC features analysis from Eleanor Clift that does not count as delivering a left-of-center perspective.

     Like many in the media, the creation of FNC led the NewsHour’s Terence Smith to suddenly discover TV news bias, conservative bias -- not anything liberal about ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC or PBS. He pressed FNC’s Brit Hume about whether FNC has "a distinctly conservative slant on the news?"

     Smith explained why PBS contracted with an outside expert to assess the cable news channels: "Is Fox's appeal explained by its programming or its politics? To find out, the NewsHour commissioned Andrew Tyndall, the publisher of The Tyndall Report, a newsletter that monitors television news, to do a content analysis of the evening programming on the three cable news networks. He found sharp differences."
     Tyndall succinctly summed up his findings: "CNN is the reporters' network; Fox News Channel is the opinion makers' network; MSNBC is the confused network."

     Later, in outlining how FNC’s selection of guest analysts demonstrates its rightward tilt, Tyndall propounded: "It's interesting that of the panel of six journalists, six print journalists that we saw appearing on that panel during the week we looked at it, three were from explicitly right-wing publications and three were from mainstream publications. None was from an explicitly left-wing publication."

     The posted version of Tyndall’s report further clarifies his finding: "Of the six in-house journalists from the print media, three were from middle-of-the-road publications (Roll Call, Newsweek, Fortune), and three were from explicitly conservative publications (Washington Times, Weekly Standard twice)." For this section of the report:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/media/cablenews/analysis_interviews.html

     Okay, so who are the six? All but one are regulars on Special Report with Brit Hume. Let’s start on the conservative side: From the Washington Times: Bill Sammon; from the Weekly Standard: Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol. And from the "middle-of-the-road publications": From Roll Call, Morton Kondracke; from Fortune, Jeff Birnbaum; and from Newsweek...Eleanor Clift!

     Tyndall reviewed January 21 to 25 and I did some digging and figured out that Clift, who is on the payroll as a "Fox News contributor," appeared January 22 on FNC’s show then on at 10pm EST, War on Terror, hosted by Laurie Dhue.

     So because she works for a "middle-of-the-road publication" she doesn’t count as a proponent of liberal analysis? With mainstream news operations packed with liberals there’s no need to go to "an explicitly left-wing publication" to locate a liberal analyst. Think Margaret Carlson, Al Hunt, Jonathan Alter etc. But if you want a conservative analyst from the print media you have to go to a conservative columnist or staff member of a conservative publication.

     For links to Tyndall’s study as well as video and a transcript of the March 5 PBS NewsHour story: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/media/cablenews/index.html

     There’s much about the PBS story and study I don’t have space for today, so I’ll try to do more in the next CyberAlert. -- Brent Baker


 

 


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