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CNN's Woodruff Exploits Sniper to Push Gun Control -- 10/24/2002 CyberAlert

CNN's Woodruff Exploits Sniper to Push Gun Control; NBC Finds Nationwide Fear of Sniper; Two Weeks After National Review, ABC Finds Terrorist Visa Foul-Up; Kevin Spacey: Dems "Help People" While Repubs Want Power

1) CNN's Judy Woodruff seemed baffled about why the sniper case hasn't helped the gun control cause: "I will ask gun control activist Sarah Brady why the sniper spree has not prompted more politicians to talk up her cause." Woodruff treated Brady as overwhelmed by "powerful and relentless" forces. Earlier, Woodruff obsessed about how Maryland's GOP gubernatorial candidate is "on the defensive" over guns, but she assigned extra credibility to Democratic candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: "What does it mean to you personally, this issue of guns and the availability?"

2) Confusing media watching with reality? Every sniper killing occurred within 100 miles of Washington, DC, yet 82 percent of Americans worry that the sniper attacks could affect where they live and nearly half fear for their own safety, Today news reader Lester Holt revealed in relaying a finding of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

3) Better late than never? Two weeks after National Review disclosed that the State Department approved visas for 15 of the 19 hijackers even though their application forms were incomplete and obviously inaccurate, ABC's Peter Jennings discovered how "there has been another revelation this week about the September 11th hijackers. We're just beginning to learn how easily some of them were able to get into the country."

4) The Hollywood community is liberal and supports Democrats over Republicans, actor Kevin Spacey told CNN's Lou Dobbs last week, because Democrats "look at the world and believe that they can truly help people and they govern through evidence," but Republicans "govern through ideology and power."


1

CNN's Judy Woodruff exploited the sniper case this week to do what she could to advance the gun control cause.

Though the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has run TV ads, since the sniper murders started, against Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich, on Wednesday's Inside Politics Sarah Brady promised Woodruff that "nobody has capitalized" on the sniper case. Woodruff didn't point out her group's ads, but maybe that's because Woodruff herself was capitalizing on the situation to push gun control.

Plugging that interview, Woodruff assumed the sniper killings would have done more to help the gun control cause: "I will ask gun control activist Sarah Brady why the sniper spree has not prompted more politicians to talk up her cause."
CNN's Judy Woodruff with MD
Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Kathleen Townsend

Woodruff showed some soundbites from gun rights advocates at an NRA convention, but she treated Brady as overwhelmed by "powerful and relentless" forces as she wondered how Brady is able to "keep going" in the face of such opposition: "Even gun control advocates say that the political climate has changed, that the gun rights lobby is so strong and so powerful and so relentless, that it's hard to make a difference. I mean, how do you keep going in this situation when even your own advocates are saying the climate is just not right for this?"

Opening the program on Tuesday, Woodruff gave special credibility to the pro-gun control Democratic candidate in Maryland: "Also ahead, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on the sniper spree and the high price she and her family have paid for gun violence."

Woodruff did ask Townsend about how present gun laws did not stop the sniper, but she empathized with Townsend: "Everyone is aware of your family background, the fact that your father was assassinated by someone using a gun. What does it mean to you personally, this issue of guns and the availability?" And: "How important is this to you, I mean, to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend the person, not the public figure?"

Wrapping up that segment, over video Charlton Heston holding up a rifle, Woodruff demanded: "Is this the right picture for NRA President Charlton Heston to be starring in as the sniper case plays out?"

During neither her interview with Brady nor Townsend did Woodruff point out how for four months earlier this year the state of Maryland, under Lieutenant Governor Townsend who advocates creating a ballistic database, failed to comply with FBI requests for background information for potential gun buyers. The Washington Post reported that. But in interviewing Ehrlich two weeks earlier, an interview in which she obsessed with how he must be "on the defensive" on the gun issue, she managed to catch another Post story and used it to lecture Ehrlich:
"The Washington Post reported that campaigning, I think in Gaithersburg over the weekend, you ran into a voter who said -- and this is what they quoted him as saying -- 'People are getting hold of guns, shooting at us.' This person looked at you and said 'why can't you take a position to keep people from getting rifles and other guns?' What do you say?"

Of course, she never challenged Townsend or Brady with such a hard-hitting question.

Now, more details about the three Inside Politics interview sessions, in date order:

> October 9. Woodruff showed an anti-Ehrlich attack ad from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The ad's announcer charged: "Bob Ehrlich is dead wrong. Uzis and AK-47s don't belong in our neighborhoods. In Congress Bob Ehrlich voted to put dangerous assault weapons back on our streets."

Woodruff pointed out that the Townsend campaign had not asked for the ads to be pulled and has not disavowed them before she showed a taped interview with Republican Ehrlich. Her questions:

-- "These ads that are running now, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the point they're making is that you, as someone who has been a longtime defender of the right to own guns, should now be on the defensive because of what's happened."

-- "So when they run this ad and they say that you are somebody who has been on the wrong side of the gun issue, how do you-"

-- "But you -- but the point -- you just said that they are running, they're behind in this campaign. But these ads are not being run not by the Townsend campaign."
Ehrlich: "Well they're her allies, of course, I mean her allies."
Woodruff: "But your not saying -- your campaign manager has said -- I'm just going to quote -- he said, 'The lieutenant governor is hiding behind the skirts of these organizations so she doesn't look like a meany.' I mean, is that-"

-- "So you don't feel you're on the defensive right now?"
Ehrlich: "Well, you have to take two observations. One is the issue of gun control as a place out in the campaign. But neither campaign should, in my view, politicize this tragedy. This is a serial killer out there trying to change our way of life. And any campaign, in my view -- I think in the view of many people -- that seeks to cross that line does it at a very large risk."
Woodruff: "But just to be clear, The Washington Post reported that campaigning, I think in Gaithersburg over the weekend, you ran into a voter who said -- and this is what they quoted him as saying -- 'People are getting hold of guns, shooting at us.' This person looked at you and said 'why can't you take a position to keep people from getting rifles and other guns?' What do you say to-"
Ehrlich: "That person wanted to abolish private ownership of all weapons, including hunting rifles and all that. That's a fairly extreme position. My view has been to keep guns out of the hands of children, anybody with a mental impairment and, of course, criminals. The fact of it is Maryland has 300 very tough gun laws. We're the third most violent state in the country. We're the first in robberies. We have gun problems out of control in Baltimore city, widely reported. So I would like the focus to be on strengthening those laws and bringing maybe a different idea in. Let's focus on why these illegal guns are on the streets, because obviously, what we have on the books is not working very well."
Woodruff: "But you did vote against a ban on assault weapons in the Congress in 1996."
Ehrlich: "That's correct, with regard to a couple of semi- automatics, as opposed to all the other semiautomatics on the street. The fact of it is the emphasis -- and it's a real philosophical divide in the country -- as you know, it played out in the presidential race, it plays out in a lot of races around the county. Should we focus on gun control and the guns, or should we focus on people who should not have the guns and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law? The programs that I advocate bring the full resources of the local, state and federal government to bear on illegal guns, straw sales, straw sales through gun shows."
Woodruff: "But are those fine points that are hard to get across at a time like this when there is high emotion in the state of Maryland?"

> Tuesday, October 22. At the top of the show Woodruff trumpeted: "Also ahead, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on the sniper spree and the high price she and her family have paid for gun violence."
Townsend: "It's very tough to grow up without a father and it's been very tough on members of my family. So I am very clear that we have got to make sure that we have common sense gun laws."

Setting up the subsequent segment Woodruff reminded viewers of how Townsend is "a member of a family devastated more than once by gun violence."

Woodruff's largely empathetic questions to Townsend delivered during an interview taped outdoors, starting after a soundbite of Townsend declaring how "I believe that we should have a ban on assault weapons, that we should have a ban on Saturday night specials, that ballistic testing can be very helpful to law enforcement, and my opponent has not voted that way and not supported it."

-- "He says the focus should be on keeping guns out of the hands of people who do terrible things like what's going on now, rather than keeping guns out of everybody's hand."

-- "Everyone is aware of your family background, the fact that your father was assassinated by someone using a gun. What does it mean to you personally, this issue of guns and the availability? What does it-"

-- "But he and others would point out Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and you still have something horrible like what's going on now."

-- "Finally, how important is this to you, I mean, to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend the person, not the public figure?"

Plugging an upcoming segment, Woodruff scolded, over video of Heston holding up a rifle: "There's much more ahead on the sniper investigation and on the political fallout from the killings. Is this the right picture for NRA President Charlton Heston to be starring in as the sniper case plays out? We'll check in on a tight House race in Maryland where some voters may be too scared to attend campaign rallies or perhaps even to go to the polls on election day."

Woodruff failed to raise with Townsend Maryland's refusal to cooperate with current laws which mandate state contribution of information to a national database. An October 16 Washington Post story by Craig Whitlock began:

Hundreds of people with criminal records in Maryland may have been allowed to purchase guns illegally this year because the state temporarily stopped conducting background checks for the FBI, state and federal officials disclosed yesterday.

Maryland's state archivists notified the FBI in March that they would no longer perform criminal background checks of people who had applied to buy firearms because budget cuts had left the agency shorthanded, documents show.

The problem was not resolved until July, when state and federal officials agreed to provide about $45,000 to the state archives to pay the cost of conducting the checks.

It was unclear yesterday how many background checks were not completed during the four-month period, though officials said the state archives normally would have received about 400 to 500 requests from the FBI during that time.

Virtually all cases referred to the archives involved applicants with some sort of criminal history that federal authorities were seeking to clarify through old state records. Authorities said they did not know how many people were able to purchase guns improperly because of the lapse....

END of Excerpt

That story is online at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32403-2002Oct15.html

> Wednesday, October 23. Woodruff plugged the upcoming segment: "Dueling voices in the gun debate are still ahead. I will ask gun control activist Sarah Brady why the sniper spree has not prompted more politicians to talk up her cause. And we'll hear the NRA's rallying cry."
Governor Scott McCallum (R-WS): "When they try to take the guns, they'll fail. When they try to take our ammunition, they'll fail."

Woodruff began the subsequent segment with some soundbites from attendees at an NRA rally in Wisconsin. After a clip of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Woodruff acknowledgd:
"For NRA members who attended that event, the sniper shootings, which now dominate national headlines, provided a chance to defend gun ownership and to argue that more guns in the hands of citizens means a safer society."
Woman: "One nut doesn't spoil the whole basket, let's face it. You've got one guy out there that his mind is gone or he wouldn't be killing innocent people. It's not the instrument. It is the person behind the instrument."
Second woman: "I have a right to protect myself and if somebody's gonna attack me, I need to protect myself in any way I can. And if it's having a gun, then it's having a gun."
Man: "There's only one thing that can stop a madman with a gun, and that's the arrival of many more guns. That's what happened in Columbine. There were two madmen running around with guns and what finally stopped them? The police arrived with a lot more guns. The answer to the gun problem is putting guns in the hands of responsible citizens, not taking it away from them."

Woodruff picked up: "Well, it's fair to say the sniper shootings have energized advocates on both sides of the gun debate. There are, of course, those who don't agree with groups like the NRA. Among the most outspoken is gun control advocate Sarah Brady, the wife of former White House Press Secretary James Brady. Of course, he was shot back in 1981. Earlier I spoke with Mrs. Brady. I started by asking her about the gun control laws already on the books in Maryland and if gun control really helps prevent violence."
Brady: "Of course gun control helps. It's not a panacea and it won't stop all guns -- shootings or gun violence, but it does help. Since the Brady Law and the assault weapon ban were passed, gun violence has gone down by 27 percent nationwide...."

-- Woodruff lamented: "But when you talk to people who follow the politics of this, even gun control advocates say that the political climate has changed, that the gun rights lobby is so strong and so powerful and so relentless, that it's hard to make a difference. I mean, how do you keep going in this situation when even your own advocates are saying the climate is just not right for this?"

-- Woodruff's only other question: "These terrible sniper killings, shootings in the Washington area, have they in a way helped candidates like Kathleen Kennedy Townsend?"
Brady insisted: "Well, it's a shame to ever think that anybody would want to capitalize -- and nobody has capitalized on this. It has brought it to the fore. Of course, everybody is thinking about guns again, and they should because nationwide, not just what's, this terrible thing that's happening in our area, but nationwide, gun violence is a big issue. And I don't think there's been any capitalization on the issue..."

Except by Brady and Woodruff.

2

Confusing media watching with reality? Every sniper killing occurred within 100 miles of Washington, DC, yet 82 percent of Americans worry that the sniper attacks could affect where they live and nearly half fear for their own safety, Today news reader Lester Holt revealed in relaying a finding of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught what he dubbed the "most useless national poll ever" as recounted by Holt on the October 23 Today:
"A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds the sniper attacks are high on people's minds. The poll found that 82 percent of those surveyed are worried to some degree that the sniper attacks might affect where they live. 18 percent say they are not worried at all. As for whether people are worried about their own safety because of the sniper attacks the poll found 46 percent are worried to some degree, 53 percent are not."

A good example of how what people see on TV overwhelms rational reasoning.

3

Better late than never? On Wednesday night ABC News caught up with National Review. Two weeks ago National Review disclosed that the State Department approved visas for 15 of the 19 hijackers despite how their application forms were incomplete, inaccurate and provided ridiculous statements.

But on Wednesday night, October 23, before crediting National Review, ABC anchor Peter Jennings referred to how "there has been another revelation this week about the September 11th hijackers. We're just beginning to learn how easily some of them were able to get into the country."

While it took ABC a while to catch up with a conservative magazine and its story which has been discussed on the cable networks (National Review Washington Editor Kate O'Beirne made it her "Outrage of the Week" on the October 12 Capital Gang on CNN and the author of the piece, Joel Mowbray, has appeared more than once on FNC and I believe MSNBC), ABC and Jennings do deserve credit for picking up on the example of a government agency's bureaucratic incompetence that has yet to be raised on ABC or CBS.

Jennings set up the story on the October 23 World News Tonight: "There has been another revelation this week about the September 11th hijackers. We're just beginning to learn how easily some of them were able to get into the country. The journal, magazine National Review obtained the visa applications for 15 of the 19 hijackers. ABC's Martha Raddatz reports from Washington."

Raddatz explained, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Almost all of the hijackers' visas were issued at the U.S. embassy or consulates in Saudi Arabia. The visa applications are incomplete and often incomprehensible. Yet every one of the hijackers who filled out the forms was allowed to come to the United States."
Nikolai Wenzel, former consular officer: "It's a problem with negligence which I would call criminal negligence because obviously having reviewed all these applications, there's a pattern here."
Raddatz: "Abdulaziz Alomari claimed to be a student but didn't name a school, claimed to be married but didn't name a spouse. Under nationality and gender, he didn't list anything. Visa approved. Three months later, Alomari followed his friend Mohamed Atta through airport security heading for the World Trade Center. Khalid al-Midhar, who helped crash the plane into the Pentagon, simply listed 'hotel' as his U.S. destination. No name, no city, no state, and no problem getting a visa. Hani Hanjour, who was also on the plane that hit the Pentagon, had only a slight delay in acquiring his visa. A consulate employee flagged Hanjour's first application, noting that Hanjour wanted to visit for three years. Two is the legal limit. When Hanjour returned a few weeks later, he simply changed the form to read, 'One year.' Visa approved."
Joel Mowbray, National Review: "They were handing these things out gift-wrapped with ribbons on top."
Raddatz concluded: "The State Department insists that employees did nothing wrong, that the questions raised about the applications amount to Monday morning quarterbacking and that extensive screening procedures have now been implemented to improve the process."

Mowbray's piece, which is the cover story in the October 28 National Review published on October 11, was first published on October 9 on National Review Online. Mowbray determined:
"According to expert analyses of the visa-application forms of 15 of the 9/11 terrorists (the other four applications could not be obtained), all the applicants among the 15 reviewed should have been denied visas under then-existing law. Six separate experts who analyzed the simple, two-page forms came to the same conclusion: All of the visa applications they reviewed should have been denied on their face.
"Even to the untrained eye, it is easy to see why many of the visas should have been denied. Consider, for example, the U.S. destinations most of them listed. Only one of the 15 provided an actual address -- and that was only because his first application was refused -- and the rest listed only general locations -- including 'California,' 'New York,' 'Hotel D.C.,' and 'Hotel.' One terrorist amazingly listed his U.S. destination as simply 'No.' Even more amazingly, he got a visa....
"Defying the conventional wisdom that al Qaeda had provided its operatives with extensive training to game the system with the right answers to guarantee a visa, the applications were littered with red flags, almost all of which were ignored. The forms were also plagued with significant amounts of missing information -- something that should have been sufficient grounds to deny many of the visas. For example, while all but one terrorist claimed to be employed or in school, only on three forms is the area marked 'Name and Street Address of Present Employer or School' even filled out."

For Mowbray's piece in full, with links to images of several of the ridiculously inaccurate applications:
http://www.nationalreview.com/mowbray/mowbray100902.asp

4

The Hollywood community is liberal and supports Democrats over Republicans, actor Kevin Spacey told CNN's Lou Dobbs last week, because Democrats "look at the world and believe that they can truly help people and they govern through evidence," but Republicans "govern through ideology and power."

For a picture and bio of Spacey with a list of all the movies in which he's starred, see his Internet Movie Database page:
http://us.imdb.com/Name?Spacey,+Kevin

Dobbs broadcast Friday's Moneyline from Los Angeles where he interviewed Spacey with the Hollywood sign in the background. MRC analyst Brian Boyd reminded me of this exchange which took place on the October 18 program:

Dobbs: "Let's turn, if we may, to the politics of Hollywood. A lot of concern expressed, as you know, in Congress about, if you will, the liberal cant of Hollywood and the movie production business -- the money that is raised here, the decidedly Democratic cant of Hollywood. First, why is that? Is it a cultural issue?"
Spacey: "Well, I, you know, I don't think that anybody could accuse the Republicans of not being able to raise money. You know, they're doing pretty well."
Dobbs: "No, no, but they do it in places like Wall Street and-"
Spacey: "I think, you know, it may be an issue of ideology, maybe an issue of philosophy. You know, I think that there may be merit to the idea that the Democrats have a particular way of governing -- that they look at the world and believe that they can truly help people, and they govern through evidence. That the Republicans, in some ways, govern through ideology and power. So I think maybe some of the people in this industry might look to that as being closer to their own hearts."
Dobbs: "I asked Kevin Spacey for a cultural explanation, I get a manifesto. Truly, it is an industry given to, obviously, creative people. But it seems remarkable to me -- and I'm not suggesting any value judgment about it one way or the other, that it is decidedly a liberal community. And that strikes me as peculiar."
Spacey: "For what reason?"
Dobbs: "Any time that one group of people, certainly as diverse as Hollywood itself is, moves in one direction or another along the political spectrum."
Spacey: "Well, I think there may be, you know, it may also just be a perception. You know, I think that there are many Republicans in the entertainment business and all kinds of fields. We certainly have some famous Republicans, some who were even thinking of running for office from what I understand. And my belief is always that you can be involved in politics, but you don't have to run for office. So I try to steer as clear as I can."

But he doesn't steer away that hard. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee listed him as a donor to the big fundraiser headlined by Barbra Streisand last month. See:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20021001.asp#1

Spacey, unsurprisingly, implied to Dobbs that he opposes Bush on Iraq: "In terms of whether we head into a war or not, I think there's a solid argument to do as much as we possibly can to try to find peace and stability in another way."

So much for Hollywood liberals wanting leaders who "govern through evidence." -- Brent Baker


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