CyberAlert -- 03/23/2001 -- Laura Bush Pressed on Gun Control
"Do the Markets Now Miss" Clinton?; Laura Bush Pressed on Gun Control; Gay Journalist Conceded Media Bias on Dirkhising
1) Bush "has done very little" about the plunging stock market "with the exception of seemingly adding fuel to the fire with talk of a worsening economy," complained Bryant Gumbel who proposed: "Do the markets now miss Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin?"
2) ABC and CBS, but not NBC, squeezed in brief mentions on Thursday night of President Bush's decision to take the ABA out of the judicial nominee vetting process. Both displayed labeling balance in crediting the change in policy to "conservatives" concerned about the ABA's "liberal leaning."
3) On Thursday's Today, Jamie Gangel pressed First Lady Laura Bush about how children have too much "access to guns" and tried to get her to contradict her husband: "Do you think there should be stricter gun control laws?"
4) A jury convicted a gay man in the murder of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising, but where's the media? A gay journalist conceded: "Difficult as it may be to admit, some of the gay-baiting right's argument about media bias holds up....The Dirkhising case was ignored for political reasons: squeamishness about reporting a story that could feed anti-gay prejudice."
5) The movie Erin Brockovich is up for several Oscars, but Michael Fumento warned: "Far from being 'environmental crusaders' as the media now routinely calls them, [lawyer Ed] Masry and Brockovich have never crusaded for anything but lucre."
The questions came in the middle of an interview with Eric Wiegand of Credit Suisse Asset Management. Gumbel denounced Bush's actions or lack thereof: "I know you're not a political analyst but the Bush White House has done very little about this with the exception of seemingly adding fuel to the fire with talk of a worsening economy. Is there something official Washington should or could be doing to help right now?"
Wiegand pointed out the "policy benefit they have at their disposal is really pursuing tax cuts," but there's "consternation" in the market over the timing of any benefit of the cuts and "absolute concern over when does that benefit reach the consumer?"
Without acknowledging that maybe media attacks on the "fairness" of tax cut have contributed to market concerns about whether they will pass, Gumbel followed up by portraying Clintonomics as under-appreciated: "But the reason I ask is for years the markets pooh-poohed Clintonomics and patted Greenspan on the back, but in truth do the markets now miss Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin?"
Most definitely not, Wiegand countered as he offered a different explanation: "I think it's more of an issue of concern with Greenspan. I think the reality of the issue is that people have come back and said that the monetary policy was extremely easy, certainly in the latter portion of 1999, as reserves were injected into the system in order to guard against any run as a result of the millennium and that the rapid withdrawal of those reserves in 2000 caused for significant contraction. Now there's the need for that expansion once again."
Unfazed at having his liberal reasoning rebuked, Gumbel moved on: "People have been saying sit tight and hold the course. But in the meantime they've been watching their life savings slip away. Is it time to revise expectations and devise new strategies?"
++ Watch Gumbel in action trying to repair Clinton's image. On Friday MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of the above exchange. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
ABC and CBS, but not NBC, squeezed in brief mentions on Thursday night of President Bush's decision to no longer give the American Bar Association the special privilege of advanced word on judicial nominees so they can evaluate them. Both displayed labeling balance in crediting the change in policy to "conservatives" concerned about the ABA's "liberal leaning."
None of the three shows touched Trent Lott's proposal for a bigger tax cut. And it wasn't the school shooting in El Cajon, California which drove out political news. While CBS and NBC led with it, ABC only gave it a few seconds. The plunging stock market and the Mir got as much time.
On World News Tonight, ABC's Peter Jennings announced: "President Bush has ended the American Bar Association's semi-official role in screening potential nominees for federal judgeships, which it has done for 50 years. Conservatives complain that the bar association has liberal leanings."
Over on the CBS Evening News, anchor John Roberts noted: "After fifty years of special status the American Bar Association will no longer have a leading role in vetting candidates for federal judgeships. The White House notified the ABA today that it will no longer get advanced word on perspective nominees. The move was pushed by conservatives who view the ABA as liberal leaning."
In a taped interview aired on Thursday's Today, Jamie Gangel pressed First Lady Laura Bush about how children have too much "access to guns" and tried to get her to contradict her husband: "Do you think there should be stricter gun control laws?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down the relevant portion of the interview on the March 22 Today:
Jamie Gangel: "Another issue in schools
is safety. Since you've been at the White House, unfortunately, there's
been another rash of shootings. The tragedy in California, an incident in
Pennsylvania. What do you think needs to be done about violence in these
A good non-answer.
One of two gay men charged with raping and murdering a 13-year-old boy in Arkansas was found guilty by a jury on Thursday of rape and first degree murder in a case in which even a gay writer for The New Republic now sees media bias in how journalists have avoided covering it.
Contrasting media obsession with Matthew
Shepard, the murdered gay college student, with how reporters have avoided
the Jesse Dirkhising case, Andrew Sullivan conceded in the April 2 New
Republic: "But, difficult as it may be to admit, some of the
gay-baiting right's argument about media bias holds up." Sullivan
argued: "The murders of Shepard and Dirkhising are both extremely
rare, and neither says much that can be generalized to the wider world. So
why the obsession with Shepard and the indifference with regard to
Dirkhising?" His explanation:
As outlined in the March 19 CyberAlert, when the trial started last week in the case of Dirkhising, murdered in 1999 by two gay men who bound him to a bed where he choked on his underwear and was found covered in feces, the major media outlets, other than FNC and the Washington Times, all ignored it. The New York Post's "MediaWatch" column, however, pointed out that unlike in the arrests and indictments in 1999 the AP decided to cover the trial. As in 1999, the Fox News Channel assigned Bret Baier to the case as FNC has been the only national network covering the crime. For background on the Dirkhising case, go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010319.asp#6
I have not had time to thoroughly review all network shows last night and this morning, but despite a Thursday afternoon AP dispatch, I doubt any network but FNC picked up on the conviction. It was not mentioned on the ABC, CBS or NBC evening shows and I did not see it on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams. CNN devoted most of its prime time, including nearly all of the 8pm ET hour, to the Mir. If it did generate any non-FNC TV coverage, I'll let you know in the next CyberAlert. Friday's Washington Post gave it two sentences, but two sentences which did not mention the sexual preference of the man convicted or that Jesse Dirkhising was male.
From Bentonville, Arkansas the AP's Brian Skoloff reported on March 22:
A jury convicted a man of first-degree murder Thursday in the rape and killing of a 13-year-old boy, sparing the man from the death penalty by rejecting a more serious capital murder count. Joshua Macabe Brown, 23, faces up to life in prison for the death of Jesse Dirkhising. The jurors already had voted Wednesday to convict Brown on a rape charge, which also can carry a life sentence....
Jesse was drugged, bound, raped and sodomized in September 1999 at the apartment Brown shared with his gay lover, Davis Don Carpenter, 39. Prosecutors said the boy suffocated because of the drugs and the way he was trussed up and strapped down to Brown's bed. The defense said Brown didn't intend to kill the boy and suggested the bondage-sex was consensual....
Brown had admitted binding and gagging the boy and sexually penetrating him with a variety of objects, but defense attorney Louis Lim contended Brown was guilty of nothing more than statutory rape and manslaughter....
The eight-woman, four-man jury did, however, receive piles of evidence it requested to review. The items and papers included notes and a diagram, a bloody pillow, duct tape and underwear that the state said was stuffed into Jesse's mouth.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Bob Balfe told jurors that logic shows the boy wasn't a willing participant in a sexual bondage game.
Making a late-night run for more duct tape, picking up only two sandwiches instead of three, and leaving the child unattended all prove the men weren't concerned about Jesse's welfare, Balfe said.
END Excerpt of AP dispatch
Now an excerpt from Andrew Sullivan's TRB column in the upcoming April 2 New Republic which should hit newsstands on Monday. On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume on Thursday night, during the "Grapevine" segment, fill-in anchor Tony Snow noted Sullivan's article. Sullivan, who is a prominent gay journalist, once was Editor of the magazine and is now one of its Senior Editors.
What happened on September 26, 1999, to 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising can only be described as evil. Two men who had become friendly with Jesse and his family invited the boy over for the day. According to prosecutors at the trial now under way in Bentonville, Arkansas, the two men drugged Jesse, tied him to a bed, shoved his underwear into his mouth to gag him, added duct tape to silence him, raped him for hours using a variety of objects, including food, and then left him in such a position on the bed that he slowly suffocated to death.
Unless you frequent rabid right-wing sites on the Internet or read The Washington Times, you've probably never heard of this case. The New York Times has yet to run a single story about it. The Washington Post has run only a tiny Associated Press report -- and an ombudsman's explanation of why no further coverage is merited. Among certain, mainly gay-hating right-wingers, the discrepancy between the coverage of this case and the wall-to-wall coverage of the similarly horrifying murder of Matthew Shepard proves beyond any doubt that the mainstream media is guilty of pro-gay bias.
Do they have a point? My first, defensive, reaction was no. And reading the accounts from some right-wing outlets, any gay person would be defensive. Some on the far right clearly want to use this case to raise vicious canards about gay men. They want to argue that this pedophilic rape-murder is representative of the "homosexual lifestyle" and to wield it as a weapon against the notion of gay equality and dignity as a whole....
[W]hile pedophilia has always been a vile undercurrent in some gay circles (as in some straight circles), the vast majority of homosexuals are rightly horrified by the sexual abuse of children.
But, difficult as it may be to admit, some of the gay-baiting right's argument about media bias holds up. Consider the following statistics. In the month after Shepard's murder, Nexis recorded 3,007 stories about his death. In the month after Dirkhising's murder, Nexis recorded 46 stories about his. In all of last year, only one article about Dirkhising appeared in a major mainstream newspaper, The Boston Globe. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ignored the incident completely. In the same period, The New York Times published 45 stories about Shepard, and The Washington Post published 28. This discrepancy isn't just real. It's staggering.
In The Washington Post, a news editor argued that the paper covers only crimes that are local, inflame local opinion, or have national policy implications. The Shepard story was news in a way the Dirkhising story wasn't because it "prompted debate on hate crimes and the degree to which there is still intolerance of gay people in this country. It was much more than a murder story for us." But wasn't the media's instant blanket coverage part of the reason for the debate? If the Dirkhising murder had been covered instantly with the same attention to gruesome detail, wouldn't it, too, have prompted a national conversation?
You might argue that the Shepard murder was a trend story, highlighting the prevalence of anti-gay hate crimes. But murders like Shepard's are extremely rare. In 1997, a relatively typical recent year, the FBI identified a total of eight hate-crime murders in the United States. The number that were gay-specific was even smaller. Most years, two or three occur at most. How common is a rape-murder like that of Dirkhising? In 1999 there were 46 rape-murders nationwide. If you focus not on the rape-murder aspect but on the fact that Jesse was a child, there were 1,449 murders of minors. There are no reliable statistics on how many of these murders were committed by homosexuals, but let's generously say 5 percent. That's a paltry 72 cases. In other words, the murders of Shepard and Dirkhising are both extremely rare, and neither says much that can be generalized to the wider world. So why the obsession with Shepard and the indifference with regard to Dirkhising?
The answer is politics. The Shepard case was hyped for political reasons: to build support for inclusion of homosexuals in a federal hate-crimes law. The Dirkhising case was ignored for political reasons: squeamishness about reporting a story that could feed anti-gay prejudice, and the lack of any pending interest-group legislation to hang a story on. The same politics lies behind the media's tendency to extensively cover white "hate crimes" against blacks while ignoring black "non-hate crimes" against whites.
What we are seeing, I fear, is a logical consequence of the culture that hate-crimes rhetoric promotes. Some deaths--if they affect a politically protected class--are worth more than others. Other deaths, those that do not fit a politically correct profile, are left to oblivion. The leading gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign -- which has raised oodles of cash exploiting the horror of Shepard's murder -- has said nothing whatsoever about the Dirkhising case. For the HRC, the murder of Jesse Dirkhising is off-message. Worse, there's a touch of embarrassment among some gays about the case, as if the actions of this depraved couple had some connection to the rest of gay America. Don't these squeamish people realize that, by helping to hush this up, they seem to confirm homophobic suspicions that this murder actually is typical of gays?....
To read Andrew Sullivan's entire piece, go
The movie Erin Brockovich is up for several Oscars during Sunday night's Academy Awards presentation, which prompted Michael Fumento to remind National Review Online readers of the inaccuracies the movie portrayed in showing an evil utility which caused cancer and other diseases through a chemical in local drinking water.
The movie, starring Julia Roberts who was nominated for "Best Actress" for her portrayal of the real-life Erin Brockovich, was also nominated for "Best Picture" and "Best Original Screenplay."
The March 21 National Review Online piece carried this up front note: "By Michael Fumento, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, where he's completing a book on advances in biotechnology. His piece 'Erin Brockovich, Exposed' appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 28, 2000."
Now an excerpt:
What coincidental timing!
On March 8, three weeks before the Academy Awards, Universal Pictures announced a $100,000 donation to UCLA "establishing a program to help students pursue studies in environmental and social justice."
The purpose, said the corporation's press release, is to recognize "The crusading efforts of [Erin] Brockovich and [attorney Ed] Masry on behalf of the citizens of a small Southern California town plagued by illnesses caused by contaminated groundwater [that] served as the basis for Universal Pictures' acclaimed motion picture, Erin Brockovich." ...
By promoting in this manner a truly entertaining movie, Universal is lionizing two truly villainous people. Long before he met Brockovich, Masry handled a toxic tort suit in which he DEFENDED polluters of a lake in Riverside, California. He even compared the environmental officials to the Gestapo.
Yet three of the five defendants quickly pled guilty.
Masry was already well known in California, having been charged in 1981 with stealing from a religious cult he represented in order to bribe the lieutenant governor.
He was acquitted of the bribery charge but convicted of the theft. An appeals court then overturned the theft charge on a technicality (lack of a speedy trial) and the charges were dropped. Thus, Masry got off but was never acquitted.
Far from being "environmental crusaders" as the media now routinely calls them, Masry and Brockovich have never crusaded for anything but lucre.
In the case depicted in the film, Masry's firm along with two huge L.A. firms, convinced residents of Hinkley, California that virtually any illness they had ever suffered was from a chemical called chromium 6 that Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) had let seep into the water.
This includes (among other illnesses) nosebleeds, breast cancer, rashes, lymphatic cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, lupus, stress, chronic fatigue, miscarriages, gastrointestinal cancer, Crohn's disease, spinal deterioration, kidney tumors, ovarian tumors, and "intestines eaten away," which sounds awful but doesn't describe a real disease.
Obviously these can't all be related. Moreover, the lengthy discussion of chromium 6 on the EPA's website, the agency that sets drinking-water standards, concludes: "No data were located in the available literature that suggested that chromium 6 is carcinogenic by the oral route of exposure."
To quote from those ubiquitous t-shirts, "What part of 'NO' don't you understand?"
The literature does show is that chromium 6 can cause lung and nasal cancer in workers who inhaled massive amounts over many years; even as it reveals numerous studies of persons near living near toxic-waste sites jam-packed with chromium 6 who had no increased level of any type of disease.
Indeed, California's Cancer Registry found the same was true of Hinkley.
Brockovich claims she has "200 studies" that back her up, but don't ask her to see them. Others have tried and failed.
The motivation of the three law firms was neither truth nor compassion, but rather 40 percent of the winnings. Their "take" from the settlement was $133 million plus an amazing $10 million more in expenses. Brockovich's bonus alone was $2 million.
Justice doth have its rewards.
To understand why the bad guys won, it's important to know that the case was a settlement not subject to appeal, that PG&E was suffering terrible publicity, and that as a utility it could simply pass losses on to rate payers.
But when these same three firms, including the Masry-Brockovich team, tried the same ploy in the court system against a company with no guaranteed income, it collapsed like a rotten pumpkin.
Last April a California appeals court tossed out their case against Lockheed Martin, decertifying the class of plaintiffs. A major part of the ruling was because of the obvious absurdity of saying that any ill person in a given geographical area can be allowed to claim that a groundwater contaminant caused their sickness.
But what of the Hinkley residents, who were truly victimized by Masry and Brockovich? Our heroes convinced these poor families that they had been poisoned and were now ticking time bombs of disease.
From their slice of the award, the disbursements appear utterly arbitrary.
One man who required a foot of colon to be removed collected $100,000 while a woman who endured the same operation got about $2 million. A plaintiff offered Salon.com's Kathy Sharp an explanation for the disbursement pattern: "If you were buddies with Ed and Erin, you got a lot of money. Otherwise, forget it."
A Time magazine reporter in Hinkley heard similar complaints.
"Give me a break!" moaned one resident after seeing the film. "They depicted the lawyers as so concerned about the residents," she said. "But does [Brockovich] really care?"
Ultimately, several plaintiffs hired new lawyers to sue their original ones, only to find their new attorneys instantly countersued. One of the newly retained attorneys said of the film, "I read the script; the only true part was Erin Brockovich's name."...
To read Fumento's entire article, go to:
Tune in Sunday night on ABC to see if Hollywood rewards a film which so distorted reality.
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