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CyberAlert -- 03/26/2002 -- U.S. "Imperialism"

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U.S. "Imperialism"; Oscar Smear Campaign Analogized to Helms; Bye-Bye Bryant?; WashPost Reporter Sees Bias; Chung's CNN Try-Out

1) The U.S. is guilty of "imperialism." The expanding anti-terrorist operations in the Philippines raises the question of U.S. "imperialism," Fortune magazine's Jeffrey Birnbaum charged on the Fox News Channel on Monday night.

2) Fairness measured by result. Ed Bradley on Monday's CBS Evening News: "Finally tonight, how the Hollywood dream machine finally delivered on a promise of fairness and racial equality not once but twice at the Academy Awards."

3) In an online e-mail exchange on Slate.com, Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove analogized the behind-the-scenes campaign against the movie A Beautiful Mind to a Jesse Helms campaign, insisting how "with charges of anti-Semitism and smear campaigns stoked by the redoubtable Drudge...it could have been one of Jesse Helms' re-election races in North Carolina."

4) ABC News jumped at the chance to promote a publicity gimmick by an environmental group which announced a top ten list of supposedly endangered national parks. ABC devoted an entire World News Tonight piece to how snowmobilers are ruining Yellowstone, "a national park that is under attack." Reporter Bill Redeker lamented how "help was on the way" under Clinton, so now "the battle over banning them has probably been lost at least until the next presidential election."

5) Bye-bye Bryant? USA Today's Peter Johnson reported that CBS "insiders" are "only giving 50/50 odds that the network will renew Gumbel's contract" when it expires in May.

6) "I do think that there is a liberal bias," Washington Post automotive reporter Warren Brown declared. Discussing coverage of CAFE standards for cars, Brown described how reporters instinctively believe "non-profit" and environmental groups while assuming nefarious motives are behind anyone in business.

7) On Monday night, Connie Chung began a week of filling in for Aaron Brown as anchor of CNN's NewsNight. A January CyberAlert Extra recounted Chung's liberal record over the years. FNC's Fox & Friends made fun of CNN for having Chung, who famously interviewed Tonya Harding in a ratings gimmick for CBS, anchor the show when just a couple of weeks ago Brown made fun of FNC's Geta Van Susteren for interviewing Harding.

8) Two prime time shows tonight will feature reporters as the bad guys: ABC's The Court and CBS's JAG. The Washington Post's Tom Shales promised that The Court lacks The West Wing's "Hollywood liberal sermonizing." Plus, tonight on the CBS's Late Show: Barbara Walters. And on Wednesday: Doris Kearns Goodwin.


1

Anti-terrorist operations in the Philippines raises the question of U.S. "imperialism," Fortune magazine's Jeffrey Birnbaum charged on the Fox News Channel on Monday night.

Birnbaum's claim came during a roundtable discussion on the March 25 Special Report with Brit Hume about an FNC story about how the U.S. government last week had facilitated a multi-million dollar payoff to the terrorist kidnappers of two American missionaries in the Philippines. Neither has yet been released.

Birnbaum, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune, asserted: "There is a question about this, the broader question, which is the U.S. is getting much more involved in so many foreign countries now. Now, they're using, as we say, technicalities. That maybe it's not taxpayer money here, but they helped organize the ransom. That's at least what the Fox News report is, that we are training the people on the ground to go in. I mean, where exactly does this line, I think the question of imperialism, I know that's a strong word, it is a strong word-"
Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard scolded: "A very strong word."
Birnbaum wasn't dissuaded: "But I think it's the kind of question that should be raised."

As Barnes soon suggested, it's not imperialism when the Philippine government wants the U.S. involvement.

2

Media outlets have been full of stories since Sunday night about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded three Oscars on Sunday night to black actors, including the first one ever in the category of Best Actress to Halle Berry.

CBS's Ed Bradley, however, on Monday night seemed to diminish the outstanding performances of Berry, and of Best Actor winner Denzel Washington, as he treated the event as a civil rights victory -- as if previous black nominees in recent years had not won because of racial discrimination. Anchoring Monday's CBS Evening News, Bradley set up the CBS story:
"Finally tonight, how the Hollywood dream machine finally delivered on a promise of fairness and racial equality not once but twice at the Academy Awards."

Bill Whitaker concluded the subsequent story: "Hollywood produced a surprise ending for the history books last night, now what will truly be remarkable is when actors of color win future Oscars and it's no longer remarkable."

If liberal Hollywood is so filled with racists who are denying opportunities and recognition to blacks, how about a little coverage of that from a media which so often sees racial motives behind policies and campaign tactics employed by conservatives?

3

Speaking of tying conservatives to sleazy campaign strategies: In an online e-mail exchange on Slate.com, Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove analogized the behind-the-scenes campaign against the movie A Beautiful Mind to a Jesse Helms campaign, insisting how "with charges of anti-Semitism and smear campaigns stoked by the redoubtable Drudge...it could have been one of Jesse Helms' re-election races in North Carolina."

Tom Johnson of the Parents Television Council alerted me to the remark from Grove, author of the Washington Post's The Reliable Sources column, in a feature on Microsoft's Slate.com called "The Breakfast Table" in which two media figures exchange thoughts via e-mail.

From the top of a March 25 message from Grove to George Rush, half of the New York Daily News's Rush & Molloy column:

From: Lloyd Grove
To: George Rush
Subject: A Feel-Good Conclusion After a Nasty Run-Up
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2002, at 8:50 AM PT

Dear George: It was lovely to see you last night at the Vanity Fair party. Not only did you look tan, ready, and rested, you had that confident gleam in your eye that told me that you were gathering grade-A material from the A-list crowd at Morton's in Beverly Hills while I was desperately trying to find someone who'd talk to me.

Yes, it was an historic night at the Oscars -- I've been reading in my own paper as well as yours, plus the New York Post and the New York Times -- and it was a feel-good conclusion after a run-up so nasty, what with charges of anti-Semitism and smear campaigns stoked by the redoubtable Drudge, that it could have been one of Jesse Helms' re-election races in North Carolina. Yet despite my cynical self, I found the Halle Berry and Denzel Washington wins genuinely moving....

END of Excerpt

To read the entire exchange: http://slate.msn.com/?id=2063646&entry=2063683

4

An environmental group speaks and ABC News jumps. On Monday, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) used the gimmick of a top ten list of supposedly endangered national parks to generate publicity. ABC News eagerly pitched in, devoting an entire World News Tonight piece to how snowmobilers are ruining Yellowstone, "a national park that is under attack."

Reporter Bill Redeker spent almost the entire March 25 World News Tonight story on the awful impact of snowmobiles and did not challenge any of the claims of those who want them banned, but when giving a few seconds to how snowmobiling brings visitors which help the local economy, Redeker demanded: "What about the noise issue? People want to enjoy the quiet, don't they?" He lamented that before Bush won "help was on the way" under the Clinton administration which had proposed a ban, but now, he conceded only an election will bring about the proper policy since "the battle over banning them has probably been lost at least until the next presidential election."

World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas began her introduction with an error, misstating the location of the Washington, DC-based NPCA, a group neither she or reporter Bill Redeker ever identified: "In New York today a conservation group named the ten most endangered national parks. It says pollution and commercial development threaten parks from the Everglades in Florida to Glacier Bay in Alaska. ABC's Bill Redeker reports from Yellowstone, a national park that is under attack."

Redeker began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "America's oldest national park -- the home of Old Faithful, elk, wolves, and buffalo -- is under siege."
Rick Obernesser, Yellowstone Chief Park Ranger: "On a peak day, it's about 2000 snowmobiles come in here through the four entrances."
Redeker: "And the exhaust snowmobiles generate has been so bad that rangers were forced to wear respirators."
Woman wearing respirator: "And on heavy days and in [unintelligible] days, you always, I get a headache."
Redeker: "The machines not only pollute the air and the quiet. Riders sometimes run buffalo off the road."
Jon Catton, Greater Yellowstone Coalition: "Every ounce of energy that they have to expend getting out of the way of a snowmobile can make the difference between whether they're going to survive the winter or not."
Redeker: "For a while, it looked like help was on the way. After five years of study and four rounds of public hearings, the Clinton Administration proposed banning snowmobiles from the park. But on the day he was sworn in to office, President Bush rolled back that order and imposed a moratorium on the ban. Now, the Park Service has been told to find other alternatives that would allow snowmobiles continued access to Yellowstone. Rangers have suggested limiting the number of machines, but they insist the only acceptable option is still a total ban."
Rick Bennett, park ranger: "This place needs to be protected whatever it takes."
Redeker finally gave a few seconds to those with another point of view: "Snowmobile riders and those who depend on them for a living see matters quite differently."
Man: "A direct ban would just devastate the town."
Woman: "You have to figure out a balance, you know. It's hard."
But unlike with those in favor of a ban, Redeker challenged those against one: "What about the noise issue? People want to enjoy the quiet, don't they?"
Woman: "Yes."
Redeker concluded: "With the Bush administration committed to keeping snowmobiles in the park, even environmental groups concede the battle over banning them has probably been lost at least until the next presidential election. Bill Redeker, ABC News, West Yellowstone, Montana."

Since Redeker filed his story from on-scene, ABC News didn't first learn of the NPCA complaint on Monday and then dispatch a reporter to fly to Yellowstone. ABC News obviously had advance word on the NPCA publicity gimmick and decided to advance it.

The Web site for the National Parks Conservation Association: http://www.npca.org/

The press release in question: http://www.npca.org/media_center/ten_most.asp

5

Will CBS News dump Bryant Gumbel from the Early Show? USA Today's Peter Johnson reported on Monday that CBS "insiders" are "only giving 50/50 odds that the network will renew Gumbel's contract" when it expires in May. That's because while the Early Show is bringing in more younger viewers, and thus has quintupled revenues generated by the program, Johnson speculated that "you can bet that some CBS executive is wondering if a new guy might do better and if it's time to replace Gumbel, 53, who is paid $5 million a year, with someone who could usher in a new generation of younger viewers."

How about viewers now turned off by Gumbel's liberal preaching?

An excerpt from Johnson's March 25 story:

Since he returned to morning television three years ago to co-host CBS' The Early Show, Bryant Gumbel has in one respect fared no better than all his predecessors and their programs: CBS is stuck in third place in the mornings.

But Gumbel and partner Jane Clayson have managed to draw more of those advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-old viewers. As a result, The Early Show is said to be making $50 million a year after CBS had been making $8 million in the two-hour time slot.

Now, as Gumbel and CBS enter into negotiations on a new contract -- his ends in May -- The Early Show's performance surely will enter into the picture....

[I]f Early's financial picture is so healthy, why are insiders only giving 50/50 odds that the network will renew Gumbel's contract?

Because there's another side, a few, actually, and it all comes down to money: NBC's top-rated Today makes five times what Early does: about $250 million a year. No. 2 ABC's Good Morning America makes $110 million.

With that kind of money to be made, you can bet that some CBS executive is wondering if a new guy might do better and if it's time to replace Gumbel, 53, who is paid $5 million a year, with someone who could usher in a new generation of younger viewers.

If the answer is yes, then who? Gumbel's three most frequent substitutes are CBS' Russ Mitchell, CBS Sports' Jim Nance and game-show host Tom Bergeron. Do you see them doing any better?...

On the flip side is the question of how long Gumbel wants to continue waking up before dawn to go to work. He has said for years there will come a point where he might chuck it all and sit on a hill and laugh.

Some observers dismiss that talk, saying the former Today show anchor needs to be in the game.

But others say that Gumbel doesn't feel compelled to be on TV every day and that his HBO Real Sports gig, which pays him $1 million, would suit him fine. And, they say, he's spoken of going off to write a book....

END of Excerpt

If he does write a book, I'd bet that unlike as with Bernard Goldberg, Gumbel will have no problem getting invited onto not only CBS, but also ABC and NBC.

For Johnson's story in full: http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020325/3966499s.htm

6

"I do think that there is a liberal bias," a Washington Post reporter declared, "though we are quite unwilling to admit it." Unfortunately, the concession came from the newspaper's automotive reporter, not a political reporter. But he's in a position to know as an inside observer and his insight applies to the bias he sees in how reporters instinctively believe "non-profit" and environmental groups while assuming nefarious motives are behind anyone in business.

Former MRCer Tim Graham caught the admission made by Warren Brown in a online chat session last Wednesday which someone raised Monday during an online chat featuring Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz.

Brown's comments came up with regards to coverage of the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. Brown noted: "When an auto company says that something like a CAFE rule is unfair, we tend to scoff. We prefer, instead, to believe the Sen. Kerrys, Joan Claybrooks and Clarence Ditlows, because they have declared themselves on the side of the angels." That's because "we are taught in journalism school that our mission as journalists is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." Brown, however, pointed out: "No one ever explained what gives us the right to do that."

In the March 20 "Real Wheels" discussion hosted by Brown, he wrote:

"You might have caught wind of the current debate over whether we in the media are biased. I think we are, though we are quite unwilling to admit it. The current debate revolves around whether we are too liberal because more minorities and women are now in the media. I disagree with that. But I do think that there is a liberal bias, and that it works this way: We are taught in journalism school that our mission as journalists is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. But no one ever explained what gives us the right to do that. No one ever suggested that the comfortable are not inherently evil because they are comfortable, or that the afflicted are not inherently virtuous because they are afflicted. So, the tendency in the general media is to view anyone who makes a profit as comfortable. That tendency is coupled with the erroneous notion that profit and truth are mutually exclusive commodities.
"So, when an auto company says that something like a CAFE rule is unfair, we tend to scoff. We prefer, instead, to believe the Sen. Kerrys, Joan Claybrooks and Clarence Ditlows, because they have declared themselves on the side of the angels. We don't question them nearly as closely as we question General Motors.
"There's also this: We tend to believe that any nonprofit group is telling the truth because the group is, well, nonprofit. We overlook the fact that nonprofit groups hustle for money just like any other organization. The difference is that they don't report a net gain from income. They have not dirtied themselves with profit. They supposedly have nothing to gain by saying what they say, or doing what they do.
"It's time that we in the media take away that carte blanche believability from nonprofit organizations and start treating them the way we treat everybody else."

That would be refreshing. But will any of Brown's media colleagues adjust their habits?

The entire chat session is online at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/liveonline/02/auto/brown0320.htm

On Monday, a chat participant raised Brown's points with Howard Kurtz, who responded:
"I don't agree with the first part. During the 90s the media lionized Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Sumner Redstone, Jeff Bezos, Meg Whitman, Steve Case, other dot-com zillionaires, high-flying day traders and others whose lives are dedicated to the pursuit of big bucks. In fact, you were made to feel like an idiot if you weren't playing the stock market. Enron also got great press before the fall. I do think Warren makes a great point in saying that too many reporters regard non-profits or 'public interest' groups as do-gooders without an agenda, rather than applying the skepticism they generally bring toward corporations and industry groups, and that's a mistake."

Of course, lionizing a few corporate chiefs as celebrities has nothing to do with how a reporter presents the issues at hand in a story about he pros and cons of CAFE standards or, for that matter, in any story about the environment. See item #4 above for proof.

For the entire March 25 session with Kurtz:
http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/02/mediabacktalk032502.htm

7

On Monday night, Connie Chung began a week of filling in for Aaron Brown as anchor of CNN's 10pm/1am EST NewsNight in what is probably a test-run for her upcoming 8pm EST show. Her gig this week reminded me of a January CyberAlert Extra which recounted her liberal record over the years.

On Monday morning, MRC analyst Patrick Gregory observed, FNC's Fox & Friends crew made fun of CNN for having Chung, who famously interviewed Tonya Harding in a ratings gimmick for CBS, anchor the show when just a couple of weeks ago Brown made fun of FNC's Geta Van Susteren for interviewing Harding.

Brian Kilmeade remarked: "Something else I think is worthy of bringing up. He starts ripping Greta Van Susteren because she had on Tonya Harding, which was the number one show two weeks ago on Thursday in those celebrity boxing matches. So he says 'I would never do that, I will not do silly tv. But, who did he have on? He had the Liza wedding! That isn't silly tv? I mean even Liza laughs at Liza."
Steve Doocy piped in: "But here's the problem with this. Aaron Brown said that it was a big mistake doing Tanya Harding on the Greta Van Susteren show right? Who is going to be filling in for Aaron Brown? Connie Chung is going to be filling in for Aaron Brown and of course who did Connie Chung interview when she was at CBS? Tanya Harding! She goes out and she goes to that skating rink in Portland, and you know they all skate around. So you know if you've got a problem with Greta Van Susteren, you've got a problem pal, with Connie Chung."

Indeed, as relayed in the March 18 CyberAlert, Aaron Brown opened the March 14 NewsNight with a self-indulgent rant about how on "the program that competes directly with us on that almost news channel," FNC's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, "they booked Tonya Harding to talk about the big fight and yes, little NewsNight got its backside kicked in the ratings." For details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020318.asp#3

Now that rundown of Connie Chung's record as compiled in the January 23 CyberAlert Extra, followed by links to the full items:

-- By leaving ABC for CNN, Connie Chung will be bringing her liberalism to the fourth network in her hop-scotching career. Last year she called Jesse Jackson "the charismatic national symbol of human rights." In 1995 she distorted GOP plans to reduce the rate of growth as "deep cuts in Medicare." Twice she's used interviews to campaign for abortion, once scolding a pro-abortion GOP Governor for not trying hard enough. At NBC in 1989 she mocked the concept behind a capital gains tax cut. For these quotes and more:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020123_extra.asp#1

-- Text and video of Chung's 1995 "just whisper it to me" coaxing of Newt Gingrich's mother. Plus, how two years earlier when interviewing Bill Clinton's mother and brother she avoided asking anything negative about him and, instead, elicited stories from them showing Clinton in a positive light. To watch or read:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020123_extra.asp#2

8

Two prime time shows tonight will feature reporters as the bad guys: ABC's The Court and CBS's JAG.

At 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST, ABC will premiere The Court, starring Sally Field as a new justice. The ABC Web site summarizes the show:
"Kate Nolan (Sally Field), a pragmatic politician, is the newest addition to a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court. As she navigates between the liberal and conservative camps of her new colleagues, she must also create a rapport with the brilliant young law clerks assigned to assist her.
"While Justice Nolan struggles within the halls of the Supreme Court, an aggressive television reporter, Harlan Brandt (Craig Bierko), and his eager, young production assistant, Betsy Tyler (Christina Hendricks), work from outside, dedicated to putting a face on the work of the court. But Brandt's fast-paced, deadline-driven world is often at odds with the sanctity of the very institution he covers."

ABC's Web page for The Court:
http://abc.abcnews.go.com/primetime/thecourt/index.html

The Field role sounds identical to that of the swing justice played by Joe Montegna, who is the star of CBS's drama about the Supreme Court, First Monday. Such originality in the TV industry.

While Warner Brothers' The Court shares an Executive Producer with The West Wing, John Wells, in a March 26 review, the Washington Post's Tom Shales, if you can believe him, assured that The Court isn't liberal: "There's an absence of West Wing's Hollywood-liberal sermonizing, which is good, but there's also an absence of plot, coherence and intriguing characters, which is bad."

The latter sounds no different than most television shows.

As noted on Monday's CyberAlert, Tuesday's JAG at 8pm EST/PST, 7pm CST/MST on CBS takes on whether reporters are Americans first or journalists first when a "ZNN" reporter exposes a commando operation in Afghanistan. A promo for Tuesday's episode asks: "Did this combat reporter cause a front line ambush?" For more:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020325.asp#5

> Tuesday night on the late night shows: Barbara Walters is scheduled to appear on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman and Janet Reno is scheduled to appear on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Scheduled Wednesday night on Letterman: Doris Kearns Goodwin, in what I think will be her first major media appearance since her plagiarism was documented.

She should feel comfortable on the Late Show since it's normal for Letterman's writers to craft funny lines for the guest the repeat. -- Brent Baker


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