CyberAlert -- 04/18/2002 -- Rather Recognized Terrorists
Rather Recognized Terrorists; Bush's "Mammoth" Tax Cut; Clinton Praised Helen Thomas; Time's Kid Liberal; Media Label Liberals More?
1) Unlike Peter Jennings, Dan Rather is able to recognize a terrorist group. Introducing an interview with a Hezbollah leader, Rather noted: "Until September 11th, Hezbollah was responsible for the largest number of Americans ever killed in a terrorist attack, 241 Marines in Lebanon in 1983." Three weeks ago, however, Jennings refused to endorse the idea that Hezbollah is a terrorist group as he said "a man" with a truck bomb destroyed the Marine barracks.
2) To the Washington Post, President Bush's tax cut, which represented just 5.7 percent of expected federal tax collections, is "mammoth," but the anticipated 22 percent growth in federal pending is merely "big."
3) Bill Clinton effusively praised Helen Thomas as the "hardest working reporter" during his presidency. He admired her for, as reported by O'Dwyer's PR Daily, how "she never 'took a cheap shot'...nor did she ever resort to 'sanctimony' in judging him." Clinton also said his second career choice was journalism and that "my hero was Walter Cronkite...I believed every word he said."
4) Whether age 12 or 42, Time magazine prefers liberal reporters. A 12-year-old reporter for Time for Kids magazine conceded on the Today show that, after interviewing the "pro-war" Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, she realized he's more conservative than she as she "grew up in the East Village in New York City, so my ideas are very different from his."
5) CNN's Jeff Greenfield highlighted a supposed proof that liberals are labeled by newspapers 30 percent more often than conservatives. Upon closer examination the study, first aired on NPR, falls apart.
Unlike Peter Jennings, Dan Rather is able to recognize a terrorist group when he talks to its leader. Introducing an interview he conducted a few days ago with a Hezbollah leader, on Wednesday's CBS Evening News Rather noted: "For more than 20 years, Lebanon-based Hezbollah has waged terrorist war on Israel and killed hundreds of Americans as well." Rather also reminded viewers: "Until September 11th, Hezbollah was responsible for the largest number of Americans ever killed in a terrorist attack, 241 Marines in Lebanon in 1983."
Three weeks ago, however, as recounted in the
March 29 CyberAlert, ABC's Peter Jennings refused to endorse the idea
that Hezbollah is a terrorist group. While Jennings stated that "the
Bush administration says Hezbollah is a terrorist organization,"
Jennings relayed how Hezbollah's leader assured him that "we are
not terrorists." Jennings cast no doubt on the claim as he proceeded
to recount from Beirut, without mentioning the role of Hezbollah, how
"a man simply drove his truck to the front door" of the U.S.
embassy "and blew himself up. Sixty-three people died. Later that
year, the Marine barracks here were destroyed in much the same way, 241
Marines died." For details:
Setting up the April 17 segment Rather
explained, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Recent
attacks on Israel's northern border by Hezbollah have threatened to spread
the current Middle East war. But this is an old problem. For more than 20
years, Lebanon-based Hezbollah has waged terrorist war on Israel and
killed hundreds of Americans as well. In Beirut this week, a Hezbollah
leader, Sheik Naim Qassem, agreed to an exclusive interview.
Rather's first question: "Tell me what Hezbollah is. Is it in any way a terrorist organization?"
Qassem claimed that Israel is terrorist as is the U.S. because is supports Israel.
Rather observed: "Hezbollah is waging a major publicity war against the United States. In Lebanon, it has the political power to get its message across. Hezbollah is one-third of the ruling political system in Lebanon. In Beirut neighborhoods, such as this, and in many other places and especially along Lebanon's southern border with Israel, Hezbollah is the dominant political entity. Much of the infrastructure -- hospitals, schools, roads -- are supplied by Hezbollah."
CBS then showed a bit more of the interview, with Rather asking: "I want to ask you about suicide bombers. Do you agree or disagree that this is evil?" Qassem maintained being a martyr shows "a love of life."
Rather inquired: "Why, as a Muslim, you would not denounce the taking of innocent lives by young people who are willing to take their own lives, it's almost impossible to understand why you would not denounce this."
Rather offered a rationale for Hezbollah's popularity: "Hezbollah is the self-appointed advocate for Lebanon's nearly 400,000 Palestinians. They live in deep poverty at what are among the most squalid refugee camps in the world. It is in their name and in the name of the four million displaced Palestinians throughout the world, that Hezbollah conducts its political and military campaigns."
Returning to the interview, Rather posed three
Ominously, Qassem said that is something they will decide in the future.
To the Washington Post, President Bush's tax cut, which represented just 5.7 percent of expected federal tax collections, is "mammoth," but the anticipated 22 percent growth in federal pending is merely "the biggest increase in government spending since the 1960s."
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed the use of
the word "mammoth" in the first paragraph of an April 16 story
by Mike Allen about Bush's remarks the day before in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:
For the entire story:
How truly "mammoth" is the Bush tax cut? Daniel J. Mitchell pointed out last year on the Heritage Foundation Web site:
"-- Assuming no changes in law, tax
collections over the next ten years are projected to reach $27.9 trillion.
The proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut is only 5.7 percent of this amount.
For Mitchell's analysis: http://www.heritage.org/shorts/20010427taxcut.html
The day before the Post tagged the tax cut as
"mammoth," Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler began an April
15 front page story:
For the rest of the article:
For a matching graph: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/articles/
Former President Bill Clinton recognizes that Helen Thomas was one of his best allies in the news media. At an awards ceremony on Monday, Clinton effusively praised Thomas as the "hardest working reporter" during his presidency. He also admired her for, as reported by O'Dwyer's PR Daily, how "she never 'took a cheap shot' during eight years of reporting on him nor did she ever resort to 'sanctimony' in judging him."
The O'Dwyer's PR Daily report, brought to my attention by former MRCer Andy Szul, also noted that at the New York Women in Communications Matrix lunch "Clinton said his second career choice after politics was journalism. 'My hero was Walter Cronkite,' said Clinton. 'I believed every word he said.'"
That explains a lot.
An excerpt from the April 15 O'Dwyer's PR Daily dispatch:
Helen Thomas, who has reported on eight U.S. presidents, was the "hardest working reporter" during his term, former President Bill Clinton told 1,200 attendees at the New York Women in Communications Matrix lunch in the Waldorf-Astoria April 15.
Clinton, a surprise guest who received an enthusiastic, standing ovation when he appeared, said Thomas, now with Hearst, regularly covered him early in the morning when he did his jogging.
She never "took a cheap shot" during eight years of reporting on him nor did she ever resort to "sanctimony" in judging him, he said.
"She was always trying to get to the truth and was not afraid to ask hard questions about the Middle East and what it really takes to solve this awful dilemma," he said, adding: "When she asked me something, I took it very seriously."
Thomas avoided "celebrity" and knew that "the press is supposed to report abuses of power and not contribute to them."
Clinton said his second career choice after politics was journalism.
"My hero was Walter Cronkite," said Clinton. "I believed every word he said."...
END of Excerpt
One of her "hard questions" about the Middle East: Thomas to Ari Fleischer on April 1: "Does the President think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?"
Thomas certainly returns to Clinton the
admiration he shows toward her. She won the "Bring Back Bubba Award
(for the Best Journalistic Lewinsky)" at the MRC's January 17
"Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal
Reporters of 2001," for this bit of gushing when she introduced him
at an October 9, 2001 Greater Washington Society of Association Executives
lecture shown on C-SPAN:
Whether you are an adult or a kid, Time magazine seems to demand the same qualification for reporters it hires: You must be liberal. At least that's a reasonable conclusion to draw after a 12-year-old reporter for Time for Kids magazine conceded on the Today show that, after interviewing the "pro-war" Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, she realized he's more conservative than she as she "grew up in the East Village in New York City so my ideas are very different from his."
Imagine the liberal world in which she lives, from which Time recruits its journalists, where it takes a one-on-one session with the Secretary of Defense to realize that maybe the anti-terrorism policies are really being made by people who are trying to enact the best policy.
Curry wondered: "What did you learn about
him or yourself from doing this interview?"
She went on to say she wants to run for President when she grows up.
As a liberal, she'll have a lot more opportunities in the media.
To read her Rumsfeld interview story as run in
Time for Kids:
Liberal media bias disproved by an NPR commentator's cursory database check of ideological labeling? A "study" by Geoffrey Nunberg of Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information, first aired in a commentary in mid-March on NPR's Fresh Air and now featured as an article in the latest edition of American Prospect magazine, was given credibility by CNN's Jeff Greenfield on Wednesday's Inside Politics.
Picking up on the most misleading claim of all, Greenfield relayed how after checking newspaper labeling of prominent liberal and conservative politicians, Nunberg found: "It was the liberals who were 30 percent more likely to be labeled by the media than the conservatives."
In fact, Nunberg's "30 percent" gap was between how the liberals were labeled 3.78 percent of the time and the conservatives were tagged 2.89 percent of the time. If the MRC ever did a study which found that kind of puny difference we wouldn't claim a 30 percent disparity. We'd say the media basically hardly ever do x or y. So, if you buy Nunberg's numbers he only found that newspapers hardly ever label anybody, not that liberals are labeled significantly more often.
(For instance: A 1989 MRC study of the
Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, Time and U.S. News found that
during 1987-88 Concerned Women for America was tagged conservative
41 percent of the time, but the National Organization for Women was called
liberal just 2 percent of the time. Now that's a real disparity. For
Greenfield asserted on the April 17 show:
"In his best-selling book Bias, former CBS News newsman Bernard
Goldberg argues that liberal broadcasters use such labels because they
simply assume conservatives are outside the mainstream while liberals are
part of it.
Greenfield deserves credit for not trying to claim, as have some liberal commentators in trumpeting Nunberg's numbers, that his study disproves liberal bias. Greenfield cautioned: "Now, this doesn't necessarily prove that Bernard Goldberg or other critics are wrong. The study, after all, did not focus on TV broadcasters. And it does not disprove charges of bias in the coverage of issues or political campaigns."
But then, Greenfield concluded by scolding both liberals and conservatives for seeing what they want to see: "Given the liberal editorial stance of most of the newspapers surveyed, it does raise an interesting question about media critics, one that knows no ideological line: Are the critics responding to what they see and hear and read or to what they think they're hearing, seeing and reading?"
The fact that CNN, which has never once aired a story devoted to any of the hundreds of definitive studies produced over the years by the Media Research Center, so eagerly jumped on Nunberg's numbers days after they appeared in a liberal magazine, prompts me to ask: Is CNN treating as newsworthy that which they find more agreeable over findings they don't like?
Now, to be fair to Greenfield, in interviewing Goldberg on his since-cancelled Greenfield at Large program a few months ago, he did cite the MRC's documentation of bias. And Greenfield's "at large" role now, in which he offers commentary on CNN's American Morning and Inside Politics, allows him to pick up on off-beat topics which previously would not have necessarily received air time. I just hope that he will show an equal interest in the near future in the MRC's ongoing documentation of liberal bias.
As for the accuracy of Nunberg's numbers, I hardly know where to begin. While it is possible that the media's labeling skew has declined over time, my bottom line: Since Nunberg really didn't do a study which would meet any basic criteria for thoroughness, I don't take his numbers very seriously, especially since they conflict with much more solid studies conducted over the years by the MRC and the numerous anecdotes recounted by the MRC of labeling disparities in recent years between two comparable events, groups or politicians.
Space does not permit a total refutation of all the problems I see in Nunberg's approach, but I'll offer a few followed by some labeling numbers and examples documented by the MRC:
-- Nunberg's March 19 NPR commentary and May American Prospect article were aimed as discrediting Bernard Goldberg's claim that the TV networks are more likely to label a conservative than a liberal. Nunberg countered that not with anything about the networks, but with numbers from dozens of newspapers.
For his Fresh Air commentary: http://www-csli.stanford.edu/%7Enunberg/bias.html
For his nearly identical American Prospect
-- He used the Dialog database to find the names and labels, but he didn't check each one as the MRC always does to ensure accuracy. He explained: "I examined 100 citations by hand, by taking the first 25 hits for each of Lott, Boxer, Wellstone and DeLay. I found 12 examples in this set that could not be described as ascriptions of political bias. These were evenly balanced between conservatives and liberals. Or to put it another way, 88 percent of the hits did in fact involve ascriptions of political labels."
For his data: http://www-csli.stanford.edu/%7Enunberg/table.html
Doing a proper study means going through thousands of hits to categorize each one so references to Paul Wellstone's "liberal use of sugar on his cereal," are not counted. That's a very time-consuming process -- which is why we haven't quickly countered Nunberg with a fresh study which would meet our standards.
-- Each hit must be checked for duplication since databases like Nexis and Dialog often include the same story multiple times. His overall numbers included dozens of smaller papers which may in itself change the numbers because, for instance, he probably counted a single AP story many times and the wire services run a lot of stories with lists of names of officials for or against an issue, not a place where you'd add a label.
-- His numbers are impacted by how his date ranges vary by publication.
-- Some of the prominent names he picked are for people who have a title a reporter would be more likely to use, such as "Senate Majority Leader."
> Some, just some, of the labeling studies published over he years in the MRC's old MediaWatch newsletter, including ones covering the TV networks, as collated for me by the MRC's Tim Jones:
-- MediaWatch selected a broad sample
of smaller groups in specific issue areas, surveying every news story on
14 liberal groups and seven conservative ones from 1988, 1989, and 1990 in
the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.
Analysts found 29 labels in 1,182 stories on liberal groups (2.5 percent),
and 65 labels in 179 stories on conservative groups (36.3 percent), a
ratio of 14 to one. For details:
-- MediaWatch analysts compared media
coverage of the primaries in 1992 with those in 1996. Analysts reviewed
evening news coverage of the four networks (ABC's World News Tonight,
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and CNN's The World Today
and in 1992 World News or Prime News) for 19 days, starting with the
Tuesday before the New Hampshire primary.
-- To analyze the media's use of labels to
describe the political parties, MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis
news data retrieval system to search for the word "extreme"
within 25 words of "Republican" or "Democrat" in the
three news magazines (Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World
Report) and USA Today from January 1, 1993 to May 31, 1996.
-- MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis
news data retrieval system to locate every news story in 1995 and 1996 on
ten liberal environmental groups, and compared that to conservative groups
in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
The story remains the same: in 1,089 news stories, liberal environmental
groups were described as liberal in only five stories (or 0.5 percent).
-- As abortion advocates celebrated the 25th
anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, MediaWatch
analysts explored the labeling of groups active in the abortion
debate. Using the Nexis news data retrieval system, analysts located every
news story in 1995 and 1996 on four pro-life groups, and compared them to
stories on four abortion advocacy groups in The New York Times, USA
Today, and The Washington Post. In 1,050 news stories, the
pro-life groups were described as "conservative" or some variant
in 178 out of 378 news stories (47 percent), while abortion advocates were
labeled "liberal" or a similar term in only 19 of 682 stories
(2.8 percent). For details:
> Finally, a couple of powerful real-life examples.
-- The incident Goldberg cited in his book about how Peter Jennings avoided labeling liberal Senators but tagged conservative ones during the opening of the Senate's impeachment trial. For details: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1999/mw19990125rev.html
-- A classic contrast occurred between how ABC, CBS and NBC labeled Dick Cheney in 2000 versus Al Gore in 1992. As recounted in a July 2000 Media Reality Check:
Cheney earned a lifetime 91 percent from the American Conservative Union while Gore was at the opposite end of the spectrum at 15 percent.
Still, the night Gore was announced in 1992, CBS reporter Richard Threlkeld claimed: "Both Gore and Clinton are centrist, some would say conservative Democrats, and white and male." Tom Brokaw announced on NBC: "Today, Bill Clinton broke the rules. He chose someone from the same gene pool: a fellow moderate Southerner of the same generation, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee." During the convention, CBS's Susan Spencer found delegates willing to accept "such a conservative pair in hopes of winning."
Compare that to how Cheney was described the day Bush made his selection official, July 25:
-- ABC: Linda Douglass referred to him as one of the "most conservative members" of Congress who had "a very conservative voting record." George Stephanopoulos dubbed him a "very hardline conservative."
-- CBS: Bill Whitaker managed three different adjectives, tagging Cheney "a bedrock conservative" and "a rock solid conservative" with a "a solidly conservative voting record." Bryant Gumbel put Cheney outside the mainstream: "Cheney's politics are of the hard right variety."
-- NBC: Anne Thompson noted his "very conservative record." Lisa Myers recalled his days in Congress: "His voting record? Very conservative."
END of Reprint
Case closed as far as I'm concerned, but I think we still might do an updated study to prove the point. -- Brent Baker