Rather Concerned by
"Tactics;" Clinton "Cleared"?
Three items today:
1) Dan Rather
wonders about the real motive behind "Republican special
prosecutor" Kenneth Starr calling Bruce Lindsey an unindicted
co-conspirator. Rather twice questions Starr's "tactics."
2) MediaWatch study
finds Republicans tagged as "extreme" in 149 stories, Democrats
labeled "extreme" in just seven.
3) New York Times
reports that Senate hearings "cleared" the Clintons.
Here's how Dan Rather began Wednesday's CBS Evening News (June 19):
"Good evening, the Republican special prosecutor in the Whitewater
case is naming a trusted friend and senior adviser to President Clinton as
a quote 'unindicted co-conspirator.' This is in connection with an
Arkansas criminal trial. Bruce Lindsey now stands accused, but not
indicted, in connections with contributions to the 1990 Clinton for
Governor campaign. Lindsey flatly denies any wrongdoing. President Clinton
supports him. Still unclear -- what's behind this tactic of the
Following reporter Bill Plante's story from the White House, Rather asked
him: "Bill, this unindicted co-conspirator tactic. Does it mean
prosecutor Starr doesn't actually have the goods on Lindsey and wants to
turn him to the prosecution's side, or wants to evoke Nixon-Watergate
memories. What is the reading there?"
The June issue of MediaWatch, which you should be receiving in the mail
very soon, includes a study headlined: "Reporters Pile Extremist'
Labels on Republicans, But Spared Democrats in 1993 and 1994." What
follows is a brief excerpt of the study completed by Associate Editor Tim
Graham: At the dawn of the Clinton era, the Democratic Party
dominated both the executive and legislative branches. Within months,
Democrats peeled away restrictions on abortion on demand, pushed for
openly gay soldiers in the military, raised taxes to historically high
levels, and promoted universally subsidized health care.
Two years later, in the gloomy days after the Republican sweep of Congress
in 1994, Bill Clinton sought the advice of political consultant Dick
Morris, who urged him to "triangulate" between the extremes of
the ascendant conservative Republicans and the liberals in his own party.
Would reporters label liberal Democrats "extreme"?
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
Analysts discovered reporters did not use many extremist labels in 1993
and 1994 -- 41 -- but 26 of those were applied to Republicans, compared to
ten mentions of dual extremes and only five for the Democrats who ruled
both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But in the first 17 months of GOP
control, Republicans were described as "extreme" in 123 stories,
while only 15 found "extremes" on both sides. Just two mentioned
"extreme" Democrats. USA Today's Richard Benedetto exemplified
reporting on Republican extremism on June 16, 1995: "Democrats are
trying to keep a stiff upper lip as they continue to oppose `extreme' GOP
cuts." Many of these were attributed to Democrats, but more than 20
came directly from reporters, such as Gloria Borger's March 11, 1996 U.S.
News suggestion that "taking on Buchananism would be good for
Gingrich. Recall that until Buchanan surged, Gingrich was Washington's
The reports citing dual extremes weren't always perfectly balanced.
Witness U.S. News's Kenneth Walsh on July 31, 1995: "The President is
trying to position himself as a moderate who occupies a middle ground
between liberal Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans."
As noticed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, compare these Wednesday
headlines on the release of the Republican and Democratic reports from the
Senate Whitewater committee.
The Washington Times: "Panel Blasts Hillary
The Washington Post: "Whitewater Panel
Splits on Party Lines."
The New York Times: "Whitewater Hearing
Cleared the Clintons, Democrats Say."
reading the New York Times spin you can't say the media are always