Airline Scare; Nancy vs.
Two items today:
1) The FAA shuts
down ValuJet leading CBS to discover that "suddenly the skies are not
so friendly" as airlines are cutting maintenance to "boost
profits," an awful development for which the public is paying the
2) ABC News offered
two very different treatments two First Ladies with embarrassing
revelations. Hillary Clinton is "beleaguered, in pain, and seeking
help" in a culture where "there is a political price to be paid
for those in public life who seek help for their private problems."
But in reporting on Nancy Reagan and astrology eight years ago, ABC
focused on how "this unflattering portrait of the First Family...is
producing new, often humorous, unfavorable public reaction which political
opponents are clearly savoring."
Not letting the fact that there have been fewer accidents per passenger
mile since deregulation get in the way of an ominous story to scare
viewers, on the Tuesday night (June 25) the CBS Evening News Dan Rather
"ValuJet was grounded after an investigation
turned up a series of problems with airplane maintenance. This was after
the big crash. Maintenance is just one area in which the overall airline
industry has been cutting back in an effort to boost profits.
Correspondent Scott Pelley has been investigating the price the public
pays for that."
Pelley's story began: "Suddenly the skies
are not so friendly. Overbooking, canceled flights, equipment failure.
Passengers are feeling the pinch as airlines compete to fly on the cheap.
Discounters are forcing big carriers to cut costs to survive...."
With the help of MRC intern Jessica Anderson, here's a little comparison
of two World News Tonight stories on embarrassing revelations about two
First Ladies. First, from Monday (June 24) night's show, the day after the
news broke about Hillary Clinton using a spiritual adviser to talk to
Peter Jennings: "Mrs. Clinton is all over
the headlines today and it is all because of a new book on politics over
which some of the tabloids, particularly, are having a field day. In the
book, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post writes that Mrs. Clinton,
apparently as an exercise, conducted some imaginary conversations with,
among others, Eleanor Roosevelt. Some flap. Here's ABC's Jim Wooten."
Jim Wooten: "In Nashville today, at a family
conference, Mrs. Clinton put a humorous spin on the story."
[Hillary Rodham Clinton: "Shortly before I
arrived I had one of my conversations with Mrs. Roosevelt and she thinks
this is a terrific idea, as well."]
Wooten: "Still no one has challenged the
account in Woodward's book of the First Lady's imaginary conversations in
the White House, last year, with Mrs. Roosevelt. No one including Jean
Houston, the self-styled counselor, who suggested it and was there."
[Jean Houston: "It was an intellectual
exercise. It had nothing of spirituality about it, you know, it was just
purely an intellectual exercise."]
Wooten: "Ms. Houston says that any other
interpretation of her relationship to Mrs. Clinton would be merely
[Houston: "It's been made a circus and it's
a pack of garbage. It's just not telling the truth about who I am, what I
do, and what our conversations were about."]
Wooten: "Such role-playing conversations are
traditional counseling techniques, and Ms. Houston describes Mrs. Clinton
as beleaguered, in pain, and seeking help."
[Leon Panetta, White House Chief of Staff:
"She basically seeks a, her strength from her friends and those that
are close to her, like everybody else, and believe me, in these jobs, she
needs as much strength as she can get."]
Wooten: "The unwritten subtext here, of
course, is that even here at the end of the 20th century there is a
political price to be paid for those in public life who seek help for
their private problems. Jim Wooten, ABC News, Washington."
Compare that sympathetic take to
the spin provided by World News Tonight on Monday May 9, 1988, the day
after news that Nancy Reagan used an astrologer was revealed in Don
Reagan's book. Digging back into the MRC tape library we found a more
Peter Jennings introduced the lead story that
"Good evening, as you can see it is Monday,
May the 9th. If it is your birthday your horoscope says this month should
be emotionally varied and your problems seem to involve communication. If
you are President Reagan you may wish you never heard of horoscopes or
astrologers or Donald T. Regan. It is today that the former White House
chief of staff's book is officially published, containing all the details
about the First Family's reliance on astrology. The revelations have
already led to criticism and jokes at the President's expense. But as we
have seen in the past Mrs. Reagan is not easily deterred. Sam Donaldson
reports the White House will not take the Regan book lying down."
Sam Donaldson reported how Ronald Reagan denied
that astrologers ever set his schedule, but Donaldson noted that aides
later admitted he misunderstood the question. Donaldson went through the
Regan charges about how Nancy wanted Regan to fire Bill Casey and how
Ronald Reagan didn't make decisions in meetings and was "content to
exercise the symbolic powers of his office."
Then Donaldson stated: "This unflattering
portrait of the First Family by Regan is producing new, often humorous,
unfavorable public reaction which political opponents are clearly
savoring." ABC played three soundbites -- Congressman Tony Coelho
agreeing, followed by Congressman Chris Cox calling Regan vindictive
and Helen Thomas saying she likes any book which imparts new info.
Donaldson then concluded the story:
"Presidents and their wives look to their place in history. And for
the Reagans, Regan's book doesn't help. Sam Donaldson, ABC News, the White
going on vacation in New Hampshire for a week, so this will probably
be the last e-mail for at least a few days.