Trumpeting McCain, Bush Hypocrisy; But Bush Loans "Completely Legal"; Big Business-Bashing; Even ABC News Surprised by Attention Given Judicial Watch; 20/20 on Media Distortions
1) The CBS Evening News trumpeted the latest instance of Republican Senator John McCain taking on President Bush from the left. ABC's Peter Jennings highlighted how Bush "is accused of indulging as a businessman in the same corporate excesses that he is now condemning." But ABC also ran a story about how an expert believes the loans from 15 years ago "were completely legal and proper."
3) In the midst of all the big business-bashing, a couple of contrarian moments occurred this week on the morning shows. On Today, CNBC's Ron Insana warned that a "bidding war between Democrats and Republicans over how harshly to regulate business" could cause investors to get "scared." On Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer acknowledged that more regulation may not work: "So the President proposing still more legal statutes doesn't mean necessarily you're going to get more ethical behavior."
4) Even the ABC News political unit found sudden network interest in Judicial Watch remarkable: "If you had told us that within a year of the September 11 attacks, Larry Klayman would lead one of the newscasts, we would have been dubious. But there he was leading the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather last night, and playing big in the first blocks of WNTWPJ and TNBCNNWTB." And FNC's Brit Hume picked up on a CyberAlert item about the coverage.
5) Media manipulation and distortion is the sole focus of Friday night's 20/20 on ABC hosted by John Stossel. He promised: "This Friday's 20/20 about us...fooling YOU. I'll use the hour to look at the how we (the media) may mislead you."
The CBS Evening News on Thursday night trumpeted the latest instance of Republican Senator John McCain taking on President Bush from the left while ABC's World News Tonight actually ran a story about how in the latest media-hyped accusation against Bush, that it is hypocritical for him to be calling for an end to low-interest loans by companies to their directors when he took some himself 15 years ago, Bush's loans "were completely legal and proper."
CBS's Bill Plante heralded: "A day after the Senate voted 97 nothing for a Democrat bill to put more teeth in corporate fraud prosecutions, Republican Senator John McCain, who has challenged Mr. Bush in the past, today called for new restrictions on corporations."
Plante also highlighted how "Democrats were also delighted by this 1996 Arthur Andersen video. Dick Cheney was then President of Halliburton, the company now being sued for alleged fraudulent accounting. He praised Andersen's creativity." Check out what Cheney really said. It would be hard to call it praising Andersen's "creativity."
ABC's Jennings acknowledged the "partisan" nature of attacks on Bush as he introduced a piece on how "he is accused of indulging as a businessman in the same corporate excesses that he is now condemning."
Like ABC and CBS, NBC's Lisa Myers also highlighted the latest charge against Bush: "Today the White House was busy trying to explain why, as a businessman, Bush engaged in one of the very practices he now condemns -- insider loans to corporate officers. At issue, two low interest loans totaling $180,000 that Bush received in the 1980s from an oil company -- Harken Energy -- while he was on the board of directors."
-- CBS Evening
News, July 11. Following the opening story on the falling stock
market, CBS went to Bill Plante who focused on John McCain's
proposals outlined at a National Press Club speech. Plante began, as
taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
After a clip
of Ari Fleischer, Plante highlighted another Democratic spin point:
"Democrats were also delighted by this 1996 Arthur Andersen video.
Dick Cheney was then President of Halliburton, the company now being
sued for alleged fraudulent accounting. He praised Andersen's
That's praise of "creativity"?
Plante concluded: "Some of this may seem trivial, but with an election approaching, the stakes for Republicans are huge. As one party operative put it, unless there is a turnaround, there could be real fallout. If the stock market improves, fine. But otherwise they've got to put somebody in jail."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings teased Thursday's show by asking: "President Bush's corporate past. Is he preaching what he didn't practice?" But ABC's Dan Harris also outlined how an expert "says the loans Mr. Bush received while serving on the board of Harken were completely legal and proper. They simply don't compare, he says, to the loans given to executives, such as former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski who borrowed $23 million from his company, or former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers who borrowed $408 million."
Like CBS, ABC
also led with the plunging stock marker before
Cochran's rundown of the latest media-created controversy, ABC
focused a story on how what Bush did in 1986 may not be very relevant.
Jennings set up the piece:
explained: "There is a diversity of opinion as to whether the
dealings of George W. Bush, the business executive, should have any
bearing on the policy initiatives of George W. Bush, the chief
executive. Pete Peterson, who is a banker and former Commerce
Secretary, says the daily drumbeat of headlines do damage the
President, but he's not sure that's fair."
-- NBC Nightly
News featured the loan story, but not until well into a Lisa Myers
story on Senate actions on corporate regulations bills: "Also
approved, most reforms unveiled by the President this week. But today
the White House was busy trying to explain why, as a businessman, Bush
engaged in one of the very practices he now condemns -- insider loans
to corporate officers. At issue, two low interest loans totaling
$180,000 that Bush received in the 1980s from an oil company -- Harken
Energy -- while he was on the board of directors. The President's
spokesman said the loans to Bush were entirely proper, but the
practice has since gotten out of hand."
Text of a new Media Reality Check: "Pushing Bush to Become Business Basher; Networks: Big Business Is Bad, Reform Means New Regulations, Stale Harken Charges Are Newsworthy."
On Thursday afternoon the MRC distributed by fax the text of a Media Reality Check compiled by Rich Noyes, the MRC's Director of News Analysis.
Virtually everything in this report should be fresh to CyberAlert readers since it has not appeared earlier in any CyberAlert.
The MRC's Mez Djouadi has posted it online at: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2002/fax20020711.asp
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version which matches the format distributed by fax: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2002/pdf/fax0711.pdf
Now, the text of the July 11 Media Reality Check:
When journalists are under attack, they scorn broad-brush terms like "the media" that lump good and bad reporters into just one category. Sometimes this is comical, as when CBS anchor Dan Rather pulled out his 12-foot pole in the face of charges his CBS Evening News unethically publicized claims of drug use by candidate George W. Bush in 1999. FNC's Bill O'Reilly confronted him in May 2001 with transcripts of those smarmy Evening News stories, but Rather seized on the fact that they aired while he was on vacation and on weekends when Russ Mitchell anchored the broadcast.
"Let me stop you right there. You're talking about Russ Mitchell's program, not Dan Rather's program," Rather slyly argued. "I did not want to run it on my show." (And CBS News condemned Bernie Goldberg for lacking team spirit.)
Contrast Rather's meticulous parsing with the denigrating one-size-damns-all coverage that Big Business has received from Big Media. "The scandals in corporate America just seem to keep coming," ABC's Cokie Roberts argued on Sunday's This Week. "Just how bad a black eye does corporate America have right now?" Katie Couric chirped on Tuesday's Today, lumping law-abiding firms with Enron, Global Crossing and WorldCom.
Liberal journalists demanded that Bush attack this axis of evil with government regulations: "This is a President who has made no bones about the fact that he is not a great fan of regulation, he talks about cooperation, not regulation. Does he have a credibility problem?" CNN's Aaron Brown wondered on Monday before Bush's speech. That same evening, July 8, CBS's Wyatt Andrews pushed Bush even harder, branding him the "President who, for most of his term, has been 'partner-in-chief' with big business." He didn't mean that as a compliment.
All three evening newscasts showcased Bush critics who faulted him for not being "tough enough" on U.S. business even as he was fulfilling liberal wishes by agreeing to more regulations. At the same time, the networks revived charges that Bush greedily tried to hide a 1990 stock sale, allegations which have been repeatedly explored by national reporters beginning in 1991.
After the White House press corps extracted new quotes from Ari Fleischer on July 3, NBC Nightly News substitute anchor (and heir-apparent) Brian Williams had the hook he needed to assert that Bush "ran afoul" of the law, despite being investigated and cleared more than once: "The White House today insisted there is a very simple explanation for why President Bush ran afoul of federal law when he sold stock in a Texas oil company at a time when he was a corporate director of that company."
On CBS, Andrews argued that the absence of wrongdoing wasn't important: "Never mind that Mr. Bush was cleared. His opponents will charge this champion of personal responsibility once failed that standard himself," he knowingly predicted on July 9. Mean-while, CNN's Brown, who likes to begin each NewsNight show by listening to the sound of his own views, rationalized that he had to cover the Harken story because talk radio often focused on Clinton scandals (see box).
The text in the box:
Is Harken Story Payback For Whitewater?
Resume Media Reality Check text:
Liberal sniping was touted as proof of a Bush credibility gap, not of Democrats' unceasing partisanship: "There are a lot of questions about the President's own dealings in Harken oil stock, where he made much of his own personal fortune. Do you think he has credibility with the public on this issue?" ABC's Charles Gibson challenged Commerce Secretary Don Evans on the July 9 Good Morning America.
The point of all this is to either push Bush to adopt liberal business-bashing policies or, if he resists, condemn him for his coziness with corporations. It promises to be an election year filled with liberal media bias.
END Reprint of Media Reality Check
In the midst of all the big business-bashing documented in item #2 above, a couple of contrarian moments occurred this week on the morning shows when a reporter or a host raised a conservative point.
On Thursday's Today, CNBC's Ron Insana warned that a "bidding war between Democrats and Republicans over how harshly to regulate business" could cause investors to get "scared that the climate could turn inordinately hostile and chill the economy and the business environment." On Wednesday's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer acknowledged that more regulation may not change unethical behavior: "So the President proposing still more legal statutes doesn't mean necessarily you're going to get more ethical behavior."
-- NBC's Today, July 11. The MRC's Rich Noyes caught this exchange over why the stock market is declining:
"You hear people throwing out a lot of reasons, one, we''re
still getting over the dot com failures, another is the corporate
scandals, another is 9-11 and fear of terrorism. Rank those for me,
and add some others if you want."
Good Morning America, July 10. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed
that during an interview with David Faber of CNBC, Sawyer proposed:
Even the ABC News political unit took note of how remarkable it was for all three broadcast network evenings news shows to have prominently featured, on Wednesday night, a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch. ABC didn't mention that it probably helped that the target was a Republican Vice President and not a Democratic President's administration.
And, another example of a network reporter simply calling Judicial Watch a "watchdog" group after the networks always tagged it as "conservative" during the Clinton years.
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson alerted me to the content in Thursday's edition of "The Note," a daily column on the ABCNews.com Web site put together by the ABC News political unit of Mark Halperin, Elizabeth Wilner and Marc Ambinder.
The July 11
edition included this passage:
To read "The Note," go to: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/dailynews/thenote.html
You'll have to register to see it.
For more on the media's sudden interest in a Judicial Watch lawsuit, see the July 11 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020711.asp#2
In referring to Judicial Watch but not naming it on Thursday's The Early Show on CBS, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed that business news anchor Susan McGinnis asserted: "The confidence crisis is worsened by the fact that President Bush himself has been under scrutiny for questionable accounting practices while he was an oil executive in Texas. And Vice President Cheney, already facing an SEC investigation, is now being sued by a watchdog group alleging investor fraud while he was CEO of Halliburton oil company."
Thursday's CyberAlert featured an extensive look at how when it was suing Clinton officials to disclose information Judicial Watch was always tagged as "conservative." But when it sued Vice President Cheney on Wednesday, the networks changed their tune as all described it as a non-ideological "watchdog group," "legal group," "legal activist group" or "legal advocacy group." For a rundown of contrasts for ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020711.asp#1
night, July 11, FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume picked up on the
CyberAlert item. During the "Grapevine" segment, Hume
(That reminds me of a small point I should have made in the July 11 CyberAlert which cited an example of a reporter on World News Tonight referring to Judicial Watch, but the CyberAlert item did not note what the anchor said. In that only instance I could find during the Clinton years when World News Tonight cited Judicial Watch (an October 24, 1996 story on the disappearance of John Huang in which reporter Brian Ross set up a soundbite by referring to: "Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer who filed the lawsuit..."), came on a night when Jennings did not anchor. That evening Diane Sawyer handled the anchor duties and her introduction for the Ross piece did not refer to the lawsuit.)
The entirety of tonight's 20/20 on ABC will be devoted to an examination by John Stossel of media manipulation and distortion.
An excerpt from his memo on the ABCNews.com Web site about the Friday, July 12 edition of 20/20:
This Friday's 20/20 about us...fooling YOU. I'll use the hour to look at the how we (the media) may mislead you.
Sometimes the media distort pictures. I'll show you how. The Communists killed Trotsky and then removed him from Soviet photographs. Now computers make it easier. Remember when some people booed Hillary Clinton at a fund-raising concert after September 11th? MTV replayed the concert, but changed the boos to applause. TV Guide put Oprah Winfrey on its cover, but gave her Ann-Margret's body. Steven Spielberg took guns out of the remake of ET.
Of course, that's just entertainment. It's worse if NEWS organizations distort. I'll tell you what ABCNEWS has done. And what I did.
Even when we don't distort, we can still mislead by hyping tiny risks. You heard about "road rage," but did you know there's no evidence of road rage increasing? The media reports were mostly based on -- get this: a study of MEDIA REPORTS of road rage. It was circular logic.
And the reason for all those shark attack! reports last year was NOT an increase in the number of attacks, it was just hype! We'll show you how, and why....
And did you hear about the dog brothel (a cathouse for dogs!), and the cockroach that cured colds? All were hoaxes, OBVIOUS hoaxes, that nevertheless fooled the gullible media. I'll introduce you to the hoaxer, who tricks the media, he says, because he wants to show how intellectually lazy we are.
He has a point. Journalists work hard, but we are intellectually lazy when we focus on sharks rather than undertows; road rage, or car-jackings, rather than drunken driving. It's bad journalism, and as Bob Lichter of the Statistical Assessment Service puts it, bad journalism is worse than no journalism, because it leads people to think they know things, when they don't.
END of Excerpt
This page is online at: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/2020/2020/2020_email_main.html
USA Today "Media Mix" column by Peter Johnson previewed the show.
To read his July 11 piece:
20/20 airs on ABC at 10pm EDT/PDT, 9pm CDT/MDT.
With so much media distortion from which to choose, Stossel must have had a tough time winnowing his material to squeeze it into an hour. -- Brent Baker