Reviving the Myth of Camelot; Dan Rather Awed by "Kennedy Mystique"
1) ABC and CBS employed "An American Tragedy" graphic for the Kennedy story Monday night. NBC ended with a whitewash of the Kennedy family history: "The life of the Kennedys is one of the great American sagas" for which "they paid a terrible price."
2) A U.S. News editor conceded that when it comes to the Kennedys, "you suspend normal news judgment." Network stars used JFK Jr.'s passing as a chance to revive the liberal myth of the Kennedy presidency as "Camelot"; the family as American royalty.
3) Dan Rather fawned over the Kennedy family, referring to how they uphold Greek mythology and asserting "there is a Kennedy mystique and their history is mythical" as "we feel" the family's aching "because the mystique and the myth are deep within us."
>>> MRC's Tim Graham will testify Tuesday morning before a House committee about PBS/CPB funding and the controversy over some stations exchanging fundraising lists with the DNC. Graham will appear at a hearing being held by the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection. The hearing begins at 10am ET, July 20, and is on the C-SPAN schedule. But since C-SPAN will be covering the House floor session live the hearing will probably not air until Tuesday night.
Correction: The July 19 CyberAlert reported how the CBS Evening News looked at "a woman at the Luby's mass shooting massacre in Colleen, Texas who became a state representative and advocate of concealed weapons." In taking down a summary of the story I spelled out the city name phonetically and then in a Rather-like lapse forgot to correct the spelling. That's "Killeen" Texas.
The Kennedy-Bessette plane crash story consumed barely half of Monday's World News Tonight on ABC, a bit more of the CBS Evening News and all but about two minutes of the NBC Nightly News. Both ABC and CBS ran their stories under the "An American Tragedy" moniker while NBC went with the more accurate on-screen graphic of "A Family Tragedy."
NBC ended with a whitewash of the Kennedy family history as Tom Brokaw declared: "The life of the Kennedys is one of the great American sagas." A saga which includes both good and bad, but NBC skipped the bad side.
Other than the Kennedy story, ABC managed to find time for full reports on airstrikes in Iraq, a Department of Justice report on the decline in violent crime last year and the first shuttle mission commanded by a woman, Eileen Collins. CBS ran only one full report on something non-Kennedy related, Scott Pelley on "the President's cherished goal" to achieve Middle East peace. The show ended with Anthony Mason on how Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg will now be in the spotlight as "the last heir to her father's legacy."
NBC squeezed in a brief report from David Bloom about Clinton's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Tom Brokaw read a short item about how the U.S. military is watching China because of concern about tensions with Taiwan. Other than that it was all post crash news with Brokaw asserting of John F. Kennedy Jr.: "At his father's funeral young John became America's child when he saluted his father's passing casket."
The July 19
Nightly News concluded with a tribute to the Kennedy family. Brokaw
offered an approving overview which ignored how the family gained wealth
by bootlegging liquor during prohibition:
Faw talked to Jerry Burk, owner of Doyle's pub, about his sense of a family cursed. Faw also played soundbites from a 22-year-old waitress who felt a bond with JFK Jr. and a "devastated" bartender who saw in JFK Jr. the hope of young blue collar workers. The bartender maintained: "He was the touchstone for the idea of Camelot."
"But here there were not only condolences, there was also a renewed
sense of a family being stalked."
Being murdered by an assassin is a tragedy but killing yourself by overdosing on drugs is your own fault. And before he skied into a tree while irresponsibly playing on a slope, Michael was having sex with his under-aged babysitter.
Frequently over the weekend and Monday, especially during the cable networks' non-stop coverage, journalists and guests used John F. Kennedy Jr.'s tragic death as an opportunity to revive dreams about "Camelot" and how everyone considers the Kennedys to be America's Royal Family. Many may, but not conservatives and others opposed to the family's liberal politics.
I have no doubt JFK Jr. was a fine and decent man, probably in part because of how his mother raised him apart from the Kennedy family, and don't object to tribute's to his life's works, but when journalists start using his passing as a hook to revive "Camelot," a myth they originally created, or to call the Kennedys "our Royal Family," that's worth noting.
-- Suspend news
judgment and pour on the praise. On CNN's live Reliable Sources at
11:30am Sunday, MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed, Brian Kelly of U.S. News
& World Report conceded the media's inclinations:
UPI's Helen Thomas added: "Everything that happened to the First Family, they added a certain glamour everybody could tie into in some way. And I think that's what happened. We think of the family. We think of all of the tragedies and the glamour and the mischief and so forth all wrapped up into one, but mostly hope."
Monday's Today, MRC analyst Mark Drake observed, Katie Couric, live from
Hyannisport, declared as fact:
That's all pretty mild compared to what Dan Rather delivered Saturday afternoon and Monday night. He maintained the Kennedy family story "is the kind of thing that made Greek mythology survive through the ages" and asserted "there is a Kennedy mystique and their history is mythic" as "some of the aching grief the family feels tonight we feel because the mystique and the myth are deep within us."
-- About 4:15pm ET
on Saturday, July 17 during live CBS News coverage, as located by MRC
analyst Brian Boyd:
I bet Rather likes it.
-- Leading into the last ad break on Monday's 10pm ET/PT 48 Hours, just after interviewing Jesse Jackson, Rather adopted JFK Jr. for all of us: "When this special 48 Hours returns, a tribute to America's son."
After the break on
the July 19 show Rather fulfilled his promise but transferred the tribute
from the one Kennedy who died Friday night to the whole clan:
++ Watch Rather's homage to the Kennedy family. Tuesday morning the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell will post a RealPlayer clip of Rather's ending comments. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
The latest weekly news magazines mourned the passing of another member of "America's Royal Family." Newsweek laid it on thick, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed in putting together this week's MRC MagazineWatch on the July 26 editions. Newsweek asserted: "He was more than our 'Prince Charming,' as the New York tabs called him...We etched the past and the future on his fine face."
Here's Geoffrey's MagazineWatch review of Kennedy coverage:
Coverage of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash dominated the July 26 news magazines and their covers. If the week-after issues filled with Princess Diana news are any indication, the news magazines will have their best sales week of 1999. Time merely noted a "commemorative issue" with his name and life span. Newsweek's cover said "AGAIN: A Kennedy Family Tragedy," and U.S. News & World Report just used "The Kennedy Curse." Only U.S. News also featured the late Mrs. Kennedy on the cover.
While the coverage was for the most part sober, some writers couldn't resist the opportunity to make the perfunctory regal references to the liberal Kennedy clan.
At Time, the headline to a Nancy Gibbs story trumpeted: "He Was America's Prince. An Icon of Both Magic and Grief Who Flew His Own Course to the Lost Horizon."
But Time lionized the whole family. In a piece entitled, "Look Homeward Angel Once Again," essayist Roger Rosenblatt waxed poetically about the Kennedy curse taking on the proportion of Greek tragedy and then ranked the Kennedys in the pantheon of great political dynasties: "Love or hate the Kennedys, there is no family in American history like them-Not the Adamses, not the Roosevelts. They may lack the blue-blood lineage, but they have stuck together (even if the glue has sometimes been messy), have forged and sustained a civilization before our eyes."
Even conservative writer Peggy Noonan claimed "His father lived a life of meaning and drama, a heroic life that spanned less than 50 years," and wondered of Junior, "Wouldn't he live a giant life too? What kind of man will King Arthur's son be?"
Over at Newsweek, Jonathan Alter laid it on thick: "The Kennedy family will play a role in American public life in the next century. A member of the family, perhaps Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, may even be elected President some day. But we will never see a figure quite like John F. Kennedy Jr. again. He was more than our 'Prince Charming,' as the New York tabs called him. We etched the past and the future on his fine face."
His colleague Kenneth Auchincloss drooled: "Blessed with a handsome face and a famous name, ample wealth and five-star celebrity, JFK Jr. was the golden boy of his generation, a darling of magazine covers (the sexiest man alive, cooed People) and a sort of American royal. He was our closest equivalent to Princess Diana, a comparison that his sudden loss will now make inescapable." Historian Douglas Brinkley echoed the thought in an essay, recounting how he suggested to JFK Jr. that he could be seen like John Quincy Adams: "That's kind of you...But I feel more like Princess Di."
U.S. News was less prone to lapse into royal worship. Brian Kelly and Kenneth Walsh referred instead to geography: "Just miles from the place where his Uncle Ted drove off the Chappaquiddick bridge and into the rolls of political infamy almost exactly 30 years ago, John F. Kennedy Jr. disappeared." But they also listed Chappaquiddick in a listing of family tragedies: "Since World War II, the Kennedy family has been plagued by a series of disasters that, taken together, stretch the bounds of coincidence."
Certainly, Ted's infamous efforts to leave the scene of an accident and fake like he hadn't been there weren't coincidental.
covered in MagazineWatch:
To read the July 20 MagazineWatch, go to the MRC's home page or directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/magwatch/mag19990720.html
Maria Shriver isn't the only media figure with Kennedy connections. On
Monday's Entertainment Tonight Mary Hart talked to Good Morning America
co-host Charles Gibson and learned:
Over on Access Hollywood Pat O'Brien relayed: "Gibson also revealed to me that his Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer, a good friend of JFK Junior's, has been too shaken to cover the story."
Indeed, Connie Chung co-hosted Monday and Barbara Walters pitched in this morning.
Mary Matalin, tell us it isn't so. CNN announced Saturday that Mary Matalin is a new "on the right" co-host of CNN's Crossfire, but now she says she doesn't think there is any liberal media bias.
Recounting her conversation with Mary Matalin in Pasadena at the network press tour, in Monday's Washington Post reporter Lisa de Moraes wrote: "Now a member of the press, Matalin said Saturday she doesn't think there is a liberal bias in the news media, though 'we like to say that there is.'"
Sounds like one too many nights sleeping with James Carville.
If she won't attack the media for being too liberal what will she advocate? In the July 18 Dallas Morning News reporter Ed Bark relayed: "Perhaps this isn't a bulletin, but Ms. Matalin plans to carry the battle for George W. Bush whenever Crossfire focuses on campaign issues. 'He's the kind of conservative I am,' Ms. Matalin said in an interview. 'He's inclusive, he's broad-minded, he solves problems as a social entrepreneur. He's done it in Texas and he can do it in the Oval Office. He's a good guy and he's not afraid to lose, which is why he's gonna win.'"
In 1996 and 1997, when she hosted a CBS Radio talk show, Matalin served as a judge for the MRC's annual Best of Notable Quotables issue, the Award's for the Year's Worst Reporting.
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