Wednesday's World News Tonight on ABC promoted class warfare analysis
from a liberal group, but failed to provide an ideological label. For
the second story on December 17 anchor Peter Jennings highlighted a
report from the far-left Center for Budget and Policy Priorities,
though he mangled the name:
other major story today, a new study out which highlights the winners
and the losers in the current economy. The report, from the Center for
Budget Policy and Priorities makes absolutely clear what people can
already feel. The top 20 percent of the country's wage earners are
managing to take full advantage of a booming service economy and
they've done very well in the stock market. The rich are getting
richer and the bottom 20 percent, on the other hand, in a declining
manufacturing sector have seen their salaries stay the same or go
As usual, the
network ignored the flip side of the story -- how the wealthy are
punished by paying far more than their share of the tax burden. ABC
failed to run a story when the Tax Foundation a few weeks ago released
a report titled "Latest Income Tax Data Shows Top 1% Paying Over
30% of Total Federal Individual Income Tax Collections." The Tax
Foundation study of 1995 data discovered:
one percent of income earners made 14.6 percent of all incomes in
1995, but paid 30.2 percent of all federal income taxes....In
contrast, the bottom 50 percent earned 14.5 percent of all income in
1995 but paid only 4.6 percent of federal individual income taxes that
analyst Gene Eliasen reminded me that ABC News is not always so
reluctant to issue labels. On the December 4 Nightline on the
Arlington Cemetery controversy, Ted Koppel referred to "when a
conservative magazine published a story last month..." Reporter
Chris Bury referenced "the conservative magazine Insight"
and explained how "the story would ricochet from a small
conservative magazine to the talk radio circuit." Introducing
another segment from Bury, Koppel repeated Bury's point, explaining
how the story leapt "from the pages of a conservative magazine to
the airwaves of some of America's best known conservative talk
3) Before we
put the Arlington Cemetery flap to rest, a few more examples of biased
reporting: distorted claims that Larry Lawrence would have qualified
for burial based solely upon his ambassadorial service; CBS, CNN and
Reuters put scandal burden on Republicans; and failing to give a
conservative columnist credit for doing the media's job for them.
December 5 Nightline piece on how the evil ways of Washington turned
Larry Lawrence, in Ted Koppel's words, "into a political
football," Michel McQueen asserted:
Lawrence may well have been eligible for burial at Arlington because
he died while serving as an ambassador. But in the rancorous
atmosphere of Washington, the facts may be almost beside the
Monday, December 8, when it became clear his body would be moved,
Linda Douglass concluded a World News Tonight story:
the cemetery officials say that Lawrence may well have been entitled
to burial at Arlington simply because he was an ambassador but over
the last several days all kinds of questions have been raised about
his resume and record. Questions, for example, about whether or not he
embellished his academic credentials. So the White House, in the end,
says it will not oppose removing his body."
Reality Check, from a December 6 Los Angeles Times story by
documents show that of six ambassadors granted burial waivers for
Arlington National Cemetery, three died violently in the line of
duty while two had records far more distinguished than that of the
sixth -- M. Larry Lawrence, whose waiver by the Clinton
administration is under intense review....
list of burial waivers granted ambassadors covers the years since
the 1960s, when the cemetery was forced to impose new entrance
requirements because of rising demand for space in its 200 acres.
The three ambassadors who died violent deaths were Cleo A. Noel Jr.,
killed in March 1973 when Palestinian terrorists struck an embassy
in Sudan; Adolph A. Dubs, killed in 1973 when Afghan police stormed
a hotel room where he was being held by a terrorist gunman; and
Arnold L. Raphel, who died in 1988 when a plane carrying Pakistani
President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq crashed. Sabotage by Zia's enemies was
widely believed responsible for the crash..."
News viewers never learned of Lawrence's made up resume. The December
4 World News Tonight and December 5 NBC Nightly News featured full
stories of the lack of proof that Lawrence ever served in the Merchant
Marine. CNN also ran a story and all three updated viewers the next
week about his body being removed. But CBS never told viewers the
specifics for the disinternment.
On December 8
Dan Rather took 22 seconds to report:
"The wife of Larry Lawrence is asking now that his body be
removed from Arlington National Cemetery. This follows questions about
his military service and qualification to be buried at Arlington.
Lawrence was once U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland. This is all part of
the fallout from unsubstantiated accusations that the Clinton camp was
selling burial rights at Arlington to political friends."
Rather's 17 second announcement back on November 21:
"There's been considerable publicity lately about accusations
that President Clinton quote, 'perhaps provided burial space at
Arlington National Cemetery to major campaign donors,' unquote.
Spokesmen for President Clinton flatly and unequivocally denied this
today to CBS News and they called it 'a deliberate political smear,'
the only reporter to put the burden on Republicans even after the
discovery of Lawrence's resume enhancement. Here's how CNN World Today
anchor Leon Harris introduced a December 4 story: "Republicans
are also busy rekindling a controversy over Arlington National
Cemetery and whether the Clinton Administration gave a plot to a
non-veteran as a political favor..."
reporter refused to treat Lawrence as a scandal for Clinton. In a wire
story caught by MRC news analyst Clay Waters (and cited by Rush
Limbaugh), Jonathan Wright opened a December 9 dispatch:
"Republicans refused Tuesday to call off their campaign to
embarrass the Clinton administration with revelations about a dead
ambassador who may have lied about his past to secure a prime burial
We may never
have learned of Lawrence's made up WWII story if it were not for
Arianna Huffington doing what any good reporter would, but didn't:
make some calls to see if his resume matched reality. She first
contacted Norma Nicolls, a former aide to Lawrence, and learned that
he had asked Nicolls to track down details about WWII ships. The New
Yorks Times got around to her story on December 12, two weeks after
Huffington. But instead of crediting the columnist, the Times story
asserted that Nicolls "agreed to an interview only because she
had already been interviewed by congressional investigators." Of
course Huffington talked to her before the congressional
member of the media was willing to give credit. Recounting how the
story unfolded, CNN's Bill Schneider gave her the "Political Play
of the Week" on the December 12 Inside Politics:
"Then columnist Arianna Huffington came out with a startling
revelation, based on an interview with Lawrence's former personal
assistant....Within a few days, Lawrence was exposed as a
liar...Suddenly the White House was singing a different tune. ...This
week, his widow asked President Clinton to have her husband body's
removed from Arlington and reburied elsewhere.... The truth is,
Lawrence was a phony. The truth is, he got special treatment by the
White House because of his campaign contributions. The truth came out
because an enterprising columnist looked behind the spin and
embarrassed the entire administration....Arianna Huffington dug up the
truth and the body in the Political Play of the Week..."
4) Here's a
soundbite I bet you never knew FBI Director Louis Freeh uttered during
his appearance last week before the House Government Reform and
Oversight Committee. Steve Allen of the Internet Political Report (www.politicalreport.org)
alerted me to this exchange which occurred a bit past 4pm ET on
"Mr. Freeh, over 65 people have invoked the Fifth Amendment or
fled the country in the course of the committee's investigation.
Have you ever experienced so many unavailable witnesses in any
matter in which you've prosecuted or in which you've been
Louis Freeh, FBI Director: "Actually, I have."
Burton: "You have? Give me a rundown on that real
Freeh: "I spent about 16 years doing organized crime
cases in New York City. And many people were frequently
So, the FBI
Director compares Democratic fundraisers and donors fleeing the
country or refusing to talk to how the Mafia react to investigations.
You'd think that would make a great, provocative soundbite. But none
of the networks, not ABC, CBS, CNN, or NBC, not even the NewsHour on
PBS, showed it, the MRC news analysts reported.
(At least a
few people do care about the fundraising scandal as the Fox News
Channel gained viewers by sticking with the December 9 hearing into
the late afternoon when CNN and MSNBC cut out at 12:30pm ET. As John
Carmody reported in the December 11 Washington Post: "So for the
afternoon, FNC rose to a 0.5 rating (110,000 cable homes), tying CNN
with its 0.5 (representing, however, 388,000 cable homes) and outright
beat MSNBC, which did a 0.2 (or 61,000 cable homes)."
stars, and by implication, young black males, cannot be expected to
behave properly and follow civilized rules. So argued Sam Donaldson in
a December 7 discussion on ABC's This Week about Latrell Sprewell, the
NBA player suspended for choking and threatening to kill his coach.
And in the context of Donaldson's analysis it is relevant to note that
Sprewell is black. Here's what Donaldson contended, as transcribed by
MRC analyst Gene Eliasen:
"Obviously, he needed to be disciplined. Obviously, what he did
could not be condoned. But it's striking that we have taken these
sports figures and in other walks of life, too, and we've made them
larger than life. We throw all the money in the world at them, the
adulation, the people waiting in the aisles. And then when they do
not act as if they know that the dessert spoon goes in front of the
plate, well, we say, 'Well, that's horrible! That's terrible!'"
George Stephanopoulos: "Sam, he choked his coach!"
Cokie Roberts: "But this is a little different from
Donaldson: "I'm not condoning it, but these guys, these
guys did not come up through finishing schools and we know it. Most
of them, many of them clawed their way up from the streets. It's one
thing they can do in life and I don't think we can all expect them
to have learned all the mores that all of us say we know."
Imagine if a
conservative made such a condescending remark about the ability of a
minority group to behave or perform as well as the rest of society
because of their cultural background. Actually, you don't have to
imagine it. Recall reaction to Charles Murray's book or how Bryant
Gumbel disparaged anti-admissions-by quota Texas law professor Lino
Graglia (for that one, see the December 5 CyberAlert.)