2. ABC Derides: 'U.S. Doesn't Make It Easy' for Working Parents
3. Vieira: 'Would We Be Better Off If Gas Prices Were Even Higher?'
4. Matthews on Libby: 'Pardon Him But Send Him to Iraq in Uniform'
5. For 2nd Night, It's 'ABC's World News with George Stephanopoulos'
An MSNBC.com investigation by Bill Dedman, posted Thursday, documented that of 144 journalists identified as having "made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign," the "newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists [87 percent] gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans," a 7-to-1 tilt. (Two contributed to both parties.)
But while most of those found by Dedman work in local markets, for opinion-oriented publications or hold non-news coverage positions such as music reviewer or copy editor, several are mainstream media journalists. Amongst those listed by Dedman for donating to Democratic party committees, the Kerry campaign or anti-Bush left-wing groups: a correspondent and a producer for CBS's Sunday Morning, a CNN reporter now with NPR, NPR's newscaster during All Things Considered as well as another NPR correspondent, a correspondent for NBC's Dateline, a Senior Editor at Time magazine, the "ethics" columnist for the New York Times (who insisted MoveOn.org is non-partisan) and a Washington Post veteran who gave while a Senior Writer at U.S. News magazine. Plus, a New Yorker writer who justified his donation to an anti-Bush group by recalling how "the world would be a better place" if a journalist had killed Hitler.
That writer, Mark Singer, pointed out the real power journalists command every day: "It's much easier to influence the outcome of a political election by writing about it than it is by making a contribution."
For Dedman's June 21 posting on MSNBC.com: www.msnbc.msn.com
No doubt, media outlet rules against political donations inhibit many journalists from contributing the $200 or more which makes a donation part of the FEC's public records, and even if most of those identified by Dedman work for local outlets, the ratio probably reflects the opinions of those who have risen to the top national news outlets.
After all, back in 2004, New York Times reporter John Tierney discovered an overwhelming preference for John Kerry amongst political reporters when he took an informal survey of 153 journalists at a press party during the Democratic convention in Boston. "When asked who would be a better President," Tierney relayed in his "Political Points" column of tidbits from the campaign trail, "the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1."
For an excerpt of Tierney's August 1, 2004 column, "Finding Biases on the Bus," check the August 2, 2004 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
In March and April 2005, the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy surveyed 300 journalists nationwide -- 120 who worked in the television industry and 180 who worked at newspapers and asked for whom they voted in the 2004 presidential election. In a report released May 16, 2005, the researchers disclosed that the journalists they surveyed selected Democratic challenger John Kerry over incumbent Republican President George W. Bush by a wide margin, 52 percent to 19 percent.
A Freedom Forum survey of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents discovered that by an incredible margin of nine-to-one the political journalists overwhelmingly cast their presidential ballots in 1992 for Democrat Bill Clinton over Republican incumbent George Bush: 89 percent of Washington-based reporters said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Only seven percent voted for George Bush, with two percent choosing Ross Perot.
The preceding two survey summaries are from the MRC's "Media Bias Basics." For a rundown of many other polls of journalists, see: www.mrc.org
For the MSNBC.com story, Dedman asked those who donated to a political cause to defend their decision. New Yorker magazine writer Mark Singer, who in April 2004 gave $250 "to Victory Campaign 2004, which supported America Coming Together, which opposed President Bush," invoked Hitler:
"I will tell you the truth. I am not a political writer," Singer said. "I got a call in the summer of 2003 from David Remnick because Nick Lemann was going to run the journalism school at Columbia, and he needed someone to cover the Dean campaign. And I tried to avoid doing it, because I don't believe fundamentally in the process by which we elect presidents -- obviously it's an insane process. And I had a son who was working in the Dean campaign -- he was 17, up in Burlington. It was a conflict of interest. I disclosed in the piece that my son was working for the campaign."
As for the donation, "I knew I was never going to write another political piece in my life. There was a decent interval, or an indecent interval, after the article. I must have rationalized that a get-out-the-vote campaign, there was some distinction -- but now that I'm talking to you, I see that there's not a distinction. Obviously I'm a Democrat. I understand the nature of the question you're asking -- but it's much easier to influence the outcome of a political election by writing about it than it is by making a contribution.
"I believe very much that writers have to be aware of conflicts of interest in all sorts of situations. Probably there should be a rule against it. But there's a rule against murder. If someone had murdered Hitler -- a journalist interviewing him had murdered him -- the world would be a better place. I only feel good, as a citizen, about getting rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime. I certainly don't regret it."
END of Excerpt
New York Times ethics columnist Randy Cohen donated "$585 in three donations in August 2004 to MoveOn.org, which conducted get-out-the-vote drives to defeat President Bush." He defended supporting MoveOn, which he maintained is non-partisan, by accusing the Boy Scouts and Catholic Church is being "discriminatory." An excerpt from Dedman's write-up of Cohen's response:
In addition to the syndicated column "The Ethicist" for the Times Magazine, Cohen answers ethics questions for listeners of NPR.
Freelancers like Cohen are covered by the Times policy, which says, "Times readers apply exacting standards to the entire paper. They do not distinguish between staff-written articles and those written by outsiders. Thus as far as possible, freelance contributors to The Times, while not its employees, will be held to the same standards as staff members when they are on Times assignments, including those for the Times Magazine. If they violate these guidelines, they will be denied further assignments."
Cohen said he thought of MoveOn.org as nonpartisan and thought the donation would be allowed even under the strict rule at the Times.
"We admire those colleagues who participate in their communities -- help out at the local school, work with Little League, donate to charity," Cohen said in an e-mail. "But no such activity is or can be non-ideological. Few papers would object to a journalist donating to the Boy Scouts or joining the Catholic Church. But the former has an official policy of discriminating against gay children; the latter has views on reproductive rights far more restrictive than those of most Americans. Should reporters be forbidden to support those groups? I'd say not. Unless a group's activities impinge on a reporter's beat, the reporter should be free to donate to a wide range of nonprofits. Make a journalist's charitable giving transparent, and let the readers weigh it as they will."
END of Excerpt
"Best of the Web Today" compiler James Taranto's reaction: "Cohen's effort at self-justification approaches high comedy: If it's OK for his colleagues to make donations to nonpolitical organizations that he finds politically objectionable, it must be OK for him to make donations to political organizations!" See: www.opinionjournal.com
In November of 2005, on CBS's Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Cohen made clear his disgust with President Bush. When Ferguson raised Bill Clinton's name, Cohen reacted with outrage that Ferguson was still concerned about such old news: "Oh, Clinton, he's been out of office for, you know, how long? Seven years. Some little lie about his personal life. We've got a guy now who lied the country into a war. You're talking about Clinton from seven years ago?" Actually, Clinton left office fewer than five years ago. Cohen advised that on Monica Lewinsky "he should have said, 'None of your business' and then after that, it's between him and his wife." For details: www.mrc.org
Now, back to Dedman's MSNBC.com rundown of details of who gave what to whom and their responses when asked about it. Below are excepts from the listings for those holding news coverage positions with mainstream media outlets:
# CBS News, Serena Altschul, contributing correspondent for "CBS Sunday Morning," $5,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in October 2004. She was a correspondent for CBS from 2003 to 2006.
A CBS spokeswoman said Altschul "did some checking with family members, and the contribution was in fact made in her name."
A year after this donation, CBS tightened its policy to forbid all political activity.
A CBS spokesman said the network's policy was tightened in September 2006 to forbid contributions to political campaigns. Previously, there was a bit of wiggle room.
"My donation pre-dates the clarification of CBS News policy," Forgotson said. "I've made no contributions to any candidate or party since."
Raz donated to Kerry the same month he was embedded in Iraq with U.S. troops for CNN. He also covered reaction to Abu Ghraib and President Bush's policies in the Middle East. In 2006, he returned to NPR, and covers the Pentagon.
"Yes, I made the donation," Raz said in an e-mail. "At the time, I was a reporter with CNN International based out of London. I covered international news and European Union stories. I did not cover US news or politics."
"In a word, 'Yikes!'" Corderi said in an e-mail. "Josh Rales is a longtime neighbor and acquaintance. A good friend of mine gave him a cocktail party last year, a sort of 'meet and greet.' My husband and I went to be nice, knowing full well Josh was tilting at windmills with his candidacy. Later, my husband (who is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, by the way) told me he'd written a check for a nominal amount so our friend would have something to show for the night. I'd not even thought to consider that since my name is on our checks that I would appear in public records as a contributor. I have a policy of not contributing to campaigns and not showing public support for candidates. This was a lapse that you brought to my attention."
Schwanewede said she purchased the tickets for her husband's birthday for a Springsteen concert.
"There's no intention of mine to donate to any political campaign."
"At the time I made that donation, I was Time's Tokyo Bureau Chief. I am currently a senior editor at Time's European edition, based in London," Frederick said in an e-mail.
Time's policy says, "Employees are free to engage in personal volunteer political activity and contribute personal resources to candidates and parties in any manner consistent with federal, state, and local laws."
"I went to a luncheon for Kerry," Spake said. "I had friends who were organizing that luncheon, and I felt I had to do it."
As for any conflict of interest, she said, "I never covered politics. I covered public health. It did not impact my coverage one bit."
[Spake was an editor with the Washington Post Magazine from the late 1980s through the early 1990s.]
"That contribution was actually made by my wife, but it was on a joint account, so my name showed up on it," Flintoff said. "Since then, NPR has instituted a strict policy against campaign donations or political activity of any kind. I agree with the policy and follow it scrupulously. My wife still makes contributions."
Flintoff said a blogger called the contribution to NPR's attention, helping to lead NPR to tighten its policy.
Trudeau did not reply to messages.
END of Excerpts
For the rundown of all 144 members of the media who made political contributions: www.msnbc.msn.com
For the third time in 2007, ABC News used its Good Morning America program to deride the United States for not being generous enough in forcing employers to provide paid leave for employees. On the Thursday edition of the show, reporter David Wright complained that "the U.S. doesn't make it easy" for working parents since "the U.S. lags far behind other countries in helping parents to cope." He used a 2007 study to claim that, on this issue, America is no better then several Third World nations.
At no point did the ABC reporter mention that countries who provide generous leave, such as France, also have extremely high taxes and high unemployment. (The French are currently at 8.7 percent. See: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fr.html )
After an introduction by host Robin Roberts that explained how Congress is considering legislation to expand federal and medical lave, Wright cited a recent Harvard-McGill study that lumps the U.S. in with third world countries such as Swaziland: "A recent Harvard-McGill study of more than 170 countries found that only four of them do not require paid leave for new mothers: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the U.S. The study also found that 145 countries provide paid sick days."
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The linkage of America to these countries is, perhaps, intended to provoke gasps in the audience. But Wright left out important differences in quality of life, such as the fact that Swaziland has 40 percent unemployment, almost 70 percent of the country lives in poverty and has a per capita GDP of only $5,200. (Comparatively, the U.S. is at $44,000.) See: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wz.html
Good Morning America made this exact same point about the study in February. Back then, reporter Elizabeth Vargas even used the same phraseology: "In fact, a study out this week from Harvard and McGill University, shows that of 173 countries surveyed, only five provide no form of paid maternity leave: Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, Swaziland, Liberia, and the United States." For more, check the February 3 CyberAlert item, "ABC & CNN Campaign for Dodd's Expansion of Mandated Family Leave," online at: www.mrc.org
The intent seems clear: America is very backwards on paid leave. Perhaps an indicator of where the network would like the U.S. to ultimately go is the fact that Wright described the legislation as "baby steps."
Other instances of GMA touting the progressive leanings of various nations include an April segment on the welfare system of Denmark and how it "provides security and comfort." See: newsbusters.org
In fact, in February, Diane Sawyer appeared impressed by aspects of the dictatorial regime of Syria. She approvingly commented that Syrian women have "safety on the streets, family to help with children, and the government helping too." See the February 13 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
A transcript of the June 21 segment, which aired at 7:14am:
Robin Roberts: "This morning, Congress is going to hear about a battle on the home front, one that goes on inside millions of American homes. It's the battle to not only balance work and family but also try and make ends meet, a juggling act that is quickly becoming part of the American experience. Our David Wright has more from Washington. David."
ABC Graphic: "Can Govt Help Working Parents? More Paid Leave For Moms?"
David Wright: "Good morning, Robin. It's something that every parent struggles with, how to balance work and family. And the U.S. lags far behind other countries in helping parents to cope. Well, here on Capitol Hill today, Congress will take the first baby steps to try and address that situation. Missy Quarberg of Amery, Wisconsin recently quit her job at Wal-Mart to stay at home and care for her two kids. She says she liked the job, she simply couldn't afford to keep it."
NBC Today co-host Meredith Vieira opened her "Today at the Pump" segment Thursday by cheering the recent decrease in gas prices as "sweet relief," but then wondered: "Would we be better off, sir, if gas prices were even higher, if it were four, five, six dollars a gallon? Wouldn't that provide the incentive we need to come up with alternative forms of gas and to stop this dependence that we have on foreign oil?" Vieira invited on Chevron's CEO, David O'Reilly, to harass him about getting America off its "dependence" on oil and cited critics of Chevron's allocation of profits to find alternative sources of energy as merely "symbolic."
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange occurred on the June 21st edition of Today:
Vieira: "Would, would we be better off, sir, if gas prices were even higher, if it were four, five, six dollars a gallon? Wouldn't that provide the incentive we need to come up with alternative forms of gas and to stop this dependence that we have on foreign oil?"
[This item is adapted from a posting, by Geoffrey Dickens, on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog: newsbusters.org ]
On the June 21 Hardball, Matthews proposed to former Cheney aide Ron Christie and former Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben:
Thursday night, for the second time in just over two weeks, George Stephanopoulos served as the anchor of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson. No explanation was offered for Gibson's absence. Just as on June 4, the announcer set up the newscast: "From ABC News headquarters, this is World News with Charles Gibson. Reporting tonight: George Stephanopoulos."
In the June 5 CyberAlert I noted that Stephanopoulos "has co-hosted Good Morning America on several occasions over the years," but that "from what I can recall, this is the first time the long-time adviser and strategist for Bill Clinton, and Dick Gephardt before that, has anchored World News -- or World News Tonight as it was previously named." TV Newser, widely read inside the networks, picked up the NewsBusters version of the CyberAlert item and no one responded to correct my memory, so I presume Thursday became only the second time the liberal operative turned TV news host of Sunday's This Week has anchored the evening newscast.
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Stephanopoulos' lead story Thursday night, June 21: "Tonight, a matter of life and death: For the first time rankings of which hospitals have the best survival rates. How does yours measure up?"
-- Brent Baker