Rather and Auletta Discover Media Bias...On Fox News Channel --5/20/2003
2. Moyers Features Left-Wing Rants on Abortion, Texas Legislature A super-sized double dose of left-wing advocacy from PBS's Now with Bill Moyers on Friday night. First, viewers were treated to 18 uninterrupted minutes of a taped story about the conspiratorial "assault" on abortion rights. Second, Moyers spent about 12 minutes with far-left columnist Molly Ivins who, egged on by Moyers, blasted Texas Republicans and conservatives as uncaring louts in the wake of the walkout from the legislature by nearly all the Texas House Democrats in order to stop a GOP redistricting plan, a flight to another state which Moyers justified by claiming it was done "to foil the Republicans' coup."
3. "Pinch" in '94: Diversity "the Single Most Important Issue" From the MRC's TimesWatch.org, "'Pinch' Flinches From Owning Up to Blair Facts." Newsweek's Alan Sloan suggested that Times Publisher Arthur Sulzburger Jr. get a pay cut and the New York Post's Eric Fettmann recalled how in 1994 Sulzberger decreed that "ensuring greater racial, gender and sexual-orientation diversity at the paper was 'the single most important issue' facing the Times." Plus, Newsweek's Seth Mnookin observed that it's become increasingly clear Raines' autocratic management style since taking over in September 2001 has driven away talent.
4. CNN Concedes, Sort of, Distorted "Assault Weapon" Demonstration Reeling from NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre charging CNN with fabricating and "deliberately faking" a story last Thursday to demonstrate how a banned "assault weapon" has much more dangerous firepower than a legal model, on Monday's Wolf Blitzer Reports, substitute anchor Miles O'Brien didn't go so far as to offer a retraction, but he did concede CNN's demonstration needed further amplification.
It's always amazing that establishment media figures, who are unable to discern any liberal bias at ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, PBS, the news magazines and major newspapers, such as the New York Times, are so easily able to recognize conservative bias on the Fox News Channel. The latest examples: CBS's Dan Rather and New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, who has just written a story about FNC for that magazine.
Auletta's article is not online, but the DrudgeReport.com over the weekend relayed from it Rather's take on the Rupert Murdoch- owned FNC: "He finds it to his benefit to have media outlets, press outlets, that serve his business interests. There's nothing wrong with this. It's a free country. It's not an indictable offense. But by any clear analysis the bias is towards his own personal, political, partisan agenda...primarily because it fits his commercial interests." Presumably, that "political" agenda is conservative. For Drudge's item:
Auletta complained on the May 19 show: "The liberal commentators they tend to have -- like Alan Colmes, for instance - - seem as if they're sedated. They're no match for Sean Hannity, let's say. But in addition to that, the anchors -- and not just in the evening in prime time with people like Bill O'Reilly who have great ratings obviously, but all throughout the day -- many of their anchors are biased, they're people who express opinions throughout the newscast, be it 'axis of weasels' to describe France but never describing what France's position was. You could disagree with what France did, but a job of a journalist is to explain what they did and why they took the position they did, and not just dismiss them as 'axis of weasel.' But in addition to that, many times you'll see reporters who are biased in the sense that they're expressing a point-of-view, a sense of outrage about certain things that are being done. And usually it is a pro-Bush administration point-of-view. My only argument here is that, is in terms of a slogan, 'Fair and Balanced' is very clever. 'We Report, You Decide' is very clever. But it's not accurate."
The liberal Geraldo Rivera too "sedated"?
Auletta's comments to Williams match what he expressed in an online New Yorker interview about his profile of Ailes and FNC.
The New Yorker's Amy T'bke-Davidson asked: "You spent four months watching Fox News. What did you see?"
T'bke-Davidson: "Who watches Fox News?"
For the entire interview: newyorker.com
For Auletta's look at FNC, pick up a copy of the May 26 New Yorker.
A super-sized double dose of left-wing advocacy from PBS's Now with Bill Moyers on Friday night. First, viewers were treated to 18 uninterrupted minutes of a taped story about the conspiratorial "assault" on abortion rights. Second, Moyers spent about 12 minutes with far-left columnist Molly Ivins who, egged on by Moyers, blasted Texas Republicans and conservatives as uncaring louts in the wake of the walkout from the legislature by nearly all the Texas House Democrats in order to stop a GOP redistricting plan, a flight to another state which Moyers justified by claiming it was done "to foil the Republicans' coup."
The premise of the abortion story was that "anti-choice" forces have secretly come up with, as Frances Kissling of Catholic for a Free Choice put it in the story, a "stealth strategy" to "make the fetus the equivalent of people" through laws which, for instance allow someone who kills a pregnant woman to be charged with two murders
PBS reporter Brenda Breslauer featured pro-choice Republican Congressman Jim Greenwood as her expert on the nefarious tactics of the anti-choice forces, fretted about how banning the partial- birth "medical procedure" only impacts a very few case each year, but then proceeded to profile a woman who would have been victimized by such a law.
In a humorous bit of hypocrisy, Breslauer maintained that the "the term 'partial-birth abortion' was invented by the anti- abortion community," and, therefore, is illegitimate, but just a bit later she adopted, without any concern, a term advanced by those on the pro-abortion side: "One of the President's first acts targeted international family planning organizations. He reinstituted a policy often called the 'global gag rule.'" In one case an "invented" term, in the other, a policy which is "often called."
In the subsequent session with Ivins, she cited the victims of GOP rule in Texas and the financial state in which George W. Bush left the state: "Poor children, old people, handicapped citizens. And I mean I wish I were exaggerating but this is the weakest, the poorest, the most frail, the youngest and the oldest Texans are the ones who are being hurt here."
With no transcript on the Now Web site or in Nexis, on Monday MRC analyst Patrick Gregory undertook the herculean effort of transcribing much of the two segments from the May 16 Now.
-- Abortion story. PBS and Breslauer allowed in a few words from James Bopp of the National Right to Life Committee, but his time was far outdistanced by the time given to four "pro-choice" advocates whose views the story advanced.
Some of the highlights:
Brenda Breslauer: "This new political agenda, apparent in everything from executive orders to regulations to proposed laws, is simply part of an overall pro-life strategy that is taking hold in policy, say pro-choice advocates. They cite these prominent examples coming from the White House alone: cabinet appointments of vocal abortion opponents such as Attorney General John Ashcroft and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, rejection of funding for research with new lines of stem cells derived from embryos, and the administration has allocated tens of millions in additional funding for abstinence-only sex education. To pro- choice advocates like Francis Kissling, this is all part of a strategy to get at abortion."
Breslauer, after the NRTL's Bopp got to suggest that only "fanatics" would be against protecting fetuses from criminals: "But Pennsylvania Congressman Jim Greenwood doesn't consider himself a fanatic. He's a pro-choice Republican who says this bill is actually an assault on abortion rights."
Breslauer, following a clip of Bush using the partial birth phrase: "The term 'partial-birth abortion' was invented by the anti-abortion community to describe a procedure in which a fetus is partially delivered outside the womb. Doctors don't even use the term. The closest medical procedure to so-called partial-birth abortion accounts for less than one quarter of one percent of all abortions in this country. So why such impassioned debate?"
Breslauer: "In fact, International Planned Parenthood uses only a tiny fraction of its budget for abortion services, less than one percent according to the group. Most of it's resources go to conventional family planning, like contraception. Advocates note that if clinics in developing countries cannot provide contraception, the result will be more unwanted pregnancies, and more abortions."
That ended the segment.
For Now's page on that story: www.pbs.org
-- Next, Moyers interviewed former New York Times reporter turned left-wing columnist Molly Ivins.
Moyers set up the segment: "To foil the Republicans' coup, more than 50 Texas House Democrats did a drastic thing, they headed for Oklahoma to hide out there until the clock ran out on the legislative session."
Ivins soon opined: "It's a heart-rendering saga. The last living, elected Democrats in Texas forced to free their native heath from the terrible oppression of the Republican majority. It's just a dreadful situation....Tom Delay wanted to send in the U.S. Marshals and the FBI to get them. And-"
Ivins: "Governor George W. Bush went off and first of all, he did two huge tax cuts when he was Governor, and then he walked off to Washington and left the state broke with no money in the rainy day fund. Now if we had six or seven billion in the rainy day fund, which is what states set aside for exactly this kind of downturn, we'd be a lot better off; we wouldn't be in such real pain. But getting ten billion dollars out of the state budget is real pain."
Sounds like the attitude of Bill Moyers.
For Now's page on this interview, complete with helpful links to Ivins' columns: www.pbs.org
From the MRC's TimesWatch.org, an article by TimesWatch.org Editor Clay Waters which was posted on Monday, about the Newsweek cover story in which the magazine's Seth Mnookin talked to Jayson Blair:
"Pinch" Flinches From Owning Up to Blair Facts
The Jayson Blair story not only has legs; now it's growing tentacles. Newsweek devotes this week's cover story to Blair, the young black reporter who resigned from the Times May 1 after proof of his fabricated "reporting" came to light. Seth Mnookin's report outlines Blair's personal problems and details the paper's fateful decision to include the unreliable Blair on the D.C.-sniper story: www.msnbc.com
"At last Wednesday's staff wide meeting, [Executive Editor Howell] Raines and [Managing Editor Gerald] Boyd were asked directly who had first brought up Blair's name. As Boyd was explaining how he had conducted a meeting in his office with several other top editors, Raines cut him off and said, according to staff members present at the meeting, "I'm the editor, it was my responsibility." Blair, after all, knew the area, and the national desk was understaffed."
And just why was that desk understaffed? This isn't the Podunk Post -- any self-respecting journalist would kill to work for the "paper of record." (Times Watch itself, in a weak moment, once applied for a late-night copy editor position there.)
It's become increasingly clear Raines' autocratic management style since taking over in September 2001 has driven away talent. Mnookin notes: "Raines certainly shook things up; by the end of the year, national correspondents Gustav Niebuhr, Carey Goldberg, Evelyn Nieves, James Sterngold, Blaine Harden, Sam Howe Verhovek and Kevin Sack had all left the paper."
But Howell Raines is only one member of the Times ruling troika. Allen Sloan, Newsweek's Wall Street columnist, suggests Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. should take a hit as well, where it hurts: The pocketbook. "For the sake of internal morale, as well as external reputation, it's important for a company's higher-ups to pay for their mistakes," Sloan writes. "If you hold small fry accountable for errors, which is only fair, you can't let the big fish swim away scot-free." Such measures would include a compensation hit for Sulzberger. Last year, Sulzberger got $1 million in salary and a $1.5 million bonus as well as over $3.5 million in restricted stock.
Unfortunately, the Times is much better dishing out advice than taking it. Last Sunday's mea maxima culpa in the Times (a 7,200 word story, plus a 7,000 word explication of Blair's many story errors) did a good job of outlining the many fabrications of Jayson Blair. But it tiptoed around assigning blame to those responsible for Blair being in that position in the first place. "Let's not begin to demonize our executives-either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher," Sulzberger said, conveniently.
The New York Sun captures the irony nicely in a recent editorial: "Far be it from us to suggest how the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., ought to run his business, even if his editorial columns have spent much of the past year telling others how to run theirs."
New York Post columnist Eric Fettmann notes the Times diversity drive didn't start with the 2001 appointment of Executive Editor Howell Raines. "That drive at the Times originated with the paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who in 1994 (while still deputy publisher) decreed that ensuring greater racial, gender and sexual-orientation diversity at the paper was 'the single most important issue' facing the Times....Sulzberger himself laid down the law in a 1994 interview: 'Increasingly, any middle or senior manager's or any employee's advancement is going to depend on how he or she deals with these fundamental issues' of managed diversity."
For Fettmann's May 18 column: www.nypost.com
Given those kinds of smoke signals from the mountaintop, is it any wonder that a newsroom manager desiring a smooth career path would be reluctant to raise a stink about "bad news" Blair?
END Reprint of TimesWatch article
For the latest on the New York Times, check: www.timeswatch.org
Reeling from NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre charging CNN with fabricating and "deliberately faking" a story last Thursday to demonstrate how a banned "assault weapon" has much more dangerous firepower than a legal model, on Monday's Wolf Blitzer Reports, substitute anchor Miles O'Brien didn't go so far as to offer a retraction, but he did concede CNN's demonstration needed further amplification.
[Web Update: The Washington Times on May 20 ran a story on this subject, "CNN rapped over gun segment." See: http://washingtontimes.com]
On the May 19 edition of the 5pm EDT Wolf Blitzer Reports, O'Brien announced: "On this program on Thursday of last week, we aired a live demonstration CNN set up with law enforcement officials of a banned semiautomatic rifle and its legal counterpart. We reviewed that demonstration, and one on another CNN program, and decided that a more detailed report would better explain this complex issue."
Space limits how much I can do on this today and it's pretty hard to explain in words what CNN showed in firing range tests, but let me try to concisely run through what CNN showed on Thursday, LaPierre's angry reaction on Friday and what CNN showed in a revised demonstration on Monday which implicitly illustrated how their Thursday presentation was, at the least, misleading.
-- Thursday, May 15 Wolf Blitzer Reports, anchored by Kyra Phillips. John Zarrella traveled to the Broward County, Florida Sheriff's Office's outdoor shooting range where Sheriff Ken Jenne narrated what viewers were seeing as a deputy fired two "assault weapons."
Viewers saw bullets fired into a pile of cinder blocks and chunks of the cinder block flying off, leaving a big hole in one block. Then, the deputy fired into a bullet-proof vest. Zarrella observed that the bullets "clearly fired right through" the vest.
Second, Jenne set up the next model to be tested: "This is an AK-47 also, but a civilian model. It has some differences and right now this only has a clip of 10 in the magazine -- or 10 rounds in the magazine. So this is a big difference than the 30 rounds in the previous magazine."
Viewers then saw the deputy fire four shots toward the cinder blocks, but nothing happened, not even a speck of the cinder block flew off, never mind any hole being created.
The very clear implication: The illegal model punches right through cinder block with devastating and deadly force, but the legal model can't even cause a speck to fall off.
Upon looking at the MRC videotape frame by frame, with the first rifle you could see a puff of smoke coming out of the end of the barrel as the deputy fired. But with the second gun, you could not see anything, as if no bullet were being fired. And if one was, the deputy either missed the target cinder blocks, or had good enough aim to be firing into the hole created by the first rifle.
Sheriff Jenne, Zarrella didn't bother to note, is a Democrat. From Jenne's bio on the Sheriff's office Web site:
(Note how they landed the sheriff.org domain)
-- Friday, May 16 Wold Blitzer Reports, again anchored by Kyra Phillips. An angry Wayne LaPierre of the NRA charged at the start of a guest appearance:
Phillips retorted: "Mr. LaPierre, I have to stop you there. No one fakes stories at CNN and John Zarrella definitely did not fake a story at CNN. You're very off base."
-- Wolf Blitzer Reports, Monday, May 19, anchored by Miles O'Brien. After O'Brien conceded "that a more detailed report would better explain this complex issue" (see top of this item for full quote), Zarrella offered a detailed explanation of the differences between a legal and illegal weapon:
Zarrella admitted a major NRA talking point, and thus contradicted the clear implication of his Thursday demonstration: "In fact, if you fire the same caliber and type bullets from the two guns," one illegal and one legal, "you get the same impact."
Viewers then saw two of the "assault weapons" being fired at cinder blocks at an indoor range.
Zarrella previewed the first rifle: "Here is a .223 caliber bullet fired from a banned AR-15 rifle." Big chunks of the cinder block fell away. "Now, the legal version of that rifle," Zarrella explained before the same guy fired the second rifle. But this time, only a very small hole was created in the cinder block.
That prompted Zarrella to clarify: "The smaller hole made by the second gun has nothing to do with the gun or ammunition. The shooter just hit the second target more times in the same place."
In other words, the Thursday demonstration, in which the legal assault weapon caused no damage to the cinder block, was very misleading and very possibly an outright fabrication.
[Web Update: On May 21 the Miami Herald reported:
CNN deserves credit for re-visiting their earlier story in which, for all I know, they may have been the victims of the sheriff's shenanigans. But given how the clear implication of the demonstration was just plain wrong, that illegal assault weapons cause much more damage than legal models which have much less firepower, CNN still owes its viewers a more explicit acknowledgment that they visually conveyed a distortion of reality.
-- Brent Baker