2. Nets Showcase How Poverty Hike Victims Forced Into Soup Lines
3. FNC and MSNBC Pick Up on
CyberAlert Item on Dan Rather's Caveat
4. Actor Tony Randall on Bush and Cheney: "I Hated Them!"
5. NBC Drama Focuses on Hypocritical "Ultra-Conservative" Senator
Interviewing Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Sunday's Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer began by pressing Dean to call for the resignation of another Bush administration official and Schieffer adopted liberal Democratic mathematics as he described a seven percent spending increase as a "cut."
Noting how the House Intelligence Committee complained that the CIA uses old information on assessing Iraq before the war, Schieffer's first question to Dean: "Now you called this week for the resignations of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. In light of this, do you now think that George Tenet, the CIA Director, ought to resign?"
Later, Schieffer relayed Dick Gephardt's incongruous historic tale about 1995 when "Democrats were fighting to keep Newt Gingrich from shutting down the government" and a huge spending increase was a cut: "Dick Gephardt said that when he and the Democrats were fighting to keep Newt Gingrich from shutting down the government, that you had sided with Newt Gingrich, who wanted to cut Medicare $270 billion. You said that is flat out not true. Well, Governor, I have to tell you, I've been doing some checking, and it appears that that is not false. On May 17th, 1995, several newspapers, including the newspapers in your home state of Vermont, said that you supported slowing the growth of Medicare to seven percent, which would have cut $270 billion from the program."
Yes, "slowing the growth of Medicare to seven percent" would "have cut $270 billion from the program."
Of course, Gingrich shutting down the government is how Clinton, Gephardt and the media saw it at the time, but Clinton refused to sign continuing resolutions.
Schieffer opened the September 28 Face the Nation: "I want to begin by asking you about a report that's in the Washington Post this morning. It says that the Republican chairman of the Senate [actually House] Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, and the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Jane Harmon, have written a letter to CIA Director George Tenet. They've criticized him for using what they call 'outdated and circumstantial and fragmentary evidence.' They say there are too many uncertainties in the evidence that he presented to the White House about whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to conclude that Iraq did, in fact, have such weapons. Now you called this week for the resignations of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. In light of this, do you now think that George Tenet, the CIA Director, ought to resign?"
A bit later, Schieffer entered a parallel universe where a spending increase greater than inflation is a cut: "Let's turn to the Democratic debate this week where things also got kind of personal. There was quite a to-do in that debate when Dick Gephardt said that when he and the Democrats were fighting to keep Newt Gingrich from shutting down the government, that you had sided with Newt Gingrich, who wanted to cut Medicare $270 billion. You said that is flat out not true. Well, Governor, I have to tell you, I've been doing some checking, and it appears that that is not false. On May 17th, 1995, several newspapers, including the newspapers in your home state of Vermont, said that you supported slowing the growth of Medicare to seven percent, which would have cut $270 billion from the program. So why would you say that's not true when, in fact, it appears it was true?"
ABC, CBS and NBC on Friday night all showcased victims to maximize the impact of how the Census Bureau reported that poverty increased in 2002. (CNN and FNC on their Friday night newscasts offered only brief headline-like items on the poverty rate.) CBS and NBC, which both led with the poverty numbers, at least made passing mention of the revelation on the same day that the GDP grew by a healthy 3.3 percent in the third quarter, but not ABC where reporter Betsy Stark declared on World News Tonight: "The ranks of the poor grew by nearly two million last year. Today, in the richest nation on Earth, one in eight Americans lives in poverty. Angela Martinez is one of them. Jobless since July with a young daughter to support, she is always struggling."
Over on the CBS Evening News, David Axelrod saw more soup lines ahead: "Clyde Kuemmerle runs the soup kitchen. He looks at the Census Bureau numbers that 34.6 million Americans lived in poverty in 2002 -- 1.7 million more than did the year before -- and sees a job-shedding economy continuing to deposit people on soup lines with no jobs or minimum wages."
NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw announced at the top of his broadcast: "Poverty is up, and income is down. That is the short and discouraging report from the federal Census Bureau tonight. The longer story is that it's the second consecutive year for rising poverty rates and falling income after years of going the other way."
Unlike NBC, ABC and CBS at least offered a brief mention of a less dire perspective, but quickly dismissed it. ABC's Stark noted how "others point out the poverty rate is still low by historical standards." But Stark undermined that thought with more inauspicious news: "There's another ominous number in today's report, and that's the 12 million Americans defined as the near poor, those living just barely above the poverty line. Altogether, that is 47 million Americans living in poverty or close to it. Pretty astonishing numbers."
CBS's Axelrod pointed out how the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector "says the two-year poverty hike comes after a decade of decline and still leaves poverty levels at near 40-year lows." Rector proposed: "I think poverty is, although lamentable and we want to reduce poverty, poverty isn't as severe as the word suggests." Axelrod countered: "But tell that to Inola Tucker. She's 45 with four kids and works 32 hours a week as a cashier making seven bucks an hour..."
(See below for more on Rector's assessment of how well off, historically-speaking, those now in poverty live.)
And while the networks are usually quick to pounce on any sign of increasing income disparity between the rich and poor, a dynamic that animated network coverage of the Bush tax cuts, none made any reference to how the Census Bureau also revealed a reduction in the income gap as the rich lost more money than the poor. Reporter Jonathan Weisman related in his September 27 Washington Post story: "The Census reports also showed that the income gap between rich and poor declined. Median household cash income for the bottom 20 percent of Americans dropped 3 percent in 2002 from 2001, while it slid 5.1 percent for households in the top 5 percent." That article is online at: www.washingtonpost.com
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings set up ABC's story: "Another big story today on the state of the country. We learned today that the number of Americans living below the poverty line as defined by the government increased for the second year in a row: 1.7 million more people became impoverished last year, bringing the total to more than 34 million people. The increase affected blacks and whites and Latinos and all parts of the country. It is partly a result of the struggling economy. It is certainly fuel for political debate. Here's ABC's Betsy Stark."
Stark began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The ranks of the poor grew by nearly two million last year. Today, in the richest nation on Earth, one in eight Americans lives in poverty. Angela Martinez is one of them. Jobless since July with a young daughter to support, she is always struggling."
-- CBS Evening News. Rather led his broadcast: "Good evening. America got a new picture today of the economic health of this country and its people. The government says the economy grew in the second quarter of this year at an annual rate of 3.3 percent. That's more than twice the first quarter rate and the latest sign of possible recovery from recession. But the jobs picture remains troubling, so we also learn today that the recession, including rising unemployment, helped push 1.7 million more Americans into poverty last year for a total of 34.6 million living below the poverty line. CBS's Jim Axelrod reports on the struggle to get by."
Axelrod: "At New York's Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen, today's news is no surprise."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw began his program: "Poverty is up, and income is down. That is the short and discouraging report from the federal Census Bureau tonight. The longer story is that it's the second consecutive year for rising poverty rates and falling income after years of going the other way. The Census Bureau said slightly more than 12 percent of the population was living in poverty last year, up from 11.7 percent.
Allen: "At a food pantry outside Chicago today, Mary Brash picks up groceries to feed her family of five. Their income was cut in half to about $20,000 per year when Mary's husband lost his job. Now they struggle to pay the bills and make ends meet."
Missing from the network stories: Any sense that America's ever-increasing wealth and technological advancements are improving the lives of everyone, even those at the bottom, a theme explored in a 1998 paper by Robert Rector, the Heritage expert who got a soundbite in the CBS story.
An excerpt from Rector's "The Myth of Widespread American Poverty," published on September 18, 1998:
Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau issues an annual report on the number of Americans who are "living in poverty." But a close look at the actual material living standards of persons defined as "poor" demonstrates that the Census Bureau's official poverty report is misleading.
If poverty is defined generally as lacking adequate nutritious food for the family, clothing, and a reasonably warm and dry apartment to live in, or lacking a car to get to work when one is needed, then there are few poor persons remaining in the United States. Real material hardship does occur, but it is limited in extent and severity. The bulk of the "poor" today live in material conditions that would have been judged comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago.
The following facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau are taken from various government reports:
-- In 1995, 41 percent of "poor" households actually owned their own homes. The average home owned by a person classified as "poor" has three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
-- Over three-quarters of a million "poor" persons own homes worth over $150,000; and nearly 200,000 "poor" persons own homes worth over $300,000.
-- Seventy percent of "poor" households own a car; 27 percent own two or more cars.
-- Ninety-seven percent of the "poor" have a color television. Nearly half own two or more color televisions. Nearly three-quarters have a videocassette recorder, and more than one in five has two VCRs. Sixty-four percent own microwave ovens, half have a stereo system, and over a quarter have an automatic dishwasher.
-- Two-thirds of "poor" households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning....
-- Most poor children today are in fact super-nourished, growing up to be, on average, one inch taller and ten pounds heavier that GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
Thus, the annual Census poverty report misrepresents the living conditions of lower-income Americans and greatly exaggerates the extent of poverty in the United States. There are three sources of error in the Census Bureau's report.
First, the Census Bureau deems a family to be poor if its cash income falls below certain thresholds. (The poverty threshold for a family of four was $16,404 in 1997.) But these thresholds have been set artificially high. Although families with incomes below the thresholds will face many financial difficulties, they are not necessarily poor in the sense of lacking adequate food, shelter, and clothing.
Second, in determining whether a family is poor, the Census Bureau considers only current income and ignores all assets accumulated in prior years. Thus, a businessman who suffers temporary business losses resulting in a negative net income for the year will be labeled as "poor" even if he has a million dollars sitting in the bank.
Third (and most critically), the Census Bureau radically undercounts the true economic resources or annual income received by the American public. This may be seen by comparing Census income figures with the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), which provide the figures measuring the gross national product. In 1996, NIPA figures showed that aggregate "personal income" of Americans was $6.8 trillion. By contrast, aggregate personal income according to the Census Bureau's official definition of income was only $4.8 trillion. Thus, the Census Bureau missed $2 trillion in annual income, or roughly $20,000 for each U.S. household....
END of Excerpt
For Rector's report in full: www.heritage.org
You read it here first. FNC's Fox Newswatch over the weekend and MSNBC's Scarborough Country last Tuesday both picked up on a CyberAlert item about how CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather followed up a September 19 story on "crime, banditry and thuggery from carjacking and robbery to kidnapping and murder" in Iraq by offering this caveat: "A reminder that television sometimes has trouble with perspective, so you may want to note that in some areas of Iraq, things are peaceful."
In a September 27 Fox Newswatch segment on complaints that the media are downplaying good news, host Eric Burns observed: "I think there's a lot on angst in this business today on the part of journalists trying to figure out how to do this themselves and I think there was a remarkable example of this on the CBS Evening News the other night. Listen to this, this is what Dan Rather said introducing a piece from Iraq:"
Several days earlier, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough cited the MRC in picking up on the same Rather event. In the "Joe's Got Issues" segment on the September 23 Scarborough Country, Scarborough relayed:
The September 22 CyberAlert had reported: The CBS Evening News, where the stories, self-admittedly, don't match reality. On Friday night, Dan Rather introduced a dire story on how "ordinary Iraqis are faced with an extraordinary surge of crime, banditry and thuggery from carjacking and robbery to kidnaping and murder" resulting "in a population fearful, frustrated, angry and heavily armed." But never mind. After the subsequent story on mayhem in Baghdad, Rather conceded that the report he just aired had distorted the situation: "A reminder that television sometimes has trouble with perspective, so you may want to note that in some areas of Iraq, things are peaceful."
For that item in full: www.mediaresearch.org
Actor Tony Randall, "Felix Unger" on the Odd Couple TV show, last week oddly proclaimed that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft would not be welcome at his funeral. At a press conference marking National Funeral Service Education Week, Randall, a new spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, imagined what might occur at his funeral: "George Bush and Richard Cheney come -- but they're not allowed in because everyone knew how much I hated them!"
He may have been joking, but there seemed to be an underlying element of truth to his disgust with Bush and Cheney.
An excerpt from a September 25 Washington Post story by Libby Copeland on Randall's latest gig:
Tony Randall was in town yesterday at the National Press Club to promote fun funerals. Since this is National Funeral Service Education Week, Randall was surrounded by funeral directors, as well as a fellow from Hudson, Wis., who brought pictures of his friend, a Shriner clown, being buried in full clown regalia.
At 83, the new spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association keeps his gray hair trimmed close to his head, and he's slim -- his shoulders seem much narrower than his suit jacket would suggest. When he takes the podium, he apologizes for a nasty cold, notes that the word "undertaker" has gone out of fashion over the years and tells a few death jokes. He says a doorman asked him recently, "Hey, Mr. Randall, you going to meet Bob Hope?" Randall beseeches the audience, "Do I look that bad?"
The small media corps -- which, incidentally, looks young enough to barely remember Randall's half of the "Odd Couple," let alone his films with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, or the '50s television show "Mr. Peepers" -- titters....
For a man of 83, Randall is in an odd place, straddling the worlds of the young and the old. In 1991 he started a nonprofit called the National Actors Theatre. His wife of 54 years died the next year, but he has since remarried, and his current wife, Heather Harlan, is 32. They live in Manhattan and have a daughter who is 6 and a son who is 5. An opera aficionado, Randall likes to take his daughter to operas (she has seen 13 of them). He sings to her, he says. Sitting in the Fourth Estate restaurant on the press club's 13th floor, he breaks into "Va, pensiero" from Verdi's "Nabucco."
He says, quite seriously, that he doesn't want to speak publicly about his funeral plans, but then -- shifting back into comedian mode -- he spins a fantastic vision of the day.
"It's a national day of mourning, and the funeral is held in some vast, impressive place and dignitaries from all over the world come and every important person in the United States comes," he says. "George Bush and Richard Cheney come -- but they're not allowed in because everyone knew how much I hated them!"
He seems delighted by this notion. We wonder if anyone else is banned.
"Rumsfeld, if he dared show his face!"
"Ashcroft wouldn't dare come because there are going to be naked women -- breast-exposed women -- saying, 'This would've been for you, Tony!' "
He slaps his thigh about 15 times....
END of Excerpt
The hypocritical behavior of an "ultra-conservative and moral Senator" will be one of the plot lines Monday night on NBC's new drama, Las Vegas, which revolves around actor James Caan as the security chief at a Las Vegas area resort/casino.
The show description for the September 29 episode titled, "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas," as listed on the NBC Web site: "When the body of Danny's (Josh Duhamel) childhood friend Greg is discovered in the desert, the ex-marine decides to hunt down the killer himself setting his sights on a sleezy local loan shark. Meanwhile, the arrival of ultra-conservative and moral Senator Bill Henderson (guest star Daniel Hugh Kelly) in sin city puts Ed (James Caan) on edge as he must conceal the important guest's identity from a investigative reporter looking for a story. Elsewhere, Mary (Nikki Cox) settles in into her new position as hotel special events coordinator while attempting to control an actor taking his role as King Arthur in the dinner show to heart as he believes Ed to be Merlin reborn. Vanessa Marcil, Molly Sims and James Lesure also star."
That's online at: www.nbc.com
From a promo I saw on NBC, you can bet this "ultra-conservative" Senator will not only be a big gambler but some kind of sex fiend.
Las Vegas airs on NBC at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT.
# Howard Dean is scheduled to appear Tuesday night on NBC's Tonight Show.
-- Brent Baker