Media Reality Check

W hen 1999 ends and rewinds of the '90s begin, won't the Hill-Thomas hearings look a lot different than they did eight years ago? See the dramatic double standard between Hill's sexual harassment accusations against Thomas, dragged to the Senate floor by angry feminist politicians, and Christine Niedermaier's sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Last Friday, Niedermaier, recently fired as Baucus's chief of staff, officially filed a complaint with the Senate. So why are the media - the whole culture - saying next to nothing? Niedermaier's a bimbo. No. Before heading Baucus's staff, she was a... continue reading
R eaders of The Washington Times woke up Thursday morning to a shocking front-page story on a hearing of Sen. Fred Thompson's Governmental Affairs Committee, the committee so scorned by reporters when they held fundraising hearings in 1997. Four FBI agents testified that their Justice Department supervisors actively hindered the probe into illegal donations to the Democrats during the 1996 election cycle, including information that Charlie Trie had brought "duffel bags full of cash" to the Democratic Party. But Washington Post and Wall Street Journal readers couldn't locate an account of the hearing. New York Times fans found it wasn't... continue reading
O n Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings into Bill Clinton's decision to offer clemency to 16 members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN. Clinton's decision was criticized by Senators from both parties, including committee chairman Orrin Hatch and liberal Democrat Robert Torricelli. Victims of the FALN's bombings spoke emotionally about their outrage over the release [See box]. How much ABC, CBS, and NBC coverage? Zero. It fits a pattern of neglect. In the five weeks from the Associated Press reporting the offer on August 11 through Thursday morning, Big Three network coverage has been skimpy: Evening news... continue reading
I n the Reagan-Bush years, Frontline , produced by Boston PBS superstation WGBH, aired several shows marinated in outrage at officials lying to Congress. In July, WGBH was itself exposed as lying to Congress about its cozy five-year fundraising relationship with the Democratic National Committee, swapping direct-mail names for mutual benefit. (They claimed it was a one-time bureaucratic mistake.) Yesterday, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Inspector General's report was released, and he has found public broadcasting officials misled a House Commerce subcommittee which oversees their funding. At a July 20 hearing, the panel's Democrats touted new information from CPB that... continue reading
O n August 24, Ted Koppel began ABC's Nightline by noting that a vast majority of Americans didn't find it important that presidential candidate George W. Bush may have used cocaine. Koppel did not allow this to dissuade him from devoting a half-hour to unsubstantiated rumors. He editorialized: "Why not accept his one-size- fits-all declaration that when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible? Perhaps, we might say, because he has never accepted youth and irresponsibility as legitimate excuses for illegal behavior. Both as campaigner and as governor of Texas, George Bush has, if anything, toughened the... continue reading
O n March 27, 1992 Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz complained that Bill Clinton was being treated unfairly: "At no time during his presidency has George Bush been subjected to a comparable barrage of scandal-type stories, the kind that can alter forever how the public views a politician." But in Wednesday's Post, Kurtz's story was headlined "Drug Use: A Campaign Issue in the Making." Kurtz did not complain that asking George W. Bush about cocaine use is unprecedented and something Clinton has never had to answer during his presidency. He ended by quoting National Review editor Rich Lowry, who... continue reading
G eraldo Rivera laid an egg on national TV on April 27, 1986 by headlining a two-hour syndicated special on the opening of gangster Al Capone's (empty) vault live. Rivera hyped a story that wasn't there. Now Geraldo's done it again. Rivera repeatedly promoted the story (originated by pro-Clinton journalists at the New York Observer and the Web site ) that Whitewater witness David Hale was paid off by Parker Dozhier, an Arkansas consultant to The American Spectator magazine. [See box.] On July 29, The Washington Post reported that the investigation by former Justice Department official Michael Shaheen found... continue reading
N etwork news is now defined by airing celebrities over substance. When Princess Diana died in 1997, the morning and evening shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC, plus CNN's evening show The World Today , devoted six times as many stories to Diana as to the Senate hearings into Chinese fundraising. From August 31 to the end of September, the numbers were 686 to 113. The morning shows collectively aired 407 stories on Diana's death, to just 38 on the fundraising scandal. The same pattern holds with the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. Despite hearings throughout 1999 on Chinese... continue reading
I n the last minutes of NBC's coverage of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s burial at sea Thursday, Tom Brokaw offered his personal thoughts on why this death means so much. "I came of age with John F. Kennedy. I was 20 years old the year that he was elected. It was a sea change in American life, in our politics, in our culture, in the way that we looked at life. Here was this large, very dynamic family, of extraordinary wealth but with an ability also to connect with the populist classes of America." He continued: "I think many people... continue reading
O n August 28, 1996, Al Gore shared with the Democratic convention and the nation the tragic story of his sister's 1984 death from smoking. He tremulously pledged: "Until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking." So what would Gore say when his campaign hired Carter Eskew, a consultant who created ads against Sen. John McCain's $1.10-a-pack cigarette tax? Ads Bill Clinton claimed could be "fatal to young children who continue to be seduced and sold illegally cigarettes that will shorten their lives"?... continue reading