In This Issue
Study: Eric Engberg: Spin Doctor of CBS; NewsBites: Cuomo in '92; Revolving Door: Writing Reagan; Celebrating the Sandinistas; The Time - RNC Saga Continues; Newspeak on Abortion; Janet Cooke Award: TBS: Abortion Advocacy
Study: Eric Engberg: Spin Doctor of CBS
On May 29, House Speaker Jim Wright was about to resign. CBS asked correspondent Eric Engberg to give his perspective on the evolving story. "Politics didn't just turn ugly. It evolved from a nasty presidential campaign that featured the GOP's famous Willie Horton ad," he explained. This deft transformation of a liberal complaint into a statement of fact is typical of what viewers can expect from Engberg.
MediaWatch analysts reviewed a year of Engberg's reports (July 1, 1988 to June 30, 1989), including 59 on the CBS Evening News. This review demonstrates that whenever possible, Engberg adds a liberal spin to major news events and files pieces on liberal agenda items no other network finds important enough to cover. Here are some representative examples of Engberg at work:
THE CAMPAIGN. The majority of Engberg's reports in the last half of 1988 focused on the "nasty" presidential campaign. Engberg regularly accused Vice President George Bush of leveling personal attacks on Governor Michael Dukakis. On August 8, for instance, he reported: "Bush continued to pound Michael Dukakis personally, implying that the Democrats' wide lead in the polls stems from ducking the issues."
Engberg also pounced on October 22, when Bush disavowed an Illinois pamphlet suggesting criminals favored Dukakis, asserting "It's one of the few times Bush has publicly voiced any doubts about the pit-bull style Republican campaign. But he showed no signs this week of deviating from a harsh personal-attack style." Observing Bush on the stump during a November 4 campaign swing, Engberg reported: "The headline in the pro-Bush Boston tabloid [Boston Herald] told of bank overdrafts by the state covered by borrowing. Bush, without taking note of the fact that the federal deficit is now $155 billion, acted like an outraged prosecutor." "Bush's read-all-about-it act with the anti-Duke headline may have pleased the crowd," Engberg snidely concluded, "but the big draw was 7,000 free lunches handed out after he left."
IRAN-CONTRA. As the Oliver North trial came to an end, Engberg preferred liberal lectures over a balanced presentation of prosecution and defense. When the verdict came in on May 4, he pieced together his lesson of Iran-Contra with video of Reagan Administration figures: "Once secrecy is embraced, rather than public debate and compromise, the freewheeling covert operators can do as they wish because an invisible policy can't be questioned...But secrecy leads to deception...Deception leads to lies...Lies tear apart the rule of law...Could it happen again? Scholars say yes, until Presidents accept the need to compromise with Congress."
Later, on a CBS News special report, Engberg asked a second time: "Can it happen again? If secrecy and misleading Congress worked once," Engberg began, letting Democrat Clark Clifford finish the sentence "...There is no absolute guarantee to keep it from happening again. It depends upon the acceptance by a President of our system of laws."
A month earlier, his liberal perspective on the world even led to factual inaccuracy. On April 6 he charged: "George Bush as Vice President carried promises of U.S. aid to the military dictatorship of Honduras," misleading viewers about a government that's been elected democratically since 1981.
EXCLUSIVES. Engberg never produced a story based on a conservative agenda concern. On a few occasions, however, Engberg filed stories on activities of liberal organizations, focusing attention on subjects not considered newsworthy by the other networks. On June 13, Engberg reported left-wing attacks on corporate support for university research. "Corporate giving to universities is more like give and take....to the point that critics worry the pursuit of knowledge is losing out to the pursuit of profit."
Engberg interviewed Leonard Minsky of the Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest, who said "With the advent of money and greed in the university, the ethics of Wall Street have also invaded the university." Engberg's strange conclusion: "Congress is also concerned about taxpayer money being lost. After all, universities are kept afloat with federal dollars, money that's supposed to benefit the public, not some bottom line."
This past Spring, the left-wing Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) advocated adding money for low-income housing to the S&L bailout bill by occupying federally owned housing. "If taxpayers are going to kick in $40 billion, they argue, then the whole structure of financing homes should be made to benefit the little guy, the idea behind savings and loans in the first place," Engberg explained in an April 12 story. Engberg ended the report: "As the Congress races to do something, the process of writing the bill has turned into what one House staffer calls chaos. Activists hope to take advantage of that and push for changes in a system they claim locks the little guy out of the housing market."
On the eve of President Bush's first State of the Union address February 9, Engberg again served as the CBS spin doctor: "As George Bush presents his priorities tonight, there's evidence in this poll and elsewhere that the nation will respond to a very American idea: that their government by the people sometimes must act boldly for the people." The CBS poll found support for the "very American idea" of more government social spending: 55 percent in favor of government day care, 66 percent for more student aid, and 71 percent for nursing home care.
To explain these liberal causes, Engberg brought on liberal economist Robert Reischauer (then with the Brookings Institution and now the Director of the Democratic majority's Congressional Budget Office) and labor economist Audrey Freedman, who said "I think the country's beginning to develop a sense of guilt after eight years of saying 'I don't care. I feel good, and I don't care.'"
The journalist's only value is credibility. Engberg cannot maintain his credibility if he continues to promote liberal ideology as news reporting. An ongoing record of bias, of turning liberal interpretations into facts and liberal causes into feature stories, leading even to factual inaccuracy should bring into question the credibility of this network correspondent.
NewsBites: Cuomo in '92
CUOMO IN '92. Last year the Newspaper Guild, the union representing over 25,000 reporters across the country, endorsed Michael Dukakis for President. At this year's national convention in Albany the reporters made clear who they favor for 1992. "Hundreds of newsmen shelved their objectivity," began a June 21 United Press International story, "and gave a standing ovation to New York Governor Mario Cuomo who appeared dumbstruck when one reporter...shouted 'Mario in '92.'" Another reporter repeated the phrase a bit later, "triggering yet another outburst of applause."
Disappointed Guild President Charles Dale introduced Cuomo: "I wish I had the permission to introduce him today as the next President of United States, but I don't."
The reporters had a politically active meeting. Media columnist Cliff Kincaid reported that the Guild "passed a resolution supporting abortion rights and it joined the ACLU and other groups in a brief attacking the Missouri law restricting abortions recently upheld by the Supreme Court."
SMOKESCREEN ON CLEAN AIR. When President Bush announced his Clean Air Program on July 21, CBS and NBC presented liberal environmentalists as the only legitimate critics of the plan. Saying "critics call it a bill right out of the Reagan Administration," NBC's Jim Miklaszewski claimed environmentalists thought Bush "had bowed to industry pressure to dilute it." On CBS the same day, Lesley Stahl echoed that complaint: "The President watered down his plan by compromising with industry on car emissions, the major contributor to urban smog." Stahl added: "But overall, the critics charge, the bill isn't strong enough to achieve healthy air by the year 2000." The two stories included seven comments from Congressmen. Only one defended Bush's plan.
In a column the same week, economics writer Warren Brookes analyzed the estimated cost to industry: about $400 billion over the next 20 years. But CBS and NBC never contemplated the effects on American business and the inevitable loss of jobs: not one industry spokesman got time to comment.
HOUSING HOKUM. "A gloomy report today on housing for the nation's poor and minorities," Dan Rather intoned on the July 10 CBS Evening News. "It's a simple equation, and a recipe for disaster," reported CBS correspondent Mark Phillips. "A study by a Washington research group has shown that while in the 1970's, there were roughly enough low-rent housing units for the poor, through the '80s, the number of poor has increased by 25 percent while low rent units have dropped by 20 percent."
But according to page 10 of this "gloomy report" by the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the number of low-rent units declined 19 percent since 1970, not 1980. "It should be noted that the decline...was greatest between 1970 and 1978," the report stated. When asked to explain the discrepancy, Phillips told MediaWatch that "the base points of the study were not identical," so "we kind of fudged" the statistics to "stay honest to the general trend."
CATERING TO NADER. "Ralph Nader is a legend, perhaps the only universally recognized symbol of pure honesty and clean energy left in a culture that, after being shot through with greed, cynicism and weariness, is oddly proud of its hardened self," Marc Fisher wrote in a fawning July 23 Washington Post Magazine profile story. "Two decades after he slew General Motors," the Post reporter gushed, Nader "is a reminder of what we once hoped to be." Fisher made no effort to contain his admiration. "He might as well be Moses, judging from the reception he gets on the road," began one paragraph. "Ralph Nader is a simple old- fashioned man," he declared a bit later, adding, "he may be the only person in the country who uses carbon paper."
"Now the nation's voice of honest progress is looking homeward," Fisher began the last paragraph. "Ralph Nader's America is a paradise lost, a nation that has taken the simple, good ways of its past and poisoned them with greed and evil."
Earlier Fisher explained that "if Nader's work is his wife, reporters are his mistresses. Nader says little of what he has accomplished could have happened without committed newspeople who spread his message." Fisher should know.
THE L.A. REALITY DODGERS. For a textbook example of the excesses of front-page "news analysis," check the July 8 Los Angeles Times. Correspondent Michael Parks announced that "With the same vigor and vision with which he has set about reforming the Soviet Union, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev is now embarked on reshaping Europe for the 21st Century."
To Parks, this does not mean reshaping Western Europe into Eastern Europe. In fact, Parks reported, "He has no blueprint for the new Europe, no plan for what he calls 'the common European home,' not even an agenda for negotiations beyond broad topics such as disarmament, environmental protection, and economic cooperation...What Gorbachev is offering is his own relentless energy." In between sentences like these, Parks quoted paragraph after paragraph from Kremlin officials and Gorbachev speeches. It begs the question: Does repeating Soviet rhetoric without looking at Soviet reality qualify as "analysis" -- or demonstrate the lack of it? "Deeds, not words," some skeptics may demand, but for some reporters, words alone will do.
IOWA EMBARRASSMENT. After the gun turret on the USS Iowa exploded ABC and CBS repeatedly talked with Admiral Gene LaRocque of the Center for Defense Information. On the April 20 Good Morning America he called the 16-inch guns antiquated, just like "the old-fashioned muskets in the Revolutionary War." LaRocque was also featured on ABC's World News Tonight and Nightline. The next morning, Admiral LaRocque reversed himself on CBS This Morning, claiming the Iowa's aging technology was "too complicated for new crews to operate." The only consistency the networks seemed to care about was LaRocque's criticism of the naval equipment.
On July 18, NBC's Fred Francis was the only network correspondent to report what an official naval investigation had determined: "The Navy has ruled out mechanical malfunctions, accidental detonations, electrical flaws, and all other technical reasons for the tragedy." Francis said the Navy found "compelling circumstantial evidence that the horrific explosion was an act of suicide." Not surprisingly, ABC and CBS ignored the report.
DUPE FOR KOOP. With Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's stay in Washington at an end, ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson produced a fawning review of his favorite enlightened conservative. Throughout his July 14 20/20 story, Johnson focused on Koop's clashes with the "far right." In fact, Johnson refused to refer to conservatives who disapproved of Koop's actions concerning AIDS and abortion as anything but "far right."
Concerning Koop's report on AIDS, which encouraged the use of condoms to avoid the disease, "the reaction from the far right was predictable. To this day, Dr. Koop is astounded by the vehemence of the reaction." Johnson wondered "why couldn't the far right see the distinction you were making between [homosexuals] and the activity?" Koop's answer was that there is "a true hatred of homosexuals" among conservatives.
STAHL'S ALL FOR TAXES. "Won't it become necessary to raise taxes? Isn't that just a bald truth?" CBS News White House correspondent Lesley Stahl posed those questions to Office of Management and Budget Director Richard Darman on the July 23 Face the Nation. "All we keep doing," Stahl complained, "is cutting the domestic budget because taxes aren't being asked for."
Stahl's tax advocacy can't be dismissed as mere goading by a sharp interviewer. Three days later, reporting the "news" from the White House lawn, Stahl pushed the tax button again. "Pressure for increased spending," Stahl charged on the July 26 Evening News, leads to the "inevitable question: will the President be forced to go to the public and say 'we have to pay for what we owe?'" Guess what Stahl said "that means." You guessed it: "taxes."
LEFTY LINDSEY. Lindsey Gruson's July 21 New York Times report mourning the dim prospects for collective farming in El Salvador cast the proposed free-market reforms in a leftist light. Headlined "For the Peasants of El Salvador, Promised Land Seems to Recede," Gruson reported fears that "the oligarchy, a tiny group of intermarried families that have traditionally run El Salvador as a personal profit center, will be allowed to reimpose its iron-fisted control over the agricultural-based economy."
Gruson's bias was also apparent in his use of labels: "President Cristiani and extreme rightists blame land redistribution for the drop in agricultural output." Land owner Orlando de Sola is "a pillar of the oligarchy and one of the country's most extreme rightists...who sometimes calls himself a monarchist." Gruson pointed out that de Sola's estate is patrolled by machine-gun carrying guards, maintaining "The brewing campaign against the land program reflects the newfound confidence of the often violent right."
By contrast, communist guerrilla Joaquin Villalobos, a spokesman for the often violent left, was introduced simply as "the senior rebel commander" and the author of a recent article in the American journal Foreign Policy.
GUNNING FOR TIME. Trying to prove that the pen really is mightier than the sword, Time magazine used its First Amendment rights to attack the Second Amendment. The July 17 cover story, "7 Deadly Days," presented 464 pictures on 25 pages of Americans who died from gunshot wounds during the week of May 1-7, along with two pages of interpretation.
"I remembered back in 1969 Life magazine did a similar project with Vietnam," Senior Editor Terry Zintl recalled during the July 11 Good Morning America, "It brought home the human cost of that war, and I thought that this would be a very good way of bringing home the human toll of guns....I hope it'll get some other people angry about the number of gun deaths." Time compared the gun deaths to the 48,700 deaths annually from automobile accidents: all 'victims' of inanimate objects. But were the 464 gun deaths all 'victims' of inanimate objects? Well...no. In fact, 216, (about 47 percent) of the dead committed suicide, a very deliberate, conscious act. Whose fault is this? Time quoted the son of a woman who committed suicide, "Mom died that day because of the totally irresponsible attitude that we Americans have developed about gun use and ownership." Time agreed, adding, "Every week, more American families are exposed to that irreversible lesson."
GOOD GRIEF AMERICA: NOT THE BIBLE! Don't expect to hear or see much of the Bible on Good Morning America, at least judging by the experience of conservative syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. In June Thomas wrote a column on the San Francisco "domestic partnership" law. GMA producer Sue Hester read the piece (in which Thomas quoted one Bible verse) and invited him to appear to discuss the new law conferring legal status to homosexual couples. As Thomas was about to leave home for the show, Hester called Thomas to say ABC had chosen someone else to appear. Hester explained a more senior producer "was concerned you might quote some Bible verses." Thomas called this producer, Rickie Gaffney, who refused to deny Hester had quoted her accurately.
ROONEY TUNES. 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney thinks communism has gotten a bum rap: "Communism got in with a bad crowd when it was young and never had a fair chance," Rooney wrote in a June 26 Op-Ed piece for The New York Times.
According to Rooney, "the original communist philosophy may have been wrong, but they didn't plan it as a totalitarian system... Communist governments have been dominated by men, not Marxist ideals." Rooney explained that the "communist idea of creating a society in which everyone does his best for the good of everyone is appealing and fundamentally a more uplifting idea than capitalism."
Rooney conceded that "communism's only real weakness seems to be that it doesn't work," but Rooney had less kind words to say about capitalism: "It seems sad and sort of a spiritual defeat for us all that an economic system based on doing it for No. 1 is more successful than one based on a noble ideal." Unthreatened by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 threat, "We will bury you," Rooney confidently contended, "Mr. Khrushchev didn't mean anything more evil than that communism would be the winner over capitalism in the competition to do the best for the most people in the world." Besides, Rooney concluded, "They aren't burying us; we're burying them. But it's no reason to gloat."
SELECTIVE SOURCES. Speaking of Rooney, ever wonder why reporters select liberal groups as sources? Look to the July/August Washington Journalism Review (WJR) and its annual "Directory of Selected News Sources." Listed under Magazines: The New Republic and The Nation (but not National Review). Under Medical/Health Care, National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood of America, Inc. (but not any pro-life groups).
Under Women/Minorities: the National Organization for Women and the Women's Legal Defense Fund (but not Concerned Women for America). Under Special Interest/Social Issues: Common Cause, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Children's Defense Fund, Handgun Control Inc., the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for the American Way, SANE/FREEZE, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (but only two conservative organizations, the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee).
What criteria does WJR use to choose its listings? Advertising Coordinator Lisa Jordan told MediaWatch that WJR does its own research, takes referrals from its editorial staff, and accepts some requests that are sent in. Jordan explained inclusion is based on "how beneficial the source would be for a working journalist." Why are there so few conservative groups? Says Jordan, "A lot of the time we just don't have space available." Not even for the Heritage Foundation, the largest conservative think tank? "It's evidently not one we are familiar with."
Revolving Door: Writing Reagan
Writing Reagan. Simon and Schuster has hired Robert Lindsey, West Coast Bureau Chief for The New York Times for over a decade, to help former President Ronald Reagan put together his memoirs. Lindsey wrote The Falcon and the Snowman in 1979 and a book last year on the Mormon murders for the same publisher. Reagan's book is expected sometime in 1991.
Riegle Service. Karolyn Wallace, a KABC-TV general assignment reporter for the past two years, is the new Press Secretary to Senator Don Riegle, a liberal Michigan Democrat. Before traveling to Los Angeles, Wallace spent four years as a reporter for WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan.
Wallace replaces Mike Russell, Riegle's Press Secretary for nine years. Before coming to D.C. Russell worked as assignment manager for then ABC owned WXYZ-TV in Detroit. A few months ago Russell took the press job in the office of U.S. Representative Bill Ford (D-Mich.). Like Wallace, he also once worked for Flint's WJRT.
A Progressive Position. From 1972 to 1973 Robert Shapiro was a Fellow with the far-left Institute for Policy Studies. Now 16 years later Shapiro is back with a think tank. He's Vice President of the newly formed Progressive Policy Institute, a group founded by former Democratic Leadership Council officials. In between, Shapiro was Legislative Director for Senator Patrick Moynihan and spent four years as an U.S. News & World Report Associate Editor, a position he left last year to join the Dukakis campaign as Deputy Issues Director.
NBC's New York Law. NBC has appointed a new Executive Vice President and general counsel for the company: Richard Cotton, a long-time Washington lawyer. Cotton served as Executive Secretary to Carter's Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano until 1979 when he jumped to the Department of Energy as special counsel to Deputy Secretary John Sawhill.
From Cincinnati Post to D.C. Post. Claudia Winkler, a publications editor for the moderate to conservative American Enterprise Institute from 1975 to 1982, has been named chief editorial writer in Washington, D.C. for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. After writing Cincinnati Post editorials for two years, in 1985 the Scripps-Howard owned newspaper promoted her to editorial page editor, a position she held until this June.
Cable News to Senate News. Kristy Schantz, a writer for CNN's Headline News cable channel, has joined former Associated Press reporter Bill Ritz on Senator Herbert Kohl's staff. She's now working for Ritz as the Wisconsin Democrat's Deputy Press Secretary. Schantz spent two years in Atlanta during which time, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported, she helped cover the Democratic National Convention.
Celebrating the Sandinistas
The tenth anniversary of Nicaragua's ill-fated Sandinista revolution coincided with the tenth anniversary of favorable reporting on the communist government's intentions. On July 20, Washington Post reporters Julia Preston and Lee Hockstadter, for example, saw Ortega's dictatorship not as the realization of communist doctrine, but a temporary inconvenience caused by the Contra war, driving the Sandinistas to "radicalize their revolution, sharply curtailing civil liberties and starting down the path to socialism. Since 1987, they have stepped back from their hardest positions."
Preston's tilt was no surprise: before joining the Post, Preston wrote for the Pacific News Service, an arm of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies, and for the pro-Castro North American Congress on Latin America.
ABC News correspondent Peter Collins also trumpeted the Sandinista version of history: "They brought with them Marxist ideas about spreading wealth and creating a new, unselfish society. And in the first few years, they did manage to reduce illiteracy, the infant death rate, and launched the biggest land reform in Central America. But the Reagan Administration saw the Sandinistas as a threat and forced them into a war with the U.S.- backed Contras." J.D. Gannon of The Christian Science Monitor found the Sandinistas have "avoided the systematic violent excesses of their U.S.-supported neighbors...Nicaragua is the only country in Central America which vigorously prosecutes some of its own soldiers and officers."
Preston and Hockstadter heard only kind words in Ortega's July 19 speech: "President Daniel Ortega struck a new conciliatory tone and appealed for national 'serenity'...Today, Ortega again reached out to his political opposition." But New York Times reporter Mark Uhlig heard something else: "'UNO is nothing...UNO is nothing'...The partisan rhyme, which was repeated throughout the speech and shouted back by the audience at Mr. Ortega's invitation, gave unusual prominence to the opposition coalition."
Washington Times reporter Peter LaBarbera focused on a La Prensa poll showing 61 percent of Nicaraguans would say no to six more years of Ortega. But CBS reporter Doug Tunnell predicted on Sunday Morning July 23 that "if there were to be an election right now, Ortega would win." Does Nicaragua threaten the U.S.? No, they're more interested in "feeding and caring for their own people, keeping their promise of ten years ago, a revolution for the poor." He admitted "They haven't done that yet," but insisted "that's their number one priority."
The Time - RNC Saga Continues
Last month MediaWatch awarded its Janet Cooke Award to Time magazine for its vicious, double-barreled assault on Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater. An article titled "How to Spread a Smear" by Senior Writer Margaret Carlson blamed Atwater for the now famous Foley memo. Both the press and congressional Democrats charged the memorandum was a smear on Foley's character because it compared his liberal voting record to self-proclaimed gay representative Barney Frank. An accompanying editorial insert box "Sorry Is Not Enough" called Atwater a "muck maven" and demanded that President Bush "sack" him. Senior Editor Terry Zintl told MediaWatch that National Correspondent Larry Barrett penned the un-bylined editorial.
Since that time, MediaWatch has learned more about the story. Its competitors, U.S. News and Newsweek, were spending hours on the phone interviewing both Atwater and RNC Chief of Staff Mary Matalin, but not one Time reporter ever bothered to call the RNC to discuss the Foley memo. And there's more: when asked if she had spoken with anyone at Time after the June 19 article came out, Matalin told MediaWatch: "Yes, both Lee and I spoke with Barrett who said 'Had I been there [in Washington], this would never have happened.'" That's before she knew Barrett had written the editorial box. "Barrett definitely tried to lead Lee and me to believe he had nothing to do with the articles. No question about it," Matalin stated.
Barrett declined to talk to MediaWatch about the specifics of the editorial: "That's between them and me, rather than them, and you, and me." Did he mislead Atwater and Matalin? Barrett claimed: "When they complained to me later about the lack of contact, I did tell them had I been there it would have been different. I did not tell them that the tone of the finished product or products would have been different."
That Atwater was never interviewed is poor journalism. That Barrett would write an unsigned editorial and subsequently try to convince his target he had nothing to do with it, is unethical. So much for openness and honesty at Time.
Newspeak on Abortion
In its first issue following the Supreme Court's Webster decision, Newsweek took an in-depth look at abortion -- from the pro-abortion side. In framing the issue, focusing the problem, and choosing experts, Newsweek showed its clear preference for the issues and language of legal abortion advocates.
1. Framing the Debate. Reporter Ann McDaniel framed the abortion question as "a woman's right to make one of the larger decisions of her life" and "women who each year choose abortion as the best way to resolve their personal dilemmas."
McDaniel labeled the two sides in the abortion debate "conservatives and opponents of abortion" and "women's rights activists," ignoring the "liberal" label for the pro-abortion side. Chief Justice Rehnquist's opinion "chilled abortion advocates everywhere," but McDaniel left out that those same words cheered pro-life advocates.
Ironically, in its boxed note on home abortions, Newsweek slipped. "Do-it-yourself abortion is hazardous to your health," read the headline. But whose health? "Sadly," the article read, "many home remedies could damage a fetus instead of kill it."
2. Focusing the Problem. Throughout the article, the magazine's reporting matched the statements by "pro-choice" sources. Planned Parenthood's Matty Bloom decried "a two-tiered system where women with means can fly to exercise their freedom of choice, whereas those without means are forced into childbearing." Newsweek echoed those thoughts: "With Webster the court has further limited the access of poor people" to abortion. In other words, state strictures "will have their greatest effect upon the poor, the young, and the uneducated."
The article went on: "poor women will again bear the brunt of such regulation," "pro-choice advocates argue that banning public facilities is tantamount to eliminating abortions for many poor or young women" and "the young and the poor would e affected most adversely." So Newsweek concluded, "the court's rulings could make it all but impossible for poor women or teenagers to get abortions."
3. Use of Sources. Newsweek devoted five pages to state-level restrictions on abortion. Americans United for Life got two quotes; a spokesman for Florida's Right to Life was quoted once, as was a "right-to-life legislator." But those wanting abortion legal were quoted a total of ten times, twice as often as the pro-life side.
Janet Cooke Award: TBS: Abortion Advocacy
The Supreme Court's Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services decision has sent abortion proponents and opponents scurrying to the grass roots in an effort to persuade local constituencies of their cause. But pro-abortion forces, with huge financial backing and a media sympathetic to their cause, now have cable guru Ted Turner and his vast, supposedly objective telecommunications empire behind their cause. Through Cable News Network, Headline News, and Superstation TBS, Turner stands to make a significant impact on the debate.
His new 30 minute documentary Abortion: For Survival (which aired July 20, 22, and 23 on TBS) is the latest of many Turner programs supporting abortion. Its blatantly pro-abortion stance earns Turner the August Janet Cooke Award.
Turner has crafted a clever way to spread his political views through his media outlets. By chairing the Better World Society (BWS), Turner has aired more than 35 leftist and pro-Soviet documentaries and commercials on TBS and CNN. Through contractual agreements BWS produces these advocacy programs, which are then aired free of charge on Turner networks. In cooperation with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, BWS produced and TBS aired Increase and Multiply? in 1987.
BWS is so committed to abortion that Zhou Boping, Vice Chairman of the China Family Planning Association (CFPA), sits on its Board of Directors. The CFPA enforces the regime's one-child-per- family population control program which has led to more than ten million forced abortions per year. Nevertheless, BWS awarded CFPA one of its 1988 Better World Medals.
Abortion: For Survival is the most recent BWS initiative to promote abortion. Explaining the need for the program, Turner stated recently: "I am alarmed that forces opposed to birth control are growing in strength, even while explosive population growth overwhelms the developing world. Political efforts in the United States to block family planning assistance, including legal access to abortion, adversely affect vitally needed family planning and population stabilization programs throughout the world."
The program was co-produced with Eleanor Smeal's Fund for The Feminist Majority. The video opens with an actual abortion. Once the minute-long procedure is completed, the woman declares: "To lawmakers, I would like to say that there are hundreds of thousands of women whose lives are being affected. It's not a political thing, it's not a philosophical thing. It's women's lives."
The abortion documentary viciously attacks the pro-life movement: "In what could be termed a rash of domestic terrorism, factions in the anti-abortion minority have turned to tactics of increasing violence and harassment."
By twisting and distorting the facts, the video also attempted to translate the goal of abortion on demand in America to the world arena: "The World Health Organization estimates that 430 million people do not have enough to eat and suffer from malnutrition... Abortion is a necessity for millions of women world-wide....In a civilized society we owe women the right to make this decision safely. It is a matter of survival....We have forgotten that this is a moral right."
BWS put together an hour-long discussion to follow the documentary including abortion opponents Congressman Robert Dornan and Nellie Gray, and abortion supporters Smeal and Planned Parenthood's Faye Wattleton. But were Turner and BWS really interested in an unbiased, balanced presentation in its panel follow-up? Turner certainly wasn't, commenting: "We'll give the other bozos a chance to talk back. They look like idiots anyway."
BWS hired liberal commentator Martin Agronsky to moderate. He weighted the panel to the pro-abortion side, repeatedly asking leading questions such as "If abortion and birth control become illegal in more countries, and birth rates go up, how will we handle the increased competition for finite resources?" Between panel segments, actress Margot Kidder, in free ad time, told television viewers BWS "believes that all women must have access to all available methods for controlling their own fertility, including abortion."
To balance Abortion: For Survival, Gray asked BWS to also air a pro-life documentary, either Eclipse of Reason or its predecessor The Silent Scream. Gray's request was denied, according to BWS Associate Director Victoria Markell because "We had already determined the format of the program." TBS publicist Kirsten White was not aware of the request but said that TBS Executive Vice President Bob Levy, "in conjunction with Ted Turner," would have the "final say so." White claimed: "At this point, we feel that the panel discussion that is being produced to follow it up will give ample opportunity to both sides to discuss the issue."
TBS officials jockeyed to paint the presentation as balanced through ads on TBS and CNN, but Turner admitted at a recent shareholders meeting that his personal feelings play a role in what is aired. Turner, who controls 61 percent of Turner Broadcasting stock, proceeded to defeat a proposed resolution that would guarantee "equitable" distribution of free airtime.
That's in keeping with Turner's "no holds barred" attitude toward broadcasting and public opinion making. It's also allowable in a free and democratic society. But while Turner can propagandize, viewers can also refuse his propaganda. When you view Abortion: For Survival, keep in mind the Better World Society's goals. Remember that Turner and his networks may be the greatest asset ever to the pro-abortion forces. Remember that you control your television sets, not Turner.