In This Issue
Loving the Children's Defense Fund; NewsBites: Going Nowhere Fast; Revolving Door: Time's FOB; Reporters Hound Clinton on Political Missteps, But....; "Uneducated" Conservatives?; Cheers to Sam and Diane; "Censored" Stories; Janet Cooke Award: Time Calls for Gas Tax Increase at least 24 Times in Four Years
Loving the Children's Defense Fund
The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is gaining new prominence as the Clinton era begins. The CDF board was headed for many years by the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and then last year by Donna Shalala, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.
But the group has enjoyed popularity with the Washington press corps for years. Media foundations (such as The New York Times Company Foundation) are contributors, and media celebrities like Jane Pauley attend their fundraisers. The only remaining secret to the public at large: the group is extremely liberal.
How liberal? The CDF's own "Nonpartisan Voting Index" routinely grades liberals such as Sen. Ted Kennedy as 100 percent politically correct. CDF founder Marian Wright Edelman regularly scolds the government for not copying Europe's socialist programs. On NBC, she pronounced: "We need to talk about the poverty of values of a country that let its children die because we don't provide [national] health insurance." In 1990, Edelman even attacked liberal Reps. Tom Downey and George Miller for being too conservative on child care spending, saying they were "willing to rob millions of children."
To determine the tone of news stories featuring CDF, MediaWatch analyzed both print and broadcast news stories. Two years ago, analysts used Nexis to survey every news story mentioning CDF in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post for the years 1988, 1989, and 1990. In 228 news stories, CDF was described as "liberal" three times (1.3 percent).
MediaWatch analysts returned to the Nexis files to research every news story in the same newspapers in 1991 and 1992, and added USA Today to the sample. Descriptions of CDF as "liberal" increased marginally, to 19 labels in 343 news stories (5.5 percent). Analysts added USA Today stories from 1989 and 1990 and found an additional 29 unlabeled news mentions. Adding all five years of major newspaper stories together, CDF received 22 "liberal" labels in 600 news stories (3.6 percent). This still lags far behind the labeling of conservative child advocacy groups like the Family Research Council (FRC), whose labeling percentage also grew from 1988-90 (15 of 50, or 30 percent) to 1991-92 (43 of 92, or 47 percent). Put another way, reporters were almost 12 times more likely to label the conservative FRC than the liberal CDF.
Perhaps most interesting is the pattern of labeling: of the 19 labels used to describe CDF in 1991-92, 17 were used in 1992, and ten of them came after the November 3 election. All seven labels in the Los Angeles Times and the only label in USA Today appeared in the post-election period.
MediaWatch analysts also monitored TV coverage, watching every 1990, 1991 and 1992 profile or interview with Edelman on the three broadcast networks. Of 38 questions directed to Edelman, 27 percent were neutral (soliciting information without expressing a viewpoint). Nine came from a liberal agenda, and two from a conservative agenda.
On the March 30, 1991 Face the Nation (the only CBS interview in the sample), then-host Lesley Stahl asked four questions, all from a liberal viewpoint: "Be an analyst for us. You've been working on behalf of children for years and years. What happened in our country where we can watch children going hungry, pregnant women not getting the proper care, and we don't seem to care as a society. How did we get here?"
Only two questions challenged Edelman from the right, assuming the devil's advocate role the media often claim. Both came from ABC Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson. On December 17, 1992, Gibson inquired: "You say in [your] report `Every American, led by our new President and Congress, must give children back their hope.' Why led by government? Why is this...primarily, firstly, a government problem?"
Even though the neutral questions were the most common, most were softballs. Some were simple: "Run down the report for me," began Gibson's December 17 interview. Some were tributes -- on the March 20, 1992 Brokaw Report Tom Brokaw concluded: "You've been working in this vineyard a long time, Marian Wright Edelman. You grew out of the activism of the '60s. How do you create a movement around the children of the '90s?"
In the only Edelman interview in which she was joined by a conservative, a May 21, 1992 Today segment with black Senate candidate Alan Keyes, co-host Katie Couric took on Keyes: "The administration is against abortion, against single mothers. Is Dan Quayle being unrealistic?" NBC did the worst of the three networks, airing five interviews with Edelman without a tough question.
The two profiles, an ABC "Person of the Week" segment on March 29, 1991, and a CBS Sunday Morning piece on December 6, 1992, boldly praised Edelman and ignored critics. Between them, the two stories aired 17 soundbites of Edelman, six soundbites of her supporters, and one critic. ABC allowed Heritage Foundation analyst Kate Walsh O'Beirne to say "I don't think the problem is the messenger. I think the problem is her message is old and tired and largely discredited." Jennings quickly countered: "She is anything but discredited in Congress as a whole....The children are fortunate to have such an advocate." The CBS story, by reporter Terence Smith, was a ten-minute, critic-free tribute.
Hopefully, tougher media scrutiny of CDF will match their influence in the White House and at HHS. Whether criticism of CDF gets any attention, or is buried under more tributes, will be an important test for reporters who claim they're still the adversaries of those in power.
NewsBites: Going Nowhere Fast
Going Nowhere Fast. If the President is serious about spending cuts, he'll have trouble with The Washington Post. On January 21, reporter William Claiborne described how a citizen jury produced its own budget: "The jurors voted 18 to 6 for a relatively radical federal budget that would slash $26 billion out of fiscal 1997 expenditures of $1.745 trillion projected by the Congressional Budget Office....The jurors' somewhat draconian budget would leave a $194 billion deficit in 1997."
Radical? Slashing? Draconian? The jury's plan would reduce the still-growing budget (including CBO's projected increases in mandatory spending) by only 1.5 percent.
Scandals Skipped. Few "appearances of impropriety" by the executive branch went unnoticed by the Washington media during the last 12 years. But that changed on January 20. Two examples: President Clinton's Director of Communications, George Stephanopoulos, may have violated the Ethics in Government Act. As National Review reported, "The law prohibits senior congressional staff from dealing with former employers for one year after their departure. Mr. Stephanopoulos was a senior aide to Rep. Gephardt in 1991 and spent 1992 with the Clinton campaign, on at least one occasion acting as a liaison with congressional Democratic leaders." Sam Donaldson asked Stephanopoulos to respond to the charge on the January 24 This Week, but the issue never made an evening or morning TV news show.
Add to that Hillary Clinton's violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or the "sunshine" law. On January 29 The Washington Times reported that the President's task force on health care met in secret, violating the law which the Times said "requires that any presidentially appointed advisory task force that includes nongovernmental employees or outside advisers must keep all events and meetings public." The task force includes non-employees Tipper Gore and Mrs. Clinton. The media reaction? No coverage, not even after Rep. Bill Clinger, the ranking Republican on the House Government Operations Committee, demanded the closed meetings stop.
Hillary Hair Update. Reporters continue to treat the First Lady like a bimbo whose hair is more important than what's inside the head it grows on. From January 11 to 13, The Washington Post ran a long three-part series on "The Education of Hillary Clinton." Post reporter Martha Sherrill devoted only one paragraph to the First Lady's career at the Rose Law Firm and two to her legal writings, but twelve paragraphs to changes in her hair and wardrobe. Sherrill did not touch on Mrs. Clinton's tenure as chairman of the federal Legal Services Corporation from 1978-81.
But Sherrill still attacked Hillary's critics: "At one extreme you had Pat Buchanan, in the Houston Astrodome, spitting out the words 'lawyer spouse'. On the other side, she's provoked a certain amount of weeping. Old girlfriends....[think] the world has so grossly misunderstood their warm, funny, smart, tough, loyal Hillary."
Scotty's Secret. PBS welcomed the new year with James Reston: The Man Millions Read, another forum for cliched liberal attacks on conservative politicians. Reston, the long-time Washington Bureau Chief of The New York Times, sized up Carter and Reagan: "Jimmy was the greatest ex-President we ever had. He not only talked his principles, but what did he do? He didn't, like Reagan, go and make a couple of million bucks for two 20-minute speeches. He went out on the construction sites and built houses for the poor." On Quayle: "I don't think that there's any doubt whatsoever that if somebody has raised the question of putting up Dan Quayle, that the elders of the party would have said, Well, George, that bird won't fly."
The program lionized Reston and his role as a Washington power broker, and featured only Reston and a few of his Times colleagues. Why? Because the show was produced and funded by The New York Times. Dr. Laurence Jarvik of the Center for Study of Popular Culture noted that PBS violated its own underwriting guidelines, which forbid underwriters "having a direct and immediate interest in the content of a program." Jarvik also noted the Times failed to note its conflict of interest when it editorialized in favor of PBS last April, when its Reston show was still in production. Liberal corruption at PBS continues.
Fuel Fraud. On the December 30 CBS Evening News, John Roberts reported from Boston: "As winter sets in, parents must choose between paying for heat and paying for food." Roberts explained: "Across the country, millions of people rely on the federal government for help with their heating bills, through LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. But in recent years, that program has been cut 25 percent, while at the same time, the number of people needing assistance has increased." He also interviewed two mothers with hungry children, one of whom complained that she was running out of fuel.
But where is the evidence for the so-called "heat-or-eat syndrome"? Heritage Foundation analyst Carl Horowitz called this a "false choice," citing the 26.3 million Americans who receive food stamps, not to mention Medicaid, AFDC, and housing subsidies. The Department of Health and Human Services, which administers LIHEAP, does not track the number of people needing assistance, and though spending on LIHEAP declined somewhat from 1991 to 1993 (less than the 25 percent Roberts claimed), spending steadily increased for the program from 1988 to 1991. But Roberts only had time for the liberal line: "Those lobbying for maintaining fuel funds say for every cut in the program, there is an added social cost."
Standing by Their Smear. Whatever became of the practice of offering a retraction when a media outlet is wrong? ABC's Nightline has adopted the policy of clamming up and hoping that people will forget about it. On June 20, 1991, Nightline devoted a hour-long special to promoting the "October Surprise" allegations of two dubious Iranian arms dealers, Cyrus and Jamshid Hashemi. Their reporting played a major part in spurring a congressional investigation that kept the story alive through 1992.
On January 13, 1993, the bipartisan House "October Surprise" task force fully exonerated the Reagan-Bush campaign. Would Nightline devote an evening to the task force report? ABC spokesman Laura Wessner told MediaWatch the answer was no: "What would we say? We're not World News Tonight. That is not a broadcast for Nightline. That is a headline. That is not a half hour show."
When asked if Nightline would report on the findings of the task force, or even offer a retraction and an apology, Wessner said: "We stand by our story. We understand that Mrs. Casey asked a number of people to apologize -- Frontline, Nightline -- you know, to apologize. We absolutely sympathize with her and her dedication to her husband's memory and reputation, but we think that the congressional committee report did not contradict what we reported on the subject."
Christopher's October Surprise. For years the media have dug up and reported every scrap of information -- no matter how dubious -- that would link Republicans to a 1980 arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. Now that the evidence points to the Democrats, the story has been spiked. "A bipartisan House task force revealed yesterday that Warren Christopher had proposed a previously unknown `quid pro quo' of guns and money for the release of 52 Americans held hostages in Iran in 1980," reported the January 14 Washington Times. The Washington Post included only a brief mention of Christopher's offer of $150 million in military spare parts and $80 million in cash for he hostages. The New York Times story on the task force failed to mention anything about Christopher's proposal.
Instead, some gave Christopher credit for negotiating the release of American hostages. A USA Today caption stated Christopher "negotiated release of American hostages in Iran." Newsweek's special post-inauguration issue proclaimed: "Ironically, it was Warren Christopher who negotiated the hostages' freedom just as Carter was leaving office -- which cleared the decks for Ronald Reagan's domestic agenda." Didn't Reagan's resolve have something to do with the hostages coming home?
Marshall Memories. The tributes to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall began the evening of his January 24 death. No one would dispute that his early efforts to end segregation deserved praise, but the media glossed over criticism of his Supreme Court career.
On ABC's World News Sunday, Cokie Roberts recalled: "Thurgood Marshall carried the cause of racial equality, first as a lawyer arguing civil rights cases, then as a Justice deciding them." On the same day's CBS Evening News, Rita Braver remarked that when elevated to the Supreme Court, "Marshall became a strong voice for individual rights, for minorities, for women, for the poor...Marshall never stopped pushing for equality for all Americans."
But Marshall moved away from racial equality with his support of affirmative action programs. As syndicated columnist Paul Greenberg of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette recently wrote: "In the end, Mr. Justice Marshall was unable to imagine any way out of discrimination against the minority except discrimination against the majority...The game of racial advantage remained the dismal same."
Pompous Powers Returns. Boston Globe Magazine writer John Powers' January 17 memo "To: The Republican Party, Re: Rising from your ashes," was the second strategy memo to a political party. Powers, who once told MediaWatch the Globe doesn't employ conservatives because it cannot "find a conservative who can put a complete sentence together," critiqued the Democratic Party in 1991 from the left. This time, he did the same to the Republicans.
Powers wrote, "It took a while, but the electorate finally figured out that the Republicans are stuck back in the '70s, if not the '50s. When you think of women, you think of Martha Stewart, not Murphy Brown. That's the biggest reason you lost the White House. You lost the women...Your policies and your platform rapped them on the head at every turn. No abortions, no child care, no maternity leave, no equal pay for equal work. Then you had the brass to preach to them about Family Values."
Powers advised: "You can start by tossing aside a couple of albatrosses. Forget supply-side, trickle-down, and the rest of the voodoo remedies. All they did was mail a whopping bill to your grandchildren. And shelve the Ozzie Nelson stuff. If Americans want family values, they can go to K Mart, which is about all they can afford these days."
Time's Queer Numbers. The January 11 Time magazine published letters from outraged readers about its December 14 article on the new gay "tolerance" curriculum in schools. "Our readers did not take lightly the report on schools' efforts to instruct children about homosexuality," a noticeably downbeat Time wrote. "Of the 40 letters we received responding to our story, 75 percent rejected the idea of teaching kids about sexual orientation and gay family relationships." But the Time box excerpted only one letter critical of the curriculum, and two that supported it.
Geneva's Conventions. Reporting isn't going to get any less biased if Des Moines Register Editor Geneva Overholser has her way. As reported in the November 28 Editor & Publisher, Overholser told a conference: "All too often, a story free of any taint of personal opinion is a story with all the juice sucked out. A big piece of why so much news copy today is boring as hell is this objectivity god. Keeping opinion out of the story too often means being a fancy stenographer."
Revolving Door: Time's FOB
President Clinton has nominated Strobe Talbott, Time Editor-at- Large since stepping down as Washington Bureau Chief in 1989, as an Ambassador-at-Large to the nations of the former Soviet Union.
An Oxford roommate of Clinton's, Talbott devoted an April 6 Time column to his own "full disclosure," asserting Clinton did not know whether he'd be drafted in 1969 and 1970. "How real was Clinton's concern that he might be drafted? The surmise that Clinton had nothing to worry about is based on more than 20 years' hindsight. It's a perfect example of how a partial recitation of the facts can lie."
Indeed. After the magazine came out, Cliff Jackson, a Friend of Bill in the '60s, produced a letter showing that Clinton had received a draft induction notice in April 1969. In October he wrote Time Managing Editor Henry Muller, asking for space to challenge Talbott's memory. Jackson claimed that Talbott not only knew about Clinton's draft dodging, but helped Clinton: "I know that Strobe was one of the chief architects of Bill Clinton's scheme to void his draft notice, avoid reporting on his scheduled (postponed) July 28 induction date and to secure a 1-D deferment, yet nowhere in his personal testimony does Strobe mention his involvement."
Jackson continued: "I have a crystal clear recollection of Strobe and Bill standing in my office door at Republican State headquarters in the summer of 1969 and discussing the plan, devised by Bill with the able assistance of friends, to kill his draft notice and secure a deferment." Muller refused to publish the letter, but in the February 1 Time, he praised Talbott: "Our loss will be the country's gain."
Clinton's CBS Team
Two past members of the CBS News team worked this campaign season to elect Bill Clinton. Tom Donilon, debate coach for Bill Clinton last fall and a consultant to CBS News during the 1988 primaries, has been nominated Asst. Secretary of State for public affairs. A veteran of the 1984 Mondale effort Donilon joined CBS News in January 1988 after Senator Joe Biden's campaign collapsed, just in time to prep Dan Rather for his confrontation with George Bush over Iran-Contra....
Samuel Popkin, a member of Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg's team from June through election day, spent 1983 to 1990 as a consultant to the CBS News Election and Survey Unit. A political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, Popkin played Ronald Reagan in mock 1980 debates with Jimmy Carter.
Carter Retreads on the Move
In the January 25 issue, Time Publisher Elizabeth Valk announced the magazine's Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson would move to the White House beat: "Carlson started her career at Legal Times, where she made use of her law degree from George Washington University, before moving to Esquire and The New Republic." Valk skipped one entry in Carlson's resume: Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission during the Carter Administration....
Senior Writer Walter Shapiro has left Time to fill a new slot as Esquire's White House correspondent. Shapiro wrote speeches for Jimmy Carter after handling press for Labor Secretary Ray Marshall. White House Helpers. The Clinton White House is providing positions for at least a few media veterans. Anne Edwards, Director of the White House Television Office for Jimmy Carter, is back in the press office. Since her last trip through the White House gate she spent four years as a CBS News Washington bureau assignment editor, followed by a stint with the Mondale-Ferraro campaign. Mondale's loss sent her back to the media as a Senior Producer with National Public Radio. Last year she headed the Clinton-Gore press advance operation....
Signing on as a Deputy Press Secretary, Arthur Jones, a long-time Boston Globe reporter who spent the 1980s as Press Secretary to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Bosto Mayor Ray Flynn.
Reporters Hound Clinton on Political Missteps, But....
Media Applaud Clinton Policies
Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz sounded the anti-bias charge on January 31: "What happened to the liberal media that supposedly gave Bill Clinton every break during the campaign? In the blink of a news cycle, the new President has gone from Time's Man of the Year to punching bag of the week."
Indisputably, from Zoe Baird to gays in the military, Clinton drew poor reviews for the failure of his often glorified political skills, as the press corps detailed the bungling. But unlike most reporting during the last 12 years, so far reporters have either avoided judgments on liberal policy goals, or endorsed them.
MediaWatch analysts reviewed every evening news story on gays in the military from January 21 to 30, and discovered talking heads favoring gays in the military outnumbered opponents by 70 to 42 on the three broadcast networks. ABC (27-14) and CBS (32-17) both gave nearly twice as much attention to the liberal argument. NBC (11-11) split its head count down the middle, but also aired a special promoting the gay viewpoint.
The January 26 First Person with Maria Shriver featured 42 sound- bites of gays (and one of Clinton) to seven anti-gay soundbites. Shriver explained opposition to the gay rights agenda: "In the end, it all comes down to fear."
Reporters "educated" the public about how they misunderstand gays -- from the gay perspective. On the Jan. 29 World News Tonight, ABC reporter Beth Nissen explained: "They say they see in all of the switchboards lit with anti-gay calls the crossed wires lit with intolerance and bigotry. Yet many gays are hopeful that laws and attitudes will change, that there will be less hatred."
On other policies, the pattern remained the same. A few days later, ABC suggested the President will try to do "the right thing," but may be blocked. On Feb. 3, Ned Potter explained: "Look at what has happened on the environmental front...He promises to make Detroit improve on the fuel efficiency of its automobiles. But the Big Three car companies have already come to lobby against it. He wants to stop the build-up of industrial gases that threaten global warming, but he already faces powerful opposition from coal and oil lobbyists."
Without airing any critics, he concluded: "Clinton's top staffers talk so much about energy taxes, which they say would have several benefits; reducing the debt, reducing air pollution, discouraging oil imports. The problem, they say, is when the idea comes up, it is likely to be carved up by special interests." That's nothing like the ideological hostility of the last 12 years.
The Post Pre-Judges
Inside-the-Beltway journalists were truly puzzled by the avalanche of calls to Congress opposing the admission of openly gay soldiers into the military. While reporters admitted the outrage over Zoe Baird was genuine, most suggested the 100-to-1 uproar against gays in the military was a small, organized effort whipped up by televangelists.
Midway through a February 1 front-page Washington Post story on that theory, reporter Michael Weisskopf explained: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated and easy to command."
The next day's Post "Corrections" box included the following: "An article yesterday characterized followers of television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as `largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.' There is no factual basis for that statement."
In a February 6 Howard Kurtz story on reader protests, Weisskopf dug himself deeper. Weisskopf called it "an honest mistake, not born of any prejudice or malice for the religious right," but then said he should have said that evangelicals were "relatively" poor and uneducated. According to Kurtz, "Weisskopf said he based the description on interviews with several experts, but didn't attribute it to anyone because `I try not to have to attribute every point in the story if it appears to be universally accepted. You don't have to say, it's hot out today, according to the weatherman.'"
In a letter to the editor published the same day in the Post, Timothy Crater of the National Association of Evangelicals argued: "If such generalizations had been made of blacks, Jews, or any other favored minority, one can easily imagine the journalistic hell into which Weisskopf's career would slide."
In the February 7 Post, Ombudsman Joann Byrd wrote: "The most embarrassing mistakes in newspapers are invariably the ones the paper had abundant opportunity to catch. And this was one of those. As the story moved through the editing process, several able editors read it, and still the sentence, sitting out there with no support, did not jump out."
Cheers to Sam and Diane
During the Reagan years, as attempts were made to cut the size of government, the networks focused on the need for more spending. Now, ABC's Prime Time Live has bucked that trend. ABC devoted the January 21 program to showcasing the bloated bureaucracy, wasteful spending and perks of Washington. Consider co-host Diane Sawyer's introduction: "Welcome to the land where the bureaucracy that keeps growing out of control, where bills are so confusing, sometimes lawmakers don't know what they're voting on. We'll show you how your federal tax dollars are spent on local pet projects and how nobody even knows how much it really costs to run the White House."
Donaldson highlighted the Rural Electrification Administration and the Agriculture Department: "Your tax dollars support a two and a half billion dollar agency that was supposed to be out of business long ago [and] the government actually forces citrus growers to dump billions of dollars of perfectly good fruit and let it rot, even threatening them with jail if they dare give it away."
Sawyer then explained: "Now, no one disputes that the Agriculture Department runs a lot of important programs...but critics contend it wastes more than $10 billion on an outdated hodgepodge of subsidies and regulations." She singled out quotas on American orange growers: "Economists say [they] cost consumers $100 million each year...Taxpayers have also paid Sunkist $70 million to help them advertise overseas the oranges we're not allowed to buy." She also pointed out how three-quarters of farm subsidies go to major corporations instead of family farmers, and that by the year 2040, the USDA bureaucracy will have grown so much that there will be one bureaucrat for every American farmer.
Prime Time also displayed the lavish vacations and lobbyist- provided gifts afforded to Congressmen and Senators, to show, Donaldson said, "how the people you elect have access to all kinds of privileges and extras that you don't [and] how your tax dollars are spent on local pet projects." Donaldson highlighted the $2 billion Red River project in Louisiana. The Reagan Administration recognized it as pork and tried to have it removed. Donaldson reported that the Louisiana congressional delegation overrode the White House and kept it in the budget.
Sawyer concluded by promising: "We're going to come back to you six months from now with a progress report, and six months after that, and after that, as long as it takes." Too bad Prime Time Live wasn't around when the country had a President interested in cutting spending.
Two years ago The Washington Post was lambasted by its own Ombudsman for unequal coverage between the April 1990 pro- abortion rally and a pro-life rally held a few weeks later. The pro-abortion rally dominated the front page, with extensive coverage and multiple stories that day. The pro-life rally received two stories in the "Metro" section. Ombudsman Richard Harwood charged the disparity in coverage "left a blot on the paper's professional reputation."
This year, the January 23 edition covered the annual pro-life march in depth. The Post managed to place the pro-life story above the fold on page one, complete with interviews of participants and organizers.
"The major media's alleged neglect of scandals during the Reagan and Bush Administrations" topped Project Censored's 1992 list of underreported or "censored" stories, reported Editor & Publisher. Specifically, the 14 judges claimed the media "undercovered such scandals as the saving and loan debacle, the Iran-Contra affair, massacres in El Salvador, and drug dealing by the U.S.-backed Contras in Nicaragua." Judges included former Wall Street Journal reporter Susan Faludi and 20/20 co-host Hugh Downs.
Other top ten finishers: 2) "Corporate Crime Dwarfs Street Crime." 3) "Censored Election Year Issues," such as "homelessness and the death of Iraqi children after the Gulf War." 4) "World's Leading Merchant of Death," calling the U.S. the "world's unchallenged weapons producer and supplier." 7) "Thrashing Federal Regulations for Profit," claiming that after Bush's 210-day moratorium on regulations, "big business reciprocated with campaign contributions."
Janet Cooke Award: Time Calls for Gas Tax Increase at least 24 Times in Four Years
Fill Your Tank, Empty Your Wallet
Time declared Earth the "Planet of the Year" in 1989, and boldly included a laundry list of statist recommendations to save the Earth, including: "Raising the federal gasoline tax by 50 cents per gallon, from 9 cents to 59 cents, over the next five years could renew drivers' interest in fuel conservation."
Since then, Time's desire for a bigger gas tax has become a crusade: the magazine has called for higher gas taxes at least 24 times in the last four years. For its one-sided campaign in its "news" pages for higher gas taxes, Time earns the February Janet Cooke Award.
Time has already called for a gas tax hike four times in the first seven issues of 1993. In the January 25 edition, columnist Andrew Tobias wrote: "As for gasoline -- which costs about $3.75 per gal. throughout Europe -- Ross Perot was right. Phase in a 50-cent tax over five years, and you raise $50 billion a year."
In the same issue, Chief Political Correspondent Michael Kramer applauded Clinton's campaign duplicity: "Clinton is right to back off his plan for a middle-class tax cut and right again to `revisit' the proposal to increase gasoline taxes, regressive levies he routinely dismissed as unfair during the campaign."
The February 1 issue included Senior Writer Eugene Linden's idea that the U.S. "might follow [Norway's] example and implement a carbon tax, which encourages efficiency and the use of cleaner fuels." In the February 15 issue, John Greenwald called the gas tax "an ideal target" that makes "good economic and ecological sense." In order, here are the other tax hike requests:
May 22, 1989: Reporter Dick Thompson asserted Bush's "refusal even to consider an increase in the gasoline tax have raised concern that he is not the kind of forceful, decisive leader the country needs to deal with the growing environmental crisis."
September 19, 1989: Associate Editor Michael D. Lemonick recommended "an increase in federal gasoline taxes to bring U.S. fuel prices closer to those in Brazil and the rest of the world."
October 9, 1989: Andrew Tobias proposed a budget plan. "Too costly? Any shortfall in this package could easily be met by adding a few pennies to the gasoline tax."
December 18, 1989: Eugene Linden suggested "The federal gasoline tax should be increased substantially -- to at least 60 cents per gal., from the current 9 cents per gal., over the next four years."
April 17, 1990: Michael D. Lemonick wrote "The time has come to get tough on conservation. The first step should be an immediate increase in the federal gasoline tax."
August 8, 1990: Reporter S.C. Gwynne urged "A stiff gasoline tax of $1 per gal. would encourage consumers to choose more economical autos."
August 20, 1990: Reporter Richard Hornik preached "Americans pay too little for energy generally and for gasoline in particular. A 50 cent per gal. gasoline tax phased in over five years would encourage conservation and raise $50 billion in revenues."
October 29, 1990: Essayist Dominique Moisi stated "Americans have no constitutional right, for example, to cheap gasoline. In Europe we pay the same price for a liter of gas as Americans pay for a gallon -- or four times as much."
November 5, 1990: Richard Lacayo reported: "In no area did Congress show less courage than on gasoline levies. The new deal will raise the present 9 cent-per-gal. tax by a nickel, costing the average driver a mere $34 a year. The plan rejected four weeks ago by the House had proposed a 10-cent hike. Even that was only half the amount economists say is needed to encourage fuel conservation."
December 24, 1990: Eugene Linden felt "If a person wants to drive a gas guzzler, it makes sense for him to pay higher gas and sales taxes."
February 18, 1991: Richard Lacayo complained a program "is expected to shun the two most effective means to put the brakes on fuel consumption: a hike in the gas tax and a higher federal fuel-efficiency standard for U.S. autos."
December 9, 1991: White House reporter Dan Goodgame explained "A good start would be an increase of 25 cents per gal. -- less than the amount by which prices rose during the Gulf War -- with further increases of five cents a year."
March 23, 1992: Time suggested "Tsongas' higher gasoline tax would help curb America's energy use and would provide funds for mass transit and rebuilding roads and bridges and would reduce the budget deficit." On March 30, 1992, Bush's environmental "inaction" included: "Refused to consider higher energy taxes."
April 20, 1992: Dan Goodgame proposed we "Increase excise taxes on gasoline, alcohol, and tobacco."
Almost every issue last June included a gas tax plug. On June 1 came a list of "What They Should Do But Won't" at the U.N. Earth Summit: "Put an international tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases." June 8's "The Week" section complained: "One thing the [energy] bill avoided was any strong action to deal with the nation's excessive appetite for oil," including a gas tax hike and increase fuel efficiency standards.
On June 15, Science Editor Charles Alexander insisted: "Other nations are taking the lead....Scandinavian countries have imposed stiff taxes to discourage energy consumption." On June 22, Washington Bureau Chief Stanley Cloud declared: "A 12-cent additional tax on gasoline would yield $54.8 billion in five years."
In the January 29 Washington Times, economist Bruce Bartlett reported everything Time has not: "the energy industry and energy in general are among the most heavily taxed things in the United States today." He demonstrated that U.S. oil companies pay greater corporate taxes than non-oil companies, and that state taxes and the "windfall profits" tax add another 10 to 20 percent to their effective tax rates. Bartlett also cited a 1983 Data Resources Inc. report predicting "a 10 percent energy tax would reduce real GNP growth by about half a percentage point per year and initially raise the Consumer Price Index by almost a full percentage point."
Now that the Clinton administration is looking at energy taxes, can Time report effectively on both sides of the debate? Calls to Time Science Editor Charles Alexander, the magazine's environmental point man, went unreturned.