In This Issue
Revolving Door Spins More for Clinton Administration that Bush's; NewsBites: Scrooged; Magazine's Unrelenting Attacks; CBS Star Far Nicer to Bill Clinton's Mother in 1993 Interview Connie Cons Newt's Mom; Double, Triple the Spending; Martin's Unmatched; Abramson-Mayer Book Eviscerated--"Impeccable research"?; Janet Cooke Award: The "Nonpartisan" Take on Reaganomics
Revolving Door Spins More for Clinton Administration that Bush's
A Very Comfortable Relationship
As Bill Clinton's nomination became secure in 1992, former Newsweek reporter Mickey Kaus predicted reporters would be rewarded. In the May 11 New Republic he wrote: "Many pro-Clinton journalists can reasonably hope for something more than glamorous candlelight dinners in the Clinton White House. They can hope for jobs in the Clinton White House."
A MediaWatch study of this "revolving door" has proven Kaus prophetic. In just two years, more than twice as many members of the media have joined the Clinton administration (33) as jumped to the Bush team in four years (15). The study counted those with influence over news coverage at a national media outlet who left to take a politically appointed slot with the administrations. Those who decided to join Clinton's team held higher profile or more influential media slots than did those whom Bush attracted:
While no on-air network TV reporter joined the Bush team, so far six have taken Clinton jobs.
Ten network producers, executives, and researchers have made the jump to Clinton's staff, compared to just three during the Bush years.
Another 13 major newspaper and magazine reporters hopped aboard the Clinton team while just eight put in a stint for Bush. In alphabetical order, here are the revolvers listed with their administration title and dates of service, followed by their media position.
Kevin Anderson: Health care spokes-man, White House public affairs office, 1993USA Today Money section reporter
Kenneth Bacon: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, 1994-Wall Street Journal Washington bureau reporter, 1969-1994
Donald Baer: Director of White House speechwriting and research, 1994- U.S. News & World Report Asst. Managing Editor, 1991-94; Senior Ed.,1988-91
Daniel Benjamin: White House speechwriter on foreign policy, 1994-Wall Street Journal Berlin reporter, 1992-94; Time reporter, 1988-92
Douglas Bennet: Assistant Secretary of State for intergovernmental orgs., 1993-President of National Public Radio (NPR) , 1983-93
William Blacklow: Dep. Asst. to the Sec. of Defense for public affairs, 1994-ABC News D.C. producer, 1969-72
Bob Boorstin: foreign affairs speechwriter, 1994- ; Special Asst. to the President for Policy Coordination, 1993-; media adviser for health care, 1993 New York Times metropolitan reporter,mid-'80s -1988
Carolyn Curiel: White House speechwriter, 1993-Nightline producer, 1992; New York Times editor, 1988-92; WashingtonPost editor, 1986-88
Kathleen deLaski: Chief Public Affairs officer, Department of Defense, 1993-94ABC News D.C. reporter, 1988-93
Tom Donilon: Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs; 1993-CBS News consultant for '88 campaign
Anne Edwards: Director of White House press advance, 1993- NPR Senior Editor, 1985-91; CBS NewsWashington assignment editor, 1980-84
David French: Deputy Director for Communications, CIA, 1993-CNN weekend Washington anchorand reporter, early 1980s-1993
Chris Georges: speechwriter to Dep. Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, 1994Wall Street Journal Washington bureaureporter, 1994- ; Washington Post Outlooksection staffer, '93; producer, CNN in-vestigative unit in D.C., 1990-91
David Gergen: Counselor to the Sec. of State, 1994; Counselor to the President, '93-94Editor-at-Large, U.S. News & WorldReport, 1988-93; Editor, 1985-88
Vernon Guidry: policy assistant to the Dep. Secretary of Defense, 1994-; policy asst. to the Sec. of Defense, 1993-94Washington bureau defense reporterfor the Baltimore Sun, 1980-87
Rick Inderfurth: Deputy to UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, 1993-ABC News reporter, 1981-1991 (Pen-tagon, national security, Moscow)
Kathryn Kahler: Director of Communications, Dept. of Education, 1993-Newhouse News Service Washingtonbureau reporter
Susan King, Exec. Director of the Commission on the Family Medical Leave Act, 1994-ABC News D.C. bureau reporter, 1981-82;weekend reporter in D.C. for CNN, 1994
Alison Muscatine: White House speechwriter, 1993-Washington Post sports and Metro re-porter, 1981-93
Dianna Pierce: Special Asst. to the Counselor to the President, 1993-94Producer, ABC News Nightline inWashington, 1994- ; Special Asst. tothe Editor-at-Large, U.S. News, 1990-93
Marla Romash: Communications Dir. to VP Al Gore, 1993; health care spokesman for White House, 1993 Associate Producer, ABC's Good MorningAmerica, 1984-85
Thomas Ross: Special Asst. to the President and Senior Director for Public Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC), 1994-Senior Vice President, NBC News, 1986-89
Sydney Rubin: Director of Media Relations, Overseas Private Investment Corp., 1994-Associated Press correspondent inEurope, 1987-93; in New York 1985-87
Lois Schiffer: Asst. Attorney General, Environment & Natural Resources division, 1993-General counsel, NPR, 1984-90
Heidi Schulman: US Information Agency programming consultant, 1993-94; Hollywood celebrity coordinator for Hillary Rodham during 1992 campaign NBC News reporter, 1973-90
Cherie Simon: Dir. of Public Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, 1994-Operations and broadcast producerin Washington, ABC World News Tonight,1982-89
Tara Sonenshine: Special Asst. to the President and Dep. Director for communications, National Security Council, 1994Editorial Producer, ABC News Night-line, 1991-94; D.C. bureau producer, '82-89
Jonathan Spalter: public affairs assistant, National Security Council, 1994-; Special Asst. to the principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for policy, 1993-94PBS MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour off-air reporter
Miranda Spivack: public affairs specialist, Department of Defense, 1993-94Washington bureau reporter, HartfordCourant, early 1980s-1993
Carl Stern: Director of Public Affairs, Justice Dept, 1993-NBC News Washington reporter,1967-93 (legal affairs and Supreme Court)
Strobe Talbott: Deputy Secretary of State, 1994-; Ambassador-at-Large to the former Soviet Republics, 1993-94Time Editor-at-Large 1989-92; Time Washington Bureau Chief 1985-89
Ginny Terzano: Dep. White House Press Sec., 1993- ; Dir. of Public Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, 1993researcher, CBS News election unit, 1988
Victor Zonana: Deputy Asst. Secretary for Public Affairs, HHS, 1993-Los Angeles Times reporter (New Yorkbureau), 1990-93
Jean Becker: Deputy Press Secretary to the First LadyUSA Today reporter, 1985-88
David Beckwith: Press Secretary to Vice President Dan Quayle, 1989-93Washington bureau reporter, Time, 1980-88
Robert Bork Jr.: Sp. Asst. for Communications, Office of U.S. Trade Rep., 1990-91Associate Editor, U.S. News, 1987
Richard Burt: Chief Negotiator for START talks, 1989-90; Ambassador to Federal Republic of Germany, 1985-89New York Times national security corre-spondent, 1977-81
Richard Capen: Ambassador to SpainVice Chairman, Knight-Ridder cable tele-vision operations, 1989-92; Publisher ofthe Miami Herald, 1983-89
Ed Dale: Director of External Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) New York Times reporter, 1970s
Kimberly Timmons Gibson: Deputy Director for External Affairs, OMB, 1989-92Associate Producer in Washington, Good Morning America, 1986-88
Henry Grunwald: Ambassador to Austria, 1987-89Editor-in-Chief, Time Inc., 1979-87
Smith Hempstone: Amb. to Kenya, '90-91Editor of The Washington Times, 1984-85;reporter, Assoc. Editor, ed. page editorWashington Star, 1967-75
Loye Miller: Director of Public Affairs, Department of Justice, 1988-89 Newhouse D.C. bureau reporter, 1979-85
Peggy Noonan: White House speechwriter, 1992; for George Bush, 1988-89writer of Dan Rather commentaries forCBS Radio, 1981-84
Andy Plattner: Director of Communications for the Office of Educational Research, Department of Education, 1990-91 Associate Editor, U.S. News, 1985-90
Sherrie Rollins: Asst. to the President for Public Liaison and Intergovern. Affairs, 1992; Asst. Secretary for Public Affairs, HUD, 1989-90 Dir. of News Info.., ABC News, 1990-92
Dorrance Smith: Assistant to the President for Media Affairs, 1991-93 Executive Producer, ABC News Nightline, 1989-91; Exec. Producer of This Week with David Brinkley, 1981-89
Kristin Clark Taylor: Director of Media Relations, the White House, 1989-90 USA Today reporter, editorial writer, '82-88.
Patrick Butler -- Executive Editor of communications (1987), was VP of Times Mirror Washington office. In 1991 became VP of Newsweek and Legi-Slate
Number of On Air Network Reporters:
Bush: 0 Clinton: 5
Marla Romash -- was Communications Dir to VP Gore, was GMA Associate Producer
Strobe Talbott -- Dep Sec of State, was Time magazine
Tom Donilon -- Asst Sec of State for PA, was 1988 CBS News consultant
Samuel Popkin -- member of Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg's team during 1992 campaign, was CBS News election unit consultant
Rick Inderfurth -- Dep to UN Ambassador, was ABC News reporter
Carolyn Curiel -- WH speechwriter, was Nightline producer and Wash Post and NYTimes editor
Douglas Bennet -- Asst Sec of State for intergovernmental organizations, was NPR President
Carl Stern -- Dir PA for Justice Dept, was NBC News reporter
Anne Edwards -- Dir of WH press advance and advance director for Clinton-Gore in 1992, was NPR Senior Producer and in 1980-84 CBS News DC assignment editor
David Gergen -- was Republican
Victor Zonana -- Dep Asst Sec for PA at HHS, was LA Times reporter
David French -- CIA Dep Dir for communications, was CNN anchor
Kathryn Kahler -- Dir of communications at Education Dept, was Washington Newhouse News Service reporter
Ginny Terzano -- Dep WH Pres Sec, was CBS News election unit researcher
Alison Muscatine -- WH speechwriter, was Wash Post sports and Metro reporter
Roger Kennedy -- Park Service Director, was NBC News reporter in 1950s
Kathleen deLaski -- Chief PA officer at DOD, was ABC News reporter
Kevin Anderson -- was health spokesman in WH communications office, was USA Today "Money" reporter
Miranda Spivack -- DOD public affairs specialist, was Hartford Courant Washington reporter
Vernon Guidry -- policy asst to Sec of Defense Aspin, was Baltimore Sun reporter
Jonathan Spalter -- Special Assist to the principal Dep Undersec of Defense for policy, was MacNeil-Lehrer reporter
Heidi Schulman -- USIA programming consultant and Hollywood celebrity coordinator for Hillary Rodham during '92 campaign, was NBC News LA reporter
Joyce Kravitz -- USIA Senior Adviser, was Dir of Information for ABC News
Lois Schiffer -- Asst AG for envir and natural resources, was NPR general counsel
Karen Kay Christensen -- NEA general counsel, was Asst general counsel at NPR
William Blacklow -- Dep Asst to the Sec of Defense for PA, was ABC News Washington producer in early 1970s
Tara Sonenshine -- Dep Dir of Communications for NSC, was Nightline producer
Cherie Simon -- NEA Dir of PA, was ABC World News Tonight Washington producer
Sydney Rubin -- Dir of media relations for the Overseas Private Investment Corp, was AP reporter in Europe
Donald Baer -- Dir of WH speechwriting, was USN&WR Asst Managing Editor, Senior Ed and Associate Ed.
Thomas Ross -- Spec asst to the President and Senior Dir for PA at the NSC; was NBC News Senior VP
Kenneth Bacon -- Assistant Secretary of Defense for public affairs, 1994- ; was Wall Street Journal Washington bureau reporter for 25 years
Chris Georges -- speechwriter to Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, 1994; joined Wall Street Journal Washington bureau in 1994 to cover budget and economics beats, was Washington Post Outlook section staffer, producer with CNN investigative unit in D.C. 1990-91
Bob Boorstin -- Special Assistant to the President for policy coordination and as of mid-1994 a foreign affairs speechwriter, media adviser for health care proposal in 1993; was New York Times metropolitan reporters from mid-'80s to 1988
Martin Schram -- co-author of PPI's Mandate for Change, was Newsday and Washington Post reporter
Robert Shapiro -- VP of PPI and Clinton campaign adviser, was Associate Editor at USN&WR
Anne Reingold -- Dir of media relations and of 50 person video production team for DNC's 1992 convention, was CBS News producer
Elaine Kamarck -- VP Gore's office, was Newsday special correspondent
George Stephanopoulos, was Associate Producer of two 1985 CBS News specials on the famine in Sudan
Tad Devine -- consultant to CBS News during Democratic National Convention, was 1998 Dukakis and 1992 Kerrey adviser
Dorrance Smith -- Asst to the President for media affairs, was Exec Producer of weekend Washington-based ABC News shows and EP of Nightline (1989-91)
David Beckwith -- Press Sec to VP Quayle, was Time magazine reporter
Sherrie Rollins -- Asst to the President for public liaison, was Dir of News Information for ABC News in Washington and previously Asst Sec for PA at HUD
Andy Plattner -- Dir of communications for the Office of Educational Research at the Dept of Ed, was Associate Ed of USN&WR
Peggy Noonan -- WH speechwriter, was writer of Dan Rather commentaries
Richard Capen -- Ambassador to Spain, was Vice Chairman of Knight Ridder and Miami Herald Publisher
Chase Untermeyer -- Director of VOA and previously Dir of Personnel, was a local Houston Chronicle reporter
Tony Snow -- Chief speechwriter, was Detroit News and Washington Times editorial writer
Kristin Clark Taylor -- WH Dir of media relations, was USA Today reporter and editorial writer
Jean Becker -- Dep Press Sec to the First Lady, was USA Today reporter
Robert Bork Jr. -- Spec Asst for communications at the Office of the U.S. Trade Rep., was Associate Ed of USN&WR
Kimberly Timmons Gibson -- Dep Dir of External Relations for OMB, was GMA Associate Producer
Ed Dale -- Dir of External Affairs at OMB and from '81-87 Asst Dir of PA at OMB, was NYTimes reporter
Smith Hempstone -- Ambassador to Kenya, was Editor of Washington Times
Loye Miller -- Dir of PA at Justice Dept., Press Sec to Education Sec Bennett in Reagan Admin, was Newhouse and Knight Ridder Washington reporter
David Runkel -- Dir of PA at Dept of Justice, was Philadelphia Inquirer Washington reporter
Henry Grunwald -- Ambassador to Austria, was Editor in Chief of Time Inc.
Richard Burt -- Chief negotiator for START, previously Ambassador to Fed Repub of Germany (1985-89), was NYTimes national security reporter
Ceci Cole McInturf -- VP of CBS Inc for federal policy, was Dir of voter outreach for Bush/Quayle '88 campaign; Spec Asst to the President for political affairs 1985-87
Daphne Polatty -- Manager of News Information for ABC News, was RNC staffer in conventions and meetings office
Patrick Butler -- Executive Editor of communications (1987), was VP of Times Mirror Washington office. In 1991 became VP of Newsweek and Legi-Slate
Number of On Air Network Reporters:
Would it be Christmas without the media comparing Republicans to Ebenezer Scrooge? After ignoring the content of the Contract with America before the election, reporters attacked the Contract based on complaints by liberal interest groups.
Morton Dean introduced a December 21 Good Morning America story, intoning: "The incoming Speaker of the House is being called a modern-day Scrooge by a coalition of charities." Reporter Bob Zelnick summarized Republican plans to return federal programs to the states in block grants, then added: "Some of the nation's largest charities charged that the plan would sharply increase hunger among the poor." He cited the left-wing Food Research and Action Center, and said charities fear "a huge cutback in federal food programs could generate more hungry people than they could possibly accommodate."
The same day, NBC's Kenley Jones declared on the Today show: "Churches and charities who deal with hunger lashed out against the Republican Contract...comparing it to something Ebenezer Scrooge would have dreamed up." Without citing any statistical evidence, Jones asserted "the problem of hunger in Atlanta is getting worse" and concluded: "Mission officials are worried that cutbacks in federal food programs will bring more hungry people to their door but without the money to feed them." Zelnick and Jones focused on the complaints of service providers and poverty lobbyists, whose talk of unnamed "cuts" are, to date, just as fictional as Scrooge.
Oh No! Bias!
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz has found a practitioner of media bias -- on the right. In a December 15 profile of ABC 20/20 correspondent John Stossel, Kurtz described his criticism of the Food and Drug Administration: "such unabashed free-market advocacy has made the ABC reporter the darling of conservative and industry groups. Consumer advocates, not surprisingly, take a dimmer view." Kurtz warned: "As television news has grown more crowded and magazine shows have multiplied like rabbits, many network correspondents have become more openly analytical -- some say to the point of editorializing -- in an effort to stand out from the crowd. And while the news magazines have always framed their stories around good guys and bad guys, Stossel seems to go a step further." Further than whom? Dateline NBC on GM?
Such advocacy hasn't escaped the liberal bias specialists at ABC. Kurtz quoted one unnamed ABC reporter who regards Stossel's work as "bizarre" and "horribly thin, with almost some kind of agenda." Kurtz added that Stossel's reporting places him in a peculiar spot with the network brass. "Has Stossel gone too far? Richard Wald, ABC's Senior Vice President, says Stossel's public call for deep-sixing the FDA has not run afoul of a network ban on taking partisan stands because it hasn't involved a current political controversy." Kurtz didn't mention Wald's position on the reporting of Ned Potter or Peter Jennings.
The media watchdogs who jumped on every scandal, real and imagined, during the Reagan years continued their slumber through the Clinton years. Two scandalous stories about Clinton's close associates were ignored by the networks in December.
On December 16, The Washington Post reported in a page one story that the Clinton presidential campaign paid $37,500, including $9,675 in federal matching funds, to settle a sexual harassment claim against longtime Clinton friend and Hillary business partner David Watkins. Although many top Clinton campaign and White House officials knew of the payoff, Watkins was appointed head of the White House Office of Administration and served until he was fired for taking a presidential helicopter to a golf course. Network coverage of Watkins' hush money? ABC's Good Morning America broadcast a short piece read by anchor Morton Dean. The other networks and all the news magazines ignored it.
On December 21, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth asked the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney to examine White House aide Ira Magaziner's testimony on the health care task force for perjury and contempt of court violations. Magaziner headed Clinton's health care task force and helped conceive and author the Health Security Act. In response to a lawsuit trying to stop the committee developing the health care plan from working in secret, Magaziner gave a sworn declaration that only federal government employees were working on the health plan. Judge Lamberth wrote that Magaziner must have known his declaration was false, because employees of his private consulting firm were working on the task force. Network and news magazine coverage of Magaziner's lie? Zero.
No Jesse Jackson Gaffes
You didn't know that Jesse Jackson made statements equating conservatives, specifically the Christian Coalition, with Nazis, slave owners and white supremacists? You're not alone.
During a meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in early December, Jackson claimed: "The Christian Coalition was a strong force in Germany. It laid down a suitable, scientific, theological rationale for the tragedy in Germany. The Christian Coalition was very much in evidence there." In remarks broadcast Christmas Day on British television, Jackson continued his attack: "We must no longer allow the clock to be turned back on human rights, or put up with political systems which are content to maintain the status quo. In South Africa the status quo was called racism. We rebelled against it. In Germany it was called fascism. Now in Britain and the U.S., it is called conservatism." Both stories were covered in many newspapers, but network evening news shows didn't find Jackson's hate-filled tirades newsworthy enough to report. Has Jackson ever whispered to Connie Chung that Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush is a bitch? We would never know, since the media protect their liberal brethren from the gaffe-of-the-day coverage they apply to conservatives.
Another Counterculture McGovernik
The same media which raked Dan Quayle over the coals over his service and his views on the Vietnam War ignored Vietnam-era letters from Al Gore to his then-Senator father quoted in the November 28 New Yorker. The letters revealed a very radical Al: "We do have inveterate antipathy for communism -- or paranoia as I like to put it...my own belief is that this form of psychological ailment -- in this case a national madness -- leads the victim to create what he fears the most. It strikes me that this is precisely what the U.S. has been doing. Creating -- and if not creating, supporting, energetically supporting -- fascist totalitarian regimes in the name of fighting totalitarianism....For me the best example of all is the U.S. Army."
The networks all but ignored the Gore letters. Only CNN carried a brief story on the Nov. 20 World News. The only news magazine mention came from baby boomer Jonathan Alter, who spun to the rescue in the December 5 Newsweek: "Zero damage done -- the man is '60s proof."
Democratic Orange County Treasurer Robert Citron's speculative investments cost the county's investment fund billions in taxpayers' money. But in a December 23 Money section cover story, USA Today reporter David J. Lynch blamed voters for passing Proposition 13, which limited property taxes 16 years ago. Lynch asserted: "But if one man's hubris fueled this crisis, the kindling that turned his [Citron's] flaw into a county's tragedy lies elsewhere: voters' fierce anti-tax sentiment; public clamor for services; and an outmoded county government." The problem? "Residents' anti-tax fervor collided with their demand for roads, libraries, and schools." Lynch wrote: "Citron appeared a savior...he saved Orange County from a budget crunch by producing unexpected interest income. The cash helped save popular programs, such as an anti-gang initiative, without higher taxes."
In the January 9 Investor's Business Daily, Charles Oliver reported: "In Orange County, total general revenue increased from $1,683 per capita to $1,721" between 1977-1989, adjusted for inflation. Even Lynch later admitted that Orange County's "$2.3 billion annual budget -- [totaled] almost seven times the fiscal 1974-75 figure." Since he never broke down the expenditures, it's hard for a reader to see how Prop. 13 led to an underfunded Orange County.
Death Penalty Detractors
When is a statistic wrong to the media? When it doesn't prove a liberal point. On the December 5 NBC Nightly News, reporter Jim Cummins didn't let statistics ruin his story on the death penalty in Texas. Cummins stated: "Since Texas resumed executions 12 years ago, the murder rate has dropped about 25 percent." But Cummins lined up criminologist James Marquart to dispute that: "Marquart is convinced the resumption of executions had nothing to do with that reduction in the murder rate." Cummins offered no alternative cause for the reduction of murders.
Then Cummins found a statistic more to his liking. "Capital punishment is expensive. A Duke University study found the average cost of convicting and executing a murderer is $329,000. It costs little more than half that to convict and imprison the same murderer for 20 years." But criminals facing the death penalty often file multiple appeals. Many murderers plea bargain for life in prison, causing much less money to be spent on their conviction.
Cummins' conclusion was no more convincing. He stated that the death penalty "doesn't solve the larger problem. Texas and the other states that execute the most murderers still have persistently high murder rates." Cummins failed to point out that states without a death penalty, like New York (13.2 homicides per 100,000) or the District of Columbia (75.2 per 100,000), have persistently higher murder rates than states that do execute murderers.
The media continue to bolster their favorite ex-President, Jimmy Carter, peripatetic peacemaker, hopping from hot spot to hot spot. On the December 19 ABC World News Now, former ABC News Washington Bureau Chief George Watson nominated him Man of the Year, over Time's selection of the Pope: "But who, pray tell me, has made more of a positive difference this year?....Because of his illness, the Pope had to cancel his trip to Sarajevo. Jimmy Carter was there."
On the December 18 CBS Evening News, Cinny Kennard also got religion: "The people in Sarajevo prayed for a breakthrough this Sunday. The Cardinal spoke of unity, perhaps welcoming President Carter when he said what we need here now is good people with good hearts."
But the ultimate Nobel Prize endorsement came from Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson. Over the December 17 headline "Carter, Driven to Do Good, Looks to Bosnia Quagmire," Nelson wrote that in 1980, Carter "immediately went back to what he had done much of his life; pursuing lost and neglected causes with a missionary's zeal....anyone who has followed his career closely can understand why he has legions of admirers here and abroad who view him not as self-absorbed but as a dedicated political leader who is driven by moral principles and who devotes his life to resolving conflicts and helping the unfortunate."
This is nothing new for Nelson. Three years ago on the PBS special Jimmy Carter: Speaking Out, he narrated, "The more people see of this Jimmy Carter, the more likely they are to warm to him. Negative feelings toward Carter's personality clouded the public's perception of his White House achievements. A more open Jimmy Carter may lead to a more objective assessment of his presidency."
Magazine's Unrelenting Attacks
Newt World Order
Reporters often complain about personal attacks in politics, especially when the target is a favorite -- like Bill Clinton. But that sentiment hasn't stopped them from maligning Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Newsweek Senior Editor Joe Klein posited in the December 19 issue that Gingrich "doesn't seem entirely...solid, does he? It isn't just that he has smoked dope, protested, and messed around -- and now seems desperate to `exorcise' that past, as a friend says, by demagoguing on lifestyle issues (like his outrageous assertions about White House staff drug use, later regretted if not retracted). There is a blabby, effervescent, messianic quality to his public persona."
In the January 9 Newsweek, the "Conventional Wisdom Watch" referred to Speaker Gingrich's (returned) book advance: "$4.5 mil -- that was a buck for every kid you chuck off welfare. You're right: looks lousy." Jack E. White declared in the January 16 Time: "Let's face it: to most African Americans Newt Gingrich is one scary white man." In an article titled "Deal with the Devil," White relayed that "[Democratic] Congressman Major Owens predicts that Gingrich's war on the welfare state will actually cause black children to starve." With the Speaker's reference to inner-city schools in his speech to Congress, White granted: "That could mean Gingrich is serious about shedding his party's whites-only image. If so, blacks ought to meet him halfway -- if only to temper the wilder impulses of one very scary white man."
Leading into a discourse on Gingrich's divorce and the death of his father in the January 9 Newsweek, reporter Howard Fineman claimed: "Gingrich's opportunism...can be devastating in private life. Gingrich has a deep feel for human history, but not always for human beings." Isn't that the sort of personal attack the media love to complain about?
Contract on Newt
The criticism spread from Gingrich's persona to an intensified attack on his proposals to reduce the size of government. Under the headline "A Poverty of Compassion" in the January 16 issue, Time Chief Political Correspondent Michael Kramer alleged: "Republicans approved a bill requiring a three-fifths vote to raise income taxes. A great idea -- if you're rich. The change applies only to the most progressive form of taxation, the one that forces the well-off to pay more than others." He thundered: "Upward income redistribution -- leaving the less fortunate less protected -- is part of what Newt's revolution is all about."
Ignoring constant increases in entitlement programs, he equated "cuts" in future spending with program elimination: "Medicaid...is responsible for ending malnutrition-related diseases, which were rampant before LBJ's war began. Is this a program we really want to cut?" Kramer warned of class warfare: "Millions of Americans are only one disaster away from poverty. A divorce, an arrest, a disabling illness can destroy a working family's financial resources....`Poverty,' warned that ancient futurist Aristotle, `is the parent of crime and revolution' -- a wise warning about an upheaval far different from the one Gingrich has in mind." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wondered in the January 9 issue if "the gain to individuals ($20 a week in many cases) and negligible economic benefits for the nation are worth saddling the next generation with more debt." In the same issue, Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas whined: "Republicans are only willing to cut back programs that are unpopular or unknown or mostly benefit the poor or the well-off elites."
Blaming the voters has also been a theme. Newsweek's Thomas referred to voters "who depend on government benefits while whining about too much government," and insisted: "Some voters may be fooled by supply-side rhetoric, but Wall Street isn't." Karen Tumulty reported in the January 9 Time that Gingrich "is becoming a chubby repository of the tangled and contradictory hopes held by middle-income Americans, who want their federal government to stop meddling in their life, and at the same time, to improve it."
CBS Star Far Nicer to Bill Clinton's Mother in 1993 Interview
Connie Cons Newt's Mom
Hoping to boost the ratings for an upcoming Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, CBS News managed to mar Newt Gingrich's first day as Speaker on January 4. The day before, CBS released the text of an exchange taped 14 days earlier between Connie Chung and Newt's mother. Chung coaxed Kathleen Gingrich into telling what Newt thought of Hillary Clinton. Posing the now infamous "Why don't you just whisper it to me, just between you and me," Mrs. Gingrich whispered "She's a bitch."
CBS was engulfed in criticism for using a statement which many thought Chung made clear was "off the record." CBS News President Eric Ober bizarrely complained to The Washington Post: "It's a legitimate, very good interview that has unfortunately been reduced to one five-letter summary." Chung introduced the actual piece on the January 5 Eye to Eye by saying, "You may have heard one small portion of this interview. Now you will see it in context." It seems both forgot it was CBS which promoted the excerpt and showed it on CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News and Up to the Minute.
Even in context, Chung's interview was very different than one she did with Bill Clinton's mom in 1993. She questioned the motives for the Gingrich family interview: "Newt knows you're talking to us, right?... Some people out there would say he just wants the two of you to talk to us, and talk to the American people, because he wants everybody to know that he's just a homespun kind of guy." Chung dished some dirt: "According to a friend at the time, Newt said he was divorcing [then-wife] Jackie because she wasn't young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a President and besides she has cancer." She also ran down a list for the Gingriches: "These are some of the things said about your son -- a very dangerous man...visionary... bomb-throwing guerrilla warrior...abrasive."
A very different Chung interviewed President Clinton's brother Roger and mother Virginia Kelley for the debut of Eye to Eye on June 17, 1993. She elicited stories from them showing the President in a positive light: how Bill Clinton protected them from his abusive stepfather, how he served as a father figure to his brother.
She never asked about any negative traits of Bill Clinton's. In a previously unaired portion of the interview on January 6, 1994, after Kelley's death, Chung asked: "It seems that both of your boys have this desire to be famous, and to be loved, and to be stars." She never read a list of adjectives, three-fourths negative, to Kelley about Clinton. The closest she came was "You always see the good and not the bad anyway, don't you?"
Double, Triple the Spending
It's Still Not Enough!
The media has holiday traditions: trimming the tree, trimming the turkey, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors' report, warning against trimming the budget. In December 1991, Dan Rather stated: "There's no joy in reporting it, but the ranks of homeless and hungry are up sharply and increasing." In the generous spirit of the season, the networks have again promoted this self-interested lobby's findings as objective news, without any opposing commentary.
For ten years running, the mayors have announced that hunger is up, homelessness is up, and more federal funds are required. Is this really news? All three networks thought so. On the December 19 World News Tonight, ABC's Carole Simpson pointed out "Almost a billion dollars was spent this year on homelessness, double the budget last year," but she added, "Some of the mayors are worried that the incoming reform-minded Republican-dominated Congress may make things worse."
On the December 20 Today show, NBC's Bob Kur cited the "bipartisan" mayors' report and upped the ante, saying "federal aid to the homeless has tripled in three years." Yet Kur continued, "The mayors say more spending is needed, not less."
CBS rehearsed its holdiay spirit as well."Winter hasn't even started yet and the outlook for the nation's needy is looking bleak," Dan Rather intoned in the introduction to Randall Pinkston's December 19 CBS Evening News piece. Pinkston claimed "a dramatic drop in federal food subsidies, from $80 million in the last fiscal year, to $25 million now."
But Robert Rector, in a forthcoming monograph from the Heritage Foundation, shows federal food aid is slated to increase by a billion dollars in 1995, from a level of $35.4 billion to $36.4 billion, with the emergency food assistance portion estimated to go from $122 million to $123 million. Still, Pinkston continued the media's trend of selective concern over deficit spending: "Advocates worry that if Republicans make good on their threatened budget cuts, whatever safety net exists for America's needy won't exist anymore."
With Republicans talking of spending cuts, the same party blamed for running up deficits in the 1980s is being deluged again with future "victims" of spending cuts. And reporters wonder why it's so hard to cut spending.
ABC's John Martin ended a year of "Your Money, Your Choice" segments on the December 26 World News Tonight by following up on this year's stories. Peter Jennings asked the series' regular question: "How efficiently is the government spending your hard-earned dollars?" Martin noted: "For the year, we reported on $91.563 billion in projects; some of them lasting many years, but virtually all of them financed from a single source -- that is, your money."
Martin found his reporting, a beat left empty by the other networks, had some positive impact -- an unneeded desalting plant in Arizona has been mostly defunded, rich farmers with unpaid federal loans are expected to settle, and congressional pension reform is being introduced in Congress.
But a visitor's center for the Hoover Dam cost $120 million, four times what the Interior Department estimated. Martin updated the story: "Since then the cost has climbed another $2 million. The complex opens next June -- four months behind schedule."
A Triumph of Substance
CNN's in-depth Inside Politics look at the GOP Contract with America outshined the competition. For two weeks in December, reporter Frank Sesno laid out the highlights of each item of the 10-point plan followed by an analysis of its possible implications Each segment spelled out precisely what the contract called for. Noticeably absent were exaggerated statements about orphanages. CNN also stood apart by following each Sesno segment rebroadcast on Prime News with debate between Crossfire liberal co-host Michael Kinsley, and either conservative Pat Buchanan or John Sununu.
Abramson-Mayer Book Eviscerated--"Impeccable research"?
Despite embarrassing obstacles, liberal journalists continue to defend Strange Justice, the book-length attack on Justice Clarence Thomas by Wall Street Journal reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer.
The Los Angeles Times picked the very self-interested NPR reporter Nina Totenberg, who broke Hill's unproven sexual harassment charges, to review the pro-Hill book. On November 13, she declared David Brock's "factually flawed" book The Real Anita Hill "is not viewed seriously in either the academic or journalistic communities." But Abramson and Mayer are "both highly regarded for their journalistic and investigative skills" and their book was "far more comprehensive, investigative, and probing."
On C-SPAN's Journalists Roundtable December 30, Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Alan Murray agreed: "I think anyone who reads both books would have to say without question that Strange Justice is fully, fully documented. All the quotes are on the record. Everything is clearly sourced. It's an impeccable piece of research."
But David Brock took an axe to Strange Justice in the January American Spectator, declaring it "one of the most outrageous journalistic hoaxes in recent memory." Brock detailed numerous examples of misquotation, fabrication, and factual errors. But the same media which booked Abramson and Mayer all over television without any critics continued to ignore Brock.
Among their errors: Andy Rothschild, who worked with Thomas when John Danforth was Attorney General of Missouri, denied that he told Jill Abramson that Thomas made "gross and at times off-color remarks," only that Thomas had a great sense of humor. Brock noted it was unlikely Abramson asked Rothschild about off-color remarks in their only interview in July 1991, three months before Hill's charges came out.
Abramson and Mayer claim Frederick Cooke "saw Thomas...standing with a triple X videotape entitled The Adventures of Bad Mama Jama." But later in the book, a note on page 330 read: "Reached on two separate occasions, Cooke would neither confirm nor deny the account." Brock even noted that Nina Totenberg told him "Cooke wouldn't talk to me, so it wasn't a story," and also that the owner of the video store supposedly supplying Thomas with porn videos was "scuzzy, not reliable." So why did Totenberg praise Strange Justice, full of stories she felt didn't meet her standards, such as they are?
Despite Brock's 22-page refutation, New York Times columnist Frank Rich renewed his attack on Brock December 29, claiming wrongly that Brock was "unable to find mistakes larger than a few mangled job titles."
Janet Cooke Award: The "Nonpartisan" Take on Reaganomics
From the isolation of their newsrooms inside the Beltway, Washington journalists often see the nation's fiscal business through the eyes of the federal bureaucracy. In the December 12 U.S. News & World Report, Senior Writer Susan Dentzer suggested: "Although recent polls show that more than 80 percent of Americans favor a cut in taxes for most Americans, the key question is whether America can afford all this government largess."
To Dentzer, the tax money taken out of Americans' paychecks doesn't belong to the people, but is given to them by the government as "largess." For criticizing tax cuts with liberal numbers and advocacy in three stories, U.S. News & World Report earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Dentzer's lead article claimed: "Several of the tax cuts the Republicans have proposed -- notably the House GOP proposal to cut capital gains taxes -- are fiscal time bombs that could explode into hundreds of billions of dollars in lost tax revenue in future years."
Democrats made the same arguments in defeating capital gains cut proposals in 1989. But Chris Frenze, majority staff economist with the Joint Economic Committee, told MediaWatch the predictions of formerly Democrat-controlled agencies like the Congressional Budget Office, often touted by reporters, are very inaccurate. "Actual capital gains realizations from 1989 to 1992 were $527 billion less than the CBO estimated. That's more than half a trillion dollars off the mark. CBO's static methodology created huge forecasting errors that they failed to admit to the media or the public. It is preposterous to tout the accuracy of the CBO on capital gains when their track record is abysmal, if not embarrassing."
But U.S. News did just that -- tout the CBO's accuracy. In a sidebar, Senior Editor David Hage implied GOP control could damage the credibility of the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation: "For years, the agencies have enjoyed reputations for nonpartisan numbers and bipartisan whistleblowing. The CBO, for example, regularly challenged the rosy economic forecasts of the Reagan administration, and last year it embarrassed Bill Clinton by ruling that his health care proposal would increase the federal deficit."
"Wrong," Frenze replied. "If you look at the actual numbers, CBO's revenue estimates are very close to the White House numbers in 1981." As for the CBO's mild rebuke of the Clinton health plan (claiming insuring 37 million people would add $70 billion to the debt over five years), Frenze argued: "The CBO liked the single- payer, totally socialist approach, and claimed single-payer would save more money than Clinton. They're not nonpartisan. They're to the left on both issues."
But Hage concluded: "Capitol Hill centrists may yet prevail in the choice of Congress's top number crunchers. But if they don't, the nation may find itself buying bad economic policy at misleading prices -- and paying the true cost for years to come."
Hage teamed with Senior Editor Robert F. Black for an article titled "The Repackaging of Reaganomics: Republican tax cuts could well boost the deficit." The duo recycled almost every liberal argument against supply-side economics, which they wrote "never actually appears in Newt Gingrich's `Contract with America'.... [but] has rallied Washington Republicans like a lost battle cry."
Among the menu of charges, Hage and Black claimed: "Unfortunately, when the supply-side doctrine was tested in the early 1980s, the Treasury Department lost $644 billion in foregone revenues, the federal debt doubled in size, and there was no special burst of worker productivity or investment activity."
"No special burst"? What happened to a historic recovery? Hage and Black claimed "Net business investment in new equipment and buildings also declined, from 3.2 percent of gross national product in 1981 to 1.9 percent in 1986. And though the massive tax cuts probably prolonged the economic expansion of the 1980s, overall growth averaged 2.8 percent annually, far below the promised spurt."
In both cases, Hage and Black were finessing the Reagan numbers to look bad. As former Reagan Treasury official Paul Craig Roberts explained in the book The Right Data, "Net investment has been falling as a share of U.S. GNP for the past 25 years...By misinterpreting a change in asset mix as a decline in investment, economists painted a false picture of disinvestment." Roberts noted that the February 5, 1991 New York Times reported that the rate of manufacturing productivity had tripled during the 1980s, and that manufacturing's share of GNP had rebounded, reported the Times, to the "level of output achieved in the 1960s when American factories hummed at a feverish clip."
As for growth, Frenze explained that the 2.8 percent number must include the years 1981 and 1990, both recessionary years. If growth is measured from 1982 to 1989, overall GDP growth rises to 3.7 percent.
In an interview with MediaWatch, Hage stuck to the claim that "the 1980s saw an expansion, but the growth of productivity was less than the '70s, '60s, or '50s. Whether tax cuts are good or bad -- we are agnostic on that issue -- what is clear is that tax cuts did not produce the economic facts expected." Asked if their critiques of Reaganomics didn't prove a liberal bias, Hage replied: "You can say I'm liberal, and my friends at the AFL-CIO and the Economic Policy Institute can say I'm conservative."
U.S. News also brandished a chart headlined "Budget-buster" over a picture of Ronald Reagan, using a CBO chart of individual income tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product. Text accompanying the chart read: "During the early Reagan years, income tax rates were slashed, and the tax cuts contributed to a dramatic rise in the budget deficit." Frenze found the chart a bit misleading: "Taxpayers paid less in income tax, but more in social insurance taxes [from $182.7 billion in 1981 to $283.9 billion in 1986]."
Individual income tax revenues never took a dramatic dip, increasing from $285.9 billion in 1981 to $349.0 billion in 1986. Overall revenues increased from $599.3 billion in 1981 to $769.1 billion in 1986. The Reagan budget plan projected a revenue loss of $726 billion, but it wasn't really a "loss," but a reduced projection of future taxing. Increasing demand for federal spending, not an actual decline in revenues, expanded the deficit.
Hage and Black failed to report that in the last three Reagan budgets, the deficit ended up around $150 billion, which outperformed the Bush regime and so far, the Clinton administration as well. U.S. News seemed more interested in the repackaging of Reaganomics -- or any movement toward tax cuts -- as a disastrous mistake, an unwise distribution of "government largess."