MediaWatch: March 1996

Vol. Ten No. 3

Reserving Rebukes for Buchanan

When the liberal Center for Public Integrity released a report February 15 showing Larry Pratt, co-chairman of the Pat Buchanan campaign, had attended and spoken before meetings of white supremacists and anti-semites, it led all the network evening newscasts. Some made Buchanan guilty by association. "Pat Buchanan was caught today in his own crossfire with accusations that he is running a campaign of hate and bigotry," declared Phil Jones on CBS.

But five days later, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore attended the swearing in of Kweisi Mfume as President of the NAACP, the networks refused to make an issue of Mfume's links to the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan. The four network evening shows didn't even mention the event.

As New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel pointed out February 29, Mfume "helped forge the 1993 `Sacred Covenant' between the Congressional Black Caucus, which Mfume chaired, and Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam." Surely, asked Breindel, "the fringe-right groups with which Larry Pratt associates are no more pernicious than the Farrakhanites."

Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, immediately took a leave of absence from the Buchanan campaign. "Mfume, by contrast," Breindel noted, "hasn't manifested any inclination to distance himself from Farrakhan....the ex-Congressman hasn't even been asked to do so." Not even after Farrakhan praised the leaders of Libya, Iraq and Iran during a world trip. Farrakhan accepted a $1 billion pledge from Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi for his separatist organization to "mobilize `oppressed' minorities to influence this year's U.S. elections," The Washington Post reported February 17, three days before Clinton stood beside Mfume.

Back in the U.S., Farrakhan offered some fresh anti-semitism. In a clip shown February 29 on Rush Limbaugh, he said: "When you bring me before Congress, I'm going to call the roll of all the Congressmen who are honorary members of the Israeli Knesset and get contributions from the Zionist AIPAC, and then I want you to register as a foreign power! Every year you give Israel $46 billion of the taxpayers' money and you haven't asked the taxpayers one damn thing. Who are you an agent of?"

Did reporters demand Clinton explain his support of Farrakhan backer Mfume? No, they were too busy tarnishing Buchanan. In a February 23 NBC Nightly News piece, Gwen Ifill proffered to Buchanan: "People say that you are a sexist, a racist, an anti-semite." Ifill concluded that "Buchanan fancies himself a trench-fight-er, a warrior for a new conservatism of the heart. But increasingly he's being judged by the company he keeps." That's not a judgment reporters made of Clinton.