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MediaWatch: May 1989

Vol. Three No. 5

Experts from the Left

CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer naturally devoted his April 15 "Washington Notebook" to "the time of year Americans hate most," especially now, since Americans "are suspecting that despite the tax reform of the past two years, all is still not right." In other words, the rich aren't paying their fair share.

The experts he called upon to build this case? Three liberals. First he interviewed economist Robert Reich without noting he was an adviser to Dukakis last year. Then he brought on Democratic Senator Jim Sasser, who charged that over the past eight years "we've seen...a transfer of tax liability squarely onto the backs of the middle class and the lower class."

Schieffer followed by declaring: "Tax reform slashed nearly a quarter of the breaks for the super-rich who now pay some taxes, but the taxes haven't kept pace with the profits that poured in because of the big cuts in corporate taxes during the Reagan years." The story concluded with Robert McIntyre, head of the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice, who dutifully urged action to "make the system fairer." If Schieffer had bothered to talk to a non-liberal, viewers might have learned that IRS figures show that every year since 1984 the top five percent have paid an increasing share of taxes collected as the bottom 50 percent have paid less.

A few days later, an explosion on the U.S.S. Iowa killed more than 40 sailors. Almost before the smoke had cleared, ABC and CBS rushed on retired Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque of the Center for Defense Information (CDI) to exploit the disaster. The networks failed to mention CDI's liberal positions, permitting the organization's innocuous-sounding name to give the impression of a non-partisan information center. According to a recent issue of their Defense Monitor, CDI advocates slashing the U.S. nuclear deterrent by two-thirds, cutting the defense budget by a third, and withdrawing all U.S. troops from NATO.

The April 19 CBS Evening News featured La Rocque criticizing the Iowa for its old design. La Rocque reaffirmed this position April 20 on ABC's Good Morning America, proclaiming the 16-inch guns were just like "the old-fashioned muskets in the Revolutionary War." This charge reappeared on World News Tonight and Nightline as an argument against battleships. CBS reused its La Rocque sound bite on the April 20 This Morning. La Rocque returned to CBS on April 21 with a new complaint. "It's too complicated for new crews to operate this kind of gun," he charged. Neither network took any notice of this abrupt reversal.