MediaWatch: May 1996

Vol. Ten No. 5

CNN vs the GOP

CNN Presents offered a perfect example of how the media help block anything that lessens federal power or control. The April 21 hour served up emotional anecdotes about the evils of House GOP reforms, combined with melodramatic music most reminiscent of Hard Copy and Inside Edition.

Depression-era photos of sad-looking children accompanied by gloomy music underscored Kathy Slobogin's opening: "Republicans want to end the 60-year federal responsibility, and give the power to run welfare back to the states. But some fear history may repeat itself, that when states face hard times, programs for poor people will be the first to go."

CNN's David Lewis then followed with a report on the Georgia state legislature. "Georgians across the political spectrum, worry that the state, by choice or by necessity, won't be able to do what the federal government has done. Putting those least able to care for themselves, people like Emily Clark, at the greatest risk."

Lewis asked the mother of Emily, a three-year-old epileptic: "What would happen if they [government programs] weren’t there?" She replied, "A shiver ran through me when you said that. I can't even imagine not only what her life would be, but what our life would be." Lewis asserted: "There are Emilys in every state. Their parents face an uncertain future."

Slobogin returned to accuse the GOP of risking disaster by challenging new regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in a sinister scheme to reward contributors: "OSHA, the federal agency that's supposed to protect under attack in the Republican Congress. UPS is leading the charge. Proposals in the House would slash OSHA's enforcement budget and keep it from cracking down on companies like UPS." As if it were anything new, she charged: "Especially galling to critics, a UPS lobbyist was invited to write a draft of the legislation weakening OSHA oversight."

An angle not broached: What really improves safety. A February National Association of Manufacturers survey of members found that when asked the sources they’ve used to identify and correct safety problems, 77 named insurance companies, 70 percent said "employee suggestions," but just 9 percent cited OSHA.