In This Issue
Only Conservatives Qualify as "Haters"; NewsBites; Scientists Don't Scare Viewers; We Knew Reagan Was Phony; Fox on China
Only Conservatives Qualify as "Haters"
Students of history make distinctions of quality: there's history, which builds a story based on documented fact, research, and interviews; and there's psycho-history, which instead of dwelling on evidence, simply puts historical actors on the couch and attempts to read their mind as events unfold. Likewise, there's journalism, based on facts, and psycho-journalism, which simply seeks to guess the motivations of public figures.
In the last few years, reporters have introduced a new term
into the media lexicon to describe Bill Clinton's adversaries:
"Clinton haters." The April 11, 1994 Time published a story
titled "Clintonophobia! Just who are these Clinton haters, and why
do they loathe Bill and Hillary Clinton with such passion?"
Reporter Nina Burleigh didn't seem to care if her mind-reading
was accurate: after tagging conservatives like Rush Limbaugh as
"haters," Burleigh casually added: "Both profess not to hate
Clinton." She then referred to "Clinton haters" twice more.
Is "hater" the standard way the media describes a President's opponents, whether they're Republicans or Democrats? To determine the journalistic usage of "hate" terms, MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to find all mentions of the terms "Clinton-hater," "Clinton-basher," and "anti-Clinton," (compared to "Reagan hater," "Reagan basher," and "anti-Reagan") in Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post. For Reagan, analysts reviewed stories from 1981 through 1988; for Clinton, from 1992 through mid-April 1998. These publications contained: 63 uses of "Clinton hater," compared to one use of "Reagan hater"; 106 references to "Clinton-bashers" or "Clinton-bashing," compared to 17 references to "Reagan-bashers"or "Reagan-bashing"; 55 mentions of "anti-Clinton" groups or efforts compared to two mentions of an "anti-Reagan" force.
Analysts also checked these variants for independent counsel Ken Starr since 1994 ("Starr-hater," "Starr-basher," or "anti-Starr." Time, U.S. News & World Report, and The New York Times have never carried these terms. Newsweek made one mention of Hillary Clinton as a "veteran Starr-basher." The Washington Post carried two mentions of "Starr-bashing." No one was a "Starr hater."
Magazines: Leading the Hate Hunters. Time led the hate-labeling pack, with 28 designations of "Clinton hater," with almost half of them (13) in the last four months. Time carried 11 mentions of "Clinton-bashing," and 14 mentions of "anti-Clinton" activists or activities.
By itself, "anti-Clinton" seems an inoffensive term, but Time regularly applied modifiers like "fiercely" or "virulent" or "obsessive" or "right-wing" to the term. The April 13, 1998 Time referred to "Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and The American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that Scaife has supported." A February 9, 1998 article called Scaife a "super-Clinton hater."
In the June 9, 1997 edition, Time reporter George Church described Paula Jones' first press conference, "where she shared a stage with Clinton haters. That helped to convince many that Jones was a tool, witting or unwitting, of the rabid right." In the Reagan years, Time ran only three uses of "Reagan bashing."
Newsweek carried 17 references to "Clinton haters,"
14 uses of "Clinton bashing," and 19 "anti-Clinton"
designations. In a May 16, 1994 article, Mark Hosenball argued
"It is true that Paula Jones has been egged on by an odd
collection of right-wingers and Clinton haters." In the April 27, 1998
issue, Hosenball wrote: "The evidence linking Starr to
conservative Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure:
Richard Mellon ScaifeScaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who
has spent millions trying to undermine the President."
Newsweek carried four mentions of "Reagan-bashing" and one use of "Reagan hater." In 1987, Jonathan Alter explained Sam Donaldson's jobs as both an ABC reporter and commentator "exposes him to critics who label him a Reagan-hater...In truth, his politics don't interfere with his reportage."
U.S. News & World Report carried 16 designations of "Clinton haters," nine of "Clinton bashing," and 21 "anti-Clinton" mentions. In a November 7, 1994 election preview, the magazine charged: "The most virulent Clinton haters charge that Hillary Rodham Clinton holds the real power and blackmails her husband." In a May 17, 1993 column, Mortimer Zuckerman began: "The media may be in a frenzy trying to bash Bill Clinton, but the public is focused on something else: the sagging U.S. economy." Only one U.S. News story cited "Reagan bashing."
Newspapers: "Bash" Is The Preferred Term. In eight years, The New York Times never labeled anyone a "Reagan hater," although three stories carried the term in quotations from political analysts. Only one story carried the word "anti-Reagan," and only two mentioned "Reagan bashing." In a 1987 review of the PBS show The Kwitny Report, TV critic John Corry dismissed the episode alleging Reagan's connections to the Mafia as "dreary Reagan bashing." By comparison, the Times applied the term "Clinton hater" once, and variants of "Clinton-bashing" 17 times.
The Post discovered conservative hate in a May 27, 1994 front-page Sunday story by Ann Devroy: "Bill Clinton's enemies are making their hatred clear, with a burning intensity and in some cases with an organized passion." Variants of "Clinton-bashing" were employed 52 times by Post reporters.
The Sunday before the 1992 convention, Post reporter Dan Balz began an article "Get ready for the bashing of Bill Clinton." Four days later, Ruth Marcus started her piece: "The Republican gathering here was expected to be a festival of Clinton-bashing. As it turned out , the target has been not only the candidate, but his wife Hillary." (Two additional articles mentioned "Hillary-bashing.")
In January 1997, the Post's Kevin Merida described the Paula Jones complaint as announced at "a convention of Clinton-bashing conservatives." Five months later, Merida repeated the phrase verbatim.
In the Reagan years, Washington Post reporters never used "Reagan hater," although two articles carried the term in quotations. Seven Post news stories mentioned "Reagan bashing." In one 1985 piece, business reporter Peter Behr decried both sides of the trade debate, writing "Reagan is inviting the bashing by continuing to avoid the trade dilemma."
Politics creates passions that inflame the whole range of emotions -- joy and sadness, inspiration and disillusionment, love and hate. Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, fuels all of these. But reporters proved their liberalism when they suggested in their stories, subtly or unsubtly, that only one President was subject to unrelenting attack by a group of obsessed "haters."
Exemptions for Al Gore. When it came to spending the
taxpayer's money Al Gore was among the Senate's most generous,
but when it came to donating his own cash the Vice President
was less charitable. While the weekend TV talk shows were
abuzz, ABC and CBS morning and evening newscasts remained mum.
NBC's David Gregory highlighted the hypocrisy on the April 16 Today show: "Al Gore and his wife Tipper are no grinches when it comes to giving of themselves. Touring tornado damage, building homes for the poor, feeding the homeless. But when it comes to giving their money 1997 was a down year. A single line in the Vice President's 1997 income tax return says the Gores gave $353 to charity. $353 out of an income of nearly $200,000. That's less than they spent for example on pest control, $389, and it's raising some eyebrows." NBC Nightly News also aired a story the next night, as did CNN.
Burton Bashing. When House Government Operations Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) called Bill Clinton a "scumbag" in an Indianapolis newspaper interview session, both ABC and NBC reported it and liberal ranking member Henry Waxman's shocked reaction to it.
On April 23, Today's Ann Curry introduced a Gwen Ifill story on Burton's comments: "The Congressman who heads the House committee investigating campaign financing is in trouble. This after some remarks he made about President Clinton...It's not the most dignified way to describe a fellow lawmaker."
ABC's Asha Blake introduced a Good Morning America story the same morning: "A controversy has erupted over some unusually caustic comments made by a top Republican about President Clinton....Ann, things appear to be getting personal." Ann Compton reported: "Such personal name-calling is forbidden on the floor of the House, where the President's defenders called Burton's words outrageous and vile."
But last December, when committee member Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) compared Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz forgetting to mention that he is a Republican to Kurt Waldheim, who "conveniently forgot several years when he was a Nazi," not one of the broadcast networks touched it.
Math Problems. In April, the Senate took up a Republican proposal for tax-free education savings accounts, and TV reporters took up class-baiting. CBS's Dan Rather didn't even give the Republican side on the April 21 Evening News: "President Clinton today attacked a Republican proposal in Congress. This Republican proposal would let people set up education savings accounts that earn tax free interest. The President said this GOP version benefits the rich and private schools at the expense of already decaying public schools."
On CNN's The World Today April 22, anchor Martin Savidge noted the GOP plan, but endorsed the Democrats' worry that "tax breaks for private tuition would benefit the wealthy at the expense of public education. And Democrats have numbers on their side. A Treasury Department report says 70 percent of the benefits would go to just the top 20 percent of income earners." Savidge ignored the Heritage Foundation's argument that "nearly 60 percent of the children whose families qualify for these accounts are from households making less than $50,000 a year."
These outlets neglected to mention that the GOP program, (which allows families to deposit after-tax income into interest-bearing savings accounts) is eligible only to families making under $95,000 a year. Census Bureau figures show the top 20 percent of income earners begins at $75,000. So the only "rich, wealthy" folks referred to by CBS and CNN are families earning from $75,000 to $95,000 a year.
Contrast the media's reaction to the GOP plan to their response to Clinton's own college tuition proposal, the education tax-credits program known as HOPE scholarships. By the same Treasury Department analysis CNN used to criticize the GOP, Clinton's HOPE plan also unfairly benefited the top twenty percent of earners, since even those making $100,000 a year were eligible. Network mention? None.
Scientists Don't Scare Viewers
Networks Ignore 15,000 Scientists Opposed to Kyoto Treaty
National news reports on global warming often underline that
dire warming scenarios are endorsed by the "overwhelming
majority" of scientists. Imagine the journalistic inconvenience on April
20, when the Science and Environmental Policy Project released
a petition from 15,000 scientists around the world declaring
there was no convincing evidence linking greenhouse gases to
"catastrophic heating." The networks did what they thought was
the only responsible thing. They ignored it. Two nights later,
after one scientist claimed the Earth is warmer than ever, CBS,
CNN, and NBC all presented full evening news stories without
any opposing views.
On the CBS Evening News, reporter John Roberts explained Michael Mann of the University of Massachusetts thinks 1995-97 are the warmest years since 1400. Roberts ended: "It will take years of research to determine exactly what's behind this trend and what if any dangers it might pose, but one thing is certain, the heat is on. Global temperatures for the first three months of 1998 were the warmest on record."
CNN anchor Martin Savidge contended on The World Today: "Don't believe in global warming? Well, this next story could change your mind." Reporter Ann Kellan's one-sided story concluded: "The scientists say if carbon dioxide levels keep rising at the current rate, the warming trend could get even stronger. They warn that global warming could cause problems ranging from drought to flooding caused by polar ice melting."
NBC's Tom Brokaw asked: "Does it seem like the world is getting warmer? More hard evidence it's not just your imagination. In Depth tonight." Robert Bazell added: "A Department of Energy report out today says greenhouse gas emissions will rise by as much as 80 percent in the next 20 years. So there seems to be little question but that the Earth will continue to get warmer, probably a lot warmer."
The 15,000 skeptical scientists, including Frederick Seitz, a past President of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a statement urging rejection of the Kyoto treaty: "The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind." Seitz asserted: "This freely expressed vote against the warming scare propaganda should be contrasted with the claimed 'consensus of 2500 climate scientists' about global warming. This facile and oft-quoted assertion by the White House is a complete fabrication." But TV viewers wouldn't know.
We Knew Reagan Was Phony
Leave it to CBS. They can't even keep their anti-Reagan
vitriol out of a week-long retrospective series marking the
50th anniversary of the CBS Evening News. To CBS the Reagan
years denoted when image surpassed reality. Lesley Stahl recalled on
April 16: "They just, in a Hollywood way, put together
tableaus, pictures, that were so imprinted on the public's
brains that they overrode what people were saying because they
were so powerful."
Over video of Ronald and Nancy Reagan walking across the South Lawn to a helicopter, Stahl complained: "She'd give him the gaze. These are all visual images that said, extremely powerfully, what a happy family they are. Well we knew that he never saw his kids and he didn't even know his grandchildren. We knew that, but the picture was more powerful. I think we began to change the way we covered the President after that. I think everybody realized, as I did, that they were using pictures to drown us out."
Speaking of Presidents creating family images that contradict reality, recall the video every network broadcast, from a week and a half after the Lewinsky story broke, of Bill Clinton with his arm around Chelsea as they walked to the helicopter for a Friday night ride to Camp David.
But the March American Spectator noted in its "On the Prowl" column: "As for the 'family' weekend at Camp David, Mom flew off to Switzerland while Dad logged more than six hours Saturday on the golf course, and then two more holed up with personal attorney David Kendall after dinner. Chelsea left early Sunday to be back at Stanford in time for Monday morning classes."
CBS never reported that reality over the image. Neither did the other networks.
Fox on China
Fox on China. It took the Fox News Channel a week and a half to catch up with an April 4 New York Times
front-page story on how Clinton approved of letting a
company, headed by a large DNC donor, export missile
technology to China. But that's sooner than ABC, CBS, CNN, or
NBC, which have yet to mention the development. Jeff Gerth and Raymond
Bonner reported that a federal grand jury is investigating
whether companies "illegally gave China space expertise that
significantly advanced Beijing's ballistic missile program,"
but officials said "the criminal inquiry was dealt a serious
blow two months ago when President Clinton quietly approved
the export to China of similar technology by one of the
companies under investigation." The Chairman of the company
involved, the Loral Corporation, the Times observed, "was the largest personal contributor to the Democratic National Committee last year."
On FNC's April 13 Fox Report, Carl Cameron explained that after a crash, Loral gave the secret report on the mishap to China. Cameron concluded: "The Pentagon says national security was breached and perhaps seriously. Though Loral denies wrongdoing, investigators say if the firm donated to the Clinton camp, then got the President's permission to do business with China and shared secrets, it could be the worst example yet of just how much the White House was willing to risk for the big bucks of '96."
Disreputable NOW. When NOW decided against filing a brief on behalf of Paula Jones' appeal, in the evening, ABC skipped it and CBS just relayed NOW's attack on "disreputable right-wingers." Only NBC saw any hypocrisy.
On the April 22 NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw introduced a piece from Andrea Mitchell: "Supporters of the Paula Jones sexual harassment case tonight are accusing America's largest feminist organization of hypocrisy." Mitchell featured NOW President Patricia Ireland denouncing "disreputable right-wing organizations," but also gave rare air time to Anita Blair from the Independent Women's Forum, who asserted this proves NOW does not represent all women.
On the April 23 Today show, Katie Couric cornered NOW's Patricia Ireland: "And yet as you know the implicit message that perhaps some might feel you are sending is if you accuse a conservative Republican of sexual harassment NOW will be right there with you backing you all the way. But if you accuse a Democrat perhaps with more liberal sensibilities the National Organization for Women will turn the other cheek."