In This Issue
Media Foundations Give Generously to Liberal Groups in the Bush Era; NewsBites: Time Off Course; Revolving Door:"Conservative" Advised Bill; Reporters Knock GOP Campaigns, Puff Liberal Chances; "Images Exact A Price"; Adding Up Bush's Bills; Local, NBC Reporters Involved; Janet Cooke Award: CNN's Brooks Jackson Denounces RNC Ad On Clinton Plan as "Misleading" and "Wrong"
Media Foundations Give Generously to Liberal Groups in the Bush Era
The Media Philanthropy Gap
Despite liberal claims that the media are dominated by conservative corporations, media company foundations or media family foundations have long acted like liberals in their philanthropy. In two previous studies of media foundation giving from 1982-88, MediaWatch analysts identified $3.95 million in grants to political groups that were either identifiably conservative or liberal, of which $3.557 million (90 percent) went to liberal groups.
To revisit media foundation giving, MediaWatch analysts reviewed 1989-1992 grant lists from the largest media foundations at the Foundation Center headquarters in Washington. Again, analysts found a pronounced preference for liberal groups: of $3.48 million in grants, $2.854 million (82 percent) went to liberal groups. Of the remaining $625,500 that went to conservative groups, almost all of it ($609,500) came from the General Electric Foundation. None of the other foundations gave more than two percent of their grants to conservatives.
Boston Globe Foundation: The Globe Foundation funded both national and local liberal activists, including American Documentary Inc., the producers of the PBS series P.O.V., which in 1991 featured Marlon Riggs' documentary on gay black men, Tongues Untied.
Left: 296,580 (100%)
$ 90,000 AIDS Action Committee
$ 3,000 American Documentary, Inc.
$ 5,000 American Friends Service Committee
$ 10,000 Boston Committee on Access to Health Care
$ 5,000 Boston Film/Video Foundation
$ 10,000 Child Care Resource Center
$ 13,000 Children's Defense Fund
$ 35,000 Fund for the Homeless
$ 3,000 Health Care for All
$ 7,500 Hispanic Office of Planning and Evaluation
$ 5,000 Mass. Affordable Housing Alliance
$ 5,080 Mass. Audubon Society
$ 24,000 Mass. Advocacy Center
$ 10,000 Mass. Coalition for the Homeless
$ 5,000 Mass. Committee for Children & Youth
$ 4,000 Mass. Immigration & Refugee Advocacy Coalition
$ 16,000 NAACP
$ 8,000 NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 5,000 National Toxics Campaign
$ 10,000 Oxfam America
$ 5,000 Planned Parenthood
$ 18,000 Urban League
General Electric Foundation: Like our 1989 study, the foundation of GE, owners of NBC, funded some conservative groups. On the liberal side, GE favored the Committee for Economic Development, a group of corporate executives (including GE's) advocating more spending on education and social programs.
Left: $1,621,132 (73%)
$ 40,000 Alliance to Save Energy
$ 98,696 Audubon Society
$120,000 Brookings Institution
$ 55,000 Center for National Policy
$400,000 Committee for Economic Development
$ 20,000 Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
$ 50,000 Conservation Foundation
$125,000 Environmental Law Institute
$ 60,000 Foreign Policy Association
$250,000 Institute for International Economics
$ 35,000 Joint Center for Political Studies
$ 60,000 League of United Latino American Citizens
$ 5,000 League of Women Voters Education Fund
$ 2,500 National Black Media Coalition
$ 25,000 National Leadership Coalition on Health Care Reform
$ 25,000 National Puerto Rican Coalition
$175,000 Urban League
$ 4,936 World Wildlife Fund
Right: $609,500 (27%)
$ 20,000 American Council for Capital Formation
$ 70,000 American Council on Science and Health
$125,000 American Enterprise Institute
$150,000 Center for Strategic and International Studies
$ 20,000 Citizens for a Sound Economy
$ 30,000 Heritage Foundation
$ 25,000 Hudson Institute
$ 10,000 Institute for Contemporary Studies
$ 20,000 Inst. for Research on the Economics of Taxation
$ 45,000 Manhattan Institute
$ 80,000 Media Institute
$ 14,500 Tax Foundation
New York Times Company Foundation: Environmental,
ethnic, and pro-abortion groups stand out in the foundation's
long list of small grants to liberal groups, including Planned
Parenthood and their Alan Guttmacher Institute. Analysts also
counted the foundation's matching grants for employee
contributions. Starred entries were not originally selected by
the foundation, but were picked by Times Company employees, including
New York radio station WBAI, an outlet of the far-left Pacifica
network. No matching grants went to identifiable conservative
Left: $723,662 (98%)
$ 5,000 Alan Guttmacher Institute
$ 20,000 American Friends Service Committee
$ 10,000 Aspen Institute
$ 42,573 Audubon Society
$ 38,000 Brookings Institution
$ 15,000 Child Care Action Campaign
$ 14,000 Children's Defense Fund
$ 5,000 Child Welfare League of America
$ 2,000 Committee for Economic Development
$ 18,000 Council on Foreign Relations
$ 5,000 Earth Summit 1992
$ 42,000 Environmental Action Coalition
$ 11,329 Environmental Defense Fund
$ 3,000 Environmental Law Institute
$ 50,000 Foreign Policy Association
$ 10,000 Government Accountability Project
$ 4,850 Greenpeace*
$ 12,000 League of Women Voters Education Fund
$ 5,000 Legal Action for the Homeless
$ 30,000 NAACP
$ 38,000 NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 5,000 National Alliance to End Homelessness
$ 2,000 National Coalition Against Censorship
$ 7,000 National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
$ 2,500 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association
$ 15,000 NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 30,000 National Public Radio
$ 10,000 National Security Archive
$ 22,127 Natural Resources Defense Council
$ 40,000 Partnership for the Homeless
$ 65,000 Planned Parenthood
$ 2,000 Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 1,603 Sierra Club*
$ 8,111 Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
$ 10,000 Tufts Nutrition and Hunger Research Center
$ 49,000 Urban Coalition
$ 5,000 Urban Institute
$ 24,000 Urban League
$ 2,493 WBAI Radio*
$ 17,960 Wilderness Society
$ 10,000 Women's Equity Action League
$ 9,000 World Resources Institute
$ 5,116 World Wildlife Fund
Right: $16,000 (2%)
$ 4,000 American Enterprise Institute
$ 4,000 Manhattan Institute
$ 8,000 Media Institute
Philip L. Graham Fund: The Fund, honoring the former Washington Post owner and father of Post Publisher Donald Graham, is staffed mostly by Post officials. In 1992, the Graham Fund awarded a $5,000 grant to the Media Alliance for startup costs for the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Left: 213,500 (100%)
$ 20,000 Central America Refugee Center
$ 50,000 Children's Defense Fund
$ 20,000 Coalition for the Homeless
$ 20,000 Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
$ 5,000 Media Alliance
$ 15,000 Planned Parenthood
$ 8,500 United Nations Association
$ 50,000 Urban Institute
$ 25,000 Women's Legal Defense Fund
NewsBites: Time Off Course
Time Off Course. Time's "Health Report" found "Good News" for Americans in "The Week" section October 18: "The number of measles cases in the US plummeted from 27,786 in 1990 to just 2,237 last year. Apparently the epidemic that raged through the preschool population after President Reagan cut funds for immunization has finally run its course." The bad news for Time? The Centers for Disease Control told MediaWatch spending rose from $32 million in 1980 to $186 million in 1990 and by 1992, it was up to $257 million. Maybe rewriting the Reagan years, like Time and other media have done, will eventually "run its course."
No Fuss Over Russ. Former House Sergeant of Arms Jack Russ, the man who ran the now-defunct House bank, agreed to plead guilty to three felony counts in October, including one for embezzling more than $75,000 from the bank. CNN's Inside Politics and the PBS MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour reported this story on October 5, as did the October 6 Washington Post. But ABC, CBS, and NBC failed to report this latest development at all.
Why such scant coverage? Perhaps reporters were a bit embarrassed. In 1992 several dismissed the scandal's significance.
"Since nothing illegal was done, no interest was gained, no taxpayers' dollars spent, do you think this issue is being overblown?" asked Bryant Gumbel of House Speaker Tom Foley on the March 13, 1992 Today. "It has no merit as a really good scandal. There's no public money involved. It was a lousily run bank and that's stupid and probably someone should pay for that, but it's not major," said National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg on the March 14, 1992 Inside Washington. Finally, in the April 17, 1992 Washington Post, reporter Guy Gugliotta declared: "None of this was anyone's fault." Well it now seems something illegal was done, it was major, and it was someone's fault, yet no one would know it from ABC, CBS or NBC coverage.
Phillips' Foreign Favorites. In the weeks following the unveiling of President Clinton's health care reform package, CBS reporter Mark Phillips boarded the foreign-is-better bandwagon. Phillips began his September 29 Evening News report on British health care with a compliment: "In a London apartment the other night was what the Clintons might consider a health care reformer's dream scene: Esther Ward in labor, in her own home, two midwives in attendance, no doctors. It may seem basic, even primitive, but it seems to work." It works, Phillips reasoned, because in Britain, "Births cost less than half what they do in the U.S. and the families pay nothing directly....And in the end, who can argue with success? Statistically, the success rate, measured in pregnancies ending in healthy babies, is actually higher in Britain than in the U.S."
While linking the prevalence of healthy babies in Britain to the reduction in doctor's services, Phillips also characterized Sweden's socialized system as a model for American reformers. In an October 12 report, Phillips asserted, "U.S. costs have continued to skyrocket, while those free-spending, socialized- medicine Swedes have actually gotten their costs to go down." He then went on to describe the Swedish cost cutting mechanisms: increased freedom in choosing doctors, and competition among hospitals. Phillips paradoxically noted, "It's amazing how a little financial incentive can make a system work." Trumpeting such amazing socialist ingenuity, Phillips never mentioned the word capitalism or phrases like "market solutions."
Country in Crisis? The "award-winning reporters of The New York Times" set out to tell Americans "what might -- or might not -- be done to fix a health care industry on the brink of collapse." In the book Solving America's Health Care Crisis: A Guide to Understanding the Greatest Threat to Your Family's Economic Security, the Times compiled an analysis of health care from several reporters. Chapter titles in the book, edited by Erik Eckholm, a member of the Carter State Department team, include: "The Spreading Insecurity," "Inner City Meltdown," "Japan: Cradle to Grave, No Frills," and "Hawaii: It Can Be Done."
Several of the contributing reporters looked to other countries which, the Times said "handle health care better than we do." A prime example -- the chapter "Canada: Care and Compromise." Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal told the story of Len Quesnelle, "a beneficiary of one of the world's most comprehensive health insurance programs, the Canadian national health plan, which uses tax money to provide medical care to everyone at no charge." In 1989 Mr. Quesnelle had a heart attack and in 1991 he had a triple bypass. "During his eighteen month ordeal [he] often had to wait weeks for tests and treatment, and he almost had a second heart attack in the three month wait for his surgery. Such delays, typical in Canada for certain costly procedures, would be considered imprudent, if not malpractice, in the United States."
Instead of viewing this as an intolerable problem, Rosenthal praised the system. Immediately after telling Quesnelle's story she wrote: "At a time when some thirty-seven million Americans lack insurance, the Canadian health care system serves as a taunting reminder that with a few compromises it is possible to provide quality care for everyone, and for less money. In Canada there are few machines to blast apart kidney stones, but no women go without prenatal care. There is no Mayo Clinic, but there are also no emergency rooms teeming with people who cannot afford a family doctor." Maybe Rosenthal should question which country is in "crisis."
Missed MacKinnon Opportunities. Radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon's new book, Only Words, describes her view of women's lives: "You grow up and with your father holding you down and covering your mouth so another man can make a horrible searing pain between your legs. When you are older, your husband ties you to the bed and drips hot wax on your nipples and brings in other men to watch and makes you smile through it." She suggested some doctors may "enjoy watching and inflicting pain during childbirth" and that sexual harassment "begins in your family."
In an October 18 New Republic book review, Judge Richard A. Posner pointed out MacKinnon also wrote that pornography oppresses women, so it is a bigger danger than communism because "pornography [is] more than mere words, while the words of communism are only words." But the media have elevated her to the "mainstream." She served as a commentator for NBC during the Thomas-Hill hearings and Peter Jennings praised her "dedication to laws which serve men and women equally" in naming her "Person of the Week" in October 1991.
She recently appeared on the October 6 CBS This Morning. Co-host Paula Zahn dwelled on informational questions such as "Why do you think porno and hate propaganda are a violation of our civil rights?" Like most MacKinnon interviews, it didn't delve into her real beliefs. Concluding the interview, Zahn wondered: "Why do you think so many people find your views so radical?"
Needing Soviet History 101. Boris Yeltsin's use of force in response to the communist coup in Moscow provoked indignation among some in the media, who compared the level of violence to that of 1917, but ignored the grim historical record of successive Soviet regimes. NBC reporter Dennis Murphy vastly overstated Yeltsin's crackdown on the October 9 Nightly News: "President Boris Yeltsin...is conducting an old-fashioned Russian purge of his opponents. Jailed, hustled out of town, censored, Soviet institutions dissolved." To bolster his claims, Murphy showed political analyst Andrei Kortunov, who predicted "more authoritarian trends in the near future." The day before, Paula Zahn declared on CBS This Morning that "Moscow went through its worst violence since the Russian Revolution, 76 years ago."
While Yeltsin responded to an armed uprising aimed at derailing democracy, both Murphy and Zahn seem to have forgotten the "old- fashioned" purges which Joseph Stalin orchestrated on a massive scale. In his 1990 book, The Great Terror: A Re-Assessment, historian Robert Conquest estimated from recently released Soviet figures that between January 1937 and December 1938, 8 million Soviet citizens were arrested, of which 1 million were executed, and 2 million died in camps. "On a single day, December 12, 1938," wrote historian Alan Bullock in Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, "Stalin and Molotov sanctioned the execution of no fewer than 3,167 prisoners."
Smolowe's (Sarcasm!) While many parents are concerned with the abysmal state of education, Time Associate Editor Jill Smolowe mocked attempts by religious conservatives to participate in local school boards in order to improve school curricula. In the November 1 issue, Smolowe asserted: "Ever since the religious right first began targeting local school board races in 1990, religious conservatives have monopolized many school agendas with challenges that say more about the parent's political and religious beliefs than their children's education. Should students be molded into `global citizens'? (Unpatriotic!) Should Halloween displays in classrooms feature witches? (Paganism!) Should kids be instructed to take a deep breath before an exam? (New Age religion!) Should classes hold mock elections? (Usurpation of parental authority!)"
Although liberal teachers' unions and bureaucrats have monopolized and politicized public schools curricula for years, Smolowe portrayed conservatives as the real enemy. She accepted the status quo without question, and ridiculed opposition. "Teachers in districts where the religious right has gained a strong voice complain that politicking and endless debate over curriculum impede their work. In Xenia, Ohio, two religious conservatives tie up meetings with arguments against self-esteem programs (Weakens respect for parents!) and sex education (Undermines abstinence!)" Her sarcasm did not extend to her sources, such as when she called People for the American Way "an anti-censorship watchdog group." (Leftists!)
Ginsburg vs. Thomas. Supreme Court reporters began the new term comparing Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas. On October 8, Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage wrote: "Ginsburg has emerged as the new star on the bench....Ginsburg's snappy style and impressive grasp of the legal complexities stands in sharp contrast to virtually all other newcomers to the court." Savage added: "Ginsburg's performance contrasts vividly to that of Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice who preceded her to the court. Thomas rarely participates in the arguments. Now beginning his third year on the bench, Thomas usually rocks back in his chair and seemingly pays little attention to the arguments. In three days on the bench this week, he did not ask a single question. While Ginsburg quizzed the lawyers in the mine safety case, Thomas rubbed his eyes often and gazed at the ornate ceiling."
On October 13, The Washington Post's Joan Biskupic wrote: "But as is his way in most court hearings, Thomas leaned back in his chair, often looking up at the ceiling, his demeanor distant." On the same day's CBS This Morning, Eric Engberg noted: "Yesterday Ginsburg took part in a spirited legal discussion while Thomas sat impassively, occasionally scribbling notes, saying nothing."
If reporters had cared about the behavior of justices at oral arguments before now, they might have explained how Thurgood Marshall was inattentive and hard of hearing. They didn't. But in his book Turning Right, Savage wrote Marshall "was in the view of many law experts, the greatest American lawyer of the twentieth century."
Revolving Door:"Conservative" Advised Bill
"In early 1992, the advisers to presidential candidate Clinton included the journalist Gergen," Michael Kelly revealed in an October 31 New York Times Magazine profile of David Gergen, the counselor to President Bill Clinton since May.
At the time, Gergen was Editor-at-Large of U.S. News and the "conservative" analyst for the PBS MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour. Wrote Kelly: "In February, on the darkest day of the campaign, when the story broke of the candidate's famous 1969 letter on his Vietnam war draft status, Gergen says he `had a serious talk' with Clinton, `all about where he was going, what he was going through. I walked through with him what the essence of the charge against him was,' Gergen says, `and the essence of his response ...and I told him what particular point in his response had made the best impression on me.'"
Kelly also reported that Gergen "defends his return to the White House as an act not of opportunism but of expiation for the sins of his work in administrations past," Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan. It'll be hard for PBS to replace Gergen with anyone less committed to conservative principles.
After just two months as health care spokesman in the White House public affairs division, former USA Today "Money" section reporter Kevin Anderson resigned in October. The Washington Post reported that "he wants to be an outside adviser to the health care group and do surrogate speaking for the administration around the country."
Replacing Anderson in the White House until Congress adjourns in late November: Marla Romash, who has been Communications Director for Vice President Gore. After her brief fill-in stint, the one-time Good Morning America Associate Producer plans to join a Democratic political consulting firm.
Ready for Prime Time
As Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum's retirement draws near, staffers have begun to find new jobs. One leaving early: Bonnie Goldstein, special investigator for the far-left Democrat. She's joined ABC's Prime Time Live as a producer. Before joining Metzenbaum's office, Goldstein spent most of the '80s as a partner in a Washington private investigation agency.
But don't expect the show to investigate the authenticity of Anita Hill's charges. In The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story, David Brock relayed what the Fleming report on the leak of Hill's sexual harassment allegation had uncovered about Goldstein's role. According to Brock, "Goldstein heard about Hill from the Alliance for Justice also. The Alliance apparently had been spreading the rumor around town without even having spoken with Hill. Goldstein passed Anita Hill's name to Senator Ted Kennedy's investigator, Ricki Seidman" who then called Hill to ask about the rumor.
ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Pierre Salinger, Press Secretary to President Kennedy and briefly a Democratic U.S. Senator representing California in 1964, retired July 30 after a 15-year ABC career. Salinger has joined the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm as a Vice Chairman based in Washington. He will serve as a consultant to ABC News and may make occasional on-air appearances.
Reporters Knock GOP Campaigns, Puff Liberal Chances
Clinton's "Serious" Deficit Cuts?
Candidate Bill Clinton harpooned GOP Presidents for adding $3 trillion to the national debt in the last 12 years. President Clinton's budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will add $1 trillion to the debt in the next four years. Would reporters fault Clinton like they did Reagan and Bush?
No, they praised him. On CBS This Morning on April 30, co-host Harry Smith asked Sen. Bob Dole: "Yesterday you came out and said `Let's give the President an E for effort.' Shouldn't he get a better grade for at least passing a budget that takes the deficit seriously for the first time?" On May 28, This Morning's Paula Zahn asked Ross Perot: "Do you acknowledge that this is at all better than anything the Republicans attempted over the last 12 years?"
On NBC, reporter Lisa Myers agreed on the April 30 Today: "The President deserves great credit for having the courage to come up with a deficit reduction plan and we shouldn't lose sight of that." Two days later on Meet the Press, NBC White House reporter Andrea Mitchell complained that Clinton's image was all wrong: "This is the first President in a generation who had the guts to try to do something about deficit reduction and to take on health care, and he's somehow not selling that. He's still being perceived as an old-style Democrat." Declared Bob Schieffer on the May 23 Sunday Morning: "It's a plan that calls for massive cuts in federal spending."
The canard continued in the news magazines. Time Chief Political Correspondent Michael Kramer saluted Clinton on May 3: "Great salesman that he is, Clinton can be viewed as a victim of his own success. His insistence on deficit reduction -- and his cajoling of Congress to support a multi-year plan to accomplish it -- is the very definition of courage in modern American politics."
U.S. News & World Report Editor-in-Chief Mor Zuckerman crowed on May 17: "The political climate has changed in large measure because of Clinton's determination to address the deficit seriously for the first time in 12 years."
The staunchest Clinton defense came from Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift on the May 15 McLaughlin Group: "Essentially, the plan maintains the balance which undoes the '80s: 70 percent of the taxes fall on wealthier people. He does have a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar in tax increases. It's true...It's the first serious attempt to cut the deficit in this country."
In the June 2 Washington Times, Heritage Foundation analyst Daniel Mitchell showed the package consists of $301 billion in tax increases and $20 billion in actual cuts in projected spending increases, making the real ratio of tax hikes to spending "cuts" 15 to 1.
"Images Exact A Price"
The Quota Cure?
Prompted by NBC Nightly News Executive Producer Jeff Gralnick's comment that Somali warlord Mohammed Aidid was viewed as an "educated jungle bunny," CBS reporter Jacqueline Adams explored how blacks are unfairly portrayed in the media. In the October 19 Evening News piece, Adams said: "Many black journalists know that pictures can be as damaging as words...Whether it's Ted Danson in blackface at a celebrity roast in New York, Haiti, or the inner city, images exact a price."
Adams said the cure for these negative images is more quota hiring. "Some media watchers blame the lack of minorities in the nation's newsrooms. Although a quarter of this nation is now black, brown or yellow, recent surveys have found that newsrooms are not." The only talking heads in the piece, Jesse Jackson, National Association of Black Journalists President Dorothy Gilliam, and professor Joe Foote all agreed. The lineup showed Adams' lack of interest in diversity in one area: opinions.
But making racial diversity the number one priority in hiring decisions is already a common policy. In the November American Journalism Review, Alicia C. Shepard quoted news executives touting their plans to discriminate against whites: "Last spring, Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson was asked by a female reporter why there weren't more women and minorities in the bureau. `What he said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- is we don't want to bring any more white males into the bureau,' says one staffer who attended the meeting. A white male reporter challenged Nelson: `Do you mean it's a rule that no more white males will be in the bureau?' `That's right.' Nelson replied." Nelson later told Shepard "We really didn't have, in my opinion, room to bring in more white males until we did more for minorities and women."
New York Times Executive Editor Max Frankel noted that when he assumed his position in 1986 "One of the first things I did was stop the hiring of non-blacks and set up an unofficial little quota system." And Newsday Assistant Managing Editor David Hamilton boasted "Given an equal choice, we'll tilt toward the minority to address ills that have built up over the course of a century."
Adding Up Bush's Bills
While the networks rooted for their passage, ABC has discovered the costs of George Bush's legislative accomplishments. In an October 27 World News Tonight "American Agenda" report, Barry Serafin detailed the costs unfunded mandates impose on local governments: "A new survey finds just 10 federal mandates like the Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are costing cities $6.5 billion this year. Over the next five years, the cost will be $54 billion."
Serafin focused on the city of Columbus, Ohio: "Police say because of the Disability Act, they are not allowed to determine if an applicant is physically qualified until after a lengthy series of written exams and background checks. The extra cost -- $150,000 a year. Another example -- to prevent soil contamination, federal law requires that old underground fuel storage tanks be dug up and removed. That will cost $880,000 -- money that the city says could have been used to hire 24 additional firemen. Federal environmental laws alone cost every household here $856 a year."
Serafin allowed Rep. Henry Waxman to defend unfunded mandates before concluding with Sen. Dirk Kempthorne: "if laws are important enough to enact, he says, they should be important enough to pay for."
Roberts on Robbery
Rampant fraud and theft in U.S. embassies sparked an investigation by Deborah Roberts. On the October 26 Dateline NBC she announced: "Some embassy officials are getting perks the State Department never dreamed of....hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and property are simply disappearing from U.S. embassies every year." Roberts explained: "Take Grenada, where the American embassy has six cars. Trouble is, there are only three U.S. officials there...in Panama, big-ticket items got away, like air conditioners and safes, $90,000 worth of property hasn't been seen for three years."
Roberts also reported the State Department's lack of interest in catching the thieves: "Remember all that missing property in Panama? Part of it was a $3,000 dining room table set which later turned up in the Virginia home of one of the embassy officials. He even charged the government four thousand dollars to ship it there." As for the thief, Roberts revealed: "The government took back the dining set, and the State Department told us the officer was disciplined, but he kept his job."
Local, NBC Reporters Involved
Braun Scandal Suppressed
NBC reporters knew in October 1992 that Senator Carol Moseley- Braun had intentionally defrauded Medicaid. But they decided to sit on the revelation, Ruth Shalit reported in a November 15 New Republic exposé. Reporter Paul Hogan of NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in Chicago and Douglas Longhini, his producer, obtained a "type-written letter purported to be from Moseley-Braun to her mother ....the letter suggests that Moseley-Braun deliberately tried to defraud the state Medicaid authorities." In an apparent reference to an effort to hide her mother's assets, the letter included this sentence: "In an effort to help you `launder' the timber proceeds..."
Since Hogan had earlier raised "the rudiments of the Medicaid story," Moseley-Braun refused to talk with him. So, he and Longhini "then persuaded NBC correspondent Bob Kur to ambush her with the ten-line fragment at the end of an interview." Moseley- Braun did not deny writing the letter. Campaign media adviser Gerald Austin told Shalit: "People were shocked. We said, (a) she's going to lose the election, (b) she's going to be disbarred and (c) she's going to be indicted."
But voters never heard about the admission. Austin "got Hogan on the phone. `I did something I've never done in twenty years,' he says. `I talked a reporter out of a story. I said...`Here's one where you'll destroy this woman, and more importantly, the cause. If you go with the story, she loses, and you're responsible for denying the first African American woman the chance to go to the U.S. Senate.'" Shalit added: "Several hours later, Hogan called back and said he had decided not to go with the story.... Longhini, now a producer with ABC's Prime Time Live, confirms Austin's version of events. `Paul was quite agonized. He was a really good guy. Real liberal. He said, `You son of a bitch, I'll call you back.' We never went with it.'"
No word on why Kur and NBC News suppressed the revelation.
Janet Cooke Award: CNN's Brooks Jackson Denounces RNC Ad On Clinton Plan as "Misleading" and "Wrong"
Double Standards on the "Fact Check"
Brooks Jackson is a rarity -- an enterprising investigative reporter for a TV network. A former Wall Street Journal hound on the campaign beat, Jackson contributed to CNN's 1992 campaign reporting, especially the "ad watch" segments. While Jackson was the only reporter who reviewed more than one of Clinton's ads, his ad watches on health care, both this year and last, have unfairly shortchanged the Republican side. For declaring job loss estimates as "wrong" before the Clinton plan is enacted, Jackson earned the Janet Cooke Award.
On the October 22 Inside Politics, Jackson critiqued a Republican National Committee ad: "The ad has been running several days, claiming that President Clinton's plan is a job killer. `Without his mandates on small business, that would cost up to 3 million Americans their jobs.' But hold on -- that's absolutely misleading. Let's check the facts. The Republican commercial cites a study by the Employment Policies Institute, but it turns out the study is not a study of the Clinton plan at all. Its authors admit it was written last summer before key features of the Clinton plan was even known."
Jackson then quoted EPI's Executive Director, Richard Berman, who said: "It made our study outdated...This study is not a study of the Clinton plan. I think you just said that. That's true."
But Berman told MediaWatch: "While Clinton's planned subsidies to small businesses would reduce the estimate of job losses, I told Jackson there were other elements of the Clinton plan we were unaware of that would offset much of the effect of Clinton's subsidies. But Jackson only used the six seconds he wanted."
Jackson's story continued by questioning Berman's motives: "Berman turns out to be a lawyer-lobbyist whose clients include Burger King...and other restaurant chains.... and the restaurant industry is a bitter enemy of the Clinton plan, which would force restaurant owners to provide health benefits for workers."
Berman told MediaWatch: "I found it reprehensible that in the Jackson piece, despite the fact this was done by respected outside economists, Jackson tried to tie some of my clients to the study, like I'd bought the results." The study was done for EPI by labor economists June and Dave O'Neill of the City University of New York.
When contacted by MediaWatch, Jackson stood firm: "A normal viewer looking at that commercial would have been misled, and my job is to tell him what the facts are, and the facts are this study was not a study of the Clinton plan, and it was paid for by somebody with a very naked pecuniary interest in the outcome, which the Republicans didn't tell you. This isn't about Rick Berman, this is about what the Republicans did."
Jackson's story then went on to proclaim: "Independent experts say the GOP commercial is just wrong, that the Clinton plan will not cost anything close to 3 million jobs." CNN aired the graphic "Fact Check" and put a big red "WRONG" on the screen. How is it fact that the Clinton plan will not cost 3 million jobs when the plan has yet to be implemented? How can it be wrong?
Jackson shot back: "I didn't say that. I said 'independent experts say it is wrong.'" But when CNN puts the word "WRONG" on the screen in big red letters, doesn't the viewer think CNN is telling them it's wrong? Jackson admitted: "Yeah. But 'independent experts say'...The Republicans aren't using an independent expert."
Jackson argued the RNC's 3 million estimate is too extreme to be credible: "You can get it up to 1.2 million if you assume, which most economists don't, that employers won't cut wages instead of fire people. That is the extreme estimate from mainstream economists."
But Jackson did not note that "mainstream economists" also said Reagan's tax cuts would be wildly inflationary and the 1990 budget deal would fix the deficit problem. There are no facts about the effects of the Clinton plan, and "mainstream economists" may be as wrong on this as anyone else. Near the end of our interview, Jackson conceded: "I see your point. They are just predictions."
While Jackson has done an ad watch on the RNC and two on the health insurance industry, he has done nothing on ads by the Democrats or pro-Clinton groups like Families USA. Jackson claimed he had a practical, not ideological reason: "None of those have gone out of Washington, as far as I know. I've got kind of a $50,000 rule. I'm so sick and tired of being spun by various groups...the idea that they'll produce an ad that they never intend to run, and we will cover it as though it's some sort of big national event, thereby making it a big national event. I try not to get suckered by that stuff."
But what happens when Families USA charges another ad with lying? Isn't it unfair to allow them to denounce an ad when other reporters, like NBC's Robert Hager, found their ad contained "half-truths"? No, said Jackson, because Families USA's ad hasn't been seen: "If it did run, it ran lightly here in Washington. So if you've got a problem with that, you've got a problem with that."
In an October 19 Inside Politics story, Jackson reviewed an ad by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA). Jackson didn't check any "facts," but focused on the legitimacy of the group's Coalition for Health Insurance Choices. He aired Ron Pollack of Families USA, who denounced the HIAA ad: "Once you cross the line of deception, deceit, and really not tell the truth, I think it's time to blow the whistle...The health insurance lobby has created a so-called coalition of health insurance choices, when it's really more aptly named a coalition of health insurance companies."
Jackson did not note the tag line of every ad says "Funding by the Health Insurance Association of America," or, as HIAA spokesman Richard Coorsh told MediaWatch, that the tag line exceeds federal disclosure requirements for type size and disclosure of funding. After detailing Pollack's copy of the HIAA strategy, Jackson echoed Pollack: "Campaigns like this are not really grass roots at all. There's nothing spontaneous about the voter calls to Congress they generate."
Jackson failed to mention that Families USA is doing many of the same lobbying activities as the HIAA: producing ads, goading calls to Congress, using field representatives outside Washington. Aren't they doing the same thing? Aren't the calls they generate about as "spontaneous" as industry's? Jackson didn't see it that way: "Okay, well, that's your view."
Jackson never asked Families USA for their lobbying strategy or asked about their funding sources. Jackson's reporting is suffering from a double standard: while business groups with a "naked pecuniary interest" are properly perceived as self- interested, liberal groups are never suspect. Now that's wrong.