In This Issue
Frenzy Over Princess Diana's Death Buries Senate Fundraising Hearing Coverage; NewsBites: Suspect Schieffer; Revolving Door: Kaplan's No-Scandal Decree; NBC Presents Convicted Felon's Tales of Oppression Without Rebuttal; Anchors Push McCain-Feingold; Sweden's Socialist Scheme; Even Liberals See Liberal Bias; Janet Cooke Award: All Hail Anita Hill, Millionaire Victim
Frenzy Over Princess Diana's Death Buries Senate Fundraising Hearing Coverage
Celebrity Culture Sinks Politics Again
In July, MediaWatch noted how compelling details of the Senate fundraising hearings were buried by the media frenzy over the murder of designer Gianni Versace, with a Versace-to-hearings ratio of 7 to 1 on the network morning shows.
At the end of August, Britain's Princess Diana died in a car crash. While the death of the most photographed woman in the world is news, it is certainly not as important as a fundraising imbroglio implicating President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the two most powerful men in the world.
Or is it? MediaWatch analysts examined fundraising scandal stories in August and September on the Big Three morning shows and evening shows, plus CNN's The World Today. The networks broadcast 686 stories on Diana between August 31 and the end of September compared to just 113 stories about the fundraising scandal. That's a ratio of more than 6 to 1. Isolating the morning shows, collectively they aired 407 stories on Princess Diana's death, while devoting just 36 to the scandal. That's an astonishing ratio of 10 to 1.
In August, the networks combined for a paltry total of 16 full stories and five anchor briefs on the evening shows, and five full stories and two briefs in the morning. In the evening, ABC aired only one fundraising story in the whole month. CBS was next with four full stories and one brief, followed by NBC Nightly News with five full stories (mostly about Johnny Chung) and two anchor briefs. CNN The World Today ran the most coverage with six full stories and two anchor briefs.
TV coverage picked up when Sen. Fred Thompson's Governmental Affairs Committee reconvened hearings in September, but many disclosures were missed. The evening shows broadcast a total of 51 full stories of scandal coverage with 25 anchor briefs.
Like most other months this year, most networks skipped fundraising stories on a majority of their broadcasts. In September's 30 days, with the Thompson hearings in their most dramatic stage, the morning shows were all guilty (CBS 28 days with no story, NBC 24, ABC 22). In the evening, CBS, ABC (both 20 nights off) and NBC (19) took more than half the month off, while only CNN (12) didn't.
The Big Three morning shows aired a total of 21 full stories and 17 anchor briefs on the fundraising scandal. Like July and August, the morning shows did not have a single member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on to discuss the hearings.
CBS This Morning broadcast just two anchor briefs and one full story, and it was about Justice Department inquiries, not the Thompson hearings. That's three reports compared to 109 on Diana's death. On ABC's Good Morning America, the Diana-to- scandal ratio was 145 to 17. Like the Versace story, NBC's Todaybroadcast the most Diana segments with 153, versus 18 segments on fundraising.
CNN's The World Today showed 92 segments on Princess Diana's death while airing 34 segments on fundraising in September. CNN offered a segment on the Thompson hearings almost every day they were in session in September. Though The World Today had about twice the stories as the other newscasts, the show is twice as long.
In the evening, NBC aired the second most stories, devoting 15 segments to the fundraising story, compared to 66 on Diana. CBS broadcast 67 segments about Diana, but just 14 about the fundraising scandal. ABC showed the least Diana segments (46) but only aired 12 stories on fundraising, creating the greatest discrepancy between Diana news and fundraising news at a ratio of almost 4 to 1.
In addition to spotty coverage of the Thompson hearings, the networks continued to ignore interesting print developments in the scandal:
August 5: A New York Daily News story detailed how Al Gore made at least 48 calls from the White House, many more than he previously admitted. Coverage: None at that time.
August 8: The Washington Post reported the DNC handed over 4,000 pages of documents from the files of its former Finance Chairman Richard Sullivan after he testified, rendering them almost useless to the committee. Coverage: zero.
August 1: NBC aired an interview with Johnny Chung, who told viewers that aides to Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary demanded he make a $25,000 contribution to the Secretary's favorite charity before he could discuss arranging a meeting with her. But CBS News viewers didn't hear about the scandal until almost a full month later. Through September, ABC News viewers still had not heard Chung's explosive charges about O'Leary.
September 6: The Washington Post published an article alleging that Al Gore knew the nature of the Buddhist temple event because he referred to it as a "fundraiser" in an e-mail he sent to a staffer. Coverage: Zero.
September 9: DNC Chairman Don Fowler testified before the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Despite saturation coverage of RNC Chairman Haley Barbour's appearance a few months before, neither ABC's World News Tonight nor any morning show filed a report.
September 11: Gene and Nora Lum, big Democratic contributors and major players in the fundraising scandal, were sentenced to 10 months in prison for hiding illegal donations to Senator Ted Kennedy's re-election campaign. Coverage: Zilch. Also, Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger testified before the Thompson committee. Coverage: only CNN, and ABC (for 18 seconds).
September 12: The Los Angeles Times reported that top intelligence officials told the Thompson panel that Ted Sioeng, a big Democratic donor, may have been the conduit for money and a major player in a Chinese scheme to influence the U.S. elections. Network coverage: nothing.
September 18: The Washington Post story was headlined "Papers Show Use of DNC Ads to Help Clinton." The story quoted consultant Dick Morris on how the Clinton campaign could evade the spirit of election laws and press its advertising themes with DNC soft money. Network coverage at that time? Zero.
September 19: A trio of Democratic consultants plead guilty to funneling union money into Teamsters' President Ron Carey's re-election campaign. Coverage: Only CNN, and a Good Morning America anchor brief on ABC.
September 26: The Los Angeles Times reported a Senate deposition of Clinton aide Harold Ickes revealed he witnessed Clinton make calls from the White House. Network coverage? ABC and NBC did zero, CBS Evening News gave it 21 seconds, and CNN had noted the deposition on the 12th.
NewsBites: Suspect Schieffer
Suspect Schieffer. During the hearings on IRS abuses of taxpayers, CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer continually questioned the motives behind them. On the September 24 This Morning, Schieffer told anchor Jane Robelot: "Republican leaders in the Senate have sent out fundraising letters soliciting donations by saying, ‘Your support will help us to end the reign of terror of the IRS.’ So, while it’s true there are certainly some reforms needed in the IRS, I think because these fundraising letters have been sent out, a lot of people think these hearings are suspect."
On that weekend’s Face the Nation, Schieffer conceded his bias in a question to Senator Orrin Hatch: "I think one reason that a lot of people in Washington, and I include myself in that group, did not take these hearings all that seriously in the beginning is that the Republicans sent out some fairly odious, in my view, fundraising letters where they said, you know, send us ten dollars and we’ll help bring pressure to get rid of the IRS. And I think people, in some cases, saw these hearings as just a part of a Republican fundraising effort...But do you think it’s not such a good idea in retrospect to be, trying to raise money on the idea of eliminating the IRS?"
Sheila Who? On the October 2 World News Tonight, ABC’s Sam Donaldson asked: "Remember Sheila Heslin, the former White House National Security Council official who told the Senate committee how she did her best to keep the notorious oil pipeline entrepreneur and big bucks Democratic contributor, Roger Tamraz, from obtaining a private meeting with President Clinton?"
How could you remember Heslin if you were a loyal viewer of World News Tonight? ABC hadn’t introduced her. When Heslin testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs committee on September 17 about how she was pressured to give Tamraz a personal meeting with President Clinton, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw called it "the most compelling evidence so far of just how far the Clinton administration would go to raise money for its campaign." But NBC was the only broadcast network to air Heslin’s story.
Donaldson revealed the Justice Department has decided not to pay Heslin’s legal bill "which amounts to thousands of dollars." He continued: "It is said that virtue is its own reward. But having to pay for the honor of possessing it would probably strike most people as grossly unfair and the betting here is that one way or the other Uncle Sam will eventually pick up the tab."
One America? The networks portrayed the President’s national racial advisory board as America’s last great hope for racial healing and open-mindedness. But if the networks closely examined the diversity board’s members they would have discovered the opinions of the board are anything but diverse.
In the October 13 National Review, Evan Gahr highlighted the very narrow and liberal views of the board’s members. Gahr noted board member and California lawyer Angela Oh justified the criminal actions during the Los Angeles riots of 1992. "There is no way in hell that the events of the past several days can be placed on our shoulders, black or Korean...The chaos was the result of much larger failures — political, economic, and social."
Gahr revealed panel chairman John Hope Franklin’s monolithic version of diversity in describing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: "You always have such people in any group...I suspect they may be Judases of a kind...betrayers, opportunists, immoral opportunists. It’s very tempting, I suppose, for people of weak character to be co-opted by the majority that can use them." Franklin also blamed GOP critics of quotas: "In an atmosphere of tolerance of racial bigotry parading under the banner of racial neutrality, white students have been encouraged to intimidate, terrorize, and make life miserable for African-American students at many of our institutions."
On the June 13 NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw overlooked all this when he announced the new Clinton panel: "President Clinton tonight launched a campaign to try to narrow this country’s racial division. He held a meeting with his newly appointed task force on race relations, which is headed by historian John Hope Franklin. And tomorrow the President will give a major speech on the subject in San Diego. The theme here: promoting racial healing to create, what he calls, one America."
Honesty: Not the Best Policy. When University of Texas (UT) law professor Lino Graglia spoke out against racial quotas in college admissions, saying they lead to the admission of blacks and Hispanics who "are not academically competitive with whites," it caused an uproar among the liberal student body and the liberal networks. Good Morning America devoted a segment to the controversy. NBC’s Today aired a debate between Graglia and a Latino student, preceded by a Jim Cummins news story. NBC showed Graglia in sinister-looking slow motion accompanied by Cummins: "Michael Sherlott, Dean of the University of Texas Law School, says Graglia’s remarks are regrettable." After a Graglia soundbite from his news conference ("I’m afraid there is no way that I can avoid being called racist"), Cummins concluded: "A subject for discussion, perhaps, in the course he teaches on race relations."
On the September 16 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather introduced the story as "a new reminder tonight of our racial problems." Reporter Bob McNamara opened "At the University of Texas, where a white law professor’s remarks about minority students stunned a campus, Reverend Jesse Jackson came wading into the fray," followed by a soundbite of Jackson urging a boycott of Graglia.
Without debating the substance of Graglia’s remarks, McNamara focused on student outrage and calls for Graglia’s ouster, claiming "the furor over the remarks is part of the fallout of a federal court ruling outlawing affirmative action recruiting programs at all colleges in Texas." McNamara warned darkly: "Administrators promise an investigation, and until the findings are known, Professor Lino Graglia remains ‘professor non grata.’"
But The Weekly Standard noted Graglia’s remarks matched what UT official Mark Gergen wrote in a 1989 memo: "It is impossible to make meaningful distinctions between Black and MA [Mexican- American] applicants without some sort of quota as a reference, for compared to our Anglo applicants, virtually none would get in. In prior years I could rationalize what I did as admitting all who had a decent chance of succeeding in law school. Experience proves many of those I voted for could not compete."
No Extremists on the Left. Greenpeace is an organization that defines itself by radical politics — and radical tactics. They chain themselves to ships, trespass and show little respect for property rights, a sort of green militia. But the media don’t present them as extreme. On September 16, Peter Jennings began: "One of the world’s most familiar organizations has acknowledged it is in terrible trouble. The environmental group Greenpeace, which has led the way in confronting those who they regard as doing harm to the environment, has been obliged to reduce its American operation dramatically."
Positive Greenpeace spin also came from anchor Aaron Brown on the August 16 edition of World News Tonight: "These are difficult days for the environmental group Greenpeace, probably the best known, and most active of all the environmental groups."
Greenpeace was described as "familiar," "active," and "well known." But consider a conservative group that’s faced declining membership — the NRA. On May 19, 1995, Peter Jennings began World News Tonight: "We begin tonight with the National Rifle Association, one of the most feared, most criticized, and most resilient lobbying groups in the nation." Or try Carole Simpson introducing a NRA story on the May 5, 1997 World News Tonight, run right after a look at the Republic of Texas militia: "It is extremist groups, like the one in Texas, that the National Rifle Association hopes to distance itself from."
But the spin does not end with the anchors. Take ABC reporters on why the groups lost support. In 1995, Judy Muller found extremism: "The NRA’s recent reputation as a group representing more radical elements has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of membership dues among some high-profile resignations." For Greenpeace, reporter Ned Potter noted tactics, but not ideology: "Maybe that confrontational image backfired...But Greenpeace disagrees. Sure, maybe it needs some leaner management, it says, but you save more oceans by making picturesque protests than by lobbying like everyone else." Potter concluded warmly: "Greenpeace will keep going, but it’s having to reexamine itself at a time when it says the world’s problems are as urgent as ever."
Importing New Welfare Victims. After Congress passed a law limiting food stamp eligibility for immigrants, for the September 28 Evening News CBS found a sympathetic "victim" of the new policy. Anchor John Roberts introduced Sharyl Attkisson’s story: "In this country many poor legal immigrants are now being forced to live without food stamps. Tough new welfare rules are limiting who gets federal help. And as Sharyl Attkisson reports, the immigrant community is struggling to cope."
Her story focused on legal immigrant Moises Sapiro, a recent Russian emigre who doesn’t work, can’t speak English and gets $15 a month of food stamps "to help him survive in America," aid halted by the new law. Attkisson saw Sapiro as just one example in an onrushing wave of imperiled immigrants: "About a million legal immigrants are losing their food stamps, so the states are being forced to step in. Eleven already have started new food aid programs." But she didn’t question how losing fifty cents a day would imperil Sapiro’s "survival."
Attkisson did allow Rep. Bob Goodlatte to explain that the law simply insisted that newly legalized immigrants hold up their end of the bargain by supporting themselves: "It is...a very fair thing to do, to simply say, this is the agreement you reached when you came into this country." But Attkisson countered by visiting a church deacon who fretted over his ability to feed the expected onslaught of hungry immigrants, noting: "It’s too soon to know how many will be looking for new help. But food banks across the country run by charities are already strained." She concluded by relaying fear of impending horrors: "For those who are seeing their grocery money slashed, there’s a real anxiety about where they’ll get their next meal."
Scary Harry. In a September 28 60 Minutes profile of calypso singer Harry Belafonte, Ed Bradley described him as "a singer, actor, producer, and ambassador for human rights." Really? So why does Bradley’s human rights ambassador back the Cuban dictatorship? In 1992, he was listed as a supporter of the worldwide rallies sponsored by Peace for Cuba International Appeal. Flyers distributed by rally organizers stated: "The Pentagon is practicing invasion exercises while Bush attacks Cuba for resisting his ‘new world order.’ A strong rally will let Bush and the Pentagon know that they don’t have a free hand to make war against Cuba."
On Donahue in 1994, Belafonte did not blame the failure of "democratic" Marxism in developing nations on Marxism, but on the U.S.: "Whether it’s Aristide, or it’s [Salvador] Allende in Chile...or it’s [Patrice] Lumumba [in the Congo], everywhere you look, when...people have had miserable consequence [sic] in their efforts of trying to become democratic, you find America at the center of it all."
Bradley saw no irony in a man who rails against anti-communist policies, but when reflecting on what the U.S. has afforded him, stated: "Life has been overwhelmingly rewarding for me. And I’ve looked at it and I’ve said my God, to have come from abject poverty and to now be told that I am a national treasure, wow what a journey."
Revolving Door: Kaplan's No-Scandal Decree
Can you do a two-hour show on campaign fundraising and not use the word "scandal"? Incredibly enough, under the command of new CNN President Rick Kaplan the answer is yes. The September 15 Washington Whispers section of U.S. News & World Report relayed that at his first early morning board meeting in Atlanta, "Kaplan raised a few eyebrows by telling CNN staffers to limit their use of the word scandal in reporting on Clinton’s campaign fundraising woes." U.S. News added: "A longtime Clinton friend, Kaplan has stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom."
Weeks later, on October 7, CNN aired a two-hour special titled "The Money Trail: Democracy for Sale" which examined the GOP and argued for campaign finance reform, but also summarized charges against Clinton. Nonetheless, the phrase "Clinton scandal" was never uttered.
The words "scandal" or "scandals" appeared just four times. Twice in the Crossfire segment of the special liberal Bill Press claimed that Republicans are trying to use scandal to bring down Clinton since they can’t win on the issues. At another point, Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs made reference to how "the campaign funding scandal hasn’t slowed the parties’ lust for soft money." And the fourth "scandal" mention? Here it is, from Brooks Jackson: "So, you want to be a Washington player, get next to the powerful, lobby for a tax break or a nice ambassador’s job? If you’ve got money, I can help. First, you’ve got to get around that law they enacted back in ‘74 after the Watergate scandal..."
Kaplan’s Grocery Bill
A federal judge ruled in late August that Rick Kaplan must pay a penalty to Food Lion for his role as Executive Producer of ABC’s Prime Time Live when it ran the infamous undercover story on the grocery chain. Federal Judge N. Carlton Tilley in North Carolina reduced the jury award from $5.5 million to $315,000 in punitive damages. The judge also lessened but did not drop the penalty on Kaplan and producer Ira Rosen, who is still with ABC. They must each pay $7,500, down from the original $35,000.
ABC appealed the ruling, but the judge rebuked the tactics sanctioned by Kaplan: "Despite the many protections necessary for the proper operation of the press, it would be a peculiar rule indeed which immunized illegal activity, undertaken with a consciousness of wrongdoing, from punishment and deterrence."
Clinton’s Bias Watchdog
Donald Baer left his White House Communications Director post in August to help create a new media monitoring magazine, Content. The ex-U.S. News & World Report Assistant Managing Editor who jumped to the Clinton team as chief speechwriter in 1994, has joined the magazine to be launched in early 1998 by Steven Brill, founder of CourtTV. A prototype, the Washington Post reported Sept. 8, features a cover showing the Big Three anchors: "We’re Never Sorry (Just try getting the networks to make a correction.)"
But don’t expect Baer to push for an article on the media skipping many Clinton scandal developments. In a September 23, 1996 Weekly Standard profile, Christopher Caldwell relayed, "One New Democrat who met Baer at a dinner last year described him as ‘bland beyond description, a fount of cliches. ‘Clinton was the moral leader of the Universe,’ and all that.’"
NBC Presents Convicted Felon's Tales of Oppression Without Rebuttal
Susan McDougal vs. Nazi Starr?
Susan McDougal stands convicted of felonies in the theft of a fraudulent Small Business Administration loan. She is now jailed for contempt for refusing to answer vital questions about whether the President perjured himself in her trial. But Dateline NBC didn’t present her as a crook, but as a victim of historical proportions.
Stone Phillips spent the first of the October 5 and 6 pieces raising McDougal to martyr status through sympathetic accounts of her imprisonment. He interviewed one of her prison mates: "Butch told Dateline that while Susan McDougal was locked in her cell for up to 23 hours a day, other prisoners, even the accused murderers, were allowed to watch TV and socialize."
On the second night Phillips took McDougal’s outrageous claims of oppression to a new network TV low. McDougal compared Starr’s tactics to the Nazis, and Phillips didn’t even feign surprise at this remark. He merely elaborated: "Kenneth Starr a Nazi? To understand the depth of Susan McDougal’s hatred for the man who had her jailed, you have to understand the depth of her love for the woman who’s been her inspiration...Susan McDougal’s mother Lorette Hinley knows all about standing firm under enormous pressure. As a teenager in Nazi-occupied Belgium she saw first- hand how the Gestapo turned neighbor against neighbor forcing people to lie about loved ones who were then arrested or shot. She says her family defied them, going so far as to hide Resistance fighters in their basement."
Phillips continued: "Those lessons from the war were often told around the family dinner table in Camden, Arkansas but never with more at stake than in September 1996, the night before Susan was scheduled to testify before a Whitewater grand jury. She’d already been convicted of fraud, and she says prosecutors were offering to lighten her two year sentence if she’d testify against the Clintons, but that night she called her family together to tell them...she wasn’t going to testify at all."
After more Nazi comparisons by McDougal and her mother, Phillips finally asked: "Is it fair to compare Kenneth Starr to the Nazis? Isn’t Kenneth Starr just doing what prosecutors do everyday in this country, offering leniency to those who cooperate and upping the pressure on those who don’t talk?"
Phillips ended by lofting this softball: "Your family says that you could make two phone calls. One to the prosecutors, one to a publisher and you’d be free and you’d be rich. Are those phone calls you’ll ever make?" Phillips seemed to forget she has yet to serve time for the fraudulent Whitewater loans she and the Clintons never repaid.
Anchors Push McCain-Feingold
Lobbying for "Reform"
On the night of the Senate’s first vote to invoke cloture on the campaign finance "reform" debate, the network anchors mourned the death of the big government McCain-Feingold bill.
As Peter Jennings put it on the October 7 World News Tonight: "Now let’s turn to getting money out of politics. In the full Senate today campaign finance reform never had a chance. Reformers have been trying to change the system that many people think has caused so many of the fundraising problems but the McCain-Feingold bill, as it’s called, one Republican, one Democrat, went down to defeat today."
On CBS, Bob Schieffer also painted more government rules as the natural answer to 1996 campaign corruption: "For all the outrage at the hearings today, a few hours later Senate Republican Leader Lott went to the Senate floor and used parliamentary tactics to prevent the Senate from voting on campaign reform legislation. That, for all practical purposes, killed reform for another year and the Democratic leader saw some irony in that."
NBC’s Tom Brokaw rued the loss of more government regulation: "For all the rhetoric and the outrage about what happened in the ‘96 campaign, a bill that would overhaul the system was all but killed off today in a partisan battle. It was sunk by two procedural votes. One of which was a Republican amendment requiring labor unions to poll their members before making campaign contributions. Democrats saw that as a deliberate attempt to kill reform."
To the media, opponents of McCain-Feingold are simply enemies of good government, not protectors of civil rights. This was evident in Tom Brokaw’s September 26 Nightly News introduction to a profile of Mitch McConnell, a key defender of free speech: "And tonight NBC’s Gwen Ifill tells us about a Republican Senator who is a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to campaign finance reform and he’s proud of it."
None of the stories noted that new restrictions on who could advertise before an election would make the media even more influential. Nor did they alert viewers to an "evolution" of the bill. The broadcasters got "reform" backers to drop mandatory free TV time for candidates.
Sweden's Socialist Scheme
Most network news reports from Europe extol the virtues of socialism, so it must have been a surprise for viewers of Nightline to see the September 16 look at Sweden’s attempt to build the master race.
Ted Koppel opened: "Eugenics sterilization, this belief that we can protect or even improve the human race by social engineering, by deciding who should or who should not be permitted to have children has, it turns out, been fairly widespread. It was carried out to its most obscene limits, of course, in Nazi Germany. That, we knew. What most of us didn’t know was that it was carried out long after the end of the Second World War in a country renowned, as John Laurence now reports, as one of the most enlightened."
After outlining the socialist ideal of equality, Laurence continued: "There is also a dark side to Sweden. Now it is known that for 40 years, between 1935 and 1976, Swedish doctors routinely sterilized tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, mostly young, mostly women." Those seen as less desirable were identified, including gypsies and Jews.
As the show ended Koppel observed: "What is so mind-boggling about this, John, is we’re talking about the Swedes here. We’re not talking about a bunch of fascists in World War II Germany, and yet, this happened in this paradise of social engineering."
Good News About Guns
For all the stories filled with anecdotes about accidental shootings NBC actually aired a story on the upside of gun possession.
On the September 26 Nightly News Tom Brokaw introduced a Kerry Sanders piece: "As senior citizens become more and more visible in our society and with their rising level of affluence, the sad fact is they are also becoming more popular as targets of crime...But in Florida fair warning from the Jacksonville area. They are not afraid to fight back even if it means shooting back."
Sanders talked to a waitress at a restaurant that was robbed at gunpoint. After she described her initial fright Sanders went to a heroic customer: "As she marched with the gun in her back a security camera shows most of the 40 customers hiding under the tables. But not 69 year old Ryland Moore."
After Moore recounted his shooting of the robber Sanders noted how the elderly were taking advantage of the concealed weapons law. "Nationwide an increasing number of elderly are taking gun safety classes and then carrying pistols for protection."
Sanders did talk to a local deputy worried about the danger of gun use, but he gave the last word to a resolute Moore. "So when you replay this in your mind, any mistakes?" Moore replied he wished he had a bigger gun so, "I would have stopped him dead."
Even Liberals See Liberal Bias
Only Media Still in Denial
Journalists are about the only group still refusing to acknowledge liberal media bias. A recent poll found that even liberals see a liberal over a conservative bias. The Center for Media and Public Affairs retained the Louis Harris Organization to conduct a poll of 3,000 people about attitudes toward the press. Amongst the findings reported in the May/June edition of the center’s newsletter:
n "Majorities of all major groups in the population, including 70 percent of self-described liberals, now see a ‘fair amount’ or ‘great deal’ of bias in the news. Only among high school dropouts does the perception of bias drop below 60 percent; among college graduates it rises above 80 percent. In general, perceptions of bias rise along with levels of education and political participation."
n "Those who see a liberal tilt outnumber those who detect a conservative bias by more than a two to one margin. Forty three percent describe the news media’s perspective on politics as liberal, compared to 33 percent who see it as a middle of the road, and 19 percent who find it to be conservative."
n "Even self-described liberals agree: 41 percent see the media as liberal, compared to only 22 percent who find the news to be conservative. Among self-designated conservatives, of course, the spread is even greater: 57 percent say the media are liberal and 19 percent see them as conservative."
The newsletter explained how these results disprove what reporters contend: "These findings challenge the argument of some journalists that bias is purely in the eye of the beholder" since "moderates and liberals alike see liberal bias in the media twice as often as they see conservative bias."
Janet Cooke Award: All Hail Anita Hill, Millionaire Victim
The liberal media see the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton as a politicized publicity stunt that does little more than cause pain to the Clinton family. So why do these same media outlets keep running the propaganda films of Anita Hill?
Not one witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 would confirm they witnessed any part of her wild charges against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Not one "corroborating" witness could even claim she’d ever named Thomas as her harasser.
But media liberals do not care if rehashing these charges again multiply the pain to Justice Thomas and his family. When Newsday reporter Timothy Phelps wrote a pro-Hill book in 1992, ABC and NBC interviewed him. When Wall Street Journal reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer wrote a pro-Hill book in 1994, all the networks interviewed them, and ABC devoted a one-hour special and a Nightline to their attacks on Thomas. Now in 1997, NBC aired two Today interviews and two Dateline segments to help sell Hill’s book — a financial bonanza Hill swore before the Senate she would never undertake. For presenting yet another tribute to Hill’s "courage" without the inconvenience of an opposing view, Dateline earned the Janet Cooke Award.
In Dateline’s two promotional segments on September 29 and 30, host Jane Pauley presented Hill as a victim, making almost no reference to Hill’s post-hearing career, of dozens of speaking appearances for a fee of $10,000 to $12,000 per event, or her two-book deal for $1 million. At the end of the second segment, Dateline’s only mention of Hill’s good fortune was used to further glorify Hill’s image. Stone Phillips announced: "Some of the profits from Hill’s book are going to a scholarship fund for survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing."
After beginning with a new poll showing more people now believe Hill than Thomas, Pauley used old pictures and current staged photo-ops of Hill standing on her old Oklahoma farm to create maximum sympathy. "Speaking Truth to Power, Anita Hill’s just released autobiography tells how the thirteenth child of a poor black Oklahoma farmer came to face fourteen white Senators and an audience of millions on a weekend in October few will ever forget."
Pauley’s questions never reflected the possibility that Hill had made up a story for partisan gain: "She had liked the work and got on well with her boss until, she said, he started pressuring her for dates and when she declined began to torment her with crude and suggestive remarks. Ten years later, she waited for Senate investigators to track her down as reporters already had. She agonized over what she’d tell them." She asked Hill: "Courage came slowly, didn’t it?" Later, as Hill expressed surprise that Thomas denied her charges, Pauley cooed: "I can see the steel in your spine even as you say that."
For two nights, Pauley presented Hill as the victim of a smear campaign — and never as the creator of one. Take this sentence: "Though her charges were explosive and potentially fatal to Clarence Thomas’ career, it was Anita Hill who faced the firing line." As if Thomas never faced a firing line that weekend.
Pauley recycled the charges made against Hill by Republican Senators, who were asked to cross-examine Hill on her credibility with only a couple of days to search for affidavits. For example, Sen. Alan Simpson was quoted saying: "So if we had 104 days to go into Miss Hill [as the Democrats had to investigate Thomas and his personal life], to go into her background, her proclivities..." Pauley jumped in: "Conservative columnist William Safire shared the common interpretation that in fact ‘proclivities’ was in fact a veiled suggestion that she was a lesbian."
But if NBC had considered David Brock’s book The Real Anita Hill, they would have found what Simpson said he was talking about: a former student of Hill’s at Oral Roberts University who told Simpson that weekend that Hill had once approached him at ORU and said in a suggestive manner "I know your favorite color is chocolate." On an another occasion, Hill asked teasingly "Who do you think you are, Long Dong Silver?" The student told Brock he thought of her as "the world’s kinkiest law professor," but his father objected to requests for an affidavit, saying it would hurt his son’s career. Brock added that Hill’s friend at EEOC, Diane Holt, couldn’t believe Hill was presented as a prim Baptist, when they often discussed men and sex at EEOC.
Pauley also noted: "In the end, she’d be called a liar for the record." NBC aired Sen. Arlen Specter claiming he suspected Hill of perjury. But Thomas was also accused of lying, not only about Hill, but about his claim he’d never discussed the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Liberals took out ads looking for people to discredit Thomas on that claim, but no one came forward.
By contrast, on pages 380 and 381 of Brock’s book, he lists 13 separate occasions where Hill lied or differed with dozens of other witnesses. For example, she claimed she moved from the Education Department to the EEOC because she thought she’d be out of a job, despite repeated explanations that she was a "career" employee, and despite Thomas’s successor, Harry Singleton, saying he asked her to stay on. But Pauley was too busy creating a sympathetic victim to review the actual case.
Pauley mentioned Sen. John Danforth. She told Hill he "says there was a mission of destruction, but you weren’t the victim he was thinking about, Clarence Thomas was." Pauley aired Hill’s reaction before asserting: "Danforth never wavered in his support of Thomas but now admits he ‘fought dirty’ and that his connivings to disseminate the dirt about Hill even months after the hearings went too far." Pauley returned to that thought when she concluded the second Dateline story, referring to the first story’s beginning, with the idea of Hill’s parents being shocked at the scandalous allegations hurled in the hearing room: "Former Senator Danforth, Justice Thomas’s Senate sponsor said, ‘I make no apology for trying to defend my friend. He went through a wretched ordeal. Never again should we allow this to happen in America.’ In fact, the thing Anita Hill wants most is an apology, but not to her — to her parents."
Aretha Marshall, producer of the NBC segments, did not return MediaWatch phone calls. To complete their promotion, NBC excerpted the Hill book on the MSNBC Web site. Despite all the liberal media help, Hill thinks she’s the victim of an unfair press: "The media’s lack of sensitivity about harassment, the brevity of coverage allotted, along with media manipulation by White House staff members and consultants may explain the faulty coverage. And these factors may shed light on why, throughout the process, an independent press went along with the Republican perspective." No surprise the Republicans wondered whether she was divorced from reality.