In This Issue
Study: Media Money Moves Left; NewsBites: Morton's Line on Crime; Revolving Door: From NBC To Glenn; Experts from the Left; The ABC's of Rights Reporting; Who Supports NOW?; Lucid Linda; Janet Cooke Award: ABC News: Commending Cuba
Study: Media Money Moves Left
No myth survives like the myth of corporate America supporting conservative policies in its own "corporate interest." A look at media company donation patterns shows just how wrong that is. Major newspapers, magazines, and television networks give predominantly and substantially to liberal political groups through a number of philanthropic arrangements, from private and company foundations to informal and unpublicized corporate contribution programs.
To discover the media's trends in political philanthropy, MediaWatch examined annual reports and publicly available foundation records at the Foundation Center in Washington, D.C. The records show a recurring attachment to liberal groups, including many which often serve as authoritative news sources. This symbiotic relationship -- media funds source, media quotes source -- raises serious questions about media impartiality.
TIMES MIRROR FOUNDATION: The Times Mirror Company owns the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and the Baltimore Sun. In every year from 1982 to 1986, Times Mirror gave $10,000 to Planned Parenthood. While it contributed $32,500 to the moderate-conservative American Enterprise Institute, it supplied Brookings and the Urban Institute with at least $170,000, not to mention a few thousand for the Democrat-connected Center for National Policy headed by Edmund Muskie.
Liberal: $608,500 (93.5%)
$ 1,000 ACLU Foundation
$ 55,500 Brookings Institution
$ 2,500 Center for National Policy
$ 5,000 Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
$ 10,000 NAACP
$ 10,000 NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
Conservative: $32,500 (6.5%) American Enterprise Institute
NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY FOUNDATION: The New York Times' foundation gave to the largest number of liberal groups. Annual reports from 1982 to 1986 reveal grants, such as $5,000 to the far-left magazine The Nation for a publishing internship. The Times has been a consistent supporter of environmental groups, from the National Wildlife Federation,(creators of "stimulating educational packages" for schools like "Welcome to the USSR,") to the World Resources Institute, (which opposes "cramming nuclear power down the throats of an unwilling public and unwilling investors.") Foundation President Fred Hechinger told MediaWatch "our decision to make grants is guided entirely by indications of the usefulness and effectiveness of the applicants and not by ideological considerations."
Liberal: $436,000 (96.5%)
$ 10,000 American Friends Service Committee
$ 19,000 Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies
$ 29,000 Brookings Institution
$ 10,000 Children's Defense Fund
$ 9,000 Conservation Foundation
$ 20,000 Council on Foreign Relations
$ 25,000 Environmental Action Coalition
$ 21,000 Environmental Defense Fund
$ 15,000 Environmental Law Institute
$ 15,000 Feminist Press, Inc.
$ 28,000 Foreign Policy Association
$ 3,000 Government Accountability Project
$ 3,000 King Center for Nonviolent Social Change
$ 45,000 NAACP
$ 5,000 NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 8,000 National Audubon Society
$ 5,000 National Commission on U.S.-China Relations
$ 20,000 National Public Radio
$ 20,000 National Urban League
$ 6,000 National Wildlife Federation
$ 5,000 The Nation Institute
$ 11,500 Natural Resources Defense Council
$ 19,000 NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 24,500 Planned Parenthood
$ 12,000 Population Resource Center
$ 10,000 Sierra Club
$ 5,000 Urban Institute
$ 24,000 Wilderness Society
$ 5,000 World Resources Institute
$ 4,000 World Wildlife Fund
Conservative: $16,000 (3.5%)
$ 6,000 American Enterprise Institute
$ 10,000 Media Institute
PHILIP L. GRAHAM FUND: This foundation of the Washington Post- Newsweek empire gives mostly to local charities, but in its 1983-1987 annual reports, its grants to political groups were substantial. They gave $20,000 to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in 1987, the same year the group fought to reject Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. Their annual report called that "the most heartening event for the civil rights community last year."
Liberal: $170,000 (94.4%)
$ 15,000 Central American Refugee Center
$ 25,000 Council on Foreign Relations
$ 75,000 Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies
$ 20,000 Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
$ 5,000 NAACP
$ 30,000 Women's Legal Defense Fund
Conservative: $10,000 (5.6%) American Enterprise Institute
GENERAL ELECTRIC FOUNDATION: NBC's parent company foundation is the least one-sided, contributing more than a fourth of its money to conservative groups. The list below comes from its 1986 annual report. In response to a request by MediaWatch for further information, GE Foundation President Paul Ostergard responded by pointing out that in 1988 GE gave $15,000 to both the conservative Heritage Foundation and Hudson Institute.
Liberal: $321,000 (72.4%)
$ 40,000 Brookings Institution
$ 10,000 Center for National Policy
$ 25,000 Conservation Foundation
$ 25,000 Council on Foreign Relations
$ 20,000 Environmental Law Institute
$ 10,000 Foreign Policy Association
$ 34,000 Institute for International Economics
$ 5,000 Joint Center for Political Studies
$ 35,000 NAACP
$ 2,000 NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 25,000 National Audubon Society
$ 10,000 National Urban Coalition
$ 50,000 National Urban League
$ 30,000 Urban Institute
Conservative: $122,500 (27.6%)
$ 10,000 American Council for Capital Formation
$ 5,000 American Council on Science and Health
$ 80,000 American Enterprise Institute
$ 10,000 Institute for Contemporary Studies
$ 7,500 Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation
$ 10,000 Manhattan Institute
CAPITAL CITIES FOUNDATION: Capital Cities owns ABC and a chain of newspapers that includes the Kansas City Star and Times. Among 1986 recipients: the Gloria Steinem-founded Women's Action Alliance and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund which works to educate "media decision-makers about the complex equality issues that comprise the women's rights agenda," including "reproductive freedom" and "affirmative action."
Liberal: $43,500 (97.8%)
$ 15,000 NAACP
$ 1,500 National Council of Negro Women
$ 3,500 National Urban Coalition
$ 15,000 National Urban League
$ 5,000 NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
$ 2,500 United Nations Association
$ 1,000 Women's Action Alliance
Conservative: $1,000 (2.2%) Manhattan Institute
NewsBites: Morton's Line on Crime
Morton's Line On Crime. What's the story behind the record rate of drug-related crime in Washington, D.C.? On the April 10 Evening News, reporter Bruce Morton explained. Corrupt city government? Lax law enforcement? Decline in moral values? Of course not. "We may be paying for past mistakes. Welfare benefits down since 1972. Nationwide Head Start enrollment down. Gap between richest and poorest Americans wider."
TIME's Green Piece. At the end of a seven-page April 17 cover story on the Alaskan oil spill, Time senior writer Michael Lemonick told readers "finding more oil is not the answer to energy needs; a coherent policy encouraging fuel conservation is."
What's the Time agenda on the environment, as promoted in this "news" story? "The time has come to get tough about conservation. The first step should be an immediate increase in the federal gasoline tax...The second obvious step is to raise the auto industry's fuel-economy requirements."
Educating Eric. On the April 6 CBS Evening News, correspondent Eric Engberg reported that in 1985 then Vice President George Bush "carried promises of U.S. aid to the military dictatorship in Honduras." Although Bush was shown embracing Honduras' democratically elected civilian President, Roberto Suazo Cordova, this eluded Engberg. Since 1981, the fledgling democracy of Honduras has been electing its leaders under a constitutional government.
Frelimo Line. Thousands of people will die from hunger in Mozambique this year. Some blame the Marxist FRELIMO government which has savaged the nation's economy for years, but not ABC's Richard Serge. Instead, Serge's target throughout his April 10 Nightline story was the anti-communist RENAMO rebels.
Referring to RENAMO as the source of "the man-made disaster," Serge said "RENAMO has been charged with using brutality and torture." His source? A member of FRELIMO's army accusing the rebels of human right abuses.
During the discussion which followed, Ambassador Oumarou Youssoufou of the Organization of African Unity voiced support for the Marxist FRELIMO government and hoped "that RENAMO will eventually lose its support." The report and following discussion included nary a glimpse of a RENAMO supporter or a word of criticism for FRELIMO. So much for balance on Nightline.
Kathleen Misses the Union Label. On April 11, when CBS This Morning guest Frank Borman, former head of Eastern Airlines, blamed the airline's troubles in part on "irresponsible union leadership," anchor Kathleen Sullivan seemed surprised. She responded: "That's the first time we've really heard that. What do you mean, irresponsible union leadership?"
High and Mighty On SDI. Here's a beauty. The pro-SDI Center for Peace and Freedom recently obtained an internal "farewell memo" from former SDI chief, Air Force Lt. General James Abrahamson. In mid-March the memo, which urged development of the "Brilliant Pebbles" defense system, was released to the press.
ABC News Pentagon reporter Bob Zelnick immediately shot off a letter to the conservative group, declaring: "The day you or anyone else believes that you can influence my coverage by what you decide to parcel out is the day you have lost touch with reality in more ways than in the strategic system you endorse."
Zelnick explained that ABC's failure to report the story "reflected my judgment that we have more important things to cover than Abe's seat of the pants judgment about a virtually untested technology which no one is about to deploy in the foreseeable future." And then this bombshell: "I shall continue to cover that subject [Star Wars] and other matters related to military affairs as completely and objectively as I possibly can."
The night of April 27, CBS, CNN and NBC all covered the successful test firing of the "Brilliant Pebbles" system. ABC didn't.
Whitney Witch Hunt. New York Times correspondent Craig Whitney filed reports from London on March 10 and 11 that Angolan resistance leader Jonas Savimbi had accused opponents of being "witches" and had them burned in public bonfires. In response to these and a battery of other charges, UNITA's Free Angola Information Service in Washington released a seven-page refutation of the charges in Whitney's stories, calling them a "propaganda offensive" by the ruling Marxist MPLA.
So who is telling the truth? Whitney's source was Fred Bridgland, author of the sympathetic biography Jonas Savimbi: A Key To Africa. Bridgland said he had specifically refused to speak to the Times because their Angola coverage had been "consistently skewed." After being pressed by Times writers, Bridgland agreed to talk if they would pledge to keep it off the record. Whitney's report not only broke the pledge, but used statements Bridgland later said "I have simply not subscribed to. Most of them are fabrications." Bridgland told the Times they had "wildly overstepped the bounds of journalistic ethics."
No Rights for Reagan. Some people believe the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is no place for conservatives. A lengthy April 11 piece on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour shows PBS apparently agrees.
Correspondent Kwame Holman reviewed the history of the commission. Holman's ten-minute report relied heavily on former chairman Arthur Flemming, whose commission attacked Reagan's first budget, charging "huge cuts in social programs amounted to a massive retreat on civil rights." Holman called Flemming one of "the first casualties of the Reagan Administration's effort to place on the commission people who adhered to Reagan's conservative ideology." He found that "many on the Hill said Reagan had gone too far in replacing the Civil Rights Commission's moderate and liberal members with hand-picked conservatives."
The result? "For many, today's Civil Rights Commission is a poor reflection of what was intended by those who laid the groundwork for civil rights 25 years ago." For all the controversy over Reagan's conservative appointees, Holman couldn't find the time in his ten-minute report to interview a single one.
Rather Differing Opinions. "Good evening," CBS News anchor Dan Rather began on April 14, "The man [Oliver North] Presidents Reagan and Bush branded an American hero was portrayed in court today as a liar and a thief."
Three days later, when the House ethics committee's formal statement of charges against House Speaker Jim Wright was announced, Rather had this to say: "You've just been seeing and hearing live coverage of their initial presentation of the accusations -- mark the word, please, the accusations -- against the Speaker of the House, Jim Wright. The quote, statement of alleged violations by the committee is a list of accusations which is roughly, roughly equivalent to the House's version of an indictment."
Koppel on Communists. Remember Loyalties, Carl Bernstein's book about his communist parents? Nightline's Ted Koppel endorsed the book, and in so doing exposed his liberal view of American history. Koppel praised the book as "a testimony to courage: the courage of some unabashed trade unionists and civil rights workers, Leftists and yes, American Communists, who fought for principles that we now take for granted." Principled, courageous Americans like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, for example?
Feminist Agenda. "Sometimes society lies," lamented anchor Peter Jennings as he introduced the "American Agenda" segment on the April 12 World News Tonight. When does society "lie?" When it promises the happiness of marriage and children. In her report, Carole Simpson detailed the supposed woes of "displaced homemakers," who, because they do not work outside the home, are "one man away from poverty." Simpson championed Maine's government-funded program that helps these homemakers when divorced or abandoned. In his conclusion, Jennings said courts don't help women, who experience a 73 percent decline in living standards after divorce.
Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye told MediaWatch ABC ignored a key cause of the problem: no-fault divorce, which, she noted, "the feminist movement made so easy."
Bias By Choice. Over the last few months, MediaWatch has examined how the TV networks call those favoring abortion by their preferred tag, "pro-choice," while labeling those who'd prefer "pro-life" as "anti-abortion." Now, a MediaWatch survey of newspapers reveals a similar bias in their labeling. And it's being standardized by editors.
The Los Angeles Times' style book requires reporters to describe the two sides as "pro-choice" and "anti-abortion." On the abortion issue, Washington Post staff writer Charles Paul Freund reported on April 25, the Post has opted for "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion." The city editor of the Chicago Tribune best demonstrated the media's mindset, telling MediaWatch their labeling "depends on the event. If it's pro-choice, that's what we say. And if it's pro-life, we use 'anti-abortion.'"
CNN Takes A Look. Recent issues of MediaWatch have focused on the continuing double standard the media employ to label the combatants in the abortion debate. The February front page story, "Abortion Distortion," singled out CNN as especially blameworthy.
CNN reporter Jeanie Moos saw the article and decided to do a story on the subject. First, she interviewed spokesmen from both the National Right to Life Committee and Planned Parenthood. Then, as the camera panned the MediaWatch article, she reviewed the conclusions drawn by this newsletter.
Just as MediaWatch was especially critical of CNN, so too must we praise the network now for its willingness to explore true balance in its news reports.
Susan's Sunday Spots. Having struck out once on the Willie Horton "race" issue, undaunted Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich wanted a second chance to defend her handling of the campaign. Fortunately for Estrich, she had an enthusiastic ally in The Washington Post Magazine, which obligingly published a six page cover story by Estich on April 23.
The Post Magazine headline summarized Estrich's theme: "The Hidden Politics of Race: When George Bush made Willie Horton part of his campaign team, the issue he was raising wasn't just crime -- it was racial fear." MediaWatch is waiting for the six page piece attacking Democratic campaign strategy by Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater.
Minimum Wage Vito. Network reporters have had little trouble finding evidence to support the efforts of liberal Democrats to raise the minimum wage as much as possible. On March 23, CNN's Candy Crowley claimed: "the only area of near unanimous agreement is that after eight years on hold, minimum wage earners deserve a raise." Dismissing Republican concerns about possible inflation, Al Dale of ABC asserted "Economist Joel Popkin argues that that's not enough people to have a significant effect on the economy." Can the minimum wage provide a decent standard of living? ABC's Cokie Roberts informed viewers on March 11 that an adult supporting one child on the minimum wage would make "about $1,100 less than the poverty level."
CNN's Robert Vito, on April 13, was the lone reporter to warn that "if the minimum wage bill becomes law, it could result in increased inflation and a loss of jobs because of cost cutting measures by employers." Countering the myth that minimum wage earners are usually a family's main breadwinner, Vito described most minimum wage earners as young people whose income is "hardly a necessity for survival." Asking a minimum wage earner to assess the affects of a possible increase, Vito said "she could survive unemployment, but poor people the minimum wage bill is designed to help, she says probably could not."
Minding His Own Business. Far-Left media critic Jeff Cohen complains that the networks are run by Big Business, who control the news content in their own interest. Indeed, in an April interview with The Washington Post's Tom Shales, corporate network chief Ted Turner admitted he influences the program content of his Cable News Network, Turner Network Television and "Superstation" WTBS. What kind of influence does he exert? On the Soviet Union, Turner told Shales, "I absolutely trust them with my life. They're not even an enemy anymore." Shales noted that Turner "started his Better World Society, a huge drain on company finances, to encourage pacifist programming. Part of Turner's stance "is to be sharply antinuclear." Turner also revealed he originated the idea last year for CNN's pro-disarmament series, "The Battle for Peace."
Revolving Door: From NBC To Glenn
From NBC To Glenn. The director of affiliate news services for NBC News, Rebecca Bell, has found a new outlet for her news marketing talents. She's the new Press Secretary for Senator John Glenn, an Ohio Democrat. Bell served as Paris Bureau Chief from 1977 to 1985.
Tennessee in D.C. Senator Al Gore (D-Tenn.) recently named Marla Romash, an Associate Producer for Good Morning America in 1984, his Press Secretary. Romash just completed a stint as Director of Issues and Communications for liberal Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman's successful campaign for Senate. After putting in a year at ABC, in 1985 she became a reporter for WFSB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Hartford.
Nader's Rowe. The April 12 Christian Science Monitor contained a two page article by staff writer Jonathan Rowe reviewing the achievements of liberal anti-business activist Ralph Nader. The Monitor didn't bother to inform readers Rowe once worked for Nader. Before joining the Monitor in 1985, Rowe served as Special Assistant to U.S. Representative Byron Dorgan (D-ND).
Marching for Abortion. Quite a few Big Media reporters attended the April 9 march for abortion rights in Washington, D.C., an article by The Washington Post's Eleanor Randolph revealed. Among them: New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse. She was unaware Times policy states that "staff members avoid employment or any undertakings, obligations, relationships or investments that create or appear to create a conflict of interest with their professional work for the Times." Nonetheless, Greenhouse will continue to cover the court when the abortion issue comes before it.
"A number of Washington Post reporters," including Post Magazine Senior Editor Amanda Spake who once helped edit the far-left magazine Mother Jones, also participated. This led Post Executive Editor Benjamin Bradlee to issue a directive: "We once again remind members of the newsroom's professional staff that it is unprofessional for you to take part in political or issue demonstrations." After reading the memo, another marcher, Post science editor Boyce Rensberger, wondered: "How can the Post permit reporters and editors to express their opinions on events in the news through op-ed pieces, news analysis and regular columns but prohibit the same people from expressing their opinions through the right of peaceable assembly?" Indeed.
Donilon and Beckel: Together Again. In 1984 Bob Beckel ran the Mondale campaign with the help of Deputy Manager Tom Donilon. Five years later, they are back together trying to formulate Democratic Party policy. In between, Donilon put his political skills to work for CBS News. When the short lived Joe Biden presidential effort left Senior Adviser Donilon unemployed, the network brought him aboard as a campaign coverage consultant. When the political conventions ended, Donilon jumped right back into politics, serving as debate coach for both Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen. Now, in a confidential memo to top Democratic Party operatives, the two are leading the charge to change the Democratic delegate selection rules for 1992.
Experts from the Left
CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer naturally devoted his April 15 "Washington Notebook" to "the time of year Americans hate most," especially now, since Americans "are suspecting that despite the tax reform of the past two years, all is still not right." In other words, the rich aren't paying their fair share.
The experts he called upon to build this case? Three liberals. First he interviewed economist Robert Reich without noting he was an adviser to Dukakis last year. Then he brought on Democratic Senator Jim Sasser, who charged that over the past eight years "we've seen...a transfer of tax liability squarely onto the backs of the middle class and the lower class."
Schieffer followed by declaring: "Tax reform slashed nearly a quarter of the breaks for the super-rich who now pay some taxes, but the taxes haven't kept pace with the profits that poured in because of the big cuts in corporate taxes during the Reagan years." The story concluded with Robert McIntyre, head of the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice, who dutifully urged action to "make the system fairer." If Schieffer had bothered to talk to a non-liberal, viewers might have learned that IRS figures show that every year since 1984 the top five percent have paid an increasing share of taxes collected as the bottom 50 percent have paid less.
A few days later, an explosion on the U.S.S. Iowa killed more than 40 sailors. Almost before the smoke had cleared, ABC and CBS rushed on retired Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque of the Center for Defense Information (CDI) to exploit the disaster. The networks failed to mention CDI's liberal positions, permitting the organization's innocuous-sounding name to give the impression of a non-partisan information center. According to a recent issue of their Defense Monitor, CDI advocates slashing the U.S. nuclear deterrent by two-thirds, cutting the defense budget by a third, and withdrawing all U.S. troops from NATO.
The April 19 CBS Evening News featured La Rocque criticizing the Iowa for its old design. La Rocque reaffirmed this position April 20 on ABC's Good Morning America, proclaiming the 16-inch guns were just like "the old-fashioned muskets in the Revolutionary War." This charge reappeared on World News Tonight and Nightline as an argument against battleships. CBS reused its La Rocque sound bite on the April 20 This Morning. La Rocque returned to CBS on April 21 with a new complaint. "It's too complicated for new crews to operate this kind of gun," he charged. Neither network took any notice of this abrupt reversal.
The ABC's of Rights Reporting
The ABC's of Rights Reporting. Out of 37 stories it did on Cuba during Gorbachev's visit, ABC devoted only one story by John Quinones (on Good Morning America) to the human rights violations of a nation classified as "fundamentally repressive" by the U.S. State Department. A few pieces made reference to Cuba's continuing rights 'problems,' but these were limited to vague generalities.
But clearly there was news of human rights violations in Cuba. On April 4, CBS This Morning and Evening News reported the Stalin- style pre-dawn arrest of activist Samuel Martinez-Lara. CBS cited seven more arrests on April 5. On April 11, This Morning anchor Harry Smith said 20 human rights activists were arrested during the Gorbachev visit. They have since been tried, without counsel, and are being held incommunicado.
Where was ABC? Their Cuban coverage had a different focus: six stories praising Cuba's health care system. On April 3, for instance, ABC's Paula Zahn declared: "Today even the poorest Cubans have found food to eat, their children are educated and even critics of the regime say Cubans have better health care than most Latin Americans."
No Threat to Thelkeld. ABC's Richard Threlkeld envisions a kinder, gentler Cuba. "These days Cuba doesn't count for nearly as much in the Soviet military scheme of things," Threlkeld explained during the April 3 World News Tonight report from Cuba. "Much of the equipment," Threlkeld asserted, "is old and obsolete." The camera panned scenes of tanks and MiG fighters as Threlkeld explained, "This Soviet weaponry is years behind the times." Threlkeld concluded, "On the list of Moscow's military priorities, Cuba's only an 'also ran.'"
But CBS Moscow correspondent Barry Petersen reported just the opposite during the same day's Evening News. "The Soviets have spent billions of dollars keeping Fidel Castro supplied," he found. "The equipment [is] the best the Soviet Union can supply ...Fidel Castro still believes in the Mao adage that power comes from the barrel of a gun...Cuba per capita has more men and women under arms than any country in the world."
Rather Naive. Dan Rather made a special appearance on CBS This Morning from Cuba on April 4. He told viewers to closely watch Gorbachev's upcoming speech on Central America, which would be "a big number." Thrilled to be a reporter in Havana, Dan gushed: "For Castro, this is a kind of palm tree glasnost already."
That night, after Castro had bashed the U.S. so hard that our representative left the hall, and after the two dictators had signed their predictable "friendship" accord, Rather still couldn't be disappointed. Despite Gorbachev's failure to promise any changes in Soviet policy toward Central America, Rather cheered Gorbachev's pledge that "he and Castro will work for improved East-West relations." It was left to reporter Barry Petersen to exercise damage control after the newsless speech: "I think we were a heartbeat away, just a heartbeat away, from Gorbachev about to say something dramatic. You know, you could see it in his face: it was almost there."
Who Supports NOW?
Here are the media company contributors listed in the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund's 1988 annual report:
Capital Cities/ABC Inc.
Gannett Company Inc.
New York Times Company
Aaron Spelling Productions
Washington Post Company
"Major Individual Contributors" to NOW LDEF included ABC correspondent Diane Sawyer and former CBS News President Frank Stanton.
CNN's PrimeNews now includes three commentaries a week from former NBC and ABC anchor Linda Ellerbee. Here are some excerpts. English translations are welcome.
"Now, now Mr. Bork, that's not a very Pro-Life like thing for you to say, [that the Warren Court made bad decisions] after all the Warren Court did exist, it was alive, once, unlike the Bork court, which did not exist, ever, thanks to contraceptive measures taken by those pros of choice, the members of the United States Senate." -- April 12.
"But Vanessa and I have known Kermit for 20 years now, and still we watch, not as often, but often enough to remind us about what counts in this life. Why are there so many songs about Rainbows, and what's on the other side? Children know... Maybe they can teach the rest of us, before we're too old to learn. Because it's not easy being green, or black, or red, or red, white, and blue. But you're all shades of green. And then, when we figure that out, maybe we'll be nicer to one another." -- April 14.
"You started to wonder, what kind of hero was this anyway? Either he was real stupid, or he was real wishy-washy, or worse. 'Yo, Ollie,' we asked, 'which is it' Tell the truth now. Whoops, try again. You can do it Ollie, you're a hero. Oh, I see, you don't want to be a hero, you just want to go home. Yeah, you and every other puppet I ever saw. Okay, Ollie, you go home, we'll even give you a map to help you find your way. It's called the Constitution of the United States of America, this time try reading it before you shred it. You hear." -- April 21.
"Time has a whoopee cushion for every occasion, have you noticed? For instance, while I am calmly aware that in 1989 my daughter will be 20, my son will be 19, and I will be 45, I am shocked. I find it obscene, unnecessary, and probably impossible that in 1989 Grace Slick will be 50, and Pete Seeger will be 70, and Che Guevara will be 61, or would be if he weren't already dead, which he is, so let's forget Che and get back to me, and Grace." -- April 26.
Janet Cooke Award: ABC News: Commending Cuba
You could say it was a long overdue report card for Cuba. After 20 years, ABC's Peter Jennings finally returned to Fidel Castro's Cuba and his overall assessment was nothing short of an 'A.' "Castro has delivered the most to those who had the least," declared Jennings on the April 3 World News Tonight, "And for much of the Third World, Cuba is actually a model of development."
In December, CBS This Morning co-host Kathleen Sullivan called Cuba a society with "a model health care program" and told viewers "Cubans are most proud of their schools -- almost everyone can read here." We pointed out that Sullivan relied on government sources and statistics to further her Cuban success story.
It's a success story that does not exist, but Jennings just a few months later furthered that picture once again. For this, he earns the May Janet Cooke Award.
Relying on official government statistics on literacy, he reported: "Education was once available to the rich and the well connected, it is now free to all. On January the first, 1959, when the Cuban dictator Battista left the country for good, only a third of the population could read and write. Today the literacy rate is 97 percent."
But Jennings' facts -- past and present -- are wrong. As Poverty of Communism author Nick Eberstadt points out, at the time of the last pre-revolutionary census (1953), the literacy rate for those fifteen and older was already 76 percent, one of the highest rates for a non-industrialized country at the time. As Eberstadt notes, Cuba's actual literacy rate is between 90 and 93 percent. Many of its neighbors had lower literacy rates in the 1940s and 1950s than Cuba, but today have higher rates than the communist country.
The communist government has a long history of glossing over or rigging poor health statistics and manufacturing good ones. But as he did with the education statistics, Jennings fell for the state's line on health care: "Medical care was once for the privileged few. Today it is available to every Cuban and it is free. Some of Cuba's health care is world class. In heart disease, for example, in brain surgery. Health and education are the revolution's great success stories."
Jennings neglected to mention the 1987 Communist Party survey which concluded that 87.6 percent of the inhabitants of one province were clearly dissatisfied with their health care. While official Cuban government statistics claim the infant mortality rate is steadily declining, National Academy of Sciences demographer Kenneth Hill has proved through Cuba's own life tables that it is constant and may in fact be on the rise. If Hill is right, says Eberstadt, Cuba's progress against infant mortality would not be the most rapid, but the slowest in the region.
He admitted that there is no freedom of speech, press, and that only a few dissidents are tolerated. Religion is suppressed and openly criticized by Castro, but Jennings simply labeled freedom of religion as "more complicated."
Amazingly, Jennings still felt the "Cuban record on human rights is not as bad as it once was" even though he noted "there are still several hundred political prisoners." Ricardo Bofill, former head of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, informed MediaWatch, that neither he in the U.S. nor any member of his organization in Cuba were ever contacted by ABC News at the time of their trip.
In his conclusion, Jennings gave a favorable impression of the revolution's impact: "When the visitor looks at the 1950 vintage American cars teetering along, there is an easy temptation to compare what is happening here with what Cubans have in America. In so many ways it is an unfavorable comparison. But many Cubans compare themselves instead with some of their other neighbors: Haiti, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico....And whatever the mistakes of this revolution, Cubans tend to blame the Communist Party or the bureaucracy. Rarely do they blame Castro."
Reached by MediaWatch, World News Tonight Press Representative Scott Richardson would not comment on the specifics of the program: "I'm not going to answer those questions because I don't have any editorial control. Jennings is Senior Editor of the show. He has a reputation for extremely fair and balanced reporting."
Richardson did say that the report and its statistics were gathered from the Europa Yearbook for 1988 and were substantiated by several consultants from Harvard and "a well-known, anti- Castro defector." Richardson refused to reveal either the name of the defector or other consultants.
What could explain Jennings' pro-Castro spin? Gullibility, sloppy research, ignorance, bias? Whatever the reason, it's a sad indictment of all the press says it stands for.