Back to the "Peaceable" Paradise: Media Soldiers for the Seizure of Elian

4.The news media have dismissed congressional criticism of the INS raid and calls for investigation as unpopular and unnecessary.

Within 48 hours of the raid, ABC and CNN/USA Today were conducting quickie polls. ABC found that 65 percent of Americans didn’t want congressional hearings, and CNN/USA Today reported it was 68 percent. So the media’s approach to oversight became that not only would they not press the administration for answers, they would also intimidate Congress out of pressing for answers.

  • CBS’s Bryant Gumbel asked Cuban American Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on The Early Show April 24: "Congressman, some of your colleagues have called for congressional hearings on this matter. I know you support such hearings. What would they accomplish besides just so much Reno bashing?"

  • NBC’s Katie Couric shared Gumbel’s disdain for hearings that morning, setting up Janet Reno with the inquiry: "The House Republicans say they want to hold hearings into the raid. Do you think they’re exploiting this issue politically?" Talking with Tim Russert about NBC’s poll on the raid, co-host Matt Lauer wrapped up: "And real quickly. One other point in the poll. 2 to 1, Americans are opposed to congressional hearings on this subject. Is that just because most people are tired of hearing about it?" Russert replied: "Absolutely. The issue has run its course. And they don’t like to spend money. As we saw during the whole impeachment process."

  • Time’s Margaret Carlson declared on the April 27 Good Morning America: "Elian Gonzalez, the less you say the better. Nobody wins, you know, saying too much on Elian Gonzalez, and I think she handled that just perfectly and Rudy being Rudy—and I take most of my, you know, I read Gail Collins [of The New York Times] all the time because she’s following that race so closely—you know, when Rudy is pure Rudy, he’s not good, and after, you know, being known for, you know, defending the police who’ve gunned down innocent people, for him to call this, you know, storm troopers and wade into the middle of it seems, you know, a political tin ear at best." 

img10Carlson’s "Public Eye" column in the May 8 issue chastised what she saw as perpetually failing Republican opportunists: "House Majority Whip Tom DeLay went ballistic over the government’s ‘jackbooted thugs.’ He was far more publicly incensed by U.S. marshals using guns to forestall the violence of the Miami crowd than he ever was over guns used by children to slaughter their classmates." She concluded: "Waco hearings didn’t work even though 80 people died. Impeachment hearings didn’t work, although the President actually had sex with that woman. Trying to show that reuniting a devoted father with his devoted son is a miscarriage of justice because the son had the misfortune to wash up on the shores of a swing state? No wonder Democrats are happy."

  • Newsweek’s Evan Thomas filed a May 8 article titled "Cashing In on Little Elian," in which he found the "vituperative postraid response of GOP lawmakers" was at odds with the public: "Most approved of the raid to return Elian to his father, and many people made clear that they were tired of the whole melodrama. On Capitol Hill, Republicans scheduled, then postponed, congressional hearings. That did not necessarily mean, however, that the exploitation of Elian was winding down."

  • Newsweek’s May 8 "Conventional Wisdom Watch" began with the comment: "Just as the CW was trying to enjoy an Elian-lite week, the tone-deaf GOP kept trying to flog the soggy issue for political gain."