CyberAlert -- 03/18/1997 -- Rosenberg a Victim

MRC Alert: Rosenberg a Victim; Lashing Limbaugh

1. Julius Rosenberg's Soviet handler concedes Rosenberg was a spy, but ABC and CBS still portray him as a victim.

2. A newspaper story ties misuse of CIA files to a Clinton fundraising effort, but ABC ignores the discovery.

3. U.S. News makes a big deal about a station dropping Rush Limbaugh. But given the station is it really newsworthy?

4. MediaWatch Revolving Door column. U.S. News shores up its liberal staff; two ABC veterans find homes on Clinton's team.

(Some people have sent e-mails requesting examples of bias from Bryant Gumbel. To see some, read the Best Notable Quotables of 1996 and the special December 30, 1996 Bye-Bye-Bryant edition. Go to:

1) "Julius Rosenberg Spied, Russian Says: Agent's Handler Contradicts Moscow in Controversial '50s Case," announced a headline on the front page of Sunday's Washington Post. But as happened when Alger Hiss died last fall, the networks saw the 1950s spy case through a left-wing prism. Rosenberg's handler, contradicting what liberals have maintained, has confirmed that Rosenberg had indeed been a spy and passed along critical information on military electronics, including the atomic bomb. But CBS and ABC found another angle to emphasize.

On Monday's (March 17) CBS This Morning, news anchor Jose Diaz-Balart reported:

"A retired KGB agent who worked with Julius Rosenberg says Rosenberg and his wife Ethel were not the top spies they've been made out to be. The Rosenberg's were executed in 1953 for giving the Soviets blueprints for the atomic bomb. The former KGB agent says Julius Rosenberg did pass some secrets to Moscow, but nothing useful for building the bomb."

On the March 16 World News Sunday, ABC reporter Jim Wooten began his story:

"There's no longer much debate over whether Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet spy. But after all these years a few questions still remain. Did he pass on atomic secrets? Was his wife Ethel involved? Was their execution justified? No, to all three answers Alexander Feklisov a former KGB agent in a documentary to be broadcast on the Discovery Channel next Sunday...."

After a soundbite from Feklisov, Wooten continued: "Fifty years ago Feklisov was the Soviet contact for Rosenberg and a network of other agents in New York City. He says Rosenberg did hand over important military material, but not atomic secrets. Historian Walter Schneir always a defender of Julius Rosenberg, has now changed his mind..."

Following clips of Schneir and historian Ronald Radosh, who always believed Rosenberg was guilty, Wooten concluded:

"And while they seem persuasive, they may not convince many of those who still insist the Rosenbergs were the first casualties of the Cold War."

So, there at least was some debate as to Rosenberg's guilt until Feklisov came forward and Wooten realizes that some still consider Rosenberg a victim. So, doesn't that argue for the Washington Post's lead, that the news here is a Soviet agent confirming Rosenberg's guilt -- not the level of spy work he performed?

CBS insisted he passed along "nothing useful for building the bomb" and ABC asserted that he didn't "pass along atomic secrets." How anxious would a Soviet like Feklisov be to admit the Soviets really needed help and couldn't have built the bomb on their own? Even if he wasn't key to the atomic project, Feklisov reported that Rosenberg passed on a lot of useful information. In a Cox News Service story carried in the March 16 Washington Times, husband and wife reporting team Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel showed otherwise. Rosenberg gave Feklisov "a hand-drawn diagram of a lens mold used in making the U.S. atomic bomb." Feklisov recounted how Julius Rosenberg gave him a proximity fuse. Albright and Kunstel explained the importance:

"The proximity fuse was one of the four most important secret breakthroughs by American physicists that helped turn the tide of World War II, Daniel Kevles, a scientific historian at the California Institute of Technology, said in a book published in 1971. Soviet SA-2 missiles equipped with proximity fuses shot down six U-2s," including the Gary Powers plane.

"....The KGB veteran [Feklisov] said the fuse was so 'highly evaluated' by Soviet specialists that it spawned a Soviet crash project right after the war..."

2) The Clinton scandal coverage died over the weekend, and even a major revelation didn't prod ABC Monday night. As noted in the March 14 CyberAlert, NBC Nightly News didn't air a word about fundraising last Wednesday or Thursday. Nightly News didn't change policy over the weekend: not a word appeared Friday night, Saturday night or Sunday night. ABC and CBS were also silent Friday as was ABC on Saturday night. NCAA basketball dunked CBS Evening News on the east coast Saturday and Sunday.

On March 16 ABC's World News Sunday devoted 23 seconds to anchor Carole Simpson recounting how, on Face the Nation, Senator Orrin Hatch insisted that the White House knew of the FBI probe into Chinese attempts to buy influence.

Monday's Wall Street Journal carried a front page story on how DNC Chairman Don Fowler overruled a NSC recommendation that Roger Tamraz not be allowed into the White House. Tamraz is a Lebanese businessman wanted for questioning in his country about missing bank funds. The Journal reported that after the NSC's Sheila Heslin said she opposed the Tamraz visit, "Ms. Heslin told associates Mr. Fowler argued that Mr. Tamraz had helped the U.S. in the past and that the CIA would send her a paper on him. A short time later, officials say Ms. Heslin received -- unsolicited by her -- a CIA document on Mr. Tamraz." The Journal concluded that in the Tamraz case fundraisers went beyond perks, "defying the President's national security advisers and even deploying secret intelligence information.."

ABC's World News Tonight: nothing, though John Donvan offered a story on Anthony Lake's impending withdrawal. The CBS Evening News did air a full report by Rita Braver on Tamraz. On the NBC Nightly News Jim Miklaszewski picked up on the Journal story to show how the "DNC used the CIA for political purposes."

Later in the show Lisa Myers told a hard-luck story of an 81-year-old lady who wrote 60 checks totaling $1,600 to Democratic groups, claiming that her "family complains she was robbed by mail." Myers explained that the letters "warned of 'devastating' results if Republicans won, 'ruthless attempts to gut Social Security and Medicare,' said 'for the sake of the nation' her money was 'desperately needed.'"

All the networks have done pieces on terrible conservative groups which supposedly scare the elderly out of their money, so it was nice to see Myers zoom in on the other side. After noting how the liberal letter writers were using scare tactics about an end to Medicare, Myers could have tied that in to an overall 1996 campaign of false and mean-spirited attacks by liberals. But no, instead she employed the both sides do it defense: "Elderly groups say exaggeration and scare tactics are favorite tools of fundraisers in both parties."

3) The lead item in the Washington Whispers page in the March 24 edition of U.S. News & World Report: "In Delaware, the Rush is Off: For the First Time, a Top Radio Market Drops Limbaugh." It's liberals who delight in any setback for Limbaugh, making you wonder about the perspective on life of those at U.S. News who thought this so newsworthy.

The "top" radio market? Wilmington, Delaware. The MRC research library is a bit behind on buying a new Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook, but the 1988 edition lists Wilmington as the 76th radio market, just ahead of McAllen, Texas. With apologies to any proud Delawareans, I must note that media-wise, Wilmington is really a suburb of Philadelphia. The station in question, WILM, a 1,000 watt AM at 1450, has a fraction of the coverage area of WWDB, a full power FM station in Philadelphia that carries Limbaugh and easily covers northern Delaware.

U.S. News quoted the station manager as asserting that Limbaugh had "peaked in audience interest" and become "predictable."

The only thing becoming more predictable at U.S. News is its liberal tilt under new Editor James Fallows, a perspective further solidified by the recent hiring of a Clinton administration official. The February MediaWatch Revolving Door column which follows below details the recent hiring decisions at the magazine, plus two ABC News veteran who have taken new positions in Clinton's team. -- Brent Baker

4) Revolving Door, from the February MediaWatch:

Following Fallows

U.S. News & World Report Editor James Fallows, a former speechwriter for President Carter, continues to shore up the liberal talent at the top of the magazine so that now the top three editors directing news coverage once toiled for Democrats. The latest addition: In February he brought aboard Steve Waldman, a Clinton Administration operative, as Assistant Managing Editor (AME) for national news. For the past year Waldman's been promoting AmeriCorps as policy adviser for planning and evaluation to Harrison Wofford, the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National Service. Until January of 1996 Waldman was Newsweek's Deputy Washington Bureau Chief.

Just after taking the top editorial position last September, Fallows promoted AME Harrison Rainie to Managing Editor, the number two slot at the magazine. Before jumping to U.S. News in 1988 Rainie served as Chief-of-Staff to Democratic Senator Daniel Moynihan.

Aiding Albright

An on-air ABC News veteran has traveled with Madeleine Albright, the United Nations Ambassador and newly confirmed Secretary of State, from New York City to the State Department in Foggy Bottom. Rick Inderfurth covered national security, the Penatgon and Moscow for ABC News between 1981 and 1991. At the U.S. Mission to the UN Inderfurth held one of three Ambassador slots under Albright who has named Inderfurth Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs.

Inderfurth has now worked for virtually every foreign affairs-related government operation. In the 1970s he toiled for Carter's National Security Council staff and later became Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, jumping to ABC when the GOP took control of the chamber.

Inderfurth's not the only journalist implementing Clinton policy. Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State and former Time Washington Bureau Chief, "intends to remain in that job," USA Today reported February 12. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Talbott will stay "well beyond this summer and well into the future."

Clinton's Contented Clique

At least three other media veterans are sticking with the White House staff. Communications Director Donald Baer, an Assistant Managing Editor at U.S. News before leaping to the White House in early 1994, will stick around through July. He was planning to leave, The Washington Post reported, "but agreed to stay after appeals from" Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and Bill Clinton....

Tara Sonenshine, who went from a producer at ABC's Nightline to Clinton's National Security Council where she handled press relations, then to Newsweek's Washington bureau -- all in two years -- has spun through the revolving door again. She's back at the NSC "working on identifying foreign policy priorities for the second term," reported The Washington Post....

Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign Press Secretary and former ABC News and CNN staffer Joe Lockhart has landed in the White House as Senior Adviser for special projects in the press office. Lockhart put in a stint as an ABC assignment manager in Chicago before moving to CNN as a deputy assignment editor until joining the 1988 Dukakis-Bentsen presidential effort as a traveling press aide.

-- L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors
-- Geoffrey Dickens, Gene Eliasen, James Forbes, Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters; Media Analysts
-- Kathleen Ruff, Marketing Director; Carey Evans, Circulation Manager; Brian Schmisek, Intern

-- Brent Baker