CyberAlert -- 06/20/1996 -- Rather Concerned by "Tactics;" Clinton "Cleared"?

Rather Concerned by "Tactics;" Clinton "Cleared"?

Three items today:

1) Dan Rather wonders about the real motive behind "Republican special prosecutor" Kenneth Starr calling Bruce Lindsey an unindicted co-conspirator. Rather twice questions Starr's "tactics."

2) MediaWatch study finds Republicans tagged as "extreme" in 149 stories, Democrats labeled "extreme" in just seven.

3) New York Times reports that Senate hearings "cleared" the Clintons.


Here's how Dan Rather began Wednesday's CBS Evening News (June 19): "Good evening, the Republican special prosecutor in the Whitewater case is naming a trusted friend and senior adviser to President Clinton as a quote 'unindicted co-conspirator.' This is in connection with an Arkansas criminal trial. Bruce Lindsey now stands accused, but not indicted, in connections with contributions to the 1990 Clinton for Governor campaign. Lindsey flatly denies any wrongdoing. President Clinton supports him. Still unclear -- what's behind this tactic of the prosecutor."

Following reporter Bill Plante's story from the White House, Rather asked him: "Bill, this unindicted co-conspirator tactic. Does it mean prosecutor Starr doesn't actually have the goods on Lindsey and wants to turn him to the prosecution's side, or wants to evoke Nixon-Watergate memories. What is the reading there?"


The June issue of MediaWatch, which you should be receiving in the mail very soon, includes a study headlined: "Reporters Pile Extremist' Labels on Republicans, But Spared Democrats in 1993 and 1994." What follows is a brief excerpt of the study completed by Associate Editor Tim Graham: At the dawn of the Clinton era, the Democratic Party dominated both the executive and legislative branches. Within months, Democrats peeled away restrictions on abortion on demand, pushed for openly gay soldiers in the military, raised taxes to historically high levels, and promoted universally subsidized health care.
Two years later, in the gloomy days after the Republican sweep of Congress in 1994, Bill Clinton sought the advice of political consultant Dick Morris, who urged him to "triangulate" between the extremes of the ascendant conservative Republicans and the liberals in his own party. Would reporters label liberal Democrats "extreme"?
To analyze the media's use of labels to describe the political parties, MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to search for the word "extreme" within 25 words of "Republican" or "Democrat" in the three news magazines (Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report) and USA Today from January 1, 1993 to May 31, 1996.
Analysts discovered reporters did not use many extremist labels in 1993 and 1994 -- 41 -- but 26 of those were applied to Republicans, compared to ten mentions of dual extremes and only five for the Democrats who ruled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But in the first 17 months of GOP control, Republicans were described as "extreme" in 123 stories, while only 15 found "extremes" on both sides. Just two mentioned "extreme" Democrats. USA Today's Richard Benedetto exemplified reporting on Republican extremism on June 16, 1995: "Democrats are trying to keep a stiff upper lip as they continue to oppose `extreme' GOP cuts." Many of these were attributed to Democrats, but more than 20 came directly from reporters, such as Gloria Borger's March 11, 1996 U.S. News suggestion that "taking on Buchananism would be good for Gingrich. Recall that until Buchanan surged, Gingrich was Washington's resident extremist."
The reports citing dual extremes weren't always perfectly balanced. Witness U.S. News's Kenneth Walsh on July 31, 1995: "The President is trying to position himself as a moderate who occupies a middle ground between liberal Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans."


As noticed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, compare these Wednesday headlines on the release of the Republican and Democratic reports from the Senate Whitewater committee.
The Washington Times: "Panel Blasts Hillary for Cover-Up."
The Washington Post: "Whitewater Panel Splits on Party Lines."
The New York Times: "Whitewater Hearing Cleared the Clintons, Democrats Say."

After reading the New York Times spin you can't say the media are always negative.

-- Brent Baker