In This Issue
Study: Campaign '88: CBS' Liberal Agenda; NewsBites: CBS: Contra Bashing System?; Revolving Door; Rather Obnoxious; Janet Cooke Award: Susan Spencer: CBS News
Study: Campaign '88: CBS' Liberal Agenda
The TV networks, citing cost concerns, are covering the 1988 presidential race differently than previous campaigns. No longer are reporters assigned to follow each candidate. Instead, a few correspondents are stationed in key states to cover all the hopefuls as they pass through. Unable to cover every event, network officials told The Washington Post in January that campaign stories promise to become more "analytical" and "interpretive," a development confirmed by a MediaWatch Study of recent candidate profile stories.
As Richard Cohen, top political producer for CBS News admitted in the same article, "I think we're going to try and impose our agenda on the coverage by dealing with issues and subjects that we choose to deal with instead of parroting the candidates." (Cohen is the man who arranged the Rather-Bush confrontation.)
The study determined that CBS, the only network so far to air a series of candidate profiles, is using them to promote a decidedly liberal agenda. MediaWatch analyzed "Campaign '88" presidential candidate profiles aired by CBS Evening News and discovered the network went out of its way to include criticisms of policies espoused by conservative Republicans, but rarely ever mentioned anything negative about ideas endorsed by liberal Democrats. Since the series skipped Dole and Jackson, and the Bush profile focused exclusively on Iran/Contra, announcement day stories for them were used instead.
MediaWatch researchers analyzed each story for positive, negative, and neutral/ factual statements, from the reporter, candidate, political analysts, or people in crowds, in the following three areas: 1) Style. A candidate's speaking ability, charisma, or character traits. 2) Policy. Anything about the candidate's political stands. 3) The horserace, or "who's ahead" feature of each story including not only polling data but also comments about a candidate's strategy.
In the Policy category, CBS failed to air even one positive statement about the political views of five of six Republicans, but issued positive judgments on policies of all but one Democrat, Michael Dukakis. Reporter Bruce Morton delivered three uncritical, straightforward summaries of his ideas. Assessments followed a similar pattern in the Style category. Covering the Republicans, CBS issued nearly four times as many negative judgments as positive ones, while the Democrats got praised more often than not. Even when analyzing horserace positions CBS found more bad things than good to say about five of the six Republicans, but came up with few reasons to believe a Democrat might not win the nomination, issuing more upbeat than negative comments on their chances.
Since horserace positions are constantly changing, combining Policy and Style assessments gives the best measure of the slant of each story. Doing that, every Democrat but Gore, who promotes himself as a conservative on defense, received more positive than negative comments. Every Republican but Dole, whom CBS portrayed as an experienced Washington insider, received more negative than positive judgments.
Pete duPont ended up with the most damaging profile with seven negative remarks on his conservative policies. Reporter Bob Faw introduced duPont's three central campaign themes: reduced farm subsidies, drug testing, and alternative Social Security programs and then countered each suggestion with a negative reaction from someone who claimed they would be hurt by the proposal. In contrast, stories on liberals Paul Simon and Mike Dukakis did not include any criticisms of their proposals to cut defense spending or raise taxes "as a last resort."
Faw also took time to critique the supposedly dull speeches of Jack Kemp, but Bruce Morton went out of his way to portray Simon's "plainness" as an asset. In the most dubious opinionated assertion by a reporter, Faw claimed Kemp's biggest problem is his "message, he's conservative at a time when the polls show the country is moving toward the center." No CBS reporter ever blamed liberal policies for hurting any Democrat in a conservative state like New Hampshire.
With four positive policy assessments and just one negative comment on his campaign style, (he lacks "razzle-dazzle"), Bruce Babbitt received the most glowing profile. Infatuated with his plans to raise taxes, Faw repeatedly praised Babbitt for "confronting issues which others fudge and sometimes offering the political equivalent of castor oil," with a platform of "common sense and sacrifice." The typical double-standard occurred between Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson. Lesley Stahl's piece on Jackson ignored his religious background and dismissed his past praise for Castro, claiming "Jackson has shed his radical image." But in his piece on Robertson, Bruce Morton brought on a "political analyst" to explain why Robertson's "mixing of politics and religion" will hurt him.
Below is a sampling of how CBS analyzed each candidate. The listing includes examples of how virtually every report ended with an opinionated concluding spin, labeled (C).
"DuPont's ideas are new, provocative, and not always what his listeners want to hear....duPont's call for a private alternative to Social Security makes a lot of senior citizens shudder."
(C): "He keeps raising his lance to joust with the others, even though they're convinced all Pete duPont is doing is tilting at windmills." -- Bob Faw, 12/1
"Is the only candidate to say how he would pay the bills, with a five percent national sales tax....talking straight while others seem to be blowing smoke."
(C)): "[Iowa] will determine if Bruce Babbitt gets into the political fast track or whether he's just been taken for a ride." -- Faw, 12/17
"Ideas? Dukakis has plenty. Like the other candidates, he stresses education." -- Bruce Morton, 12/9
"Like the President, supply-sider Kemp is against abortion, against higher taxes...Still, some who listen leave unconvinced, like Michigan stock broker Marty Gotkin, who doubts that Kemp would do enough to reduce deficits." Gotkin: "I think we're gonna, the government's gonna have to resort to some tax increases."
"Part of the problem is the candidate. Better on the stump than he was six months ago, Kemp still quotes Hegel and Maimonides, still fails to excite crowds."
(c): "The Republican candidate who's run the longest and hardest will try to persuade skeptics he's not just running in place." -- Faw, 10/27
"Simon is a plain man. No high flown eloquence, no glitz. Plain speech. That plainness finds an echo here. A lot of Iowans are plain people too."
(C): "The new fashion may be the old fashioned, old Democrat, warts, ideals and all. He may be an improbable dreamer, but he has some followers here [in Iowa]." -- Morton, 11/23
"On the issues, Haig is outspoken, sometimes outrageous... Many now wonder, 'can an old cold warrior lead this country into the 90's?'" -- Richard Schlesinger, 1/8
"Dole is also trying to soften his hatchet-man image." -- Bob Schieffer, 11/9
"Say one thing for Gephardt, he looks the part and his family is campaign poster classic right down to the loyal dog."
(C): "In the meantime, you have to ride a lot of planes like this [small] one before they let you ride Air Force One." --Schieffer, 10/22
"(He is) stressing his theme that he's the Democrat who's strong on defense....The candidate is widely respected for his expertise on the environment and arms control."
(C): "The biggest question for Gore is whether a hidden block of conservative Democrats will show up at the polls, something they haven't done in more than a decade." -- Lesley Stahl, 11/27
"At 46, he is one of the most famous men in America, often treated like a rock star. In his second run for the presidency, Jesse Jackson is turning 'em on in White America."
"[Jackson is] getting what he always wanted: respect. This time Jackson wants to represent all victims, black and white." -- Stahl, 10/9
"There is a downside too...because of course he was a preacher and no ordinary one, he was a charismatic Christian, a television evangelist who believed prayer could and did heal... Robertson has resigned the ministry, but that identification may hurt him." -- Morton, 11/4
NewsBites: CBS: Contra Bashing System?
CBS: Contra Bashing System? At least one CBS News employee is helping the network earn the label. In a January American Spectator article, Insight magazine reporter David Brock described his trip to Managua. While there he talked to CBS News producer Lucy Spiegel who did not hesitate to tell him: "Personally, I think the Contras are worthless."
Roeing for Abortion. Friday, January 22 marked the fifteenth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand. That evening, ABC's World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings claimed, "virtually every poll in the country finds at least a majority of Americans in favor of a woman's right to choose abortion."
In fact, polls consistently prove the opposite. A typical 1985 Gallup poll found only 22 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal under all circumstances, with 57 percent willing only to allow abortion in extreme circumstances, such as when the mother's life is threatened. The rest want abortion completely banned.
Sam Donaldson's story on the 50,000 pro-life demonstrators who marched that day failed to give any of them airtime. Instead, he featured a "family planning" group spokesman criticizing the "bad medical practice" of curtailing federal funds for abortion clinics.
Reporter Ned Potter interviewed two women who had abortions, one of whom now regrets her decision and told Potter: "each person should treasure life." Still, he concluded with this one-sided summary of the debate: "Abortion is one of those issues on which many people will never agree, but from two women at least there is the same message: let us make up our own minds."
Sensing Censorship? On January 11, The Washington Times front page lead headline read: "10,000 Jeer Sandinistas in Managua." The AP story by Bryna Brennan told of the largest anti-government demonstration since the Sandinistas came to power eight years ago. But The New York Times buried the event in an article on page six. The Washington Post mentioned it in the last sentence of an unrelated article on page 20. What about coverage from ABC, CBS, CNN, or NBC? Absolutely nothing.
Three weeks later, on February 2, The Washington Times reported news that reflected badly on the Sandinistas. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, funded and set-up by the U.S. Congress to monitor Contra violations of human rights, reported that there were over 1,000 documented incidents of torture, murder, disappearances, and mutilations by the Sandinistas. Once again, it went totally unreported by the major newspapers and networks.
The Post Biased? No Way! It's hard to imagine why anyone thinks The Washington Post is biased against conservative policies. Just take a look at the January 10 Washington Post Magazine cover story on a Reagan Assistant Attorney General. The highly objective and factual headline read: "William Bradford Reynolds: Point Man for the Reagan Administration's Assault on Civil Rights Enforcement."
Inside, the article which used quotes from Reynold's ex-wife to demonstrate his insensitivity, carried the headline, "In His Mind, But Not His Heart," followed by this summation from writer Juan Williams about the man who dared defy liberal wisdom: "For many people in this country, civil rights is the most emotional issue of their lives," but for Reynolds, "it's an interesting intellectual puzzle." And people say the Post is biased.
Dan, Dan, the Rock 'N' Roll Man. First, Dan Rather signed-off the CBS Evening News by saying "courage." Then he announced that "courage" and "meadow" are his "favorite words." Now, he's been heard repeating another meaningless phrase.
Working in a CBS sound truck, Rather had the radio tuned to WNEW, an album-oriented, hard-rock station. He overheard the disc-jockey complimenting his Bush interview performance. So, he phoned the DJ. "We called to tell you we heard you and we really appreciate it," Rather said before unveiling his new sign-off: "Rock 'n' roll forever. Thanks a lot."
NEWSWEEK's Ortega Defender. "The overall aim has been to tear down any favorable image of the Sandinistas while making Americans feel threatened by Nicaragua, an impoverished, under-developed nation of 3 million people that has been attacked repeatedly by U.S. troops over the past century." That's how Newsweek national security correspondent Robert Parry sees it. Parry's January 30 article in the far-left Nation argued that given the U.S. "propaganda apparatus hid the layer of lies told in the name of the Contra cause," the media should have been "more skeptical when the State Department unveiled a high-level Sandinista defector," Major Roger Miranda. Parry complained about the media's "breathless headlines" on Miranda's "stage-managed unveiling."
The long-time AP reporter, who joined Newsweek last year, had an answer for all of Miranda's revelations. Parry explained away Sandinista plans to double the size of its military force, claiming the 600,000 man army will serve only a "defensive purpose." As for plans to acquire Soviet MiG jets and anti-aircraft weaponry, he thinks those offensive weapons are justified by U.S. weapons supplied to Honduras and the Contras.
Raving for Ratner. In late January, Margaret Ratner, a leader of the pro-Sandinista Center for Constitutional Rights, released evidence she obtained from the U.S. government exposing an early 1980's FBI investigation into the possible criminal activities of left-wing groups, like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). For her effort, ABC named Ratner its Person of the Week on January 29. Praising her, anchor Peter Jennings declared: "There's no doubt in our mind that what she and her colleagues accomplished is good for all Americans."
Contacted by MediaWatch, Justice Dept. spokesman Pat Korten characterized the piece "as a nauseating tribute to one of the most radical left-wing groups." Korten added: "Jennings simply repeated a year-old story, not so coincidentally just before a Contra aid vote." Indeed, Jennings characterized the investigation as politically motivated by a conservative administration against innocent left-wing groups. He never addressed the reasons for the probe, the possible involvement of CISPES in terrorist activities.
Had ABC viewers been told a few key facts, they might have realized where the political advocacy really lies. In 1984, CISPES officially declared one of their major goals to be to "provide political and military support to the FMLN-FDR," the communist guerrillas in El Salvador. At the time of the FBI probe, former informant Frank Varelli maintained that CISPES was involved in a plot to assassinate President Reagan. One other interesting footnote. Korten informed MediaWatch that the FBI conducted a similar investigation of possible Neutrality Act violations by Civilian Military Assistance and the U.S. Council for World Freedom, two conservative groups. Somehow, ABC missed that.
Which Way Is It? On December 28 NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News aired reports on the effect of the falling dollar. NBC's Mike Jensen showed video of a Florida boat factory while telling viewers: "For American manufacturers, who sell things like these boats overseas, the declining dollar has helped." After a comment from a Wellcraft Marine executive, Jensen continued:
"Most experts say the falling dollar is helping this country more than it's hurting. That the higher price of imported products is increasing the rate of competitiveness of American manufacturers in overseas markets will help reduce the nation's horrendous trade deficit."
On the same day CBS correspondent Ray Brady brought his usual doom and gloom view to the topic:
"Now, some say, the plunging dollar is creating a more serious problem. Of the total U.S. debt of $2.4 trillion dollars, hundreds of billions are owed to foreign investors, most of them Japanese....If the foreigners sell off those holdings, the U.S. would have to raise interest rates to attract more funds into this country. But, that would also raise mortgage and other interest rates here and possibly bring on that recession."
Economists can debate who is right, but it just shows how reliable TV news really is when it comes to economic analysis.
Error Free News? A recent study confirms what any regular television news viewer already knows: the TV networks demonstrate little concern for correcting their mistakes. Reported in the Dec. 5 TV Guide, the study conducted by the News Study Group (NSG) at New York University found that when it comes to retracting errors, "the policies of the big three networks" fall "far short" of newspaper standards. Unlike most major papers which set aside a spot everyday for corrections, outside the very brief letters portion of shows like 60 Minutes, the networks provide no regular time to clear up errors.
Sadly, the analysis found that "the key to on-air corrections too often was whether anyone, inside or outside the news organization, was willing to protest vigorously enough." So most false stories never get corrected. One example offered by the article is that on the January 30, 1987 CBS Evening News, correspondent Ray Brady tried to illustrate the uncompetitive state of the economy by asserting that wastepaper is the "number one export sent out of this port [New York City] to foreign nations." Brady picked up the charge from House Speaker Jim Wright's Democratic response to the State of the Union address three days earlier. The problem with this "fact" is that it is false. Trash is the leading export only in weight, not by value, the proper measure of trade. But now over a year later, CBS has yet to set the record straight.
Most disturbing, NSG Director Edwin Diamond discovered "the networks sometimes act as if the problem exists solely in their critics' minds." He quotes ABC News Vice-President for news policy Robert Seigenthaler as arrogantly claiming: "We make very few errors and are requested to make very few corrections."
TIME and TIME Again. "Virtually everything about his country and its place in world affairs seems less ponderous, less opaque than it did before." With that statement, Time magazine chose Mikhail Gorbachev as its Man of the Year for 1987. Time says the recipient is based on who most influenced world affairs and is not an endorsement of any person or policy. But Time clearly analyzed Gorbachev and his communist regime positively, with only vague passing references to a "one party dictatorship," human rights violations, and an inflexible and aggressive foreign policy. Senior writer George Church's cover story painted Gorbachev as a man committed to reform and battling to change his system.
CNN's half hour special on the Man of the Year took a far more skeptical look at Gorbachev, though Time Managing Editor Henry Miller did describe Gorbachev's "impact" on the Soviet Union as "remarkable." But CNN let viewers know about some of the brutal realities of the Soviet system that Time failed to mention. Co-host Mary Alice Williams referred to the "nine year old war in Afghanistan, a failing fight for communist expansion."
Other lengthy segments focused on the "long standing policy that restricts Jews from emigrating," brutal suppression of demonstrations, and stories on labor camps with starvation rations and isolation cells. Too bad Time didn't provide a similar balanced look at Soviet society under Gorbachev.
Cheerleading for a Recession. A survey of how Big Media outlets have treated economic news recently demonstrates that if the development can be twisted to show the U.S. is headed for a recession, it's sure to be highlighted. But if its good economic news, you'll be lucky to learn about it.
On December 30 the Commerce Department announced that the leading economic indicators fell 1.7 percent in November. That led the ABC, NBC and CBS newscasts. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer told viewers "one private analyst said that confirms, quote 'we are on our way into a recession.'" Ray Brady then referred to "many experts" who he ominously warned, "predict that what hit Wall Street could soon hit Main Street." To drive home his point about what's coming for everybody, Brady focused on a laid off financial document printer now working as a bartender.
When the Federal Reserve Board reported factories operated at their highest capacity (82.1 percent) since 1980, ABC, NBC and CNN PrimeNews ignored the January 19 news. Dan Rather gave it a negative slant, saying "analysts expressed concern over an apparent reluctance by U.S. industry to build new factories." The New York Times put the item on page D2. The next day the Commerce Dept. revealed that housing starts in December registered the largest monthly decline in three years. The Times made it the lead front page story. ABC and CNN considered it and inflation news to be the top stories of the day.
On January 26, figures released showed factory orders for durable goods recorded the biggest jump in 15 months. All four networks overlooked the development and the Times buried the news on page D11. The next day Rather called the announcement of a 4.2 percent fourth quarter GNP rate "surprising," and quickly added that "analysts said an inventory increase and the drop in consumer spending could point to a recession." While The Washington Times headline took a positive angle, "Stock Crash Fails to Dent GNP," The Washington Post lead page one headline could not have capsulized the prevailing media attitude any better: "Economic Surge Raises Concerns."
Finishing up the month, Dan Rather reported the Commerce Dept. said personal income rose "just 1.2 percent" in 1987. On CNN PrimeNews David French called the increase "the worst performance since the 1982 recession" and a new sign "the economy may be headed for a recession." With an economy sensitive to consumer attitudes, if reporters keep seeing economic news through a doom and gloom prism, a recession may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
TIMES On A Roll for Out of Control. Last year Peter Davis wrote "Where Is Nicaragua?" a book that argued against supporting the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters. So, The New York Times Book Review found him a natural choice to critique a diatribe by former CBS News producer Leslie Cockburn that mocks the Contra cause. In her tome, "Out of Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration's Secret War in Nicaragua, the Illegal Arms Pipeline, and the Contra Drug Connection," Cockburn charged that the "Contra war is a crude and seedy operation that nonetheless wrecked lives, killed people, laid waste communities."
The January 3 review by Davis called the book an "excellent report," concluding: "If you can read this book and still believe Oliver North, you can believe that the Met will soon ask Dolly Parton to sing 'La Boheme.' And the buck, of course, never stopped with Oliver North."
PBS and Sheen Blame America. Narrated by liberal activist and actor Martin Sheen, the PBS documentary "The Politics of Food" proposed to investigate the reasons for hunger worldwide. But instead of taking a balanced look at the problem, the show placed all the blame on America for supposedly preventing the development of self-sufficient food production. The program targeted the U.S. controlled and financed World Bank for encouraging only cash crops like cotton, not staple foods such as rice and grain. Sheen blamed Western capitalist policies for hunger in Africa, but not once did he mention the role of failed Marxist economic policies in Ethiopia, Mozambique, or Angola.
Why? The answer became obvious when examining sources for the program. Representatives of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) or those associated with the far-left think tank appeared no less than ten times during the December 29th show. So it's no wonder the "doctrinaire Stalinist" programs of collectivization carried on by many African Marxist nations, as Time described in its December 21 cover story on world famine, didn't get condemned by Sheen.
Sam States His State of the Union. The day before President Reagan delivered his State of the Union address, ABC's Sam Donaldson, appearing on This Week with David Brinkley, charged that Americans will "have to take it on the chin" because of the "deficits that this President set in place that are going to attack everyone." According to the White House reporter, since 1981:
"The rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer. And for the middle class, yes, they have more money in their pockets, and they have jobs, the jobs they have unfortunately are service industry jobs more and more, rather than smoke stack industry jobs."
Maybe someday Donaldson will check the facts before he spouts his ritual liberal economic gibberish. If he did, he'd learn IRS figures show that because of the 1981-83 tax cuts, the poor now pay less and the rich more in taxes each year. Refuting what Donaldson implied, economics columnist Warren Brookes last year reported on a 1987 Department of Labor study which concluded that 59 percent of "all new jobs" created are high paying "managerial and professional" positions.
Kennedy Drowns Another Voice. In late December, Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina inserted, on behalf of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) a last minute provision into a huge emergency appropriations bill that threatens the most basic right of freedom of the press. His amendment bars the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from further extending waivers to allow one person to own both a TV station and a newspaper in the same media market.
Kennedy's move was obviously aimed at News America Corporation, owner of both a TV station and newspaper in Boston and New York, and was a blatant attempt to force News America Chairman Rupert Murdoch to sell both the New York Post and Boston Herald, papers that are often critical of Kennedy's liberal views and voting record. Since buying the Herald in 1982, Murdoch has turned the money losing tabloid into a barely profitable operation, but the Post still loses millions of dollars a year. Murdoch has vowed to keep the Herald, but he cannot afford to lose his flagship New York TV outlet. It's hard to imagine anyone assuming the Post's continual losses, so Kennedy's provision will inevitably lead to the death of a major daily newspaper. Kennedy's midnight maneuver outraged many in Congress who did not learn of the move until much later. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called Kennedy's secret action "clearly contrary to the spirit of the Constitution." New York City Mayor Ed Koch, also a Democrat, was outraged, blasting Kennedy for his "sneak attack on the First Amendment." Many in Congress vowed to overturn the provision, but failed to do so in a losing 60-30 vote in the Senate on January 27.
While MediaWatch is often critical of news media reporting, we just as firmly believe the right of free speech in the U.S. must always be protected, regardless of political viewpoint. There is nothing wrong with taking a critical look at a newspaper's editorial policies, but there is something very dangerous about letting politicians close down papers they don't like.
Sadly, most media outlets have let the issue die, maybe because they have little regard for Murdoch's flashy and politically conservative papers. Due to the threatening precedent Kennedy could set, the Media Research Center, publisher of MediaWatch, has sent letters to over 40 editors and top broadcast executives asking them to sign the following petition and use it as the basis for an editorial:
"The Kennedy-Hollings amendment barring the FCC from extending further cross-ownership waivers poses a serious threat to the freedom of the press guaranteed newspapers and other media outlets, and must be condemned. The provision is a blatant attempt to punish a publisher critical of the Senator's political views. I believe that freedom of speech is a basic right in our democracy which must be protected, regardless of the political viewpoints expressed."
Freudian Slip? A January 18 Newsweek article on how Senator Kennedy pulled a fast one in order to close down a Rupert Murdoch paper critical of him described Murdoch's publications this way: "Murdoch runs a few dignified papers, such as The Times of London, but specializes in the sort of tabloids that offer lurid headlines, pinup photography and conservative politics."
Fear, Frustration and Whining. Just before the Christmas holiday travel crush, NBC News took a look at the state of passenger airline service eight years after deregulation. At the end of the hour-long, prime-time December 22 special, "Fear, Frustration and Flying," correspondent Lucky Severson asserted: "An increasing number of Americans wonder if we haven't taken deregulation too far." Yearning for a return to more federal intrusion, Severson complained that "there is no government agency that stands up for passengers, like the CAB, the Civil Aeronautics Board, that was abolished three years ago."
According to Severson, "the real losers have been the airline employees themselves," since "it's been a time of turmoil, anger; they've lost benefits, jobs and pay." Severson moaned about "what deregulation has cost some rural areas," specifically, reduced access to large carriers so that flights "often leave half full, because people don't like flying on small planes."
Before launching his attack on deregulation, it's too bad Severson didn't take time to read Gregg Easterbrook's November 30 New Republic article, "The Myth on an Airline Crisis." Easterbrook pointed out "that increased demand for air travel has created 92,000 new airline jobs since 1978" and, "across the board airline wages have approximately doubled since deregulation." As for small towns being hurt, Easterbrook found "about 680 small towns had air service in 1978. More than 800 have it today" as the number of rural passengers carried yearly has more than doubled.
Tom Donilon, most recently Senior Adviser to the short-lived Joe Biden presidential campaign, joins the CBS News team. Donilon told The Washington Times that CBS producers "consult regularly" with him "on a variety of political matters." One of the first: Dan Rather asked Donilon's advice in preparing for the Bush interview.
Donilon previously served as Deputy Manager of the Mondale-Ferraro campaign in 1984 after working as Chief of Staff on the '84 Mondale campaign plane. In 1980 he was chief delegate counter for Carter-Mondale.
The January 18 Newsweek reported that CBS "tried John Sasso," campaign manager for Dukakis before the controversy over Sasso's role in Biden tape affair erupted, and then settled on Donilon even "before Biden withdrew." Some, Newsweek added, "say Dan Rather sees him as a counter to NBC News VP Tim Russert, ex-aide to New York's Mario Cuomo." Now that's balance.
Donilon should feel comfortable working with CBS News Political Editor Dotty Lynch. She toiled as Deputy Pollster for the 1972 McGovern campaign, a pollster for Ted Kennedy's 1980 effort and Chief Pollster for Gary Hart in 1984 before providing her services to the Mondale-Ferraro effort.
George Mair, named Chief Press Officer to House Speaker Jim Wright in December. But, after mid-January furor over tone of angry letters sent to editors protesting what he considered unfair articles on the Speaker, Mair resigned. In the 1960's Mair spent 10 years as a reporter for CBS News and later wrote a column for the LA Times syndicate.
Wilson Morris, Information Director of the House Democratic Steering Committee controlled by Wright, remains a spokesman for the Speaker. Morris worked as a Washington Post reporter from 1972 to 1978.
A new book by Boston-based researcher S. Steven Powell reveals the close relationship between a far-left think-tank and some reporters for leading newspapers. In Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies, (Green Hill Publishers) Powell uncovers numerous ties between the Institute (IPS) and the media, including:
John Dinges, a part-time assistant editor at The Washington Post, was simultaneously an IPS Associate Fellow. In the early 1980's and late 1970's he regularly contributed news articles from Central and South America. Dinges is now a foreign desk editor for National Public Radio.
Sidney Blumenthal, a Post "Style" writer, "served as the Boston correspondent for In These Times, the socialist newspaper published by IPS" in the late-70's.
Elizabeth Becker, a Post reporter who covered Asia, left the paper in early 1980's to become a visiting fellow at IPS.
Several Post reporters and editors have taught courses or lectured at the IPS policy seminar "Washington School," including: "Outlook" section editor Robert Kaiser; reporter Joanne Omang; and former senior foreign editor and now London correspondent Karen DeYoung. During a 1980 class DeYoung told her students: "Most journalists now, most Western journalists at least, are very eager to seek out guerrilla groups, leftist groups, because you assume they must be the good guys."
Brian Ross and Jim Polk of NBC News taught courses on investigative journalism.
Fred Kaplan, defense reporter for The Boston Globe authored "Dubious Specter," a 1980 IPS published book that took a skeptical look at the Soviet military build-up. MediaWatch has learned that before joining the Globe, Kaplan worked as a defense policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Les Aspin, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Raymond Bonner, who reported from El Salvador for The New York Times in the early 80's, left position as "Director of the Consumers Union, a left-wing group founded by Ralph Nader" to join the Times.
One connection Powell missed: U.S. News & World Report Associate Editor Robert Shapiro was a 1972-73 fellow with IPS. Shapiro later became Legislative Director for Senator Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) before joining the news magazine in 1985.
During his now famous January 25 interview of Vice President George Bush, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather crossed the line of tough and fair questioning by assuming the role of a rude prosecutor pursuing his own agenda. Dropping any pretense of objectivity, the opinionated anchorman declared at one point: "You've made us hypocrites in the face of the world."
Outrage was swift, especially after Rather abruptly ended the interview by interrupting the Vice President in mid-sentence. Calls flooded CBS. Rather even angered CBS affiliates. Paul Raymon, of WAGA in Atlanta spoke for many, calling the confrontation "an embarrassment." Prominent media figures also took Rather to task. As CNN political director Christine Dolan told USA Today: "You don't ask the Vice President a question and not give him a chance to answer...Rather looked like an aging journalist having a mid-life crisis on national TV."
Even a CBS News colleague, Mike Wallace, leveled criticism: "The style was wrong. Dan lost his cool." The ultimate indictment, however, came from ABC's Sam Donaldson, a man who symbolizes media arrogance, who stated: "Rather went too far....I don't think we can get to a situation where we make -- on our own authority -- accusations."
Bush claims Rather's sole focus on the Iran-Contra affair took him by surprise. Indeed, in a letter to Bush, CBS News politics producer Richard Cohen promised a "candidate profile." But the "profile" aired before the interview was actually just a lengthy re-hash of Bush's Iran policy involvement.
The next night Rather refused to apologize, declaring "to be persistent about answers is part of a reporter's job." His inability to comprehend the public outrage over his obnoxious behavior just proves how far out of touch with his viewers the $2.5 million a year anchorman really is. For the American people, the exchange represented an abuse of power by a media elite that considers itself more important than the second highest elected official in the United States.
Janet Cooke Award: Susan Spencer: CBS News
As the number of homeless seems to increase, their plight has become the latest media cause-celebre. On January 24, the Sunday edition of the CBS Evening News devoted three consecutive reports to exploring homelessness. The February Janet Cooke Award goes to Susan Spencer, anchor and narrator of the first piece, a look at the growing determination by the homeless "to fight back." Unfortunately, instead of taking the opportunity to explain the numerous causes of homelessness or to explore a variety of different solutions that have been offered, Spencer's story looked at the situation as defined by liberal politicians. Not once did she give time to any competing views offered by more conservative experts.
First, she misleadingly claimed estimates on the number of homeless "go as high as 3 million." In fact, thorough studies in the past year conducted by the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development place the actual number at 250,000 to 350,000. After making the problem seem more massive than it really is, Spencer focused on Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode, who said, "you can't cut affordable housing, you can't cut job training programs and expect there to be anything other than homelessness."
Spencer failed to point out that just last year Congress passed an emergency bill allocating over $350 million dollars for homeless aid programs. Spencer had decided not to tell viewers about people who see the government as more the problem than the solution. As they point out, the homeless hype began during the same years the number of federal housing units peaked, 1982-85. But she did legitimize a specific policy pushed by militant homeless leaders, telling viewers: "But even with more affordable housing, the militants say that homelessness will not be solved without action on another front: the minimum wage. It stands at three dollars and thirty-five cents an hour, right where it stood since 1981, while inflation has pushed prices up nearly 34 percent."
MediaWatch informed Rand Morrison, producer of the story, that the District of Columbia's minimum wage ranges from $3.90 to $4.85 an hour depending on job classification and yet still has a growing homeless population. He refused to acknowledge it might have been proper for a news story to give such counter arguments.
When MediaWatch told him many experts believe rent control is a large cause of homelessness, Morrison became confused, responding: "I don't understand your point." So MediaWatch explained that a study published in National Review last September found low vacancy rates and almost no apartment construction in cities with rent control, but just the opposite situation in cities without it. Since basic supply and demand shows high demand for limited housing drives up apartment costs beyond the means of poorer residents, it's no surprise the study determined that "the presence of rent control is associated with an increase in homelessness of 250 percent." But Morrison still failed to understand, saying "I'd really have to think about it." When MediaWatch expressed surprise he had not come across this widely held view of conservative economists when researching his story, Morrison suddenly decided: "I've really got to go."
Asked why "only one point of view was aired," Spencer told MediaWatch: "It was not a comprehensive look at the homeless problem."
MediaWatch: "Do you have any plans to review other causes and solutions?"
Spencer: "Not at the moment."
Why not, given she only found time to air the views of liberal activists? Spencer saw nothing wrong with that: "It was a focused piece on militancy. Understand?" And then she hung up. To air just one side of the story without once mentioning or intending to ever broadcast the other is highly irresponsible and shows viewers cannot rely on CBS News for even-handed coverage of controversial subjects.