Welcome to the Media Research Center's annual awards issue, a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 1996. To determine this year's winners, a panel of 58 talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from six to ten quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. Point totals are listed in the brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote. (The first quote under each award heading is the winner, followed in order by the top runners-up.)
"In her Wednesday Commentary page column, Linda Bowles stated that President Clinton and his former campaign adviser Dick Morris both were `guilty of callous unfaithfulness to their wives and children.' Neither man has admitted to being or been proven to have been unfaithful. The Tribune regrets the error."See the Runners-Up for the Quote Of The Year
"If Ken Starr is a credible prosecutor he will bring this to a conclusion and the Clintons will be exonerated."
"Have you any doubt that Kenneth Starr and his deputies are pursuing an agenda that is purely political?" "Bobby McDaniel, you said that your client is being used as a political pawn. Have you any legal recourse but to sit there and watch this unfold?" "Given that you think this is all just a Republican witch hunt, do you expect the pressure to ease somewhat after the election?"
"In a year when you talk about corporations who give $25,000 chunks of money, why are people particularly outraged when people with last names like Cabrera and people from India and Korea and Indonesia and China all of a sudden get -- there just seems to be a lot of foreigner bashing as a subtext in some of the criticism."
"It's not impossible that some peripheral venality was involved (if anyone asked Livingstone for, say, travel factotum Billy Dale's FBI file, I'm sure he'd prove useful). But a massive conspiracy to gather dirt on the opposition? Oh, please....Gradually, even the most rabid partisans on the committee seemed to understand they were confronted with a case of serious numbskullery rather than clever skullduggery....But if Clinton does survive this pounding, it may mean the revulsion against the -gate' phenomenon -- 20 years of ever-diminishing scandals -- is now more intense than the disgust caused by any individual charge. If so, it would be the President's most memorable public service."
"Some of your staff members, not by name, have been saying `Yes, the President thinks Bob Dole is a nice person and has been a pretty good leader in some ways, but, say they, he's been captured by extremists in the Republican Party, the radical part of the Republican Party, including Newt Gingrich.' Is that what you think?"
"The politics of Campaign '96 are getting very ugly, very early. Today Bob Dole accused the White House of using the FBI to wage war against its political enemies, and if that sounds like another political scandal, that's the point."
"I know that was a major goal of the Dole campaign [in the debate], to make sure people saw this compassionate side of Bob Dole. Do you think that he is in some ways paying the price for a Republican Congress that enacted, or tried to enact measures, in the views of many were simply too harsh or too draconian?"
"Do you think this is a party that is dominated by men and this convention is dominated by men as well...Do you think before tonight they thought very much what happens in America with rape?"
"It was grand TV, well-scripted, well-staged, craftily designed for a broadcast image of tolerance and diversity that's starkly at odds with reality."
"TV viewers saw a well-orchestrated image of a moderated Republican Party, portraying itself as pro-woman, pro-minorities, and pro-tolerance. This is in sharp contrast to the delegates on the floor, sixty percent of whom self-identified as conservative Christians."
"You write that you prayed more during your four years in office than basically at any time in your life and yet I think it's fair to say, and I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, I think it's fair to say, you are consistently viewed as one of the more ineffective Presidents of modern times....What do you think, if anything, that says about the power of prayer?"
"In light of the new welfare reform bill, do you think the children need more prayers than ever before?"
"Comments that he has made to others would seem to indicate a certain degree of, and not unjustifiably, a certain degree of anger, bitterness. Has he expressed that to you?"
"Why do you suppose it is that one year after his acquittal, most white Americans at least, cannot accept the idea that he's out walking around free, refuse to let him live his life?"
Bryant Gumbel: "Do you think if those two victims had been, say, Marguerite, his first wife, and Al Cowlings, his best friend, that there would have been the same amount [of media attention]?"
Cochran: "Absolutely not. And I think any person who wants to be honest about it would say the same."
Gumbel: "Why? Because America doesn't care about black victims?"
"In April, terrorists tried to kill them. Today politicians stopped their paychecks. In Oklahoma City's Social Security office, they're being ordered to work for nothing."
"There is something very creepy about the welfare debate....The politicians have gotten together and decided it's a good idea to throw a million or so children into poverty. But they can't say that. The proponents of this so-called `reform' effort have gone out of their way to avoid being seen for what they are -- men and women of extreme privilege who are taking food out of the mouths of infants and children, the poverty-stricken elderly, the disabled."
"Monuments and national parks are shut. So are museums. A long-awaited rare exhibit of the Dutch painter Vermeer at the National Gallery, eight years in the making, is closed. And the shutdown now has a human face. Joe Skattleberry and his wife Lisa both work for the government. Both have been furloughed. They can't afford a Christmas tree."
George Will: "What the conservatives are doing [on a flag amendment, bless their hearts, misguidedly this time is exactly what the left wing tried to do with the Equal Rights Amendment. That was a perfectly pointless abuse of the Constitution as a political gesture."
Cokie Roberts: "I would disagree with you there as a mother of a son who is protected by the Constitution and a daughter who is not."
"Just how tightly scripted is this convention? Well, a Russian television reporter said today that this is as tightly controlled as anything the Communist Party ever put on, Tom."
"How are women on the road different from men? `They are more meticulous, more organized. More multidimensional,' she [CBS News campaign producer Susan Zirinsky] says. `And less cynical.' Dan Rather, she insists, is the exception. What makes Rather different? `Dan's a girl,' she says. `Dan has the enthusiasm of a girl. There's a girl's soul lurking in him.'"
"The legacy of the Reagan administration will be with us for years. The deficit under Reagan totaled more than a trillion dollars. Someday we're going to have to pay those bills. As officials look to cut spending and taxes at the same time, we can't afford another round of voodoo economics....I remember that campaign slogan one year `It's morning again in America.' Well, it may have been morning for some, but for a lot of people in this country it's become a nightmare."
"Reagan was an exceedingly likeable guy, just a heck of a nice fellow, despite his politics. He was funny and loved a good joke, the dirtier, I'm afraid the more ethnic, the better. I don't think he brought very much to the presidency, except charisma and success."
"Lou, I know you feel as if Reagan had few, if any, character flaws. But let me ask you this. When one sidesteps, or refuses to acknowledge the consequences of their policies or actions, why shouldn't that be viewed as a character flaw? Or when one lies. For example, let me roll a clip and then we'll come back. This one deals with Iran-Contra."
"Nancy pushed Ronnie into an arms treaty with the Russians because she wanted him to win a Nobel Prize. So maybe astrology was healthier than whatever the rest of the nuke-Managua globo-cops were smoking in the Reagan White House. That Hillary should talk to Eleanor Roosevelt bothers some of us less than the fact that her husband obviously doesn't....Isn't it amazing that women have invented or designed or discovered the prototype computer, nitrate fertilizer, penicillin, integral calculus, food refrigeration, space helmets, atomic parity, automatic flight control, pulsars and even DNA, not to mention square-bottomed bags, ice cream cones, vacuum canning and the gardenia. And yet we're still afraid of what they'll whisper into the ears of their powerful husbands. Might we at least concede that the people we'll marry say more about us than the people we select for the second place on the ticket of our glory-hounding selves; nobody elects vice presidents, either. Our pathological fear of Hillary and any other uppity woman, whatever her politics, is a form of foot-binding as well as a species of hate radio."
"You also quote a letter in [It Takes a Village] that Nelson Mandela wrote to one of his daughters while he was in prison, and I'm paraphrasing a bit, but he wrote that there is no personal misfortune that one cannot turn into a personal triumph if one has the iron will and the necessary skills. You clearly have an iron will, you clearly are skilled. How are you going to turn this personal misfortune into a personal triumph?"
"You think government should do a lot more than it's doing in terms of making children a priority, doing things for kids. We're clearly living in an age where people are anti-government. How do you get across the message that we all need to see everybody's kids as our own, we need to have more programs, the government needs to be more involved?"
NBC's Bryant Gumbel: "You mention talk radio. They [relatives of Oklahoma bombing victims] have some very hard feelings about talk radio and the hate being spewed by some of those on the far end of the spectrum."
Bill Moyers: "If anything, talk radio in that part of the world is more anti-government today than ever. The airwaves are saturated with hostility, it's just an unremitting vilification of government. Sometimes it's, sometimes it's, you know, the government makes mistakes and there are justifiable grievances against government. But this is, this goes beyond that, it's excessive. And these people take it like salt in the wound. They drive around, they turn on their radio, they hear some vicious attack on government, and they think, `You know, if you strike the government, you kill my daughter.'"
"Limbaugh's draft-avoiding, non-churchgoing, non-voting, non-fact-checking, painfully insecure triple-wife lifestyle all are topics delicately touched upon by Franken. Where I think he really hits the jackpot, though, is when he actually quotes Limbaugh directly as in: ...`I'm sick and tired of playing the one phony game I've had to play and that is this so-called compassion for the poor. I don't have compassion for the poor.' He may not have cancer, either, and I would pray that he never have to walk that particular path of pain: Yet who am I to say, or how can any of us know, the ways of God in unlocking a heart grown hard? It could happen more gently; I notice a couple of weeks ago, for instance, they shut down that `Rush Room' at Blackie's House of Beef. Limbaugh `is fading right now' in popularity among the restaurant's patrons, according to catering manager Paul DeKoning. Is this a great country, or what?"
"When I heard the quote it sounded to me like it was Limbaugh or Liddy or Ollie North. It was like wacko talk radio. It didn't sound like Brinkley. In other words, Brinkley's always been irreverent, but always kind of classy."
CBS reporter Eric Engberg: "....Okay, how about Forbes' number one wackiest flat tax promise?"
Steve Forbes: "Parents would have more time to spend with their children, and with each other."
Former IRS commissioner Donald Alexander: "That's right. The sky would be blue all the time."
Engberg: "The fact is, the flat tax is one giant untested theory. One economist suggested that before we risk putting it in, we ought to try it out someplace, like maybe Albania. Eric Engberg, CBS News, Washington."
"Americans are forever grumbling about high taxes and big government. You'd think promising a tax cut would be like giving away free candy....Everybody knows what happens when you eat too much candy. You get cavities. You get sick. You get fat....`Candy?' Dole says. `No thank you,' the voters reply. `We're feeling much better now and we don't want to get sick again.' Dr. Dole and Dr. Kemp are supply-side specialists. They have a revolutionary theory that says `Candy is good for you! More tax cuts, more growth. More growth, more income.' Now what a terrific theory! And so what if Democratic doctors say they are a couple of quacks. Gene [Randall], have some candy!"
"[Steve Forbes] is changing the debate in a really sorry way. This was the week that we left an honest attempt to do something about entitlements and we traveled into cloud cuckoo land, which is where the flat tax is."
"By being so nice to Pat Buchanan and treating him as a good guy with bad policies, are we not all guilty of legitimizing his views and putting a smiling face on a hateful voice?"
"Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian ultra-nationalist, embarrassed Pat Buchanan today by embracing him as an ideological soulmate. `Today,' said Zhirinovsky, `there is a presidential candidate in America who is not afraid to speak the truth, that truly the Congress of the United States is an occupied territory of Israel. Your press,' Zhirinovsky went on, `is occupied, and all of your finances. Americans don't manage those. Israel does, through American Jews or Negroes.' The Buchanan campaign immediately issued a message of rejection to Zhirinovsky. It's not that Buchanan hasn't expressed some of the views that Zhirinovsky echoed, but perhaps he'd never realized how ugly they sounded until he heard them in the mouth of a genuine bigot."
"Under pressure he [Gingrich] reverted to the pompous thug of late-night cable, the backbencher lobbing grenades on C-SPAN about sick Democrats who were enemies of normal Americans....[Voters have] learned how far he is willing to go to achieve his larger goals: shut the government down to make a point with the President; invite lobbyists not just to lobby, but to draft the laws themselves; and give a huge tax break to his party's allies at the expense of services for the poor, with the explanation that this is what it takes to keep his Republican coalition together."
"About 3.7 million Americans, wage-earning Americans, are paid the minimum wage or less."
"On Capitol Hill today, the minimum wage and how best to embarrass your opponent. For ten million Americans, it's a very personal issue."
"In fact, only about 330,000 employees, most of them part-timers, today work for the minimum." -- ABC reporter Bob Zelnick, April 24 Good Morning America. "An estimated 9.7 million Americans make the minimum wage or close to it."
"How can anyone argue that Bill Clinton has not been a good President? Business should love him. The country has been in a controlled boom since he bludgeoned through by one vote his first economic package....Workers should love him. There are more jobs than ever....Minorities should love him. He has a terrific record of appointing women and minorities to judgeships and high federal posts. He has put civil rights back on the table after 12 years of Republican neglect....
"No, it makes you wonder what the President and his wife could have accomplished these four years if they had not been consumed by these scandals, these lawsuits and these clippings. By almost any measure, the past four years have been spectacular for many Americans. Still, if Bill Clinton had been a full-time President, if Hillary Clinton had been a full-time First Lady...
"Would the poor be a little richer? Would the old be a little healthier? Would the young be a little smarter? Would the nation be a little more prosperous? Would the world be a little less troubled? You wonder. And you wonder if he wonders."
"I can't bring myself to hate the Unabomber. Quite the opposite; I find his story curiously affecting. The original Unabomber -- the anonymous, hooded fellow, hiding behind aviator glasses -- was uninteresting, a freak, a nobody. But Theodore Kaczynski is someone very interesting indeed...I envy his disobedience....the [manifesto] tells us what we all know: that American society can be a powerfully compromising, deadening, even saddening force....If Kaczynski proves to be the Unabomber, he is nobody's hero, certainly not mine. The bomber murdered three people, and might well have many more, all by design. Coincidentally, Kaczynski invaded our front pages just before Easter Sunday, mute, pathetic and manacled before his captors. But maybe he accomplished what the Unabomber set out to do, to make us think about ourselves, and the society that drove him to madness."
"It's likely that your view of Mikhail Gorbachev depends on your point of view. From the perspective of the West, the former President of the Soviet Union of course was a courageous, far-seeing prophet whose reforms set in motion the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship and the end of the Cold War." "We always welcome you in this country, Mikhail Gorbachev. We're especially pleased to have you tonight on InterNight. And we offer our very best, of course, to Raisa Gorbachev and we hope that you'll have a long and happy life. Perhaps one day again we'll see you in political office in Russia. We know that you've devoted your life to peace and to changing your country and those of us who have gotten to know you count ourselves among the privileged."
"The torching of black churches throughout the South punctuates the ugly rhetoric of the Buchanan campaign....In fact, all the conservative Republicans, from Newt Gingrich to Pete Wilson, who have sought political advantage by exploiting white resentment should come and stand in the charred ruins of the New Liberty Baptist Church in Tyler [Alabama]...and wonder if their coded phrases encouraged the arsonists. Over the past 18 months, while Republicans fulminated about welfare and affirmative action, more than 20 churches in Alabama and six other Southern and Border states have been torched....there is already enough evidence to indict the cynical conservatives who build their political careers, George Wallace-style, on a foundation of race-baiting. They may not start fires, but they fan the flames."
"But he is worse than oblivious to the political sewage. It is the medium he has chosen to swim in. Sometimes this evil nonsense takes the form of language....In waging the culture wars, he introduces a hateful ethnic dimension. Almost all the 20th century's horrors (the slaughter of the Armenians, Stalin's starvation of the Ukrainian kulaks, the Hitler Holocaust) have begun with a demonization of others. Buchanan has a genius for techniques that bundle his enemies together and subtly satanize them."
"[Clinton] knows that he is consigning helpless people to terrible hardship, and some to premature burials. He called the press conference to announce that he will sign the bill anyway....Mr. Shumyatsky is in the U.S. legally, but is not a citizen. Thus his SSI checks will cease when the welfare bill becomes law. He will have no money at all. Perhaps he will set up light housekeeping in a park. Maybe he'll curl up on a grate. Maybe he'll do the politicians a favor and just die."
"Let me go to the minimum wage though for a minute...Ten million people would be affected by it. Most of them live at or below the poverty level. And this Congress which is trying to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, which conservatives used to tell us was the alternative, and refuses to do anything about the minimum wage makes Marie Antoinette look like Mother Teresa. It is just an outrage!"
"For the fourth time this year Washingtonians were warned to boil the drinking water because more than 10 percent of samples tested positive for bacteria. The warning was lifted late Thursday but not before thousands of people from all over the world, here to see the fireworks in the nation's capital, were treated to water that would embarrass a Third World country and Bob Novak. Maybe this is enough to get your Republicans bent on cutting spending for clean water to reconsider."
"When you're talking about pure journalists, I mean reporters, when you're talking about reporters, not columnists, I don't think there's any liberal bias. I don't think there really ever has been."
"People are just stunned. It's such a wacky charge, and a weird way to go about it....I don't know what Bernie was driving at. It just sounds bizarre."
Larry King: "Over all these fifteen years, how do you react to the constant, especially, far right-wing criticism that the news on CBS is mainstream biased?"
Dan Rather: "...Well, my answer to that is basically a good Texas phrase, which is bullfeathers....I think the fact that if someone survives for four or five years at or near the top in network television, you can just about bet they are pretty good at keeping independence in their reporting. What happens is a lot of people don't want independence. They want the news reported the way they want it for their own special political agendas or ideological reasons."
"I'm all news, all the time. Full power, tall tower. I want to break in when news breaks out. That's my agenda. Now respectfully, when you start talking about a liberal agenda and all the, quote, liberal bias in the media, I quite frankly, and I say this respectfully but candidly to you, I don't know what you're talking about. Now if you want to talk about an issue, what do I believe as a citizen of the United States of America, I can tell you what I believe in. I believe in a strong defense, clean water, and tight money."
"In New Hampshire, closest Senate race in the country, this race between Dick Swett and Bob Smith is hot and tight as a too small bathing suit on a too long car ride back from the beach."
"In her Wednesday Commentary page column, Linda Bowles stated that President Clinton and his former campaign adviser Dick Morris both were `guilty of callous unfaithfulness to their wives and children.' Neither man has admitted to being or been proven to have been unfaithful. The Tribune regrets the error."
"The Rapture, and I quote, `is the immediate departure from this Earth of over four million people in less than a fifth of a second,' unquote. This happily-volatilized mass of the saved were born again in Jesus Christ. Everybody left behind will basically go to Hell, but not before experiencing Armageddon, which is a really bad end of the world. If you find yourself in this situation, there isn't much you can do except one, starve yourself, and two, get your head cut off. This loving Christmas message coming as it did amid the jingle of the mall Santa and the twinkling manger at the corner of Canal and the Ramparts made it clear that the Rapture is indeed necessary. The evaporation of four million people who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place."
"He [Jack Kemp] is a rare combination -- a nice conservative. These days conservatives are supposed to be mean. They're supposed to be haters."
"He [Ted Kaczynski] wasn't a hypocrite. He lived as he wrote. His manifesto, and there are a lot of things in it that I would agree with and a lot of other people would, that industrialization and pollution all are terrible things, but he carried it to an extreme, and obviously murder is something that is far beyond any political philosophy, but he had a bike. He didn't have any plumbing, he didn't have any electricity."
Ray Archer, Arizona Republic editorial writer and columnist
Brent Baker, Editor of MediaWatch and Notable Quotables
Mark Belling, talk show host, WISN in Milwaukee
L. Brent Bozell III, Chairman, the Media Research Center
George Brown, talk show host, WTAG in Worcester Mass.
David Brudnoy, television and radio talk host, WBZ in Boston
Priscilla Buckley, Senior Editor of National Review
Tucker Carlson, staff writer, The Weekly Standard
Don Cook, Program Director, WCHS in Charleston, WVa.
Sandy Crawford, Editor, Family Guide to Prime Time Television
Mark Davis, talk host, WBAP; columnist, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Midge Decter, author, New York City
Jim Eason, talk show host, KSFO in San Francisco
Don Feder, Boston Herald writer and syndicated columnist
John Fund, editorial board member, The Wall Street Journal
Tim Graham, Co-Editor of Notable Quotables
David Gold, talk show host, KLIF in Dallas/Ft. Worth
John Hancock, talk show host, WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC
Johnny Hart, cartoonist, B.C. and The Wizard of Id
Kirk Healy, talk show host, WDBO in Orlando
Arianna Huffington, Chair, Center for Effective Compassion
Tom Joyner, talk show host, PTF Network, Raleigh, NC
Marie Kaigler, news talk radio host and broadcaster, Detroit
Cliff Kincaid, media columnist, Human Events
Paul Koloski, Editorial Editor, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tim Lamer, Director, Free Market Project; Editor, MediaNomics
John Leonard, TV and radio interviewer, Florida
Richard Lessner, Editorial Page Director, Union Leader N.H.
Jason Lewis, talk show host, KSTP in Minneapolis/St. Paul
Don Markwell, Operations Manager, WACV in Montgomery
Tom Marr, talk show host, WWDB in Philadelphia
Mary Matalin, nationally syndicated talk show host, CBS Radio
Patrick McGuigan, Editor, editorial page, The Oklahoman
Jan Mickelson, talk show host, WHO in Des Moines
Wes Minter, talk show host, KCMO in Kansas City
M. Jane Norris, WAVE-TV host, WHAS talk radio host, Louisville
Robert D. Novak, syndicated columnist; TV commentator
Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor for National Review
Marvin Olasky, Professor of journalism, U. of Texas at Austin
Janet Parshall, nationally syndicated radio talk show host
Henry Payne, editorial cartoonist, Scripps Howard News Service
Dan Pierce, talk show host, WGIR in Manchester, NH
Mike Pintek, talk show host, KDKA in Pittsburgh
Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Executive Editor, American Spectator
Michael Reagan, national radio talk show host
Mike Rosen, talk show host, KOA; columnist, Denver Post
William Rusher, Distinguished Fellow, Claremont Institute
Ron Smith, talk show host, WBAL in Baltimore
Ted J. Smith III, journalism professor, Virginia Commonwealth U.
Philip Terzian, syndicated columnist, The Providence Journal
Cal Thomas, nationally syndicated columnist
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Editor-in-Chief of The American Spectator
Carl Wiglesworth, talk show host, WOAI in San Antonio
Armstrong Williams, nationally syndicated columnist, talk host
Dick Williams, columnist; host of Atlanta's The Georgia Gang
Walter Williams, Professor of economics, George Mason U.
Thomas Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events
Barry Young, host, WestStar TalkRadio Network; KFYI, Phoenix