Welcome to the third annual Linda Ellerbee Awards for Distinguished Reporting, a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 1991. The awards are named after the ABC and NBC veteran who earned the distinction for a Cable News Network commentary which won the 1989 "Award for the Silliest Analysis." Ellerbee had wondered about the sanity of Vietnamese boat people:
- "Why would any Vietnamese come to America after what America did for Vietnam? Don't they remember My Lai, napalm, Sylvester Stallone? Clearly they have no more sense over there, than say, Mexicans who keep trying to get into this country even though this country stole large parts of their country from them in the first place."
To determine this year's winners, a panel of 36 members of the media and media observers evaluated over 125 quotes. A list of the 1991 judges appears on page 8. [This issue covers quotes from December 1990 through November 1991.] First under each award heading is the winner, followed in order by the top runners-up.
"There is a `logic' too to Dahmer's crime. Raised in a culture that condoned racial prejudice and despised homosexuals, Dahmer appeared to believe he could preserve a place in mainstream society -- with all its furtive hopes of family, friends, and future -- by destroying the evidence of his homosexuality. He killed his 'lovers' -- mostly blacks -- dismembered them, and in some cases, may have devoured their remains. Crime is a logical, if messy, quick fix to the shortcomings of society. Is that the lesson then? That we get the criminals our societies deserve? Yes, of course."See the Runners-Up for the Quote Of The Year
"Remember all the chatter about a short war? Well, forget it."
"Well, they [U.S. soldiers] really didn't risk that much, number one. And second, to honor people who believe in violence is to honor the ethic of violence. And if you believe violence solves problems, you overlook quite a lot of morality. You overlook what Gandhi said: `An eye for an eye and we all go blind.' So why celebrate that? Why honor these people?....Instead of celebrating, we ought to have a national month of mourning for what we did in that area of the world. We supplied them weapons endlessly and they used them. And then after we mourn, we ought to ask them to forgive us for what they did."
War Highlights Shortcomings Of U.S. Forces
"Certainly a lot of Americans would die, an estimated 2,500 of them in just the first ten days of battle. American troops would do most of the fighting and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of them would be casualties along with countless thousands of Iraqis, soldiers and civilians."
"And why do they do these unnatural, unhuman things, these soldiers? Not for God or country or freedom or even because they've been ordered to. They do them, finally, as James Jones, the author put it, because they don't want to appear unmanly in front of their friends."
Pat Buchanan and Peter Arnett
Pat Buchanan: "If there was information you could have gotten out that could have saved scores, hundreds of American lives, you wouldn't have transmitted that information?"
Peter Arnett: "I wouldn't have transmitted that information. I would not have gotten that information in the first place. But I would not have transmitted it. I was in Baghdad because I was a correspondent for CNN, which has no political affiliations with the U.S. government, thank goodness."
Arthur Kent and Faith Daniels
Reporter Arthur Kent: "Saddam Hussein is a cunning man and nowhere does he show that more clearly than on a battlefield when he's under attack."
Anchor Faith Daniels: "And that, Arthur, really seems to be this Administration's greatest miscalculation."
Arthur Kent: "That's right, Faith. He is ruthless, but more than ruthless. In the past 11 days, he's surprised us. He's shown us a capable military mind and he still seems to know exactly what he's doing."
"Allied military units are on the move. Their positions, movements, and plans must be carefully safeguarded. We must assume that the enemy is confused about what is happening on the battlefield and it is absolutely essential that we not do anything inadvertently ourselves to clarify the picture for him."
"As part of our CBS News live coverage of the beginning of the ground war offensive, we're talking to Bob McKeown, a CBS News reporter who's one mile from the Kuwaiti border. Bob, any indication of how far up you the think the Allies are now?"
"Ten months after the new Germany merged, women in the eastern sector are coming to the stunning realization that, in many ways, democracy has set them back 40 years."
"Inefficient as the old communist economy was, it did provide jobs of a sort for everybody and a steady, if meager, supply of basic goods at low, subsidized prices; Soviet citizens for more than 70 years were conditioned to expect that from their government. Says a Moscow worker: 'We had everything during [Leonid] Brezhnev's times. There was sausage in the stores. We could buy vodka. Things were normal.'"
"Like many other women in what used to be the German Democratic Republic, she worries that political liberation has cost her social and economic freedom...The kindergartens that cared for their children are becoming too expensive, and West Germany's more restrictive abortion laws threaten to deny many Eastern women a popular method of birth control....East Germany's child-care system helped the state indoctrinate its young, but also assured women in the East the freedom to pursue a career while raising a family."
"But most of his fellow countrymen do not share John Paul's concept of morality...many here expect John Paul to use his authority to support Church efforts to ban abortion, perhaps the country's principal means of birth control. And this, they say, could deprive them of a freedom of choice the communists never tried to take away from them."
Peter Arnett: "While we were there [at a bombing site], a distraught woman shouted insults at the press and vented anger at the West."
Woman: "Mea culpa! Mea culpa! All of you are responsible, all of you! Bombing the people for the sake of oil! Hunted as if we are Iranian! We are human beings! Who made this area like this? The flames in the area, it's the West! Mea culpa, the blood, she is on your head!"
"Iraq has been polishing up its propaganda game for years. A woman wailing in TV-perfect English about civilian casualties turned out, as CNN later reported, to be an Iraqi official [aide to the Foreign Affairs Under- secretary]. She also showed up on French TV wailing in French."
"I saw various plans that the manufacturers had left behind talking about its use as a shelter and I can tell you that I saw no sign of military equipment on that lower level and I looked into all the main rooms."
"Intelligence sources told Newsweek that only the top two levels sheltered senior military commanders and Baath officials, along with their families. Beneath them was a secret basement filled with equipment for communicating with Army leaders at the front. Last week the Iraqis flooded the secret basement to prevent reporters from seeing it after the bombing."
"The message that came from them very strongly in Baghdad was that they're pretty sick of Saddam Hussein. They don't like the man, they don't like what he's done to their country, and they'd like to be rid of him."
"But the air war itself, as it goes on, has shown no sign of diminishing Saddam's support here....all the people that we talk to with the television cameras say that the continuing air attacks have in fact strengthened their desire, their will to resist the Allied coalition."
"And then there was Anita Hill, the poised daughter of so many generations of black women who have been burned carrying torches into the battle for principle. The cause of civil rights and social justice has so often fallen to them to defend. Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were slaves by birth, freedom fighters by temperament. Rosa Parks was a tired seamstress who shoved history forward by refusing to give up her seat on the bus....The latest to claim her place in line is Anita Hill, a private, professional woman unwilling to relinquish her dignity without a fight."
"Once, long ago, he was the Prince Hal of American politics: high-spirited, youthful, heedless. He never evolved, like Prince Hal, into the ideal king. Instead he did something that was in its way just as impressive. He became one of the great lawmakers of the century, a Senate leader whose liberal mark upon American government has been prominent and permanent. The tabloid version does not do him justice. The public that knows Kennedy by his misadventures alone may vastly underrate him."
"And finally President Carter, you are now considered one of the world's foremost statesmen. You've been called the best ex-President this country has ever had. Your reputation has been bolstered tremendously since you left office. How does that make you feel?"
"Elizabeth, his wife of 56 years, applauds him as a good family man. Indeed, how can anyone think ill of Hall when he beams so about cooking pancakes for his grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, or shares his secret for making tasty beef stew. (It's the apples.)"
"Demagogues don't yell `nigger' or `Jew boy' anymore. They've learned better...[Duke] traded in his bigoted rhetoric for a slick new glossary of coded appeals to racial resentment, market tested over the past two decades by mainstream conservative politicians."
"[Lee Atwater] was a scoundrel, one of the darkest figures to dominate our recent politics, a man with a comprehensively cynical view of his fellow creatures....He made it in the most improbable way, learning to dress at Brooks Brothers and keep his funky white trash wickedness too....In running campaigns that played on racial divisions, he was something worse than a bigot; he was a man who pretended to be a bigot in hope that it would sell."
"I think that he [Thomas] had the advantage of prime time on Friday night. He had everything going for him. The Democrats did not ask him tough questions about the facts of her charge and they did, the Republicans did a great job of hammering her. It's basically what happened in the '88 campaign. The Republicans know how to fight dirty."
"You big [expletive]....You are so full of [expletive]. You are an evil man....I don't have to listen to this [expletive]. You're a bitter and evil man and all your colleagues hate you."
"Twelve million American children who do not have enough to eat, who lack adequate health care, and who are behind in schools and being left behind in life. Much of our broadcast will be dedicated to that. Which makes the major news in Washington today seem even more of a contrast. The President's Chief of Staff, John Sununu, is at the center of attention again having to do with his use of limousines and corporate jets."
Hays Gorey and Jerome Cramer
Hays Gorey, Senior Correspondent: "Well, (Republican Sen. John) McCain has got this ad hoc group of superpatriots that he's organizing."
Jerome Cramer, NASA & Technology Correspondent: "They wear brown shirts and march around. Small potatoes."
"It's short of soap, so there are lice in hospitals. It's short of pantyhose, so women's legs go bare. It's short snowsuits, so babies stay home in winter....The problem isn't communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages."
"If nothing else, the Cuban revolution has eliminated abject need. The cost may be generalized poverty and zero political pluralism, but, even with shortages, there is no starvation here. Education and medical care are assured for all. And, unlike in most of Latin America, you don't see naked or even shoeless children in the streets. When Castro speaks of the need to defend the gains of revolution, he means a level of social welfare rare in the underdeveloped world."
"Young Cubans increasingly see themselves as the last idealists in a world that cares only about money....Ninety miles away in Miami, Cuban emigres wish for Fidel's imminent collapse, but the island's university students who volunteer to take a two-week 'vacation' in the fields don't see trouble brewing in Paradise."
Harriet Van Horne
"In the 1980s, a time when wealth accumulated and men decayed, the superpatriots entered Gloryland. They were the anointed Moral Majority. They stood foursquare for God, Reagan, and the bombing of abortion clinics....We could only wince when the President called the Contras 'freedom fighters,' when Oliver North became a national hero, when the pledge of allegiance became -- with sinister embellishments -- a campaign issue...We winced -- and some of us wept in shame -- when George Bush, wearing the white flower of a blameless life, won the 1988 election with tactics only a Mafia don could admire."
"Tonight, the NBC News program Expose looks at incidences of sexual harassment in [federal low-income] housing. It's reported by correspondent Michele Gillen....Well, I guess that's where the problem began. Actually, it was when the budget was taken out of the affordable housing market during the Reagan years and thus, the problem came about."
"Cannon starts off by proclaiming that Reagan is not a dunce, a point that can be questioned by the very fact that it has to be made, a point we all want to believe but a point that Cannon tends to undercut every few pages....Acting might be all right if you're a king, but it just won't work for a President...the nation needed more than inspiration in the 1980s. It needed leadership -- moral leadership, intellectual leadership, political leadership. It needed a manager, not a cheerleader. It needed a statesman, not a star. It needed answers, not anecdotes. It needed ideas as well as ideals. And Ronald Reagan wasn't up to that task."
Lea Thompson and Bryant Gumbel
Reporter Lea Thompson: "The Consumer Product Safety Commission can stop manufacturing; it can fine; it can even seize clothes right off the rack if PJs don't meet flammability standards. None of that's happened. So far the agency has only hoped a manufacturer will take its advice. So you can't depend on government to police this for you. We did find this flammable sleepwear everywhere we went."
Bryant Gumbel: "Lea, Lea, real quick. Why is the government abdicating its responsibility on this? Is this another holdover from the Reagan years and the cutbacks?"
Thompson: "Absolutely. And somebody's gotta do something."
"The days of Simpson Chic are over. Now he is more often compared to Red-baiter Joe McCarthy. The image of Simpson flinging open his jacket and declaring he had lots of `stuff' against Anita Hill -- while revealing nothing -- was the lowest of many low points in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Any Senator with a sense of history should have said, as attorney Joseph Welch eventually did to McCarthy, `Senator, have you no shame?'....[Simpson] is writing a book about the media -- a little like Stalin discussing intergovernmental relations."
"I've been in this town for 21 years, and they play a vicious brand of politics in Washington. Washington can be a mean town. This was as vicious a fight as I've ever seen except it was totally one-sided....When you had Alan Simpson standing up there like Joe McCarthy, reaching in his pockets and saying `I'm getting stuff through faxes, and all over the country,' he sounded just like Joe McCarthy, let's face it. And you had Arlen Specter, who was a prosecutor at one time, saying that she committed perjury, when probably you couldn't find another prosecutor in the country that would tell you that she had committed perjury."
"Arlen Specter accused her of perjury. If you read the record, Arlen Specter was the one who distorted what she said. Orrin Hatch even suggested that she got one of her charges by reading The Exorcist, I mean that she was besieged by demons. Orrin should really stick to talking dirty. He does that better. Alan Simpson, for those of us who were too young to know what Joe McCarthy was really like, Alan Simpson showed us. `I have in my pocket two dozen card-carrying smearers against this awful woman,' and then he produced those smears, those bombshells, and they were duds."
"The genius of the Constitution is that it sides with the citizen against the state. That's why it's such a worldwide success. But today's Supreme Court tends to favor the state over the citizen....In this Supreme Court, the state wins more often than the citizens. Something to keep in mind when they give you the old malarkey about the Court being true to the spirit of the Constitution. This Court isn't."
"What was astonishing here was not that the Court opposes abortion. What was astonishing was its absurd view that medical personnel paid with government money lose their right to free speech. The Constitution says no law shall abridge freedom of speech, no law. Could it be that the Court hasn't read that part? ....Was [David Souter] able and willing to read the Constitution as a member of the Court? Would he abide by it? Well, now we know the answer. It's no."
"Under Rehnquist, the Supreme Court no longer sees itself as the defender of civil rights and civil liberties, the champion of the individual. Gone is the Court majority that breathed new life into the Bill of Rights, dismantled Southern segregation, disciplined police who violated the rights of citizens, removed religion from the public schools, pushed a President into resignation, and swept aside the laws forbidding women to end their pregnancies."
"On the same day major groups announced their opposition, Thomas' friends from Georgia showed up on Capitol Hill. But Thomas has taken controversial positions, such as suggesting that natural laws may supersede individual rights."
"Clarence Thomas is the best only at his ability to bootlick for Ronald Reagan and George Bush....They didn't pick him because he was black. They picked him because he's a black conservative. And the thing that bothers me about his appointment -- if they had put David Duke on, I wouldn't scream as much because they would look at David Duke and reject him for what he is. If you gave Clarence Thomas a little flour on his face, you'd think you had David Duke talking."
"It may sound bigoted; well, this is a bigoted world and why can't black people be allowed a little Archie Bunker mentality?....Here's a man [Thomas] who's going to decide crucial issues for the country and he has already said no to blacks; he has already said if he can't paint himself white he'll think white and marry a white woman."
"Who is this guy, Clarence Thomas, and why should we want him on the Supreme Court? I can't think of any good reasons. The man is not distinguished and he doesn't seem to have a heart...Let's be straight about this. Clarence Thomas is a tool of the rich and powerful. His supporters include Dan Quayle, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms. Even David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader, is crazy about Clarence Thomas. Make no mistake, old people, poor people, black people, women, forget about it. Clarence Thomas is not your friend."
"American tax rates today are, relatively speaking, low. Repeat, low. About half the top rate in the rest of the industrialized world. Our sales taxes are equally low. Fact: the United States is a tax bargain, believe it or not. The difference, of course, is that in other countries, people see their tax money coming back to them to make life more agreeable and secure. In Western Europe, health care for everyone. In Scandinavia, day care centers for mothers and children. In Japan, modern, efficient cities that work."
"Every Governor in America last year could have recited the Jim Florio rule of political survival: never mount an honest attack against a state deficit. The New Jersey Governor, who combined service cuts with the highest tax hike in the state's history, was all but tarred and feathered for his efforts. But now, with at least 29 states facing potential deficits, Florio's approach is beginning to seem almost prescient."
"If you're going to raise a child who escapes this cycle [of poverty], you're going to have to start a little earlier. And that requires money -- M-O-N-E-Y. Read my lips. And it's something this nation still isn't ready to commit to...without the hard billions of dollars, lots of money which must come from you dear taxpayers, we're not going to do this."
U.S Raises Estimate of '92 Deficit
New York Times
Budget Deficit Estimate Is Lowered
Free Market Get Pope's Blessing
New York Times
Papal Encyclical Urges Capitalism to Shed Injustices
Los Angeles Times
D'Amato Cleared After Senate Inquiry
Senate Ethics Panel Rebukes D'Amato
"The earth is home, and all its refugees, its homeless, sometimes seem a sort of advance guard of apocalypse. They represent a principle of disintegration -- the fate of homelessness generalized to a planetary scale....The flesh is home: African nomads without houses decorate their faces and bodies instead. The skull is home. We fly in and out of it on mental errands. The highly developed spirit becomes a citizen of its own mobility, for home has been internalized and travels with the homeowner. Home, thus transformed: is freedom. Everywhere you hang your hat is home. Home is the bright light under the hat."
"Politicians led a victory parade of ga-ga worship, with people hugging tanks that have vacuumed billions from social programs. The Supreme Court ordered family planning centers to help keep women barefoot and pregnant by not telling poor women about abortion, while Congress refuses to appropriate enough funds to feed poor children. And the President says his big-deal domestic programs are highways and executions. Meanwhile, the S&L and banking fiascos flash around the country Willie Horton-style, raping not only women but men and children yet unborn."
"Oh say, we've seen too much. The Star-Spangled Banner pushes like a cough through America's mouth and the twilight's last gleaming is just that, a sickly flash above our heads as we ride unsuspecting in the bellies of sleek trains, plop to our knees in churches, embracing truths that disgust us."
Can Lawns Be Justified?
Awash in fertilizers and pesticides, they may be a hazard to homeowners - and children, pets and neighbors
"There is a `logic' too to Dahmer's crime. Raised in a culture that condoned racial prejudice and despised homosexuals, Dahmer appeared to believe he could preserve a place in mainstream society -- with all its furtive hopes of family, friends, and future -- by destroying the evidence of his homosexuality. He killed his 'lovers' -- mostly blacks -- dismembered them, and in some cases, may have devoured their remains. Crime is a logical, if messy, quick fix to the shortcomings of society. Is that the lesson then? That we get the criminals our societies deserve? Yes, of course."
"How can you who protest abortion be so certain that we aren't swimming toward a fate worse than death? Is homicide in the womb, swift and merciful, not better than the slow death that lies ahead for some of us once our lives begin?...Better to die now, before we can feel real pain, than to enter a world where life is so painful it's criminal to be born."
"It's a morbid observation, but if everyone on earth just stopped breathing for an hour, the greenhouse effect would no longer be a problem."
"Tanks could crunch grass and other vegetation, knock down dunes and kick up sandstorms, said Ken Nagy, who teaches about deserts at the University of California at Los Angeles. `Plants and animals there are already living on the edge,' he said, 'and this insult could be enough to push them over the edge.'"
L. Brent Bozell III, Chairman, the Media Research Center
Priscilla Buckley, Senior Editor of National Review
Stephen Chapman, Chicago Tribune columnist
John Corry, Boston University visiting professor, Broadcast and Film; former New York Times television critic
Sandy Crawford, Editor of TV, etc.
Mark Davis, talk show host, WRC Radio, Washington, D.C.
Midge Decter, Fellow, Religion and Public Life, New York
Jim Eason, talk show host, KGO Radio in San Francisco
Terry Eastland, Resident Scholar, Ethics and Public Policy Center; American Spectator "Presswatch" columnist
Don Feder, Boston Herald and syndicated columnist
Samuel Francis, Washington Times columnist
John Fund, Wall Street Journal editorial writer
Tim Graham, Editor of Notable Quotables
Les Jameson, talk show host, WLAC Radio in Nashville and Board Member, National Assn. of Talk Show Hosts
Cliff Kincaid, media analyst
William Kling, former Chicago Tribune and Washington Times political reporter
Rush Limbaugh, talk show host, Excellence in Broadcasting network
Marlin Maddoux, talk show host, USA Radio Network
Patrick McGuigan, Chief editorial writer, Daily Oklahoman
Mike McMurray, talk show host, WCKY Radio in Cincinnati
Michael Medved, co-host, Sneak Previews on PBS
William Murchison, Dallas Morning News columnist
Marvin Olasky, Associate Professor of Journalism, U. of Texas
Burton Yale Pines, Senior VP, the Heritage Foundation
Mike Pintek, talk show host, KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh
Wladyslaw Pleszcynski, Managing Editor of The American Spectator
Mike Rosen, talk show host, KOA Radio and Denver Post columnist
William Rusher, Claremont Institute Senior Fellow; & syndicated columnist
Marc Ryan, editorial writer, Waterbury [CT] Republican-American
Ted J. Smith III, Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University
Philip Terzian, Editorial page editor, The Providence Journal
Cal Thomas, columnist, Los Angeles Times syndicate
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Editor of The American Spectator
Dick Williams, Atlanta Journal columnist
Thomas Winter, Editor of Human Events