CyberAlert -- 05/09/1996 -- Jennings Reality Check

Jennings Reality Check

Three items today:

1) Peter Jennings denies anti-GOP/conservative bias. Judge for yourself by reading over some NQs from ABC.

2) Time magazine advocates higher gas taxes.

3) Time's TV show analysis not quite on target.


Peter Jennings appeared on CNN's Larry King Live Tuesday night and denied that he or ABC are biased. After showing a clip of Newt Gingrich claiming the media favor Clinton, this exchange (transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens) ensued:
Larry King: "And he says you're part of a passive conspiracy. So it's fair to ask. Are you?"
Peter Jennings: "No I don't think we're part of a passive conspiracy and I think that if you talk to the Clintonites they would tell you we've given them a pretty good going over. On my own broadcast I think we've given Medicare a pretty good going over and health care. But I think people should be mindful of the fact that in a political season we're going to be a factor. And we're going to be. And I think we're a factor already in America these days because I think we do contribute sometimes to the negativity in the land and so it's not all that difficult to pick up on our mistakes and expound on them from a particular point of view."
Larry King: "Does he have a point?"
Peter Jennings: "In which respect?"
Larry King: "That we do make mistakes."
Peter Jennings: "Oh there's no question we make mistakes. Oh there's no question we make mistakes."
Larry King: "But the mistakes are not passive conspiracy mistakes."
Peter Jennings: "Well, I yes I'm uh...We get it from the left. We get it from the right. We get it [from] Republicans. We get it from Democrats. I don't think, however you may judge reporters, and some people judge us by the number of minutes we give to a given subject which I've never thought was particularly fruitful. Some people do it on the basis of how reporters tell surveyors that they vote. I'm not sure that' particularly effective. I think reporters for the most part, whether they work for newspapers, television, radio, get up everyday and go in pursuit of the story. I do agree with those people who say the agenda tends to be set sometimes before we get on the air because we all have, you know, political, social, cultural baggage."

I'm not quite sure what the last line means, but inspired by a suggestion from Wes Minter of KCMO in Kansas City, I've gone back through NQ to see if Jennings or his show have done anything that could possibly justify Gingrich's ire. Judge for yourself.

-- A Jennings radio commentary from November 14, 1994: "Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. It's clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around. It's the job of the parent to teach the child to control the anger and channel it in a positive way. Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two- year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week... Parenting and governing don't have to be dirty words: the nation can't be run by an angry two-year-old."

-- ABC reporter Jack Smith previewing what the Republicans will bring, on January 1, 1995: "Check out the new year. You'll probably get a tax cut -- one economists don't think we can afford. As the new Republican majority flexes its for welfare reform, with the poor, who need help most, getting less. Your local symphony orchestra and educational TV -- both may become history if the GOP eliminates funding for the arts. And, orphanages."

-- Two questions from Jennings' interview with Clinton, aired on the January 5, 1995 World News Tonight:
"I'd like to start, if I may, with what I think you may think is a puzzlement. You've reduced the deficit. You've created jobs. Haiti hasn't been an enormous problem. You've got a crime bill with your assault weapon ban in it. You got NAFTA, you got GATT, and 50 percent of the people don't want you to run again. Where's the disconnect there?"
"...Here's another one. In our poll today, the absolute critical items for Congress to address. Number one, cutting the deficit. Number two, health care reform. The two issues which were absolute priorities for two years, and you don't get any credit for them?"

-- A promo narrated by Jennings that aired during the July 9, 1995 This Week with David Brinkley: "Next week on ABC's World News Tonight, a series of reports about our environment which will tell you precisely what the new Congress has in mind: the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years. Is this what the country wants?"

-- And from the December 22, 1995 World News Tonight, reporter Jack Smith: "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."


"Raise Gas Taxes Now!" blares the headline over a May 13 Time magazine piece by Matthew Miller. The subhead: "The U.S. pays a huge price for still-too-cheap gasoline. Higher fuel taxes can clean the air and lower the deficit." Matthews asserted: "At roughly a billion dollars a penny in annual revenue, a 50 cent gas tax would slice a quarter off our budget deficit by 2000, while still leaving prices 20% below their 1981 high and less than half what motorists abroad pay." He concluded:
"In 1993 Americans found 4 cents on top of $1.20-per-gal. Gas almost too much to bear, even while we bequeath our children dirtier air, the continued risk of war over oil and a trillion dollars in fresh debt every four years. Now Dole's trying to get that nickel back for us.
He ought to know better."


An item caught by MRC analyst lay Waters. From page 85 of the May 13 Time magazine: "Profit, a hot new show, joins Fox's Monday-night schedule..."
Well, that's not so hot reporting about a not so hot show. Profit didn't air Monday May 6. Fox canceled the show after four weeks because of low ratings.

-- Brent Baker