CyberAlert -- 06/11/1998 -- Baptist Women Submitting Recalls Slavery

Baptist Women Submitting Recalls Slavery;
AP Errors; "Neanderthal" MRC

1) No scandal news on ABC, CBS or NBC, but all highlighted the vote to make Baptist women "submit" to their husbands. "Baptists used the same scripture to justify slavery," charged NBC.

2) CNN and FNC, but not the broadcast networks, reported on a shut out scandal: How were Linda Tripp's personnel files released.

3) Instead of blaming a mistaken AP story, ABC & NBC scolded House members for announcing Bob Hope's death. NBC's Brian Williams reveled in how those who "love to hit the media" are "eating on crow."

4) A poll found Elizabeth Dole would beat Hillary Clinton, but AP's headline claimed the opposite.

5) CNN's Newsstand host once castigated the "squeaky-clean watchdogs" at the MRC as "narrow," "neanderthal" and "slanted."

>>> New MRC article in National Review now available online. "Network Failure: Are the major media frivolous or biased? Some of each, find our reporters in the field," by Brent Baker and Tim Graham appears in the June 22 National Review. It's all you need to know about the networks and bias, in just 2,000 words. You can find the piece on NR's Web site:

A more direct address: MRC Web manager Sean Henry has also set up a link from the MRC home page: <<<


1 None of the broadcast networks uttered a word Wednesday night about any aspect of any Clinton scandal, but both CNN and FNC ran stories noting the appearance by Harold Ickes before the grand jury looking into the improper release of Linda Tripp's personnel files (see item #2) and reporting that Monica Lewinsky spent the day with her lawyers.

In addition, CNN's The World Today aired a Wolf Blitzer piece on how Clinton plans to go on the offensive to defend his trip to China. He'll deliver a speech at 11am ET Thursday. Clinton is getting pressure from both the left and right, Blitzer observed, leading into soundbites from Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and Gary Bauer.

Catching up with ABC's Tuesday story, Jonathan Carl then showed some of the testimony before a House subcommittee by Gao Xiao Duan about forced abortions in China. CBS and NBC have yet to touch Gao though she even smuggled out some telling video which Karl showed.

All but FNC ran full reports on the Southern Baptist Convention voting in favor of a statement that wives should "submit" to their husbands, but only ABC's Peggy Wehmeyer quoted the portion of the statement of beliefs spelling out the duty husband's must fulfill. NBC's George Lewis emphasized that in "the 19th century the Southern Baptists used the same scripture to justify slavery."

ABC led with what Peter Jennings dubbed a "landmark case," a victory for a Florida family who had sued Brown & Williamson. The tobacco suit also led CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET and NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw declared it "a big defeat for big tobacco" and exclaimed: "It may be the most significant tobacco decision of the '90s." CBS and FNC topped their shows with stories on Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's contention the economy is the best in fifty years.

(No scandal mentions on the broadcast networks, but Peter Jennings did take a few seconds to report that Clinton will be able to speak on TV and radio while in China and, Jennings relayed: "The Chinese have also done something the President might wish that he could do, they have banned sales of a book called 'The Sensual [could be Sexual] President,' which is a translated collection of U.S. news articles.")

Here's a flavor of how the June 10 network evening shows approached the Southern Baptist story. (All included soundbites from at least one woman in favor of the plank):

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings declared:
"In Salt Lake City this week the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has been debating one of the most controversial statements on family life put forward by any religious group in a long time and now the convention has amended its basic statement of beliefs. The amendment is designed to nurture the family. But it spells out very different roles for a husband and a wife."
Unlike her competitors, reporter Peggy Wehmeyer also highlighted the husband's responsibility: "The amendment reads 'The husband and wife are of equal worth before God' but it also says 'a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church' and 'a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.'"

-- CBS Evening News. After a stock market update, Dan Rather pronounced:
"As for a woman's stock in the nation's multi-million member Southern Baptist denomination, new changes in the church's official formal statement of beliefs are sparking big debate today across religious boundaries. Southern Baptist leadership now takes the view that quote 'a wife is to submit graciously to her husband's leadership.' CBS's Bob McNamara has chapter and verse on this controversial interpretation of a woman's place."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw explained:
"NBC News In Depth tonight. One of this country's largest and most influential religious group says tonight that women should submit, graciously, to their husband's leadership. It's the first change in the formal outline of beliefs in 35 years of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has almost 16 million members in this country, among them President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi. For the faithful gathered at their annual convention in Salt Lake City, the new stand on family values is a big hit. But, it's also causing controversy."
George Lewis aired a favorable soundbite from a Baptist official and ended by showing video of Mike McCurry being asked if Bill Clinton expects Hillary to submit, but in between he relayed a nefarious interpretation of the decision. Leading into a clip from the Dean of the Wake Forest Divinity School, Lewis charged:
"The Southern Baptists quote the Bible, the Book of Ephesians, to back up their contention that women should follow men, but other theologians point out that in the 19th century the Southern Baptists used the same scripture to justify slavery."


2 Questions about who decided to improperly show Linda Tripp's personnel file to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, so she could impugn Tripp's integrity by claiming she lied about an arrest 30 years ago, got a bit of cable attention Wednesday night.

On the FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report David Shuster looked at the "other grand jury" meeting in Alexandria, Virginia: "Harold Ickes is at the heart of an investigation into the release of confidential personnel files on Linda Tripp" who was "the subject of a damaging story in a magazine story which received her Pentagon records. Ickes, an aggressive Clinton defender with experience in political hardball, has admitted discussing Tripp with Ken Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman...."

(Seconding what NBC's Lisa Myers disclosed Tuesday, Shuster reported that in the matter of Francis Carter, the lawyer who handled the Lewinsky affidavit in which she denied a sexual relationship with Clinton, "two courts have now rejected his claims against testifying because they have found there is evidence Lewinsky used him to lie.")

CNN's Bob Franken provided a World Today report on he Ickes appearance and how he denies knowing anything about the release of confidential information about Tripp.

A sentence in a May 27 Inside politics story by Franken and another piece on FNC by Shuster is all the coverage I've seen of the Bacon/Tripp controversy, a lack of coverage noted in a June 1 MediaWatch review of media-related ethics controversies the media are ignoring. Here's that portion of the article written by Associate Editor Tim Graham:


The news media jumped on the story that Linda Tripp, who taped Monica Lewinsky, failed to disclose to the Defense Department an arrest on her public record, according to New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. The Weekly Standard's Tucker Carlson first questioned the propriety of the Pentagon's release of Tripp's federal security-clearance form in the March 30 issue ("Linda Tripp's Pentagon Papers"), followed up in the May 18 issue by Jay Nordlinger ("Bacon Tripps Up"). The New York Post's new columnist, former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, also pushed the story.

The scandal centers on Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon, who joined the Clinton administration after spending decades as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal (where Jane Mayer was a colleague). Pentagon aide Clifford Bernath told investigators for Judicial Watch, the conservative legal foundation, that Bacon ordered the leaking of the Tripp file to Mayer.

On May 21, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon noted not only had Bacon admitted to Judicial Watch that he orchestrated the Tripp release -- a violation of the Privacy Act -- but that Bill Clinton promised in 1992, when the Bush State Department investigated Clinton's passport file, that "If I catch anyone using the State Department like that when I'm President, I'll fire them the next day." TV coverage? Zero.

To read the other examples cited in the MediaWatch story, go to:

The broadcast networks are not just not pursuing the privacy violation, they are refusing to even raise it during easy opportunities, such as Defense Secretary William Cohen's most recent interviews. MRC analysts Geoffrey Dickens and Jessica Anderson observed that neither Katie Couric on the May 25 Today nor Bob Schieffer and David Martin on the May 31 Face the Nation raised the matter with Cohen.


3 Last Friday ABC and NBC blamed Republican House members for spreading the false news that Bob Hope had died, instead of the AP which had accidently posted a pre-written obituary for the aging comedian.

The AP's Web site last Friday featured a story headlined "Bob Hope, Tireless Master of the One-Liner, Dead at XX." The first paragraph read: "LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Bob Hope, the master of the one-liner and tireless morale-booster for servicemen from World War II to the Gulf War, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx He was xx. (born May 29, 1903)."

While the appearance of the xx's should have tipped off Congressmen Dick Armey and Bob Stump and their staffs that it was a pre-fab story, if the item had not been posted on the AP Web page the false story never would have been picked up. But the networks put the burden on the House members, not their journalistic colleagues.

Peter Jennings announced on the June 5 World News Tonight:
"There is an embarrassed Congressman in Washington tonight. Congressman Stump of Arizona announced on the floor of the House today that the great comedian, Bob Hope, had died."
Jennings showed video of Stump followed by Democrat David Bonior, who called Hope "a great American," before noting that the floor announcement occurred after the death news "appeared on a news wire by accident."

Jennings forgot to mention that ABC News put out a live radio bulletin on the news which they had to quickly correct.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams gloated over how politicians so happy to criticize reporters made a mistake:
"For a time today news organizations around the country, including this one, were preparing to go on the air and to go to press with sad news that beloved American entertainer Bob Hope had died. In fact though he is very much alive. Imagine his surprise upon learning this news. The false report came from a place where they love to hit the media. Now certain members of Congress are eating on crow tonight after making a big mistake."
NBC devoted an entire story to the mix up. Gwen Ifill showed clips of Bob Stump and David Bonior, finally getting around to how House Majority Leader Dick Armey saw the AP Web site story and handed a printed copy to Hope friend Stump so he could notify those on the House floor.

The AP at least didn't blame others for its mistake. Late in the day Friday it moved this wire story:

AP Site Error Source of Hope Report

An Associated Press article being prepared in the event of the death of Bob Hope was inadvertently displayed on the news service's Web site Friday, prompting a Congressman to erroneously announce his death on the floor of the House.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey saw a copy of the AP Internet story, handed it to Rep. Bob Stump of Arizona and asked him to announce Hope's death on the House floor.

Stump's announcement, broadcast live on C-SPAN, became the basis for other news organizations reporting that Hope had died....

The AP removed the article from its Web site after a staff person noticed it. However, Stump had already made his announcement. Ruth Gersh, editor of AP Multimedia Services, said the preparedness was miscoded by human error so that instead of showing up only on an internal display where an editor could work on it, the preparedness was posted to AP's Web site, The WIRE.


4 Speaking of AP errors, Tom Hazlett of California alerted me to this mismatch between a headline and the facts. Here's the headline and first two graphs of a June 9 AP story sent at 5:14am ET:

"1st Lady Would Top Dole in Election

"ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- Elizabeth Dole would soundly defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton if the two were running against each other for President today, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll.

"The survey published in today's editions of the newspaper found 55 percent favoring Mrs. Dole to 40 percent for Mrs. Clinton."

Two hours later, at 8:30am ET, AP sent the same story but provided a more accurate headline: "Poll: Mrs. Dole Tops Mrs. Clinton."


5 A network correspondent who once denounced the MRC as "narrow, neanderthal," makes his debut Thursday night as co-host of CNN Newsstand/Entertainment Weekly at 10pm ET/PT. It will be co-hosted by two of Kaplan's Krew, those CNN President Rick Kaplan, who came from ABC, has brought aboard CNN from ABC: Willow Bay and Judd Rose. Back in 1988 the MRC upset Rose by detailing the liberal slant in his Nightline hit on then just-named GOP VP candidate Dan Quayle.

First, some excerpts from the September, 1988 MediaWatch Janet Cooke Award earned by Rose. Second, his angry response.

-- From the September, 1988 MediaWatch, back when we were a bit more opinionated in our articles:

Ted Koppel launched the August 18 Nightline with more than just a factual account of the day's events: "Why did a hardline conservative and Vietnam hawk choose the National Guard over service in Vietnam? And did family connections make that choice possible?" Rose then dismissed Bush's masterful acceptance speech, declaring: "The convention and nomination were his, but it didn't matter. Once again George Bush was being overshadowed by someone else." A short time later, he reported -- erroneously -- that an ex-National Guardsman called the Guard on behalf of Quayle to get him "ahead of the waiting list."

Next, Rose allowed liberal Washington Post columnist Haynes Johnson to deliver the final blow to Quayle: "He's a person who presents himself as an ardent anti-communist, strong on defense, an expert in all these areas, strong defender of the Vietnam War who it appears got out of service in the war by favoritism, power, privilege, and political advantage." Rose gave time to Senators Bob Dole and John McCain to defend Quayle, but not to rebut Johnson's powerful image of an elitist draft-dodger.

In his conclusion Rose was already spelling doom for the two day old Republican ticket: "George Bush leaves New Orleans to the sounds of cheering, but it may have a hollow ring soon enough. History's shown when a candidate becomes an issue it can be damaging and even fatal to a campaign. Well Dan Quayle has become an issue and he's made Bush an issue too. This, after all, was Bush's first and biggest decision on his own. And the way it turned out has hardly enhanced his image as a leader."

Both Koppel and Jeff Greenfield continued the rampage. Greenfield characterized the debate over Quayle as one of "elitism." Koppel added: "Jeff Greenfield used the term elitism, let me use another term, how about 'hypocrisy.'"

Less than one week later, conclusive proof showed that the Indiana Guard was not operating at full force at the time and that Quayle in fact used no special privilege to enter the National Guard. But Judd Rose, in a conversation with MediaWatch defended his segment, claiming: "I don't think the facts have borne out yet. But that's a political judgment...There was a frenzied atmosphere that day. In that atmosphere sometimes things go into extremes. In my case, though, I don't think that was the case."

Asked whether the Quayle focus might be created by a media unsympathetic to the conservative cause, Rose excused himself but indicted some of his colleagues: "You say a lot of reporters are trying to crucify George Bush and conservatives. That may be true. But that's not this reporter."

After Quayle was vindicated on all counts, most media outlets called it quits. ABC's Richard Threlkeld even delivered a half hearted apology for the media's over-indulgence. On August 24, he admitted that reporting had been "inconsistent" and that "there were in fact vacancies in Quayle's National Guard unit when he joined and no waiting list, suggesting favoritism played no crucial part in Quayle's enlistment."

-- Rose hammered out an angry response on a typewriter (yes, this was before computers were so common), which we summarized in the November, 1988 MediaWatch:

In a letter to MediaWatch, Nightline correspondent Judd Rose agreed "the depiction of what I said and who I spoke with was, by and large, accurate," but complained "the comments that I made to [MediaWatch] on the phone were out of context and certainly not faithful to the spirit of what I was saying."

Rose cited several examples before concluding with this colorful rebuke: "Taking a quote out of context is something that has happened before, and no doubt, will happen again. But since you squeaky-clean watch-dogs at MediaWatch are so concerned about our conduct, I wonder why you aren't more conscious of your own... Again I'm flattered that your publication would honor me with this dubious award. But forgive me, gentlemen. Having only been in Washington for a bit under one year, I'm not as accustomed as some of my colleagues to your narrow, neanderthal, and slanted perception of what you see in the news media. Consider me educated."

We're always glad to be of service. -- Brent Baker

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