CyberAlert -- 07/14/1996 -- Chancellor Reality Check

Chancellor Reality Check

One item in this MRC Alert:

> John Chancellor is being praised for his fairness, but a review of his commentaries show he used his position to promote liberal ideas and attack conservatives.

As you may know, NBC News veteran John Chancellor passed away at age 68 on Friday evening. From 1970 to 1982 he anchored the NBC Nightly News, then provided commentary through 1993. During the Johnson Administration he presided over the Voice of America. His passing has generated a series of tributes to his fairness and impartiality from his media colleagues. On the July 13 NBC Nightly News, for instance, anchor Brian Williams observed: "He was a role model for all who care about truth, justice and fairness. John Chancellor died last night of cancer, two days short of his 69th birthday. He helped define what TV news should be."

Let's take a look at the views expressed in some of his Nightly News commentaries in the late 1980s and early 1990s:

-- April 17, 1990: "The overall tax burden for Americans, federal, state, and local, is actually quite low....The fact is Americans could pay more taxes and the country wouldn't go down the tube. Taxpayers don't believe this because they are being conned by the politicians...The truth is that the United States needs higher taxes and can afford them. Some political leaders are now starting to say that, but until more say it, the country will remain in trouble."

-- August 21, 1991, on the Soviet Union: "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."

-- March 12, 1992: "Greenpeace, the public interest organization, believes that the Iraqi death toll, civilian and military, before and after the war, may be as high as 198,000. Allied military dead are counted in the low hundreds. The disparity is huge and somewhat embarrassing. And that's commentary for this evening, Tom."

-- Election night, 1992, looking back at the Republican convention: "I think that the convention -- and certainly all the polling data indicates this -- offended a lot of women, offended a lot of people in the country who thought it was too religious and too hard-edged."

-- February 16, 1993: "There is no mystery in how [the deficit] can be brought down...the U.S. simply has to choose from a menu of unpalatable options that include deeper cuts in defense spending, tougher controls on medical services, higher taxes on federal pensions, and a broad-based tax on energy or consumption, preferably both. We know how to do this. Impose measures already commonplace in other industrialized countries. The weapons are there. It's the will to use them that's the problem."

-- April 30, 1992, after the Los Angeles riots: "It's not a big surprise that the jury in suburban Simi Valley sided with the white policemen. Just as it's no surprise that the blacks in downtown Los Angeles rioted and people died....Politicians have fanned these flames with code words about `welfare queens,' `equal opportunity,' and `quotas.' Language designed to turn whites against blacks. With two-party politics that favored the rich and hurt everyone else."

-- November 20, 1990: "Some say Ronald Reagan won the Cold War by spending so much on defense that the Kremlin went bankrupt trying to keep up. That won't wash. During Reagan's presidency the United States itself became a bankrupt country."

-- November 7, 1990: "The fact is that most government spending cannot be cut. The way out of the mess is for the government to raise some money through taxes and at last that's being done. And there's encouraging news in the returns from yesterday's elections. Six states from Massachusetts to California rejected measures designed to limit taxation. Can it be that the great tax revolt of the 1980s is coming to an end? If true, maybe the country can get on with the business of balancing its books in a sensible and logical way."

-- June 20, 1989: "Thousands may have been gunned down in Beijing, but what about the millions of American kids whose lives are being ruined by an enormous failure of the country's educational system...We can and we should agonize about the dead students in Beijing, but we've got a much bigger problem here at home."

-- Finally, here's the July 1990 MediaWatch newsbite on Chancellor's 1990 book. He's no fan of Ronald Reagan:

Once anchor of NBC Nightly News, John Chancellor now offers his opinions thrice weekly. His commentaries have recently been distilled into a book on what's wrong with America, Peril and Promise.

So what's wrong? The deficit, which he attributed to a Reagan recipe of "big tax cuts, big increases in defense spending, and a hair curling recession." Pardoned from blame: congressional mismanagement. And though federal revenues went up swiftly in the '80s, Chancellor remembered only that "cuts in taxes and domestic spending resulted in the first redistribution of income in favor of the affluent since the 1920s and a reduction of the federal government's obligation to the poor." Another Reagan error was the Grenada liberation which Chancellor called "a sham triumph," a "tragicomedy," which "might not have been necessary."

Chancellor harped on America's faults for 130 pages, but dedicated fewer than 40 pages to suggesting solutions. He called his remedies to America's woes neither conservative nor liberal, yet higher taxes remained the pillar of his plan. Another major objective: mobilization of a national corps of volunteers because "The poor and disadvantaged need help, especially after the cutbacks in social services during the Reagan years."

I'll be sending another e-mail late tonight with some more recent bias from Sam Donaldson and coverage of Dole and the NAACP.

-- Brent Baker