CyberAlert -- 12/05/1997 -- Lawrence Lie Buried by CBS&NBC

Lawrence Lie Buried by CBS&NBC; Gumbel's Blast, Warming Study

1. The revelation that DNC donor Larry Lawrence never had the WWII experience that justified his waiver into Arlington Cemetery produced stories Thursday night on ABC and CNN, but not CBS or NBC.

2. Bryant Gumbel angrily denounced a law professor who opposes racial preferences that discriminate against Asians.

3. "Facts Frozen Out: Network News and Global Warming," a special report released by the MRC's Free Market Project.

1) The revelation by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Terry Everett, during a noontime press conference, that Larry Lawrence never served in the Merchant Marines revived the Arlington Cemetery scandal. His supposed injury during that World War II duty served as the justification for granting the large Democratic donor a waiver for a burial at Arlington.

ABC's World News Tonight and CNN's The World Today ran full stories Thursday night, but neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News mentioned the evidence which suggests there really was something to the allegations the White House so swiftly condemned two weeks ago, though 13 days ago CBS relayed how the White House dismissed the charge as "a deliberate political smear."

The story was active from November 19 until November 21, when Army Secretary Togo West effectively shut it down by listing all those who got waivers for a burial. But, as detailed in the November 25 CyberAlert, it had hardly become a major network story. CNN ran a couple of pieces, but the total broadcast network coverage consisted of an 18 second item on the November 21 Good Morning America relaying White House denial and this 17 second declaration from Dan Rather on that night's CBS Evening News:

"There's been considerable publicity lately about accusations that President Clinton quote, 'perhaps provided burial space at Arlington National Cemetery to major campaign donors,' unquote. Spokesmen for President Clinton flatly and unequivocally denied this today to CBS News and they called it 'a deliberate political smear,' unquote."

ABC led the December 4 World News Tonight with a story on the San Francisco basketball team player suspended by the NBA for attacking his coach, followed by an update on the Paducah shooting. Then Peter Jennings provided the show's first mention of the Arlington controversy:

"There is something of a new twist today on whether the honor of being buried at Arlington National Cemetery was bought with political donations. Some Republicans have accused Democrats, and the White House, of selling the right to be buried there. There is no proof of that, but there are certainly new questions about one prominent contributor."

Reporter Linda Douglass explained that big DNC donor Larry Lawrence was U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland when he died. When Republicans criticized a waiver for him, Secretary of the Army Togo West, she recalled, "rushed to his defense." Douglass reported that the waiver request came from then Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke who claimed that during World War II Lawrence was thrown overboard and suffered a severe head injury when a torpedo hit his ship.

Douglass picked up the train of events: "White House officials condemned Republicans for questioning Lawrence's service to his country."

She showed a clip from November 21 of White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry: "Everyone who works here is outraged that members of Congress would assist in the dissemination of lies, distortions, baseless allegations."

Douglass continued: "Republicans were embarrassed. But today they fired back with a stunning new charge: Lawrence was never in the service at all according to military records." After a soundbite from Everett Douglass elaborated: "Not only is there no record of Lawrence serving in the Merchant Marine in World War II, his name does not appear among the crew members on the torpedoed ship and there is no record of anyone falling overboard, suffering head injuries. Now it was the administration's turn to be embarrassed. State Department sources say officials simply took Lawrence's word for his military record."

Douglass read a sentence from a letter issued by Lawrence's fourth wife praising his war time service, but not offering any proof, before concluding: "A source who knew Lawrence well told ABC News's Nightline that Lawrence ordered research of World War II ships, subscribed to the Merchant Marine newsletter and then suddenly announced he had been a Merchant Marine. The question now is, if he doesn't belong in Arlington should he be allowed to stay?"

Indeed, Nightline devoted its Thursday night edition to the latest revelation and what the administration claimed when the overall story broke two weeks ago.

The CBS Evening News had no time to correct its November 21 dismissal of the Arlington story as a "smear." CBS led with two stories on the impact of El Nino. Leading into the second one, a look at wildfires in Australia, Dan Rather colorfully observed: "El Nino's tripling combination punch of heat, drought, and more than usual lightning strikes has turned the land of waltzing Matilda into flaming tinder."

Thursday's NBC Nightly News opened with Paducah followed by the impact of El Nino. NBC devoted an In Depth segment to the value of a stay-at-home wife in a divorce. Later, the show ran a piece on how a Tennessee hospital mixed up the identities of two people in a car accident. But Nightly News has yet to utter a word about the Arlington flap.

2) The very idea that someone could dare to oppose racial preferences and not realize that wealthy blacks actually fare worse in American society than poor whites, angers Bryant Gumbel. And Wednesday night he used his CBS newsmagazine as a personal soapbox to condemn the heretic.

The December 3 Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel ran a piece by Bernard Goldberg, the correspondent who in February of 1996 conceded that the networks deliver liberal bias, profiling University of Texas Law Professor Lino Graglia. A controversy erupted on campus when he observed that blacks and Mexicans are not academically competitive with whites and Asians so that without numerical preferences many fewer blacks and Hispanics would be admitted. Goldberg's piece gave plenty of time for Graglia to explain his reasoning and Goldberg also offered time to his enemies who say he reflects "a fascist ideology and a racist mentality."

After the taped story finished, on the CBS set Gumbel questioned Goldberg. Here's the complete exchange, as transcribed by MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski:

Bryant Gumbel: "Bernie, let me see if I can address this in a civil tone and begin by assuming that Professor Graglia is an intelligent man. When he looks at scores as a barometer of intelligence, how does he just ignore factors of income, access, opportunity, all of which he surely knows impact education?"

Bernard Goldberg: "Right, he says all of those things contribute to an environment where failure doesn't mean as much in some communities as it does in others."

Gumbel: "But then if you deny the opportunity at the higher education level what you essentially do is create a permanent educational underclass."

Goldberg: "He doesn't want to deny, he wants this based on merit. He wants people to be picked [Gumbel chuckles] based on how well they do on their tests, how well they do in high school, and if they do well enough, they'll compete. But you know what? He doesn't want race to be a factor."

Gumbel: "Well, look -- I mean I called the College Board today. Fact: for all college bound seniors, there's about a 200 point difference between privileged and poor. That's a number that cuts across all races. Isn't it possible that when Graglia thinks he's looking at race he's really looking at economics."

Goldberg: "Well, maybe, maybe. But the fact of the matter is, that there are white people, Graglia and the other people who are against affirmative action would say, who don't have advantage because of economics. And he says they can't check off a box that says 'help me out on an affirmative action basis,' but somebody who's black, even if they are from a wealthy family, can check it off. And that's why, and that's why the people who are against affirmative action are against it."

Gumbel: "Hard to believe that he thinks a white student doesn't enjoy more advantages in this society than a student of color."

Goldberg: "Not a poor white student."

Gumbel: "That's hard to believe."

On the bright side, so far this season Gumbel's show has finished in fourth place in its Wednesday at 9pm ET time slot.

So far, Graglia has not fared too well on network TV, though he was treated fairly by Goldberg before Gumbel got on. For the October MediaWatch MRC news analyst Clay Waters summarized the hostile coverage generated by the professor. Here's the Newsbite titled, "Honesty: Not the Best Policy."

When University of Texas (UT) law professor Lino Graglia spoke out against racial quotas in college admissions, saying they lead to the admission of blacks and Hispanics who "are not academically competitive with whites," it caused an uproar among the liberal student body and the liberal networks. Good Morning America devoted a segment to the controversy. NBC's Today aired a debate between Graglia and a Latino student, preceded by a Jim Cummins news story. NBC showed Graglia in sinister-looking slow motion accompanied by Cummins: "Michael Sherlott, Dean of the University of Texas Law School, says Graglia's remarks are regrettable." After a Graglia soundbite from his news conference ("I'm afraid there is no way that I can avoid being called racist"), Cummins concluded: "A subject for discussion, perhaps, in the course he teaches on race relations."

On the September 16 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather introduced the story as "a new reminder tonight of our racial problems." Reporter Bob McNamara opened "At the University of Texas, where a white law professor's remarks about minority students stunned a campus, Reverend Jesse Jackson came wading into the fray," followed by a soundbite of Jackson urging a boycott of Graglia.

Without debating the substance of Graglia's remarks, McNamara focused on student outrage and calls for Graglia's ouster, claiming "the furor over the remarks is part of the fallout of a federal court ruling outlawing affirmative action recruiting programs at all colleges in Texas." McNamara warned darkly: "Administrators promise an investigation, and until the findings are known, Professor Lino Graglia remains 'professor non grata.'"

But The Weekly Standard noted Graglia's remarks matched what UT official Mark Gergen wrote in a 1989 memo: "It is impossible to make meaningful distinctions between Black and MA [Mexican- American] applicants without some sort of quota as a reference, for compared to our Anglo applicants, virtually none would get in. In prior years I could rationalize what I did as admitting all who had a decent chance of succeeding in law school. Experience proves many of those I voted for could not compete."

3) With VP Al Gore scheduled to arrive in Kyoto on Monday for the global warming summit, a new study from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP) provides a very timely look at how the networks have skewed coverage over the past five years. FMP Director Tim Lamer reviewed ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC evening show stories on global warming aired from 1993 through October, 1997. Here's the overview from the Special Report, titled "FACTS FROZEN OUT: Network News and Global Warming."

According to a Gallup Poll, only 19 percent of the members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union think that the climate change of the 20th century has been a result of greenhouse gas emissions. This is news to network reporters. A study from the MRC's Free Market Project demonstrates that over the past five years reporters have presented a highly distorted picture of the global warming debate. Specifically, researchers found:

1) Thirty-nine of the 48 network evening news stories during the study period simply assumed that science supports global warming theories. Only seven stories mentioned that climate scientists are skeptical of claims that humans are changing the earth's temperature.

2) Of the seven stories which did mention that scientists are skeptical of global warming theories, only two brought up the actual arguments of skeptical scientists. (There were two stories during the study period that neither assumed climate change nor brought up arguments against global warming.)

3) Only two of the 48 stories pointed out that some scientists believe global warming, if it did occur, would be a boon to human health and well-being. The other 46 stories assumed global warming would be disastrous.

4) Only 10 of the 85 soundbite sources reporters interviewed opposed policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, while 60 soundbite sources supported such policies. Fifteen sources were neutral.

In order for their stories to be balanced, reporters must present the arguments of the many climate scientists who are skeptical of claims that humans are disastrously warming the planet. So far, such scientists have rarely been heard from on the evening news.

MRC Web Developer Joe Alfonsi has posted the full report, with many examples of bias and references to facts skipped or distorted, at the top of the MRC's home page. The direct address:

-- Brent Baker