CyberAlert -- October 15, 1996 -- Abortion Study Ignored

Four items today:

1. A correction and a clarification of previous MRC CyberAlerts. Plus, a fact checking error from ABC on Jack Kemp.

2. A study shows a link between abortion and breast cancer, but instead of giving equal time to study proponents and opponents, ABC declares it "flawed."

3. Thanks to Bill Clinton, the President of CBS Entertainment relays, a father will be able to say good-bye to his dying daughter -- and you'll be able to see it in a prime time movie.

4. NBC's David Bloom says Bob Dole issued his "harshest, most personal attack yet on the President." ABC's John Donvan asked and answers: "Did Bob Dole attack Bill Clinton in harsh terms today? Yes he did. Plenty." Donvan concludes that by not getting too personal Dole may lose, but that's okay since "it lets the candidate play out this possibly climatic moment in his career more like a statesman, less like a nasty politician."

1) A clarification and a correction of two topics from MRC CyberAlerts from last week.

First, the October 8 CyberAlert reported that on Monday night (October 7) ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News ran fact check stories on the Dole-Clinton debate. In fact, CBS Evening News did, but ABC's piece aired on Good Morning America, not World News Tonight. In addition, CNN's Brooks Jackson did a fact check piece for Inside Politics.

Second, the October 11 CyberAlert noted that unlike in 1992, this year neither ABC's World News Tonight or CNN's Inside Politics ran fact checking stories on the VP debate. That's correct, but MRC analyst Gene Eliasen pointed out to me that ABC's Good Morning America did run one Thursday morning.

ABC reporter Jack Smith asserted: "Both men indicated that taxes are too high, right? But federal taxes as a portion of household income are actually lower now than they were 15 years ago. Kemp made this assertion."
Jack Kemp: "Every time in this century we've lowered the tax rates across the board revenues went up, not down."
Smith: "Wrong again. The last time this was tried, in 1981, real income tax revenues fell three years in a row and drove up the deficit."

Reality Check: Following the 1982 recession, income tax revenue grew consistently. As Norman Ture pointed out in Ed Rubenstein's book The Right Data, "With the recovery beginning in late 1982, budget receipts expanded rapidly, on the average by slightly over 8 percent a year, through fiscal 1990."

2) On Friday, a study appearing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, was released.

It showed that abortion is responsible for 5,000 cases of breast cancer each year. ABC's Peter Jennings Friday night (October 11) delivered not a news report but a warning:

Peter Jennings: "There was a study released at Penn State University today that you may hear a lot about this weekend. It purports to show a connection between women who have had abortions and the risk of developing breast cancer. And if you see it around, remember this. It is not original research, but an analysis of 23 earlier studies. And the National Cancer Institute says those individual studies were actually inconclusive, and because of that, various other scientists say today the Penn State report is flawed."

Jennings did not have to worry: While on CNN's The World Today Jeff Levine provided a full report about the study and its critics, neither CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News even mentioned the study.

3) CBS has turned a self-serving Clinton anecdote into a prime time movie.

Here's an exchange from Friday's Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder:

Les Moonves, CBS entertainment division President: "The President did actually pitch me a movie of the week idea which we ended up shooting....It's unusual when the President of the United States pitches you, actually a wonderful movie of the week."
Tom Snyder: "What was it, a young guy from Arkansas becomes President?"
Moonves: "No, it was about the Family and Medical Leave Act, a true story that he was involved in where a young girl had visited the White House. He'd come back from his morning jog, and this 13 year old girl was there in a wheelchair. The President went over to her and she evidently was dying of leukemia and the father went over to him and thanked the President for having passed the Family and Medical Leave Act so he could be with his daughter. She was going to die, but at least he could say good-bye. As the President pitched it, I mean, he had tears in his eyes, legitimately. It was very moving. We ended up shooting the movie starring John Ritter as the father and the President appears in it as himself."
Snyder: "You will stop at nothing."
Moonves: "I will. I'm shameless for ratings, what can I tell you. But we're not allowed to show it until after the elections."

To get to the truth of the anecdote, do we divide by six or by two?

4) In the media lexicon, anything about character or illegality is harsh and/or nasty.

Two examples:
Monday night (October 14) this is how David Bloom began his NBC Nightly News story: "In his harshest, most personal attack yet on the President, Bob Dole today charged that the Clinton Administration is unethical, that Bill Clinton himself is slipping and sliding away from questions about possible illegal campaign contributions."
The night before, on ABC's World News Sunday, anchor Carole Simpson asked: "The candidates are back on the road, but will they take the high road or the low road?"
Reporter John Donvan observed: "Did Bob Dole attack Bill Clinton in harsh terms today? Yes he did. Plenty."
Dole: "Drug use has doubled because nothing has been done in this administration. He's been AWOL. He's been AWOL before, but now he's really been AWOL now."
Donvan: "But did Dole get personal, dig into the President's past, stir up the mud of Whitewater and other issues of character? No, he isn't. And despite being urged to do so by some members of his own party. Dole in person is still taking the high road, hitting the President hard on his record but not going after Clinton on his personal life and moral character. Some in Dole's camp wish that he'd get nastier at this point with polls delivering constant bad news to the campaign."

Following a clip of Dole saying he's "thinking about" being tougher and a soundbite from Jack Kemp, Donvan concluded his story: "Dole himself continues to be the gentleman on the stump. That may make for a duller campaign than some would like, and perhaps a losing one. But it lets the candidate play out this possibly climatic moment in his career more like a statesman, less like a nasty politician. John Donvan, ABC News, Hamilton New Jersey."

Just what reporters want. Dole to lose while not damaging Clinton.

-- Brent Baker