CyberAlert - December 5, 1996 - Bye-bye Bryant

Five items today:

Today we inaugurate a much-awaited new feature: The Bryant Gumbel Countdown Calendar. With his contract expiring Friday, January 3, 1997 we'll lead each CyberAlert with the number of days until we have Gumbel-free mornings. As of December 5: 29 days to go.

1. If the cost of living increase is adjusted slightly downward, ABC asserted that seniors would "lose" money; CBS reported that seniors could no longer afford to see a movie.

2. A USA Today reporter cited Bob Dornan's defeat as one of his three "signs of hope" that racial/ethnic tensions are improving.

3. Welfare and food stamp spending will grow faster than inflation through 2002, but CBS charged that a "cut" in food stamps "could mean hunger in America will grow."

4. A CBS News reporter worried that Atlanta's anti-homeless law might be adopted by other cities.

5. The December 2 edition of Notable Quotables.

1) A congressionally appointed panel reported Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has overstated inflation, thus leading to higher than necessary entitlement program payments. For 1996 they estimated the CPI was 1.1 percent too high. ABC and CBS approached the issue not from the view of saving taxpayer money but from the perspective of what recipients will lose and how such an adjustment will mean more money for the government - as if it's the government's money that's being improperly spent.

Here's how Peter Jennings led the December 4 World News Tonight: "We begin tonight with money. Maybe a little less for you, depending on who you are, and certainly a little more for Uncle Sam."
Reporter Lisa Stark then explained how "One third of the federal budget is tied to the CPI, so cutting the official inflation measurement 1.1 percent would lower all government payments based on the cost of living, saving the government a trillion dollars over the next twelve years. But cutting those payments would affect 60 million Americans, including seniors who stand to lose an average of $100 dollars a year in Social Security."
Patrick Burns of the National Council of Senior Citizens then asserted: "It's a very simple, stealth, back door way of balancing the budget. And it's really not based on science, it's based o political opportunism."

Of course seniors wouldn't "lose" $100. They'll still get a hike from the current payment.

On Wednesday's CBS Evening News Dan Rather, as usual, forwarded the victim angle: "A plan officially proposed in Washington today could effect the incomes of millions of Americans, especially those older or at the lower end of the economic scale."
Ray Brady elaborated: "From seniors to taxpayers, a special congressional commission fired a shot today that could be felt by anyone getting a government check."

Brady aired a soundbite from commission head Michael Boskin: "The Consumer Price Index is substantially, substantially overstating the true change in the cost of living by about 1.1 percentage points per year."
Brady continued: "Sound like economic gobbledygook? The Consumer Price Index is the nation's main measure of inflation. Government statisticians use it to figure out how much to pay in food stamps, school lunches and Social Security, all of which go up or down with inflation. Take the average Social Security check: It will rise from $724 to $745 dollars a month in January, but it would rise to just $737 dollars, a difference of eight dollars if the congressional commission has its way."
Margrit Pittman, a Social Security recipient at a senior's center illustrated the point: "For many people who come here, eight dollars a month is a big loss. That may be the only eight dollars they have to ever go to the movies."

There you have it. Transfer $13 per month more to Social Security recipients, instead of $21 more, and they'll no longer be able to see a movie.

2) In his Monday (December 2) USA Today "Politics" column reporter Richard Benedetto favorably examined the Carl Rowan and Georgie Ann Geyer books which contend racial/ethnic tensions are rising. Near the end Benedetto asserted: "Despite the authors' bleak outlook, however, there were signs of hope in the last elections." Benedetto cited three examples: First, five black Congressmen won majority white districts; second, an Asian won the race for Governor of Washington; and third:
"Newly registered Hispanic-American voters provided critical votes in many elections, most notably in the defeat of the bombastic Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif."

3) An editorial in the December 4 Washington Times noted that Congressional Budget Office figures show "that the net effect of welfare reform will be to increase annual federal poverty spending by 7 percent per year through 2002." AFDC, food stamps, Medicaid, SSI, child nutrition, etc. "will increase by 50 percent from $198 billion in 1996 to $297 billion in 2002. With inflation projected to average 2.8 percent a year, the 7 percent nominal increase in federal poverty spending translates into an inflation- adjusted increase of more than 4 percent a year."

That isn't the picture portrayed on network news. On the Thanksgiving Day CBS Evening News substitute anchor Harry Smith announced: "For the first time in decades the federal government will no longer guarantee open-ended help to the poor. Case in point, food stamps. As Diana Olick reports, this could mean hunger in America will grow, even in places famous for food and plenty of it."
MRC intern Joe Alfonsi transcribed Olick's report from New Orleans. She began: "In a city that celebrates every street corner, where Cajun spice walks out of every doorway and century old eateries lure patrons from all walks of life a drafty downtown soup kitchen is preparing for an onslaught."
Olick went on to explain that "On March 1st, a provision in the new welfare reform law will cut off food stamps to all able bodied adults ages 18 to 50 with no dependents, who don't have a job." She found one not-so-hard working victim: "37 year old Denise Lee has been on food stamps most of her life. She doesn't want to work, but she's now planning to get a job. She fears though that others will turn to crime instead to pay for food."
Denise Lee: "They say times is hard and crime is up and this and that but they ain't seen nothing yet. They ain't seen nothing."
Olick: "In the 35 year history of the food stamp program there has never been a cut this drastic. More than one million people nationwide will be affected. That's nearly 2,000 people in New Orleans alone. But lawmakers say this cut is critical and the success of the welfare overhaul is riding on it."
Olick then allowed Ohio Congressman Robert Ney to argue: "This is going to force the federal government, and the state government, and the local government right down to the most local levels to talk about how to help people, how to have opportunity."
Olick concluded "The cut in food stamps will force many people to go to work. But in New Orleans, where there are more people than jobs, some, like Denise Lee are worrying how they will carry this new financial burden once the government stops carrying them. Diana Olick, CBS News, New Orleans."

Only at CBS is a 4 percent increase considered a "drastic cut."

4) Continuing CBS's victimization theme, MRC analyst Steve Kaminski caught this story on homeless which aired on the December 1 CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts began: "All big cities have homeless people, it's a growing problem marked by controversy. What to do about it? Well, the city of Atlanta has an answer: outlaw homelessness. But that approach, says Jim Axelrod, is causing even more controversy."

Reporter Axelrod started by showing viewers a mother with kids who must ride a bus each night to find shelter: "Like most families, Xena Hampton and her kids have a bedtime ritual. Unlike most families, their ritual is boarding a bus to find a bed. Which, this night, takes them twenty miles away. They are homeless, and now a new law could make them criminals."
Anita Beatty, homeless taskforce: "It's immoral, it's unethical, it's, most probably, unconstitutional."
After another soundbite from a homeless advocate, Axelrod continued: "The biggest problem Atlanta's homeless advocates have with the new law is that most people targeted have nowhere else to go. The shelters here, they say, have enough beds for one out of seven people who need them."
Axelrod allowed Atlanta Council President Marvin Arrington explain: "You've got to get up and go to work every day and that's not being inhumane, that's caring about yourself and caring about the environment that you live in."
Axelrod also aired a clip of a Wendy's manager complaining about a homeless man urinating in front of his restaurant, but proceeded to end with a hit on the law: "Opponents of the law will now head to the courts worried that Atlanta's solution to this problem will soon spread across the country. Jim Axelrod CBS News, Atlanta."
We'll never run out of victims for CBS to portray. - Brent Baker

5) Here's the December 2 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media.

December 2, 1996 (Vol. Nine; No. 25)

Gumbel's Morning Devotions
Bryant Gumbel: "You write that you prayed more during your four years in office than basically at any time in your life and yet I think it's fair to say, and I hope this doesn't sound harsh, I think it's fair to say, you are consistently viewed as one of the more ineffective Presidents of modern times."
Jimmy Carter: "Well, I think that's harsh and unfair, but you have a right to your opinion."
Gumbel: "It's not mine. It's what I perceive as a general view. What do you think, if anything, that says about the power of prayer?" - Exchange on Today about Carter's new book, Living Faith, November 18.

Time Does DNC Damage Control
"In the realm of honest graft, Clinton didn't do anything Bob Dole didn't do; he and his party just did it with the seal of the White House behind them." - Time's Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs, November 11.
"The intricate squalor of Democratic fundraising is the news of the moment. But here's the big surprise: funny money is a bipartisan indulgence. Here's another: Bob Dole - gasp! - is in on the game. For most of his Senate career, Dole was the pro of the quid pro quo. No one else has been more effective at working the filigree of legislation, digging out just the groove to let the American government's generosity flow unimpeded to his most loyal supporters. And the GOP generally has engaged for years in imaginative fundraising, and favors trading that would make anybody blush." - Time's Richard Lacayo, next page.
"Fortunately for Clinton, Dole had already blocked campaign-finance reform and stuffed his pockets. (Ever hear of the sugar-growing Cuban immigrant contributor or the $6 million fine for a Republican with a money-laundering operation in Hong Kong?)" - Time columnist Margaret Carlson, same issue.

Eleanor "Sybil" Clift
"Let's define what we mean by attacks on Kenneth Starr. It's fair game to point out that he is a partisan Republican, that he defends the tobacco interests...Yes! He got his job under very seamy circumstances. That's fair game." - Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the November 16 McLaughlin Group.
"Watergate was a criminal conspiracy conducted out of the Oval Office. There is nothing even remotely like that alleged against this President. We ought to wait and see what Ken Starr says. He's the only one who has credibility, in my mind, in bringing forth this investigation." - Clift, later in the same show.

Fabulous Clinton Cabinet
"Brian Williams, I have a question. You've been covering the Clinton White House for some time. Do you think that there is any more heroic figure, however not very visible, than Bob Rubin, who is the Treasury Secretary?" - Tom Brokaw during NBC News election night coverage.

Gorbachev, Impeccable Overachiever
"It mystifies Westerners that Mikhail Gorbachev is loathed and ridiculed in his own country. This is the man who pulled the world several steps back from the nuclear brink and lifted a crushing fear from his countrymen, who ended bloody foreign adventures, liberated Eastern Europe and won for the Soviet Union at least provisional membership in the club of civilized nations. By the standards of the West (and by comparison with the incumbent, Boris Yeltsin), Mr. Gorbachev is a man of impeccable character." - New York Times foreign editor Bill Keller reviewing Gorbachev's memoirs, October 20.

It's Her Ideas, Stupid
CBS reporter Rita Braver: "But even abroad, Mrs. Clinton still stirs up controversy at home. In a Time magazine interview she talked about her plans to travel the U.S., monitoring the administration's new welfare reform policies. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton best expressed her own awkward situation when she told an Australian audience that the only way for a First Lady to escape criticism is to never express opinions or ideas." Hillary Clinton: "So it's a kind of difficult position and I think the only answer is to just be who you are and do what you do and get through it and wait for the first man to hold the position and see how it turns out." - CBS Evening News story, November 25.

Alger Hiss: Just Caught Up in Cold War Hysteria
"One of the most controversial men of the post-war years has died. Alger Hiss, at the age of 92. He was a public servant of rising prominence in the 1930s and 1940s when suddenly he was caught up in a spy scandal and he was accused of being a member of the Communist Party. In 1948 he was charged with helping pass State Department secrets to the Soviets....Despite the support of many prominent Americans, Hiss was sent to prison for almost four years. It's a case that still divides many people in this country, but at the end of his life Hiss considered vindication a declaration by a Russian General, who controlled the KGB archives, saying that Hiss had never been a spy." - Tom Brokaw, November 15 NBC Nightly News. On November 18 Brokaw noted that "the Russian General admitted he didn't have access to all records."
"Alger Hiss was an accomplished lawyer and a diplomat until a man named Whittaker Chambers accused him of being a communist who passed state secrets to the Soviets. At congressional hearings Hiss defended himself against a young Richard Nixon. Hiss was ultimately convicted of perjury. He lost his livelihood and his marriage. He protested his innocence until the very end and last year we reported that the Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that KGB files had supported Mr. Hiss's claim." - Peter Jennings, November 15 World News Tonight. On November 19 Jennings issued a "clarification," noting that "It was actually a member of Mr. Yeltsin's staff, General Dmitri Volkogonov, who made the statement. He later said that the evidence wasn't conclusive."
"Hiss was a Harvard-educated lawyer with a distinguished career in government when he was accused in 1948 of helping pass secret documents to the Soviets. The case attracted national attention and helped spur a period of blacklisting and hysteria over the communist threat." - CNN Prime News anchor Linden Soles, November 15.

Reality Check:
"For the last forty years...Hiss proclaimed his innocence. But this year, the CIA declassified and released the so-called Venona files, translations of actual intercepts of messages sent from the Soviet Embassy in Washington back to Moscow. One, dated 30 March 1945, talks about the activities of a high level State Department official turned Soviet agent code named A-L-E-S, Ales. His travel schedule matched that of Alger Hiss. At the bottom of the cable, there's a notation by an officer at the National Security Agency saying Ales was probably, quote, Alger Hiss." - Meet the Press host Tim Russert, November 24.

Very Questionable Sources of Information
"This is the problem with the Internet: wonderful in some ways, but more crazy conspiracy theories float around. If you get your information from talk radio and the Internet, you believe a lot of this nutty stuff." - Newsweek's Evan Thomas on Pierre Salinger's TWA 800 missile claim, November 10 Inside Washington.
"But in the end, one is left with a nagging sense that the Dole-Kemp plan doesn't add up...and with a troubling question. Having already tried supply-side tax cuts as the route to renewed economic glory only to discover the nation strapped with historically large deficits, why would we do it again?" - Peter G. Gosselin on the Dole-Kemp campaign manifesto Trust the People, November 3 New York Times Book Review.

Fashionably Feminist Fertility
"Julie, how did you conceive?....Was it artificial insemination?" - ABC's Deborah Roberts celebrating Julie Cypher and her lover, singer Melissa Etheridge, on their expected baby, November 1 20/20.

- L. Brent Bozell III; Publisher
- Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors
- Geoffrey Dickens, Eugene Eliasen, Jim Forbes, Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters, Media Analysts
- Kathy Ruff, Marketing Director; Peter Reichel, Circulation Manager; Joe Alfonsi, Intern

- Brent Baker