MediaWatch: November 1995

Vol. Nine No. 11

Gramm Should Die?

The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin put "hate talk" back in the news. On the November 7 Dateline NBC, former New York Times Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal warned that the First Amendment may need some retooling: "I think that American society, and I think other democratic societies, have to review their tolerance toward dissemination of hatred which inevitably will lead to death." Dateline reporter Dennis Murphy transferred the issue from Israel to America, citing "words nurturing hate, hate turning murderously explosive," while flashing pictures of a neo-Nazi rally and the bombing in Oklahoma City.

Al Hunt joined the global leap from "right-wing" Israelis to "right-wing" American politicians in his November 9 Wall Street Journal column: "Most of the hate rhetoric in American politics today comes from the right, not infrequently under the pretenses of religion. It is Pat Robertson who has accused feminists of encouraging women to `kill their children.'"

But when "hate speech" comes from Democrats against Republicans, it's not seen as part of an all-encompassing "climate" of global anti-conservative hatred, but barely makes a blip on the news screen. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said in front of a roomful of supposedly gaffe-loving White House reporters October 26 that Republicans would like to see Medicare "just die and go away," adding, "that's probably what they'd like to see happen to seniors, too, if you think about it."

Although Gingrich demanded McCurry be fired, only CBS and CNN covered the incident the day it happened. ABC mentioned it on Good Morning America and in a question on Nightline. Despite a White House apology to Gingrich, NBC ignored it.

A New Hampshire AFL-CIO convention newsletter dated October 29 contained this advice for conference participants: "Drive home safely and remember: If you must drink and drive, try to do it when Phil Gramm is crossing the street." Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times picked up the story, but The New York Times and The Washington Post did nothing. The networks completely ignored it, despite the presence of Vice President Al Gore as the main speaker. None demanded that Gore distance himself from such a hateful remark.