CyberAlert -- 05/02/1996 -- Gas & Castro

Gas & Castro

Two items today: CBS sees evil oil industry profiteers at the root of rising gas prices; and Peter Jennings goes to Cuba to polish up Fidel Castro. But first, a clarification for yesterday's e-mail message. USA Today on Wednesday noted that "the Larry King who made a $1,000 donation to the Clinton camapign is Larry L. King, author and playwright."

Here's how Dan Rather opened the April 30 CBS Evening News: "What is driving up gasoline prices? The U.S. Attorney General orders an investigation to find out if something illegal is going on. For cattle ranchers the problem is low prices. Today they rounded up some help from the White House."
Then Rather declared: "Good evening. It's the question every American driver is asking with every trip to the pump. Why is the price of gasoline going up and up and up. Is it the free market at work, the law of supply and demand? Or, is it greed or possibly even something more sinister?"
Reporter Ray Brady explained how the Justice Dept. named a team to "see if market forces increased oil prices or if there was gouging. Already, the industry's on the defensive, saying it's not to blame for rising prices or its high octane profits...."
After a clip of an industry representaive, Brady countered: "But critics say those high pump prices come from gouging. The industry deliberately let supplies drop..."
Brady kept seeing the evil profit motive at the root of the crisis: "Supplies are now below the minimum level considered adequate by both the government and the industry. How did it happen? Look at production. Out to boost profits oil companies have been closing or selling off refineries..."
Finally, he turned to the demand side and blamed the lack of a 55 mph speed limit imposed by federal decree: "Now look at demand. Americans are driving longer distances to work in popular gas guzzlers. And speeding. No more 55 mile an hour federal speed limit."
In the very next story Rather explained how Clinton took action to raise beef prices, but that wasn't how he spun it: "President Clinton is giving some election year help to America's ranchers and farmers. The President took action today to try to boost cattle prices, which have fallen to their lowest level in ten years."
As MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham suggested to me, that's not quite the angle Rather took on February 2 when CBS learned about how a House subcommittee passed legislation to help dairy farmers: "A CBS News exclusive. The hush-hush plan afoot in Congress that could make your milk prices soar," Rather declared at the top of the newscast before explaining: "CBS News has been told that a secret deal is making its way through Congress that would increase the additives in your milk and increase the retail price of milk about 40 cents a gallon."

Peter Jennings anchored the May 1 World News Tonight from Havana. Narrating a story on May Day celebrations, Jennings served a Castro publicist:
"The government had urged a million people to show up. However many there were, there was a boisterous enthusiasm that went on for several hours. For many of the people here it was politically wise to show up. And for the foreign observers there were clear messages to be seen and heard about the state of affairs in 1996. For all the familiar revolutionary slogans about socialism or death, and how Cubans will overcome despite American pressure, the most familiar call was for the leader."
[video of people chanting "Fidel, Fidel, Fidel, Fidel..."]
"Fidel Castro was here in uniform and though he is almost 70 years old now he stood throughout the entire muggy morning. And the sharpest political message of the day was reserved for Senator Jesse Helms and Congressman Dan Burton, whose latest effort is to scare off non-American investors from doing business here on the threat of being punished in the United States. Senator Helms is a familiar bogeyman in Cuba and he was vilified today in the most insulting fashion Cubans could imagine."
[video of signs with Helms' name and a swastika]
"We were invited to the reviewing stand to hear President Castro in person praise Cubans for standing up to American pressure. This is the man who nine U.S. Presidents have tried unsuccessfully to influence. The President said the Helms-Burton was brutal and inhumane....
I must watch my people now, he said, and turned back to the parade."

Tom Brokaw was not so easily taken in by the show, reporting on NBC Nightly News: "In Cuba, in Havana, hundreds of thousands jammed the streets for a May Day rally and protested the tightening U.S. embargo aimed at driving out Fidel Castro. For his part, Castro said today's turnout proves that Cuba is sticking by socialism. Many in the crowd, however, were government workers who were given the day off and then told to show up at this rally."
Sorry for the length of this, but I think it's some good stuff.

-- Brent Baker