CyberAlert -- 06/02/2000 -- INS "Acted Properly"

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INS "Acted Properly"; "Star Wars" Bashed; Rosie O'Donnell Pressed on Gun Hypocrisy

1) ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Bob Schieffer insisted that the judges decided the INS "acted properly" in the Elian case, but NBC's Pete Williams pointed out how "they personally might have given Elian an asylum hearing." CBS featured a woman in Cuba proclaiming how the ruling means Elian has gotten "his freedom."

2) Bash "Star Wars" night on CBS and NBC. Thursday evening CBS ran a piece which highlighted attacks on the viability of the newly planned system, while NBC piled on about its dangers, including how "it could actually ignite a whole new nuclear arms race."

3) Moral equivalence in the extreme. Tom Brokaw asked Russian President Putin: "What's the greatest threat to Russia: Islamic terrorism coming out of Afghanistan or NATO now expanding?"

4) This year's National Spelling Bee champion is a product of home schooling, a fact noted Thursday night by ABC, FNC and NBC, but skipped by CBS News.

5) Today's Katie Couric grilled Rosie O'Donnell for over five minutes about her hypocrisy in opposing gun use by others for personal protection while having armed guards around her kids. She also told National Review the NRA doesn't care about kids as "the only life that is important to them is white, Republican life."


The Elian decision topped the three broadcast network evening shows Thursday night. Both ABC anchor Peter Jennings and CBS anchor Bob Schieffer insisted that the judges decided the INS "acted properly" when denying an asylum hearing to Elian, but on the NBC Nightly News Pete Williams pointed out the judges found the process legal but didn't approve of the outcome: "In a unanimous ruling, the three appeals court judges say while they personally might have given Elian an asylum hearing, that's not a decision for the courts, it's one for the immigration service."

ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin stressed how "today's opinion was really very conservative." ABC also squeezed in reaction from Havana, featuring a woman proclaiming how the ruling means Elian has gotten "his freedom." CBS's Byron Pitts used the opportunity to make a derogatory comment about "the normally emotional and often angry Marisleysis Gonzalez."

Peter Jennings opened the June 1 World News Tonight:
"Good evening. It's been awhile, but once again the Elian Gonzalez case has been very much at the center of the stage today and every indication is that it's closer to being resolved in his father's favor. In the U.S. government's favor. In President Castro's favor. This morning a panel of three federal judges ruled that the immigration service, the INS, acted properly when it decided not to grant an asylum hearing for the six-year-old. And so he may go home very shortly. His Miami relatives may appeal, politicians may interfere, but the Attorney General Janet Reno has prevailed and so has Elian's father, as we said."

Linda Douglass summarized the ruling and the reaction from Juan Miguel's lawyer, Greg Craig. From Miami, Ron Claiborne called it a "stinging setback" for the relatives who called for calm. Over video of people in Cuba watching TV, Claiborne relayed that in Cuba "there were no street protests, but there was plenty of quiet support for the ruling." Without noting the irony, he then showed a comment from a woman on the street in Cuba, translating her words: "'I've been anxious all day about this decision,' she says, 'I am very happy now. I feel like it is my son who has gotten his freedom.'"

Jennings then talked with ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. One of his questions: "And so one the things that's been established here clearly from a legal point of view is the primacy of parenthood." Toobin agreed: "That's really true. Some people say, and I think it's true, this is sort of a victory for Fidel Castro, but today's opinion was really very conservative. It said you know you can put aside the lawyers, put aside the politicians, what really matters in this country is that mothers and fathers control the destiny of their children."

Over on the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer opened the broadcast: "A federal appeals panel in Atlanta handed down its long-awaited decision in the Elian Gonzalez case today. The judges said that U.S. immigration officials acted properly when they denied the Cuban boy an asylum hearing, but the court gave Elian's great uncle in Miami two weeks to appeal the ruling and again blocked the boy from leaving the country immediately. So the saga goes on."

Byron Pitts handled CBS's one and only story, quoting how the judges wrote that it's "reasoned and reasonable" to say parents speak for their kids and "The INS's considerable discretion was not abused." Introducing a soundbite from Marisleysis he took this shot at her behavior: "This afternoon the normally emotional and often angry Marisleysis Gonzalez was subdued."

It was bash "Star Wars" and missile defense night on CBS and NBC Thursday evening. Prompted by President Clinton's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday night ABC provided a fair and balanced set of pro and con reports about a missile defense, but Thursday night CBS and NBC didn't bother with any such balance.

The CBS Evening News ran a piece by David Martin which highlighted attacks on the viability of the newly planned system -- which is aimed at shooting down a missile fired from a rogue state, not a Cold War-era barrage from the Soviet Union -- from two men who maintain the interceptors can be easily fooled by balloon decoys. NBC insisted on repeatedly referring to missile defense as "Star Wars" as Jim Miklaszewski made no effort at balance. He outlined the idea behind the system, then spent the remainder of his piece relaying attacks from critics, including how "critics warn if Russia...feels threatened it could actually ignite a whole new nuclear arms race."

"Can this anti-missile system really work?" asked CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer in introducing an "Eye on America" segment. David Martin explained in the June 1 story how MIT's Theodore Postol maintained that the interceptors can be confused by easily launched balloon decoys. Martin soon added that Richard Garwin, identified on-screen only as a "missile expert," agreed. Martin also highlighted how Garwin foresees a nightmare scenario of impossible to stop bomblets filled with anthrax. Martin concluded:
"Despite the daunting hurdles of building a missile defense, the Pentagon is trying to do it on a schedule that compresses ten or twelve years worth of work into just eight. A high risk program on a fast track, and one panel of experts warned that is likely to cause delays, increased costs, even failure."

From Moscow, NBC's Tom Brokaw related how Putin and Germany's Prime Minister are "strongly opposed to any kind of Star Wars missile defense. NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski tonight has more on America's controversial Star Wars plan, should it go forward, is it worth it?"

Miklaszewski up front asserted that "the Pentagon insists this system is not some Cold War relic." After a clip of Lt. General Ronald Kadish, Miklaszewski explained how "it's a scaled down version of Star Wars" aimed only at countering a rogue attack and so 100 interceptor missiles would be placed in Alaska. After Charles LaDue of Raytheon compared the system to a bus driving into a wall at 1,200 mph, Miklaszewski noted the Pentagon had a successful test last October. Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe insisted in a soundbite that the system can be made to work.

Miklaszewski then began to discredit the whole concept. He noted how a second test failed, "proof, say the critics, the system will never work."
Following a clip from Stephen Young of something called the "Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers," Miklaszewski picked up the argument: "But there may be an even bigger risk. The Russians claim this system would violate the existing anti-ballistic missile treaty, which prohibits missile defense. Critics warn if Russia, or even China, feels threatened it could actually ignite a whole new nuclear arms race."
Frances Fitzgerald, identified on-screen only as an "author," asserted: "This may lead to a chain reaction and we'll end up with more nuclear weapons, which will be able to defeat our own system."
Miklaszewski warned: "And the cost is soaring."
Senator Joseph Biden, D-Delaware: "We may be spending $60 billion on a system that I think the American people are going to wonder whether we need."
Miklaszewski continued: "To meet the potential threat and put the first interceptors on alert within five years, President Clinton must give the go ahead before the November elections. But a recent Pentagon report warns that timetable is totally unrealistic. And critics argue it's a rush to judgment, more about election year politics than national defense."
Fitzgerald: "This has been a political weapon for its entire history."
Miklaszewski concluded: "The Pentagon has another intercept test in July. Successful or not, Star Wars is definitely back as a possible defense but also a potential threat to U.S.-Russian relations."

Assuming all the critics are correct about technical problems with the planned system, the response does not have to be to abandon the concept as all the network experts argued, but to figure out what must be done to make it work to protect Americans, a line of reasoning skipped by CBS and NBC.

Moral equivalence in the extreme. On the one hand terrorists, on the other NATO. Check out this question from Tom Brokaw to Russian President Vladimir Putin posed during the interview played on the June 1 NBC Nightly News:
"What's the greatest threat to Russia: Islamic terrorism coming out of Afghanistan or NATO now expanding?"

For the record, the question was too odd for Putin and he replied by saying "ineffective economic policy" is the biggest threat to Russia.


This year's National Spelling Bee champion is a product of home schooling, a fact noted Thursday night by ABC and NBC but skipped by CBS. Anchor Bob Schieffer reported on the June 1 CBS Evening News how "a 12 year-old boy from Maryland Heights, Missouri won the National Spelling Bee today. George Thampy won this war of words by correctly spelling 'demarche,' a kind of diplomatic maneuver." After a clip of Thampy spelling the word, Schieffer added: "And he has been a busy little bee. Last week he came in second in the geography bee."

ABC and NBC viewers, as well as those watching FNC, but I don't know about CNN, heard another relevant fact about the winner. As ABC's Peter Jennings acknowledged: "For the third year in a row the winner of the National Spelling Bee was a student taught at home." NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams showed Thampy spelling the winning word before he alerted viewers: "The young winner, by the way, is home schooled as are the second and third place finishers this year."


The NRA doesn't care about kids as "the only life that is important to them is white, Republican life," actress/daytime TV host/liberal activist Rosie O'Donnell charged in an interview with National Review that went online hours after she was gently grilled for over five minutes by the Today show's Katie Couric about her hypocrisy in opposing gun use by others for personal protection while having armed guards around her kids.

O'Donnell blamed threats from gun advocates for forcing her to employ security measures and argued the news, about a guard at her kid's nursery school being armed, only got out because of a politically-motivated Connecticut police department, which "without a search warrant," searched the guard for a gun because "it would've been a big feather in" the cap of the gun lobby "had they found an unlicensed, unregistered gun on the bodyguard of one of America's most vocal gun control advocates."

In quite a contrast to the pre-Million Mom March coverage delivered by the networks, Couric repeatedly followed-up by challenging O'Donnell about how she's contradicting her public condemnation of guns. Couric, for instance, reminded O'Donnell that when Charlton Heston suggested more armed guards might have prevented the tragedy at Columbine, "your response was quote, 'Does he want us to live in a police state where the only way that our children in this country are safe is with armed guards at every school in America? That is an obscure, absurd, extremist view. He's wrong, it infuriates me.' And yet you have an armed, you're considering having an armed bodyguard for your children?"

First, to a hunk of the June 1 Today interview painstakingly transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, and then we'll get to some of O'Donnell's comments to National Review.

O'Donnell's appearance during Today's 8am hour was pegged to her hosting the Tony Awards Sunday night on CBS. After several questions about that and her winning a daytime Emmy, Couric switched topics:
"Now segueing into that controversial area. Let's talk about the Million Mom March."
O'Donnell: "Yes."
Couric: "You were one of the organizers. Or one of the speakers."
O'Donnell: "Uh no. I was considered the emcee."
Couric: "The emcee, okay. Tell me about that. Do you, first of all what was it like for you to participate in that march? And do you think it really accomplished anything, or what did it accomplish?"
O'Donnell: "Well I think it gave birth to a movement. Make that, people who've said, you know, we are the voice of the majority of Americans and we have not been heard. It's time that we are heard."
Couric: "But what will that movement do?"
O'Donnell: "We'll try to work for sensible gun legislation, for the licensing and registering of all guns in America. And that's what our main goal is, is not to take anyone's gun. Not to take away Charlton Heston's gun or any other law abiding citizen's gun. We're trying to regulate an industry that's not regulated. The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates every product made in the United States, it has to adhere to safety standards. Every product except guns. So if you make a teddy bear, it has to make sure that the eyes don't come off and your kid doesn't choke. Well you can make a gun, it doesn't have to adhere to any safety standard, it can drop it, it can shoot, it can have as many clips loaded into it as they want. You know it's basically, totally an unregulated industry because of the pressure that they've had in the Congress and Senate."

"The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates EVERY product made in the United States"? A liberal's dream!

Couric then pressed her: "Now given that backdrop and you're very strong feelings on this issue."
O'Donnell: "Yes."
Couric: "You have been called a hypocrite in recent days-"
O'Donnell: "Yes."
Couric: "Because you have hired a bodyguard or you have had a bodyguard for you and your family."
O'Donnell: "Right, right."
Couric: "And this particular bodyguard applied for a permit to carry a gun."
O'Donnell, her voiced changed to a pedantic clip as she's clearly annoyed: "Yes he did. He applied on his own volition. He works for a security firm. He does not only work for me. He's employed by a security firm. After the Columbine incident last year when I became a vocal gun control advocate and began my education about guns in America there was cause for my family to be concerned about their safety. On the advice of many safety firms and federal, federal institutions of the United States they recommended that we get bodyguards. It was my decision to hire one who was unarmed for my children. There are times when I walk in public across the street where we have security guards who are off duty New York City policemen with me when it is deemed appropriate that there is a security threat. However, when they said that my children needed one I said please let's have one unarmed. I could have had one armed if I wanted to. My thought was the presence of him at a nursery school, a private nursery school in a car would indicate to some he had a weapon. All the teachers and all the students and all of the student's parents knew that he was unarmed."

Couric followed-up: "So why now apply for a permit?"
O'Donnell took on the Greenwich police, a wealthy suburban town you'd hardly think would have any kind of pro-gun police force: "He applied for a permit, not at my request. Permits to carry a gun are sealed. He has the right as a person whose residing in Connecticut a lot of the times, due to his work with me, to request to carry a gun. It wasn't done at my request. He's an individual and he works for a security firm. What happened was the police department released to the media a private gun application in order to call me a hypocrite. The local newspaper then called my house and said is it true that he does not have a gun and that he applied for one? I said yes, and if you want to call me a hypocrite, call me a hypocrite but please do not say that the person who is watching my children at school does not have a gun because it might facilitate the need to get one. And that is really not my desire. They said, well we won't list the name of the school but we have to print it because its newsworthy. The day after they printed the story the Greenwich police showed up on a private nursery school without a search warrant and searched the man in his car where he had the right to be for a gun and on his person without a search warrant."
An incredulous Couric leaned in: "So you believe this was politically motivated?"
O'Donnell: "Yes I do. I hate to disappoint the gun lobby but it would've been a big feather in their cap had they found an unlicensed, unregistered gun on the bodyguard of one of America's most vocal gun control advocates."

Couric pressed some more: "Are you going to insist now, despite this publicity, that this individual not carry a gun?"
O'Donnell: "I think that my family's security will be discussed with the people who are hired to insure that they are in fact safe, and we'll have to make a decision as a family based on that. However, up until this point I hadn't had the need, in my opinion, because the presence of Marcos, who is a friend of mine, who is a trained expert in martial arts-"
Couric: "This is the bodyguard."
O'Donnell: "Indicated to many that he had a gun."
Couric hit O'Donnell with an NRA point: "Some people might hear this and say you know it's an increasingly violent society, I have the right and I want to protect my family too from would be perpetrators."
O'Donnell: "Yes."
Couric: "But I'm not Rosie O'Donnell, I don't make tons of money, I can't afford a bodyguard, so I want to be armed if need be so I can protect myself and my family."
O'Donnell: "Well if you would like to own a gun you are allowed to own a gun. What we who work for gun control would like to see happen is see every gun licensed and registered in the United States. You have to pass the test to drive a car you should be able to have to pass a test to own a lethal weapon. A weapon that's innate design is to kill other people. It is an industry that is totally unregulated. Right now Americans are allowed to buy and own weapons and they will continue to be allowed through out the rest of history and we're not-"
Couric: "And you have said you do not want to take that right away."
O'Donnell, with a yes but answer: "No, although I will tell you this that the Second Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be regarding 'a well-regulated militia.' That the Second Amendment refers to 'a well-regulated militia.' The Supreme Court has continually upheld this and it never ever was interpreted that the Second Amendment meant individual's rights to bear arms."
Couric: "Do you have a gun in your home?"
O'Donnell: "I do not."
Couric: "Would you ever have a gun in your home?"
O'Donnell: "There are times, no, would I personally ever own a gun?"
Couric: "What about a bodyguard in your home would you allow that individual to have a gun?"
O'Donnell: "There have been times, yes, where there has been, only since April 21st, when I've become a vocal gun control advocate, there have been times when I have had armed people at my house, not inside my house, outside my house to make sure that no one who is not supposed to get in the house, get in the house."

Couric reminded O'Donnell: "Last year Charlton Heston came out with a statement saying more armed guards might have prevented the tragedy at Columbine. Your response was quote, 'Does he want us to live in a police state where the only way that our children in this country are safe is with armed guards at every school in America? That is an obscure, absurd, extremist view. He's wrong, it infuriates me.' And yet you have an armed, you're considering having an armed bodyguard for your children?"
O'Donnell: "I don't have Katie, I don't have an armed, I do not have an armed guard for my children."
Couric: "You're considering it."
O'Donnell: "Well there have been since my vocal gun control advocacy, threats made upon the safety and lives of my children. If there was someone in Parker's school who was having threats made against his four-year old life I would understand the parent's concern. I think that arming America with concealed weapons in general, we're going to become the Wild West."

Couric's next and last query: "Do you think you'll continue to be a lightning rod in terms of this whole controversy on this issue?"
That allowed O'Donnell to claim moral superiority and to spout off her dubious anti-gun numbers: "Well it's really not about me, truthfully, Katie. The fact is that up until now the only people who have been interested in being gun control advocates have been people whose lives have been shattered by a bullet. Carolyn McCarthy, her husband had to be killed, before she became the most powerful voice in Congress. And you know she became a legislator because he was, the Bradys, at the end of a bullet they became passionate about this. But we have to do it before we become statistics. There are 12 children killed everyday in America. When I stand up and say cystic fibrosis, pediatric AIDS, childhood cancers everyone says isn't she great? More kids die from gunshot wounds than those three diseases combined every year. It is an issue of child advocacy for me. And the NRA and the gun lobby can try as hard as they want to scare me, to threaten me, to make me into a hypocrite. This is what I believe and I will not be quiet about it."

+++ Watch a portion of Couric's interview with O'Donnell. Friday morning, MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a hunk of it, in RealPlayer format, on the MRC home page. Go to:

MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey alerted me to this posting on National Review's Web page: "For his piece 'Rosie O'Donnell, Political Activist,' published in the June 19 issue of National Review, Jay Nordlinger interviewed Rosie O'Donnell, as well as the man she calls her idol -- Mike Douglas, the former TV-talk-show host whose show Rosie took as a model for her own."

NR provided some excerpts of O'Donnell's comments:

-- On Guns: "In a perfect world, I would love it if we didn't have any handguns, but that's not what I'm striving for politically, nor is it attainable. That's an extremist view.
"I'm not against anyone having a gun, as long as it's licensed, registered, and has a child-safety lock. Anyone who wants to have one, can. I don't think that gun owners are the enemy. I don't think they're evil. But gun deaths are an epidemic.
"The NRA cowers behind the Second Amendment. [Chief Justice Warren] Burger said that the Second Amendment is the biggest fraud that has ever been perpetrated on the American public. A state militia is what it says, and when they quote it, they leave out the first twelve words-twelve! There are twenty-seven words, and they all count!"

-- On Whether the NRA Cares as Much About Children as She Does: "I would say, maybe their own kids, but not kids in general. The only life that is important to them is white, Republican life. Regardless of skin color, it offends me when someone is shot dead in America. [The NRA's position] is based on financial gain, not patriotism or love of children."

-- Did she lose no respect at all for Hillary, given her wild accusations of a "vast right-wing conspiracy?": "I believe she believed her husband. I don't believe for one minute that she sat on the Today show [where the First Lady alleged the 'conspiracy'] knowing the truth of that situation. I believe her husband lied to her, as he did to everyone else, and that she found out only later that he'd betrayed her."

-- On the Argument that Rudy Giuliani Has Made New York City Safer, Better: "That's what a white conservative who's rich would say, but not someone in a poor neighborhood, by any means."

For more quotes, go to:

For the full story as it appears in the new National Review:

And to watch a clip of O'Donnell's infamous May 20, 1999 argument with Tom Selleck, go to:

As for O'Donnell's last quote above about Giuliani, tell that to all the poor minority group members who are still alive thanks to the dramatic drop in the murder rate. -- Brent Baker

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