MediaWatch: April 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 4

NewsBites: Boobs on the Tube

Ed Bradley interviewed Paula Jones on the March 16 60 Minutes -- but strangely edited out the substance of her sexual harassment charges against President Clinton. When Jones began to describe the specifics of how Clinton harassed her, Bradley's voice-over narration drowned her out. Bradley explained: "What she says happened next and what she says caused her to leave the room is spelled out graphically in her lawsuit. As a matter of taste we opted not to include it." For 60 Minutes, serious allegations against the President of the United States are in bad taste. What isn't in bad taste? A film clip of Julie Andrews baring her breasts in the 1981 movie S.O.B. which they flashed during a Mike Wallace profile of the actress in October 1995.

Lauer's Cover Story

The cover of the March 24 issue of National Review grabbed the attention of NBC's Today when it caricatured the Clintons as Asians, but when the liberal Emerge magazine defaced conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Today ignored it.

On the March 21 Today, co-host Matt Lauer opened the segment: "Asian-Americans are calling the current cover of the National Review magazine offensive and racist. As you can see the cover depicts the President and First Lady as narrow-eyed, buck-toothed Chinese dressed in Mao suits serving tea. The cover story is about the Asian connection to the Democratic Party campaign fundraising controversy."

Daphne Kwok, representing the Organization of Chinese Americans decried the magazine cover, while National Review editor John O'Sullivan was invited to defend the caricatures. Lauer questioned O' Sullivan's sensitivity: "Mr. O' Sullivan you are part of a committee that commissioned a drawing for the front of the magazine. What was the message you were trying to get across?....Didn't you know though that there would be a lot of people who would think this was very offensive?" Today didn't make an issue last November of a derogatory Emerge cover depicting Justice Thomas as a lawn jockey with the title "Clarence Thomas: Lawn Jockey of the Far Right." Thus, George Curry, editor of the left-leaning magazine, escaped questioning by NBC's sensitivity police.

Pay Up -- or No Tornado Warnings

All the networks portrayed a tiny reduction in the National Weather Service's $400 million annual budget as a major impending disaster. For example, the March 22 NBC Nightly News report by Robert Hager began: "The National Weather Service faces hard times, says it must cut 200 jobs and put off replacement of outdated equipment. All because of a $27 million budget cut ordered by Congress and the administration."

Hager outlined some of the dire consequences that have occurred: "Already, after Florida growers were caught off guard by a sudden, disastrous freeze in January, some weather service managers blamed budget cuts -- and blamed them, too, for a failure to forecast high waves off the Washington coast, which capsized a Coast Guard vessel and drowned three crewmen in February." But an April 6 Washington Post article by Stephen Barr quoted an unnamed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration source denying these events are connected with the budget cuts: "Repair crews had not been able to reach the malfunctioning buoy for two weeks because of high winds and seas, the official said. As for the crop loss, the official said, `We blew the forecast. Sometimes it happens.'"

Rather Wrongs Rebels

Dan Rather found some GOP heroes on March 20, when 11 House Republicans jumped ship to block a bill funding House committees, including the Government Operations Committee's investigation of illegal DNC and White House fundraising techniques.

Rather cast the dissenters as Clinton defenders: "For the second time in two weeks Republicans have revolted against their leaders over the investigation into political campaign finances. By the narrowest of margins, 213 to 211 [sic], the House tonight refused to approve the money to finance the work of 19 committees. Many Republicans did not go along with their leaders who want the investigation to focus only on the Clinton White House."

But the very next day Washington Post reporter Guy Gugliotta had a more accurate account: "The key votes to block yesterday's funding resolution were cast by the 11 conservatives because it included increases in committee budgets. The dissenters insisted that their votes did not imply disapproval of the campaign fundraising investigation...Republican conservatives began to grumble about the funding resolution...because it increased the budgets for 18 standing committees by 14 percent."

That evening, Rather failed to correct himself: "House Republicans settled their differences today and voted to provide nearly four million dollars for an investigation of mostly if not entirely Democratic campaign fundraising during the last Presidential election."

But Aren't They Too Expensive?

As investigations into campaign fundraising begin on Capitol Hill the calls for an independent counsel are getting louder, but not from the broadcast media. On the March 31 World News Tonight, ABC's John Martin used the "Your Money" segment to look at how much various independent counsels have cost taxpayers. Funny, ABC never bothered while Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh ran up a $40 million tab.

Martin opened: "They are legal lions conducting monumental investigations. Leon Jaworski looking into Watergate. Lawrence Walsh looking into Iran-Contra. Kenneth Starr looking into Whitewater. But today's GAO report shows that many cases are far from monumental and the time and money spent on them are far from inconsequential. Example, the investigation of whether former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy repaid corporate favors worth perhaps a few thousand dollars." After airing a quote from Donald Smaltz, the independent counsel on the Espy case, Martin continued: "But that was two and a half years ago and so far Smaltz has spent $6.6 million."

Martin might have had a better appreciation for Smaltz's work if he had reported his convictions. Since the beginning of 1995, the evening news shows have aired only two full stories and one anchor brief on the Espy investigation, while Smaltz has piled up six convictions. Martin failed to note that a federal jury convicted a California agribusiness company of illegally showering Espy with nearly $6,000 in gifts and that this past March, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods was convicted of lying to investigators who were looking into allegations that Tyson had given gifts to Espy, his girlfriend and another high-ranking department official. ABC skipped both developments.

Fancying Finland.

On the March 20 NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw teased viewers into sticking around for a story about a modern-day Utopia: "Later, where women rule the land. A place where family matters are a national priority." And where was this magical paradise of which Brokaw spoke? None other than socialist Finland.

Reporting from Helsinki, the site of the Yeltsin-Clinton summit, Ron Allen found that the Finnish Speaker, one-third of the parliament and nearly half the cabinet are women. Noting that women got the vote in Finland 90 years ago Allen asserted: "Today, 90 percent of Finnish women work. It's 74 percent in the U.S. And the gap between what women and men earn is smaller in Finland. By some measures, Finnish women are smarter than the men. They earn more than half the college degrees. It's all meant family-friendly government-paid programs, like affordable day care...And parents can take three years off to care for a newborn without losing their jobs, thanks, they say, to mothers in government. Abortion is legal and free. Teen pregnancy rates are the lowest in the world. A law like America's failed Equal Rights Amendment passed long ago."

What Allen failed to point out is the cost of such burdens -- such as an astronomical unemployment rate. According to the Finnish Ministry of Finance the latest figures put the unemployment rate above 15 percent, or three times greater than that of the United States.

Walter's War on Israel

It might be the only government housing project the liberal media have ever opposed: The Jewish settlements being built on Har Homa in Jerusalem, angering Palestinians who say the building is a violation of the "peace process." In two reports on the project and the Palestinian terrorist acts that followed, CNN's Walter Rodgers portrayed the attacks as a natural response to the Jewish building, while ignoring clear PLO violations of the Oslo peace accords.

Charles Krauthammer's April 4 Washington Post column noted that "Arafat's aides admit his own Fatah faction organized the anti-Israeli rioting of the last 14 days." Oslo also calls for the PLO to change its charter calling for the destruction of Israel, which Arafat has refused to do. Yet when Israel builds Jewish settlements in Jersualem, a subject on which Oslo is silent, they are blamed for wrecking the peace process.

On CNN's The World Today April 6, Rodgers stated: "The Palestinians say Mr. Netanyahu is no longer negotiating peace, he's trying to dictate its terms...militant Palestinians now burn U.S. and Israeli flags, asking what became of American assurances Israel would not expand Jewish settlements during the peace process." But Krauthammer's column pointed out: "Israel's building Jewish housing on Har Homa in East routinely cited as a violation of Oslo. The real Oslo, however, is very explicit in treating Jerusalem as a separate entity from the West Bank...Jewish housing was built in East Jerusalem throughout Yitzhak Rabin's stewardship of the Oslo process."

Rodgers' March 31 report on The World Today forwarded more Palestinian public relations: "The agenda at the White House may have been restarted in the Middle East peace process, but in the Middle East there was no spirit of reconciliation. Only cries for revenge. This as Palestinians paraded through the streets, shouting, `we were not born to lead lives of humiliation.' That humiliation is felt deeply here. Witness these Israeli Arabs marching in solidarity with Palestinians. Both commemorating Land Day, marking decades of Israeli confiscation of Arab lands."

Earlier Rodgers had claimed that Israel was moving "to protect bulldozers on land Israel took from Arabs in the 1967 War." Yet the land in question was gained after Arab countries attacked Israel in 1967. During the battle, Israel gained the territory and retained it as a buffer zone -- hardly the clear-cut "confiscation" of Rodgers' imaginings.

Voters Cause Pedophilia?

When ABC's Prime Time Live reported on pedophiles preying on young Mexican boys in Balboa Park in San Diego, reporter John Quinones didn't blame the police department, the Border Patrol, or even the pedophiles themselves. He blamed California voters that supported Proposition 187 in 1994.

Quinones forwarded the liberal spin as fact: "In California, the problem has been made only worse by the passage of Proposition 187. It specifically says that no public funds can be used to provide social services to anyone who's in this country illegally. That means that even if social workers for the city or the state wanted to help the boys of Balboa Park, they couldn't. It would be against the law. Proposition 187 is now being challenged in court, but its message is clear."

So, pedophilia wasn't a problem before 1994?