MediaWatch: October 1996

Vol. Ten No. 10

Media Scoff at Far Right...But Buy Wacky Left

While the media are quick to dismiss crazy right-wing conspiracy theories about black U.N. helicopters they granted credence to the charge that the CIA introduced crack into black Los Angeles neighborhoods as a way to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. The theory was forwarded in an August San Jose Mercury News series by reporter Gary Webb. The four major networks aired a total of 12 stories with CBS laying claim to five. CNN ran three followed by ABC and NBC which aired two stories each.

ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning brought on far- left U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters. She pushed the charge as proof that outside forces created urban drug addicts.

CBS's Bill Whitaker accepted the charge and placed the plight of crack babies at the feet of the CIA. His October 1 Evening News piece opened with a shot of woman holding a crying baby: "The decade and a half crack epidemic has exacted a ruinous toll. For ten years Eloise Dangerfield has been rescuing the littlest victims, crack babies, from the death grip in which the drug has ensnared much of South Central Los Angeles....So when L.A.'s black citizens heard of the San Jose Mercury News reports claiming CIA backed Contras opened the first pipeline for Colombian cocaine to their communities their first reaction: shock. Their second: anger."

Whitaker aired a soundbite from Webb's source, a drug dealer, but offered this ambiguous defense of the CIA: "There is no evidence directly linking the CIA to the drug sales and the CIA says its own internal investigation has found no connection. Yet here at Ground Zero of the crack explosion the story simply won't go away." He ended with more emotion over reason: "Eloise Dangerfield says it is all too horrible to contemplate. Knowing might ease the pain, she says, but it won't end the suffering."

In the September 30 Weekly Standard Tucker Carlson questioned Webb's reporting: "Webb came up with no evidence to support his claim ....Instead of actual evidence, Webb relies on a series of unrelated events to show a conspiracy was afoot." Carlson noted that Sen. John Kerry's two year investigation failed to prove CIA involvement. "Indeed ample evidence surfaced that CIA officials had worked to remove drug traffickers from the Nicaraguan resistance."