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CyberAlert -- 04/11/2001 -- Jennings: "Why Not" Apologize?

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Jennings: "Why Not" Apologize?; ABC Focused on "Deep Cuts" But FNC Noted They Amount to 0.02%; ABC Raised Bias Over Dirkhising

1) ABC's Mark Litke on Tuesday night pointed out how China never apologized for "the brutality of the cultural revolution" in which "many were tortured and killed." Peter Jennings, however, soon put the burden back on the U.S. as he asserted that "some Americans say if an apology would free the Navy crew, why not?"

2) Geraldo Rivera expressed perfect Clintonian reasoning on China: "Does that really matter? Right or wrong?"

3) CBS and NBC skipped the Bush budget on Tuesday morning, but ABC's Antonio Mora bemoaned its "deep cuts" and highlighted how an ABC News poll found 52 percent "prefer no tax cut and more health services for the uninsured." FNC's Carl Cameron noted how Bush's cuts amount to a mere 0.02 percent of the total budget.

4) ABC devoted its "A Closer Look" segment on Tuesday night to charges of media bias in obsessing over Matthew Shepard while ignoring the Jesse Dirkhising case. Naturally, ABC concluded there was no bias. But in making that point reporter Aaron Brown reflected the very bias conservatives see: "In Shepard, the issue was hate crime laws and whether they should extend to gays. In Dirkhising, the media saw a terrible crime but no larger issue."


1
ABC on Tuesday night became the first broadcast network, during the current showdown with China, to inform its viewers of how China never apologized for "the brutality of the cultural revolution" in which "many were tortured and killed" as Mark Litke noted doing so "might call into question the legitimacy of communist rule." Seconds later, however, Peter Jennings put the burden back on the U.S. as he asserted that "some Americans say if an apology would free the Navy crew, why not?"

From Beijing, Litke provided a World News Tonight story on various levels of apologies recognized in Chinese society, but he also pointed out in the April 10 piece:
"While China claims to hold the moral high ground in this confrontation, its communist officials actually have a terrible record when it comes to apologizing for their own mistakes, such as the brutality of the cultural revolution. Through the '60s and '70s millions were painfully forced to apologize for crimes they never committed. Many were tortured and killed. China's leaders have never apologized for this, it might call into question the legitimacy of communist rule."

Immediately after Litke's report aired, anchor Peter Jennings turned to Terry Moran at the White House: "Terry, I know the White House says the Navy jet did nothing wrong and there's no reason to apologize, but some Americans say if an apology would free the Navy crew, why not? What's the White House position?"
Moran replied: "Well it is a fair question, as they acknowledge. Their answer is two fold: First, that specific reason, that the Navy plane was operating in international airspace, perfectly legal and came down under legal emergency procedures. But the general and broader reason is that an apology, they say, would set a bad, formal precedent which could limit U.S. military maneuvers in international airspace and international waters."

2

Clintonian reasoning expressed by Geraldo Rivera on the China situation. Right or wrong, "does that really matter?"

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange on CNBC's Rivera Live on Monday night, April 9, between Rivera and Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, a former National Security Council staffer.

Soderberg: "And I think the Bush administration has to stand firm, say, 'We're not going to apologize. Return our plane. Return our men and women on that plane. They deserve to be home. They've been there too long'. And ultimately the Chinese are gonna have to blink first. And it's just a question of how to let them off."
Rivera: "Why, why, why, why would they?"
Soderberg: "They're in the wrong. Because they were in the wrong. We were in international waters."
Rivera: "Does that really matter? Right or wrong?"

3

Tuesday morning neither CBS's The Early Show or NBC's Today touched the release of Bush's budget which had so animated the networks on Monday night with concern about its many "cuts" in programs. ABC's Good Morning America, however, did advance the liberal spin as news reader Antonio Mora bemoaned "deep cuts" proposed by Bush and highlighted how an ABC News poll found 52 percent "prefer no tax cut and more health services for the uninsured."

FNC's Carl Cameron reported a budget number on Tuesday night ignored by the other networks as he pointed out how Bush's $4.9 billion in cuts in a $1.96 trillion budget amount to a piddling reduction of two tenths of one percent, hardly a "deep" cut.

During the 7am newscast on the April 10 Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, ABC news reader Antonio Mora announced: "The stage is set for a battle over President Bush's budget. His plan calls for increased spending in education and medical research, but deep cuts in scores of other programs has some lawmakers preparing for a fight. The President seems ready for them. Here's ABC's Terry Moran."

Moran's piece closely matched what aired the night before on World News Tonight as Moran questioned only the proposed cuts and not the proposed spending hikes. He began: "Meeting with his Cabinet to roll out his budget, the President struck a combative stance."
President Bush: "Washington's known for its pork. This budget funds our needs without the fat. It also represents a new way of doing business in Washington and a new way of thinking."
Moran: "But some of the President's cuts are sure to run into fierce resistance from Democrats and some Republicans. For instance, part of the COPS program, a favorite of President Clinton's, which provides money to communities to hire police, faces a $270 million or 46 percent cut; and cut by $25 million, or 15 percent, funding for training pediatricians in children's hospitals. Democrats say the President is cutting good programs for a bad reason."
Rep. John Spratt: "We found cuts in all of these programs in order to make way for the President's tax cut."
Moran: "The administration counters it is merely trying to restrain out of control government spending from the Clinton years."
Mitch Daniels, OMB director: "If that behavior pattern were continued year on year through these 10 years, they would spend about $3 trillion of the surplus."
Moran concluded: "Now the battle moves to Congress where the President, to get what he wants, will have to convince Republicans to cast some very unpopular votes."

An hour later, during the 8am news update, Mora summarized Moran's piece before relaying how a poll found the public prefers more spending to a tax cut:
"The battle of the budget is getting underway. Democrats say the President's newly unveiled spending plan shortchanges such priorities as education, health care and the environment. They're promising a fight. Mr. Bush says it focuses on programs that are working while eliminating wasteful spending, but a new ABC News poll indicates the President has some selling to do. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed prefer no tax cut and more health services for the uninsured. Thirty percent favor cutting taxes without reducing health care spending. Only ten percent favor cuts in both taxes and health care."

The poll commissioned by ABCNews.com, and so not done with the Washington Post, was not mentioned Monday or Tuesday night on World News Tonight but is featured on the ABCNews.com Web site under the headline, "Health Trumps Taxes: Most Would Rather Insure Poor Than Get Cash Back."

Gary Langer opened the April 9-posted recitation of the poll results: "Most Americans would prefer to have the federal government spend more on health care for the uninsured than to see it cut their own income taxes, another sign of the relatively low priority the public gives to tax reduction."

Those surveyed were apparently only asked one question: "In an ABCNEWS.com poll, 52 percent say they'd rather have the government spend more on health care for the uninsured than see it cut their taxes. And only 10 percent favor reducing these health services in order to pay for a tax cut."

Langer proceeded to lay out skewed facts about Bush cuts without any context that his budget actually increases health care spending, a set of facts to which respondents probably reacted: "President Bush's budget, released today, would cut a $125 million grant program that coordinates the development of community health centers for the uninsured. At the same time, it would create a $2,000 per-year tax credit to help uninsured people buy health insurance."

Langer was pleased with the "altruism" of those who put more spending ahead of a tax cut: "There's some altruism in this poll's result, since only about 15 percent of adults lack health insurance. But there's also some self-interest: Spending more on health care for the uninsured is most popular by far among low-income people, who are more likely to be uninsured and less likely to get a big tax cut. And it's least popular in top-income households, whose tax cut would be the fattest."

To read all of Langer's article on the ABC poll, go to:
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/budget_poll010409.html

Tuesday night, on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, reporter Carl Cameron put the budget in some perspective. Cameron explained that 65 percent of the budget goes to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and is labeled "non-discretionary" since it is set by law to follow payout formulas, which leaves 35 percent for all the rest of the federal government. Of that 35 percent, nearly half goes to defense, leaving just 19 percent for "discretionary" federal spending and it is within that 19 percent that all of Bush's cuts occur, though Bush's budget hikes discretionary spending overall by four percent as 15 agencies would grow while 10 would face cuts.

Cameron put the cuts into context: "The total dollar figure for the actual cuts that President Bush is proposing is about $4.9 billion dollars. In the context of an overall $1.96 trillion budget, that is two tenths of one percent. Critics, however, say that Bush is planning to slow the rate of growth in a number of other projects, effectively not keeping pace with inflation and, therefore, becoming the equivalent of cuts, not the four percent increases that President Bush claims."

4

Jesse Dirkhising, the 13-year-old Arkansas boy raped and murdered by two gay men, finally made broadcast network news on Tuesday. ABC's World News Tonight devoted its "A Closer Look" segment to his case and the conservative complaint about how the major media decision to dedicate massive coverage to the case of Matthew Shepard, the murdered gay college student, while ignoring Dirkhising, reflected liberal media bias, though ABC never uttered the phrase "liberal media bias."

ABC ran two pieces totaling a lengthy, by evening news standards, nearly five-and-a-half minutes on the case until now only covered by the Fox News Channel and AP. Naturally, it was not the focus on the bias from conservatives which prompted ABC's story, but the column a couple of weeks ago by gay writer Andrew Sullivan. In the New Republic he conceded: "Difficult as it may be to admit, some of the gay-baiting right's argument about media bias holds up....The Dirkhising case was ignored for political reasons: squeamishness about reporting a story that could feed anti-gay prejudice."

For an excerpt from Sullivan's column and details of how the networks all ignored the conviction of one of the men charged: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010323.asp#4

For more background on media coverage of the case and links to the MRC's 1999 analysis of the lack of coverage when the Dirkhising murder occurred, go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010319.asp#6

On the April 10 World News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings admitted the obvious: "There are many journalists, including people on this broadcast, who feel very strongly that this case in itself did not merit national attention." Jennings then adopted Sullivan's anti-conservative concern for "anti-gay prejudice" as Jennings asked of the Dirkhising case: "Was it a case of bias? Was it not reported lest it feed anti-gay prejudice?" How about lest it damage the media's pro-liberal gay rights agenda prejudice?

While ABC News gave air time to conservative columnist Don Feder to forward the media bias charge, not surprisingly, ABC concluded there was no bias. But in making that point reporter Aaron Brown reflected the very bias conservatives see. He declared: "In Shepard, the issue was hate crime laws and whether they should extend to gays. In Dirkhising, the media saw a terrible crime but no larger issue."

Exactly. As if the media had no role in making Shepard part of a larger topic. The media turned the vicious Shepard murder into a martyr for a liberal cause which then in itself justified more coverage.

Brown soon revealed how ingrained the bias is as he called the controversy over the coverage "remarkable" since "it centers on a news decision that for most of the national media was easy and logical and routine."

Now to the top of ABC's April 10 stories for a more thorough rundown. Jennings introduced the segment, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:

"Our subject tonight is the media, and murder, and accusations of bias. There has been quite a furor recently, among conservatives particularly, that the gruesome killing of a teenage boy in Arkansas didn't get national attention because the two men accused of the murder were gay. The complaint has been, and it's been quite persistent, that much of the media ignored the case in which the accused were gay but paid enormous attention to the case of a young gay man named Matthew Shepard who was murdered in 1998, you may remember, in Wyoming. Now, news coverage is not a science, but in this case we were struck by the accusations of bias. And so we decided to take A Closer Look."

First, from Arkansas, reporter Erin Hayes filled in viewers about the 1999 crime for which Joshua Brown and Davis Carpenter were charged and for which Brown recently received a life sentence. Carpenter's trial starts in May. Hayes noted how feces were found on the floor of the house, how Dirkhising was bound and raped for five hours and was drugged before he choked to death. She added: "Prosecutors also say Carpenter had his eye on other children. In Carpenter's apartment they discovered handwritten short stories, explicit, horrifying writings envisioning future rapes and torture."

Next, Jennings set up a look at the charge of media bias: "And the case, as we said, was not widely reported. There are many journalists, including people on this broadcast, who feel very strongly that this case in itself did not merit national attention. We don't report many gruesome crimes. But was it a case of bias? Was it not reported lest it feed anti-gay prejudice? Here's ABC's Aaron Brown."

Brown began: "To the protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Bentonville, Arkansas, it is simple: The national media, sympathetic to gays, will not report on any evil gays do."
Don Feder, Boston Herald columnist: "The media doesn't want the public to think about homosexuality and pedophilia and torture and, you know, the murder of children."
Brown: "In their columns and on their Web sites, many, including some of the most anti-gay groups in the country, have been making this argument for months, but it was given more weight when it was embraced by one of the country's most provocative gay writers."
Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic: "I think that there is clearly evidence that many people in the media decided well, we're not going to go there because we know it will feed anti-gay prejudice."
Brown over shots of New York Times articles, a Time cover, Dateline and 20/20 logos: "The fuel propelling this argument is the massive coverage Matthew Shepard's death received. Shepard, who was gay, was beaten and hung on a fence post to die by two straight men. It was the subject of thousands of stories in the papers and on TV. Why so much coverage for Shepard and so little for Dirkhising? For most of the national press, the Washington Post, USA Today, World News Tonight, the counter-argument is simple:"
Martha Moore, USA Today: "For a crime story or a murder story, even a horrific and sad one like Jesse Dirkhising, to be covered by the national press, I think there has to be an issue of larger social significance attached to it."
Brown concluded by dismissing the bias accusation: "In Shepard, the issue was hate crime laws and whether they should extend to gays. In Dirkhising, the media saw a terrible crime but no larger issue. That may seem cold, but countless rapes and murders, gay and straight, go unreported all the time for exactly that reason, which is part of what's so remarkable about this debate, that it centers on a news decision that for most of the national media was easy and logical and routine."

Yes indeed. "What's so remarkable about this debate" is that it demonstrates how liberal media bias is "easy and logical and routine" for the national media.

ABC's message board forum for World News Tonight is focused today on Dirkhising coverage. Go to:
http://boards.go.com/cgi/abcnews/request.dll?LIST&room=worldnewstonight

That's it for today's nearly all ABC News issue. --Brent Baker


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