CyberAlert -- 04/13/2000 -- Unsure Elian Better Off in U.S.
Unsure Elian Better Off in U.S.; Pro-Castro Bias Dissected; Gore Exaggerations
1) Would Elian be "better off" in Cuba or the U.S.? "There's not a simple answer," insisted ABC's Peter Jennings. Morton Dean touted the "free" medical care and lack of crime in Cuba, though he also noted the bread lines, but did not mention political repression.
2) "Geez," Morton Kondracke exclaimed after hearing FNC's Brit Hume read aloud from a Newsweek article on how Elian can expect "a nurturing life in Cuba." He conceded liberal bias and even NPR's Mara Liasson was perplexed by the pro-Castro reporting.
5) NBC Nightly News relayed without skepticism the claim that 4,223 children a year are killed by guns, but then devoted a whole story to discrediting the claim of gun advocates for how often a gun is used to prevent a crime.
6) Another Gore "exaggeration" was caught by abcnews.com and the Boston Globe detailed Gore's record of "embellishing truth," but ABC-TV instead focused on how Bush's "record as Governor raises questions about his commitment" to spending enough on health care.
"There's not a simple answer," judged ABC's Peter Jennings to the question of whether Elian Gonzalez would have "a better life" in the democratic and free United States or the communist and bereft Cuba. Reporter Morton Dean described what kind of life awaits Elian in Cuba, touting the "free" medical care and lack of crime, but also highlighting the bread lines. Without mentioning political repression or the lack of freedom of speech, Dean concluded by acknowledging how Cubans "know they cannot match the material things available in the United States," but they "promise a warm welcome and a normal life for Elian."
World News Tonight anchor Jennings set up Dean's
April 12 piece after stories on the day's latest developments in south
Florida with Janet Reno's arrival:
Let's pause here for emphasis. The star of a U.S. television news operation, which is able to tilt its news to the left all it wants because of the First Amendment, believes there's "not a simple answer" to whether someone would be "better off" in a democratic and free nation or in a repressive communist one where free thought is not allowed and the command economy causes widespread poverty and misery.
From Havana, Dean began by showing Cubans looking a
pictures of Elian inside a new "Elian room" in the Cardenes city
What kind of quality health care do you get for "free" from a doctor paid $30 a month?
Dean went on to outline how the "dollar
economy," which included Elian's father, has improved things in
Cuba: "The relatively new dollar economy makes a difference.
Elian's father, and others from Cardenes, work at a nearby resort and
are paid and tipped in dollars."
A "normal life" by communist standards. Dean failed to utter one syllable about political or religious freedom or human rights, nor what Elian has to look forward to in Castro's youth indoctrination group, the Young Pioneers, whose meetings he will attend without having any milk to drink.
"I don't understand why the news magazines and the networks...weren't all down in Cuba to figure out what is it like, what kind of life can Elian Gonzalez expect to live in Cuba in the Young Pioneers, you know, and all that kind of stuff." So wondered Roll Call Executive Editor and proud "moderate" Morton Kondracke on FNC Wednesday night after acknowledging that recent media coverage, which has admired Castro's Cuba, can only be explained by liberal bias. NPR's more liberal Mara Liasson was equally perplexed by the contention that life would be better for Elian in Cuba: "I can't think of anyone in the United States who would agree with that."
Well, several reporters for major media outlets do, especially NBC's Jim Avila as shown in previous CyberAlerts.
Picking up on some of the same news magazine quotes cited in this week's MRC MagazineWatch, FNC's Brit Hume raised in his show's panel segment with the "Fox All Stars" the issue of media coverage of Castro and Cuban-Americans. To watch a hunk of this discussion via RealPlayer, go to the MRC home page late Thursday morning where MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post it: http://www.mrc.org
Hume introduced the April 12 segment on his 6pm
ET/9pm PT Special Report with Brit Hume:
The latter quote caused Morton Kondracke to start laughing as he exclaimed "geez!" Kondracke, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, answered Hume by conceding bias exists: "You know, half the time when Fred [Barnes], when Fred beats up on the press as being, you know, automatic chronically left-wing, I sort of scoff at that. I gotta say that there's not much else that, I don't understand why the news magazines and the networks, for that matter, weren't all down in Cuba to figure out what is it like, what kind of life can Elian Gonzalez expect to live in Cuba in the Young Pioneers, you know, and all that kind of stuff."
(Reporters are there for Time and Newswek, but they like the network reporters are using their stories to tout the "Cuban good life," as NBC Jim Avila put it, with five free gallons of gas a month and a bag of beans and deodorant. See the April 5 CyberAlert for details.)
Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard explained what's behind the media take, suggesting reporters are indulging in "an old genre that some people have recognized for a half century anyway, and it is 'anti-anti-Communism.' Mort, you remember it during the whole Nicaraguan Contras thing where then the thing was the Contras, they're worse than the Sandinistas. In Vietnam, you know, Diem, he's worse than the Viet Cong and so on. The American Left always attacks any group that is anti-communist by saying they're worse than the communists, and here we see it again. And the Cuban Americans are the latest victims of that. There's all this, or at best there's moral equivalence, you know, gee, it's totalitarian in Cuba, it's totalitarian in Little Havana, which is nonsense."
Even panelist Mara Liasson of National Public Radio was befuddled by the Newsweek view: "To make those kinds of assertions, that somehow his life would be better in Cuba. It's one thing to say that a child belongs with his father, it's another to say that growing up in a communist country is somehow better than being in Miami. I can't think of anyone in the United States who would agree with that."
Memo to Liasson: Please talk to Peter Jennings. He's unsure.
Hume quickly reminded her of the media quotes he had read earlier, adding: "You heard this out of the mouth of Katie Couric on NBC about Miami being the place where, she set up a description of what most people would say about Cuba and said well they were talking about Miami, that there is this equivalence thing out there."
Indeed, Couric opened the April 3 Today by announcing: "Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Elian Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes on South Florida and its image this morning. Another writer this weekend called it 'an out of control banana republic within America.' What effect is the Elian Gonzalez story having on perception of Miami? We will talk with a well known columnist for the Miami Herald about that."
Back to the FNC discussion, Kondracke reminded viewers: "When you're seven years old in Cuba, you cease to get your milk allotment because they don't have enough milk down there. Now that's something I haven't seen. Cuba is regarded as some sort of paradise for workers and health care and stuff like that."
I haven't seen it either on network television from their reporters in Havana.
To hear something about the downsides of growing up
in Cuba, check out a rare network outlet for a less than glowing
assessment of Cuba from actor Andy Garcia whose comments astonished Matt
Lauer last week on Today. Garcia described the indoctrination of the Young
Pioneers and maintained that he'd rather have his son in the U.S. if he
were trapped in Cuba. To watch and read Garcia:
For much more from the two magazine articles quoted
by Hume, go to this week's MRC MagazineWatch painstakingly compiled by
Tim Graham. (This is the same edition sent Wednesday via CyberAlert.) Go
ABC, CBS and NBC all led with stories Wednesday night about how Elian's relatives took him to stay at the home of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, but none mentioned how after seeing Elian meet with his grandmothers a few months ago she had changed her mind and decided he should stay with the Miami family.
ABC's Peter Jennings opened the April 12 World News Tonight by boosting Reno's abilities: "Good evening. Can she do it. That's the question. Can the Attorney General bring this chapter in Elian Gonzalez'z life to a close gracefully with the force of her personality or will she have to use the declarative power of the law?"
Introducing a story on the day's activities,
Jennings announced: "The Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez have taken
the boy to the home of a nun, who is to some extent sympathetic to their
cause. ABC's Ron Claiborne is there this evening. Ron, do the Miami
relatives know the time is almost up?"
Dan Rather began the CBS Evening News by intoning: "Attorney General Janet Reno flew to Miami this evening intent on persuading the boy's relatives to obey the law and give him up."
CBS's Jim Axelrod, as well as NBC's David Bloom on NBC Nightly News, both featured soundbites from O'Laughlin but didn't mention her change of view.
"It is not our intention to take sides" in the Elian case Dan Rather assured viewers after running a piece recalling the 1980 case of Walter Polovchak.
For the Fidelity-sponsored "The American
Dream" segment on the April 12 CBS Evening News Rather profiled
Polovchak, now 32, who as at age 12 asked to stay in the U.S. and not
return with parents to Ukraine. Six years later, at 18, he was granted
Back on camera after the taped piece ended, Rather noted how Polovchak has twice visited the now independent Ukraine and "re-established warm relations with his parents."
Rather then added this unusual advisory: "And this editor's note. In reporting Polovchak's story tonight, it is not our intention to take sides or advocate any particular solution to the Elian Gonzalez case."
After running highlights from Tom Brokaw's afternoon town meeting in Denver on guns with President Clinton shown on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News Wednesday night relayed without skepticism the claim that 4,223 children a year are killed by guns, but then devoted a whole story to discrediting the claim of gun advocates for how often a gun is used to prevent a crime.
Reporter Roger O'Neil began his story by showing
how by going to a private dealer it's easy to buy a gun in Colorado
without a background check. O'Neil then, as transcribed by MRC analyst
Brad Wilmouth, looked at two men with opposing views:
In the media's world is any gun control not "sensible"?
O'Neil proceeded to promote a publicity gimmick as
he walked among thousands of little shoes: "This week at the State
Capitol, 4,223 pairs of shoes were laid out, pressure on lawmakers to pass
more gun control legislation. Why 4,223? That many children are killed in
a year by guns."
4,223 would be 81 "children" a week. I don't have the numbers to cite here, but I'm quite sure the "children" number includes those up to age 19 or 20, so includes older teenagers killed in drug fights and gang violence, not the picture conveyed by NBC in showing small shoes worn by elementary school age kids.
But NBC wasn't interested in dissecting that number. They had to make time for Pete Williams to discredit a number forwarded by gun rights advocates. Williams opened his piece by recounting the story of a man who used a gun to thwart an intruder by pointing it at him. Williams noted that the NRA says self defense with gun happens 2.5 million times a year, or 6,800 ties a day. He allowed Gary Kleck, who did the phone survey which came up with those numbers, to say the actual number might be higher.
Then Williams countered: "But many
criminologists think there's no way to be sure and that the number is
likely much smaller. They say a phone survey is a bad way to estimate
something that happens to a small segment of the population."
Some legitimate criticisms of the pro-gun arguments, but where's the equal scrutiny of the claims made by the other side?
Monday brought another Gore "exaggeration" as detailed by abcnews.com and on Tuesday a front page Boston Globe headline read, "Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth," but ABC's TV news broadcasts ignored both. Instead, on Tuesday night ABC focused on how George W. Bush's "record as Governor raises questions about his commitment" to spending enough taxpayer money on government health care programs.
Peter Jennings introduced the April 11 World News
Tonight story, the only full campaign report run so far this week by a
Instead of approaching Bush's big spending
plan from the right and questioning the need for another program
transferring money from earners to the poor, reporter Dean Reynolds took
on Bush from the left for not having made enough people in Texas rely on
government. Reynolds opened, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica
After a soundbite from Bush saying low income families must have access to health insurance, Reynolds pounced, measuring commitment by how much of other people's money he had spent: "But Bush's record as Governor raises questions about his commitment. While he has raised spending for some health care programs, a quarter of his state's people still lack health insurance, and the state health commissioner Bush picked is quoted as saying he doubts insurance coverage makes much real difference to health. Moreover, Texas ranks near the top of the nation in the rates of AIDS, diabetes and tuberculosis, and near the bottom in immunization, mammograms and access to doctors. To win the election, Governor Bush will need support of independents and conservative Democrats, but while his rhetoric reaches out to those voters, his record in Texas on key issues of concern to them may undermine his appeal."
World News Tonight this week skipped Gore's latest misstatement of fact and they didn't have to go far to learn about it. The abcnews.com Web page featured an article: "At it Again? Gore Prone to Exaggeration." In the April 10 piece, Kendra Gahagan relayed:
From inventing the Internet to inspiring the film Love Story, Al Gore's penchant for exaggeration is well known. Today, he may have stretched the facts again.
In a speech honoring his mother at the Nashville City Club in Tennessee, the Vice President told an anecdote about how Pauline LaFon Gore was invited for lunch at the club in 1971, only to be summarily kicked out of the main dining room due to the club's all-male policy.
Gore went on to recount how his mother's ouster drew local outrage and she was a key instigator in the club's changing its rules toward women: "The resulting outrage, especially among young professional women here in Nashville, caused a revolution -- a minor one, albeit -- but a major change in the life of this club and a few days later, this city club was opened to women and the charter was changed."
It was a speech by a doting son honoring his mother, who was also being awarded a bachelor of arts degree 67 years after she attended, but never completed, university classes. And Mrs. Gore was indeed ahead of her time, as one of the first 10 women to earn a law degree from Nashville's Vanderbilt University in 1936.
But what the vice president didn't mention was that the minor "revolution" his mother sparked at the Nashville City Club did not open the club's membership to women, as his comments implied -- only its dining rooms -- and even that didn't happen until weeks after Mrs. Gore's visit, not a mere "few days later," as Gore claimed. The Nashville City Club did not go on to admit women as members until September 1985, 14 years after Mrs. Gore's visit....
To read the entire story, go to:
"Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth," announced the headline over a lengthy April 11 Boston Globe story by Walter V. Robinson and Michael Crowley, which began:
Vice President Al Gore brings a remarkable life story to the presidential race: His father was such an unwavering supporter of civil rights that it cost him his Senate seat. His older sister was the first-ever volunteer in the Peace Corps, that heroic outpost on President Kennedy's New Frontier.
By Gore's account: He was raised in hardscrabble Tennessee farm country. He was a brilliant student, in high school and at Harvard. And despite his political pull, he received no special treatment, opting instead to go to Vietnam where he was "shot at."
After his Army service, he spent seven years as a journalist, and his reporting at the Tennessean in Nashville put corrupt officials in prison.
As a junior member in the US House, he was a major force: He wrote and then spearheaded passage of the Superfund law. He even authored the US nuclear negotiating position. And at a time when President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev faced off on the superpower stage, Gore had his own meeting with Gorbachev.
And, of course, he created the Internet.
At various times in his political career, Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said all those things about himself and his family.
None are quite true.
Some are exaggerations grown up around kernels of biographical fact. Others are simply false. A few, like the boastful claim about the Internet, have become comic fodder, even for Gore....
To read the entire story, go to "Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth."
The Globe also provided a list of 18 of Gore's assertions with counterpoints for each at "A long history of questionable statements and claims."
Both pieces are featured on the Globe's
campaign page, which has a normal length URL:
From the April 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs President Clinton is Bored." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Spent weekend alphabetizing thousands of lawsuits pending against
And, from the Late Show Web page, some of "the also-rans" which didn't make the final cut:
-- Keeps complaining to staff, "There's no one to do"
Well, that's better than discussing troop deployment with a Congressman -- Brent Baker
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