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CyberAlert -- 06/28/2001 -- Rather Stressed Brock's Recant

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Rather Stressed Brock's Recant; Bush Losing Support; Counter to Civil Rights Report Skipped; Fidel Wise in Picking NBC's Mitchell

1) Dan Rather highlighted how David Brock says that in his book on Anita Hill "he was lying to discredit Hill after she testified against" Clarence Thomas. Rather gratuitously added that Brock describes himself as "a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine." But though a Washington Post story carried the headline, "Author Says He Lied in Book on Anita Hill," all Brock is claiming is that in a review of another book he improperly discredited a witness to how Thomas supposedly rented pornographic videos.

2) David Gregory on the NBC Nightly News: "A wake up call for Mr. Bush tonight -- our poll showing that Americans are losing confidence in the direction of the country and are deeply divided over the President's performance."

3) Despite good television video with two U.S. Commission on Civil Rights members calling each other liars, the ABC shows which highlighted the leaked report a few weeks ago from Democratic commissioners which charged racism, ignored the counter-analysis of the Republican commissioner and of Florida's Secretary of State. Only FNC remained consistent.

4) Fidel Castro got what he wanted in picking NBC's Andrea Mitchell to visit Elian Gonzalez: a portrait of a happy Elian who has forgotten his Miami relatives and now lives with his father who is sure he made the correct choice to live in Cuba. Mitchell assured viewers that Elian "appears to me to be a typical kid, playful, even mischievous." Oh, and Castro still has the stamina to watch volleyball at 5am.

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Other Signs That Castro Is Not Well."


1

Dan Rather on Wednesday night gave time in his newscast to how David Brock "now says" that in his 1993 book on Anita Hill "he was lying to discredit Hill after she testified against confirming Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court." Rather gratuitously added that Brock "now describes himself as, and I quote, 'a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine.'"

But though a Washington Post story also carried the headline, "Author Says He Lied in Book on Anita Hill," the excerpt of Brock's new book cited in media reports includes no example of anything inaccurate Brock wrote in his book on Hill, just that Brock now claims that in a 1994 review of another book he improperly discredited a witness to how Thomas supposedly rented pornographic videos -- which even if true hardly proves anything related to Hill's 1991 charges.

As CNN commentator Tucker Carlson quipped after a story by Bruce Morton on Wednesday's Inside Politics: "This is apology as marketing tool." Indeed, the latest claim from Brock came in a Talk magazine excerpt from his new book attacking conservatives, "Blinded by the Right." Neither ABC or NBC touched the allegation Wednesday night which had appeared in not only the Washington Post but also the New York Times.

On TV, only FNC's Carl Cameron fully conveyed Brock's bitter rage. On Special Report with Brit Hume he relayed this quote from Brock's book: "As a closeted gay man I had done the work of the right-wing lawyers of the federalist Society, the Christian Coalition, and the worst bigots from Arkansas -- racist, homophobic Clinton-haters. All the attacks, the hateful rhetoric, the dark alliances and strange conspiracies, an eye for an eye, nuts and sluts, bashing the Clintons -- it all led right here: I lost my soul."

But CBS's Dan Rather showed he likes that new "soul." On the June 27 CBS Evening News Rather announced: "A best-selling author who wrote a book harshly critical of Anita Hill now says he was lying to discredit Hill after she testified against confirming Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. David Brock says he was out to ruin Hill's credibility and now describes himself as, and I quote, 'a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine,' end of quotation. As for reaction, Anita Hill said 'it's private and personal.' Justice Thomas had no comment."

Now compare the broadside about how Brock was "lying" in his book to discredit Hill to the one and only specific recantation he made in the book excerpt about something he wrote in a later book review, as recounted in a June 27 Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz which was, as noted above, misleadingly headlined: "Author Says He Lied in Book on Anita Hill." An excerpt:

David Brock, who made his name trashing Anita Hill after the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, now says he lied -- and he's sorry.

The formerly right-wing author, in a forthcoming book, says he "lost my soul" in printing allegations he knew to be untrue. Brock writes that he was "dumping virtually every derogatory -- and often contradictory -- allegation I had collected on Hill into the vituperative mix."

Brock now charges that Supreme Court Justice Thomas used him to spread derogatory information about one of Thomas's critics -- an allegation strongly denied yesterday by the man who Brock says was the intermediary between them.

"Thomas was complicit in an effort to discredit another witness against him with negative personal information, which is exactly what he claimed the Anita Hill forces had done to him," Brock said in an interview....

Brock rose to prominence with his best-selling 1993 book "The Real Anita Hill" -- calling the woman who accused Thomas of making offensive sexual remarks "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty" -- and became a star anti-Clinton writer for the American Spectator.

In the Anita Hill book, he now writes, "I demonized Democratic senators, their staffs and Hill's feminist supporters without ever interviewing any of them....I was so blinded by my partisan tunnel vision and my tortured desire to make it in the movement that I believed my own propaganda."...

The most startling section of this about-face involves Brock's attempt to discredit "Strange Justice," a 1994 book on the Hill-Thomas clash by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson.

As "a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine," Brock writes, he had access to Thomas through an intermediary, Mark Paoletta, a close Thomas friend who worked on his confirmation as a lawyer in the first Bush White House.

According to Brock, Thomas passed along, through Paoletta, "unverified embarrassing personal information about his friend [Kaye] Savage that Thomas claimed had been raised against her in a divorce proceeding....Thomas was playing dirty, and so was I."

Savage, who had made some disparaging comments about Thomas in "Strange Justice," soon got a visit from Brock. Armed with the personal information, Brock says, he demanded that Savage "give me a written statement retracting the statements in 'Strange Justice'...or I would blacken her name, just as I had done to every other woman who had impugned Thomas's reputation. "He says Savage later faxed him a statement backing off her earlier criticism.

Paoletta, who now works for a House committee, called the account "simply not true. Justice Thomas did not ask me to pass along any derogatory information to David Brock about Kaye Savage."

Savage said in an interview that "I feel grateful to Mr. Brock that he has admitted he tried to intimidate me and appreciate that the public record is now clear....I think it takes a great deal of courage." She called her experience with Brock "a little frightening."

Brock says he also tried to "blow away" Mayer and Abramson's contention that Thomas had been a frequent customer at the X-rated video store Graffiti during the early 1980s, when Hill alleged he had graphically discussed such videos with her. According to Brock, Thomas confirmed, again through Paoletta, that he often rented pornographic videos from Graffiti.

"Confirmation that Thomas frequently rented porno tapes made Hill's entire story much more plausible," Brock writes. Nevertheless, in a Spectator review of "Strange Justice," Brock wrote that there was no evidence that Thomas had ever rented a single X-rated video, dismissing the book as "one of the most outrageous journalistic hoaxes in recent memory."

"When I wrote those words," Brock admits in his new book, "I knew they were false."

Paoletta said he "did not confirm to David Brock that Justice Thomas ever rented videos from the Graffiti video store. In fact, to this day, I do not personally know whether he in fact rented videos from that store....Why in the world would I say anything to hurt him?"....

Abramson, now Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, said that "the problem with Brock's credibility" is that "once you admit you've knowingly written false things, how do you know when to believe what he writes?...It'd be awfully convenient to now say because what he's writing is personally pleasing to me that he's a 100 percent solid reporter. That would be a little disingenuous."

While relations have thawed to the point that Brock spoke to a class Abramson was teaching at Princeton last fall, "I still have quite a bit of contempt for the kind of journalism he practiced," she said....

In recent years, Brock has made a second career of denouncing his earlier work as a conservative reporter. In 1998, he expressed regrets in an Esquire article for digging into President Clinton's sex life and said he believed his sources exaggerated the details. Brock's 1993 "Troopergate" article in the Spectator, filled with allegations about Arkansas womanizing, described a woman named "Paula," which led Paula Jones to file her sexual harassment suit against Clinton.

Could Brock now be described as betraying those who were once his conservative friends -- some of whom the man who was then a closeted gay now describes as "racist, homophobic Clinton-haters"?

"I came to view these relationships as mutual-use relationships rather than friendships," Brock says. "I was using them and they were using me."

END Excerpt

To read all of Kurtz's article, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49134-2001Jun26.html

As for how fair and balanced a book Mayer and Abramson produced, and how ABC back in 1994 jumped to publicize it after having ignored Brock's earlier book, check out a piece in the November 1994 MediaWatch which recounted: "Six days before the November 8 elections, ABC News decided to promote a new book by Wall Street Journal reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer, Strange Justice, that argued that Democrats did not look hard enough into the sexual proclivities of Thomas before his confirmation."

2

A week after the New York Times trumpeted on its front page how President Bush was losing public support, NBC Nightly News matched them in highlighting a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which showed a lowing of support barely greater than the poll's margin of error. Anchor Brian Williams introduced the June 27 story with a graphic over his shoulder proclaiming: "Warning Signs."

White House reporter David Gregory announced in NBC's grammatically inaccurate and always stilted present-tense style: "A wake up call for Mr. Bush tonight -- our poll showing that Americans are losing confidence in the direction of the country and are deeply divided over the President's performance."

Gregory proceeded to recount how Bush's approval has fallen six points to 50 percent since April with the public trusting Democrats over him on a patients bill of rights by 48 to 27 percent.

3

Despite good television video with two U.S. Commission on Civil Rights members calling each other liars, the ABC shows which highlighted the leaked report a few weeks ago from Democratic commissioners denigrating Florida Republican officials and charging racism, ignored the counter-analysis of the Republican commissioner and of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

Wednesday night CNN's Inside Politics, which delivered a full report and interview segment (with both sides) upon the leak, only gave a few seconds to Harris's rebuke of the commission. ABC's World News Tonight, which ran a brief item back on June 5 and Nightline, which devoted an entire show to the leaked version of the partisan report, didn't mention it Wednesday night. Back on the June 5 Nightline, ABC's Jon Donvan somberly relayed the draft report's unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo about how while there was no nefarious "conspiracy," the "system did discriminate." He intoned:
"But one of the report's conclusions, that Florida's election apparatus discriminated against African-Americans and other minorities. The strongest evidence is pages of statistics establishing, the commission says, that African-Americans were far more likely than non-African-Americans to have their ballots rejected in the 2000 Florida presidential election. The report is vague about why this would be so. Statistically, it says, ballot rejection rates cannot be attributed to the educational level of African-Americans in Florida. Nor is it simply the prevalence of older voting technology in minority precincts. 'There remains a statistically significant relation,' it reads, 'between race and the rate at which ballots are spoiled, even when the best technology is used.'"

The June 5 Washington Post announced in a front page headline: "Fla. Vote Rife with Disparities, Study Says: Rights Panel Finds Blacks Penalized." A little more than three weeks later the Post pushed the counter-analysis inside to page two under this June 28 headline: "Florida's Harris Attacks U.S. Report as Partisan."

For more on June 5 coverage, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010606.asp#4

Only FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume remained consistent, running full stories on both June 5 and June 27. Wednesday night Brian Wilson showed clips of commissioners Mary Frances Berry, the Democratic Chairman, and Abigail Thernstrom, the lone Republican on the commission, battling it out at a Senate Rules Committee hearing.

Wilson played these soundbites of the two disagreeing over whether the majority staff had shared its data with Thernstrom:
Berry: "Makes a good story. You know, 'I was denied this and I was denied that.' But in point of fact, that is an absolute lie. I'm 63 years old. I'm sick and tired of playing games. It is a lie."
Thernstrom: "I would never publicly call a commissioner a liar, but I have just heard a lie on the question of what I asked for and the obvious availability of those data and the denial to me."

Wilson went on to relay how Harris had expressed her disappointment with how the commission had produced a report not meant to improve voting but to serve as "a battle plan for politicians interested in wielding the sword of racial division."

4

Fidel Castro got what he wanted in picking NBC's Andrea Mitchell as the one U.S. television reporter allowed to check up on Elian Gonzalez a year after he was snatched by INS agents: a portrait of a happy Elian in Cuba who has forgotten all about his Miami relatives and now lives with his father who is sure he made the correct choice to live in Cuba.

Mitchell promised on the NBC Nightly News: "A year ago, the boy was the center of an international tug-of-war. Now he appears to me to be a typical kid, playful, even mischievous" with "his only apparent concern...winning at games like musical chairs." As for Elian's father, "he told me he never second-guesses his decision to raise his son here instead of in the United States. A Communist Party loyalist, up front at Castro rallies, he insists the decision to stay was his, not Castro's." No mention by Mitchell of any food shortages or of any lines Elian may have to wait in with his father.

Talking to Katie Couric on Today, Mitchell insisted she was granted access because she had met Juan Miguel, Elian's father, "and had met and interviewed the grandmother when they were in Washington and New York. So there was at least a relationship. And we promised to be respectful and not to interfere too much with the child."

I'd offer another possibility: The Castro regime appreciated her last visit to the island when Mitchell's story sounded more like a promotional spot for Castro as caring grandpa and protector of a nation than a report from a supposedly hard-edged reporter. In her December 15, 1999 piece from Cuba Mitchell worried that the boy might want to stay in the United States if he's "seduced by all of these toys and trips to Disney World." She oozed in awe: "What's astounding is how much Castro is personally micro-managing the Elian case. He's not just the country's head of state, he's the CEO." She even described Castro as "old-fashioned, courtly -- even paternal."

For more on that Mitchell story, refer back to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/1999/cyb19991216.html#2

Now some excerpts from her June 27 Nightly News and Today reports as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth and Geoffrey Dickens:

-- NBC Nightly News. From Havana, Mitchell asserted: "This is the first time that Juan Miguel Gonzalez has permitted an outsider to visit his son. Clearly, we could not have even approached Juan Miguel for this interview without the government's approval. It does serve the Castro government's purpose to show Elian's readjustment, but up until the very last minute, Juan Miguel would not even consider, had serious doubts about letting an American camera close to his child. So we agreed not to question the boy himself. Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who has not let reporters visit his family since their return home, took me to Marcelas Salado Elementary School where we found Elian in the middle of morning recess. A year ago, the boy was the center of an international tug-of-war. Now he appears to me to be a typical kid, playful, even mischievous...

After noting they "still live in same modest house," Mitchell assured viewers of Elian's welfare: "Then only five, shipwrecked for three days, the center of a media circus in Miami, finally removed at gunpoint by federal marshals. He looked so scared when they took him out of that house. Does he ever talk about that?"
Juan Miguel Gonzalez [through interpreter]: "He never mentions it. Nor has he ever been afraid."

Mitchell made Cardenas seem quaint: "Their hometown, Cardenas, a small fishing village two hours from Havana, where people still get around by horse and carriage."

She relayed the viewpoint espoused by Elian's father: "Despite this simple life, he told me he never second-guesses his decision to raise his son here instead of in the United States. A Communist Party loyalist, up front at Castro rallies, he insists the decision to stay was his, not Castro's."
Gonzalez: "He said I could do whatever I wanted."
Mitchell: "And that was your decision?"
Gonzalez: "Yes."
Mitchell: "His father says the boy never asks about the Miami relatives, not even Elian's so-called surrogate mother, cousin Marisleysis."
Gonzalez: "No, he never mentions it."
Mitchell: "Most surprising, after all Elian has survived, his father says the boy's readjustment has been relatively simple."
Gonzalez: "Because he returned to what he has always been. He was not born to be a symbol."
Mitchell concluded: "If Juan Miguel Gonzalez has his way, this will satisfy the public's curiosity about the boy, and Elian Gonzalez can finally become just another seven-year-old."

-- Today. Katie Couric opened the broadcast: "Good morning. Elian Gonzalez has been home in Cuba for one year now. The little boy at the center of so much emotional controversy is now graduating from second grade. We'll hear from his father Juan Miguel in an exclusive interview today, Wednesday June the 27th, 2001."

Mitchell checked in from Havana, interspersed with clips of Juan Miguel: "Well one year after Elian Gonzalez returned to Cuba he is taking his final second grade mathematics exam today. And at least according to his father is a normal seven-year old. In the middle of the schoolyard during recess the child who spent seven months at the center of an international custody war. His only apparent concern when we saw him Tuesday, winning at games like musical chairs. His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, a waiter at a tourist resort near their fishing village two hours from Havana says his son has made a good adjustment. Is doing well in school and at home....
"Juan Miguel says he has no regrets about the decision to bring Elian home to Cuba. And no second thoughts about Elian being removed from the Miami family at gunpoint by federal agents."...
"And says Juan Miguel, his biggest concern as a parent is not to be overly protective. To try to let Elian be as normal a child as possible. Juan Miguel Gonzalez said despite having been on that raft where his mother, of course, died that he has no fear, that the child has no fear of water. Goes to the beach, loves to swim. And two weeks ago a baby half-brother was born and it was clear to me that Elian dotes on him. He does talk about his mother and there are a lot of pictures of her around the house but according to his father, at least, he never asks about his Miami relatives, Katie."

Couric asked: "Well in fact everyone, Andrea, remembers that, that picture of him being seized in Miami and taken back to Cuba. Given all the brouhaha that occurred has he, he seems to have adapted well."
Mitchell offered some assurance: "It's very hard for us to tell. We're not experts. We spent a day with them, in the, in the household he seemed very normal at school, at play and in, in the home with his family with the baby brother. But, you know, according to his father when, when I asked about that scene and that horror of being taken at gunpoint he said that when he talked to Elian afterwards on the telephone, before they were reunited, he said, 'the man who took you was a friend of mine and he's going to bring us together.' And that, that seemed to appease him. The reunion, by the way, which Juan Miguel has never talked about, he said, when I asked him about it he said I've always been embarrassed to talk about this. The reunion on the airplane which as you know was in private. He said the reason he never wanted to talk about it, was because he, Juan Miguel collapsed and had to be helped back to his feet. He was so overwrought with emotion at seeing his child again."

Couric soon switched subject: "What about the health of Fidel Castro. I know that he fainted at a, at a rally there on Saturday."
Mitchell conveyed her amazement at Castro's stamina: "Well he then got back up and apologized to the crowd and said that he had been in the sun for too long. He had been speaking for more than two hours. Later that night he joked about it on a Cuban television broadcast saying that, that was a rehearsal to see how people would, would play his funeral. And I did see him on Monday night. He looked very fit, standing tall and joking and talking to us. So as far as we know he is well. He said he had just been in the sun too long, up too late the night before watching sports and doing work. And he told me that, the other morning he was up watching Cuba defeat the Dutch in volleyball, that was a live feed from Europe at 5am. So he seems to be back to his old habits of staying up all night."

Well if Castro says he was up at 5am watching volleyball it must be true. So much for any journalistic skepticism. And even if true, what does it matter? Would Hitler be considered a better person if he had gotten up at 5am to watch Nazi athletes complete their morning workouts?

5

Speaking of Castro's fainting, from the June 25 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Other Signs That Castro Is Not Well." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Sometimes goes for days without torturing political dissidents
9. Instead of army fatigues, now wears halter top and capri pants
8. His beard recently attended a Communist holiday rally without him
7. Limiting speeches to 7 hours, max
6. Always propped up by two guards and he's starting to smell kind of gamy
5. He's thinking of retiring on Vieques Island
4. At recent lunch with CBS President Les Moonves, barely touched his surf 'n' turf
3. Is seriously considering a run for mayor of New York City
2. Quoted in interview as saying, "This George W. Bush has some good ideas"
1. Friends say he actually looks as bad as Letterman

Maybe if he really did #9 NBC's Andrea Mitchell would find him less attractive. -- Brent Baker


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