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CyberAlert -- 08/12/1999 -- Tragedy Overkill; Koppel's Idea of "Objective"; PBS on Y2K

Tragedy Overkill; Koppel's Idea of "Objective"; PBS on Y2K

1) The day care center shooting in suburban Los Angeles dominated the morning shows yesterday, especially NBC's Today.

2) Good Morning America's hosts considered getting federal agents more heavily involved in domestic surveillance.

3) Monday's and Tuesday's Nightline shows on health care and gun control demonstrated Ted Koppel's skewed idea of "objective reality."

4) Liberal-dominated PBS is represented by the NewsHour's discussion with four regular essayists on what issues should be front and center in the 2000 campaign.

5) Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales jokes about the synchronicity of Charlton Heston's ideological positions.


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cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Forget the old local news motto "If it bleeds, it leads." If it bleeds, it can take the whole show. The day care center shooting in suburban Los Angeles dominated yesterday's morning shows. Take a look at the Today lineup MRC analyst Mark Drake witnessed yesterday. Clearly, the new title ought to be "America's Most Wanted":

7 AM:
1. Day care shooting news report.
2. Day care shooting interview.
3. Day care shooting interview.
4. Day care shooting news report.
5. Day care shooting interview.
6. Day care shooting interview.

7:30 AM:
1. Day care shooting anchor brief.
2. Something different? A Columbine High School anchor brief.
3. Eclipse anchor brief.
4. Day care shooting interview: Do the media overcover day care shootings?
5. Columbine High School newsreport.
6. Eclipse interview.

8 AM:
1. Day care shooting news report.
2. Columbine High School anchor brief.
3. Report on school shooting perpetrator in Conyers, Georgia.
4. Anchor brief on New York City shooting of a bank robber by police.
5. Eclipse anchor brief.
6. Day care shooting interview.
7. News report on beating death of gay soldier Barry Winchell.
8. Interview on beating death of gay soldier Barry Winchell.

8:30
1. Interview on kid who sings at major league baseball games.
2. Dick Clark interview.
3. Interview on auction of vintage cars.

Perhaps Today is an acronym for Tragedy Overkill Designed to Attract Yuppies.

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gma0812.jpg (19842 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) On ABC's "Good Morning America," anchors Antonio Mora and Nancy Snyderman used the day care shooting as an occasion to advocate more government intervention. Mora asked Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan: "People all across the country, especially parents, were horrified at seeing this kind of thing happen. You-Never would you think this kind of thing would happen at a day care center or at a camp where little, little kids are that this kind of thing could occur. You yesterday had said that you thought there is a need for stricter gun control laws. Exactly what do you think should be done?"

Later in the 7 o'clock hour, Snyderman advocated that federal agents get heavily involved in domestic surveillance of the Internet: "With so much of the focus now on splinter groups and use of the web and people being able to isolate themselves into these little pockets of hatred and I know this will not be popular with civil libertarians but in my not very technical mind it raises to me, the role of the FBI, being able to monitor the hate web sites and keep track of who logs into those so you get some idea. Even if it's a loner whose accessing this stuff and then profiling people. They can profile people--"

Mora replied: "Maybe they should do that. It is obviously a constantly balancing act. This is the coutry that is probably the freest on the earth and we value that tremendously."
Snyderman: "But we profile people that do traffic stops."
Mora: "Right. So maybe there should be stronger efforts made to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen in the future, The groups that preach this kind of hatred."
Snyderman: "The continuing attempt to put some reason into this absolute insanity."

Hopefully, MRC Webmaster Sean Henry will post this video clip later today at www.mrc.org.

Just in case you thought all these proposed crackdowns would result in tougher punishment of criminals, check out Tuesday night's "Rivera Live" on CNBC, where substitute host David Gregoryasked defense lawyer Larry Pozner about Conyers shooter T.J. Solomon: "Larry, is there not anybody who should be willing, especially on the government side, a prosecutor, to say and to recognize that maybe this is someone who needs help and doesn't need to be warehoused?"

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cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that "Nightline" used its air time on Monday and Tuesday nights to promote liberal agendas on health care and gun control. She prepared this report:

Monday's show dealt with the dueling television ads on the "Patients' Bill of Rights," beginning with a report by Chris Bury about the messages contained in ads by both sides, and the accuracy of them, featuring professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson. The show slipped downward from there, though, when Ted Koppel nnounced after Bury's report, "In our search tonight for objective reality, if not truth, we'll be talking with two experts on HMO reform, including ABC's own medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson, when we come back."

Objective reality? Johnson has proven himself in the past to be infamously left-leaning in the health care debate, especially during the days of the "Clinton Care." Some examples, pulled from our Notable Quotables archive:

In 1993: "I say the Clintons are almost heroes in my ind for finally facing up to the terrible problems we have with our current health care system and bringing it to the attention of the public....Most people, I think, will be better off." -- ABC Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson, September 24 20/20.

In 1994: "Everyone is applauding, I think, in the health care community, the emphasis on universal access, because they know that unless they're going to let some people just die in the streets, it makes sense to get medical care early, when it's going to be more effective and less costly....the insurance companies are the focal point for the dynamics of denial that are part of our present for-profit system." -- ABC medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson, January 26, 1994 World News Tonight.

Nightline's other expert on the "truth" about HMO reform that night: Dr. Robert Blendon, a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health, and a former pollster for First Lady Hillary Clinton's health care team. Examples of some of his past work:

June 12, 1993: The Hartford Courant reports that a poll by Harvard's Robert Blendon, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, finds the yearning for security "will be a powerful factor in shaping public attitudes during the forthcoming national debate...to the extent that Americans see that sense of security threatened by a deepening health care crisis, they will be far more likely to endorse significant actions to reform the health care system." Security became a major part of Clinton's health appeal.

September 12, 1993: The Washington Post reports on polls used by the Clinton administration to sell their health plan to the public. "In tests he conducted as part of a survey he directed for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blendon's team 'found that once people are told that the uninsured were working people, people just like them, support for a health reform plan increased dramatically, it no longer is just an abstract moral issue; it becomes personalized.'"

Koppel opened and closed the segment by asking both Blendon and Johnson about their views on the uninsured: "Dr. Blendon, I'm going to start with something that I know concerns both you and Tim greatly, and that is the issue of the 43, 45 million people in this country who have no health coverage whatsoever."

To Johnson, Koppel urged: "And to bring things back to where we began, and Tim you get the last word on this, what you're really worried about is those 43 million people without any kind of insurance."

Johnson responded: "Absolutely. That not only is a moral outrage, it actually, in the long run, raises costs because these people don't get care early on when they could be more easily treated. They wait till they really get sick, then it's more difficult and costs more. Ultimately, though, the most important point is it's morally wrong."

Dr. Robert Blendon immediately chimed in to repeat his support of Johnson's statement: "Right, absolutely."

Following Tuesday's shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, Koppel immediately opened his show that night by touting the usual statistics often used by gun control advocates: "We will get to this morning's sad incident in Los Angeles in a moment. I'd just like to have you have a little context, something that suggests that it doesn't have to be this way. In 1996, handguns were used to murder two people in New Zealand, 15 in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, 213 in Germany and 9,390 here in the United States. And those, mind you, are just the murders involving the use of handguns."

After a review of the day's events by correspondent Brian Rooney, Koppel hosted his second left-leaning panel of the week: Chief Norm Stamper of the Seattle Police Department and Deputy Chief Constable Gary Greer of the Vancouver Police Department, both strong advocates of gun control. The discussion centered mainly around the differences between U.S. and Canadian laws concerning gus, since Canada views firearms ownership as a privilege, not a right, and toward the end, Koppel was beginning to sound as if he wanted to go the Canadian route: "We have, and I think I've got this number right, we have roughly 190 million guns in this country, here in the United States. So the idea of ever getting to the kind of level at which Canada is operating is probably too late. I mean, can you foresee any kind of conditions, Chief Stamper, under which we might put that genie back in the bottle again or need to?"

Wednesday night's editorial agenda, according to Nightline's web site, was on training in the U.S. military, so perhaps we shall find a respite from the liberal agendas of the past 2 nights.

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cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) To give viewers a chance to see just how unanimously slanted their cast of essayists is, PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer brought them on as a group August 10 to discuss issues they'd like to see addressed during the 2000 campaign. MRC intern Ken Shepherd noticed they all had a liberal point to make.

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page complained: "If candidates and their pollsters and advisers say, 'What's the biggest bloc we can get?' So they go for like suburban middle class swing voters, right? Who does that leave out? It leaves out people who need government the most: children, needy children, urban poor, rural poor, folks who are the victims of a multi-tiered educational system. We're the only industrial country I know of that says you buy your school when you buy your house, you know. If you live in a really good neighborhood you get great schools. If you live in a not-so-great neighborhood where you really need an education the most, your schools are not as good as other schools are, where you really need an education the most, your schools are not as good as other schools are."

California writer Anne Taylor Fleming chimed in by pushing one of the Democrats' favorite initiatives, school construction: "I would love to se them talk obviously about education. I don't know if any of you go to your local public schools, I mean, they are a shambles. Public parks, infrastructure, health care, all of the gut level issues. And the terrible tragedy to me is we've sat atop this economic boom time. Crime is down, we're at peace, never was there a better opportunity to try and look ahead and say, gee, what do we want to do. And even we're seeing it with this surplus discussion. I mean it's not breaking free. I mean, Clinton's talking his usual cliches about yeah I'm going to veto this giving all the surplus back in tax breaks but we're not really saying, what do we want to do with this surplus, where should it go, how should it be spent?"

Former top U.S. News editor Roger Rosenblatt stayed on his Johnny One-Note call for a gun ban: "I think the candidate that comes the closest not to gun control but to gun elimination is going to garner a surprising number of votes. Not just Columbine, not just the terrible incidents in Alabama and Atlanta recently but going back over 30 years and no more than 30 years, this has been the most destructive force and the most dramatically, sometimes melodramatically destructive force in the news."

Pacific News Service columnist Richard Rodriguez declared that social issues like homosexuality have no place in the debate, and conservatives should be properly assigned more acceptable topics: "There is a conversation that America needs to have and it is not going to come during this presidential campaign. It is a conversation that does or does not take place in the American house between parents and children. And the conversation that we have at the political level, that we have on Meet the Press on a Sunday morning with these self -appointed chaplains like Bill Bennett or Trent Lott talking about my homosexuality or Dianne Feinstein talking about gun control. These people are properly talking, or what should I say, they should be properly assigned certainissues to discuss but we should not be confused about the relationship of our own lives to more intimate, more personal issues and conversations that the politicians have no right to intrude in."

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cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) On a lighter note, in the wake of all these news reports pushing gun control, the MRC's Tom Johnson notes that Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales reviewed a Showtime film by Barry Levinson titled "Yesterday's Tomorrows." Among the featured speakers in the film, Shales found "Perennial nuisance Charlton Heston pops up to declare that there are 'too many people on Earth as it is' and one realizes instantly that as president of the National Rifle Association, he is doing his best to correct that."


The last time Shales was this animated, he was lamenting what he called the "high-tech crucifixion" of Bill Clinton. -- Brent Baker

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