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CyberAlert -- 08/30/2001 -- Media Too Nice to "Racist" Helms

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Media Too Nice to "Racist" Helms; More Proof of Liberal Bias as NY Times is Taken Over By Reagan-Hater; 6% of Media "Conservative"

1) "Those who believe that the 'liberal press' always has its knives sharpened for Republicans and conservatives must have been flummoxed by" coverage of the retirement of Senator Jesse Helms, Washington Post reporter David Broder argued. He complained reporters were "pussyfooting" since they did not reflect Broder's assessment that Helms "is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country." But, in fact, the TV networks castigated Helms for his racial politics.

2) Inches below Broder, Robert Samuelson argued: "Among editors and reporters of the national media -- papers, magazines, TV -- a 'liberal bias' is not so much denied as ignored, despite overwhelming evidence that it exists." Samuelson's observation was prompted by Howell Raines ascension to the top of the New York Times. Raines once whined: "The Reagan years oppressed me because of the callousness and the greed and the hard-hearted attitude toward people who have very little in this society."

3) A recent poll of journalists determined nearly seven times more identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans as a piddling six percent said they were conservative compared to four times more, 25 percent, who tagged themselves as liberal.


Corrections. The August 28 CyberAlert quoted Peter Jennings as remarking: "We may tell you all the time that our principle aim in life is to communicate..." Principle should have read "principal." That quote aired on Breaking the News, a CBS News special which CyberAlert reported was produced by the Museum of Broadcasting. In fact, the August 24 special was produced by the Museum of Television and Radio.
The August 28 CyberAlert stated that in an ABC story about gas prices a soundbite aired from a "Tyson Slocum of a group identified on screen as American Citizen." Actually, Slocum was identified on screen as being from the recognizable "Public Citizen."

1

The media were too kind Senator Jesse Helms when he announced last week he would not seek another term, veteran Washington Post political reporter David Broder argued in a Post column on Wednesday, and so those who believe in liberal media bias "must have been flummoxed by the coverage."

Under the provocative headline, "Jesse Helms, White Racist," Broder excoriated his colleagues because "the reporting on his retirement was circumspect to the point of pussyfooting." Citing the usual litany of how he dared to oppose a Martin Luther King holiday, referred to the "bloc vote" and ran an ad one year which opposed quotas in hiring, Broder complained that news reports "skirted the point" which, he argued, should have been: "What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country."

Broder apparently doesn't watch TV news since, as detailed last week in the August 22 CyberAlert, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening show stories all castigated Helms for his racial politics. "On racial issues, he was a lightning rod, unrepentant about his support for American segregation, firmly opposed a Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday," declared ABC's Claire Shipman. CBS's Bob Orr played a clip of the 1990 "hands" ad which so upset Broder as he asserted: "His opponents have accused him of using race to win elections." NBC also showed the same ad as Lisa Myers observed: "Others saw Helms as mean-spirited and accused him in close elections of race-baiting."

For more about these August 21 stories, refer back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010822.asp#2

The next morning, not even CBS's Bryant Gumbel may have gone as far as Broder wished in relaying Broder's opinion as fact that Helms is racist, but on the Early Show Gumbel was hardly positive: "Helms is, let me pick my words here, an unapologetic right-wing conservative, I guess we could say. Is his departure good news for all but hard-right Republicans?"

Broder's column only quoted stories from three newspapers, all of which did raise charges that Helms used race to win elections, but just weren't negative enough to satisfy Broder. The Boston Globe, for instance, devoted nearly half its story to the subject, highlighting how the President of the NAACP in North Carolina remarked: "Jim Crow Senior is what we call him." A New York Times editorial proclaimed that Helms "represented the last vestiges of the segregationist South."

Of course, it was the Democratic Party which nominated candidates who favored segregation in the South years after Helms was first elected to the Senate in 1972 (recall, for instance, Newt Gingrich's incumbent opponent in Georgia in 1974 and 1976) and while Helms may not have adopted the particular liberal policy views of which Broder approved, he never belonged to the Klan (unlike Senator Robert Byrd) and never used his office to defy civil rights laws (unlike Senator Ernest Hollings when he was Governor of South Carolina.)

In fact, Helms should be "remembered as one of a handful of men who brought white Southern conservatives into a new era of race relations," Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an August 23 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Mead explained:
"If Mr. Helms can be seen as one of the great conservative figures of American history, calling the nation to remain faithful to traditional values in the midst of rapid social change, he also deserves to be remembered as one of a handful of men who brought white Southern conservatives into a new era of race relations."
"This was not my initial impression of Mr. Helms, when as a young boy in North Carolina during the civil rights movement I listened to his anti-integration, anti-Martin Luther King commentaries on WRAL-TV. But once the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was enacted, Mr. Helms -- along with some of his erstwhile segregationist colleagues like South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond -- did something very revolutionary for Southern white populists."
"He accepted the laws and obeyed them."

Not a viewpoint shared by Broder. An excerpt from Broder's column as published in the August 29 Washington Post:

Those who believe that the "liberal press" always has its knives sharpened for Republicans and conservatives must have been flummoxed by the coverage of Sen. Jesse Helms's announcement last week that he will not run for reelection next year in North Carolina. The reporting on his retirement was circumspect to the point of pussyfooting.

On the day his decision became known, the New York Times described him as "a conservative stalwart for nearly 30 years," the Boston Globe as "an unyielding icon of conservatives and an archenemy of liberals." The Washington Post identified Helms as "one of the most powerful conservatives on Capitol Hill for three decades."

Those were accurate descriptions. But they skirted the point. There are plenty of powerful conservatives in government. A few, such as Don Rumsfeld and Henry Hyde, have been around as long as Helms and have their own significant roles in 20th century political history. What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country -- a title that one hopes will now be permanently retired. A few editorials and columns came close to saying that. But the squeamishness of much of the press in characterizing Helms for what he is suggests an unwillingness to confront the reality of race in our national life....

Even if you thought, as I did, that he was petty and vindictive in using his power as a committee chairman to block the appointment of former Massachusetts governor William Weld as ambassador to Mexico and, just this year, to force concessions from President Bush on textile imports before the top Treasury officials could be confirmed, you had to admit that other senators also have used their leverage to advance personal political agendas.

What is unique about Helms -- and from my viewpoint, unforgivable -- is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans....

To the best of my knowledge, Helms has never done what the late George Wallace did well before his death -- recant and apologize for his use of racial issues. And that use was blatant.

In 1984, when Helms faced his toughest opponent in Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt, the late Bill Peterson, one of the most evenhanded reporters I have ever known, summed up what "some said was the meanest Senate campaign in history."

"Racial epithets and standing in school doors are no longer fashionable," Peterson wrote, "but 1984 proved that the ugly politics of race are alive and well. Helms is their master."

A year before the election, when public polls showed Helms trailing by 20 points, he launched a Senate filibuster against the bill making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday....

All year, Peterson reported, "Helms campaign literature sounded a drumbeat of warnings about black voter-registration drives....On election eve, he accused Hunt of being supported by 'homosexuals, the labor union bosses and the crooks' and said he feared a large 'bloc vote.' What did he mean? 'The black vote,' Helms said." He won, 52 percent to 48 percent.

In 1990, locked in a tight race with an African American Democrat, former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, Helms aired a final-week TV ad that showed a pair of white hands crumpling a rejection letter, while an announcer said, "You needed that job and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota." Once again, he pulled through.

That is not a history to be sanitized.

END Excerpt

To read the entire Broder column, and/or to see a photo of him which may allow you to recognize him from one of his frequent television appearances, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10822-2001Aug28.html

As for that 1990 ad, as George Will argued on last Sunday's This Week after ABC anchor Derek McGinty denounced it: "I don't think there was anything wrong with that ad. It seems to me people who favor racial preferences open themselves to exactly that kind of argument. You can't advocate racial preferences and then say we can't talk about it as a political issue."

Broder singled out three newspapers for particular criticism, including the Boston Globe. Through Nexis I retrieved the August 22 Globe story by Wayne Washington and learned that much of it focused on liberal criticism of Helms on race. An excerpt:

....Conservative white voters appreciated his unyielding conservatism, just as many black voters were revolted by it.

"Jim Crow Senior is what we call him," said Skip Alston, North Carolina president of the NAACP. "Jim Crow Senior is retiring, but we cannot rest because Jesse Helms has been able to create a lot of Jim Crow Juniors."

Helms won two relatively close elections over Harvey Gantt, the black former mayor of Charlotte who challenged him in 1990 and 1996. Race rose to the forefront in both contests.

Helms beat back Gantt's first challenge after airing a campaign ad showing a white man's hand crumpling an employment rejection notice. The ad voice-over said the man did not get the job because "they had to give it to a minority."

The ad drew howls from critics who said it typified Helms's willingness to polarize North Carolina's electorate to gain office. But Helms did win.

By 1996, Democrats were so determined to drive Helms from office they tried to get television actor Andy Griffith, who played the role of sheriff in the small town of Mayberry, N.C., during a 1960s show that bore his name, to run against him.

"We thought no one beside Andy Griffith and God himself could beat him," Alston said. Gantt lost a rematch.

Merle Black, political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, called Helms the last of a dying breed of aging southern conservatives.

There are others who cling to power, most notably South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, but Black said Helms differs from them in one clear way: The Helms of today is just as conservative, just as ideologically driven, as the Helms of 1972.

"In one sense, Helms represented the state as an unreconstructed, Southern conservative," Black said. "Thurmond changed some. He voted for some of the civil rights legislation. Helms never did. Thurmond moved to representing the whole state, and not just whites. Helms never did."

Cobey, the state Republican chairman, said Democrats have long used race to discredit Helms.

"It's not fair," he said. "He stood up for the textile industry. He stood up for the farmers of this state. His constituent services are without parallel."

END Excerpt

As for the New York Times, its August 23 editorial harshly condemned Helms on race. After claiming "few senators in the modern era have done more to buck the tide of progress and enlightenment than Mr. Helms," the editorial asserted:
"Mr. Helms's admirers have long equated his obstructionist conduct with the defense of high principles. It is certainly true that he never bought the idea that politics is the art of the possible. But Mr. Helms's career has played out like a harsh and intolerant moral crusade. Whether the issue was civil rights, women's rights or gay rights, arms control or the Panama Canal, Mr. Helms approached them all with a deeply rooted and unyielding brand of conservatism. The senator, who is 79, was felled not by any political foe or even North Carolina's changing demographics but by age and illness, probably the only forces that could have persuaded him to quit. Since the 98-year-old Strom Thurmond of South Carolina is also expected to leave the Senate next year, there was talk yesterday that Mr. Helms's departure signified the end of an era in American conservatism. That seems off the mark, since there may be more conservatives in Congress and in the executive branch now than there were when Mr. Helms came to Washington in 1973, at the beginning of Richard Nixon's second term. But his departure clearly signifies the end of an era in North Carolina politics, as well as in the Senate, where Mr. Helms and Mr. Thurmond represented the last vestiges of the segregationist South."

2

The Broder column detailed in item #1 above, which claimed Helms coverage undermined the claim of any liberal bias, appeared at the top of the Washington Post's August 29 op-ed page. Inches below, on the very same page and on the very same day, the Post ran a column by Robert J. Samuelson which he couldn't have timed any better. Samuelson contended: "Among editors and reporters of the national media -- papers, magazines, TV -- a 'liberal bias' is not so much denied as ignored, despite overwhelming evidence that it exists."

Samuelson's column was prompted by the elevation next week of Howell Raines to be Executive Editor of the New York Times after spending many years as editor of the editorial page where he directed liberal crusading, such as, and how's this for a segue between two CyberAlert items, the anti-Helms editorial quoted at the end of item #1 above today.

Samuelson observed how the editorial page run by Raines "was pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-campaign finance 'reform.' Last year, it endorsed Al Gore. In general, it has been critical of President Bush, especially his tax cut." Samuelson ruminated: "Does anyone believe that, in his new job, Raines will instantly purge himself of these and other views?"

The media would be in uproar, Samuelson speculated, if "the Wall Street Journal had named Robert Bartley, its fiercely conservative editorial page editor, to run its news columns."

An excerpt from Samuelson's August 29 column as run in the Washington Post:

We in the press are routinely self-righteous, holding others -- politicians, public officials and corporate executives -- to exacting standards of truthfulness, performance and conflict of interest. But we often refuse to impose comparable standards on ourselves, leading some (or much) of the public to see us as hypocritical. A troubling example involves the recent promotion of Howell Raines from editorial page editor of the New York Times to executive editor, where he will oversee the Times' news staff of 1,200, including 26 foreign bureaus. Raines assumes his new job Sept. 6.

In many ways, he seems superbly qualified. Raines, 58, has been a Times bureau chief in both London and Washington. In 1992, he won a Pulitzer Prize. But what ought to disqualify him is his job as editorial page editor, where he proclaimed the Times' liberal views. Every editor and reporter holds private views; the difference is that Raines's opinions are now highly public. His page took stands on dozens of local, national and international issues. It was pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-campaign finance "reform." Last year, it endorsed Al Gore. In general, it has been critical of President Bush, especially his tax cut.

Does anyone believe that, in his new job, Raines will instantly purge himself of these and other views? And because they are so public, Raines's positions compromise the Times' ability to act and appear fair-minded. Many critics already believe that the news columns of the Times are animated -- and distorted -- by the same values as its editorials. Making the chief of the editorial page the chief of the news columns will not quiet those suspicions....

Even more revealing has been the press coverage. Since Raines's appointment was announced in May, there has been almost no criticism of possible conflicts. (I examined stories in the Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair and in the forthcoming issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.) The silence suggests that the press tolerates conflicts as long as they conform to its dominant -- mainly liberal -- beliefs. Suppose, hypothetically, that the Wall Street Journal had named Robert Bartley, its fiercely conservative editorial page editor, to run its news columns. Questions surely would have arisen (and properly so) about his suitability -- about whether he might use the news columns to promote conservative views. Similar questions apply no less to the liberal Raines.

Among editors and reporters of the national media -- papers, magazines, TV -- a "liberal bias" is not so much denied as ignored, despite overwhelming evidence that it exists. Consider a recent survey of the public, the press and "policy leaders" by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Public Perspective magazine of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. Among the press, only 6 percent identified themselves as "conservative" and 4 percent as Republican. Among the public, the figures were 35 percent and 28 percent and, among policy leaders, 18 percent and 24 percent. This poll confirms many others....

Among journalists, pressures for intellectual and social conformity mean that challenges to what "everyone believes" are rare. Journalists -- like most people -- want to be liked and respected by peers and friends.

"The press becomes the unwitting ally of a reform politics which, in fact, primarily represents a constituency of well-educated, upper-middle-class whites who respond to the direct mail appeals [of advocacy groups]," writes Thomas Edsall, a Washington Post political reporter, in Public Perspective. Although Edsall was referring to campaign finance "reform," the point applies to many liberal causes, from strict environmental regulation to women's and gay "rights." Similarly, the press "has been blindsided by...significant political developments because so few members of the media share the views of the voters who have been mobilized by these movements," says Edsall. He mentions -- among others -- "the conservative upheaval of 1980 that produced Ronald Reagan...the rise of the Christian Right...the popularity of welfare reform in the 1990s."...

END Excerpt

To read all of Samuelson's column, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10823-2001Aug28.html

For the referenced piece by Tom Edsall, posted only as a PDF: http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/pubper/pdf/pp12_4d.pdf

As detailed in the May 22 CyberAlert, Raines complained in Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis that "reporting on President Reagan's success in making life harder for citizens who were not born rich, white, and healthy -- saddened me." During a November 17, 1993 interview about his book on Charlie Rose's PBS show, he whined: "The Reagan years oppressed me because of the callousness and the greed and the hard-hearted attitude toward people who have very little in this society."

To watch a RealPlayer video clip of Raines with Rose and/or for more extensive quotations from Raines, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010522.asp#3

3

Samuelson highlighted a poll of which I was unaware, about how only a piddling six percent of the press call themselves conservative.

(MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey tracked down the poll and discovered that the ideological and party identification questions were not the thrust of the poll, but like the Freedom Forum survey which determined 89 percent of Washington reporters voted for Clinton in 1992, came in some end of survey demographic questions in a poll about an unrelated topic. Still, about ten percent of news media respondents refused to identify their party or ideological preference.)

The "National Survey of the Role of Polls in Policymaking," completed by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Kaiser Family Foundation in collaboration with Public Perspective, a magazine published by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, was released in late June.

The poll questioned 1,206 members of the public, 300 "policymakers" and 301 "media professionals, including reporters and editors from top newspapers, TV and radio networks, news services and news magazines."

The survey found that six times more of the public than journalists considered themselves "conservative" while four times as many members of the media called themselves "liberal" as "conservative." The results to the two relevant questions:

-- "In politics today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an independent or something else?"

Public Media
Republican: 28% 4%
Democrat 34 27
Independent 21 55
Something else 12 5
Refused 2 9

-- "Would you describe your political beliefs as conservative, moderate or liberal?"

Public Media
Conservative 35% 6%
Moderate 37 59
Liberal 21 25
Refused 2 10

Interestingly, of the news media sample, 64 percent were male and just 36 percent female, so given how women skew more liberal, a newsroom split about evenly between men and woman is probably even more liberal overall.

To access all the documents posted about this poll, go to: http://www.kff.org/content/2001/3146/

The actual poll results in full are only posted in PDF format. It's about 30 pages with the questions cited above near the end: http://www.kff.org/content/2001/3146/toplines.pdf

I'd bet many of those who said "moderate" are actually quite liberal given how reporters so often tagged Senator Jeffords as a "moderate" and consider Gary Condit to be "conservative."

-- Brent Baker


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