Most Homeless Ever, Numbers "Not Seen Since Great Depression" --7/7/2003
2. NBC Sends Engel Back to Iraq Where He Finds Anti-U.S. Sunnis
3. Gibson's Bedroom Sported Anti-War Poster, He Couldn't Be Prez
4. Columnist Samuelson Notes Media Bias in Prescription Coverage
Last week CBS and NBC simultaneously discovered a new crisis of a record number of homeless families, though neither cited proof for the dire warnings other than the self-interested claims of homeless advocacy groups.
"There are now more homeless families on the street than ever before, up an estimated 19 percent," reporter Lee Cowan declared on Thursday's CBS Evening News, the night before Independence Day. "There are more families homeless in New York City now than at any in the last 20 years," echoed NBC's John Hockenberry on the July 4th Dateline dedicated to the "new homeless." Matching that, Cowan maintained: "There are more homeless families now in Manhattan than since the Great Depression." Not to be outdone, Hockenberry insisted the homeless in New York City are now "in numbers it's estimated not seen since the Great Depression."
That's diversity in broadcast network news in action.
Both stories suffered from fatal flaws which undermined their premises.
Cowan's story, which related the same uncorroborated claims about New York City as had a New York Times story from the day before, also highlighted the case of an Atlanta couple whose baby died of malnutrition while the three lived in an abandoned house. In high-dudgeon, Cowan asked a homeless advocate: "Does it surprise you that in this day and age we're having children in a city like Atlanta dying of malnutrition?" Cowan's story featured a soundbite from an Atlanta shelter director, but the very same woman told the Atlanta Constitution that her shelter had space available and could have taken in and fed the family.
NBC devoted the entire Dateline to Hockenberry's recounting the plight of four families. NBC's promo had asserted, as quoted in the July 2 CyberAlert: "They had good jobs, making good money, but now they've lost almost everything. An American nightmare: The new homeless. All new Dateline Friday." And Hockenberry promised a look at "a new true face of homelessness in America. Today's homeless are families."
But there was a slight problem with NBC's claim about the "new homeless": two of the four families were never homeless and the other two were never forced out onto the street. One of Hockenberry's dire cases involved a family man in the Cleveland area who lost his job and was afraid of losing his large suburban home, but he never did. Another was a man, with a wife and two kids, who earned $38,000 a year yet lived in a motor home. And of the two families forced into the emergency housing system, one was hardly typical. As Hockenberry related his tale of woe, "Eric's eviction was the result of a double-whammy: Unemployment and cancer. At the age of 49, debilitated by chemotherapy for leukemia, he was unable to keep up with his rent. Eric had to beg for shelter from relatives. He was humiliated."
And just to pour on the victimization, making the case perfect for television, his 16-year-old son was a schizophrenic who commits suicide.
Now, a fuller rundown of the CBS and NBC stories:
-- CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts set up the July 3 story: "In the current economy, a home of any kind remains an unattainable dream for hundreds of thousands of Americans. CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan has their compelling story."
Cowan began by passing along claims of self-interested advocates: "In any American city, on any given day, the nation's economic downturn can be measured by those down on their luck -- and that population is on the rise. There are now more homeless families on the street than ever before, up an estimated 19 percent."
The Urban Institute did not provide the most homeless since the Great Depression theme, something that's impossible to measure, so it must have come from the man in Cowan's next soundbite, Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless: "Back in the '80s the typical homeless family was a single mom who was on welfare. Today we're seeing more and more of the working poor being forced to turn to emergency shelter."
Cowan didn't bother to mention how the parents face a cruelty to children charge or how the very same woman from the Genesis Shelter which he featured had told the Atlanta Constitution that they had space for the family. Constitution reporters Saeed Ahmed and Tasgola Karla Bruner wrote in a July 1 story:
Reporter Andrea Elliott's front-page story for Wednesday's Metro Section, "Record Number of Homeless, But City Says It's Prepared," accepted hook, line and sinker the liberal worldview on homelessness.
Elliott wrote: "The weak New York economy has also played a role [in the homeless problem]. A shortage of low-wage jobs and low-cost housing has fueled the surge in the homeless, said city officials and advocates for the homeless."
Some housing analysts argue that a major reason for New York City's shortage of low-cost housing is its restrictive rent-control regulations and zoning policies. But Elliott entirely ignored that view, quoting only city bureaucrats, "homeless advocates" and those seeking shelter, all of whom have a vested interest in making the problem of homelessness appear as bad as possible.
Elliott claimed: "The seasonal surge of homeless families is accompanied this year by a floundering economy and the highest number of homeless people in shelters -- more than 38,000 -- since the city began tracking numbers in the early 1980s, with roughly double the number of homeless children and families compared with five years ago....A shortage of low-wage jobs and low-cost housing has fueled the surge in the homeless, said city officials and advocates for the homeless."
But figures on urban homelessness are notoriously unscientific, invariably based on estimates from city officials with a vested interest in increased funding. As Times Watch demonstrated back on May 29, The U.S. Conference of Mayors has claimed hunger and homeless have been rising ever since the conference issued its first report back in 1987. From 1987 to 2002, the Mayors have reported an average increase in demand for emergency shelter of a staggering 14% a year.
END of TimesWatch.org Excerpt
For New York Times reporter Andrea Elliott's July 2 story, in which she never went so far to make comparisons to the Great Depression: www.nytimes.com
-- Stone Phillips set up the July 4 Dateline hour: "It's not just independence we celebrate on July 4th. It's the birth of the American dream, the idea that you can start from nothing and with hard work, high hopes and a little luck build a good life for yourself and your family. But for millions of Americans the dream is simple and all-too elusive, four walls and a roof, a place to call home. Tonight, a year in the lives of four families chasing their American dream. Will they find it?"
John Hockenberry began: "What if the things we tell ourselves about the homeless are just myths. That they are bums, crazy, lack motivation? What if they are families, working people? What if they are people struggling like the rest of us to make their dreams come true? Tonight we're going to show you a new true face of homelessness in America. Today's homeless are families. And the families you will meet have done everything right and yet there's no place for them. Still, they struggle to find a home."
The four families profiled by Hockenberry, a liberal refugee from NPR:
# A woman in New York City who works as a clerk in an office, has two kids and no husband in sight, and struggled for a year with the NYC housing bureaucracy as she went in and out of their emergency housing system while waiting for a subsidized unit.
Hockenberry saw more government spending as the answer, not ridiculous rent control which suppresses building, as he lamented: "Although the city has recently funded 4,000 new subsidized apartments, there are more families homeless in New York City now than at any in the last 20 years."
After a year, the woman got a subsidized apartment.
Oh, and during the year while without a home Dateline's video regularly showed her walking around talking on a cell phone.
# A man in Cleveland, a machine tools salesman who lost his job. His wife has a part time job and they have three kids, but are behind on the mortgage payments for a big colonial house. But he finds a new job, they don't lose the house, and the wife is now taking college classes.
During that segment, Steve Buka [sp?] of the Cleveland housing court asserted: "My understanding is even during the Depression in the '30s we weren't seeing this kind of volume."
# A computer technician in Santa Cruz, California, aka Silicon Valley, who moved there to get a job and makes $38,000 annually at the University of California as a computer technician. But he lives in a motor home with his wife and two kids because he can't afford the high price of local housing. There was no sign the wife works.
# A single father in NYC who went to Vassar, was a biologist, had two kids -- ages 10 and 16 -- and was evicted. Hockenberry related the tale of woe: "Eric's eviction was the result of a double-whammy: Unemployment and cancer. At the age of 49, debilitated by chemotherapy for leukemia, he was unable to keep up with his rent. Eric had to beg for shelter from relatives. He was humiliated." The 16-year-old son had schizophrenia and after the family was evicted he committed suicide.
Over video of the teen's grave, Hockenberry charged: "Jason Wilson's suicide produced another re-examination of homeless policy in New York City. There were pledges to clean up the feared Emergency Assistance Unit, and promises of more housing. But an epitaph might read: 'Here lies one less homeless person in the City of New York. There will be many to replace him, in numbers it's estimated not seen since the Great Depression.'"
The Dateline NBC Web page confirms that NBC relied on homeless advocates:
On Dateline NBC Friday, correspondent John Hockenberry reported on a family's struggle to overcome homelessness. Here are homeless organizations that worked with Dateline on the story:
NEW YORK CITY
END Excerpt from Web site
That's online at: www.msnbc.com
NBC News has sent Richard Engel back to Iraq, and just as he had conveyed during his days with ABC News in Baghdad during and immediately after the war, he found only disillusionment and disgust with the U.S. amongst the Iraqi people.
In Balad he talked to pro-Hussein Sunnis, but still took seriously their claims to have been disappointed in the lack of follow through on U.S. promises. Engel relayed how one man complained: "We are the ones carrying out the resistance because the Americans lied to us when they said they'd improve our economy and bring us aid."
Engel also found that "because of the daily attacks, the Americans have begun searching homes for weapons, antagonizing farmers who never cared one way or another about Saddam." He then passed along how one proclaimed: "Now I want to fight a jihad against the Americans."
Brian Williams set up Engel's piece on the July 4 NBC Nightly News: "Now to that fighting in Iraq. Still pockets of tough resistance and some fierce firepower out there. Another American family today received the very worst possible news after a U.S. soldier was killed. And as NBC's Richard Engel reports tonight, at times it appears Iraq is going back in time."
Engel over a crowd of yelling men: "These people cheer, 'Bush, Bush, listen well. We all love Saddam Hussein.'"
If they could only earn the support of Engel.
This story matches the themes of Saddam loyalty and anti-U.S. attitudes Engel stressed in his stories for ABC. To refresh your memory:
-- The "baby milk factory" of 2003. In 1991 Peter Arnett, then with CNN, gullibly hyped Iraqi claims that U.S. bombing had destroyed a "baby milk factory." On ABC on Saturday (March 22), ABC's freelancer, Richard Engel, obligingly highlighted video, from his official tour of bomb damage, of "a community center that had been hit by five separate rockets." To add a bit of emotion, his video included a look at empty children's swings swinging nearby. See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- ABC's Engel in Baghdad Finds Disillusion and Disgust with U.S. Barely 48 hours after U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad, ABC's Richard Engel decided that chaos in the streets meant "time may be running out" for the Americans. "There is a growing sense of disillusionment" amongst Iraqis Engel contended. Engel showcased the views of Iraqis who denounced the U.S. One woman demanded: "Did the Americans come to protect us or to kill us?" And Engel quoted a man who charged: "Now we know that America came to occupy us. They came to steal our oil and our riches and then to leave." CBS's Dan Rather, in contrast, arrived in Baghdad and found the people glad to have been liberated and appreciative of the U.S. www.mediaresearch.org
ABC's Charles Gibson and his wife just love anti-military and anti-war posters. Last October, Gibson, whose wife runs a private school for girls, boasted: "My wife has a sign on her office wall and it says, 'Won't it be a great day when the Air Force has to hold bake sales to get a new bomber and the schools have all the money they need?'" Then last week on CNN's Larry King Live, Gibson recalled how he and his wife "used to have a little framed sign hanging in our bedroom, my wife and I, that said: 'War is not good for children and other living things.'"
During his appearance on the July 2 Larry King Live, to promote his ABC special airing tonight on the Columbia disaster, the co-host of Good Morning America also disqualified himself from the presidency as he revealed that he could never send soldiers into battle or give the order to launch nuclear weapons.
For more on the discussion about the school over bombers poster, see the October 3, 2002 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
The relevant comments from Gibson on the July 2 Larry King Live on CNN last Wednesday:
-- "I grew up in the Vietnam Era, which is probably one of the signal events of my life and I think affected everybody of my generation. And we used to have a little framed sign hanging in our bedroom, my wife and I, that said, 'War is not good for children and other living things,' and I believe that. So no, I don't like covering war and I hate to see them occur."
-- "I can't think of anything that would be harder in the world to do than to send young kids out to fight and perhaps to get killed. And the commanders when I went over to the Gulf region said, 'well, look, essentially it's the decision of the President.' And then I thought, 'yes, it really is.' And what a God awful awesome responsibility that is to send kids into battle. I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it."...
"Just while we're on the subject -- I've never been part of a presidential debate. But I've always wanted in one of those debates to ask what is the most elemental question, which is that you have a guy -- it's not as critical now as it was when I was growing up in the Cold War. But you have a guy, if you're President of the United States, walking around behind you with a little briefcase that has the codes in it. And I've always wanted to say, 'Could you say, yes, fire, go and commit nuclear weapons to killing literally millions of people? Could you do that?' I couldn't. You know? I just couldn't do it. And I don't know what it is in somebody that would be strong enough, I guess, if that's the word, to be able to do something like that."
You read it here first. In his nationally syndicated column last week, Robert Samuelson pointed out how "coverage of the drug benefit has virtually ignored the issue of long-term costs" as "press skepticism focuses on the stinginess of the new benefit."
Samuelson elaborated: "Reflecting journalistic conformity, The Post and the New York Times both ran front-page stories on June 26 in which retirees complained that the yet-to-be-passed drug benefit was inadequate."
Sound familiar? From the June 27 CyberAlert:
....Who will pay for all this generosity? Our children, and their children. Under present policies, Social Security and Medicare spending will rise about 75 percent by 2030, projects the Congressional Budget Office. Our children will pay higher taxes, face higher budget deficits or receive fewer other government services. New retiree benefits or tax preferences increase the burden. There are questions of generational justice; high taxes or deficits may also hurt economic growth.
What we have needed -- and have not gotten -- is a rewriting of the generational compact, reflecting new social realities (longer life expectancies, more retirees, more private retirement savings). No president has addressed the issues candidly and risked the resulting unpopularity. We ought to be discussing how much people should pay for their retirement and what the public safety net should cover. But there's been no demand, especially among baby boomers, for candor.
The press amplifies the indifference. Somehow the mainstream press -- led by baby boomers -- regards new retirement benefits as "progressive" and dissociates them from higher future taxes or deficits. Coverage of the drug benefit has virtually ignored the issue of long-term costs. Experts at the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute have strongly criticized the congressional plans. Their views have received scant attention. Press skepticism focuses on the stinginess of the new benefit. Reflecting journalistic conformity, The Post and the New York Times both ran front-page stories on June 26 in which retirees complained that the yet-to-be-passed drug benefit was inadequate....
END of Excerpt
For Samuelson's column in its entirety: www.washingtonpost.com
* Upcoming guests this week of note scheduled to appear on NBC's Tonight Show: On Tuesday night, actor James Woods, who has expressed tough views on terrorism and liberals; and on Wednesday night, NBC's Brian Williams.
-- Brent Baker