Kristol Canned by ABC; Second Runners-Up in the Best NQs of '99
1) After expanding the role of George Stephanopoulos, ABC News dropped conservative Bill Kristol. This Week's former Executive Producer charged: "They're tone-deaf when it comes to political evenhandedness....they're much more comfortable with people who share viewpoints closer to their own."
Geraldo Rivera, during his sail around the world shown on the Travel
Channel, dance and get naked. As noted in the December 20 CyberAlert, on
December 19 the Travel Channel ran the first part of "Sail to the
Century with Geraldo Rivera," a one-hour videography of his trip
around the world with a crew on a 70-foot sailboat. He plans to cross the
dateline in the Pacific as the year changes, hence the name of the show.
MRC Webmaster Andy Szul has now posted a RealPlayer video clip showing a
shirt-less Geraldo dancing on deck and later disrobing completely as he
jumps into the Atlantic for a swim. Consider this a video treat to mark
one year to go to the end of the century. Go to the MRC home page at http://www.mrc.org 
or go directly to:
ABC News, which has expanded the role of former Clinton enabler George Stephanopoulos, last week decided to drop from This Week, and ABC overall, conservative Bill Kristol, who once toiled for Vice President Dan Quayle. On Wednesday the MRC distributed a Media Reality Check fax report about the contrast.
Supposedly prompted by a 25 percent drop in ratings for This Week since David Brinkley left the show, instead of looking at hosts Sam Donaldson or Cokie Roberts, ABC News President David Westin decided to dump Kristol. But, in a December 23 story Howard Kurtz suggested another explanation in citing the views of the show's former Executive Producer whom Westin forced out last fall:
The axing of Kristol comes three months after the departure of the show's executive producer, Dorrance Smith, who like Kristol worked in the Bush White House. Several sources confirmed that contrary to the public announcement at the time, Smith was forced out by ABC News President David Westin, who has had an increasingly strong hand in the program.
Smith said Kristol "added a much-needed different perspective from a conservative viewpoint, which I don't think they have any interest in trying to fill. They're tone-deaf when it comes to political evenhandedness....Rather than being journalistically honest, they're much more comfortable with people who share viewpoints closer to their own," he said of ABC management.
Westin said yesterday that "over time we have an obligation to our viewers to make sure we present both sides of any issue." While no one's previous employment should be held against him, he said, "we shouldn't have executive producers who have identifiable alliances either way."
END Excerpt [ellipses as in Kurtz story]
But it's okay to have someone reporting for ABC News shows and co-hosting Good Morning America who has an "identifiable alliance" -- if you are a liberal like George Stephanopoulos who has fulfilled both roles in recent months, opportunities ABC never offered to Kristol or George Will.
(Smith's "alliances." Smith once worked for President Gerald Ford and, as noted in the March 1995 MediaWatch: "The first Sunday in February marked the start of Dorrance Smith's second run as Executive Producer of This Week with David Brinkley. The Executive Producer of This Week when it was launched in 1981, Smith ran the show through 1989, when he took the same title at Nightline, where he remained until jumping to the White House. From early 1991 through the end of Bush's term, Smith served as Assistant to the President for Media Affairs.")
Kurtz added in his December 23 story: "The change in the gabfest segment is surprising because audience research consistently confirms its popularity. 'The round table is the money part of the show,' Smith said. 'People will fast-forward through their videotapes to watch the round table. It's what distinguishes This Week from its competition.' ABC insiders say Westin had no problem with Kristol but felt that the round table was too crowded with five people, making it hard for individual voices to be heard."
But not too hard to hear liberal voices. ABC probably thinks it's being perfectly balanced, with Stephanopoulos on the left and Will on the right. But that forgets about the hardly conservative views of co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, who while not consistently liberal line up far more often with Stephanopoulos than Will, for a three-to-one liberal over conservative ratio on the show. And Kristol has been appearing on the show far less frequently than Stephanopolous.
Now to the MRC's Media
Reality Check fax report on all this put together Wednesday by the MRC's
Tim Graham. You can also read this on the MRC home page, or go direct to:
Kristol: ABC's Latest Conservative Casualty
ABC News President David Westin is once again showing TV news junkies that he has no interest in keeping up appearances of objectivity. This summer, he fiercely objected to ABC hiring "unreliable" Matt Drudge as a radio host (this, from a man who defended the accuracy of ABC's Food Lion faking fiasco).
Now, just weeks after paying for a "working dinner" with Al Gore at White House reporter John Cochran's house that never produced a news story, Westin has dumped the contract of conservative This Week pundit William Kristol.
-- No Boy George. Just as Westin's decision to fire long-time ABC reporter Bob Zelnick over his Gore biography contrasted with ABC's Gore dinner party at Casa Cochran, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz noted in 1997, "Kristol was added at the same time as George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton White House aide whose contract was recently renewed."
Not only has Boy George been renewed, he has been promoted by Westin to a substitute host on Good Morning America and the network's most regular political analyst. In August, Westin hailed the ex-Clinton aide's "increasing strength and maturity."
-- Dumping Dorrance. Kurtz reported former This Week Executive Producer Dorrance Smith was also dumped by Westin: "Several sources confirmed that contrary to the public announcement at the time, Smith was forced out by ABC News President David Westin, who has had an increasingly strong hand in the program...Smith, a friend of Linda Tripp from their days in the Bush White House, has told friends that he believes ABC management was displeased with some of the reporting he helped provide during the Monica Lewinsky scandal."
He added: "Westin said yesterday that 'over time we have an obligation to our viewers to make sure we present both sides of any issue.' While no one's previous employment should be held against him, he said, 'we shouldn't have executive producers who have identifiable alliances either way.'"
-- Identifiable Alliances. This quote is incredibly strange, given the history of ABC News, with executives like Vice President David Burke (former Ted Kennedy chief of staff), Executive Producers like Jeff Gralnick (McGovern aide) and Rick Kaplan (Clinton golfing buddy and media fixer), and veteran reporters Pierre Salinger (JFK press secretary) and Jeff Greenfield (RFK speechwriter).
Westin recently replaced Smith at This Week with senior producer Virginia Moseley, who has a few identifiable alliances of her own. Her husband, Thomas Nides, worked for Speaker Tom Foley and then as Chief of Staff to Trade Representative Mickey Kantor. That could be why spin-controller Stephanopoulos called her to try and get conservative author Gary Aldrich removed from the show in 1996.
When he was promoting Stephanopoulos, Westin gave Associated Press a different theory about identifiable alliances: "Are his past and his connections likely to affect his reporting, or likely to be perceived as affecting his reporting? You have to take it case by case."
In the case of liberal connections, you get promoted. In the case of conservative connections, you get purged.
END Reprint of fax report
Footnote: A crystal-clear error at USA Today which the paper has yet to correct. A December 23 "Inside TV" item by Peter Johnson relayed: "A shakeup at ABC's This Week, which last week slipped to No. 3 behind CBS's Face the Nation and NBC's No. 1 Meet the Press. Out after Sunday as a conservative roundtable member is Bill Crystal, who declined to take a reduced role..."
Memo to USA Today: Bill Kristol is not related to Billy Crystal.
Tony Snow talked about them Wednesday as he filled in for Rush Limbaugh, now you can re-live them by watching them on our Web site. In the second half hour of the second hour of Wednesday's Rush Limbaugh radio show, substitute host Tony Snow, moderator of Fox News Sunday, read three of the winning quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 1999: The Twelfth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."
MRC Webmaster Andy Szul
has been working this week to upload many more of the winning and
runners-up television quotes listed in the awards issue as cued up by MRC
research associate Kristina Sewell. There are now 46 quotes viewable via
RealPlayer. Go to:
Tuesday's CyberAlert relayed the winning quotes. Wednesday you got the first runner-up. Today, all 14 of the second runners-up in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 1999: The Twelfth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."
A panel of 44 talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers generously gave of their time to select their choices for the first, second and third best quote from six to eight quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. (See item #2 in the December 28 CyberAlert or the online version for the list of judges.)
You can read all the
quotes published in the print edition of this special year-end issue, plus
view video clips, in RealPlayer format, of many of the television quotes,
by going to:
Now, the second runners-up with the points each earned, in the formula described above, listed in brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote:
"We were talking about -- speaking for
all women, if I may, Toni Morrison wrote in The New Yorker that Clinton
was our first 'black President,' and I think, in a way, Clinton may be
our first 'woman President.' And I think that may be one of the
reasons why women identify, because he does have a lot of feminine
qualities about him: The softness, the sensitivity, the vulnerability,
that kind of thing."
The Alec Baldwin Award (for Hate Speech Against the Presidential Impeachers), second runner-up:
"Her [White House lawyer Cheryl Mills]
rhetoric wasn't fancy, but it was on target. The G.O.P. is a party, after
all, that owes its post-Barry Goldwater resurgence to opposition to civil
rights. And while its leaders from time to time proclaim their belief in
racial justice, their pledges have been mostly lip service. They're too
genteel for a sheet-wearing bigot like David Duke but all too willing to
embrace bigotry if it's dressed in a suit and tie. Mills, 33, is just the
sort of hard-nosed advocate to drag such hypocrisy to the surface."
Soft on Crime Award (for Promoting Those Opposed to Holding Clinton Accountable), second runner-up
"Didn't I say to you that we are
marching off the cliff? Reason tells you we should stop this and get on
with the business of governance. But there is precious little. I mean, I
spent most of today and yesterday half on the phone while I was covering
this thing, with Senators Republican and Democratic, and at the moment
everybody's fondest hope is that the two-week hiatus, between now and the
new year, in that period impeachment will sink in and sanity will prevail
and we'll avoid a trial. But there are a lot of people that don't want
that to happen."
China Syndrome Award (for Dismissing Nuclear Espionage), second runner-up
"The rollout to this rivaled The
Phantom Menace, with Chris Cox in the role of Luke Skywalker. But the
facts don't bear up. First of all, this notion of Richard Shelby yelling
for Janet Reno's head -- you know, Sandy Berger was briefed. So was
Richard Shelby....There is no evidence they are building anything; they
are deploying anything. It will take them at least ten years to do
anything. This is hysteria to try to create a new Red Menace."
I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshipping), second runner-up
"Once a political lightning rod, today
she is political lightning. A crowd-pleaser and first-class fundraiser, a
person under enormous pressure to step into the arena. This time on her
own....Polls show she is one of the most admired women in America. But
even after seven years in the spotlight, she remains a riddle for many
people. It's hard to know what keeps her going through marital problems
made public, political fights turned ugly, through triumphs, disasters and
always the demands of her work. Tonight we get some answers about how she
does it from the only person in the world who really knows."
Media Hero Award, second runner-up
"Now Janet Reno's thing is that she
doesn't know many people in this town. I don't think she's done much to
socialize, to befriend people, to build a constituency, even with the
Clintons. You know, I heard Donna Shalala say the other day she [Reno] now
has Abe Lincoln status. People just assume she's honest, honest Janet
Damn Those Conservatives Award, second runner-up
"The term wacko right-winger is
redundant. For example, they're the only people who don't like being
called compassionate. Someone remarked that many now defend the tobacco
industry because its products kill people early, saving us dollars in
having to care for aged people."
Good Morning Morons Award, second runner-up
"But are you comfortable with our
national obligations, our national prestige, being held hostage by the
most conservative wing of your party?"
Littleton Shop of Horrors Award (for Exploiting a Tragedy to Push Gun Control), second runner-up
"Is there any reason, Howard, to
believe that this tragic attack on children, for goodness sakes, will
trigger any movement by this Congress to enact tougher, meaningful new gun
Shooting the Constitution Award (for Advocating the Banning of Guns), second runner-up
"Whatever is being proposed is way too
namby-pamby. I mean, for example, we're talking about limiting people to
one gun purchase, or handgun purchase a month. Why not just ban the
ownership of handguns when nobody needs one? Why not just ban
semi-automatic rifles? Nobody needs one."
Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis, second runner-up
"What-if department...What if
President Clinton announced a cure for cancer developed by the National
Institutes of Health? What would critics say? Would Bob Barr want him
impeached for failing to tell us the study was going on? Would Rush
Limbaugh decry the President taking credit while admitting getting rid of
cancer wasn't a bad thing? Would Pat Buchanan insist that no nation other
than America be given it? Would The Wall Street Journal worry about its
effect on pharmaceutical stock prices? And so it goes...."
See No Evil Award (for Burying the Juanita Broaddrick Rape Charge), second runner-up
"These allegations go back more than
20 years. This woman made no charges at the time. It's my understanding
that she couldn't even recall initially the year. Investigative reporters
for major publications have looked at it since 1991. Ken Starr passed on
it. You know, where is this going to go except among all the Clinton
haters and the right-wing conspiratorialists? It's great fodder, but you
know, you proved the guy's a cad, you're not going to prove he's a violent
Politics of Personal Destruction Award (for Geraldo Rivera's Hatemongering), second runner-up
"Do you believe that they had, at
least indirectly, something to do with your ex-husband, Jim McDougal's,
ultimate demise?...Did they help speed your husband's sickness and his
Doris Kearns Goodwin Award (for Campaigning to Revive the Camelot Myth), second runner-up
"We Americans, even those among us who
have never liked the Kennedys' politics, have long been fascinated by the
Kennedy mystique. Or as some call it, the Kennedy myth. The dictionary
defines mystique as 'an aura of heightened meaning surrounding something
to which special power or mystery is given.' A myth is 'a traditional
story dealing with ancestors or heroes,' a story that 'shapes the world
view of a people or delineates the customs or ideals of a society.' By
those definitions, like it or not, there is a Kennedy mystique and their
history is mythic....
From the December 29 Late Show with David Letterman, number 10 in the "Top Ten Phrases That Were Not Spoken This Millennium."
10. "We can't have sex here -- this is
the Oval Office."
Well, maybe next year, the actual last year of the millennium, something will happen more memorable. -- Brent Baker 
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