Welcome to the fourth annual Linda Ellerbee Awards for Distinguished Reporting, a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 1992. The awards are named after the ABC and NBC veteran who earned the distinction for a Cable News Network commentary which won the 1989 "Award for the Silliest Analysis." Ellerbee had wondered about the sanity of Vietnamese boat people:
- "Why would any Vietnamese come to America after what America did for Vietnam? Don't they remember My Lai, napalm, Sylvester Stallone? Clearly they have no more sense over there, than say, Mexicans who keep trying to get into this country even though this country stole large parts of their country from them in the first place."
To determine this year's winners, a panel of 40 members of the media and media observers evaluated over 125 quotes. A list of the 1992 judges appears on page 8. [This issue covers quotes from December 1991 through November 1992.] First under each award heading is the winner, followed in order by the top runners-up.
"Greenpeace, the public interest organization, believes that the Iraqi death toll, civilian and military, before and after the war, may be as high as 198,000. Allied military dead are counted in the low hundreds. The disparity is huge and somewhat embarrassing. And that's commentary for this evening, Tom."See the Runners-Up for the Quote Of The Year
"It's not a big surprise that the jury in suburban Simi Valley sided with the white policemen. Just as it's no surprise that the blacks in downtown Los Angeles rioted and people died....Politicians have fanned these flames with code words about `welfare queens,' `equal opportunity,' and `quotas.' Language designed to turn whites against blacks. With two-party politics that favored the rich and hurt everyone else."
"We hold accountable Republicans who have savaged our urban schools, our housing, our health care, our social services. We hold accountable Democrats who have collaborated in this butchery....We hold accountable those who waste our billions on a military with no enemy to fight."
"We should avoid focusing exclusively on the rage and inappropriate behavior of oppressed and frustrated people who started these riots."
"Increasingly, people are saying that all of the violence had very little to do with Rodney King. Instead, it was the desperate call of a community fighting for change."
*inspired by P.J. O'Rourke
"On the road I travel to the mall in Wheaton, Md., two white men severely beat two black women Tuesday. One was doused with lighter fluid, and her attacker tried to set her afire. Both men cursed the women for being black. I couldn't help but shudder: That could have been me. This heinous act happened only hours after Pat Buchanan voters gave him 30 percent of the vote in the Maryland GOP presidential primary."
"[Bush] is about to make matters worse by hauling out Ronald Reagan at the Republican convention. Reagan has become a symbol of what went wrong in the '80s. It's like bringing the Music Man back to River City, a big mistake."
Lisa McRee and Buchanan
Anchor Lisa McRee: "What's the difference between your message and the message of David Duke?....In terms of fairness, you've said things that have angered Jews, that have angered gays, that have angered women, that have angered minorities. In fact, just the other day, you said that there are certain groups that assimilate more easily into what is basically an American society which is of European derivation. As a woman, if I was a minority, why shouldn't I be scared of you?"
Buchanan: "....No nation of God's Earth has done more to fight discrimination, or has made greater progress in doing so, than the United States of America."
McRee: "But you want to turn that around!"
"For three decades, it was an aggressive guardian of individual liberties. But the Supreme Court's new conservative majority is demolishing that legacy, beating an ideological retreat from its activist role in deciding critical social issues."
"The whole week was double-ply, wall-to-wall ugly...the Republican Party reached an unimaginably slouchy, and brazen, and constant, level of mendacity last week...[Bush] is in campaign mode now, which means mendacity doesn't matter, aggression is all and wall-to-wall ugly is the order of battle for the duration."
"The only excited, demonstrative delegates any of us could find were the ones from the religious right, Pat Robertson's God and Country rally. They remind me of those Goldwater delegates of 28 years ago, far more interested in imposing ideological purity on this party than they are on winning the election. They were happy today. They got the platform they want. No room for a pregnant woman to make any decision at all, even if she was raped. It's a platform tough on welfare, tough on taxes and guns and gays and pornography, tough even on public radio and public television. They cheered Dan Quayle this afternoon and they will cheer Pat Buchanan and Ronald Reagan tonight, but will they help elect George Bush? It's almost as if they haven't thought of that, Dan."
"Very frankly, I am very puzzled by one paragraph, one sentence in the Vice President's speech on page six. In a very petulant voice, and listen to the words: he said, `To Governor Clinton I say this: America is the greatest nation in the world and that's one thing you're not going to change.' Implying that Clinton is some kind of guerrilla, saboteur, or what have you. That's my reaction to that line Ken Bode, I don't know about you. It implies something that, it seems that he's saying you're not as American as I am, your blood is not as red as mine.".
"Bush, the exponent of a `kinder, gentler' approach to government at the 1988 convention, was presented with a 1992 platform loaded with puritanical, punitive language that not only forbade abortions but attacked public television, gun control, homosexual rights, birth control clinics and the distribution of clean needles for drug users."
"While George Bush -- all whiteness -- talks about `family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by confessing to adultery."
"I must say I was struck by the expanse of their chests. They may have to put out their stats."
"It would have been outrageous if he [Clinton] had been done in by the draft thing because that was a bum rap. The word `draft dodging' does not belong in any sentence with Bill Clinton's name in it."
"When they appear with their wives, Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore, they look like two suburban couples, perhaps old college friends, out on the town for a good time. And whether they are playing miniature golf with their wives, tossing a football around or gleefully backslapping each other at campaign rallies, the images and the message are always the same: Youth, vigor, energy. And change."
"When you hear yourself held up, as you were at the Republican convention, some people have used the word `demonized,' does it make you hurt or make you mad?....What was the worst thing you've heard said about you?....Alright, what was the grossest distortion of your record?"
"You might think Hillary Clinton was running for President. Granted, she is a remarkable woman. The first student commencement speaker at Wellesley, part of the first large wave of women to go to law school, a prominent partner in a major law firm, rated one of the top 100 lawyers in the country -- there is no doubt that she is her husband's professional and intellectual equal. But is this reason to turn her into `Willary Horton' for the '92 campaign, making her an emblem of all that is wrong with family values, working mothers, and modern women in general?"
"Do you think the American people are not ready for someone who is as accomplished and career-oriented as Hillary Clinton?"
"During the darkest days of the tax battle, did you have the urge to tell the state residents `Oh, grow up?'"
"Put an international tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases....Find a way to put the brakes on the world's spiraling population, which will otherwise double by the year 2050....Give the United Nations broad powers to create an environmental police force for the planet."
"Increase taxes on gasoline and other fuels. This would help finance cuts in other taxes -- each penny-per-gallon increase in the gas tax would generate $1 billion in new revenues -- and would also encourage energy conservation, cut down pollution and traffic congestion, and reduce the U.S. trade deficit. A good start would be an increase of 25 cents per gal. -- less than the amount by which prices rose during the Gulf War -- with further increases of five cents a year."
"The racial dimension flows naturally into the political, where the uglier side of Quayle's mission begins to become apparent. One of Quayle's amazing but unlikable feats last week was metaphorically to transform old Willie Horton into a beautiful blond fortyish WASP has-it-all knockout."
"The Republicans, for 25 years, have seldom avoided the temptation to play the race card politically in this country. It goes back to the '60s, when Richard Nixon ran as a law-and-order President. In the '70s, Ronald Reagan, and the late '70s, he ran for President in 1980 talking about welfare queens, associating the Great Society programs with minorities, and with waste, and with crime in the streets. There has been a consistent impulse, Willie Horton was just a continuation of that, to use this issue to divide people."
"Senator, you told Tim that you thought the White House suggestion that the Great Society programs were to blame for what happened in Los Angeles was ludicrous. Was it also a racial code word -- a code word to appeal to racial fears? Is it the Willie Horton of the 1992 campaign?"
"It would help, too, if the man who sanctioned the infamous Willie Horton ad during his 1988 run for the White House would admit his complicity in developing the images and code words that encourage whites to demonize blacks."
"Many are afraid the L.A. riots are going to be the Willie Horton of this campaign. Are you afraid they're going to have a very divisive effect? Does that concern you or are you playing that up?"
"NATURE HAS A CURE FOR EVERYTHING, EXCEPT THE SPREAD OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION. Until recently, cultural genocide has been a quietly accepted practice. But times change and so does TIME."
"The [House] bank had no written standards; hopeless accounting procedures made it impossible to determine when overdrafts occurred except by painstaking check-by-check reconstruction of individual accounts....None of this was anyone's fault."
"After watching the first week of his new syndicated series, one must logically conclude that Limbaugh is the lead component of an insidious left-wing conspiracy to make conservatives look like clowns....Rushie tried to disguise his true liberal feelings by constantly referring to Bill Clinton as `Slick Willie.' Funny, wouldn't you say, that Mr. Conservative neglected to mention that `Willie' was also the nickname of William Shakespeare, whose plays were performed in the Globe Theatre by men who played the female roles. Thus, it's obvious that despite being a right-winger, Limbaugh endorses TRANSVESTITES!"
"There is an understandable reluctance on the part of many women to venture into a building already occupied by Jesse Helms or Bob Dornan, a building that was designed, for all we know, without a single ladies' room in the floor plan. Plus there has been the chilling effect of male politicos like former Republican Party chairman Clayton Yeutter, who reportedly addressed a high-powered donor as `little lady' and inquired as to whom she `belonged to' -- thus sending a generation of Republican women out to join militantly separatist rural communes."
"Texas...another of the so-called big enchiladas, or if not an enchilada, at least a huge taco."
"My reaction to that button [`Rather Biased'] and others, in part, is a button I bought yesterday that says `Yeah, I'm In The Media, Screw You!'....I do understand why a lot of people are upset with us, why we rank somewhere between terrorists and bank robbers on the approval scale. We do criticize. That's part of our role. Our role is not just to parrot what people say, it's to make people think. I think that sometimes I want to say to the electorate `Grow up!'"
"I think there are reporters around Clinton who are baby boomers who are drawn to him. I think there are a lot of reporters in Washington who just wish for a new story. But I watch probably as many talk shows, and as many interview shows, what George Bush calls the professional talking heads on Sundays, as anybody else. I actually think the bias, in the overall system, is from the center to the right."
"I don't think there is [a bias] at all. I think anyone who accuses the press of bias is acting in desperation, I think. I think the press has been much more aggressive and fair, in being, in going after both sides, and looking, than ever before."
"I am shocked when people say that [the media were pro-Clinton], I really am. I mean, people forget January and February, when the media was on Clinton's case with Gennifer Flowers, all the draft stuff. I'm amazed at the public's selective memory."
"You place responsibility for the death of your daughter squarely at the feet of the Reagan Administration. Do you believe they're responsible for that?
"The boom years following World War II saw the U.S. economy take off, giving rise to the growth of the great American middle class. The rising standard of living meant homes, cars, TVs, college for the kids -- all in all, a piece of the American dream. But in the Reagan years, economic erosion set in, so much so that the middle class now finds itself in ever-deepening trouble."
"[Reagan's] good-natured pre- and post-surgical quips so endeared him to the nation that practically nothing, including the deaths of 241 U.S. Marines in a Beirut barracks, stuck to the Reagan presidency. As a result, the nation smiled benignly when....He burdened the working poor and middle class by raising Social Security taxes while calling for cuts in the capital gains tax. Such policies widened the gap between rich and poor and contributed to the psychological chasm between haves and have-nots. In this atmosphere, Wall Street stock manipulator Michael Milken earned $550 million in 1987, and ghetto teens unable to find jobs joined gangs instead."
"The amazing thing is most people seem content to believe that almost everybody had a good time in the '80s, a real shot at the dream. But the fact is, they didn't. Did we wear blinders? Did we think the '80s just left behind the homeless? The fact is that almost nine in ten Americans actually saw their lifestyle decline."
"We are seeing a public recoil from formal politics, from the active, reasoned exercise of citizenship. It comes because we don't trust anyone. It is part of the cafard the '80s induced: Wall Street robbery, the savings and loan scandal, the wholesale plunder of the economy, an orgy released by Reaganomics that went on for years with hardly a peep from Congress -- events whose numbers were so huge as to be beyond the comprehension of most people."
"Ever since the Clarence Thomas hearings last fall, the Republican Party has been struggling to overcome the perception that its regard for women is only a notch or two higher than that of the Navy Tailhook Association."
"Al Gore won it for taking the high road with his cool command of the facts, and Jim Stockdale gets the runner-up trophy for the best one-liners. Dan Quayle lost for the hate-mongering that turned off much of the nation at his party's convention in Houston. It wasn't that he made any gaffes. He looked poised and spoke with great energy. But he played dirty while the other two candidates played clean."
"Fred [Barnes], you've said time and again that character is an important issue in the campaign. Clearly, that red-baiting junk didn't work for the President last night. What's he going to try next?"
"What are your expectations? How nasty do you expect George Bush to try to be?"
"Are Democrats willing, even anxious, to be as nasty as the President is going to be?"
New York Times
A Gulag Breeds Rage, Yes, but Also Serenity
CBS Evening News
Connie Chung: "In formerly communist Bulgaria, the cost of freedom has been virtual economic disaster. Peter Van Sant reports." Van Sant: "Thousands of socialists rally in Sofia, Bulgaria. It may look like a rally from communism's glory years, but it's not. It's an expression of frustration, a longing for the bad old days when liberty was scarce but at least everybody had a job."
"In the old Soviet Union, you never saw faces like these. The poor, the homeless, and the desperation of the Russian winter. Their numbers are growing. Tonight -- Is this what democracy does? A look at the Russia you haven't seen before....The people of Russia are learning this winter that the price of freedom can be painfully high." -- Barbara Walters opening Nightline, January 14. "The economic and political turmoil that has swept the former Communist East Bloc has hit women the hardest. There's been a strong backlash against the idea of women's equality...Under the communists, women in the workplace were glorified. And if they needed time off to give birth and raise families, they got it at full pay."
"You talked, Anita, about some of the very supportive letters you've gotten, and some of the letters that have touched you. Have you received any hate mail?....They find you offensive, most of all, because you are a black woman?....Twenty years from now, fifty years from now, when people look back at these hearings, how do you want them to think of you?"
"Making headlines this morning: Bill Clinton comes up with a plan for the economy -- tax the rich, cut the deficit, and help just about everyone."
"Since, as you say, you're just musing here -- if you were President of the United States, what would you do about Los Angeles, about these problems? Be honest."
"When you grow up, and it's a choice between a clean river and a better car or a better Walkman or something like that, which are you going to choose?"
"What are people responding to when they cheer you on this trip?"
"I'm nominating you for President of the United States and I'm going to quit my job and go to work for you."
"By American presidential standards, Mikhail Gorbachev accomplished enough in his seven-year term to qualify for a bust on Mount Rushmore."
"When Steinem, now 57, pours a second cup of coffee and writes like she talks, there is no one more fascinating. The only comparable figure is Ralph Nader."
"It's worth dying prematurely so you can hear somebody else do your eulogy if that somebody is Mario Cuomo."
Michael Kramer, Gail Collins, and Joe Klein
Michael Kramer, Time: "He's [Cuomo] incredibly smart. He's the most interesting person to talk to that I've ever met in politics."
Gail Collins, Newsday: "He is such a fascinating guy. He is everything, the most fascinating politician I've ever met."
Joe Klein, New York magazine: "He's one of the most fascinating people I've met, period. I mean, in life, period. He's more fun to talk to than almost anybody."
"Greenpeace, the public interest organization, believes that the Iraqi death toll, civilian and military, before and after the war, may be as high as 198,000. Allied military dead are counted in the low hundreds. The disparity is huge and somewhat embarrassing. And that's commentary for this evening, Tom."
"Al Gore leaned against his orthopedic back pillow, drank bottled water and reflected on the human spirit and his newfound sense of self. How is it that the wooden-tongued policy wonk of 1988 has emerged as a spokesman for the inner child, an icon of the new manhood?...But when Vice President Dan Quayle derides Gore's notions as `pretty bizarre stuff,' he may not be aware that millions of people attend support groups every week in the U.S."
"[Columbus] sailed just as Jews and Muslims were being expelled from Spain, the persecution of those peoples and the riches robbed from them paying for his small armada of ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, to set sail for new plunder. For Native Americans, the people who hardly felt discovered, Columbus' landing commenced a Holocaust. There's really no other word for the death delivered by settlers, as they scattered, enslaved, and obliterated Indian nations on their own sacred lands."
"But for the simple folk of Uzbekistan, people like Kurban Manizayov, these are mind-wrenching times. Their simple wants were nicely cared for by the communists. But now they've been thrust into the hurly-burly world of market capitalism, and nobody even bothered to ask if it was all right."
Tom Bethell, Washington Editor of The American Spectator
L. Brent Bozell III, Chairman, the Media Research Center
David Brudnoy, talk show host, WBZ Radio in Boston
Priscilla Buckley, Senior Editor of National Review
Mona Charen, syndicated columnist; CNN Capital Gang panelist
Stephen Chapman, Chicago Tribune columnist
John Corry, former New York Times television critic; author
Sandy Crawford, Editor of TV, etc.
Mark Davis, talk show host, WWRC Radio, Washington, D.C.
Midge Decter, Fellow, Institute on Religion and Public Life
Jim Eason, talk show host, KGO Radio in San Francisco
Terry Eastland, Resident Scholar, Ethics and Public Policy Center; American Spectator "Presswatch" columnist
Don Feder, Boston Herald and syndicated columnist
Samuel Francis, Washington Times columnist
Tim Graham, Editor of Notable Quotables
Daniel Griswold, Editorial Page Editor, Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph
Tom Holt, Assistant editor, editorial page, Richmond Times Dispatch
Les Jameson, talk show host, WLAC Radio in Nashville
Cliff Kincaid, media analyst, columnist
G. Gordon Liddy, syndicated radio talk show host
Marlin Maddoux, talk show host, USA Radio Network
Mike McConnell, talk show host, WLW Radio in Cincinnati
Patrick McGuigan, Chief editorial writer, Daily Oklahoman
Mike McMurray, talk show host, WCKY Radio in Cincinnati
William Murchison, Dallas Morning News & syndicated columnist
Marvin Olasky, Associate Professor of Journalism, U. of Texas
Burton Yale Pines, Fellow, MRC Institute for Free Enterprise & the Media
Joseph Perkins, San Diego Union-Tribune and syndicated columnist
Mike Pintek, talk show host, KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh
Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Managing Editor of The American Spectator
Mike Rosen, talk show host, KOA Radio and Denver Post columnist
William Rusher, Senior Fellow, Claremont Institute
Marc Ryan, editorial writer, Waterbury Republican-American
Ted J. Smith III, Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University
Philip Terzian, Assoc. Editor & columnist, Providence Journal
Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Editor of The American Spectator
Dick Williams, Atlanta Journal, columnist
Thomas Winter, Editor of Human Events