Jan
01
2001

Serial Exaggerators

Media's double standard on political lying

Throughout the presidential elections, mainstream media outlets were quick to charge Democratic candidate Al Gore with exaggerations: Whether he was talking about inventing the Internet, inspiring Love Story or discovering Love Canal, you just couldn't trust what Gore was saying. If you looked into these incidents, you found that in each case the media's exaggerations were worse than Gore's: It's largely true that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" while in Congress, as he said (he never said he "invented" it); according to Love Story author Erich Segal, he did help inspire the book's male hero; and the […]

Jan
01
2001

Nader the Nightmare

Media come to the aid of the two-party system

The pain establishment media felt over Ralph Nader's challenge to the two-party system was evident in CBS's election night coverage. When reporter Ed Bradley commented that Ralph Nader might approach the 5 percent threshold for receiving federal matching funds, Dan Rather interrupted: "About $12 million, $13 million of your money and mine." As Bradley pointed out that Nader was "hurting" Al Gore in several states. Rather added: "And every taxpayer." After a prolonged period of media indifference, the campaign by Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader began to receive sustained media attention in the final weeks of the campaign season—once […]

Jan
01
2001

Media Passed by Jesse Jackson

. . . And passed up a great story

The media’s denial about potential disenfranchisement in Florida is cloaked in the denigration of Jesse Jackson. In lockstep media commentary, Jackson was depicted as a crazed black man on the corner, so nuts that cab drivers, the editors steering the news, had every justification to pass him up. On CNN (11/9/00), Jackson was “fomenting turbulence” with his “rent-a-riot.’’ In the Providence Journal (11/17/00), Jackson was one of the “exhibitionist demagogues.’’ A Washington Post column (William Raspberry, 11/18/00) asked, “Why didn’t someone prevail upon Jesse Jackson, as much in the dark as the rest of us, to stop exciting racial passions?,’’ […]

Dec
22
2000

Media Lovefest for Gore, Bush and Centrism

The end of the presidential race has produced one thing media can virtually all agree on: The time for fighting is over. Reporters like Tim Russert had predicted a potential "political civil war;" when it didn't happen, that seemed reason enough for celebration. Unfortunately, for many reporters the "ceasefire" in the ballot battle signaled an end to tough reporting as well. The media's bipartisan joy was overwhelming-- so much so that conservative CNN pundit Tucker Carlson (12/14/00) mocked: "The morning after has come, and it's all puppies and lollipops." The day after Gore's concession, Chris Matthews (CNBC, 12/14/00) was more […]

Dec
20
2000

Fox Reporter on Florida Ballots: Burn Them or Shred Them?

Several news organizations have begun the process of evaluating the disputed ballots in the state of Florida. Reporters intend to use a variety of methods to help answer lingering questions about who might have actually won the vote in the state if a hand recount had not been halted by the U.S. Supreme Court. One prominent journalist at a national news outlet, however, advocates a different approach. John Gibson of Fox News Channel (12/15/00) would rather not know what really happened in Florida: "Is this a case where knowing the facts actually would be worse than not knowing? I mean, […]

Nov
17
2000

Allegations of Voting Rights Violations Need Investigation

Since November 7, major media outlets have devoted enormous attention to the aftermath of the presidential election in Florida. But one critical aspect of this story has received relatively little attention: the allegations of a pattern of voting irregularities and discrimination against African-Americans and other minority groups that may violate the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Upon request from major civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Justice Department is deciding whether to pursue a federal investigation into allegations of significant harassment of minority voters in Florida […]

Nov
16
2000

Crucial Media Role in Recount Debate

Rarely have the U.S. media had a more important role to play in the nation'sdemocratic process. The election of the nation's next president appears to hang on the outcomein the single state of Florida. The Florida vote, in turn, may well hingeon whether or not hand recounts are conducted in some or all of the state'scounties. Essentially, this confusing election boils down to one issue: whether or nothand recounts will provide a more accurate count of the people's votes inFlorida. Everyone agrees that the most accurate vote possible is necessary.But the two leading candidates make sharply different claims about how […]

Nov
03
2000

Are All Candidates' Exaggerations Considered Equal?

While mainstream media outlets have been quick to charge Vice President Al Gore with exaggerations after the presidential debates and throughout the campaign, a series of comparable exaggerations and distortions made by Republican candidate George W. Bush have received far less coverage. Media were fervently interested in Gore's claim in the first debate (10/3/00) that he accompanied FEMA director James Lee Witt on a trip to Texas-- hardly an issue of pressing public concern, yet a Nexis news database search shows that Witt's name comes up some 250 times in post-debate coverage. Media also showed a keen interest in Gore's […]