Accuracy in Media

Bill O’Reilly says that Fox News, which is celebrating its seventh birthday, “has succeeded by mixing a populist-traditional, pro-American editorial posture with lively debate that includes voices the traditional network news organizations would never allow airtime.” This is certainly the case. Fox has given conservatives a voice, and O’Reilly has refused to join the media pack in beating to death the phony Iraq/uranium allegations and other such concocted stories. On the other hand, O’Reilly says that, “The accusation that Fox is a conservative network is pure propaganda.”

O’Reilly, who has said repeatedly that he is not a conservative, demonstrated the truth of this statement when he was exposed by conservative journalist Ann Coulter as a know-nothing on the subject of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the communist threat to America.

More than 20,000 people in just a three-day period went to the AIM website to view our Media Monitor radio commentary on the Coulter-O’Reilly exchange. The issue, however, is not whether O’Reilly is a conservative. It is whether he knows the facts.

No Human Punching Bag

O’Reilly picked the wrong person to savage when he invited Coulter on the show. His purpose was to position himself as an independent and Coulter as an extreme “right-wing pundit.” But Coulter used some of the limited airtime to get into a serious discussion of the substance of her best-selling book, Treason (Crown Forum, 2003).

“I’m responding to 50 years of the liberal creation of a myth-turning an honorable American, a great American patriot Joe McCarthy, into a virtual Nazi,” she said. O’Reilly responded, “I’m not going with that. I’m not going with that. A guy who used his power to do some good but a lot of bad too.” Then the following exchange occurred:

Coulter: “Like what?”
O’Reilly: “He demonized people who didn’t deserve to be demonized.”
Coulter: “That’s not true. Name one. There is not one.”
O’Reilly: “I’ll name one-Dalton Trumbo.”
Coulter: “He had nothing to do with Dalton Trumbo.”
O’Reilly: “Sure he did. It was the House of Un-American Activities Committee [sic]. And who was overseeing that?”
Coulter: “He was known as Senator McCarthy. He was in the Senate not the House. Everyone confuses him with the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC].”
O’Reilly: “But who was overseeing that? Come on, you know the clubhouse rules.”
Coulter: “He had nothing to do with HUAC. You see this is part of the myth. Everyone says this. Everyone says HUAC.”
O’Reilly: “All right, I don’t want to debate McCarthy. He’s dead…And I’m not debating what’s in your book.”

O’Reilly embarrassed himself by not having the facts. But rather than admit he may have made a mistake, he tried to move on by saying that McCarthy was dead. Yes, that’s true. But the myth about McCarthy lives on in the minds of liberals and left-wingers and even Bill O’Reilly.

What’s more, O’Reilly didn’t have the facts about Dalton Trumbo. Rather than being an innocent victim of McCarthy or even the House Un-American Activities Committee, the facts show that he spent time in prison for refusing to testify about communist penetration of Hollywood. Steven Martinovich, who has written extensively about the Hollywood communists, says Trumbo at first denied being a communist and later admitted it.

To the credit of Fox News, the transcript of the O’Reilly show was posted on the Fox News website, where people could see how he lost the debate. Ironically, O’Reilly has himself been accused of using “McCarthyite” tactics in the past. Hussein Ibish of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Commit-tee claimed during an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor that O’Reilly had used “McCarthyite” tactics in raising questions about former Florida professor Sami Al-Arian’s involvement with terrorists. “Mr. Ibish,” said O’Reilly, “it’s not fair of you to accuse me of being Joseph McCarthy for asking questions.”

Indeed, it was entirely appropriate for O’Reilly to raise these questions, and Al-Arian was later indicted as a leader of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It turns out that McCarthy and O’Reilly were both right.

O’Reilly Can’t Spin This

But O’Reilly’s fumbling of the facts in the McCarthy case continues to generate comment. Columnist Bruce Walker noted that, “What is amazing about Bill O’Reilly’s confused statement is that Ann Coulter notes in Treason that McCarthy attackers invariably place this United States Senator in the House Committee on Un-American Activities.” He notes that, on page fifty-six of Treason, Coulter points out that the Times even had a crossword puzzle which asked for McCarthy’s congressional affiliation and the supposedly correct answer was HUAC. Walker asked, “How could such an obvious mistake become part of a crossword puzzle? Those on the Left do not care about facts.”

“But Bill O’Reilly, not a fanatical Leftist, should care about facts?The saddest aspect of bumbling by O’Reilly, however, happened the next day, when he responded to a viewer’s defense of Ann Coulter by commenting that anyone who did not know that anti-communists in the early 1950s were working closely together was ill informed.”

So rather than admit his mistake, he continues to maintain that he was correct.

Walker suggested that O’Reilly read books on the period in question. A good one is The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel (Regnery Publishing, 2000).

AIM TOUCHES RAW NERVE ON DIVERSITY

At the recent convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, Peter K. Bhatia, president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), attacked members of Accuracy in Media for sending him almost 500 postcards urging the abolition of the journalism “diversity” programs that helped produce the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times.

Appearing on a panel with Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., Bhatia said, “As many of you know, I’ve been the subject of a postcard writing campaign, encouraged by the nice folks at Accuracy in Media in Washington. I’ve received roughly 500 postcards, suggesting that ASNE is in part to blame for the Jayson Blair debacle because of its quote unquote foisting of diversity programs on American journalism, and that we really need to be reading [William] McGowan’s books and other things like that to really reflect on what’s right with America. I said in a speech in New York in June and I just want to reiterate it now that that point of view is utter nonsense. ASNE has no intent nor do I personally have any intent of retreating from the work we’ve done. We have so much more work to do-an incredible amount of work to do. None of us are happy where we are in the area of diversity in newsrooms and particularly in newsroom leadership. But we cannot back away. Nor can we let those who would try to turn Jayson Blair into a racial issue take over the conversation. Because that’s not what this is about.”

The comments were met with applause from the audience and members of the panel, including Sulzberger.

For the record, the AIM postcard suggested that Bhatia “read and recommend William McGowan’s Coloring the News, a book written before the scandal which documents how diversity has corrupted journalism. It might save some of ASNE’s member papers from the fate that has met the Times. ASNE should lead the effort to get back to the basics of journalism such as accuracy and objectivity-without regard to skin color.”

Full Speed Ahead

Sulzberger, of course, had made it clear immediately after the scandal emerged that the company would remain committed to diversity no matter what the facts were.

Parroting the company line, the company’s 58-page report on the scandal asserts that “for strong reasons both of journalism and justice,” the Times remains “committed to deploying a diverse news-gathering staff” and that the paper “must not turn from that commitment.” In one astounding paragraph, the report says that, “The commitment of The Times’ leadership to diversity must be embraced from top to bottom and institutionalized as part of all journalistic conversations.”

This may be why new executive editor Bill Keller makes the absurd claim that the Blair fraud was “not a consequence of our diversity program.”

In a candid admission, however, the report says that, “Attempts at diversifying the staff have generated discomfort among employees of both genders and all ages and ethnic backgrounds. Current policies are variously viewed as tinged with favoritism, preferentialism, and discrimination. There must be greater assurance that all are being treated fairly and equally.”

As the old saying goes, this is easier said than done. How will the paper treat people equally and fairly when a diversity program gives special preferences to some?

Using Quotas

The report goes so far as to affirm the use of quotas in the hiring of minorities by noting that current representation at the paper of women and minorities “falls short of percentages in the general population.” This is the most extreme form of affirmative action, and it is the policy of the New York Times and ASNE. It diverts attention away from one’s ability to do the job to a person’s race, gender, and even sexual orientation.

The report was put together by 25 Times personnel and three “distinguished outside journalists,” including liberal activist Roger Wilkins, a former Jesse Jackson advisor who contributed “A Note on Affirmative Action.” Playing the white guilt card, Wilkins refers to the days when “Europeans first set foot on this continent and encountered the people who already lived here” and he argues that affirmative action and diversity programs are still necessary to overcome the days of the “lily-white and all-male” newsrooms.

The determination by the Times and ASNE to continue and even expand the diversity program that contributed to the scandal in the first place was obscured by news that the paper intends to implement various reforms and appoint an ombudsman or reader advocate. Keller apparently hopes people won’t read the 58-page report because he claimed in his introductory remarks that the “partisan critics” are “wrong” to charge that the Blair case was “a consequence of our determination to hire and promote a diverse staff.”

In fact, the report confirms that Blair came to the paper “in a program that was then intended to increase newsroom diversity,” that his elevation to the regular full-time staff had “all the earmarks of a social promotion,” and that the recommendation to move him up came from a committee led by then-managing editor Gerald Boyd, who is black.

The report states that Jonathan Landman, the metro editor, abandoned his opposition to promoting Blair to a full-time staff position because of the “racial dimension” of the matter and the fact that Blair enjoyed support from Boyd. Landman is quoted as saying, “I think race was the decisive factor in his promotion. I thought then and think now that it was the wrong decision, despite my belief in diversity and my respect for our institutional commitment to it.”

It is noteworthy that, despite these comments, Landman still feels compelled to assert his belief in the diversity program that caused the problem. An aspiring white male conservative journalist who opposes affirmative action would be correct to conclude that the Times is not the place for him/her. These diversity programs do not affirm diversity but conformity in ideology or philosophy.

Censoring Opposing Views

Professor Peter W. Wood, author of Diversity: The Invention of a Concept (Encounter Books, 2003), points out that diversity is a political ideology that holds that some groups of people deserve special benefits or privileges. It “asserts that American society is a hierarchy in which whites oppress other groups, and that individuals participate in the perpetuation of this hierarchy by harboring harmful stereotypes about the members of the oppressed groups.”

The oppressed groups include minorities, women, homosexuals, and even illegal immigrants, now described by the politically correct term, “undocumented workers,” so as not to offend them.

Interestingly, Wood tells AIM that the Times had informed his publisher that the paper was going to run a review of his book but that the day after the Blair scandal broke, the Times called back to say the review was being cancelled.

Similarly, the Times refused to review the McGowan book.

Wood says that he doesn’t regard Keller as much of an improvement over Howell Raines, who resigned after the scandal. He says the main problem with the paper is Sulzberger himself.

Raines had, for example, waged a Times crusade against the Augusta National Golf Club for its refusal to admit women. Keller has appointed a prominent feminist, Jill Abramson, as a managing editor. But it is Sulzberger who is considered the leading feminist at the paper.

Columnist Carey Roberts cites evidence that the transformation of the Times occurred at the behest of Sulzberger, who “became enamored of radical feminist thinking.” Other sources confirm this bias. According to author Nan Robertson, Sulzberger “considers himself a feminist…[and] is an ardent fan of the writer Marilyn French.” French is notable for making controversial statements such as “All men are rapists and that’s all they are.”

Sulzberger himself explained his philosophy by saying “We can no longer offer our readers a predominantly white, straight, male vision of events.” He also declared, “If white men were not complaining, it would be an indication we weren’t succeeding and making the inroads that we are.”

Roberts says that this worldview began to permeate the Times. The Marilyn French book, The Women’s Room, garnered rave reviews in the pages of the Times Book Review Section, and the paper went out of its way to hire feminist writers such as Anna Quindlen and Maureen Dowd. Roberts notes that, in an April 10, 2002 column, Dowd ridiculed men by saying they need to “learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women.”

A 1994 article in Commentary by Joseph Epstein explained that, “The way Sulzberger has backed up his conviction is not only through the writing he publishes but also through hiring and promotion practices inside the paper.”

Will Has His Fill

The liberal ideology of the Times extends to other issues. ABC News This Week panelist George Will delivered a fascinating August 3 commentary on how the paper consistently distorts the crime problem.

“Year after year,” Will said, “the same Times reporter, Fox Butterfield, writes a story with some variant of the same theme. In last week’s story, the secondary headline was ‘More Inmates, Despite Slight Drop in Crime.’ Perhaps there is a drop in crime because more criminals are in prison.” But George Will found that, three years ago, another Times story again used the word “despite” in the headline, “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction.” Butterfield is the Times national correspondent on crime and criminal justice policy

Will commented, “At the Times, it must be unthinkable that crime is reduced by increasing imprisonments. A 1997 times story was headlined: ‘Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.’ The Times thought it was odd that when imprisonment increases, crime decreases. The Times won’t consider that punishment cuts crime.” In January 1998, another Times story, again, used the word “despite.” It said, “Despite a decline in the crime rate over the past five years, the number of inmates in the nation’s jails and prisons rose again in 1997.”

But it doesn’t end there. Will noted that eight months later, another Times story was headlined: “Prison Population Growing, Although Crime Rate Drops.” In 1999, The Times reported in amazement that, “The number of inmates in the nation’s jails and prisons rose again last year ? though crime rates have dropped.”

Will said that the Times “was mystified by the correlation between more criminals in jail and less crime in society.” He explained, “I suppose that is mystifying-if you believe, as some liberals do, that punishment is ineffective at preventing crime. Is the Times consciously pushing that political point of view? No, not consciously. Unconsciously. The Times may be so hermetically sealed in its bubble of beliefs, it may not recognize that those beliefs are coloring its reporting. But is there no one at that paper who can burst that bubble?”

AIM found a September 20, 2002, article from the Cornell Daily Sun that offers an explanation of why this is happening. It is about a Butterfield speech in which he acknowledged that there has been an increase in inmates dating back 30 years but asked the question, “Does such a high rate of imprisonment deter or contribute to crime?” What is obvious to George Will and most Americans is indeed a mystery to Butterfield. Butterfield actually declared, “Prisons may be part of the problem.” The article reported that Butterfield addressed directly whether mass incarceration has been successful and said, “The answer is yes and no.”

Butterfield suggested that the drop in crime could be attributed to policing techniques, economic growth, the declining appeal of crack cocaine, and efforts by social groups. And he wondered if the money spent on the prison system could be more effective if spent on schools and drug treatment. These comments constitute evidence that Butterfield’s personal views are indeed shaping his coverage. Readers should be on the alert for such bias on other issues covered by the Times.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or cards and letters of your own choosing to New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Walter Cronkite, and Wesley Clark.




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