Clear and convincing evidence indicates that billionaire money manipulator and anti-conservative activist George Soros provided financing for research on a CNN documentary.
Soros, a convicted insider trader who spent $23 million to defeat President Bush for re-election, not only had a role in underwriting the research that went into the program, but CNN promoted his agenda of ending incarceration for dangerous criminals.
The program, “Reasonable Doubt: Can Crime Labs be Trusted?,” which CNN aired several times last January as a “CNN Presents” documentary, was prepared in cooperation with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and hosted by Aaron Brown.
In its own account of its role in the show, CIR acknowledged that “Funding for this investigation was provided in part by a 2003 Soros Justice Media Fellowship awarded to Robin Mejia by the Open Society Institute, and by a grant to CIR from the Ford Foundation and CIR’s Investigative Venture Fund.”
The Soros Open Society Institute (OSI) reported that the CNN program was “based on the reporting” of “Soros Justice Media Fellow Robin Mejia.” The OSI said that the CNN show was the “culmination of more than a year of investigation by Ken Shiffman (CNN) and 2003 Soros Justice Media Fellow Robin Mejia.”
But the program itself did not disclose to viewers any role played by Soros or his institute. It also did not reveal that the program promoted his political agenda.
CNN President Jonathan Klein gave an April 19 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters saying that CNN is “the most trusted source of news on television.”
But how can you trust a network that doesn’t acknowledge the clear evidence of the role played by a Soros-funded journalist in preparing its documentary?
Asked about the controversy, CNN spokesperson Christa Robinson told AIM that the statement made by CIR about the role of the OSI in the research for the show was just wrong. She said that it might be accurate to say that the program was “based” on the work of Soros Media Fellow Robin Mejia but that her fellowship took place before she worked on the program and CNN, therefore, did not have to acknowledge the OSI or Soros connection.
Mejia told AIM that the fellowship was awarded in 2002 and she did her research in 2003. She said that she solicited funds from the OSI by promising to conduct research into the problems of forensic science and how they lead to wrongful convictions. That was the theme of the CNN show.
Mejia, identified at the end of the show only as a “producer/reporter” and “writer,” acknowledged receiving $45,000 from the OSI. Clearly, the CIR and OSI saw this as relevant to the CNN show. But it wasn’t mentioned by CNN.
Asked about this failure, Mejia said that it wasn’t important for CNN to list everything on her resum?. Mejia said that she had done similar research before applying for funds from the OSI.
Whatever the timing of her grant, however, the Soros link is highly newsworthy and questionable because of his role, documented by Robert James Bidinotto of the Capital Research Center, as the principal funder of a “criminals lobby” that aims to eliminate tough sanctions on criminals and substitute “alternatives to incarceration.” Bidinotto said Soros was underwriting the activities of “excuse-makers” who want criminals to escape prison time for their crimes.
The CIR, identified by CNN as helping to produce the program, received $142,600 from the OSI for its “partisan justice” investigative journalism project and a separate $52,000 for a “Courting Justice” project.
The CIR board includes such media luminaries as Lowell Bergman, a former ABC and CBS News producer who now does public TV programs and writes for the New York Times; Seymour Hersh, the former New York Times reporter who wrote stories about human rights abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; Bill Moyers, the liberal partisan formerly of public TV; Mike Wallace of CBS’ 60 Minutes; and Judy Woodruff of CNN’s Inside Politics.
AIM was alerted to the CNN “Reasonable Doubt” program by people shocked that CNN would air such a one-sided show and conceal the role of a Soros operative in researching it.
The CNN website said, “A joint investigation by CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting examines the lack of standards, quality controls and training at many of the nation’s forensic laboratories and raises serious doubts about some forensic scientists.”
The program left the impression that people were being wrongly incarcerated for rape and murder because of problems in crime labs relating to forensic evidence. But one analyst told AIM, “The truth is that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than half of all murders end with a murder conviction. Once convicted, the average sentence served for murder is 13 years. While some people may be wrongly incarcerated, the most serious problem is that society is not protected from the large number of violent criminals who are never prosecuted or who serve light sentences.” But that was left out of the program because it is not part of the Soros agenda.
His opposition to hard jail time for criminals was illustrated when Soros funded an unsuccessful effort in California to decimate the three-strikes law that puts repeat criminals behind bars for long periods of time.
Soros believes that ex-cons and felons, including killers, rapists, and armed robbers, should have the right to vote. He has funded efforts to change state laws so that millions more of them can show up at the polls on election day.
Chris Uggen, the most prominent national advocate of allowing ex-cons to vote, has been a research fellow at the Soros Open Society Institute. He believes that “felon disenfranchisement” prevented Al Gore from winning the 2000 presidential election and the Democrats from picking up seven U.S. Senate seats.
In the campaign to assist those who have commit-ted crimes against Americans, a Soros grant was given to Linda Evans, who was pardoned by Bill Clinton for her involvement in the Weather Underground terrorist group. The Baltimore, Maryland branch of the OSI hosted Bernardine Dohrn, another former member of the Weather Underground, at a forum on criminal justice issues.
Byron York of National Review disclosed that the Soros OSI also funded the legal defense fund of attorney Lynne Stewart, who was convicted of providing material aid to Islamic terrorists.
THE MOVEMENT TO SILENCE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA
Alarmed by the popularity of conservative ideas and the rise of conservative-oriented talk radio and the Fox News Channel, a National Conference for Media Reform is scheduled for St. Louis from May 13-15. The event is sponsored by the Free Press, a Massachusetts-based group that received $200,000 from the Soros Open Society Institute in 2003 and another $200,000 last year.
This conference represents a watering hole for what we referred to last year as a “Soros-supported media network.” Its political clout was demonstrated in mid-October, just before the election, when a controversy emerged over Sinclair Broadcasting airing parts of Stolen Honor, a film raising questions about the detrimental impact of John Kerry’s 1971 anti-war testimony on U.S. Vietnam POWs being held by the communists. Kerry had branded U.S. soldiers as war criminals, and POWs interviewed in Stolen Honor said this resulted in more torture to them. The Democratic Party, the Kerry campaign, and various groups denounced Sinclair for planning to air Stolen Honor.
MediaChannel.org, Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, Media Access Project, Media for Democracy, and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ held an anti-Sinclair news conference, denounced the broadcaster for allegedly abusing the public airwaves by planning to air “propaganda,” and demanded FCC action against Sinclair. All of these organizations?except for the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ?are funded by Soros. Media Matters, a left-wing media watchdog group that was also pressuring Sinclair to abandon plans to air the testimony of the former POWs, was “developed” with help from the Center for American Progress, funded by Soros.
The pressure campaign forced Sinclair to air only a small portion of the documentary.
Using The FCC
Two of the scheduled speakers at the “media reform” conference are David Brock of Media Matters and Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Media Access Project. Together with Thomas Athans of Democracy Radio, they are backing a “Renew the Fairness Doctrine” campaign to have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) monitor and regulate “partisan news outlets that disseminate unbalanced news coverage.”
Their target is the “conservative media” and their site, http://www.fairnessdoctrine.com, is registered to Nicco Mele, the webmaster for Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination. Mele was credited with helping to revolutionize politics through the use of the Internet. The Dean campaign raised more than $25 million on the Internet, while building an email list of more than 640,000 Americans
Mele started the Internet strategy group, EchoDitto, along with several other former members of the Dean Internet team. Its clients and projects include Air America Radio, Alliance For Security, Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate Campaign, Campaign For America’s Future, Defenders of Wildlife, Democracy For America, Democracy Radio, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), IraqDraft.com, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the U.N. World Food Program.
Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, strongly attacked the “conservative bias” of the media when he was running for president. He declared that “media corporations have too much power” and that “I believe we need to re-regulate the media, go back to limiting the number of stations that can be controlled in one particular area, so we can be sure that the American people get moderate, conservative and liberal points of view.”
Dean made the comments in an interview with William Rivers Pitt. “You’re talking about reinstating the Fairness Doctrine,” said Pitt. Dean replied, “Yes, reinstating controls over how many outlets you can own in any particular media market. The media has clearly abused their privilege, and it is hurting our democracy. Deregulation in many areas has simply proved to be bad for America, bad for the American economy, bad for the average working person, and bad for democracy. We need to take a different view. Some deregulation is a good thing. We went too far, and now we need to cut back.”
Pitt asked Dean, “Given the fact that the Republicans control Congress, if you were to win the election in November, how will you go about getting these kinds of policies through a Republican-controlled Congress?” Dean responded: “I won’t have to. I’ll simply appoint different kinds of people to the FCC, and they’ll be more pro-consumer and pro-average American than they will be pro-corporation.”
In January 2005, Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter introduced H.R. 4710, the Meaningful Expression of Democracy in America (MEDIA) Act, to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. The bill declares that “There is a substantial governmental interest in conditioning the award or renewal of a broadcast license on the requirement that the licensee ensure the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources by presenting a reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.”
Incredibly, the bill quotes Bill Moyers, a liberal partisan, as saying that, “A free and responsible government by popular consent just can’t exist without an informed public.”
Other scheduled speakers at the St. Louis “media reform” conference are FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. They can be counted on to regulate “conservative media.”
Number One Liberal
Although he is not scheduled to appear at the conference, North Dakota radio personality Ed Schultz, dubbed “America’s #1 Progressive Talker,” is frequently put forward as a liberal radio personality who is succeeding in the marketplace. His show is available in 70 markets. That compares to conservative Rush Limbaugh on 600 stations and conservative Sean Hannity on 331 stations.
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz took note of Schultz, noting that his show “was developed with $1.8 million from Democracy Radio, a New York nonprofit run by Tom Athans, the husband of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), with a board composed of three Clinton administration veterans. Another Democratic senator, North Dakota’s Byron Dorgan, recommended Schultz to Democracy Radio. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) hosted a fundraiser about a year ago at her home for Democracy Radio and Schultz, which was attended by about 20 Democratic senators, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tom Daschle.”
A key member of the board of advisers of Democracy Radio is Todd Webster, who previously served as communications director and chief spokesman for former Senate Democratic Leader Daschle. His biography declares that, “In 2000 he was deputy communications director on the Gore-Lieberman campaign, serving as the campaign’s liaison to the broadcast and cable television networks.” He was also an associate producer for MSNBC and claims to have “drafted op-eds for The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The Spokane Spokesman-Review.”
The “media reform” conference this year is supposed to feature Air America host Al Franken, Democratic Rep. Diane Watson, and commentator Jim Hightower, who himself failed as a talk-radio host.
Air America’s Randi Rhodes Show recently made headlines by featuring the sound of gunfire as a response to President Bush’s Social Security plan.
But the “media reform” movement isn’t concerned about that.
The 2003 National Conference for Media Reform featured Rep. Slaughter and five other members of Congress (Senator Russ Feingold and Reps. Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Maurice Hinchey, and Tammy Baldwin) discussing “the importance of legislative action on media reform,” the group’s website says. Bill Moyers, who delivered the keynote address, doesn’t like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, but he hailed I.F. Stone?an exposed communist agent?as a hero of independent journalism.
As AIM has documented, however, I.F. Stone merely postured as an independent writer. We have noted that “When North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, he tried to bolster the false Communist allegation that the United States and South Korea had started the war. During the Vietnam War, he became an icon of the anti-war movement. His writings mirrored the Communist propaganda line, but at the time there was no proof that he was a communist agent.
“After his death, the evidence came out. Decoded cables from the National Security Agency, known as the Venona intercepts, conclusively demonstrate that Stone was taking money from the KGB during many of the years he was publishing his newsletter, I.F. Stone’s Weekly. One of the documents describes his recruitment by the KGB. In addition, FBI files released to Accuracy in Media through a Freedom of Information Act request state that an informant within the Communist Party USA had identified Stone as a member in the 1930s.”
In one of his final NOW programs on the Public Broadcasting Service, Moyers interviewed Rep. Slaughter about her MEDIA bill.
“Rush Limbaugh has every right to be on there,” said Slaughter. “But that radio station has to give equal time to another point of view.” Under her bill, she said, “The difference would be that there would have to be somebody there saying, ‘Come in.’ The fact is, what we’re talking about with fairness is that a radio station, television station that has opinion, has to give an opposing opinion a chance.”
That “somebody” would be a government bureaucrat from the FCC.
Moyers said, “You’re saying that your fairness doctrine would simply mean that if a radio station or television station offers one position, like Rush Limbaugh, on a bill or a campaign of President or an election, they should also have people who disagree with Rush Limbaugh?” Slaughter replied, “Absolutely. They should not be putting their own bias and their own feelings out on their radio station because they think they own it. It has to be done as a public trust and in the public interest.”
The result of such pressure would, of course, be that conservatives would shy away from voicing their opinions because of the prospect of having their programs regulated and manipulated by the federal government
The latest campaign by the Soros-funded operatives is to “save PBS” because Kenneth Tomlinson, the new Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), is demanding that public TV and radio adhere to federal law requiring fairness and balance in programming. The New York Times sparked the controversy when it reported that Tomlinson had authorized monitoring of the liberal bias on the Moyers PBS show and had backed a PBS show for Paul Gigot and members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
Tomlinson is correct to insist that public broadcasting programs obey the law, as long as they receive federal money. But the solution to the liberal bias is not to fund programs with a conservative orientation. Rather, the solution is to eliminate the $400 million a year going to public TV and radio through the CPB.