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AIM Report: Media Smear Lott A Lot

The full force of the media’s liberal bias was unleashed on Senator Trent Lott in early December, threatening his political career and the image and electoral prospects of the Republican Party. Many Republicans and conservatives, including the President, uttered denunciations of Lott in order to look good and win applause from the media elite. Either they were afraid of being labeled racist or they were desperate to win black votes. In any case, the uproar generated over the birthday party comments about Senator Strom Thurmond shows that, despite the influence of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the Washington Times, the liberal media are alive, well and very powerful. Lott was forced to step down from his post and Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee took over.

This was a manufactured story, concocted with the collusion of Democratic Party operatives and liberal special interest groups anxious to find some issue they can use against a popular president and his party. Contrary to the way it seemed, Lott’s remarks praising Thurmond were not made in an academic forum or intended as a policy pronouncement. But belatedly most of the media treated them as deadly serious. The audience, including reporters, viewed them as light-hearted banter, flattering Strom Thurmond on his hundredth birthday. The delayed reaction of the media two days later reflected the decision of the liberal media and some conservatives to get Lott.

The carefully orchestrated displays of anger and fury following the reporting of Lott’s remarks contrasted sharply with the birthday party at which they were delivered. The party featured a hilarious Marilyn Monroe impersonator who planted a big red kiss on Thurmond’s forehead. The emcee of the light-hearted affair was former Senator Bob Dole, a noted joker. Needless to say, the audience was regaled with jokes about Viagra and Thurmond’s sexual prowess.

Former Senator Paul Simon, a liberal Democrat from Illinois, attended the party. He told Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, “If I thought it was serious, I’d be denouncing it. But I think it’s being taken out of context, and that’s not being fair to Trent.”

The facts notwithstanding, it took a few days for Jesse Jackson and the racial agitators to get their act together. Once in gear, after Jackson called NBC’s Meet the Press with a demand for Lott to resign, the media shamelessly interpreted the comments as nostalgia for the days of segregation. Like sharks seeing blood in the water, the media quickly assigned their reporters to dig into Lott’s background for anything that could depict him as a racist who was unfit to serve as the Republican leader of the Senate.

If the Lott comments about a Thurmond presidency were so offensive, why did most of the media initially ignore them? Acting holier-than-thou, Walter Shapiro of USA Today said that, “?for most of the morning after [the Thurmond birthday party], reports on the birthday festivities ignored Lott’s comments and instead lavished attention on the Marilyn Monroe impersonator?” Shapiro said those reporters were insensitive. If true, this meant that liberal members of the press corps were closet racists.

In fact, those reporters understood that Lott was simply trying to make an old man and retiring senator feel good. It was like a “roast” of a public figure where people exaggerate about the honoree. The party wasn’t held to make news but to have fun. The reporters who attended the event knew-and so did the Democrats-that Lott’s remarks were intended to be flattering but not a serious political statement.

Trying to balance the discussion and recognizing the vicious nature of the attack on Lott, some conservatives noted that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in his youth, had made some controversial racial remarks using the “N” word. And Byrd’s remarks were not delivered in jest. Columnist Robert Novak, who called the controversy over Lott a feeding frenzy, tried to make that point on Meet the Press. But host Tim Russert used most of his show the following week to dwell on the matter. Novak was not invited back to comment. Instead, Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, said, “there’s more information now on the table” about Lott and “I think the Republicans could find a more effective leader right now.”

“Lott Faces Continuing Resentment From Conservatives” screamed the Washington Post. The New York Times ran a similar story that carried a headline, “Conservatives Join Calls [for Lott] to Quit Leadership.”

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz noted that the crusade against Lott was pushed by Internet writers such as Andrew Sullivan, a so-called “gay” conservative who contributes to the Washington Times, and former Bush speechwriter David Frum in a piece on National Review Online. For his part, Sullivan later gave credit to a “whole bevy of conservatives” for promoting the Lott story, naming Charles Krauthammer, Richard Brookhiser, Thomas Sowell, and Linda Chavez, among others. “I want to give some credit to Bill Kristol” for speaking out, said Democratic Party operative Bob Shrum on CNN’s Crossfire. Kristol is editor of the Weekly Standard and a commentator on Fox News. Bill O’Reilly on Fox News also weighed in, calling Lott “anti-African American.”

Reporter Tom Edsall had a critical story in the Washington Post two days after the event. Mark Leibovich, who covered the party for the Post, told Howard Kurtz, the Post’s media critic, that he felt badly about it in retrospect. “I kick myself,” he said. He kicked himself because he didn’t realize at the time that Tom Edsall and liberals like Jesse Jackson would try to manipulate these comments into a national issue and would succeed. Perhaps he wasn’t in the loop. On the CBS Evening News, reporter John Roberts jumped in, showing a black claiming that Lott “took his hood off” when he became a Senator. Lott became cannon fodder for the covers of Newsweek and Time.

After trying to make the all-male membership of Augusta National Golf Club into a national controversy, the Lott case was seized by the New York Times, which ran a page-one headline, “In Lott’s Life, Long Shadows of Segregation,” over a December 15 story. In the “Week in Review” section, the page-one headline was, “A Sanitized Past Comes Back to Haunt Trent Lott and America.” Inside, Adam Clymer wrote a story about what America would be like with “President Strom Thurmond.” Such stories reflect the attitude of Howell Raines, the southern liberal-activist editor of the New York Times.

Time magazine and CNN reported that Lott tried to keep blacks out of his fraternity 40 years ago. Former CNN president Tom Johnson said he had supported this effort and regretted it.

Trying to explain the media’s slowness in covering this “story,” Kurtz reported that the journalists covering the event were “napping.” On the contrary, they were probably laughing, having fun, eating and drinking. Of the dozen reporters who heard Lott’s remarks, only one, an ABC producer, thought they were newsworthy, and that story was posted on the network’s Internet site, Kurtz said. ABC World News Tonight ignored it. Even then, “much of the establishment press” ignored the comments for several more days, he added. National Public Radio and UPI reported Lott’s comments at the time but without criticism.

Some conservatives apparently had their own reasons for going after Lott. Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation had denounced Lott years ago for endorsing the questionable chemical weapons treaty offered by President Bill Clinton but advised conservatives to stick with the Mississippi senator this time. Otherwise, he warned, “if Lott goes down, this will only encourage more expeditions by the Left to bag con-servatives for making statements deemed to be Politically Incorrect, no matter if they are just off-the-cuff, ill-considered remarks. Such statements will be given far more meaning than they should be accorded by an opposition intent on engaging in the politics of personal destruction and egged on by a news media dominated by Politically Correct thinking.”

Weyrich added, “…he did not mean segregation was acceptable when honoring Strom Thurmond. I believe he was trying to be gracious to an aged, retiring senator who has always been a consistent anti-Communist.”

Weyrich was one of those conservatives (Pat Buchanan was another) who was willing to note the true context of Lott’s remarks, and wonder what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless, the controversy may eventually produce real racism by rationalizing an administration decision to condone government programs that discriminate against whites. George Will, who criticized Lott, nevertheless noted that the administration may now be reluctant to file a court brief against the racial preferences at the University of Michigan. There, a black with a B-average gets treated like a white with an A-average.

The result of this feeding frenzy over Lott was to divert public attention from the official racism in America today coming from government institutions which discriminate against whites. In the University of Michigan case, a black applicant is given 20 bonus points just for being black. On December 15, the CBS 60 Minutes program re-aired an excellent story about this program, noting how university officials rationalize this anti-white policy by calling it “diversity.”

The Supreme Court is reviewing the University of Michigan cases, which were brought by the Center for Individual Rights, and a ruling is expected in June. “This makes it harder to talk about welfare, harder to talk about judges, harder to talk about everything,” said Will. “Lott is in the way.” But if Will thinks getting rid of Lott will solve the problem, he doesn’t understand liberal media bias. If Republicans had dismissed Lott’s comments as the throw-away lines they were intended to be, the liberal media would have learned a lesson about the limits of their power to destroy people and their reputations.


The media’s failure to cover the “invasion” of America, as Michelle Malkin describes it in her new book on immigration, has taken another disturbing turn with the firing of a newspaper editor, David Cheever, who simply ran a guest column questioning why hundreds of black Islamic immigrants from Somalia were coming to Maine, going on welfare, and were not being screened by federal authorities for possible ties to terrorists. “I was gone that day,” said Cheever, who served as editorial director of two newspapers in Maine, the Kennebec Journal and the Central Maine Morning Sentinel.

In a major irony, Cheever was fired by David B. Offer, executive editor of the two papers, who had made a name for himself before coming to Maine by resigning as editor of Stars and Stripes newspaper in protest over alleged Pentagon censorship of an article. But Offer thought the column about the Somalis was “blatant racial intolerance” and “should not have been printed.” He said the column was inconsistent with the tradition of the Blethen family, which owns the papers.

Frank A. Blethen, the chairman of Blethen Maine Newspapers and publisher and chief executive officer of the Seattle Times, has become known for promoting “diversity” in the news business. Blethen, who has been called the western dean of family-owned newspapers, received an award from the Institute for Family-Owned Business, where he said that “?we care about our employees, our schools, our social services, our arts, and our environment.”

Yet Cheever, a married father of eight children, was forced to go on unemployment after devoting six and a half years to the paper. He had lived in the community for 20 years, and had lived in Maine almost his entire life. By contrast, Offer was a relative newcomer to the area.

Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc., a division of the Seattle Times Company, also runs the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram.

Blethen has argued that family-owned newspapers are closer to the people and unlike distant corporate owners who have no interest in pursuing controversial news.

Cheever says the mantra at the paper was “Raise hell and sell newspapers.” But that cost Cheever his job.

At a conference, Blethen had argued that American democracy could not survive the loss of an independent press and a diversity of voices. But “diversity” doesn’t apply to citizens who question immigration policy and want a voice at his paper.

The story is a personal tragedy for Cheever, but it is national in scope because it turns out that the American taxpayer-through the federal government-is paying to settle the Somalis in Maine, after they left the Atlanta, Georgia area because they objected to the high crime rate there. The Somalis are being flown here by Uncle Sam, who is providing a million dollar grant to resettle them in the U.S. through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

This story once again demonstrates that our immigration system has gone haywire, and that immigrants and even potential terrorists still enjoy easy access to the United States.

The specific facts of the case are as dramatic as they are simple: On July 9, 2002, the two Maine news-papers published a guest column by Ken Miller questioning the wisdom of more than 1000 Somalis moving into Lewiston, Maine, the state’s second largest city.

Miller, a retired journalist and resident of the area, wrote in part that, “Somalia is even now identified as a growing stronghold and training area for Islamic terrorists. Some in our government believe Osama bin Laden could be there now, rebuilding and reforming his worldwide terrorist network. How thoroughly were our Maine Somalis screened? Did they enter the United States via Kenya prior to 9/11? Do we care?”

The Miller column was not only fair comment but it was prescient. A Somali terrorist group believed to have links to Al Qaeda may have been behind the murder of sixteen people when suicide bombers attacked an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya. Missiles narrowly missed hitting an Israeli passenger plane just after it had taken off from Mombasa’s airport.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the Somalis were terrorists. The New York Times reports that Iraqis who arrived in the U.S. after the Persian Gulf War are being monitored as possible agents of Saddam Hussein, ready to commit acts of terrorism if he gives the word.

Cheever was fired after executive editor David B. Offer asked him to come into the offices of president John Christie. He was told they regarded the Miller column as “racist.” Cheever was told he had exercised “exceedingly poor judgment” in running the column and they could not have him making those decisions.

Ironically, Miller was responding to a column Cheever had written, in which he had advocated acceptance of the Somalis. Equally astonishing, Cheever says the Miller column was “in the system,” meaning it was set for publication and available for review by other newspaper editors, for five days. Offer was supposed to review it as well.

Miller’s column did touch on some racial issues: “Most of us know the statistics: Maine ranks 46th on the FBI Crime Index. Maine has a bit over 3 percent people of color. Many would say (if it were not politically incorrect) that these two statistics are directly related. ‘No gangs, no blacks to speak of-no crime to speak of.'” This was tough rhetoric, but Miller went on to say that “the Somalis coming to Lewiston aren’t American-style gang-bangers, rappers and drug dealers. They are simply poor blacks from one of the world’s poorest third world countries. But why Maine, where life is still the way it used to be?”

The general controversy over the arrival of the Somalis has been covered in Pat Buchanan’s new magazine, The American Conservative, which published an eye-opening expose, “Coming to America: The Great Somali Welfare Hunt,” by Roger D. McGrath. The affair has also received some national media attention, with Ron Claiborne of ABC News noting that city life in Atlanta “was not what the Somalis were accustomed to back in their homeland. The crime rate was high and the housing too expensive. ” So they decided to target Lewiston. Claiborne explained, “the Somali refugees sought a more comfortable and convenient lifestyle in a place with opportunity and good schools for their children.”

Claiborne ignored Somalia’s link to Osama bin Laden, who claimed responsibility for a 1993 gunfight that killed 18 U.S. troops in that country. The battle was captured in the bloody and graphic film Black Hawk Down. This followed an attempt by U.S. troops under the first President Bush to feed starving people there. President Clinton transformed it into a U.N. nation-building mission.

One of the American soldiers who died in Somalia in Bill Clinton’s U.N. nation-building mission was Thomas J. Field, an Army Ranger and native son of Lisbon, Connecticut, just downriver from Lewiston. McGrath explains, “Local folk got the state highway that connects Lisbon and Lewiston named in his honor. In Lewiston, the highway becomes Lisbon Street, which now features Lewiston’s first mosque, regularly crowded with Somalis.”

What You Can Do

Print off and send these letters or write your own cards or letters to White House political adviser Karl Rove [1], to Solicitor General Theodore Olson [2] and to Frank A. Blethen [3], chairman of Blethen Maine Newspapers.