Accuracy in Media

With Texas Governor George W. Bush now considered the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in the year 2000, his critics are opening fire. First, Vice President Al Gore went after him, making fun of “compassionate conservatism.” This is a phrase Bush has used to describe his own brand of politics. Now, the news media have attacked Bush for allowing a death penalty execution case to go forward in the state of Texas. The story aired on ABC World News Tonight, with anchorwoman Carole Simpson noting that a delegation of Canadian citizens had flown to Texas to plead for the life of Stan Faulder, a Canadian who?s been on death row there since 1977, and that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had also gotten involved in the case.

What followed was a media assault on Bush and the death penalty, delivered by correspondent Steve Osunsami. He said that Texas was “a state that has executed more criminals than almost any other Western government,” making it sound like Texas was engaging in indiscriminate killing. We were led to believe that Faulder may be just an innocent victim of Texas-style “justice,” with Bush serving as chief executioner.

Osunsami aired a brief interview with Ruben Carter, described as a former death row inmate, who argued for Faulder?s release, saying “You may not have the right man.” Governor Bush was given a few moments to defend the death sentence and the investigation of the case, but he appeared to be insensitive to the plight of a possibly innocent man.

Osunsami also reported that Governor Bush was being accused of violating an international law, the Vienna Convention, mandating that foreign citizens accused of crimes be informed that they can seek legal help from their own governments. It was stated that Faulder was denied his right to seek help from the Canadian government. A so-called international lawyer was brought on to suggest that Bush was violating international law. Finally, it was noted that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had written to Bush asking that the execution be delayed.

As Yogi Berra would say, it?s deja-vu all over again. A similar case arose when Albright asked Virginia?s governor to delay the execution of a death-row inmate from Paraguay. Once again, it was claimed that the Vienna Convention had been violated. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the defendant has to raise this issue early in state courts and failed to do so. In other words, the defendant has the obligation to ask for help; it is not up to the U.S. Government to make up for the defendant?s failure to do so at the last minute.

In the Texas case, Faulder?s guilt is not at issue. He was convicted of killing a woman named Inez Phillips by bashing her in the head and stabbing her through the heart after a bungled robbery. Osunsami himself noted that Faulder had been scheduled for lethal injection on nine separate occasions, avoiding the death penalty for almost 20 years through the use of many different delaying tactics. This latest ploy, citing international law, is just another delaying tactic that had the added advantage for the liberal media of making George W. Bush look bad.

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