Skip to comments.Peter Jennings: 20 Years Of Liberal Bias
Posted on 10/24/2003 8:22:59 AM PDT by SJackson
On September 5, 1983, Peter Jennings took the helm of ABCs World News Tonight as its sole anchor. While his bias during the recent Iraq war was obvious, it is only the latest example of the ABC anchors bias. As Jennings framed it, communism was more a phantom menace than a serious threat, and hes similarly whitewashed the despicable record of terrorist groups such as Hizbullah. On the home front, he resented covering the Clinton scandals, portraying them as tedious sideshows, and billed Republicans as destructive and mean-spirited.
Castigating Republicans and the voters who dare to elect them. The 1994 midterm elections gave Republicans a majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1950s. Jennings reacted by demeaning the voters:
Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. Its clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around....Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week.... -- ABC Radio commentary, Nov. 14, 1994.
Those intolerant Republicans. We begin tonight with what you could call zero tolerance....Today, by the time Mr. Dole spoke by satellite to his party delegates, who were already gathered in San Diego, all notions of tolerance on the subject of abortion had disappeared from the partys platform. World News Tonight, August 6, 1996.
The right to abortion has never been an overwhelming issue for women at election time. But this fight within the Republican Party has many women questioning how far this party will go to limit their rights. World News Tonight, August 13, 1996.
Lets copy Sweden. Tonight we have put the best child care system in the world on the [World News Tonight segment] American Agenda. That is to say, the system which is acknowledged to be the best outside the home. Its in Sweden. The Swedish system is run and paid for by the Swedish government, something many Americans would like to see the U.S. government do as well. World News Tonight, November 22, 1989.
Carter renewed respect for America: The person we have chosen this week [as Person of the Week] has continued his life with distinction, considerable grace, and with a very strong commitment to peace and justice....In the publics mind, the scales were never balanced. [Former President Jimmy] Carters success in foreign affairs peace between Egypt and Israel, renewed respect for the United States in Latin America have always been outweighed in the public mind by the hostage crisis. World News Tonight, May 12, 1989.
The fingers, the palms, even the thumb: Hes become a little more disciplined, Bill Clinton, but you know he loves a crowd. And he has, dont want to get carried away here, but he has the kind of hands that people respond to. ABCs coverage of the Democratic National Convention, July 15, 1992.
Try to overlook Louis Farrakhans anti-Semitism and weirdness: It would be astonishing if this public performance of Farrakhan were to end or even minimize the controversy which he inspires in the country as a whole, but it would be a terrible mistake not to recognize that here today, he inspired many people, and in a broader sense, as one participant after another has reaffirmed, this day, at this time and this place, really did mean unity over division. Reporting on the so-called Million Man March for the October 16, 1995 World News Tonight.
Bills indispensable life partner: Hes leaving the greatest thing in his life, and you are about to meet the challenge of the biggest thing, certainly, in your political life. What if he needs you? To First Lady and New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Good Morning America, August 15, 2000.
Jimmy Carters greatness: It was a great day for Jimmy Carter. The former president heard early this morning that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Carter was president from 1977 to 1981. He is the least popular president in the period after World War II. In the mid-1990s, on the other hand, he was occasionally introduced as the only man who has ever used the presidency as a stepping stone to greatness. World News Tonight, October 11, 2002.
What Clinton Scandals? When we come back, two investigations of fund-raising abuse, two of them on Capitol Hill. Is it a waste of time and money? World News Tonight, April 10, 1997.
We know from just answering the phone around here that the amount of attention we are giving this [Monica Lewinsky] story is, at the very least, debatable. We in the news [business]....are devoting major time and resources to these events, but have we been carried away, are we doing too much and are we not being fair? World News Tonight, January 23, 1998, just two days after the Lewinsky story broke.
I gather that the Independent Counsel must have been hitting these people with a sledgehammer in the final days of the presidency....His critics will not be disappointed to see this happen, and his enemies too. Nonetheless, its a very sad, almost tragic way for the president to spend his last day in office. During ABCs live coverage of an announced deal between President Clinton and Independent Counsel Robert Ray, January 19, 2001.
Whos Afraid of Communism? Medical care was once for the privileged few. Today it is available to every Cuban and it is free. Some of Cubas health care is world class. In heart disease, for example, in brain surgery. Health and education are the revolutions great success stories. World News Tonight, April 3, 1989.
For the Bush administration and the Reagan administration before it, the [ABC News/Washington Post] poll hints at a simple truth: after years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts. World News Tonight, February 20, 1990, five days before the Sandinistas were voted out of power.
Various Chinese tell us today that the only people who think China is a communist country now live in Washington. Today in China, for many people, it is really about the pursuit of wealth. World News Tonight, June 25, 1998.
Finally this evening, part history and part myth. It was 50 years ago this week that the Peoples Republic of China came into being, Mao Tse-Tung its founding father. Chinas going all out to celebrate the triumphs of the communist revolution and ignore its failures. And all the ceremony will also ignore the fact that China, today, is hardly a communist country. World News Tonight, September 29, 1999.
We missed the death of a notable American this week, so we want to catch up. Gus Hall actually died on Friday. The son of a Minnesota miner became head of the U.S. Communist Party at the height of anti-communist McCarthyism in the late 40s and 50s. He spent eight years in prison and a lifetime in the political wilderness for his views here, but he was a dignitary in the Soviet Union. Even after his friends there abandoned the cause, Hall never wavered, and he was 90. World News Tonight, October 17, 2000.
Blame America first. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, all of the anchors gave viewers fair and even-handed coverage, but Jennings was the first to revert to liberal form: Adversarial coverage of U.S. actions and U.S. policies, and less judgmental coverage of tyrants and terrorists. During the war in Afghanistan, World News Tonight gave far more air time than the other broadcast networks to Taliban claims of massive civilian casualties that Jennings and his team could not verify:
One other item about these food and medicine drops [in Afghanistan]. Theyre not popular with everyone. The international relief organization Doctors Without Borders, which won the Nobel Peace Prize for relief work, described it today as military propaganda designed to justify the bombing. The Bush administration points out it also has committed $300 million in other aid. Its a question, ultimately, of getting it there. World News Tonight, October 8, 2001.
The secretary of defense said today that those people who are questioning the effectiveness of the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan are too impatient, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said much the same thing. The Pentagon is being pressed harder to be specific about what it has accomplished so far. The bombing campaign against the Taliban is now entering its fourth week, and the Taliban are still standing. World News Tonight, October 29, 2001, two weeks before the Taliban fled the Afghan capital of Kabul.
One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Even as the U.S. fought a war against terrorism, Jennings went out of his way to hide the anti-American crimes of Hizbullah, a Palestinian group that killed more than 300 Americans in the 1980s with car bomb attacks against the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon:
It is Hizbullah, which means The Party of God, that gets credit for liberating Lebanon from the long Israeli occupation. Yesterday, I went to see its 38-year-old leader, Hassan Nasrallah. He is a popular member of the political establishment. The Bush administration says Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. Hizbullah was proud to resist the Israeli occupation, [Nasrallah] says. We gave our lives. We are not terrorists. Reporting from Beirut for the March 27, 2002 World News Tonight.
Today [the site of the former American embassy in Lebanon] is an empty lot. This is where the U.S. experienced the first suicide bomber. In 1983 a man simply drove his truck to the front door and blew himself up. Sixty-three people died. Later that year, the Marine barracks here were destroyed in much the same way; 241 Marines died. Later in the same report, failing to state that Hizbullah was responsible for both anti-American attacks.
In North Carolina, two men went on trial for smuggling cigarettes to allegedly help the group Hizbullah in Lebanon, which the government calls a terrorist organization. Their lawyer says it will be extremely hard to find an impartial jury. World News Tonight, May 20, 2002.
Opposition to liberating Iraq. Jennings displayed an antagonistic attitude toward President Bushs Iraq policies for months prior to the actual start of the second Gulf War in March, 2003. Even after the rapid collapse of the Saddam Husseins dictatorship, Jennings more than any other news anchor highlighted setbacks and scolded the military for its mistakes, leading to at least one embarrassing retraction:
Wherever you live in the world today, the sound of war drums being beaten in Washington has become unmistakable. With the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks behind us...the administrations preoccupation with Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction has rapidly become the number one issue in international affairs. ABCs live coverage of President Bushs speech to the United Nations, September 12, 2002.
This week we were surprised to see several hundred artists and writers walking through the streets of Baghdad to say thank you to Saddam Hussein. He had just increased their monthly financial support. Cynical, you could argue with this particular time, but the state has always supported the arts, and some of the most creative people in the Arab world have always been Iraqis. And whatever they think about Saddam Hussein in the privacy of their homes, on this occasion they were praising his defense of the homeland in the face of American threats. Reporting from Baghdad on World News Tonight, January 21, 2003.
The UN weapons inspectors go back to Baghdad this weekend. They have not been happy with Iraqi cooperation so far. Well see if the Iraqis do any better and if that means anything to the Bush administration. World News Tonight, February 7, 2003.
[Iraq] has been a living archive of mans earliest history, where real connections can be made between then and now, which is why the Pentagon is being so widely criticized for not protecting the history when it captured the capital city....The Pentagon has said, in reply, look, this is war, and stuff happens, the U.S. was fired on from the museum grounds. Not a satisfactory answer for people who say that if the U.S. managed to protect the Ministry of Oil, why not this repository of civilization? Why, they ask, is neglect forgivable? World News Tonight, April 18, 2003.
The looting at the national museum may not have been as extensive as some people first reported. A Marine colonel whos been investigating tells us today that hundreds of items have been recovered from smugglers, Iraqis have returned items they may have had for safekeeping, other pieces have been found in the rubble, and it turns out that many pieces were removed before the war. Twenty-seven so-called significant pieces were stolen, some of them priceless, but those who said that more than 150,000 items were looted appear to be wrong. Backtracking from his original report two weeks earlier, World News Tonight, May 1, 2003.
Promoting anti-war protesters. At every antiwar demonstration, they carry the flag high to make the point, they say, that American troops in the Gulf have their support. They object to the government policy that sent the troops there. World News Tonight, February 7, 1991.
Jennings: I suppose it makes sense that the time for debating the war or the future of the campaign is completely over.
Democratic Senator Joe Biden: Completely over....
Jennings: Let me ask you this, then. There are still a large number of people in the country who are opposed to this, realize they cannot stand it, but look to members of the Democratic Party, particularly, to sort of be their port in a storm, their place to manifest their dissatisfaction. What happens to them at the moment? Exchange during ABCs live war coverage, March 20, 2003.
By the way, No blood for oil from many people who are opposed to the war is, is not complicated at all. They believe the United States wishes to occupy Iraq in the long term to have the oil. Just so we understand why they wear those little buttons No blood for oil. World News Tonight, March 20, 2003.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis and Rich Noyes is research director at the Media Research Center (MRC). This was adapted from a longer version of their report, which can be viewed in its entirety at the MRC website www.mrc.org.
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