Media Follies
Blue Dog Press
May 10, 2001
Michael I Niman

Bush Wins?

Early last month USA Today unveiled their long awaited presidential election recount results, with a banner headline declaring that George W Bush won the state of Florida.   According to the paper, a recount of the 60 counties blocked by the Supreme Court would have yielded a slight margin of victory for Bush.  What they did not report, however, is that their own recount of all 67 Florida counties showed that Gore, not Bush, was the winner.  As it turns out the additional seven counties were not part of the Democrats’ suit since they were already recounted. 

The USA Today recount, however, shows that the original quick recount conducted in those seven counties missed thousands of Gore votes, hence with a full statewide recount, Gore won.  According to The Miami Herald, the original undercount was the result of canvassing boards not applying a uniform standard to the recount; hence they discarded valid ballots, which were identical to others that were counted.   Since a recount already occurred in these counties, Democrats did not press ahead for another recount, thus dooming their candidate to a loss, even if the Supreme Court didn’t block the recount.  This was USA Today’s point.  Legally, Bush would have won even without the Supreme Court’s intervention. 

They failed to report the bigger story, however; that their own research showed even using conservative counting standards, Gore got more votes in Florida, and hence, should have won the White House.  They also again failed to mention the now well documented fact that tens of thousands of African American voters were “mistakenly” removed from the voting roles and not allowed to vote.  Throw in the butterfly ballot fiasco and a dozen other irregularities and it is clear that Gore should have won Florida by tens of thousands of votes.  These facts are all absent from USA Today’s Bush Wins article.  Perhaps the specter of an illegitimate presidency is more than Gannet (the corporate owner of USA Today and Buffalo’s WGRZ TV) wants to tackle.

Supreme Payoff

On the subject of the Supreme Court, whether or not they actually swung the election for Bush, they sure as hell tried.  They broke from precedent, bulldozed over otherwise sacred states rights, humiliated themselves and the court, and stopped the presidential vote count dead in its tracks.  That was last December.  Now let’s fast forward to the present.  According to The Washington Post, Janet Rehnquist, daughter of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, is about to be named Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Let’s not forget, it was Rehnquist who wrote, “The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [Bush] and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election.” Eugene Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is currently under consideration by the Bush administration for a position as a Labor Department Solicitor.  And Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is under Bush Administration consideration for a top position at the federal Office of Management and Budget. 

Justice Rehnquist was appointed by President Nixon. Scalia was appointed under the Reagan/Bush presidency.  Thomas was appointed by the elder Bush.  The dynastic politics of “you take care of my kid I take care of yours” is business as usual here in Western New York so we of all people shouldn’t be shocked to see the Federal government run in the same manner.  But getting your kid a county job feeding at the public trough is one thing; making him President of the United States is another.

Colin Powell’s Kid

Colin Powell’s kid ain’t doing too shabby for himself either, having been appointed by George W as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission.  Not content to simply kick back basking in his new leather chair smoking stogies and collecting a phat paycheck, young Powell has taken the battle cry of the radical corporate right to the FCC’s highest office.  So far Powell is overseeing the dismantling of the “duel network rule” prohibiting one network from buying out and running their competition.  He is also presiding over the destruction of the “cross ownership rule,” which formally prohibited local newspapers and TV stations from being owned by the same company, thus monopolizing local news delivery.

Originally it was the FCC’s charge to regulate use of the public airwaves to protect the public interest.  The idea was that the public owns the broadcast spectrum, licensing private operators to broadcast only in the public interest.  The current reality has a privately run “public” broadcast spectrum toxified with an apocalyptic consumerist ethos.

  The whole idea of public interest, however, seems confusing to the young Powell.  According to the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, when asked at a February news conference about what he thought “defending the public interest” meant, Powell answered, "I have no idea. The public interest at its core is the same thing as my oath of office: a commitment to making sure the American consumer is benefited.... I try to make the best judgment I can in ways I think will benefit consumers. Beyond that I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out."

Cheney’s Tax Cut

  Speaking of the Bush crowd taking care of the family, The Buffalo News reported how George W and Dick Cheney would fare under their own tax, revenue redistribution plan.  Under his own proposal, George W would get a cut of $38,979 based on his last year’s income.  Mr. Cheney, the man both figuratively and literally behind the President, stand to reap a tax cut of over $2,300,000.  By comparison, my tax cut should be in the $20 range based on last year’s income and no dollars based on this year’s income.  This whole windfall for the rich will be financed by cuts to health and human services programs.  And like the Reagan “tax cut,” working people will be paying for this folly for a long time to come.  We need more and better media coverage of this issue as it cuts at the core idea of government constituted to serve the public interest.

Media Follies
Blue Dog Press
June 7th 2001

By Michael I. Niman

Who Trashed the White House?

Remember Bill Clinton’s sleazy and sloppy departure from the White House, all those W’s stripped from computer keyboards, the china stolen from Air Force One, the White House telephone lines that were cut, etc.  For one month this nonsense dominated the American media at a time when we should have been talking about how the intentional disenfranchisement of black Florida voters threw the presidential election.  Those of us in the know, people who pay attention to the alternative media as well as the corporate media, were pretty frustrated with the corporate media’s obsession with White House vandalism at the exclusion of the larger story about the Bush clan’s vandalizing the democratic process.  But admittedly the Clinton crew, never really a swift team of political players, did pull their sophomoric stunts and did create a great final act for the Republican spin-meisters.  And after years of bimbo-gates and nationally televised stories of Presidential cigar dildos, why wouldn’t we believe the Clintonians trashed the White House like a bunch of drunken frat boys.  After all, they really were never anything more than a bunch of drunken frat boys.

 But, as it turns out, it never happened.  The Ws’ never left their keyboards.  The china was still on Air Force One, etc.  It was all one big lie, a smoke screen to keep us focused on a tarnished Clinton administration and not on the real thieves who should have been in the news, the team that was stealing the presidency.

 This story would never have surfaced except for the fact that one Republican congressperson, Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, never got the message about the scam.  Barr, upset that the Clinton team would actually get away with a duffle bag of W’s, and not content with Bush’s gracious offer to move on and not press any charges, requested that the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency in charge of the physical operation of the White House, investigate the reports of vandalism.  Barr, presumably, had hoped to better document the White House trashing, push for prosecution, and rekindle the anti-Clinton media fire at a time when Bush’s tax plan was falling under increasing scrutiny.

 Fox News Trashed the White House

 To Barr’s embarrassment and disappointment, however, the GSA’s investigation concluded that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred at the White House and that, "the condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect
to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy."    

 The whole story, down to the sordid details of pornographic images left on computers and office drawers glued shut, was a fabrication.  While every major American media outlet carried and gave life to this myth, it was Fox News that led the pack with, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), many major Fox news personalities pushing the fabrication as reality.  Brit Hume, for example, on January 25th, reported that the Clinton team cut power and phone cords, emptied trash buckets and desk drawers on the floor, loaded computers with pornography and voice mail boxes with “scatological” messages, and glued cabinets and draws shut.  Hume also reported that they stole porcelain, china, salt and peppershakers, blankets, toothpaste and other items from Air Force One.  According to the GSA, however, this never happened.

 A host of other Fox reporters and guest commentators such as Sean Hannity, Fred Barnes, Bill O'Reilly, Paula Zahn and Tony Snow parroted Hume’s story, adding life to the myth.  Snow went as far as to report that the White House "was a wreck," and that Air Force One "looked as if it had been stripped by a skilled band of thieves -- or perhaps wrecked by a trailer park twister."

 Vandals Without a Source

 As is the case in pack journalism, the rest of the media picked up the ball from Fox and ran with the story.  No media outlet actually cited a source for their story, with most of them using the passive voice to obscure their lack of sources.  For our part, the American people never questioned this source less story, and the myth became reality.  Had it not been for Barr, this Fox fabrication would have remained as unquestioned truth.

 The most disturbing aspect of this story is that of Fox’s role in creating and sustaining this myth.  Remember, it was also Fox News, on election night, which hired George W Bush’s cousin John Ellis to run their election desk.  It was Ellis who was first to call the election for his cousin, gifting Bush with a false aura of legitimacy and the momentum he needed to ride unscathed through the Florida debacle (see Buffalo Beat December 14th, 2000).  Ellis’ boss is Roger Ailes, the senior Bush’s former campaign strategist.  Ailes’ boss is Republican campaign financier, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Fox New Network. 

 According to this month’s Brill’s Content, a corporate friendly magazine of media criticism featuring ads from Forbes and contributors such as John Ellis, Murdoch’s “conservative views have defined the personality of many of his holdings.”  The Australian born Murdoch’s media empire currently spans five continents and includes cable networks, newspapers, magazines, book publishers, TV and movie studios and TV broadcast stations.  With the blessing of the Bush FCC run by Colin Powell’s son, Murdoch is about to add 9 more TV stations to his American stable.  He is also currently attempting positioning himself as a dominant player in the global satellite TV market.  Brill’s Content reports that he is on his way to being the most influential person in the global political arena.

 The FCC needs to investigate the Murdoch/Fox role in crafting misinformation surrounding and following the US presidential election.  With the Bush team at the helm, however, this will not happen.  The Democrats should demand such an investigation with an eye towards criminal conspiracy indictments.  Given their history of spinelessness in the face of Republican abuses of power, and their own habit of kowtowing to media conglomerates, this will not happen either.  For our part as media consumers we need to think about the local media outlets that fed us the White House vandalism story.  Have they apologized to us?  Have they at least issued a retraction? Is there any indication that they won’t spoon feed us lies in the future?




Return to Articles Index