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Howard Rosenberg / Television

The Bashing: So Subtle It's Undetectable

April 30, 2001|Howard Rosenberg

It's 100-day scorecard time for the president and those who are determined to destroy him.

That would be the leftist media. You know, the anti-capitalist Marxist revolutionaries working for companies owned by some of the biggest, richest corporations in the U.S.

Yup, us again. We're all in it together, pinking up the news and conspiring as a group to undermine George W. Bush and the democratic nation he was elected to serve. Caring only about pushing our subversive agenda, we've given him 100 days of grief.

I learned this Thursday night from that unimpeachable source, Hal Lindsey, author of "The Late Great Planet Earth" and other books preaching an Armageddon theology. Lindsey, who has a large following among devout Christians, specializes in connecting current events to Bible prophecy.

He does it in a smooth, low-key, scholarly manner, most visibly during "International Intelligence Briefing," his weekly half-hour on the Santa Ana-based Trinity Broadcasting Network. A bona fide crusader for the religious right, he deploys the props of the very television news he deplores, sitting at an anchor desk in front of a battery of monitors while criticizing media in the course of reflecting on domestic and world affairs.

On Thursday, that included claiming that high-ranking members of our military believe China plans to launch "missiles on U.S. cities." Still global, he criticized media coverage of the Middle East, finding it inexplicable that "Arabs can openly plan the destruction of Israel, and there's no outrage."

He reserved his strongest words about the media, though, for their reporting on domestic matters, charging them with "nonstop negative coverage" of Bush. Mentioning the president's high job-approval ratings in the polls, he added: "It seems the harder the press tries to make him look bad, the higher his ratings go."

Surely Lindsey would cite examples of the media huffing and puffing to make Bush "look bad." But he didn't, so I decided to find some myself Friday.

I went first to "CBS This Morning" and immediately discovered exactly the kind of insidious bias that Lindsey must have had in mind. By craftily filling much of its news hole with nonstop talk about "Survivor II," the program was leaving no room for the accomplishments of Bush, a de facto indictment of his performance in the White House.

The situation was about as ugly on ABC's "Good Morning America," which spent so much time quizzing Barbara Walters about her interview that night with Denise Rich that Bush's own historic achievements were excluded.

I switched to NBC's "Today," where William Bennett, co-director of Empower America, was responding to Bush critics charging that the president had gone back on his campaign pledge and stiffed environmentalists. Bennett said: "Only from somebody who is the most biased toward the environment could you say George Bush has not been accommodating."

There it was, subtle yet devilish, an endorsement of Bush on NBC so ungrammatical that it was bound to rub off on the president and undermine his own credibility. Satan clearly had the left in his hip pocket.

Would CNN be as prejudiced against Bush? Would it ever. I was just in time for a story with Bush making fun of his own malapropisms while speaking at a literacy benefit in Houston. "In my sentences," he said, "I go where no man has gone before. The way I get it, I'm a boon to the language by coining new words." He mentioned one: "Misunderestimate."

Lindsey was right again. While pretending to make Bush look good, CNN was making Bush look bad by televising him making himself look bad when he was trying to look good.

Would the coverage be as malodorous on the Fox News Channel, which is owned by famously conservative Rupert Murdoch and boasts of reporting the news fairly, and letting "you decide"?

I clicked on in time to hear Bush's first 100 days being debated by a Democrat and a Republican, with the Fox host aggressively siding with the Republican, making it 2 to 1 for the president. There also was a promo for that evening's Fox assessment of Bush's first 100 days, three of four announced panelists being Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Gary Bauer, former president of the Family Research Council.

How demonically shrewd. By going to the other extreme and ganging up earlier on the Democrat, and then stacking the evening panel with Republicans, Fox was making Bush look bad by associating him with unfairness from the right. That would create a backlash against the president that would coincide with the media's leftist agenda, which Fox cleverly supports with rightist coverage that has a leftist intent.

If even Fox, the acknowledged "most powerful name in news," was stooping this low, what chance had Bush against this media . . . Armageddon? No wonder there's such outrage from Lindsey, clearly a man whose insights we must never misunderestimate.

*

Howard Rosenberg's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be contacted by e-mail at howard.rosenberg@latimes.com.

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