Published on Tuesday, May 13, 2003 by the Madison Capital Times

Mainstream Media Still Treating Bush With Kid Gloves

by Ed Garvey

The New York Times ran a front-page apology Sunday for a reporter who filed deceptive stories. It is unusual for a news source to admit a mistake and the Times is to be commended.

But read the opening paragraph and ask if it should be applied to a much broader group of journalists: "A staff reporter for the New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found."

Wouldn't it be refreshing if Fox News, CNBC, CBS and others were to make the same apology for the what can only be described as "journalistic fraud" as they slant the news to favor President Bush and his factually unsupportable justification of the invasion of another country?

Substitute Bill Clinton for Bush over the past six months and you will see my point. What would TV talking heads be saying today? William Kristol, Sean Hannity and the others would be demanding Clinton's impeachment. They would be screaming that there were no weapons of mass destruction and Clinton knew it. He lied to the U.N., to the American people, and he deliberately and unnecessarily placed American troops in harm's way.

And if that was insufficient to start an impeachment proceeding, they would be screaming that he did all of this without a congressional declaration of war. This would be "Wag the Dog" all over again. A war to divert attention from a flagging economy. And, to top it off, Clinton did not secure the Iraqi nuclear sites to prevent looting, did not protect the national museum, did not capture Saddam or his sons. He led people to believe that the invasion of Iraq was about Sept. 11, not oil.

They would save the best until last. Do you remember the famous haircut on Air Force One? Clinton supposedly had his hair cut while planes were diverted around Los Angeles International Airport. It didn't happen, but Clinton was condemned on right-wing talk shows throughout America for this alleged waste of funds.

Imagine if Bill Clinton had slowed down an aircraft carrier and had landed on the deck in a jet for photo ops for his campaign. Oh, my goodness! The folks at Fox would be in cardiac arrest. Rush would froth at the mouth.

And suppose the White House of Bill Clinton had lied to the media by explaining that Clinton had to fly by jet because the ship was too far out to sea for a helicopter, and then admitted that the story wasn't true when reporters could see San Diego from the deck.

Suppose Clinton had given no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars to Democrats who contributed to his campaign. These would be high crimes and misdemeanors, and most of us would agree. Bill Clinton would be impeached and found guilty. No speech by Dale Bumpers could save him.

So how have the media treated Bush? Magazines extol him for flying the jet, appearing in uniform, acting like he knew what he would have known had he not skipped out on the real war - Vietnam, or his Air National Guard duties. No condemnation for wasted tax dollars or using the Navy for political ends.

Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Oh well, mistakes are for this world, and perfection is for the next. The double standard is breathtaking.

When the right-wing forces control the media, what chance is there for the truth to raise its head? And the concentration is only getting worse. Those who control the electronic media can keep the Dixie Chicks off the air, praise Bush for bush league antics, and yet find time to take swipes at the Democrats.

Is it any wonder that 70 percent of the people approve of Bush's actions? Where would they obtain a different view?

Whatever happens at the national level happens here in Wisconsin. The same media bias is obvious in the treatment of Tommy Thompson's triumphal return to the Republican convention in Stevens Point - triumphal despite the fiscal crisis he brought to the citizens of our state.

For 16 years the media treated him with kid gloves. Four terms of granting favors and tax rebates to contributors while hiding the structural deficits that have now almost bankrupted the state of Wisconsin.

Was it a surprise that we were headed for a disastrous $3.5 billion deficit because of the policies of Tommy Thompson? I guess so, because apparently none of the reporters in Stevens Point seem to have asked the governor what he thought he was doing when he drove the bus over the cliff. Instead, they speculate he may run again.

They quote him condemning Gov. Jim Doyle for not negotiating enough money from gaming compacts. The chutzpah is startling, but the willingness of the media to ignore this story for 16 years is even more startling.

Thompson should have been asked, "Governor, prisons were the number one growth industry in Wisconsin under your leadership. We now spend more on prisons than we do on the university system. This was predicted 10 years ago but you refused to listen. Do you wish you had listened?"

Don't hold your breath. Write out another check to Wisconsin Public Radio, renew your Capital Times subscription and check out our new Web magazine,

[Ed Garvey, a Madison lawyer who was the Wisconsin Democratic nominee for governor in 1998, is editor of the Web magazine.]