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Never Give A Clinton An Even Break, Part 2: Counter-Coverage

The ConWeb credo: Bury positive news with negative, slanted reporting.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/21/2001

The ConWeb has never been interested in reporting anything positive about the Clintons. Scandalous tidbits about Bill 'n' Hil were what drove NewsMax and its bretheren to their initial prominence, and it's a standard to which they adhere to this day.

The lengths to which the ConWeb will go to ensure their readers the only coverage of the Clintons they get is negative surfaced again as they sought to obscure the relatively benign groundbreaking for the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

Since the ConWeb loves to find any angle, no matter how flimsy, to make the Clintons look as bad as possible, Cybercast News Service latched onto a minor sidelight involving a old freight depot on the library property.

An Oct. 5 CNS story, written shortly after knowledge of the freight depot's existence first came to light -- it was encased inside another warehouse building on the grounds slated for demolition -- is only slightly anti-Clinton. While it plays up the angle of a "historically important freight depot built by former slaves," the story by Marc Morano does correctly note that the structure "initially went unrecognized for its historic value during the planning stages of the library because it was encased in the steel exterior."

Morano also correctly points out that "The Clinton Library Foundation does get credit from local preservationists for not demolishing a historic passenger train station and railroad bridge on the same property," but it follows that with a quote from a preservationist calling the freight depot "probably one of the most integrated places in the city of Little Rock at the turn of the century."

But being even moderately fair to the Clintons apparently broke some kind of CNS internal policy, because a Nov. 2 story by Morano on a court ruling upholding the eminent domain procedures used to acquire the land on which the freight depot sat gets less balanced. It pushes the black-history angle even more, buries the reference to other preservation efforts made on the library property far down in the story and waits until the ninth paragraph to quote the mayor of Little Rock who supports demolition, then another seven paragraphs to quote Clinton. Morano later quotes Skip Rutherford (five paragraphs after Clinton, in paragraph 22) as saying that it would be prohibitively expensive to redesign the library site to accomodate the freight depot. There's also a subhead in the story that reads "Racial Tensions Grow" though nothing that follows supports that assertion.

The story also quotes Gene Pfeifer, who owned the depot and brought the eminent domain lawsuit against the city of Little Rock (which acquired the land to donate to the foundation that will operate the library), as saying he "wanted to preserve the depot." But the depot's existence was not public knowledge until a month before, and his desire for preservation was never reported in any news media before this and was never an issue in his lawsuit. Pfeifer's statement contradicts Morano's own earlier reporting that the depot "initially went unrecognized," and he doesn't challenge Pfeifer on it.

A Nov. 26 story by Morano notes that the depot was torn down while preservationists were filing court challenges. In the 19-paragraph story, Clinton and Rutherford received only four paragraphs, and the Clinton quote was recycled from an earlier story.

Morano's Dec. 3 story is ostensibly a preview of the groundbreaking but is mostly a rehash of the depot controversy. In the middle of the rehash, though, Morano for some reason spends a few paragraphs noting a series of Clinton trading cards to be issued.

CNS' Dec. 6 story on the actual groundbreaking, under the headline "Clinton Library Project Angers Union Workers," pushes the controversy again and even finds a new anti-Clinton slant to mine as the story's lead paragraphs demonstrate:

    Former President Bill Clinton broke ground Wednesday in Little Rock on the $104 million Clinton Presidential Center in front of a crowd of supporters and dignitaries and about a dozen union members unhappy that the construction will involve non-union workers.

    Historical preservationists in Little Rock are also angry that a century-old freight depot, built by former Afreican-American slaves, was torn down to make way for Clinton's presidential library.

In typical CNS fashion of burying responses of those it disagrees with, the story by Steve Brawner waits until the second-to-last paragraph to quote Rutherford as saying that "the huge majority of the work is already committed to union participation." The story's final paragraph notes that 100,000 of those Clinton trading cards were snapped up in two days, which ought to indicate to CNS that its biased coverage doesn't sell everywhere. (It won't, of course, but it's nice to dream, isn't it?)

NewsMax, meanwhile, had its own laughable version of counter-coverage on Dec. 5, the day of the grounbreaking. The one short story actually mentioning the groundbreaking starts off by calling Clinton a "famous perjurer-rapist," then wildly inflates the library's cost to $200 million. (The story also links to a version of one of the CNS stories on the freight depot fracas.) This sloppy piece of work was accompanied by two one-sided stories accusing Clinton of being soft on terrorism while he was president. Of course, no attempt is made in either story to get a response from the Clinton side of things -- all the better to continue with NewsMax's policy of making Clinton the fall guy for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which began almost immediately after the attacks occured.

WorldNetDaily ignored the library groundbreaking completely and even managed to resist getting on the freight-depot bandwagon.

NewsMax and CNS owner Brent Bozell whine a lot about media bias. But given their inability to offer unbiased news coverage of their own, how credible can they be?

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