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The ABC's of Media Bias By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 14, 2004


IS THE ESTABLISHMENT MEDIA BIASED against conservatives? Dan Rather remains in the anchor chair at the CBS Evening News despite his involvement in recent news stories based on dishonest reporting, fabricated documents and even Internet gossip falsely alleging that President George W. Bush secretly intends to begin the military conscription of students. These stories were obviously designed to damage Mr. Bush in the final weeks before a national election.

And now ABC News has left in place its Political Director Mark Halperin. ABC has done this despite the network’s acknowledgement that Halperin wrote a memo that to many seems to direct ABC reporters, anchors and producers to slant its coverage by downplaying the misstatements of Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry and by viewing negatively any misstatements by Republican candidate Bush.

 

Halperin’s directive reached ABC people on October 8, the very day that ABC “Good Morning America” co-host Charlie Gibson would be selecting questions for and moderating the second presidential debate between Bush and Kerry. Did Halperin intend to influence Gibson’s decisions in this debate?

 

Who is Mark Halperin, and does his memo reflect leftwing bias in his shaping of the news at ABC? To find answers to these questions, we need to consider the details of this memo-gate controversy in the light of Halperin’s past and of the famous radical left-wing father who shaped his political values. As we shall discover, Halperin has veered Left and crossed the line of ethical journalism many times.

 

Mark Halperin “has been the Political Director of ABC News since 1997 and has covered politics and campaigns through four election cycles,” reads one of his 2004 biographies posted by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). “As Political Director, Halperin is responsible for the planning and editorial content of all political news on the network.”

 

“Halperin manages the editorial coverage of politics throughout the ABC News universe,” says another official ABC biography, “and contributes frequently to ABC News broadcasts.”

 

Mark Halperin weeks before the 2004 presidential election issued his October 8 internal memo to the staff of ABC News that, when it became public, stirred controversy.  Critics charged that Halperin was directing ABC reporters to tilt their coverage – telling them, in effect, to ignore or minimize misstatements by Democrat Senator John F. Kerry but to attack any misstatements by Republican President George W. Bush.

 

Halperin’s memo claimed that the Bush campaign was trying “to get away with as much as possible….” No comparable criticism was made of Democratic candidate Kerry.

 

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done,” wrote Halperin.

 

“Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and [makes] mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

 

“We have a responsibility,” Halperin, then 39, continued, “to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable when the facts don’t warrant that.

 

“I’m sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

 

“It’s up to Kerry to defend himself, of course,” wrote Halperin. “But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.”

 

Mark Halperin’s idea of what is right may be what is Left. He was born in 1965 in Bethesda, Maryland, the red-diaper baby of hard-Left-connected controversial foreign policy specialist Morton Halperin. This fact reveals an entire Left-spin universe in which Mark grew up exposed to his father’s comrades and radical ideas.

 

Morton Halperin today is Senior Vice President of the left-wing Center for American Progress (CAP) and Director of the Open Society Policy Center established by eccentric billionaire international financier George Soros.

 

Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, Morton Halperin graduated from Columbia University (1958) and earned a Ph.D. from Yale University (1961). He taught at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs (1961-66). He worked in the Department of Defense 1966-69, then in 1969 became a staff member for the National Security Council (NSC) as senior assistant to Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s assistant for national security affairs.

 

In 1970, Halperin resigned to protest, he said, President Nixon’s decision to move American forces into Cambodia and to intensify the bombing of North Vietnam. Classified details of U.S. bombing in Cambodia had been leaked to the New York Times, and security officials, suspecting Halperin, had been tapping his telephones. Halperin sued the government over what he called this violation of his privacy, prompting public debate over how much privacy someone entrusted with classified military information should have.

 

Leaving government in 1970, Halperin became a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank.

 

Since 1961, as in a study he did for the Institute of Defense Analysis, Halperin from inside the government had advocated U.S. nuclear disarmament, even if the Soviet Union did not likewise disarm. In any mutual arms reduction treaty with the Soviets, wrote Halperin in A Proposal for a Ban on the Use of Nuclear Weapons, “inspection was not absolutely necessary…The United States might, in fact, want to invite the Soviets to design the inspection procedures if they seem interested in them.”

 

In 1966, a year after his son Mark was born, Halperin during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged that the United States should diplomatically recognize the Communist People’s Republic of China and seek its admission to the United Nations.

 

After leaving government, Halperin was feted and embraced by many “progressive” groups that promoted similar views, such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

 

“The Soviet Union apparently never contemplated the overt use of military force against Western Europe,” wrote Halperin in 1971 in Defense Strategies for the Seventies. “The Soviet posture…has been, and continues to be, a defensive and deterrent one…against a Western attack.”

 

During President Lyndon Johnson’s administration Halperin had been in charge of compiling a classified history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. As David Horowitz and Richard Poe reported:

 

This secret history later emerged [in June 1971] into public view as the so-called “Pentagon Papers.” Halperin and his deputy Leslie Gelb assigned much of the writing to leftwing opponents of the war, such as Daniel Ellsberg who, despite his background as a former Marine and a military analyst for the Rand Corporation, was already evolving into a New Left radical…With Halperin’s tacit encouragement – and perhaps active collusion – Ellsberg stole the secret history and released it to The New York Times…Not surprisingly, “The Pentagon Papers” echoed Halperin’s long-standing position that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and ridiculed Presidents Kennedy and Johnson for stubbornly refusing to heed those of their advisors who shared this opinion.

 

In 1975, when Mark Halperin was 10, his father became director of the Center for National Security Studies (CNSS), bankrolled by the Field Foundation and the Fund for Peace (FFP). Much of CNSS’s staff came from the ultra-leftist Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), identified in past congressional investigations as a Communist front group. One ubiquitous figure on the Left who helped run CNSS with Halperin was IPS director Robert Borosage. Halperin remained CNSS Director until 1992, when the election of President Bill Clinton brought him back into government.

 

In February 1993, President Bill Clinton’s administration announced the appointment of Morton Halperin to the new position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Democracy and Peacekeeping. Halperin withdrew his name from consideration in January 1994, his nomination stalled by both Republican and Democrat U.S. Senators who refused to consent to so radical a nominee.

 

Halperin was for many reasons too controversial to win Senate confirmation. He had advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States, publication of most U.S. military secrets, and an end of all clandestine activities by the U.S. against the Soviet Union and its colony in Communist Cuba.

 

Concerning the Soviet-Cuban military intervention in Angola, Halperin in the June 9, 1979, issue of The Nation magazine had written, “Every action which the Soviet Union and Cuba have taken in Africa has been consistent with the principles of international law.”

 

Morton Halperin during the mid-1970s befriended Philip Agee, a former-CIA-agent-turned-Communist who publicly identified hundreds of purported American Central Intelligence Agency agents. At least one of these agents, Athens station chief Richard Welch, was murdered shortly thereafter. Halperin flew to Europe to help Agee find safe haven after Great Britain expelled him. In the U.S., Halperin opposed legislation to punish the outing of U.S. undercover agents as Agee had done. Halperin has described the CIA as “the subverter of everybody else’s freedom.”

 

Halperin, as Director of the Washington, D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in this era also defended the right of The Progressive magazine to publish secret details it had obtained of how to make an atomic bomb.

 

In 1976, Halperin accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of “murdering” Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. In 1977 Halperin joined with the National Lawyers Guild to form a legal resources center to oppose “police spying” and became chairman of the Campaign to Stop Government Spying (CSGS). The conference that launched CSGS was co-convened and controlled by a steering committee of several left-wing organizations, among them the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Lawyers Guild, Halperin’s CNSS, Philip Agee’s Organizing Committee for a Fifth Estate (OC-5) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). That same year Halperin co-authored the book The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies.

 

“Morton Halperin is dangerous,” said Senator Strom Thurmond of this man, nominated to shape national security policy and to again have access to America’s most highly classified military secrets. After the U.S. Senate refused to confirm Halperin, President Clinton appointed the controversial left-wing activist to several positions that required no Senate confirmation: Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for Democracy at the National Security Council and consultant to the Secretary of Defense and to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

 

In 1998, Halperin became director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department. During his tenure 15 State Department laptop computers containing highly classified intelligence information disappeared, one of them checked out to Halperin’s office. Others were punished for this serious security breach, but Halperin was not.

 

Morton Halperin in February 2002 became Director of the Open Society Policy Center and has worked closely ever since with its creator, eccentric billionaire international financier George Soros, who committed tens of millions of dollars in 2004 to a variety of efforts to defeat President Bush. One of these Soros-funded political efforts is the Center for American Progress (CAP), launched in summer 2003, one of the “Seven Sisters” pillars of the left’s “Shadow Government.”

 

CAP is also known as “the official Hillary Clinton think tank,” described by Horowitz and Poe as “a platform designed to highlight Hillary’s policies and to enhance her prestige as a potential presidential candidate."

 

According to a March 1, 2004 report by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation, Halperin and Soros handpicked the President of CAP, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.  Morton Halperin today is Senior Vice President, second-in-command at CAP, where his son David is a Special Adviser on Campus Outreach. During the years 1997-2000, David Halperin worked as a speechwriter for President Clinton and the National Security Council. Among the Clinton White House email records that mysteriously disappeared when sought by investigators were ones to and from David Halperin, some of which might have involved his father.

 

This is the family and subculture in which Mark Halperin was raised and his political views were shaped. These are the roots from which his career has grown. In 1987, he graduated from Harvard University, where he was Associate Managing Editor of the Harvard Crimson campus newspaper.

 

This son of a famous and influential left-wing father joined ABC News in January 1988 as a desk assistant, then soon became researcher for “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.” For the next four years he worked with the investigative unit of “World News Tonight” and as a general assignment reporter in Washington. His father’s friends and contacts doubtless gave the rising young star advantages few others could match.

 

In 1992, Mark Halperin became a full-time off-air reporter traveling with then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s campaign. Liberal media insiders have seen Halperin’s confidential 1992 home movie Elvis and Us, which showed Clinton’s backstage clowning and antics during the campaign.

 

During the 1992 campaign, Halperin violated journalistic ethics by providing to Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos a copy ABC had obtained of Mr. Clinton’s youthful “I loathe the military” letter written to his ROTC commander, according to Tom Rosenstiel’s book about ABC Strange Bedfellows. Halperin thereby gave candidate Clinton days of advance warning to prepare his response before facing reporters’ questions about this letter Clinton had no reason to believe still existed.

 

Having helped Clinton win, Mark Halperin then covered the President-elect’s transition to power and “was assigned to White House coverage for the first two years of the Clinton administration.”

 

Apparently it bothered neither ABC nor Halperin that this network’s White House reporter was the son of high-level Clinton appointee and controversial presidential advisor Morton Halperin.  In 1997, the same year Mark Halperin was promoted to Political Director of ABC News, his brother David began a four-year stint as speechwriter to President Clinton.

 

If ABC News discovered that the public watchdog over a corporation was the son of one high official in that corporation and the brother of another, ABC rightly would report this as a scandalous conflict of interest and a betrayal of public trust. ABC never notified its audience that its reporter Mark Halperin was covering a Clinton White House that employed two members of his immediate family.

 

The same ought to be said today as Halperin controls ABC’s coverage of a presidential campaign in which his father helps control organizations hard at work for the election of Democrat John Kerry. If ABC will not fire Halperin, it should at least practice truth in labeling by disclosing to its audience Halperin’s partisan paternal political connection to the Kerry election effort.

 

In the fall of 1994, Halperin became a producer with ABC’s Special Events unit in New York. He created the daily ABC News online commentary and notebook “The Note” that covers each day’s political events. The liberal Washington Post described “The Note” as having “a core audience of fanatics who swear by its political analysis.”

 

Since 1994, and especially since his 1997 promotion to Political Director of ABC News, Halperin has played a major role in shaping, editing and aiming the network’s political coverage and on-air discussions.

 

Halperin’s 2004 Bush-criticizing memo was controversial not only in its content but also in its timing. It was delivered to ABC News personnel including “Good Morning America” co-host Charlie Gibson only hours before Gibson was to select audience questions for – and to moderate between – the participants of the second Presidential Debate: President Bush and Senator Kerry. It is hard not to see this as Halperin trying to have an anti-Bush influence on how Gibson framed the debate.

 

“Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections,” wrote Halperin in “The Note.” These journalists, he wrote, share “liberal political positions” on issues such as gun control, homosexuality, abortion and religion.

 

The liberal establishment press, wrote Halperin, “believes President Bush is ‘walking a fine line’ with regards to the gay marriage issue, choosing between ‘tolerance’ and his ‘right-wing base.’” [Halperin never mentioned that Democrat John Kerry, despite having approved homosexual marriage during an interview with a gay magazine, when in front of heterosexual audiences always asserted that he believed “marriage is between a man and a woman,” apparently siding with the nation’s “right-wing base.”]

 

These journalists, Halperin wrote, share “a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation’s problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don’t have a negative effect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories.”

 

The press, Halperin wrote, “by and large, does not accept President Bush’s justifications for the Iraq war in any of its WMD, imminent threat, or evil-doer formulations. It does not understand how educated, sensible people could possibly be wary of multilateral institutions or friendly, sophisticated European allies.” [Halperin apparently believes that Iraq coalition allies such as Great Britain, Italy, Denmark and Poland lack the European sophistication he admires. At the time he wrote this in March 2004, the complicity of the United Nations, France and Germany in Saddam’s Oil-for-Food scandal was already becoming recognized in the national media.]

 

When told that during an already-scheduled interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News Channel he would asked about his statements about liberal bias in the establishment media, Mark Halperin cancelled the interview.

 

It is undoubted that lifelong leftist bias will impact ABC’s coverage of this year’s presidential election.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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