The Shameful Legacy of Three TV Anchors

Sara Pentz

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XLI-- September 5, 2005

In a nine month period between the end of 2004 and the middle of 2005, all three of the major networks ‘lost’ their star news anchors––Tom Brokaw (November 2004), Dan Rather (March 2005), and Peter Jennings (August 7, 2005). Tom Brokaw of NBC chose to retire. Dan Rather ‘resigned’ in disgrace from CBS after he orchestrated one of the most biased reports every produced for a television network. Peter Jennings died at 67 years.

Each of these men leaves a shameful legacy on the face of American journalism. They led their networks into a shocking wave of politically biased reporting and did absolutely nothing to rebuke those who indulged in it––because, it was their agenda, too. They knew exactly what they were doing. Each is responsible for the blackening tarnish that covers all journalists today because of their partisan politics.

Others of their ilk fill me with disgust over the praise of these men. I know what they did to American journalism. I was there as a TV news journalist in New York City in those early days when television news might have had a chance to be honorable. I knew Peter personally and watched as his career developed. I saw him build his own brand of arrogance as the young upstart and hope of ABC News.

After Rather left the anchor slot, hordes of journalists praised him and touted his place in history. They didn’t mean that his place in history was his deliberate attempt to bring down President George W. Bush for which he almost apologized. No, they praised him as a great newsman whose work distinguished him among all others. They gave him awards–– some of which were the highest in the news business. They did all this knowing that he had almost single–handedly wrecked CBS and clearly toppled the networks ratings and credibility.

Tom Brokaw’s network saluted him with documentaries and feted him with award dinners. He was praised for being a real reporter––that is to say––for being like a print reporter––which signifies to insiders that he knew his job was actually looking for facts. The rest of the words describing him sounded like all the other tributes pronounced when people retire or die. But there was betrayal behind those words. Brokaw never stood up to the charges of bias in the news media, either.

Already the same simple–minded saccharine tributes are playing widespread across broadcast TV, cable and broadband for the recently deceased Peter Jennings. Even President Bush shamelessly praised the biased anti–American anchorman. "Peter Jennings had a long and distinguished career as a news journalist. He covered many important events, events that helped define the world, as we know it today. A lot of Americans relied upon Peter Jennings for their news. He became a part of the life of a lot of our fellow citizens, and he will be missed," he said. 

Brokaw, who might have had the most integrity of the three, stood by in a glazed stupor throughout his career as those around him twisted the facts to suit their agenda. Rather was in such denial about his own bias that he seemed to be slightly demented.

But Jennings was the most insidious of them all. He clearly knew what he was doing with his anti–American innuendos. He used his slick façade and glib intellect to ad lib strings of sentences that sounded like history and perspective but were actually hype and harangue.

About bias in the media Peter said: “I think there is a mainstream media. CNN is mainstream media, and the main, ABC, CBS, NBC are mainstream media. And I think it’s just essentially to make the point that we are largely in the center without particular axes to grind, without ideologies which are represented in our daily coverage, at least certainly not on purpose.” — CNN’s Larry King Live, May 15, 2001.

The prestigious Media Research Center says about Peter Jennings:  

While his bias during the recent Iraq war was obvious, it is only the latest example of the ABC anchor’s bias. Jennings has been a reliable proponent of new European-style social welfare spending even while he has shown skepticism toward new defense spending and tax cuts. As Jennings framed it, communism was more a phantom menace than a serious threat, and he similarly whitewashed the despicable record of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, whose bombings killed more than 300 Americans in the 1980s. On the home front, he resented covering the Clinton scandals, portraying them as tedious sideshows. He billed Republicans as destructive and mean-spirited and used his newscast to tout the virtues of liberals...

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, all of the anchors gave viewers fair and even-handed coverage, but Jennings was the first to revert to liberal form: adversarial coverage of U.S. actions and U.S. policies, and less judgmental coverage of tyrants and terrorists. During the war in Afghanistan, World News Tonight gave far more airtime than the other broadcast networks to Taliban claims of massive civilian casualties that Jennings and his team could not verify, and which ABC reporter Jim Wooten later commendably debunked as inflated enemy propaganda.

Jennings displayed an antagonistic attitude towards’ Bush’s Iraq policies for months prior to the actual start of the second Gulf War in March 2003. Even after the rapid collapse of the Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, Jennings — more than any other news anchor — highlighted setbacks and scolded the military for its mistakes, leading to at least one embarrassing retraction.

The 1994 mid term elections gave Republicans a majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1950s. Jennings reacted by demeaning the voters, casting the policies of the new Congress as destructive and mean-spirited, and commiserating with Bill Clinton about the public’s lack of regard for his liberal policies. He continued to rail against GOP policies, especially tax cuts, for years.

In l968, early in his career, Peter Jennings established the first American television news bureau in the Arab world when he served as ABC News' bureau chief for Beirut, Lebanon, a position he held for seven years. Thereafter his ties with the Arab world were reflected in his coverage of the massacre at the Munich Olympics in l972 and, henceforth, on every story he covered regarding Israel and Palestine.

In 2001 Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, wrote the following.

"I first saw Jennings on ABC when, as a young TV journalist, he reported from the Munich Olympics. And I was filled with disgust that his subsequent career has only deepened. At Munich -- I still remember it, 30 years later -- Jennings tried to explain away the abductions and massacre of the young Israeli athletes. His theme: The Palestinians were helpless and desperate. Ipso facto, they were
driven to murder. That's life..."

“In Sept. 2002, when ABC News aired a retrospective on the Olympic Massacre, Jennings unabashedly said that Israel should stop regarding the Palestinians as terrorists as a result of the Olympic Massacre of three decades ago. Jennings dismissed the continual barrage of thousands of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, not only before, but also since the’ 72 Olympics.”

”Thus set the stage for a lifetime of pro-PLO bias.”

In response to the 9/11 tragedy, television critic Tom Shales wrote in the Washington Post (Sept. 17, 2001):

"[Jennings] hosted what looked like a little intercontinental tea party for alleged experts on the Middle East, one of whom was professional Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, whom Jennings hailed as 'widely known in the United States.’ Also widely disliked. Jennings and Ashrawi greeted each other like old pals, with broad smiles and warm greetings.

"Jennings wanted to know, he said, how anyone could hate America so much that they would launch this kind of vicious, calamitous attack. Ashrawi blamed U.S. foreign policy (for having 'fought Arab nationalism') and, predictably for her, Israel. Ashrawi complained that 'Israel is given preferential treatment, treated as a country above the law, as part of her condemnation. Jennings deferred to Ashrawi, as usual, and let her filibuster. It was a nauseating display...”

In a critique of the same Jennings broadcast, TVspy.com reported (Sept. 20, 2001):

"It's no surprise that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings allowed Palestinian proselytizer Hanan Ashrawi to peddle propaganda on his program -- she used to be his girlfriend. U.S. News World Report noted in 1991: 'In the early 1970s, when he was single and head of the ABC bureau in Beirut, Jennings dated Ashrawi, who at the time was also single and a graduate student in literature at the American University in the Lebanese capital.”

"In 1995, Denver Rocky Mountain News international editor Holger Jensen... [wrote] about staying at the Commodore Hotel in Beirut while covering events in war-torn Lebanon. Jensen recalled that Jennings stayed there as well, 'courting a long succession of Palestinian lovelies including Hanan Ashrawi.”

Peter had been married four times and was in and out of relationships throughout his marriages.

He had been a long time smoker, but quit the habit some 20 years before his death. During his coverage of the 9/11 tragedy he resumed smoking. It is, perhaps, ironic that he did this at this time in his news career when the murderers responsible for the terrible 9/11 tragedy were fighting for a cause Peter had crusaded for throughout his biased reporting career.

Sara Pentz is a journalist, editor/writer, and media consultant. She has been a TV news reporter and anchor in New York City and Dallas, also working in this position for CNN in Los Angeles. She has hosted radio talk shows. She has been the editor, senior editor and associate editor of a number of regional and national magazines.

Her political and ethical commentaries are published at: www.sarapentz.com. Ms. Pentz may be contacted at sara@sarapentz.com.

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