ANNOUNCING THE P.U.-LITZER PRIZES FOR 2001
by Norman Solomon
American Reporter Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- The P.U.-litzer Prizes were established a decade ago to gi= ve recognition to the stinkiest media performances of the year. As e= ach winter arrives, I confer with Jeff Cohen of the media watch group F.A.I= .R. to sift through the large volume of entries. This year, the competiti= on was especially fierce. We regret that only a few journalists can win a P= .U.-litzer.
And now, the tenth annual P.U.-litzer Prizes, for the foulest media perf= ormances of 2001:
'Love A Man In A Uniform' Award -- Cokie Roberts= of ABC News "This Week"
On David Letterman's show in October, Roberts gushed: "I am, I will just= confess to you, a total sucker for the guys who stand up with all the ribb= ons on and stuff, and they say it's true and I'm ready to believe it. We ha= d General Shelton on the show the last day he was chairman of the Joint Chi= efs of Staff and I couldn't lift that jacket with all the ribbons and medal= s. And so when they say stuff, I tend to believe it."
Protecting Viewers From The News -- CNN Chair Walter Isaacson "= It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghan= istan," said Isaacson, in a memo ordering his staff to accompany any images= of Afghan civilian suffering with rhetoric that U.S. bombing is retaliatio= n for the Taliban harboring terrorists. As if the American public may be to= o feeble-minded to remember Sept. 11, the CNN chief explained: "You want to= make sure that when they see civilian suffering there,it's in the context = of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States."
Protecting Readers From The News Prize -- Panama City News Her= ald
An October internal memo from the daily in Panama City, Florida, = warned its editors: "DO NOT U.S.E photos on Page 1A showing civilian c= asualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. Our sister paper ... has done s= o and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening e-mails... DO NOT U.S.= E wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war on= Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story. If the st= ory needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties, DO IT."
Best Embrace Of Terrorist Mindset Award -- columnist Ann Coulter=
This category had many candidates -- pundits apparently trying to sound = as fanatical as the terrorists they were denouncing -- but it was won by Co= ulter, who wrote in September: "We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They= are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countr= ies, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Runner-up: Thomas Woodrow and The Washington Times>, for a column h= eadlined "Time to Use the Nuclear Option," which asserted: "At a bare minim= um, tactical nuclear capabilities should be used against the bin Laden camp= s in the desert of Afghanistan. To do less would be rightly seen by the poi= soned minds that orchestrated these attacks as cowardice."
Tortuous Punditry Prize -- Jonathan Alter of Newsweek
In the Nov. 5 edition, under the headline "Time to Think About Torture,"= Newsweek's Alter wrote: "In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find = his thoughts turning to ... torture. OK, not cattle prods or rubber hoses, = at least not here in the United States, but something to jump-start the sta= lled investigation of the greatest crime in Americanhistory... . Some peopl= e still argue that we needn't rethink any of our old assumptions about law = enforcement, but they're hopelessly 'Sept. 10' -- living in a country that = no longer exists."
Child Pornography Award -- Bob Edwards, NPR News
On a Nov. 26 broadcast, the longtime anchor of "Morning Edition" intervi= ewed a 12-year-old boy about a new line of trading cards marketed "to teach= children about the war on terrorism" by "featuring photographs and informa= tion about the war effort." The elder male was enthusiastic as he compared = cards. "I've got an Air Force F-16," Edwards said. "The picture's taken fro= m the bottom so you can see the whole payload there, all the bombs lined up= ." After the boy replied with a bland "yeah," Edwards went on: "That's pr= etty cool."
'Wild About The Madman' Award -- Thomas Friedman of The New York Times
"I was a critic of Rumsfeld before, but there's o= ne thing ... that I do like about Rumsfeld," columnist Friedman declared on= Oct. 13 during a CNBC appearance. "He's just a little bit crazy, OK? He's = just a little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on bein= g able to out-crazy us, and I'm glad we got some guy on our bench that our = quarterback -- who's just a little bit crazy, not totally, but you never kn= ow what thatguy's going to do, and I say that's my guy."
'History Is For Wimps' Prize -- Newsweek
When Newsweek published a Dec. 3 cover story on George W. and Laura Bush= , it was a paean to "the First Team" more akin to worship than journalism. = Along the way, the magazine explained that the president doesn't read many = books: "He's busy making history, but doesn't look back at his own, or the = world's.... Bush would rather look forward thanbackward. It's the way he's = built, and the result is a president who operates without evident remorse o= r second-guessing."
'Blame Certain Americans First' Prize -- televangelist/pundits Je= rry Falwell and Pat Robertson
On the national "700 Club" tv show, with host Robertson expressing his a= greement, Falwell blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on various Americans who had = allegedly irritated God: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortio= nists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively tr= ying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the Americ= an Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finge= r in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
'America United Except For Those Decadent Traitors' Award --Andre= w Sullivan of The New Republic and Sunday Times of London
Columnis= t Sullivan, as if trying to prove that a gay rights advocate can be as hyst= erically right-wing as a Falwell, wrote in mid-September: "The middle part = of the country -- the great red zone that voted for Bush -- is clearly read= y for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -- a= nd may well mount a fifth column."
Sheer O'Reillyness Award -- Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly and = Catherine Seipp of MediaWeek
A February profile of O'Reilly in MediaWeek quoted the tv host's claim t= hat the Los Angeles Times had never named the woman who'd accused Bi= ll Clinton of raping her in 1978: "They never mentioned Juanita Broaddrick'= s name, ever. The whole area out here has no idea what's going on, unless y= ou watch my show." After it was pointed out that O'Reilly was wrong and tha= t Broaddrick had been repeatedly mentioned in the Times, the writer = of the MediaWeek profile, Catherine Seipp, commented that she would likely = have caught the error "if I hadn't been so mesmerized by O'Reilly's sheer O= 'Reillyness. There's just something about a man who's always sure he's righ= t even when he's wrong."
Norman Solomon's latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media." = His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.<