Saturday, October 09, 2004

ABC Slammed for 'Slanted' Campaign Coverage

'SLANTED' ABC TAKES THE HEAT
By DEBORAH ORIN and STEFAN C. FRIEDMAN

October 9, 2004 -- ST. LOUIS — ABC News was under fire last night after an internal memo surfaced suggesting President Bush should be held more accountable for his statements than John Kerry.

The memo to staffers from the network's powerful political director, Marc Halperin, noted that while both campaigns are distorting the truth, Kerry's bending of the facts shouldn't be hit as hard.

"Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win," Halperin wrote.

But "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done," Halperin added.

Halperin further advised the ABC staff to keep that in mind when reporting.

"We have a responsibility 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," the memo continued.

"It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. 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."

A spokesman for ABC news insisted "we are not interested in taking sides, we are only interested in getting at the truth."

Halperin plays a mostly behind-the-scenes role at ABC, and is known as the father of "The Note," a daily political memo that is read by thousands of D.C. insiders, political players and journalists.