Network news, DiCaprio style

April 06, 2000|By Cal Thomas

THE DEFINITION of propaganda describes ABC News' decision to enlist the services of actor and teenage heartthrob, Leonardo DiCaprio, to interview President Clinton about the environment: "the spreading of ideas, information or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person."

Mr. DiCaprio, who has about as much scientific credibility as those actors who testified before Congress in 1989 about the supposed dangers of the chemical Alar used to promote ripening of apples, is said by his spokesman (apparently Mr. DiCaprio has trouble speaking without a script) to have "been interested in the environment for a long time." I'm interested in the Broadway theater (what's left of it), but no one is offering me a role because I'm not an actor.

Mr. DiCaprio will be in Washington for Earth Day, April 22, along with other scientific geniuses who act just so they can put high-priced bread on their expensive tables: Melanie Griffith, Chevy Chase, David (Sperm Bank) Crosby, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. At a time when the college transcripts of presidential candidates have been released, may we please at least know what grades this bunch got in school?

`Good opportunity'

An ABC publicist says the 25-year-old (!) star was "the catalyst" for the presidential interview, and it was Mr. DiCaprio who approached ABC. White House spokesman Jake Siewert said, "We thought it was a good opportunity to educate Americans about the importance of climate change and a host of other issues." Phyllis McGrady, the executive producer of the interview, said the idea came from conversations between Mr. DiCaprio and his friend Chris Cuomo, a "correspondent" for "20/20" and coincidentally the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who has another son, Andrew Cuomo, coincidentally the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Chris Cuomo will anchor. All take the liberal position that the world is doomed without more environmental laws. At least we had the possibility of George Stephanopoulos covering the event. He's a former "actor" for the Clinton administration who has been morphed into an ABC News correspondent.

There are scientifically defensible opinions in opposition to "global warming," but they rarely see the light of day on ABC or any other network. On the limited occasions when they do, they are characterized as tales from the kook fringe that "legitimate" and "mainstream" scientists reject.

This is an issue not only about the environment but about new regulations that will determine how we live our lives and what freedoms the government allows us to enjoy. The latest flap over oil prices has prompted liberals to again suggest that after government takes away our guns and more of our money, they'll be coming after our SUVs, closing businesses judged to be "polluters" and hiring the newly unemployed to work in a huge government bureaucracy. This is a scenario favored by Vice President Al Gore, whose stated goal is the elimination of the internal-combustion engine.

Truth, not agendas

A television network owes viewers an opportunity to consider more than one side of an important issue. And it should employ the services of experienced reporters who are not supposed to be promoting an agenda but searching for truth.

In his 1996 book, "News Values," Tribune Publishing Company President Jack Fuller writes on the imbalance of environmental reporting: "Once journalists became persuaded that powerful interests were causing danger and using their strength to cover it up, the tilt set in. It was not easy to learn from news reports about the evidence suggesting that emissions from tall smokestacks do not cause widespread acid rain damage to forests or that Agent Orange's dioxin does not cause severe health problems in human beings or that the white spotted owl seems to be living happily in unendangered numbers in non-old growth forests."

Viewers of the DiCaprio-Clinton interview are not likely to learn anything but what the environmental lobby wants them to learn. That's propaganda. Would ABC News consider asking NRA President Charlton Heston to interview a conservative president about gun laws, or the head of National Right to Life to ask a president about abortion? If the answer seems obvious, why is ABC News giving credibility to Mr. DiCaprio and his views by allowing him to interview President Clinton?

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

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