Media Cheered When Reagan Was Shot

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This article by Thomas M. Sipos was originally published on several websites in 2001.

 

 

Leftist intolerance among students and journalists is nothing new. I witnessed it in the Eighties, when students and TV producers laughed and cheered at news reports about the assassination attempt on President Reagan.

In January of 1981, while still an undergraduate at NYU, I began interning at the Channel L Working Group. The CLWG was described to me as an "independent nonprofit" funded by Manhattan Cable TV (Time-Warner) and the City of New York. Offices in the massive government building at 51 Chambers Street.

The CLWG produced programming for City Channel L, Manhattan Cable TV's community access channel. Not to be confused with public access or paid access channels, community access channels were required by their franchise contract with the city to provide free time to "the community" (i.e, politicians, school board members, "community activists," etc.). Their programming had to be "in the community interest."

The CLWG produced some (not all) of the shows on Channel L. Its staff was small: two paid administrators (Chuck and John), a CETA worker, and interns. It leased a TV studio, for one night every week, on Lexington Avenue.

During my interview with the CLWG, John emphasized that their programming was heavily political and "community-oriented." He asked if that interested me. I said yes.

John repeated his question several times, altering his words. As if trying to draw me out. I considered providing examples of my job-related interest. You're supposed to do that in an interview, no? I was a member of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom, and had been a campaign volunteer for the Republican and Conservative Parties in the 1977 local elections.

But I sensed John's discomfort with me. I wondered whether I was confronting bias, or was merely being paranoid. Still, I kept mum about my political affiliations. Instead, to demonstrate my interest, I said I knew who my local representatives were.

"Well, that's more than most people know," replied John, squirming. "I still don't get a sense if you're really interested in this job."

Perhaps because he failed to find a smoking gun, I was hired. (No salary; it was a student internship.) My work entailed producing and directing talking head shows, with an occasional "man on the street" taped insert.

A few weeks later, I returned from a taping to the CLWG offices. I found everyone crowded around the TV. President Reagan had just been shot. Everyone was cheering, laughing, clapping. The news reported that doctors weren't sure whether to remove the bullet or leave it in.

"He wants to keep his war wound!" laughed Chuck, prancing about with his open shirt, as though he were Reagan displaying his wound.

Many begged for Reagan to die. A side debate ensued whether Vice President Bush would be worse.

Since my taping was done, I excused myself and left the building, before I said the wrong thing. At 19, I didn't know if the CLWG could blacklist me.

My internship lasted through May 1981. I saw other examples of Leftist media bias, though none so revolting. In spring, we produced a show on crime. During our taped interviews in the park facing City Hall, the intern who was hosting that week sought "minority voices" -- and was miffed when every black she approached said something like: "Well, you know. You do the crime, you do the time."

After an hour of this, I said, "We have enough tape."

The intern/host scowled, "Yeah, but nobody's saying what I want them to say."

Yes, the folks at the CLWG were that blatant.

Although an "independent nonprofit," the CLWG was required by their charter to provide access for state and local politicians. This created a crisis when one "extreme right-wing" politician (i.e., a machine Democrat) requested time on one of our shows. During our weekly production meeting, Chuck pondered for plausible excuses to legally deny, or at least delay, granting the request.

One intern (a self-described "socialist") suggested that acquiescing to the politician might not be so bad. "Then everyone will see the slime dripping off him."

"These right-wingers are smarter than that," Chuck chided. "They take classes. They know how to present themselves on TV."

I managed one tiny victory, while directing a call-in talk show featuring Councilwoman Miriam Friedlander. One caller became abusive. The technical director asked me if I wanted to cut off the caller.

"Let him talk," I shrugged. Not because the caller was conservative. I was simply being a knee-jerk free speecher.

During the next production meeting, Chuck chewed me out. Apparently, Friedlander -- who sat respectfully still while the caller was venting -- excoriated Chuck after the show. Although reputedly a "liberal," Friedlander expected us to bump hostile callers. Instead, I allowed her to be publicly humiliated. Not that Channel L had a huge audience.

I tried to cover my tail with a liberal rationale (that also happened to be true). "But, I thought we should support the First Amendment."

Chuck sighed. "But that doesn't mean you can let anyone on the air!"

Oh. Okay.

My introduction to liberal media bias occurred while I was in high school. I'd volunteered for Barry Farber's 1977 Conservative Party mayoral campaign. I hand-delivered press releases to news outlets on Friday afternoons. I assumed the media would provide equal and adequate coverage of all candidates, but Farber (who also ran in the Republican primary) was largely ignored. To my best knowledge, WINS-AM newsradio was the only media outlet that ever reported from one of our press releases.

What I saw at the Channel L Working Group shocked me at the time, but from what I can see, things have only gotten uglier since then.