- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

ABC lets George do it

Former Clinton White House aide George Stephanopoulos will take over as anchor of the Sunday-morning public-affairs show "This Week" starting in September, ABC News announced yesterday.

Mr. Stephanopoulos, 41, who joined ABC News in 1997 as a political analyst for "This Week," will replace co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. Terms of his contract with the Walt Disney Co.-owned network were not disclosed, Reuters reports.

The move, which was widely expected, returns "This Week" to a single-moderator format for the first time since Mr. Donaldson and Mrs. Roberts replaced David Brinkley when he retired in 1996.

Mr. Stephanopoulos said that as host he would "build on the base" his predecessors created, with weekly newsmaker interviews and round-table discussions featuring veteran columnist and commentator George Will.

"But as far as the exact format, it's something we want to work on over the summer, and think about and experiment with once the show starts," he told Reuters.

Asked whether he would have to overcome a perceived liberal bias in light of his background as a top aide to President Clinton and his longtime association with the Democratic Party, Mr. Stephanopoulos said his track record as a reporter should speak for itself.

"I think the questions are fair. I just think they're going to be answered by my work," he said.


Civil wrongs

"Is there no end to the ridiculousness emanating from Mary Frances Berry's Commission on Civil Rights?" the Wall Street Journal asks.

"Her personal political playground has just been ordered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay Emma Monroig $160,000 and reinstate her as staff solicitor," the newspaper noted in an editorial.

"Shortly after Ms. Berry took over as chairman of the commission in 1994, Ms. Monroig's performance reviews turned sour. Suspicious of the reasons given, Ms. Monroig, who is Hispanic, filed a complaint with the EEOC. In retaliation, Ms. Berry effectively demoted Ms. Monroig and transferred her duties to a less-qualified black staffer. In its ruling, the EEOC said the commission's attempts to justify its treatment of Ms. Monroig 'lacked credibility' and were a 'pretext for discrimination.'

"The irony is that the Civil Rights Commission exists to investigate exactly this sort of behavior elsewhere. It's also notable that Ms. Monroig's is just one of nine similar EEOC complaints recently filed by staffers. That's an astonishing number for a federal agency with only about 75 employees. At least three of these cases have been settled by Ms. Berry under undisclosed terms that have kept not only the public, but other commissioners in the dark."

The newspaper added: "Saddest of all is that these shenanigans have become business as usual at the Civil Rights Commission, where politics trumps merit every time in decisions about whom to investigate and when. Later this week, Ms. Berry is launching yet another investigation of 'voting rights issues presented during the 2000 presidential election.' Janet Reno, who is running for governor of Florida against President Bush's brother Jeb this autumn, will certainly appreciate the timing."


Wrong moral direction

Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and House majority whip, criticized CNN founder Ted Turner yesterday for suggesting a moral equivalence between suicide bombings directed against Israel and the Jewish state's right to self-defense.

In an interview published yesterday in London's Guardian newspaper, Mr. Turner accused Israel of engaging in "terrorism" against the Palestinians and, in referring to the Palestinians, called suicide bombers "all they have."

Mr. DeLay said: "Ted Turner has been wrong about a lot of things before, but his twisted attempt to justify terrorism against Israel by establishing moral equivalence descends to new depths. Turner's thoughts on the Middle East are the rant of a man with a defective moral compass."

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League also took Mr. Turner to task, saying it was "tragically ironic" that Mr. Turner excused the "very violent acts that prevent a more secure future for Israelis and Palestinians," on a day when a Hamas suicide bomber took the lives of 19 Israelis on their way to school and work.

"Mr. Turner, the use of terrorism can never be justified," Mr. Foxman said. "Indeed, by your equation, the September 11 attacks were legitimate since the 19 perpetrators had no other tools at their disposal in their 'battle' against the United States."


'Taken to the cleaners'

A California legislative committee wrapped up its hearing on a potentially costly state computer contract with scathing criticism of Gov. Gray Davis' administration for its handling of the deal.

"I think we got taken to the cleaners," Democratic Assemblyman Dean Florez said Monday night as the Joint Legislative Audit Committee completed more than 110 hours of testimony.

"Every agency head involved in this fiasco as well as the governor's policy adviser, Cabinet secretary and director of e-government abdicated their duties to the detriment of taxpayers and to the benefit of the corporate interests."

Republicans pressed for more hearings on the $95 million, no-bid agreement with Oracle Corp., suggesting that the testimony had revealed corruption in state government, the Associated Press reports.

"If we do adjourn, we allow this creeping culture of corruption to take over state government," Republican Assemblyman Bill Leonard said.

Former Oracle lobbyist Ravi Mehta gave a Davis aide a $25,000 check for the governor's re-election campaign five days after the contract was signed.

Both the governor and Oracle have denied any link between the money and the contract, but Mr. Davis has returned the donation, and the state and Oracle are discussing how to rescind the agreement.


Rumsfeld's complaint

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sold $20.5 million to $91 million in assets last year to avoid conflicts of interest, he says in a disclosure report that includes a slap at the required forms.

Mr. Rumsfeld complained in an unusual letter to the Office of Government Ethics that the "excessively complex and confusing" forms cost him more than $60,000 in accountants' fees to compile. "I do not have the time" to fill them out personally, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote.

The defense secretary told reporters yesterday that he signed the forms "with a prayer and a hope" that they were accurate, because he did not read every entry.

"They're so complex that no human being, college educated or not, can understand them," Mr. Rumsfeld said of the disclosure forms.


PC ABC?

"Country star Toby Keith has never toed the politically correct line, but now it's cost him the opening slot on ABC's all-star Fourth of July celebration," reports Liza Zhito of the Texas Review Society.

"Keith was invited to perform his new song, 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)' at the upcoming telecast. But ABC's Peter Jennings pulled the plug, citing the song's lyrics, which he felt 'did not belong on his network,' Mr. Keith said."

Mr. Keith's song is an "angry tongue-lashing" of those behind the September 11 attacks, Miss Zhito says. The lyrics include a graphic offer to inflict painful damage on supporters of terrorism with a "boot that says 'Made in the USA.'"

As for ABC's Mr. Jennings, a native of Toronto, Mr. Keith is not impressed: "I don't care. He's Canadian, ain't he? It's our Fourth of July, not his."

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