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Bernie and the Press 

Sanders keeps getting tough treatment from the Vermont press while the national press starts to cover him more.

Bernie Sanders

Published December 3, 1997 at 4:00 a.m.

Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders may have a hard time getting on WGOP — sorry WCAX, but he's doing a lot better with the national press. Take this week's edition of Business Week — that's right, Business Week. Of all the places to find our favorite socialist portrayed in a favorable light!

On page 6 there's a photo of Ol' Bernardo and a glowing article crediting him for being the key negotiator between Newt Gingrich's Republicans and Big Labor in the battle over saving the Export-Import Bank. Under the headline "Strange Bedfellows - Republicans Pay Their Union Dues," Business Week reports it was Bernie's floor amendment adding a second seat for unions on the bank's advisory board that iced the deal. "And to make the alliance even odder," reports the magazine, "credit representative Bernard Sanders of Vermont, the only socialist member of the House, as the matchmaker."

Ol' Bernardo's opponents have always charged he'd be ineffective in Washington. History, folks, has proven them wrong. He started the Progressive Caucus and got 50 Democrats to join him. He's won Republican support to challenge corporate welfare. He's become a player on international trade issues by carving out his own personal independent niche.

Sanders' advocacy for Gulf War veterans has also won him praise. Last month he was the keynote speaker at an Atlanta conference sponsored by the National Gulf War Resource Center. Thirty-six Gulf War vets groups from across from the U.S. as well as Great Britain were in attendance. Congress was in session that weekend burning the midnight oil. The vets would have understood if Sanders cancelled. But Ol' Bernardo found a way to leave the House floor for a few hours to address the veterans in Atlanta. He said he'd be there, and he kept his word.

Paul Sullivan, the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, told Inside Track, "His plane landed more than an hour late and he drove directly to the hotel, ran in and gave his speech, receiving several standing ovations, then ran out to a waiting car that rushed him back to the airport to catch the flight back to Washington." Sanders, he said, made quite an impression.

"You know, you hear a lot of nasty things about Washington," said Sullivan, "but here's a guy who's not a veteran and doesn't represent Atlanta who went way out of his way." It was Sanders' sub-committee, said Sullivan, that "broke the logjam on chemical exposures."

Closer to home, though, it's a different story. It was hard to keep a straight face reading Marselis Parsons' letter to the editor last week defending WCAX's coverage — or lack thereof — of Vermont's lone congressman. Parsons didn't deny that WCAX blew off five consecutive Sanders press conferences this fall. He argued the station covered the issues Bernie raised despite their absences. Reading the letter, you'd think Parsons and WGOP were the epitome of fairness, if not Ol' Bernardo's biggest boosters in Vermont's media land!

But Ch. 3's newscast the night Parsons' letter ran brought us all back to reality. Marselis reported that the head of the FCC had said he may be willing to delay implementation of new regulations governing the placement of communications towers. "According to today's Vermont Times newspaper," said Parsons, "new FCC chairman William Kennard said he may hold off on the new rules for six months, while he reviews opposition to them."

However, Parsons omitted the fact that the real source for the news from the chairman of the FCC was none other than our congressman, Bernie Sanders. Without Ol' Bernardo there was no story. Vermont Times credited Sanders in the article's first sentence. WGOP ignored that little detail.


Funny, because earlier that day the Ch. 3 reporter who attended Sanders' press conference (hey, now WGOP is batting one for six!) had asked about that very issue. And with the Ch. 3 camera running, Bernie elaborated on his conversation with Mr. Kennard. That never made the newscast. Hey, don't want Bernie to look like he's actually doing something in Washington. Red Martin would bust a gut.

The fact is, Marselis Parsons' Bernie-bias is a plain as the nose on his pretty little face and everybody knows it.

Media Notes — Back in August, Susan Crampton, chairman of the board of trustees at Vermont Public Radio, told yours truly it was "not good journalism" to write about VPR's director of development Fred Hill, a convicted sex offender whose victims were underage boys.

Inside Track caught some serious fire in the letters section and several advertisers loyal to Hill bolted from Seven Days. It was a story a lot of people didn't want to know about. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant story to tell and no other Vermont media outlet picked up on it.

Now it appears one other media outfit thinks it's a story, too. According to an assistant editor at the Boston Globe, this coming Sunday the largest paper in New England will devote a feature-length article to the case of Fred Hill and Vermont Public Radio in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.

Should be a popular edition around these parts.

DeanWatch 2000 — It's been three weeks since Gov. Howard Dean publicly let it slip that, yes, he is thinking about running for President. Monday on "The Mark Johnson Show" on WKDR, he let us know he's been doing a whole lot of thinking. You know the bit about how his kids — ages 11 and 13 — aren't peachy keen on making a move to big, bad Washington, DC? Well, Ho-Ho now says that story is based only on a "superficial" discussion with the kids. "We haven't had that discussion in the kind of depth that needs to happen," said Dean.

And what about the wife problem? The story has been that Ho-Ho's spouse, Dr. Judith Steinberg, doesn't fancy the notion of having a Rose Garden in her backyard. After all, Dr. Judy only shows up on the media radar once every two years when Dr. Dean takes the oath of office in Montpeculiar.

"Our marriage works," said Dean, "because she gets to do the things that are important to her and I get to do the things that are important to me." Dean conceded as a First Family, they would offer "a break-the-mold kind of approach," but so what? "If I were to run for a larger office," said Ho-Ho, "I would not expect her to do any of the political things that she doesn't do now. I'd expect her — assuming she wants to — to continue to practice medicine, which is what she loves."

I'd say the guy's got a serious case of presidential fever.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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