CNN: Looking More Pro-Clinton Every Day
by L. Brent Bozell III
August 12, 1997
We heard the shrieks of horror from the national press corps
when CBS had the audacity to hire perky Republican Susan Molinari to anchor
their Saturday morning show. Why, there's a line between politics and
journalism! So how do you suppose these sophisticates reacted when one of
their own, who clearly has been working on both sides of the line, has now
been named President of a major network? ABC executive Rick Kaplan,
ongoing adviser and Friend of Bill, has just been named president of CNN/USA.
And the Molinari-must-go crowd is nowhere to be found.
What in the world was CNN thinking? It's bad enough that
they damaged their reputation for objectivity by almost completely ignoring
live coverage of the Thompson hearings. After the first day of testimony, they
dumped the hearings - until former Republican Chairman Haley Barbour appeared.
Hey, we'll put on the Democratic National Committee's highest officials if and
when they appear, CNN declared. That somehow constituted objectivity: though
we're looking at the most egregious modern example of Democratic Party
corruption, equal time should be focused on both parties.
Kaplan is the modern era's most blatant example of a news
executive who repeatedly fails to hide his political preferences, either in
public, or in the news shows he oversees. Kaplan's career begs the question:
why just be a referee when you can be a player?
In 1992, Kaplan, then-Executive Producer of ABC's
"Prime Time Live," was crucial to helping Clinton through a
difficult set of primaries. He did not deny Laureen Hobbs' July/August 1992
Spy magazine report that he boasted of attending Clinton campaign staff
meetings and helped set up the campaign's press office while working for ABC.
In his 1993 inside-ABC book "Strange Bedfellows,"
Tom Rosenstiel explained how Clinton repeatedly called Kaplan as the Gennifer
Flowers story broke, desperately seeking advice on how to handle the story,
and which interview request to accept. He didn't find Kaplan's name in the
Yellow Pages. Kaplan had called their mutual buddy Susan Thomases: "Bill
has to come out and do something about this," he said, offering his show
"Prime Time Live" as an outlet. When Clinton accepted "60
Minutes" instead, Kaplan coached him on how to handle CBS.
When Clinton's campaign was floundering in the New York
primary, Kaplan rode to the rescue again, getting Clinton booked on the Don
Imus show. Kaplan not only arranged the interview, he prepared him for it --
and ABC cameras taped both ends of the conversation and aired it on
"Nightline," which Kaplan had headed before "Prime Time."
Kaplan was still at in the fall of 1992. In a very rare
exploration of liberal bias (call it penance) on the March 11, 1993
"Prime Time Live," Sam Donaldson explained he had added a positive
remark at the end of a pre-election interview because Kaplan "expressed
concern that the tone of the Clinton interview was too hostile." In a
Washington Post Magazine story, reporter David Finkel quoted Kaplan as he
watched Donaldson's interview: "I'd just like to do this one over
again...I'm getting angry watching this...You're making fun of him...You
didn't treat Bush this way."
(On an unrelated front in 1992, Kaplan's "Prime Time
Live" aired an expose of the Food Lion supermarket chain using union
activists for advisers and undercover producers who falsified their employment
records and staged events to smear the nonunion chain. In addition to
assessing a multimillion-dollar judgment against ABC News, the North Carolina
jury slapped a $35,000 judgment on Kaplan personally. But CNN Chairman Tom
Johnson made no mention of that fiasco when he claimed that "Rick has
been involved with shows that have set new standards of excellence in
In 1993, ABC fired "World News Tonight" Executive
Producer Emily Rooney shortly after she told media writers "the old
stereotype of the liberal bent happens to be true." In her place, ABC
brought in - Kaplan, who suffered almost no media buzz from the stunning
contrast in journalistic approaches. He had "played golf with Bill
shortly before the inauguration and watched movies with both Clintons at the
Governor's mansion," Jacob Weisberg reported in The New Republic.
While he was running "World News Tonight," he
stayed at his buddy's house in the Lincoln Bedroom. When his sleepover was
exposed a few months ago, Kaplan gave this full explanation to Electronic
Media magazine: "It's nobody's business." Washington Post reporter
Howard Kurtz summarized his view: "Kaplan said his visit did not create
an appearance problem because it was never made public until now. He said his
ties to Clinton had no impact on his work." He assured Kurtz: "The
idea that you could suddenly decide to gild the lily or twist the news, it's a
non-starter." Kaplan hadn't suddenly decided to twist the news: he's been
at it a long time. And now he's running CNN.
Voice Your Opinion!
Write to Brent Bozell
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe