Bias? Ridiculous; Clift's Year-End Awards
Bryant Gumbel Countdown Calendar: 11 Days to Go
1. In October Tim
Russert called a Clinton scandal development "dead serious."
On Friday he called another revelation "deadly serious." But,
again, it's hardly big news on NBC.
2. ABC's Cokie
Roberts insisted nobody can "not be appalled" at how large
donors get a night in the Lincoln Bedroom. But World News Tonight never
told viewers about it.
Jonathan Alter dismissed as "ridiculous" a reporter's
contention that Clinton's ethics were underplayed, but MediaWatch showed
how wrong Alter remains.
magazine endorsed calling Bob Dornan a "national disgrace"
and lamented that he'll have more time to sub for Rush Limbaugh.
magazine forwarded the standard liberal spin on how Reagan's defense
build-up caused the deficit.
Clift announced her year-end awards. She bashed Dornan and Starr, was
saddened that Republicans retained House.
set up today's first item we need to review a comment from Tim Russert and
media coverage from late October. On October 25 a panel of judges
authorized independent counsel Kenneth Starr to investigate whether former
White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum lied about his knowledge of Hillary
Clinton's involvement in the FBI files matter.
On the October 28 Today, NBC's Tim Russert insisted: "This is dead
serious. I mean the ethical problems of the Clinton Administration are now
troubling even to the most partisan Democrats."
So how much emphasis did the networks give this "dead serious"
development? The CBS Evening News didn't mention the news. On ABC's World
News Tonight anchor Forrest Sawyer read a brief item. And how did
Russert's NBC, where he is Washington Bureau Chief, treat a story that he
insists can't be dismissed nine days before election day? NBC Nightly News
offered viewers only a brief item read by anchor Brian Williams.
Now, fast forward
to the Friday Today show of December 20. Katie Couric interviewed Russert
at about 7:20am. After asking about Newt Gingrich she turned to the
President and the decision of Justice Department officials to probe
Clinton's defense fund.
"Career officials in the public integrity section. Yesterday, another
bombshell. They we're not only going to look into President Clinton
re-election campaign fundraising, they're going to look into fundraising
for his legal defense fund. And they subpoenaed documents throughout
Washington. This is deadly serious, Katie. It is career, professional
investigators in the Justice Department who are going to prove their
independence. And this investigation into the President's campaign and
legal campaign fund is going to be exhaustive and people at the White
House are quite concerned this morning."
Well they needn't
worry about TV network coverage. The 7am Today newscast didn't mention
this development nor the front page Washington Post story that day which
revealed how Clinton had included in a fundraising gathering the head of
the Chinese arms manufacturer accused of smuggling weapons into the U.S.
But Today dedicated three minutes to two stories on OJ. In fact, the
defense fund subpoena development was overshadowed by the Newt Gingrich
case. Here's a network evening show breakdown:
ABC's World News
Tonight: On December 19 ABC ignored the defense fund subpoenas, but did
find time for a brief item on the status of Newt Gingrich. On December 20:
CBS Evening News: On December 19 CBS aired a full Phil Jones story on
Gingrich followed by a brief mention from anchor John Roberts about
Clinton. On December 20 CBS was the only one of the three networks to air
a full story on the Chinese arms dealer.
NBC Nightly News: On December 19 NBC's Tom Brokaw relayed a short item on
Clinton followed by a full story on Gingrich from reporter Lisa Myers. On
December 20 anchor Brian Williams showed a clip of Clinton commenting on
the Chinese arms dealer during his press conference that day after
announcing the latest cabinet picks. But no full story on NBC on either
On the same theme (of what's big news on Sunday morning isn't always
reported on network newscasts), on the December 22 This Week George Will
recalled the December 15 Washington Post story on how Clinton is
"treating the Lincoln Bedroom as Motel 6." Cokie Roberts chimed
in: "It's offensive. It's offensive to anybody. I mean nobody can
look at that and not be appalled."
except producers for ABC's World News Tonight, which failed to report the
revelation of how large contributors get a night in the White House.
The December 9 CyberAlert reported how in his first piece for the New
Republic William Powers, a former Washington Post reporter, showed how the
networks underplayed the Clinton character issue during the campaign.
Other reporters have not appreciated his analysis. Powers and Newsweek's
Jonathan Alter are exchanging a series of memos on the Slate magazine Web
In his December 11 shot Alter called the Powers piece
"ridiculous," contending Clinton's ethics got plenty of
coverage. On December 13 Powers responded: "I am sincerely stunned,
and more than a little intrigued, by the way you and other media watchers
have reacted to my debut New Republic piece. I seem to have broken some
secret, unspoken rule of the club. Your collective tone is of incredulous
disdain, as in: 'Whooooaa, what's up with this new guy? He's got some
ridiculous idea that the coverage of the Clinton scandals was inadequate.
Can you imagine? Must be some raving right-winger. Is he insane?'"
Well, welcome to
the club Mr. Powers.
In his December
17 retort, Alter dismissed Powers's series of examples of under coverage:
"As for Filegate, do you honestly believe that Newsweek, or any other
news organization, wouldn't have loved a good, juicy Craig Livingstone
story to liven up October? Of course we would have. But what are we
supposed to do -- make one up?"
Alter should read
MediaWatch. As we reported in our October Study, the networks largely
ignored Filegate. On September 25 Senator Orrin Hatch revealed a six month
gap in the log which listed who at the White House accessed the FBI
background files. CNN's World Today did a story and it got one mention on
ABC's Good Morning America. But zilch on CBS and NBC as well as World News
On October 4 the Senate released the deposition of Mari Anderson, a former
aide to Livingstone. She verified that pages were missing and that, in
contradiction to Livingstone's testimony, he knew they were getting files
on Republicans. The Washington Post put it on page one, but nothing
appeared in the morning or evening on ABC, CBS or NBC. CNN did note it on
The World Today.
Here's Number 7 from the December 23 Time magazine "Worst Public
Performances of 1996."
"Robert Dornan. B-1 Bob went ballistic after narrowly losing his
House seat in Orange County, California, to Hispanic financial analyst
Loretta Sanchez. Threatening to sue her for election fraud, Dornan called
Sanchez a 'liar' and said the whole thing stinks to high heaven.' Of
course, sour grapes were to be expected from the former fighter pilot who
once grabbed a fellow Congressman by the collar and called him a
'draft-dodging wimp.' Sanchez's campaign manager, John Sullivan, spoke for
many when he said of Dornan, 'He's been, and continues to be, a national
disgrace. All we can say is Adios.' The bad news is that Dornan will now
have more time for his second job as Rush Limbaugh's substitute
A question listed in "Walter Scott's Personality Parade" in the
December 15 Parade, the Sunday newspaper magazine, asked "if the
federal budget was ever in the black?" The Parade writer explained
that Louis Fisher, a political scientist with the Library of Congress,
reported that there's been a surplus in 27 budgets this century. "The
other years showed deficits, but most were manageable until 1981, when
'President Reagan's plan to increase defense spending while cutting taxes
threw the deficit into the $200 billion range,' says Fisher."
On this past weekend's McLaughlin Group Newsweek's Eleanor Clift showed
that the gap between the official White House line and what she mouths is
near impossible to quantify. The Group issued its year-end assessments.
Here are a few from Clift:
Winner: "Linda Sanchez who toppled Bob Dornan, the scourge of all
thinking people. And also awakened us to the power of the Hispanic vote,
even in Republican stronghold Orange County."
-- Most Decisive Campaign Moment: "Sadly, the flap over the
Indonesian campaign contributions. The only thing that moved the polls all
year. Probably cost the Democrats control of he House."
-- Turncoat of the Year: "Sherrie Rowlands, the lady of the night who
ratted on Dick Morris and tarnished what would otherwise have been a big
win for him."
-- Fairest Rap: "My fairest rap is like Clarence's [Page], that Ken
Starr is a partisan Republican. True, true, true."
-- Most Original Thinker: "David Kessler, who came up with the
scientific rationale for the President to launch a war on tobacco."
John McLaughlin: "So you appreciate that?"
Clift: "I appreciate it. He called tobacco a drug, an addictive
-- Man/Woman of the Year: "I'm going to give it to Madeleine Albright
who broke a very thick glass ceiling, with the help of President Clinton,
and she did it solely on the basis of her qualifications. Nobody can say
she didn't deserve that job, Secretary of State by the way."
That's not quite
the line many liberals in the media took when President Bush tapped
This is the last
CyberAlert until after Christmas. So, from the Media Research Center and
the CyberAlert team, Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays.
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