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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| January  11, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 2) |


Paula Ignored; Jennings Rationalizes Theft; Newt as Lenin

1.  "Apparently To" problem resolved.

2.  A Democratic Congressman and the New York Times conspire to publish a transcript of a phone call, but CBS is more interested in Gingrich's ethical failings.

3.  As the Paula Jones case goes to the Supreme Court, Ken Bode claimed that the American Lawyer story on her generated lots of coverage. It didn't. And networks have blacked out Jones.

4.  A review of the MRC's study showing a disparity in coverage of Anita Hill vs. Paula Jones - 67 to 15 stories.

5.  Peter Jennings suggests that since they are poor the thieves were justified to take money from an overturned Brinks truck.

6.  Sam Donaldson analogizes how Newt Gingrich treated Democrats to how Lenin knocked off his enemies.

7.  Say "Rat's Ass" and "Son of a Bitch" and how does CBS rate your show? Just TVPG.

1) CompuServe has solved the problem that led to all those Apparently To lines that many of you received in the last four CyberAlerts. I've tested messages to two non-CompuServe e-mail addresses I have and all seems to work as it did before this problem arose in mid-December.
Since the last CyberAlert my computer, on which the address list is saved, died. As a result, with the help of interns Joe Alfonsi and Jessica Anderson, we've restored the list from a couple of weeks old back up copy. But, some of you may now get two copies and others who had unsubscribed may be on the list. Please reply and we'll fix the error.

2) The January 10 New York Times ran a transcript of a December 21 phone call among top Republican aides and Congressmen, including Newt Gingrich. At least one participant was on a cellular phone in Florida, allowing someone there to pick up and record the call.
Anyone can monitor any communications in the airwaves from phone calls to police dispatching, but it's always violated federal law to divulge information you hear to a third party or to use it to evade law enforcement officers. However a few years ago Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which specifically banned the sale of equipment that could receive cellular frequencies (though it is still legal to listen in since any such ban would never stand constitutional challenge). Although the ECPA is really meaningless since the way scanners work allow you to easily overcome this block, the New York Times must know that by publishing the transcript in probable violation of both communications and phone wiretap laws it helped facilitate a felony by who ever gave them the tape. Law enforcement officials must get a warrant before they can tape cellular calls.
But the ethics of the New York Times' isn't what concerned Dan Rather Friday night. He stuck to Gingrich. On the January 10 CBS Evening News Dan Rather announced: "In Washington not just one but two bizarre new twists in the Newt Gingrich ethics and tax case. One could further delay public disclosure of the details of Gingrich's ethics violations and tax problems at an open hearing. The other raises a whole new ethics question about Speaker Gingrich. At issue, what he allegedly said in a secretly recorded telephone call. From Capitol Hill, Bob Schieffer is your guide to these latest twists and turns."
Schieffer reported: "Adding to the turmoil, the New York Times got a tape, apparently picked up by a police scanner in which Gingrich and top lieutenants are heard on a cell phone planning a public relations campaign to counter committee allegations, something Gingrich had promised the committee he would not do."
Following a soundbite from Republican Congessman John Boehner, Schieffer did mote that "Judiciary committee chairman Henry Hyde and other Republicans cried foul and urged the Attorney General to investigate where the tape came from."

3) On Monday the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether a President can be subjected while in office to a civil lawsuit. When decided later this year the Court will determine whether Paula Jones can proceed with her sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton. Sunday's Face the Nation, This Week and Late Edition are scheduled to take up the Jones case, but...
Three weeks before the Speaker vote the networks began running stories on ethical charges surrounding Newt Gingrich. The networks have provided no such coverage in the weeks leading up to the Jones case. Through Friday night the network evening news shows had yet to do a story on Paula Jones, though the January 7 CNN Inside Politics ran a piece by Bruce Morton on media coverage of her case that included a soundbite from the MRC's Tim Graham. Tonight (Saturday) neither ABC's World News Saturady or the NBC Nightly News mentioned Jones. (The CBS Evening News did bring on consultant Laura Ingraham to discuss the topic.)
Still, on Friday's (January 10) Washington Week in Review on PBS host Ken Bode asserted: "Paula Jones, of all the things the Clinton White House faces - Filegate, Travelgate, Asian money -- this is the one the White House seems most worried about. The coverage of the Paula Jones case languished until the American Lawyer magazine ran this cover story by Stuart Taylor called `Her Case Against Clinton.' And this week Newsweek put Paula Jones on the cover."
Yes, Newsweek did put Jones on the cover this week, but the Stuart Taylor piece on the controversy Bode says "the White House seems most worried about," did not generate a single broadcast network news story other than a portion of one ABC story. Back on October 31 ABC's World News Tonight ran a story by Jeff Greenfield on why scandals don't hurt Clinton. Among the reasons he listed was liberal bias and to illustrate he allowed Stuart Taylor to charge: "Imagine if Paula Jones or someone just like her made allegations, just like this, with evidence just like this, against Jesse Helms or Newt Gingrich." In the American Lawyer Taylor concluded that "the evidence supporting Paula Jones's allegations of predatory, if not depraved, behavior by Bill Clinton is far stronger than the evidence supporting Anita Hill's allegations of far less serious conduct by Clarence Thomas."

4) While on the non-coverage topic, MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham suggested a review of how the media in 1994 treated the Jones charge.
The June 1994 MediaWatch Study detailed the differences in reaction to Anita Hill and Paula Jones. MediaWatch examined the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows, plus the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour and CNN's World News. MediaWatch explained: "On Sunday, October 6, 1991 Anita Hill's story broke. In the five days before hearings began (October 6-10), all the networks led with Hill every night except CNN, which led with the story three times... The five programs aired 67 stories in five days...
"When Paula Jones announced her charges on February 11 this year [1994], only ABC reported the story -- for 16 seconds. That's 67 to 1. None of the evening shows touched it again until May 4, the day The Washington Post ran its long-delayed investigation of Jones. CNN's Wolf Blitzer led World News with it. ABC and CNN read brief stories on May 5. On May 6, the day Jones filed suit, all five networks covered the story, but none led the newscast with it. Only ABC and PBS did more than one story. In the first six days of the Jones story -- May 4-9 -- the networks reported 15 stories, or less than three stories a day, for a Hill-Jones ratio of 67 to 15."

5) Dan Rather announced on the January 8 CBS Evening News: "In Miami today an armored truck overturned on an overpass and its doors flew open. Millions of dollars in bills and coins spilled out and before police could get control of the situation, hundreds people moved in and helped themselves to as much cash as they could grab. No tally yet on how much was actually lost." Rather provided a straight-forward report. But not ABC's Peter Jennings who felt compelled to put the story of thievery into a moral relativism/sociological analysis that suggested the thieves were justified: "In Miami today, in the poor section of the city called Overtown, an armored car carrying a great deal of money flipped over during the morning rush hour. The police describe what happened next as pandemonium." Then, as viewers saw video of the scene, Jennings continued: "It is a poor and needy neighborhood where the Brinks truck turned over and the money came tumbling out." Police officer: "Apparently, the word has spread that something like Pennies from Heaven." Jennings: "Quarters actually, along with the bills. Four hundred thousand dollars is missing according to Brinks. And while keeping any of the money certainly constitutes theft, many people here thought it was clearly more about need and good fortune." Man: "I think the whole neighborhood's up here this morning. I did deserve it. You know, these hard working people don't make enough money. God sent a truck." Jennings: "A Brinks team came in to recover what they could - - they're the ones with the shovels -- but people were still searching by hand several hours later."

6) On NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno Wednesday night (January 8) ABC's Sam Donaldson compared Newt Gingrich's political strategy to Lenin's murderous tyranny: "You know, the real smart guys are the ones who don't walk in the room and say, 'I'm the smart guy, I'm so brilliant.' They walk in the room and they let you find it out for, and you come in and say, 'Hey, you're a smart guy,' and they say, 'Oh, no, no, not me,' and then they . . . [trails off] Newt Gingrich's problem, I've always thought, he's like Lenin. They both made a revolution by shooting people -- Newt shot Democrats, Lenin shot everybody -- and then they didn't have sense enough to stop shooting once they won. So, I mean, once you win, you say, 'Okay, now I've shot all your relatives, but you're a good guy, let's work together.' Instead, Newt shut down the government and kept on trying to shoot Democrats." Imagine the reaction if Newt joked about how Bill Clinton acted like Hitler.

7) It's barely been a week since the networks began providing ratings for their entertainment shows to help guide parents. But what do the ratings really mean? Most shows have been tagged as "TVPG" with fewer getting the more mild "TVG" to identify shows okay everyone to watch or the "TV14" rating for shows producers feel is inappropriate for those under 14.
CBS rates the Late Show with David Letterman a "TVPG." I'm a big Letterman fan and at 11:35pm ET it's aimed at an adult/older teen audience. So, is TVPG the correct rating for a show which included the following comedy bit Friday night?
During the letters from viewers segment Letterman read one which asked: "Is Andy Rooney older than the Statue of Liberty?" Letterman said that the question provided an opportunity to introduce a new segment called "Biff Henderson, Resident Genius." Biff Henderson, a stagehand, then responded: "Dave, let me ask you a question. Do you have a mirror?" Letterman: "A mirror, no, not on me, why Biff?" Biff Henderson: "Because I want to see if I look like I give a rat's ass." Letterman: "That doesn't sound much like Biff Henderson, Resident Genius." Biff Henderson: "Oh, I'm sorry Dave. I thought we were doing Biff Henderson, Quick-Witted Son of a Bitch."
You have to be 16 to sit in Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theater audience.

  -- Brent Baker





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