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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| January  16, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 3) |


Dismissing Tapegate; Bill Moyers Not Liberal?

1.  Update on lack of resolution to Apparently To problem.

2.  Forget the unethical behavior of Democrats in tapegate. CBS is more concerned that it has "sidetracked substantive ethics charges against the Speaker of the House."

3.  Networks acknowledge import of the Paula Jones case and Stuart Taylor's article, so why did it take ten weeks for Taylor to be cited.

4.  Gore concedes false statements on Buddhist temple event, but only CNN airs a story.

5.  NBC's Andrea Mitchell says that "when the Lincoln bedroom becomes the Motel 6, that resonates with the American people," but she never reported it.

6.  DNC memos advice fundraisers to buy time and then "impugn the source," but still the networks fail to highlight the revelation.

7.  Bill Moyers is liberal? That's news to Dan Rather

1) Many of you received two or three copies of the last CyberAlert. You aren't on our list more than once, CompuServe just sent out multiple copies, some blindcopied and some not. CompuServe is unable to tell me when this problem will be resolved and is not providing any short term solution, though they assure me it is "a high priority of the mail developers." This has been a problem for over a month now.
Everything works fine for those with a CompuServe address. I thought about sending this message CC to everyone since that would eliminate the long double-spaced list, but many e-mail systems (including AOL) put the Apparently To list after the message and CCing this would put all the addresses up top.
I have made my displeasure known to CompuServe, but three work days have passed since the last CyberAlert and the problem has not been resolved. Given the timeliness of the Gingrich/cell phone and Paula Jones material and the fact that many of you have e-mailed to say that while annoying you'd rather get than not get CyberAlerts, I'm going ahead with today's edition.

2) A husband and wife active in Democratic politics by "coincidence" come across and record a cellular conversation among House Republicans. Even if the recording of the over the air broadcast is legal, the Democratic activists violate the law by passing the tape to a third party -- a top House Democrat, Rep. Jim McDermott. Instead of alerting authorities or refusing the tape, it ends up in the New York Times.
But what most interests the media? Not exploring this series of immoral, unethical and/or illegal events. No, the networks worry that this controversy is "distracting" the focusing from Gingrich's ethics.

On Monday night's CBS Evening News (January 13) Dan Rather introduced a story by focusing not on the ethics of Democrats but on how Republicans are guilty of trying to change topics:
"On Capitol Hill the House today was supposed to begin making full disclosure of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethical violations and tax problems. It didn't. And what's more, now there's an added ethics allegation based on what Gingrich said, in what he thought was a secret telephone call, which Democrats say is proof that Gingrich violated a promise to the House ethics committee not to mount a political damage control effort. But Republicans tried to shift the focus today away from what Gingrich actually said. Bob Schieffer has the latest."

The next night, on the January 14 CBS Evening News, reporter Wyatt Andrews demonstrated how easy it is to tune in a cellular call and reviewed how the Martins claimed they caught the call, then concluded his piece:
"...So now the Martins could be charged with a crime. Congressman James McDermott, who leaked the tape, could be charged with a crime and ironically, in the ways of Washington, mini-tapegate has for five days sidetracked substantive ethics charges against the Speaker of the House."

Wednesday night coverage of tapegate? Not a word on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News.

3) Not all sexual harassment is an evil that must be immediately redressed -- at least according to Time magazine's Margaret Carlson. Discussing whether the Supreme Court should delay the Paula Jones case until after President Clinton leaves office, Carlson opined on the January 12 Fox News Sunday:
"It also depends on the degree of harm. In fact, she didn't lose her job, she got her promotions. There's no claim of harm."
Not quite the media view of Anita Hill who took ten years to make her charge.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Monday. That night on the CBS Evening News Rita Braver reviewed the history of the case:

Braver began: "It was the women's vote that clinched the presidency for Bill Clinton and he prides himself on being a committed feminist. So the charges made by Paula Corbin Jones go straight to the heart of who Bill Clinton is. Because she claims he is the kind of man who would take advantage of a young woman, who would sexually harass her..."

Question: If this long-scheduled case goes "straight to the heart of who Bill Clinton is" then why didn't CBS explore this subject last fall, BEFORE the election?

Braver continued: "...But last fall, in a groundbreaking article, respected law reporter Stuart Taylor tracked down several new witnesses whose testimony persuaded him that Jones was probably telling the truth. And he noticed something else: women's groups who like Bill Clinton's policies had failed to rally to Jones's cause."

Taylor's story, with the new witness accounts, came out in late October. If the article was so "groundbreaking" why did CBS wait over ten weeks to report anything about it?

On Monday's NBC Nightly News Jim Miklaszewski noted in his overview of the case that when Jones first made her charges "Most mainstream media barely touched it. Others, like Newsweek's Evan Thomas, fell for the White House spin."
Following a soundbite from Thomas, the Mik continued: "But an investigation by American Lawyer magazine showed that Paula Jones appeared to have a strong case for sexual harassment, even stronger than Anita Hill's claim against Justice Clarence Thomas. Reporter Stuart Taylor blames the media's initial negative reaction to Jones on political and cultural bias."
Taylor: "She was widely dismissed in the back rooms of the press conversations as Southern trailer park trash. Why should we listen to her."
Miklaszewski: "And by the time Jones' case hit the Supreme Court she made the cover of Newsweek."
Thomas: "If you really look at the facts of the case she is worth taking seriously."
Miklaszewski: "Paula Jones's attorneys say there's still time to cut a deal and avoid a trial if President Clinton would apologize. The President's lawyers had no comment."

As with CBS, Taylor (who was on Meet the Press Sunday) made his first Nightly News appearance two and a half months after his article appeared. It's nice that some in the media are acknowledging their bias, at least with this issue, but may I suggest that their failure to report anything about Taylor's story reflects a continuation of that bias more than two years after Jones filed her suit in May 1994.

4) Wednesday's Washington Times and USA Today carried stories on how Vice President Al Gore admitted to the AP that he used "a poor choice of words" when he insisted an April 1996 fundraiser at a Buddhist Temple was nothing more than a "community outreach" event. The AP noted that three days before the event the DNC sent Gore a memo explaining how he should "extend appreciation for participant support and inspire political and fundraising efforts."

Network coverage for this admission of earlier false statements? A full story by Brooks Jackson on CNN, but no mention on the Tuesday or Wednesday ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows.

5) Appearing on CNN's Larry King Weekend on Saturday, January 4 NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell suggested the issue of large donors staying overnight at the White House will become a big issue in 1997. As transcribed by since-departed MRC intern Jessica Anderson, Mitchell asserted:
"I've been working on that story and I kind of think that even though Republicans in the past have had their big contributors and have abused the soft money contributions, the money that doesn't have to be accounted for, people understand the selling of the Lincoln bedroom. You know, when the Lincoln bedroom becomes the Motel 6, that resonates with the American people."

How will this "resonate" with the American people when the story Mitchell claims she's "been working on" has yet to be reported by her? The Washington Post revealed the Motel 6 arrangements in a front page story on Sunday, December 15. Today show that morning and the next: no mention. There was no NBC Nightly News Sunday night on the east coast, but the next night NBC did run a Mitchell piece on Clinton's defense fund returning donations. On December 17 Mitchell contributed another story on the defense fund. She didn't do another political story until January 3, but still no mention of the Lincoln Bedroom.

6) The Motel 6 story isn't the only Clinton scandal news ignored by NBC Nightly News. The day after Christmas the Democratic National Committee released a huge pile of documents on their fundraising activities. The papers showed how foreign donors to the DNC got special access to the White House and Clinton. The New York Times ran a big piece on the December 27 front page. The Washington Post ran a lengthy story on December 29.
The December 26 CBS Evening News led with the revelations and followed up with another story the next night. But not ABC or NBC. Neither ABC's World News Tonight or the NBC Nightly News uttered a word either night about the latest embarrassing revelation for Clinton. On December 27 ABC did run a story on Newt Gingrich losing support. John Cochran concluded: "Everyone, Republican and Democrat alike, agrees Gingrich is fortunate that his troubles have come over the holidays when most Americans aren't paying much attention." When it came to Clinton, ABC wasn't paying attention.

Examining the same papers, in a front page USA Today story on December 30, reporter Tom Squitieri relayed:
"The documents also show that Democrats were ready in case questions arose about the strategy [of coordinating DNC, White House and Clinton-Gore campaign activities to maximize fundraising.] For example, those caught in scandals were advised 'don't lie' in one DNC memo. Next they were to 'announce an internal investigation, independent investigation or white paper to examine the matter' in order to buy time. Finally, they were to 'impugn the source,' the DNC advised."

Network coverage of this cynical and divisive plan? Zilch.

7) Dan Rather was the guest on Monday's Larry King Live on CNN (January 13). Here's a very illuminating exchange:
Larry King: "I'm told by our producers, that a lot of calls, so rather than make it microscopic here, are complaining about advocates being hired by television stations. Shapiro was on one side in the Simpson trial, he's hired. Stephanopoulos is now at ABC -- that we're not getting balance."
Dan Rather: "I think that's a valid criticism. I'm concerned about it. Look, a Bill Moyers came out of the Lyndon Johnson White House and became one of the great journalists of all time."
King: "But a major liberal, self-confessed."
Rather: "Ah, is he? I don't want to get into that, but he was terrific. I do think, personal opinion, it's gone too far. Here's what concerns me. In some cases, and I don't exclude CBS News from this criticism, what happens is they're brought on to, and they're allowed to give their opinion on the air and we don't say this is their opinion. They go into some political or highly partisan ideological rant, from where I sit. I have no objection to that being done, but I think it needs to be clearly labeled and also the other side or other sides need to be given a chance. I think this is valid criticism. I'm glad to hear the public is picking up on it."

Good to hear that after 15 years as anchor Rather has finally noticed that the "public is picking up" on media bias.

Back in 1989 PBS re-ran an anti-Reagan 1982 CBS Reports special narrated by Moyers. After the show, Moyers announced: "The documentary has held up as both true and sadly prophetic. While Congress restored some of the cuts made in those first Reagan budgets, in the years since, the poor and the working poor have born the brunt of the cost of the Reagan Revolution. The hardest hit programs have been welfare, housing and other anti- poverty measures...Meanwhile, rich people got big tax breaks. And the middle class kept most of its subsidies intact. As a result, the Reagan years brought on a wider gap between rich and poor."

Even Larry King realizes that's liberal.

  -- Brent Baker





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