GOP Fundraising; Communist OK -- He Sings Elvis
1. Several new
revelations of illegality in Clinton fundraising, so what do ABC and
NBC focus on? A legal Republican fundraising event.
you're the communist dictator of China. What interests CBS? Your ability
to karaoke an Elvis tune.
February MediaWatch Study: From mid-December through the end of
January Gingrich scandal coverage tripled that given to Clinton.
Clarification: The February 19
CyberAlert quoted Ron Silver's character on Chicago Hope demanding a
government health care solution. I referred to the character as "Dr.
Tommy Wilmette." In this case I should have listened to Senator Ted
Kennedy who referred to him as "Mr. Wilmette." Silver plays a
lawyer/businessman who runs the hospital, not a doctor.
Wednesday's (February 19) USA Today carried an article headlined
"Democrats Knew Huang Might Be Trouble." Reporter Tom Squitieri
"Top finance officials in the Democratic Party quietly decided last
July to limit John Huang's fundraising and to end appearances by President
Clinton at Asian-American events organized by Huang....The acknowledgment
that suspicions surrounded Huang...as early as July comes from extensive
interviews with officials and staff members of the Democratic National
Committee. The interviews present a vision of events different from
official statements from the White House and DNC last fall...at the time,
White House and DNC spokesmen said they had little knowledge of Huang's
activities or any improper contributions."
Wednesday night of this contradiction or any other Clinton scandal matter
(for instance, Wednesday morning independent counsel Kenneth Starr said it
would be "dangerous" to conclude that his impending departure
means his investigation is over or that there will not be indictments):
Nothing on ABC's
World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or CNN's The World Today. NBC Nightly
News carried an "exclusive" report from Jim Miklaszewski on a
DNC-paid "volunteer" worker on the White House staff. It's
improper for a party operative to perform official government duties.
(February 20) the Washington Post provided a couple of new revelations. A
front page story by Lena Sun reported:
"An executive of an Asian-American business association said he was
approached by Democratic fundraiser John Huang last summer and asked to
funnel more than $250,000 from Huang through its members as contributions
to the Democratic National Committee in return for a $45,000 payment to
Inside, a story
by Bob Woodward began: "A twice-convicted felon who met with
President Clinton at one of the small, controversial White House coffees
in 1995 appeared on four other occasions at Democratic National Committee
fundraising events with Clinton last year, according to records and
interviews with DNC officials."
Plus, a front
page Wall Street Journal story documented how a Miami businessman twice
met with the National Security Council's Latin America specialist to urge
Clinton to back Paraguay's President in a coup attempt. "The day the
unsuccessful coup attempt began," the DNC "received $100,000
from Mr. [Mark] Jimenez."
-- CBS This Morning: not a word
-- NBC's Today: nothing, not even a syllable about Jim Miklaszewski's
exclusive from the night before.
-- ABC's Good Morning America: A live report during the 7am newscast from
Ann Compton at the White House. She summarized the Post's Huang story.
CBS remained disinterested, not airing anything about fundraising or
-- On World News
Tonight, Peter Jennings told viewers, in full:
"Charges of fundraising abuses continue to hound the Democrats and
Patrick Moynihan has become the first Democratic Senator, first Democratic
Senator, to call for an independent counsel to look into last year's
campaign practices by the Democrats. Today the Washington Post reported
the leader of an Asian-American business was approached by Democratic
fundraiser John Huang and asked to channel more that $250,000 to the
Democratic National Committee in order to disguise the real source of the
contribution. Mr. Huang refused today to cooperate with a congressional
investigation into fundraising."
That was it, no
full story. "Refused to cooperate?" That sounds like a coverup,
the very topic which should spur the media. Jennings then introduced a
piece on a legal Republican event: "The Democrats have been under so
much scrutiny that Republican fundraising has almost been forgotten.
Almost. ABC's Linda Douglass is in Florida."
Douglass filed from the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach where the biggest
GOP donors, Team 100, were meeting with top Republicans. After a soundbite
from Congressman Bob Livingston saying there's nothing wrong with the
event, Douglass countered:
"However, many donors do have big business pending before Congress,
including at this gathering oil and gas, telecommunications, railroads,
pharmaceuticals, insurance. But Republicans Party leaders bristled at
suggestions that they are selling influence.."
Following a soundbite from an RNC official, Douglass continued:
"Republicans insist they should not be compared to Democrats, who are
under investigation for accepting illegal foreign contributions. GOP
leaders say huge donations from American special interests are just part
of the democratic process."
After a comment from Trent Lott, she concluded: "Republican leaders
face an interesting challenge: How to keep the focus on Democratic
fundraising scandals without being forced to pass legislation that would
ban big contributions to both parties and perhaps put an end to posh
gatherings like this one."
-- At the top of
NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw equated illegal and legal fundraising: "A
score of Democratic National Committee employees working out of the White
House, while Republicans tap the fat wallets of special interests in posh
NBC began with a
tough follow-up to the February 19 Miklaszewski story. Brokaw announced:
"It's beginning to look as if the White House is a branch office of
the Democratic National Committee. Last night we first reported here that
the DNC had placed people at the White House and they had access to
confidential government files. Well, tonight we learn there were at least
20 people paid by the political committee working as volunteers in the
White House. That could be a violation of federal law."
Jim Miklaszewski then noted that Clinton had "ordered a White House
investigation into the unusual arrangement," a development ignored by
ABC and CBS.
Miklaszewski explained: "If the DNC-paid employees did any political
work from the White House, that would be illegal. The White House claims
nobody broke the law, but it could be a close call. At least two of the
employees worked in the office of White House political affairs which
requires frequent contact with the DNC and Clinton-Gore campaign....It
could go even deeper, documents obtained by NBC News also show that two
DNC-paid employees, who worked in the political affairs office, also had
access to the White House computer database which contains valuable
political information the Democratic Party could have used."
After a soundbite from Congressman David McIntosh of the House committee
looking at the database, Miklaszewski continued: "The White House
said the use of employees paid by a political party must be legal because
the Republicans did it. President Bush's White House counsel denies
it." NBC aired a comment from C. Boyden Gray and then Miklaszewski
ended by noting that the four currently DNC-paid staffers would be
switched to the White House payroll.
stated: "Although the White House has been getting most of the
attention recently on fundraising excesses, the Republicans after all have
their own questionable practices. Tonight, NBC's Lisa Myers reports from
the lap of luxury and political access in Palm Beach, on the Money
From the Breakers, Myers told viewers what it took to get invited:
"The price of an invitation? A $175,000 contribution which makes you
a member of one of the most exclusive club in politics -- Team 100."
Myers explained that the donors pay to get access to Gingrich, Lott and
Livingston, adding: "And if a day and a half of private briefings and
breakfasts isn't enough, tomorrow's schedule calls for tennis or golf,
perhaps even with the politician of your choice. And, it's all entirely
legal. These Republican contributors say they're only after good
government, but concede they do get a chance to get powerful lawmakers to
hear their views..."
Of course, if
it's legal, then it's in a different category than the lead story with
which NBC paired this one.
Myers next noted
that both the RNC and DNC set fundraising records last year, but that
"Republican leaders oppose limiting these contributions, saying they
want people more involved."
Myers to Trent Lott: "So, you would support asking these people to
give even more money?"
Trent Lott: "I think for them to have the opportunity to do that is
the American way."
Myers: "The American way. The bigger the wallet, the louder the
voice. Lisa Myers. NBC News, Palm Beach."
Neither Myers nor
other reports I've seen on fundraising explore how regulations have led to
the current situation. The $1,000 per person cap (never adjusted for
inflation since 1975) for a contribution to a candidate means soft money
donations to party committees is the only way to raise the large sums
necessary to buy TV time.
The death of Deng Xiaoping led the February 20 CBS Evening News to profile
Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin. >From Beijing, CBS reporter
Barry Petersen found an upbeat angle for a man at the top of a murderous
"...Jiang Zemin became President after Tieneman Square. The then
President was fired because of world wide condemnation for sending in the
troops. But, warn observers, when it comes to democrats and dissidents
Jiang's also a hardliner. Still, a hardliner with a private side that is
James Sasser, U.S. Ambassador to China: "Jiang Zemin is personally is
a very warm and engaging individual. He has a great interest in American
movies. He has a great interest in music."
Petersen, over video of Jiang Zemin singing: "Indeed, he recently
offered a karaoke rendition of 'Love Me Tender.' It remains to be seen if
his fellow communists will love him enough to someday award him Deng
Xiaoping's title of Paramount Leader."
One wonders if
CBS News in 1938 would have done a story on how Hitler enjoyed waltzing to
the music of Austrian composers.
-- Brent Baker
(MediaWatch study below)
Below is the study from the February 1997 edition of MediaWatch. It's
long, but given its relevance to the debate over how the networks cover
scandal, I thought I'd give you a chance to read it. MediaWatch Associate
Editor Tim Graham put it together based upon the ongoing analysis of MRC
news analysts Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters, Gene Eliasen, Jim Forbes and
Geoffrey Dickens. To get a free copy of this MediaWatch, send your address
to: Carey Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org
Newspapers Offer Clinton Information, Networks Thrive on Gingrich
News Coverage Triples Clinton's
On December 19,
Newt Gingrich admitted he misled the House ethics committee, which led off
the newest burst of network Newt coverage. How did that burst compare in
quality and quantity to emerging news on the Clinton fundraising scandal?
analysts reviewed evening news programs on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC, as well
as morning news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC from December 15 to January 31.
On both morning and evening news, the Gingrich story almost tripled
coverage of the Clinton story. The Gingrich storyline drew 73 full stories
and 29 anchor briefs on the evening news programs, compared to 31 full
stories and eight anchor briefs for the Clinton money story. On the
morning shows, Gingrich received 63 full segments (28 news reports and 35
interviews), as well as 69 anchor briefs; Clinton attracted only 19 full
segments (15 reports, 4 interviews) and 11 briefs.
scandals can be like comparing apples and oranges. Journalists might
suggest the disparity comes from differing storylines: the approaching
Speaker's election in the House on January 7 left Gingrich's political
future in doubt, while a safely re-elected Clinton faced congressional and
FBI investigations on a less frantic schedule.
But the quality
of journalism on the two storylines was also vastly different. Reports on
Gingrich were a drip-drip-drip sequence of repetitive horse-race stories
wondering if Gingrich would resign, with little new information. By
contrast, the print scoops on Clinton broke new substantive ground, but
the networks alternated between spurts of intensity and weeks of
disinterest. Especially noticeable is the gap in morning show interview
segments about Gingrich and Clinton. CBS aired five interviews about
Gingrich, but none about Clinton, and ABC (14-2) and NBC (16-2) were more
lopsided. (If you count three interviews on other topics which each
included one question on fundraising, NBC's ratio was 16-5).
The difference in
drama might explain why the network evening news shows led off 18
broadcasts with Gingrich's ethics, and only three with Clinton's. But a
closer look at individual developments demonstrates the differing
intensity and substance of TV coverage.
December 15: The
Washington Post reported on Page One that the Democrats rewarded large
donors with an overnight stay in the Lincoln Bedroom. Network coverage:
Nothing on ABC or CNN. CBS This Morning's Bill Plante filed a report eight
days later. NBC noted it January 21.
December 20: The
Washington Post reported on its front page that Wang Jun, a Chinese arms
dealer, was welcomed to a White House fundraising coffee. Coverage: CBS
was the only network to air a full story. NBC ran an anchor brief. ABC did
nothing. Of the morning shows, only NBC's Today mentioned it.
December 26: The
DNC released a huge pile of documents on their fundraising activities. In
the next four days, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today
all published articles. But the networks never aired a story summarizing
the documents. CBS did lead off the news with a report on Thai donor and
Clinton coffee attendee Pauline Kanchanalak on the 26th (repeated on This
Morning the next day), and added another Thai story on the 27th, as well
as a story on White House Asian-American liaison Doris Matsui on the 28th.
CNN aired two similar stories. NBC aired nothing. ABC did nothing, but did
find time for a John Cochran report on Gingrich losing support.
December 30: A
single Republican Congressman, Michael Forbes of Long Island, announced he
would not vote for Gingrich. All four networks aired full reports.
January 10: The
New York Times reported on its front page the contents of a cellular phone
conversation between Republican leaders they reported came from a
Democrat, later identified as Rep. Jim McDermott, ranking member of the
House ethics committee. Republicans demanded an investigation of McDermott
for breaking federal privacy laws.
This was one
Gingrich story the networks didn't like. ABC and NBC aired no evening
story until the 13th, and neither used the word "illegal" in
that night's report. CNN aired three anchor briefs and one full report
(which did not mention McDermott) from the 10th to the 14th. CBS aired a
full report on Gingrich on each of those five nights. On the 10th, Dan
Rather suggested the Times story "raises new ethics questions about
Gingrich," with no mention of Democratic illegality. Lawbreaking
surfaced briefly on the 11th, but Sharyl Attkisson's report on the 12th
focused only on some Republicans "urging Gingrich to step
aside." When McDermott's role emerged on the 13th and 14th, on both
nights Dan Rather complained the focus was shifted away "from what
Gingrich actually said." Reporter Wyatt Andrews added the brouhaha
"sidetracked substantive ethics charges against the Speaker."
January 15: The
Washington Times and USA Today carried the AP report that Al Gore
confessed he used "a poor choice of words" in describing a
fundraiser at a Buddhist temple as a "community outreach event."
Before the event, Gore sent the DNC a memo explaining the event should
"inspire political and fundraising efforts." Coverage: A full
story by CNN's Brooks Jackson, followed ten days later by one Today show
question to Gore and an evening report by Andrea Mitchell. ABC and CBS
January 16: The
Los Angeles Times reported that documents show that contrary to White
House assertions, controversial fundraiser John Huang helped shape Asia
policy at the Commerce Department. The Boston Globe reported Huang helped
convince Clinton to make a major shift in immigration policy wanted by
Asian-Americans. And The Washington Post found a couple of attendees at
White House coffees had criminal records. Network coverage? Zero. But CNN
had time for a live update from Bob Franken on the still-unreleased
special counsel report on Gingrich.
January 23: The
Washington Times reported Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry admitted
senior adviser Bruce Lindsey knew in 1994 the Lippo Group had paid a
reported $250,000 to former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell
after he resigned in disgrace, raising questions if Lippo paid Hubbell
hush money. The Washington Post followed the next day. TV coverage: Five
days later, after it came up in a press conference, NBC reported it on its
evening and morning shows. ABC, CBS, and CNN: zero.
Gingrich told a town meeting in his district the liberal media uses a
double standard to attack him and ignore liberal groups like the Sierra
Club. All four networks covered this story, suggesting Gingrich's
contrition wasn't genuine.
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