MRC Alert: ABC
Ignores Scandals; Not Nixonian; Brokaw Hits Rather
ignores Hubbell-related White House subpoenas; ABC and the Today show
ignore everything Clinton scandal related.
one can argue" that every aspect of Whitewater isn't being covered,
Dan Rather insists. John Cochran calls fundraising coverage
top reporter argues: "It's not Nixonian, because Nixon was clearly a
criminal President. What Clinton wanted to do was be re-elected."
there's a hurricane, a network anchor said of Dan Rather, " Mr. Hard
News' is down there wrapped around a lamp post."
casual viewer may assume that Clinton's personal go-ahead for the
overnights, and Al Gore's admission that he made fundraising calls from
the White House, are fueling widespread Clinton scandal stories in which
every development is covered thoroughly. Not quite.
The March 5
Washington Post carried a front page story reporting that
"independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has subpoenaed the White House
for information on 20 individuals and entities connected to an Indonesian
conglomerate that made a payment to former associate attorney general
Webster Hubbell, a key figure in the Whitewater investigation....Starr's
office has been trying to determine whether" payments from the Lippo
Group and others "were orchestrated by the White House in an effort
to buy Hubbell's silence on Whitewater matters and obstruct the
As noted in the
March 5 CyberAlert, the March 4 NBC Nightly News ran a story on the
development. But not ABC's World News Tonight or CBS Evening News and the
Washington Post story failed to prompt any mention Wednesday night (March
5). In fact, though NBC played it big Tuesday night, Wednesday's Today
show did not utter a word about it or any aspect of any Clinton scandal.
In the 7am news
on Wednesday's Good Morning America reporter Bob Zelnick noted that
Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott called for an independent counsel.
Zelnick then explained the laws Gore may have violated, before concluding:
most familiar with campaign laws, there is division over whether Mr. Gore
did something illegal. But the overwhelming consensus is that he did
something uncharacteristically foolish."
During the day on
Wednesday two new developments occurred. First, Al Gore changed his story
and said he used a Clinton-Gore calling card, not a DNC one, to make his
fundraising calls. That's a critical legal distinction since a candidate's
campaign opetated under spending limits as presidential candidates are,
cannot be used to raise party money. Second, it came to light that in
violation of the prohibition on fundraising in a federal facility, a top
White House aide accepted a $50,000 donation to the DNC.
How were these
In what Tom
Brokaw billed as a "NBC News exclusive," he explained: "NBC
News has been on the trail of a large check delivered to and accepted
inside the White House."
reported that Johnny Chung visited the White House in March 1995 for the
second day in row, continuing:
he and six Chinese officials had their picture taken with First Lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton. NBC News has learned that same day, inside the
White House, Johnny Chung handed Mrs. Clinton's Chief of Staff, Maggie
Williams, a $50,000 check made out to the Democratic National
Attorney Joseph DiGenova made clear that it's illegal to receive campaign
funds on federal property. Myers then offered this tough conclusion:
one could say how many other times administration officials accepted
campaign contributions on federal property. But one White House official
said quote, 'there is an accepted procedure, which suggests to me this is
not a one time event.'"
reported how Gore said "he misspoke" about who paid for his
On the CBS
Evening News Rita Braver also reported on the Johnny Chung news that NBC
touted as "exclusive." So did CNN's Brooks Jackson. But CBS
didn't mention anything about Gore changing his story.
And ABC's World
News Tonight on March 5? Not a word about these developments or any
So, just how much
coverage are all these scandals getting. Here are three measures:
*** ABC in the
-- March 1 World News Saturday: nothing.
-- March 2 World News Sunday, the day the Gore story broke: nothing.
-- March 3 World News Tonight: one story on Gore.
-- March 4 World News Tonight: 26 seconds on subpoenas issued related to
March 5 World News Tonight: nothing.
*** NBC's Today:
No coverage two of the past three mornings.
-- Monday, March 3: nothing
-- Tuesday, March 4: story and interview with Tim Russert about Al Gore.
-- Wednesday, March 5: nothing
revelation that, in contradiction to earlier assurances, Hillary Clinton
personally approved of the White House database and knew the information
would be shared with the DNC. NBC Nightly News ran a story on Monday. But
not a syllable yet about the matter on ABC's World News Tonight or CBS
Keeping in mind how the CBS Evening News has yet to report on the database
contradiction or the Hubbell related Whitewater subpoenas, look at what
alternate universe in which Dan Rather must reside. Interviewed February
27 at the National Press Club Foundation's awards dinner, Dan Rather
assured Marc Morano, formerly Rush Limbaugh's "Man in
Washington," that the media have covered Clinton thoroughly:
question that [Clinton] had extremely intense scrutiny on this issue. No
one can argue that anybody in the press, right, left, center, above or
below, has failed to cover everything in Whitewater to the maximum extent
and continue to do so. And the same thing with these new and what I
consider to be very serious questions about campaign contributions."
Given ABC's lack
of coverage on its prime news show, the network's John Cochran was even
more brazen, telling Morano that on the fundraising controversies coverage
"seems to be pretty tough; it seems to be pretty thorough; it seems
to be that there's been no laziness on the part of the media with this
Discussing the Clinton fundraising scandal, on Tuesday Newt Gingrich
asserted: "It's much bigger, I think, than Watergate. This is the
most systematic large-scale effort to get around the law that I think
we've certainly seen since Watergate." Bob Woodward disagrees.
Appearing on CNN's Larry King Live Friday night (February 28) after he had
written the story which would appear on Sunday revealing Al Gore's
fundraising phone calls, Woodward put a pro-Clinton spin on the mess.
In the midst of
discussing Clinton's approval of the plan to use overnights to reward
large donors, King wondered "A little Nixonian?" The Washington
Post reporter responded: "I don't want to say it's Nixonian."
King pressed: "We never had any record of him doing anything like
that, to raise money." Woodward countered:
It was all about raising money, in part, for Nixon. But it's not Nixonian,
because Nixon was clearly a criminal President. What Clinton wanted to do
was be re-elected, and in that burning desire did he cross a line? Did he
kind of open the flood gates? Well, he did the money, did he watch the
boundaries of the law? We're gonna see."
Didn't Nixon just
want to get re-electd?
Don't get between Tom Brokaw and anyone critical of his show. In a
refreshing, because it's so rare, shot at another member of the media,
Brokaw lashed out at Dan Rather. A few weeks ago Rather said that NBC
Nightly News had became "news-lite" and the CBS Evening was the
only evening show still committed to hard news. "I resent that quite
deeply," Brokaw told Philadelphia Inquirer "TV Talk"
columnist Gail Shister.
Some other arrows
from Brokaw as quoted in the March 5 Inquirer:
-- "I think it's inappropriate for our competitors, who have gone
through their own incarnations -- including moments like Connie Chung
anchoring from Tonya Harding's rink -- to judge us."
-- "Whenever there is the first hint of a counter-clockwise symbol on
a weather map that a hurricane might hit land, 'Mr. Hard News' is down
there wrapped around a lamp post."
Rather can win Brokaw back over by singing one of his train songs that
Letterman viewers are blessed to hear whenever Rather appears.
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