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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| May 7, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 65) |


Hollywood Hype for Bill & Al; No More Big Government?

1.  Networks ignore Hubbell but pick up on Starr's interest in Hillary. NBC ignored Clinton efforts to hide notes from Starr, but Tom Brokaw insists he reports all "important" stories.

2.  Actor Tommy Lee Jones hosts a DNC fundraiser for a "great administration" which has "more children playing on the streets."

3.  Thanks to the Clinton economic team's "fiscal responsibility," a reporter contends, "the era of big government is really over."

1) Two developments on the White House scandal front were highlighted in Tuesday morning newspaper stories:

-- The May 6 New York Times ran a follow-up story to their Monday report on how the Clintons were made aware of Web Hubbell's problems before he resigned. [See the May 6 CyberAlert for a summary of the story that ABC and NBC ignored.] New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth relayed that the White House said "that the Clintons and their aides did not 'fully' know the seriousness of the allegations against their close friend Webster Hubbell until he pleaded guilty to fraud charges at the end of 1994." As Gerth noted, "last month, President Clinton said 'no one had any idea' about the nature of the allegations against Mr. Hubbell or whether they were true."

From "no one had any idea" to not "fully" aware. The White House changes its story to match whatever level of information is revealed. In this case, the bottom line is that the White House's new line means they are conceding the thrust of the New York Times story.

Network coverage: Not a word about it on NBC's Today, CBS This Morning or ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday morning. In the evening the broadcast networks also went 0 for 3.

-- Washington Times reporter Jerry Seper broke the biggest story of the day: "Independent counsel Kenneth Starr, in previously sealed court records, identified First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as 'a central figure' in the Whitewater investigation, adding that she had changed her sworn testimony 'over time' and that it 'differs from that of other witnesses.'"

Network coverage: Zilch in the morning on ABC, CBS and NBC. CNN's Inside Politics ran a story and by the evening the broadcast networks decided it was a disclosure they couldn't totally ignore. The CBS Evening News ran a full piece from Phil Jones and David Bloom devoted most of his NBC Nightly News story from Mexico City to the revelation. (ABC didn't run a full story, but I'm not sure if they included the news as part of another piece.)

NBC's Bloom didn't mention the White House stonewalling on the notes of conversations with Hillary Clinton. So NBC viewers still have no idea of how the White House is fighting the independent counsel. Last Friday night ABC and CBS noted that the Clinton administration had appealed to the Supreme Court a federal court order asking the White House to comply with Starr's request for the notes. Not NBC Nightly News that night or since, nor Today. NBC's shows also failed to tell viewers about Monday's New York Times story on how the White House made false statements about what they knew about Hubbell, and NBC didn't bother with the revelation last Friday that, in contradiction to previous White House statements, Hubbell met personally with Bill or Hillary Clinton four times in 1994.

As MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham pointed out to me, in a May/June Columbia Journalism Review story on the softening of Nightly News, Tom Brokaw insisted: "There are no important stories we have missed."

I'll take him at his word: Clinton scandals and revelations which, at the very least, strongly suggest that the President lied are not "important."

UPDATE: In recounting in the May 6 CyberAlert who covered which scandal development I stuck to the broadcast networks. MRC news analyst Clay Waters has provided the data on how CNN's premiere evening show, The World Today (10pm ET), covered the disclosures:

-- May 2: Separate full stories on Hubbell's four visits to the White House and on the White House going to the Supreme Court to hide information from Starr. (The ABC, CBS and NBC Friday evening shows all skipped Hubbell; NBC ignored the court appeal.)

-- May 5: Full story by Bob Franken on how the White House knew about Hubbell's troubles, the story broken in that morning's New York Times. (ABC and NBC evening shows skipped; CBS gave brief item by Dan Rather.)

2) Last Thursday the Democratic National Committee held a $1,500 per person gala at the D.C. Armory. As the May 2 Washington Post noted, "The last time the DNC held a big event here was the 45th-birthday party of President John F. Kennedy, a night made famous when Marilyn Monroe sang 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President' in a sequined outfit so tight it had to be sewn onto her."

Bill Clinton had to settle for Tommy Lee Jones. The actor now starring in the movie Volcano hosted the event. Also in attendance according to the Post: Andie MacDowell, William Baldwin and Timothy Dalton. Thanks to C-SPAN and some transcribing by MRC analyst Crissy Brookhart, here's some of the effusive praise heaped on the Clintons and Gores by Jones at the May 1 gathering:

"I know that every one of you is just as proud as I am to be here tonight to show your support for and appreciation for this great administration and the hard work they are doing for our country..."

"The Clinton family and the Gore family speak very well to us and for us with kindness, wisdom, and strength. This very forward- looking administration is truly working today to create a better society for tomorrow. On the environment, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have made our air and water cleaner. They're protecting our public lands. That's something that Americans, that our grandchildren, will be thanking this administration for, for generations to come. Also, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are making quality education a priority for everyone, not just those who can pay for it. They are making education for every child in America the foundation of their bridge to the 21st century..."

"Crime rates are coming down in America because of the policies of this administration. We've got more cops on the beat and more children playing on the streets of their own neighborhoods again. Children who now have a chance to lead a better life. You just can't argue with progress like that. And this administration, more than the Republicans, will go down in history as the administration that ended deficit spending and balanced the federal budget, so that we can start putting the money where it's needed: Into jobs, education, health care, and the environment. On so many important issues, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have a real vision of where they want to lead this country. They're proving everyday that Democrats can get the job done."

Clean water, clean air, less crime, kids able to play. Hard to imagine how we managed to survive before Bill and Al saved us.

3) Another example of a reporter living in the fantasy that the budget deal means "fiscal responsibility" and control of entitlement spending. In a news analysis piece picked up by the Fairfax Journal, a newspaper in the Washington suburbs, Scripps- Howard News Service White House reporter Ann McFeatters asserted:

"If it proved anything, the budget deal shows that the politicians meant it when they said, on both sides of the aisle, that the era of big government is really over. There will be no more giant new programs. And, it is now clear, entitlement spending on such programs as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is going to be reined in.

"The fiscal responsibility that Clinton's economic team, led by such people as Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, has been striving for the past four years is just around the corner. That would be a magnificent legacy for any President."

Houston to McFeatters, Houston calling McFeatters. As pointed out in previous CyberAlerts, Medicare spending will still rise over 40 percent over the next five years and, as noted by Stephen Moore in the May 12 Weekly Standard, discretionary spending will soar $70 billion, well ahead of inflation. In the past ten years federal spending has nearly doubled. The budget deal locks in that growth rate. The era of big government is not "really over." It's here to stay.

  -- Brent Baker





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