Sex Slant Against Starr; Pruning Trie's Story; Where's Brown?
Look for an appearance soon
on CNN's Showbiz Today by the MRC's Tim Lamer in a story on how
businessmen are portrayed on TV. Showbiz Today airs twice daily at
5:30pm ET/2:30pm PT and again at 12:30am ET/9:30pm PT. To read the
Businessmen Behaving Badly study from the MRC's Free Market Project,
- NBC picked up
the story on Starr trying to locate witnesses, but loaded its
piece with Clintonites who attack Starr's "witch hunt."
- Tom Brokaw
talked to Charlie Trie and relayed without skepticism Trie's
denials of any wrongdoing or that he got money from China.
- It's been a
week since Prime Time Live's devastating story on Ron Brown, but
the media have been silent. And Tom Brokaw insisted that Brown
"was always straightforward."
1) A front page headline in
Wednesday's Washington Post announced "Starr Probes Clinton
Personal Life: Whitewater Prosecutors Question Arkansas Troopers About
Women." Post reporters Bob Woodward and Susan Schmidt wrote that
"sources said that the extensive interviews were part of an
effort by Starr's office to find close Clinton associates in whom he
may have confided and who might be able to provide information about
the veracity of sworn statements Clinton has made in the course of the
The revelation hardly stirred
the networks on Wednesday morning (June 25). Not a word appeared about
it on NBC's Today or CBS This Morning. Only ABC's Good Morning America
mentioned it, MRC analyst Gene Eliasen informed me. In the 7am news
Elizabeth Vargas read a brief item on the Post disclosure.
Wednesday night neither ABC's
World News Tonight or CBS Evening News uttered a syllable about the
matter, but NBC Nightly News ran a full story. NBC portrayed Starr as
the bad guy, reporting the story as the tale of improper personal
probing of Clinton's sex life instead of as a story of an independent
counsel trying to locate potential witnesses with key information.
Anchor Brian Williams told
"While the President was on the road today his biggest domestic
problem took a bad turn with word that the Whitewater investigation
now involves a whole lot more than a land deal gone bad. It has become
very personal. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski at the White House
Jim Miklaszewski began with
Starr's detractors: "President Clinton had no comment today, but
White House aides and fellow Democrats were outraged at reports
Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is investigating the President's
private sex life."
Senator John Kerry: "I
think this crosses the line of decency and I felt incensed by it,
outraged by it and I think all of America is hurt by that kind of
Miklaszewski then summarized
Starr's take: "The Washington Post first reported that Starr
investigators have recently questioned Arkansas state troopers about
Governor Bill Clinton's alleged relationships with at least a dozen
women, including Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones. Tonight Starr
issued a statement denying he's investigating the President's sex
life. And sources close to the investigation tell NBC News Starr's not
interested in revealing intimate details of the President's private
relations but is pursuing a broader investigation into public
corruption, bribery and drug abuse in the Arkansas state
Instead of pursuing that
path, Miklaszewski next put on two soundbites denouncing Starr for
doing what Starr claims he is not -- uncovering Clinton's sex life.
"Nevertheless, one former Independent Counsel thinks even Starr's
questions about the President's sex life have gone too far."
Michael Zeldin: "They're
irrelevant to the job he was asked to perform and he should be ashamed
Carville, an outspoken Starr critic, ridiculed the
James Carville: "This
thing sort of has a Pee Wee Herman scent to it here."
charge that after three years and $30 million dollars Starr's
investigation is nothing more than a political witch hunt, but Starr's
office is gearing up for a new round of indictments as early as this
fall. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the White House."
Quite the model of balance:
The intro, three soundbites and their lead-in sentences disparaging
Starr versus no soundbites and a couple of sentences forwarding his
view. As for Carville's comment, with all the women Clinton knows
you'd hardly think Pee Wee Herman would come to mind.
This isn't the first time
Brian Williams has made the person raising the issue of Clinton's
conduct the bad guy instead of focusing on Clinton's bad behavior.
Anchoring the June 8, 1996 NBC Nightly News a few days after the FBI
files story broke, Williams painted Bob Dole as the bad guy: "The
politics of Campaign '96 are getting very ugly, very early. Today Bob
Dole accused the White House of using the FBI to wage war against its
2) Tuesday's NBC Nightly News
led with a story tagged as an "exclusive" interview with
Democratic donor Charles Trie. But NBC didn't break any new ground as
Tom Brokaw just relayed Trie's assurances that he'd done nothing
wrong. Trie never even spoke during the June 24 story that Brokaw
filed on his way to Hong Kong. (NBC quickly dropped their
"exclusive." MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that
it wasn't mentioned at all on Wednesday's Today.)
Read through this transcript
taken down by MRC intern Jessica Anderson and see if you catch a
couple of oddities.
Brian Williams: "Good
evening. We're going to begin tonight with an NBC News exclusive.
Until Bill Clinton was elected President, Charles Yah Lin Trie was an
obscure restaurant owner in Little Rock, Arkansas. It happened to be
one of then Governor Bill Clinton's favorite restaurants and Charlie
Trie became a good friend. But when Bill Clinton was elected to the
White House, that made Charlie Trie a friend of the President, a
successful Asian businessman and a powerful fundraiser for the
Democratic National Committee. He made 22 visits to the White House.
Then when questions surfaced about how Democrats raised money last
year, Trie became a central figure. $1.2 million he raised has been
returned and almost four months ago Congress issued subpoenas to
question Charlie Trie. But congressional investigators haven't been
able to get to him because he disappeared until now. Tom Brokaw found
him in Shanghai, China. His exclusive report now. Life on the run for
a man who describes himself as a king to the Asian people because of
his friendship with President Clinton."
Tom Brokaw: "Trie would
not talk on camera, but he agreed to let us take his picture because
he says newspaper photos make him look ugly. He said that friends in
China have been hiding him, friends he met in his trade business. He
made a million dollars in '93, the first year of the Clinton
Administration, but when he became controversial, his business dried
up. Now Trie says he's broke, even though he insists he's done nothing
wrong. Trie vehemently denies that he was working for either China or
Taiwan, saying he received not one dollar from either government.
"This is Wong Joon, the
suspected arms dealer Trie had invited to a White House coffee with
the President. Trie says he knew Wong only as a powerful businessman,
not as a suspected arms dealer. As for John Huang, the former Clinton
Administration official and fellow fundraiser, Trie said he considers
him to be a friend, but he knows nothing of possible Huang ties to
"Trie supported the
Clinton's legal defense fund, but said he acted only as a courier for
contributions from fellow worshipers in the Buddhist community, and
many of those checks were returned, he said, only because the donors
were barely literate immigrants who have no addresses or phone numbers
on their checks. In the White House, Trie said he often saw the
President, but insists that they only spoke as friends, never about
political issues. Trie did say he wrote to the President last year
urging him not to send an American aircraft carrier into tensions
between China and Taiwan, only because he thought it would hurt the
President and it would also be bad for Trie's booming Asian trade
business. Trie blames much of his trouble on what he called,
'discrimination against Asians.' He did not want to go on the record
on other open questions.
"Trie bragged that he
could continue to hide out in Asia for 10 years; 'they'll never find
me,' he said. And the best part about living here, he doesn't have to
read about himself in American newspapers, but he is concerned about
his wife, now living in Taiwan and especially about his mother, now
living back by herself in America. As for when Trie will tell the
whole story, he said that could come later this summer. Now let's go
to Brian Williams in New York for the rest of the day's news."
Two observations: First,
Brokaw passed along Trie's assertion that "he received not one
dollar" from the Chinese government. But Brokaw didn't bother to
mention that the April 1 Wall Street Journal reported that Trie
"received a series of substantial wire transfers in 1995 and 1996
from a bank operated by the Chinese government." The June 13 USA
Today disclosed that "A foreign developer with ties to the
Chinese government funneled at least $470,000 into a Washington bank
account controlled by Charles Yan Lin Trie while Trie was raising
money for the Democratic Party." NBC skipped over both stories.
Second, near the end of the
story Brokaw referred to "when Trie will tell the whole
story." Trie maintains that all the charges against him are
false. So if what Brokaw relayed from Trie is accurate then what
"whole story" is there to tell?
3) The June 18 Prime Time
Live featured a story by Brian Ross highlighting Nolanda Hill's
charges about former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's unethical
activities, including the acceptance of payoffs. A week has passed,
but the major newspapers and the networks have not only failed to pick
up the story and try to advance it, they haven't even mentioned the
bombshell revelations from an intimate friend of Brown's. Even
colleagues of Ross at ABC have refused to touch the story as World
News Tonight, Good Morning America and This Week all failed to air a
word about their own network's exclusive story.
The media have long put Ron
Brown on a pedestal. Just look at what Tom Brokaw announced during
Democratic convention coverage last August. As dug out, by MediaWatch
Associate Editor Tim Graham, of the MRC database of network news
coverage, during joint PBS-NBC coverage on August 26 Brokaw reminisced
"He took in the whole
room when he walked in. And had the respect of people in our business
as well, because when he got in hot water, which he did from time to
time, he was always straightforward in his answers. He didn't try to
Compare that assertion to
this excerpt from last week's Prime Time Live:
Brian Ross: "...Which
Nolanda Hill says would twice lead Brown into schemes involving
under-the-table money. The first, an offer from the group claiming to
represent the government of Vietnam, seeking to get American trade
restrictions lifted. Hill says Brown met with them both before and,
more significantly, after his selection as Secretary of Commerce.
Nolanda Hill: "And he
said, 'Do you think it would be worth a million dollars?' And I said,
'Ron, this is crazy. I mean, it's nuts.'"
Ross: "But he was trying
Hill: "He was
considering it. He saw it as an opportunity to afford to be Commerce
Ross: "And were bank
accounts set up overseas?"
Hill: "There was a bank
account set up, as I understand it."
Ross: "In the middle of
it, one of the men allegedly involved -- a Vietnamese-American named
Binh Ly -- went to the FBI telling of a plan to funnel some $700,000
to Brown through a secret bank account in Singapore."
Video of reporter posing
question to Brown in 1993: "Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us
about this report that says you received money in exchange for helping
lift the trade restrictions on Vietnam?"
Ross: "It was big news
when the investigation broke in 1993, and, at the time, Brown denied
Brown replying to the 1993
question: "An absolutely ridiculous report, has no validity to
it. I have never been involved with any such thing."
Ross to Hill: "Is that
Ross: "He lied?"
Ross: "But Hill says no
money ever changed hands, and the bank account was not used because
Brown got a tip the FBI was on to him, something FBI agents on the
case have told ABC News they always suspected."
Brokaw is quite the judge of
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