Tarring Starr; Letting Gore Off; Hushing Up Hubbell's Fraud
All the articles in the
June MediaWatch can now be read online from the MRC's
home page, or more directly at: http://archive.mrc.org/archive/mediawatch/archive1997.asp
Your Friday morning
newspaper may include a story by the AP's Lynn Elber distributed on
Thursday about the MRC's "Businessmen Behaving Badly"
study on prime time portrayals. Read the full study at:
- The White
House hopes Starr's look at Clinton's "personal life"
hurts Starr more than Clinton. The networks are doing their part.
- From rewards
for donors to new info about the Buddhist temple, there's plenty
to ask Al Gore about. But two morning shows avoid that and press
him on why he isn't doing more on the environment.
- The LA
auditor determined that Hubbell ripped off the city and urges a
criminal prosecution. The networks ignored the development, just
as a new MRC study showed they have all year.
1) Concluding a June 25 World
Today story on reaction to the Washington Post story on how Kenneth
Starr's office has questioned Arkansas troopers about Clinton's
extramarital affairs, CNN's Bob Franken concluded:
was tight-lipped, allowing supporters and lawyers to condemn the
tactics, using words like desperate -- evidently hoping that Starr's
looking into his personal life harms Starr more than the
The media are doing their
part to fulfill Clinton's wish. As detailed in the June 26 CyberAlert,
Wednesday night's NBC Nightly News portrayed investigator Starr as the
bad guy in a story that featured three soundbites denouncing Starr but
not one in support.
Wednesday night neither ABC's
World News Tonight or CBS Evening News mentioned the controversy and
both shows again skipped the story on Thursday night. (The June 26 CBS
Evening News did include a piece by Phil Jones on a payoff to a big
Democratic donor. Thursday's Washington Post reported that the White
House had asked Florence Griffith Joyner to relinquish her co-chair
title on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports so
that Jake Steinfeld could take her place. "Body by Jake"
Steinfeld gave $100,000 to the Democrats last year. Jones noted that
in the wake of the publicity the White House had backed down.)
Thursday morning's Today and
GMA, however, featured discussions about the Starr news. Today brought
on James Carville and conservative commentator Susan
Carpenter-McMillan. Matt Lauer opened with this question to
Carpenter-McMillan right out of the White House playbook:
"The fact that this line
of questioning from Whitewater investigators has turned personal to
the President's, or then Governor's sex life, does it show you that
this investigation is desperate?"
Lauer did later ask Carville
a "hypothetical" question about whether Clinton may have
discussed politics and investments with women with whom he had
Newsweek's Michael Isikoff
served as Good Morning America's expert. Isikoff found Starr's
approach to be prudent, getting him into a bit of a debate with GMA
co-host Charlie Gibson who opened by asking:
"What is the relevance
to Whitewater in asking questions about then Governor Clinton's sex
Isikoff explained that it's
legitimate to look at Clinton's activities in 1984-85 when the Madison
deals occurred and his relationship at the time with Susan McDougal, a
key player in those deals. Gibson countered: "But Michael, these
questions range all through the '80s, they range into the '90s. These
troopers are saying they are being asked questions like did you ever
see the Governor perform a sex act, did some woman bear a love child
of the Governor's. What does that have to do with land deals?"
Nothing, those are out of
bounds replied Isikoff. But he suggested the FBI agents were assigned
to ask legitimate questions and then the prurient interests of
"over zealous" agents led the questioning astray. Again,
"But Starr's office
yesterday was defending this. Starr himself says we're not looking
into the then Governor's sex life, but the office defended the
questions as saying it is appropriate to establish circumstances of
contact of potential witnesses. Well I'm not sure what that means but
it sounds like they're looking for pillow talk."
Gibson's implication was that
"pillow talk" is somehow out of bounds and unfruitful. About
40 minutes later during the 8am news break, ABC reporter Bob Zelnick
concluded a story on the controversy:
still want to find out whether Mr. Clinton knew of the illegal
dealings of the Madison Guaranty Bank. Their concern is not whose head
was on the pillow, but what was revealed during pillow talk."
2) In just the last two weeks
questions have arisen about Al Gore getting the Energy Department to
award contracts to a big donor, some Buddhist monks involved in the
big fundraiser featuring Al Gore have admitted that they were
reimbursed for their donations in a money laundering scheme and the
Senate investigating committee has battled over whether to provide
immunity to the monks.
So, when Al and Tipper Gore
were interviewed on Good Morning America and CBS This Morning these
matters were raised? No, none were even hinted at. The Gores appeared
Wednesday morning to discuss their annual family reunion conference in
Nashville. On CBS Jane Robelot tossed up some easy questions, such as:
"Mrs. Gore you have
always been one who's been very active in family issues and
parent-children involvement. Look back at the past five family
conferences, what fruits have you seen from those?"
On ABC's June 25 Good Morning
America, Charlie Gibson also asked some easy questions, as transcribed
by MRC intern Jessica Anderson: "Do you like the new [TV ratings]
system, by the way? Do you like the new letters that are going to be
added? Do you think it's going to help?"
Morning show guests are
regularly invited on primarily to discuss one matter only to be
quizzed on other subjects in the news. Indeed, Gibson did offer up one
challenging question off the family values topic. But it wasn't about
fundraising or how Al Gore pushes environmental beliefs considered
scientifically baseless, it was about how the administration had
become too conservative:
"Mr. Vice President,
just one other subject I want to ask you about, and that's the Earth
Summit, the renewed Earth Summit at the U.N. The report card was not
very good on a what's happened in the five years since the first Earth
Summit. Other nations are willing to commit to specific timetables for
cutting back on greenhouse gases. Why aren't, why isn't the United
States willing to?"
3) The network reluctance to
cover Webster Hubbell continues as shown by the avoidance of another
revelation this week and by a study conducted by the MRC.
"Hubbell Cheated L.A., a
City Audit Claims," announced a front page story in the June 24
Los Angeles Times. The Tuesday Washington Post and New York Times ran
stories inside. LA Times reporter David Willman explained:
"Webster L. Hubbell, the
former No. 3 official at the U.S. Justice Department, lied two years
ago to win consulting payments totaling $24,750 from the city of Los
Angeles and should face the prospect of renewed criminal prosecution,
according to an audit report made public Monday. The report concluded
that a July 19, 1995, letter Hubbell sent to the city itemizing his
supposed work 'was materially false.'" City Controller Rick
Tuttle decided: "Mr. Hubbell defrauded the City of Los
Coverage: Nothing on any of
the broadcast networks Tuesday morning through Thursday night. Not a
word on ABC's World News Tonight or GMA, CBS Evening News or This
Morning, nor NBC Nightly News or Today.
This lack of interest matches
the pattern documented in the June MediaWatch Study conducted by
Associate Editor Tim Graham. The study of January-May newscasts
demonstrated how the networks skipped more than a dozen major
disclosures and the broadcast networks ran just ten full stories in
total on Hubbell. Here's the opening of the study:
Networks Shrug at
Clinton White House Campaign to Enrich a Convicted Felon
Hush Little Hubbell, Don't
Think back to the unfolding
of Iran-Contra ten years ago. Imagine that instead of testifying
before Congress, Oliver North suddenly made $500,000 in
"jobs" from Reagan-friendly corporations and announced he
would not cooperate with Lawrence Walsh or congressional
investigations. Would the liberal media have yawned?
Not exactly. So where is the
media firestorm around Webster Hubbell? One of Bill Clinton's best
friends, the former number three official in the Justice Department
resigned in disgrace in early 1994. Months later, he pled guilty to
embezzling almost a half million dollars from the Rose Law Firm, where
he worked with Hillary Clinton, including work on Whitewater deals.
Hubbell might have considered telling all to Ken Starr to lighten his
legal woes. Instead, as national newspapers have pieced together, the
White House campaigned to enrich Hubbell with phony "jobs"
during this crucial period. White House denials of a fund-Hubbell
campaign crumbled with each new story in print outlets -- but the
networks ignored most of them.
To document network Hubbell
coverage, MediaWatch analysts reviewed evening news on four networks
(ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN's The World Today), as well as the morning
shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC. From January 1 through May 31, the Big
Three networks combined aired only 10 full reports and eight anchor
briefs on the Hubbell story. CNN didn't do much better, with six full
reports and ten anchor briefs. The morning shows followed with only
four full reports, two interviews, and 14 anchor briefs combined.
Among the underplayed print revelations:
To learn which revelations
were underplayed or ignored, read the rest of the study online. Thanks
to the MRC's Web Manager, Joe Alfonsi, you can read the entire June
MediaWatch off the MRC home page: http://www.mediaresearch.org.
The direct address to the
Finally, the June 26
CyberAlert quoted Tom Brokaw referring to "Wong Joon, the
suspected arms dealer." His name should have been spelled Wang
Jun. The intern who mis-transcribed this and I shall be attending a
Chinese spelling re-education camp.
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