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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| July 10, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 104) |


MSNBC Dumps Out; ABC Shows Nothing of Hearings; ER's Liberal Star

  1. CNN devoted most of Wednesday morning to carrying the hearings, but not MSNBC which ceased coverage after just one hour.
  2. CBS and NBC led with Tyson Wednesday night. ABC's first story dealt with the hearings but didn't show any hearings video as ABC concentrated on Clinton's soaring popularity and deficit cutting.
  3. A former CNN reporter realizes that the networks have under- covered the fundraising scandals.
  4. A star of NBC's ER drama links Top Gun to fascism, says "I am for socialized health care," and advocates gun control.

1) Wednesday morning (July 10) coverage of the Senate Government Affairs Committee hearings consisted of full stories during the top of the show newscasts on GMA, This Morning and Today, but no interview segments.

Other than half hourly news updates and ad breaks, CNN stuck with hearings coverage from 9am to 1:30pm ET -- but with two big exceptions. CNN carried Clinton's Madrid press conference from 10:45 to 11:15am ET and from 12:15pm to a bit past 1pm ET CNN carried the Tyson announcement from Nevada.

MSNBC, which devoted more time to the hearings than CNN on Tuesday, largely decided to skip the opening witness on Wednesday. MSNBC carried Richard Sullivan's testimony just from 9 to 10am ET. After that, MSNBC went back to regular news programming with live updates on the hearing from Joe Johns. Like CNN, MSNBC also carried the Clinton and Tyson press conferences.

2) CBS and NBC led Wednesday night with the Mike Tyson boxing decision. But while ABC seemingly led with a story on the hearings, ABC's piece did not show one second of video from the hearings as the network made the scandal subservient to ABC's hook: Clinton's soaring popularity and how he's tamed the deficit.

-- Peter Jennings opened the July 9 World News Tonight:
"Good evening, we're going to begin tonight with scandal and the state of the economy. The President's popularity ratings are up the highest level ever, even though many people believe he has violated political ethics when raising money and still must defend himself against the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. The President's approval rating is at 64 percent. But take a look at this -- the President's rating over the past 18 months follows almost precisely what you think about the economy."

Reporter John Donvan began: "Mr. Clinton in Europe is moving like a man on a roll. A summit here where he got almost everything he wanted, an economy back home that is the best in decades. Even the charges being raised about his party's fundraising tactics do not seem to stick..."

Following a clip of Clinton reacting the a question about the Chinese trying to buy influence, over file footage of John Huang Donvan announced:

"On testimony today that Mr. Clinton personally referred this man, John Huang, the central figure in the Senate investigation, for a fundraising job in the Democratic Party, the President for the first time confirmed the story himself. But his demeanor, and especially his answer, sent a message that it's no big deal to him."

Clinton: "First of all, most people don't volunteer to help you raise money in this world. It's normally an onerous task, and so if anybody volunteered, I would have referred virtually anybody's name to the party."

Donvan: "The President's aides say that Mr. Clinton is too busy with diplomacy to pay much attention to the Senate investigation."

Donvan did conclude by noting that aides back in Washington are watching the hearings.

Next, Jennings intoned: "There may be some other reasons of course why the President is feeling optimistic. One of them may have to do with eliminating the budget deficit. Here's ABC's John Cochran."

Cochran explained that "the economy is so strong right now, Americans are making so much more money than expected, and paying so much more in taxes, that new government figures show the budget deficit could disappear entirely as early as next year, even without a budget deal..."

After showing some numbers, Cochran suggested they mean there's no need to implement those terrible conservative policies:
"Some argue the new budget figures show there is no need to make big changes in Medicare, or to cut taxes for the well-to-do. But even many liberals are reluctant to vote against tax cuts."

Following a soundbite from Congressman Charles Rangel, Cochran concluded:

"A few in Congress may argue that the new deficit figures show that if it aint broke don't fix it, but for better or worse, the budget deal has built up too much steam now to be stopped by the naysayers."

ABC's view: Everybody just loves Clinton and the deficit problem has been solved, so who really cares about these bothersome hearings or could support that GOP plan to help the rich?

-- The CBS Evening News led with the Nevada Athletic Commission decision about boxer Mike Tyson followed by a fundraising hearing re-cap. Reporter Phil Jones explained that former DNC fundraising chief Richard Sullivan "testified that personal interest from President Clinton" led the DNC to hire John Huang. Turning to the Buddhist fundraising event starring Vice President Al Gore, Jones relayed that "Sullivan said there was absolutely no way that Mr. Gore could have known it was a fundraiser." Jones ended by noting Justice Department opposition to providing immunity to John Huang.

Next, from the NATO summit in Madrid, Rita Braver opened her story:
"President Clinton barely had time to savior his leading role in the expansion of NATO when he was plunged back into the Democratic fundraising controversy he's tried to avoid this trip. At a news conference he was asked about reports that he personally pressured Democratic Party officials to hire fundraiser John Huang. Mr. Clinton's memory was vague."

Following the same Clinton soundbite run by ABC Braver moved on to Clinton's comments about Medicare and the tobacco settlement. Braver at least called his answer "vague," unlike ABC's Donvan who psychoanalyzed Clinton's demeanor. But it's a bit odd for Braver to say Clinton "was plunged back into" the scandals as if she's some uninvolved observer. She's the one who posed the question at the press conference about Huang. And actually, Clinton was largely able to "avoid" the scandals: of the 12 questions posed, just two dealt with a scandal matter -- Braver's on Huang and one about China.

-- Tyson topped NBC Nightly News followed by a story on FBI testimony about encrypted communication. After the ad break, Lisa Myers reviewed the Sullivan testimony starting with how Sullivan said "he was told the President personally intervened to get controversial fundraiser John Huang his job." Myers added: "Also involved, the Lippo Group" which lobbied the President. Myers ended by noting Attorney General Janet Reno' opposition to immunity for Huang as Myers observed immunity would make it impossible to prosecute for any crime, including espionage.

David Bloom then provided the view from Clinton in Madrid. After explaining that Clinton has no evidence of a Chinese plot to influence elections, Bloom asserted: "The President was vague when asked about how he helped John Huang get a job as a Democratic fundraiser." Bloom concluded his piece with the White House spin on how the whole investigation is a waste of money:
"The White House is also trying to downplay the significance of these hearings. Said one presidential aide, there's been a lot of chest thumping and partisan speeches, but he added, it's harder to see where all the money they've been spending has gone. Brian."

3) A media figure on a television show admitting that the networks have dropped the ball on fundraising scandal coverage? Amazingly, it has happened. MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught this comment from Deborah Potter, serving as substitute host on CNN's Reliable Sources on July 6. Potter wondered:

"When the gavel comes down Tuesday to open the hearings, will the media's interest in the issue go up? In recent months, the number of fundraising stories on the evening news has gone way down and many major newspapers have pared their investigative teams. But that could all change this week. The all news cable networks plan live coverage of the hearings, but they're not sure when or how much."

Potter is a former CBS News and CNN reporter who now works for a media-related foundation, though I'm not sure which one. I guess it takes a "former" reporter to acknowledge the obvious.

4) Back in February Chicago Hope, the CBS drama set in a hospital, included a story line in which the hospital administrator testified before a Ted Kennedy-chaired Senate committee about the desperate need for nationalized health care. (See the February 19 CyberAlert.) NBC's hospital drama ER has kept such blatant politics out of the show, but one its stars sees the world from the left. Reading the July Playboy interview with Anthony Edwards, who plays Dr. Mark Greene on the show which airs Thursday nights, MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson picked up a couple of liberal sermons.

After Edwards said that most of his movies "didn't turn out the way I had hoped," the interviewer asked "Even Top Gun?" Edwards replied:

"Especially Top Gun. People love that big, romantic, wonderful movie about planes and flying and all that crap. I thought it was jingoistic. I have nothing against fighter pilots. They fly beautifully. I guess I'm just an old peacenik, but I don't believe in killing people. I'm wary of simple black-and-white answers because that's the way to fascism, and I don't believe in war. Everything I do creatively these days should be a shot at what the military stands for."

"You're a bit of a hippie, aren't you?" suggested the interviewer. Edwards agreed:

"I am very liberal. I'm against the death penalty. I am for socialized health care. I want gun control. The fact that we tolerate millions of handguns on our streets is a childish joke. People blame drugs and anything else they can think of, but it's OK for us all to happily carry handguns. That's horseshit. Show me one city police force that doesn't want gun control."

Death penalty bad. Gun control good. Sounds like some "simple black-and-white answers."

-- Brent Baker




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