Hearings Get 26 Seconds on ABC; Hume Sees Bias in Coverage
- In the
morning CBS again skipped the hearings and Today allocated more
time to discrediting the trooper's stories as run in the
"ultra-conservative newspaper, The American Spectator."
- ABC gives
hearings 26 seconds on Tuesday night as NBC's Tim Russert dreams
of "bipartisanship" and Tom Brokaw demands "to hear
more from Republicans...about some of their transgressions."
- Fox News
Channel decided to offer live hearings coverage as FNC's Brit Hume
observed that "If this were Ronald Reagan...it's a little
hard to imagine this wouldn't have attracted more attention."
1) Tuesday morning (July 15)
one show ignored the hearings, one aired one brief item and one ran a
-- CBS This Morning: For the
fourth weekday morning in a row the CBS show didn't mention a word
about the Senate hearings. Instead, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski
found, CBS focused on the JonBenet Ramsey autopsy, the anti-flu nasal
spray and the controversy over the KKK adopting a Texas highway. The
last time This Morning uttered a word about the hearings: Wednesday,
-- ABC's Good Morning America
also led with JonBenet Ramsey and aired a full story on the auction of
OJ Simpson's house before getting to the hearings. In two hours, MRC
analyst Gene Eliasen observed, GMA dedicated a total of one brief item
to the hearings: news reader Elizabeth Vargas during the 7:30am news
noted that the hearings would resume in a few hours.
-- NBC's Today also only
aired one story on the hearings, but it was a bit longer. During the
7am news Lisa Myers provided a full story on how the Tuesday hearing
would reveal that an Asian businessman, Eric Hotung (a British
citizen) and his wife, contributed $100,000 to get a meeting with NSC
adviser Sandy Berger. They got their meeting and a week later, Myers
relayed, the Hotung's gave another $99,000 to the DNC. Myers concluded
by noting that the DNC gave the documents on the Hotungs to the
committee on Friday, after Richard Sullivan had testified. Obstruction
and obfuscation? The networks failed to pursue that line.
Following interview segments
on Ramsey and the OJ house auction, Today did showcase a Clinton
scandal, if only to tear it apart. At about 7:45am Today dedicated
more than three minutes to promoting a Tuesday night Dateline NBC
piece by Chris Hansen. In a clip from the show Hansen recalled that in
1993 four Arkansas state troopers "gave the ultra-conservative
newspaper The American Spectator sordid accounts of Clinton's alleged
extramarital affairs. The ensuing scandal was dubbed Troopergate, but
now one of those troopers, Ron Anderson, is telling a different
It's hard to trust the
reporting of someone who can't tell the difference between a newspaper
and a magazine, but Hansen asked the trooper: "These allegations
painted Bill Clinton as being reckless, as being involved in multiple
affairs, as being sexually out of control. Did any of this really
Anderson replied: "Not
in my presence it didn't."
Later, Hansen had to concede
that Anderson admits that many of the events recounted by the American
Spectator and Los Angeles Times could have happened. He just didn't
2) Two elements that did not
appear in any of the ABC, CBS or NBC coverage Tuesday night: video of
any of the witnesses who testified Tuesday or mention of any of their
names. All three networks buried their stories more than 15 minutes
into their shows.
At about 2:37pm ET on Tuesday
CNN went to Brooks Jackson for an update from the Hart Building.
Jackson summarized the three key revelations from the day's hearings:
a) Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said that after a Monday night FBI
briefing he and most Democrats on the committee agree that the Chinese
had a "plan to subvert U.S. elections."
b) The DNC arranged in 1995 for British citizen Eric Hotung, who
donated $100,000, to meet NSC adviser Sandy Berger. Afterwards Mrs.
Hotung, a U.S. citizen, gave another $99,000.
c) Documents showed that John Huang funneled an illegal donation to
the DNC back in 1992. After giving $50,000, he sought reimbursement
from the Lippo Group in Jakarta.
Concluded Jackson: "So
Republicans, who got off to a slow start last week, are drawing blood
So, plenty of material for
the network evening shows, right? Well, none managed to tell their
viewers about all three disclosures.
-- ABC's World News Tonight.
About 17 minutes into the show, after stories on the Versace murder,
Versace and his designs, three pieces on the MIR situation, a Mars
update, and report on the Cosby extortion trial, Peter Jennings
"In Washington today the
Senate committee investigating campaign financing has heard the
clearest testimony yet about a foreign contribution to the Democrats.
An accountant, who worked for a U.S. subsidiary of the Indonesian
Lippo Group of companies, testified that in 1992 the Indonesians
funneled $50,000 through the subsidiary to the Democratic National
Committee. The Democrats say now that they know about this the money
will be returned."
That was it. Total time: 26
seconds and no soundbites from any of the three witnesses at the
hearings, meaning that after three days of witness testimony World
News Tonight has yet to air a syllable from any witness.
Updating the ABC rundown
which appeared in the July 15 CyberAlert, here's how ABC's World News
Tonight has "covered" the hearings so far:
- Monday, July 7: zilch
- Tuesday, July 8: Unlike
CBS and NBC, ABC does not lead with hearings, instead airing two
stories on the Fen Phen diet drug.
- Wednesday, July 9: Led
with poll showing Clinton with a high approval rating. The story
mentioned the hearings, but did not include any soundbites from
witness Richard Sullivan.
- Thursday, July 10: Devoted
41 seconds to Senator Sam Brownback mimicking a Chinese dialect,
but just 23 seconds to a vague hearings update.
- Friday, July 11: nothing
- Saturday, July 12: no
- Sunday, July 13: Story
on how John Glenn insisted that Fred Thompson's Chinese influence
charge is not supported by the FBI and a story on "why
average Americans seem to be paying so little attention to the
campaign finance hearings."
- Monday, July 14: nothing
- Tuesday, July 15:
26 seconds on John Huang funneling a foreign donation to the DNC
in 1992. Nothing correcting the Sunday story on Thompson by noting
that Lieberman now agrees with Thompson's China comments.
-- CBS Evening News. Led with
the Versace murder, followed by reports on the Versace fashion empire,
Starr concluding that Vince Foster committed suicide, the Cosby
extortion trial, MIR, Mars, heart disease studies and a new treatment
for migraines. Finally, a bit more than 15 minutes into the broadcast,
Dan Rather reported that Senator Lieberman supported Republican claims
that China had tried to buy influence and that the committee heard
testimony about how Huang made 400 calls to Lippo while working at
In a stand up from Capitol
Hill, Bob Schieffer then relayed the 1992 Huang payment and that
Senator Susan Collins observed that Huang's 400 calls to Lippo means
more than one call per day while at Commerce. Schieffer stated:
"And the interesting thing is, Dan, that the Lippo bank
apparently let him keep his credit card. He charged a lot of those
calls to the bank's credit cards. So whatever else he's done, he was
keeping in close touch."
How sweet. But CBS also
failed show any soundbites from the hearing.
-- NBC Nightly News. NBC also
led with the Varsace murder, then a look at the suspected serial
murderer, followed by stories on Cosby, MIR, Mars, and an
"In-Depth" piece on the "life and work" of Versace.
Twenty minutes into the show, Tom Brokaw introduced a soundbite from
Senator Lieberman about how Lippo reimbursed Huang's 1992 donation.
(Nightly News didn't say a thing about the Hotung disclosure featured
on Today.) Lieberman asserted:
"There's a pretty clear
document here requesting reimbursement for a $50,000 contribution to
the DNC Victory Fund which certainly looks like the movement of
foreign money into an American campaign in 1992."
Brokaw then turned to Tim
Russert, who offered his take on the day: "Tom, a small flicker
of bi-partisanship there with Senator Lieberman acknowledging
potential wrongdoing. And that is absolutely instrumental if these
hearings are going to educate the American people. We remember the
Watergate hearings with Sam Ervin and Howard Baker. Iran-Contra with
Daniel Inouye and Warren Rudman. Unless these hearings are perceived
as bipartisan the American people have a tendency to turn partisan
bickering off. Today's an indication that at least one Democrat is
willing to put the chips on the table."
Brokaw wondered: "When
do you think we're going to begin to hear more from Republicans,
however, about some of their transgressions?"
Russert answered: "...It
is important that Republicans step forward and acknowledge wrongdoing
potentially on their side. Unless Democrats and Republicans say, hey,
it's beyond we all just do this. The fact is Tom millions of dollars
have been returned by the Democratic Party, five people have fled
overseas, 20 people at least have taken the 5th. This is a serious
issue confronting our country and both parties have to deal with it.
Unless the bickering stops and people step forward and take off their
Republican and Democratic hats we'll never get to the bottom of
Let's see, "A serious
issue confronting our country." And NBC runs the story 2o minutes
into its newscast and Tom Brokaw is more concerned about Republican
If all Democrats have to do
is obfuscate and refuse to cooperate and that will turn the public
off, then I guess it would be too much ask the media to point that out
so the Democrats couldn't get away with suppressing the probe.
3) CNN and MSNBC ran hourly
updates on the hearings on Tuesday, but offered no live coverage.
That's a bad programming decision, Brit Hume, Managing Editor in
Washington for the Fox News Channel (FNC), told the Washington Post's
Howard Kurtz. In a July 15 Post story on the lack of media attention,
"If this were Ronald
Reagan accused of selling foreign policy to the highest bidder, it's a
little hard to imagine this wouldn't have attracted more
attention." Hume suggested: "I can't think of a higher and
better use of a 24-hour news channel's time in July than to cover
FNC is taking advantage of
the opportunity. FNC has now committed to live coverage of the rest of
the hearings, other than cutting out for half-hourly news updates and
for ad breaks. For those like me who are among the two-thirds of cable
subscribers without access to FNC's cable signal, you can watch FNC
over the Web. Go to: http://www.foxnews.com/video/
and if you have adequate computer equipment (sound card, speakers etc)
you can download the Real Media software and watch. An audio only
service is also available.
CNN may not be showing the
hearings on cable, but they are providing a video feed at their Web
Two other networks with
limited availability are offering live coverage: National Empowerment
Television (NET), which is on at least one of the direct satellite
services, as well as C-SPAN3.
Speaking of C-SPAN, on
Tuesday night for the first time the cable service re-played the
hearings on C-SPAN2 from about 7 to 10:30pm ET before they ran on
C-SPAN after the House adjourned at about 11:30pm ET. At least a few
networks are trying to offer coverage instead of wondering why the
public is not interested, which is more than you can say for ABC, CBS,
NBC, MSNBC or CNN.
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