ABC's First Soundbite; Everyone Does It; Molinari vs. Bradley
The MRC's new fax reports,
Media Reality Check: A Daily Report on the Media's Coverage of the
Campaign Finance Scandal Hearings, can now be read on our home page.
Next edition on Wednesday.
- World News
Tonight finally airs a full story on the hearings, but only to
dismiss their relevance and say people don't care.
- PBS and CNN
argue that everyone does it. A Time reporter contends "the
system lends itself to these kinds of abuses and maybe it really
does need to be reformed."
- CBS This
Morning demanded that Susan Molinari explain how she could keep
her politics out of her anchoring, but not Bill Bradley.
1) After airing a grand total
of one 26-second item on the hearings all week, a story read by Peter
Jennings on Tuesday followed by zilch on Wednesday and Thursday night,
on Friday World News Tonight aired a full story. The theme: How the
hearings had failed to prove anything and the public isn't paying
Peter Jennings promised the
July 18 piece from Linda Douglass would provide "a two week
assessment." Douglass opened:
"At the very outset
Republican Chairman Fred Thompson announced dramatically what he hoped
to expose, a Chinese plot to subvert American elections with illegal
After a soundbite from
Thompson, Douglass asserted:
"But after of hours of testimony, a parade of charts and a
blizzard of documents there has been no evidence so far of such a
Time out! On the
Sunday, July 13 World News Tonight ABC ran a story on how Democrats on
the committee disagreed with Thompson's charges about China. But on
Tuesday morning when the committee Democrats changed their mind, ABC
skipped the development. As reported in the July 16 Washington Post,
the day before Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Glenn issued a joint
written statement saying "the information shown us strongly
suggests the existence of a plan by the Chinese government --
containing components that are both legal and illegal -- designed to
influence U.S. congressional elections."
Back to the Douglass story.
She next conveyed that the hearings simply confirmed what was already
known about the Democrats accepting illegal donations, but also found
an illegal 1992 donation from Huang to the DNC. Douglass showed
Republican Chief Counsel Michael Madigan asking and associate of
Huang's at Lippo, Juliana Utomo, about the donation. He asked:
specifically seeks, reimbursement for the $50,000 given to the DNC
That clip represented a
historic first for ABC, that one-word "yes" answer was the
first time World News Tonight had aired a word from any witness. The
second time happened a few seconds later in the next exchange.
Douglass continued: "And
he got classified CIA briefings while at Commerce. Republicans
suggested Huang might have been passing those secrets to Lippo in
Asia, but three CIA officials, one of whom did not want his face seen,
shot a hole in that theory."
John Glenn: "Was there
ever anytime when he divulged any classified information?"
Three CIA officials:
"No." "No sir." "No sir."
Of course these briefers were
hardly in a position to know what Huang did with the information.
Douglass didn't bother telling viewers that in July 15 testimony a
business intelligence expert told the committee that Lippo has been
transformed from "a family-controlled entity to a joint venture
with the Chinese government."
Douglass concluded her story:
"...Democrats gripe that the hearings are too partisan, so next
week the committee will focus on foreign contributions to Republicans,
all the while wondering if the public is paying attention to any of
this. Linda Douglass, ABC News, on Capitol Hill."
How could they, given how ABC
is hardly keeping them informed. Updating the ABC rundown which
appeared in CyberAlerts last week, here's how ABC's World News Tonight
has "covered" the hearings so far:
July 7: zilch
July 8: Unlike CBS and NBC, ABC does not lead with hearings,
instead airing two stories on the Fen Phen diet drug.
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.
July 10: Devoted 41 seconds to Senator Sam Brownback mimicking
a Chinese dialect, but just 23 seconds to a vague hearings update.
July 11: nothing
July 12: no story
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."
July 14: nothing
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
July 16: zilch
July 17: zilch
July 18: Full story contending that on Thompson's charge of a
Chinese plan to influence elections "there has been no
evidence so far of such a plot," and that on the contention
that Huang passed along secrets, the CIA "shot a hole in that
theory." The story included three seconds of soundbites from
witnesses, the first aired in two weeks, before the story
concluded by "wondering if the public is paying attention to
any of this."
2) As Bill Kristol contended
on Sunday's This Week, Haley Barbour's appearance at the hearings this
week will generate more media attention than two weeks worth of
testimony has so far. Here are two bits of evidence to show how eager
reporters are to prove everybody's equally guilty.
-- On the new series titled
Follow the Money which aired at various times over the weekend on PBS
stations, Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak previewed this week's
hearing schedule, asserting:
"It will lay out there
the fact that both the parties have this problem. Perhaps what we'll
end up with is a very good case that both are were scrambling for
money, both of them went overseas and the system lends itself to these
kinds of abuses and maybe it really does need to be reformed."
-- "The Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee hearings have focused almost
exclusively on John Huang and the Democratic Party's money trail
problems, but a story today serves as a reminder that campaign finance
problems are bipartisan," declared CNN's Judy Woodruff as she
introduced a July 18 Inside Politics story.
Brooks Jackson began:
"Well, Judy, when it comes to illegal campaign donations,
Republicans are still claiming the moral high ground. In Cleveland
today, Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson again flayed
Democrats for taking illegal Asian money.
Jim Nicholson: "And can
anyone seriously suggest that Republicans do it too, when there are no
Republicans who have fled to China?"
Jackson: "Well, Mr.
Nicholson, this just in: in Washington, the Federal Election
Commission announced the Florida Republican Party has paid a fine of
$82,000 for accepting illegal donations from a German real estate
developer. The developer, Thomas Kramer, was also fined $323,000 for
illegal giving to Republicans and Democrats. But the Florida GOP got
by far the most and was the only recipient fined, because it stalled
for more than a year before giving back the illegal money -- $110,000
-- to Kramer. The party's executive Director said 'There was
absolutely no indication that it was a foreign donation. We had Kramer
was not a U.S. citizen.' End of quote. Kramer does business in Miami,
but he was in Europe today, unavailable for comment. Back to you,
Huh? Republicans may not be
squeaky clean, but this is really a stretch. I'd expect better from
Brooks Jackson. A state party accepting money from a German guy is
hardly on the same level as paid staff fundraisers for the national
party eliciting foreign donations for presidential events and then
having some of those who helped in that effort and are U.S. citizens,
like Charlie Trie, flee to a communist nation and refuse to answer for
3) Saturday night the CBS
Evening News aired the first weekly story from former Democratic
Senator Bill Bradley, but his jump from politics to the media hasn't
generated a peep compared to the moral indignation unleashed by Susan
How each were treated in This
Morning interviews reflect the media establishment's double standard.
Molinari was quizzed about whether she could keep her political views
separate from her news duties. Bradley got a series of softballs
about, for instance, "What are some of the things that bothered
you the most about what's going on in this country?"
Thanks to some transcribing
by MRC interns Jessica Anderson and Ian Alexander, here are the
questions posed to both on CBS.
From the May 29 This Morning
interview with Susan Molinari by Mark McEwen: "From Congresswoman
to anchorwoman, New York Representative Susan Molinari is leaving the
Capitol and coming to CBS News to co-anchor CBS News Saturday Morning
beginning this fall. Molinari was a rising star in the Republican
Party, even keynoting the last convention, and politics also runs in
the family. Her father is a leading New York Republican and her
husband, a Congressman. Now she leaves that all behind and
Congresswoman Susan Molinari joins us this morning from Washington.
Good morning and welcome."
Congresswoman, yesterday in your press conference, you took some heat
from reporters who said you have no anchor experience, you have no
news experience. How do you respond to that?"
you've been called a rising star of the Republican Party. Why would
you leave that behind to hop into television news?"
McEwen: "You have a
brand new baby. Was that part of the decision?"
McEwen: "You speak of
your constituents. Some of the people that were interviewed yesterday,
some of your constituents were a little upset that you were leaving
because you're quite popular as a representative here. Does a
representative have an obligation to fulfill her contract, so to
speak, to fulfill her term unless, of illness or of death because
you're leaving early?"
one difference between being a news anchor and being a representative,
your views on touchy issues, on issues out there, are well known: how
you vote, how you speak on certain things. What happens when something
you feel strongly about comes up on the show and you have to be
neutral about it?"
From the July 18 This Morning
interview with Bill Bradley by McEwen and Jane Robelot.
McEwen: "Well, it's sure
hard to know where to start when talking about Bill Bradley. Scholar,
athlete, U.S. Senator. He's been around the block a few times and
managed to excel at every turn. Bill first rose to national prominence
on the basketball court as an All-American at Princeton and as a Hall
of Fame forward for the Knicks in their championship days of the '70s.
His political career was no less successful, including three terms in
the Senate, his 1992 keynote address at the Democratic National
Convention. And now he's embarked on yet another career, as an
observer and an essayist on politics and the human condition. We here
at CBS News are proud to have him on our team, you better believe
that. Bill Bradley, welcome home."
Jane Robelot: "Well, a
lot of people are looking at you, going, 'Wait a minute: Rhodes
Scholar, Princeton grad, Princeton basketball star, NBA star, Senator.
Why do you want to do television?'"
McEwen: "It's called
'Where We Are.' When we tune in to see 'Where We Are,' what are we
going to find? What are you going to be talking about?"
Robelot: "Now we don't
want to give anything away, but we've already taped a couple of these.
Let's just give people an idea of what they're going to see."
from A to Z then. What were the things that, as a Senator, you
heard...But as a U.S. Senator, you heard a lot about people's
problems. I mean, people, you're the guy they want to call to fix
everything from their Social Security to really, really serious
problems. What are some of the things that bothered you the most about
what's going on in this country?"
McEwen: "What do you
miss the most about the Senate?" I miss any attempt at balance.
Only politicians turned media stars who are right of center must
"struggle" to be neutral about issues.
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