CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| July 22, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 112) |
Trie's Treat; NBC on Riady in '92; Forbes "An Ugly Thing"
- All three of the MRC's new
fax reports published last week, Media Reality Check: A Daily
Report on the Media's Coverage of the Campaign Finance Scandal
Hearings, can now be read at: http://archive.mrc.org/archive/realitycheck/archive1997.asp
The July 14 edition of
Notable Quotables can be accessed, thanks to MRC Web manager Joe
Alfonsi, from the MRC home page: http://www.mediaresearch.org.
There's been so much hearings material to report that the
CyberAlerts have grown too long to add an entire NQ.
Clinton team expanded the number of trade panel slots and
padded Charlie Trie's resume, all to give him the prestige he
desired, but the networks ignored the revelation.
Nightly News aired its first fundraising story in six days --
a look at how Riady funded Clinton's 1992 campaign.
speech for Steve Forbes is "among those ugly things we
have to tolerate in a free society," a U.S. News reporter
- Two shows
that have covered the hearings: CNBC's Hardball and the
NewsHour on PBS.
front page headline in Sunday's Los Angeles Times announced
"White House Helped Boost Trie Onto Asia Trade Panel: Clinton
Friend Won New Spot With a Padded Resume. Subject of Fundraising
Inquiry Now in China."
- Reporter Glenn Bunting
- "A glimpse at the
background of Yah Lin 'Charlie' Trie reveals that the Taiwanese
immigrant worked at his Chinese restaurant in Little Rock, Ark.,
before opening a small consulting office in Beijing in late 1992
when his friend of 13 years, Bill Clinton, was elected President.
- "But his resume
became much grander after a major make-over by the Clinton
administration's Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In
papers prepared by the agency, Trie became an authority on
international trade relations and a key player in building
economic bridges between the United States and Asia.
- "Trie possesses
'special expertise' and 'substantial knowledge and/or experience'
on U.S. barriers to Asia markets, one USTR document declared. His
participation on a White House advisory panel on trade with
Pacific nations was proclaimed 'essential to the United States.'
- "A certain amount of
puffery is not uncommon in Washington, particularly for political
appointments made to myriad boards and study groups created to
explore policy issues. However, newly available records obtained
by The Times show that the White House went to extraordinary
lengths to promote and place Trie, now a central figure in federal
and congressional probes into allegations of espionage and illegal
fundraising, on the Presidential Commission on U.S. Trade and
- "To give Trie the
position, according to e-mail messages, Clinton signed an
executive order in January 1996, expanding the membership of the
commission, which was already full. Then Trie was able to serve
even though U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky refused
to sign a required waiver discounting any problem with potential
conflicts of interest, according to government memos marked
- A few paragraphs later in
the July 20 story Bunting suggested: "The question is whether
the administration helped turn Trie into an illicit fund-raiser,
knowingly or not, by providing him with the credentials to flash
his government clout."
- Coverage: One
reason given for the lack of network coverage of the hearings has
been that they have not produced much new information. Well,
here's a revelation from a major news outlet. And did the networks
jump on it? No.
- After checking with MRC
news analysts Clay Waters, Geoffrey Dickens and Jessica Anderson,
I can report that none of the Sunday evening shows (ABC's World
News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today or NBC
Nightly News) nor the Monday morning shows (ABC's Good Morning
America, CBS This Morning or NBC's Today) uttered a word about the
LA Times disclosure. Monday (July 21) night's ABC, CBS and NBC
evening shows were also silent, though the story ran on the front
page of Monday's LA Times Washington Edition.
Nightly News forget all about the hearings after a comment last
Tuesday night, July 15, from Tim Russert and brief and discussion
with Tom Brokaw. But NBC was back in action Monday night, July 21,
with the first Nightly News mention of the hearings in six days.
NBC presented some rare enterprise reporting from a television
network on the Clinton fundraising scandal.
- NBC detailed how James
Riady, the Indonesian head of the Lippo Group, bankrolled
Clinton's 1992 campaign. Lisa Myers explained:
- "New documents
analyzed by NBC News reveal for the first time that Riady and his
wife were the top donors to the Democratic Party in 1992, giving
$450,000 to elect Clinton. The contributions were entirely legal,
but that's more money than any American citizen, any corporation,
even any labor union."
- Following a soundbite from
Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, Myers explained
how Riady and others associated with the Lippo Group had
contributed $1.4 million to Democrats over the past five years,
beginning with the illegal $50,000 donation delivered through John
Huang that the committee uncovered last week. Myers noted that
Riady and associates gave mainly to state party groups in states
critical to Clinton's election, so as to avoid detection.
- Myers concluded by leaving
viewers with something to ponder:
- "The question of
course is what did Riady get for all his money? At a minimum he
enhanced his power back home by convincing the President to meet
with Indonesian dictator Suharto (sp?) and by bringing Indonesian
officials to the White House. And then there is John Huang who
once worked for Riady and now is at the center of the fundraising
scandal. A letter unearthed by Senate investigators says that the
Riady family invested heavily in the Clinton campaign and that
getting Huang a job working for the President was Riady's top
priority. Both criminal and congressional investigations now are
trying to determine what else Riady got for his huge
Forbes is more damaging to the U.S. political system than John
Huang because money should not equal speech. So contended a U.S.
News & World Report economics reporter in an op-ed piece
caught by MRC news analyst Clay Waters. Matthew Miller opened a
July 17 op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
- "There are two big
things wrong with the current hearings on campaign-finance
scandals. First, they're not really about foreign influence. And
second, John Huang isn't the poster boy for what ails money and
politics -- Steve Forbes is."
- If foreign influence was a
serious concern then the committee would be examining all the
millions spent by foreign governments on legal lobbying, Miller
argued before getting to the Forbes problem.
- Miller asserted: "The
real heart of our campaign woes is a constitutional doctrine that
equates 'money' with 'speech.' That's what the Supreme Court ruled
in a famous 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo. Overall campaign
expenditures can't be involuntarily capped, the court said,
because such limits violate First Amendment rights of free
- So much for journalists
standing up for the First Amendment. Miller doesn't want it
extended to others: "Forbes represents the purest, most
offensive challenge to the idea that money should equal
speech." Then he got personal:
- "Must we really
accept a doctrine that lets a vain twit pour Daddy's millions into
so much flat tax propaganda that it lands him on the cover of Time
and Newsweek and influences the national agenda? Forbes has been
encouraged by what money can buy and won't go away. If anything's
sinister about campaign finance nowadays, it's this."
- Isn't that the kind of
invective condemned by Al Hunt when said by a conservative?
- Miller concluded:
"Thus the key question: Is Steve Forbes constitutional? The
court might tell us that Forbes' fetishes are among those ugly
things we have to tolerate in a free society. In any event, this
is the kind of conversation that might begin to fix our campaigns,
not witch hunts for red perils that don't exist."
- Of course, it could be
observed that the man Huang helped ended up in the White House
while Steve Forbes spent a lot of money to end up in.......New
Jersey. (Sorry, New Jersey readers)
- Miller's urge to limit the
free speech of non-journalists would, conveniently, increase the
influence of his profession. A sure sign that Miller is well to
the left is that he misses the point that "reform" and
regulation led to the "ugly" Forbes. If campaign laws
didn't prevent it then Forbes could give his millions to someone
like Jack Kemp to finance a run. And with the $1,000 per person
donation limit not even adjusted for inflation since 1975, its
very hard for any candidate to raise real money. How about a
free-market, pro-free speech reform: deregulate and eliminate all
the giving and spending limits.
detailed in CyberAlerts over the past two weeks, ABC, CBS and NBC
barely touched the hearings. This Morning on CBS, in fact, hasn't
mentioned them since July 9. Now that Republicans are to sit in
the witness chairs the networks may suddenly discover that the
hearings justify thorough coverage, but two shows have provided a
nightly re-cap over the past couple of weeks:
- -- CNBC's Hardball with
Chris Matthews has focused all or part of every show on the
hearings. Hardball airs Monday through Friday at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm
PT and repeats at 2am ET/11pm PT.
- -- The NewsHour on PBS.
MRC intern Jessica Anderson reviewed the NewsHour since the
hearings commenced and learned that every night the show has
provided a full report from Kwame Holman, complete with soundbites
from Senators and witnesses -- an element largely missing from the
rare broadcast network stories.
- Chris Matthews once toiled
for Tip O'Neill and Kwame Holman served as Press Secretary to DC
Mayor Marion Barry. Not all liberal dismiss the hearings as
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