Barbour Talks, Nets Discover Hearings; Clinton's Calls Clipped
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 from the MRC home
page or directly from: http://mediaresearch.org/archive/realitycheck/archive1997.asp
- Haley Barbour
led to a night of firsts: such as the first full stories on all
networks in more than two weeks.
- CNN and MSNBC
went live with Barbour, but CNN showed it's sensitive to charges
of bias, promising equal coverage of Democrats.
- A newly
revealed memo shows Clinton made fundraising calls, but that
discovery lost in portrayals of how Barbour defended "his
party against the same charges that party has been making."
- ABC recalled
Justice Brennan as "a champion of the rights of the poor and
the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, minorities."
1) Haley Barbour's appearance
before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee led to a day and
evening of firsts:
-- The first extended live
coverage on CNN and MSNBC since Wednesday, July 9 (See item #2 of
-- The first night in which
all three broadcast network evening shows aired full stories on the
hearings since the night of the opening statements, meaning the first
time they all aired a full story on a day of witness testimony. See
item #3. (CBS and NBC aired full stories the first day Richard
Sullivan testified, but ABC made the hearings a subset of a larger
story on Clinton at the NATO meeting.)
-- The first night all three
broadcast networks managed to air stories of any length (full or
anchor-read brief) on the hearings while also running three or more
-- The first World News
Tonight story to include a witness soundbite longer than two words.
Haley Barbour was the first witness to appear long enough on screen
for ABC to run a chyron with his name. (Last Friday ABC aired the
first and only other soundbites from witnesses: one saying
"yes" and three CIA officials answering "no,"
"no sir," and "no sir.")
2) Haley Barbour's appearance
led to the first live MSNBC coverage since the first week (July 9) and
CNN's first since July 9 except for an hour last week. But, CNN
repeatedly assured viewers they would carry any future testimony from
Democrats on par with Barbour.
At 2:35pm ET on Thursday CNN
jumped out of a police press conference on Cunanan to catch the
opening statement from Haley Barbour. MSNBC joined in just before 3pm
and both carried the Barbour appearance live except for ad breaks and
half hourly news updates. At 4:30pm ET MSNBC switched to a FBI press
conference on Cunanan that CNN soon joined. Both were back on Barbour
at about 5pm ET. CNN stayed with Barbour until resuming normal
programming with Moneyline at 7pm.
MSNBC cut out at 6:40pm ET to
go to an "exclusive" live interview conducted by John
"Spike" Gibson with the son of the caretaker who encountered
Cunanan on Wednesday. (Later, CNN's Larry King interviewed Cunanan's
aunt in the Philippines.) MSNBC completed their illuminating
interview, with the person who knew the man who heard something, in
time to show John Glenn questioning Barbour for a few minutes before
MSNBC ceased live coverage at 7pm ET.
CNN certainly realized their
decision to cover Barbour live would raise charges of bias. Throughout
the day they tried to pre- empt the criticism by announcing at least
once an hour (over a graphic showing photos of three Democratic
leaders) that they will carry any future appearance before the
committee by former DNC Finance Director Marvin Rosen, Chris Dodd or
former Chairman Don Fowler.
3) After watching Thursday's
World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News the average viewer unfamiliar
with all the details of the alleged Democratic and Republican
fundraising transgressions would have come away with the impression
that foreign fundraising was equally widespread in both parties and
both parties had committed equally serious violations.
Even if you buy the
Democratic interpretation and assume Haley Barbour is a liar, the
hearings show a RNC affiliated group got one donation from a foreign
source, hardly the same as the widespread and systematic effort by
Democrats to raise and hide foreign money, improperly use the White
House to reward donors with bedroom stays and policy changes, and
having the President and VP place fundraising calls on federal
"Clinton Sought Role as
Fundraiser, Memo Says" announced a from page New York Times
headline on Thursday, but only the CBS Evening News in the evening and
NBC's Today in the morning mentioned the revelation.
Here's a network by network
review of July 24 coverage:
-- ABC's Good Morning America
skipped the hearings and didn't mention the New York Times story.
ABC's World News Tonight also
failed to report the news of a memo which showed Clinton had more
involvement in making calls than previously known, but about 21
minutes into the show ran a full story on Barbour's appearance.
Reporter Linda Douglass
began: "In a display of political showmanship, former Republican
Party Chairman Haley Barbour marched in and declared the foreign money
fundraising scandal is not bipartisan."
Barbour: "The RNC never
turned a blind eye to any activity that wasn't allowed. Our defenses
stayed in place as they should have. People who say everybody does it
After that first ever more
than two word soundbite from a witness aired by World News Tonight,
Douglass explained that Barbour contended that Democrats turned a
blind eye to Huang who intentionally solicited illegal foreign funds
and disguised their source. She also outlined the Democratic
contention that the RNC was able to spend more in the 1994 election
because a Hong Kong businessman made a $2 million loan guarantee to
the National Policy Forum (NPF) in October 1994, thus allowing the NPF
to re-pay a loan from the RNC.
Douglass noted that
"Barbour pointed out a foreign contribution to a think tank is
not illegal," but concluded with the everybody does it spin
favored by Democrats:
"All along the Democrats
have called the loan a sham transaction, but legal or not, one thing
the hearings have made clear is that both parties were so consumed by
money laws were bent if not broken."
-- NBC's Today. Andrew
Cunanan consumed almost all of the first hour, MRC news analyst
Geoffrey Dickens observed. But toward the end of the 8am news Today
became the only Thursday morning show to pick up on the release of a
memo showing that Clinton wanted to make fundraising calls.
Lisa Myers told Today
viewers: "Documents obtained by NBC News suggest strongly that
the dialing for dollars was far more extensive than the White House
has admitted, and that the President himself may have made calls. Take
this memo to the President last year, which his personal check mark
shows Clinton received. It begins 'as you requested,' and provides
names and numbers of donors and the amount he should ask for. Ten of
the 14 names contributed more than a million dollars over the next few
months. Some denied Clinton called; others wouldn't comment."
NBC Nightly News failed to
mention the Clinton fundraising memo. Instead, Tom Brokaw equated the
charges against both parties:
"At the campaign finance
hearings today, the former head of the Republican National Committee
was on the hot seat defending his party against the same charges that
party has been making against the Democrats -- taking money from
foreign sources. Here's NBC's Lisa Myers."
Lisa Myers began: "While
vigorously denying he did anything wrong, former Republican Chairman
Haley Barbour admitted that foreign money did go into a Republican
think tank, the National Policy Forum."
Myers proceeded to explain
that Barbour says he just recently learned that the loan came from
Hong Kong's Ambrous Young, but pointed out that the man who brokered
the loan testified earlier in the day that he told Barbour about it in
1994. The loan, Myers elaborated, enabled the NPF to re-pay the RNC
which poured the money into 16 states just before the 1994 election.
Concluded Myers: "The
think tank later defaulted on the loan, leaving an upset Ambrous Young
holding the bag for $800,000. Republicans today were embarrassed, not
only that their party benefitted from foreign money but that they also
stiffed a benefactor. Republican Fred Thompson says his party should
take responsibility and at the very least, repay the loan."
-- CBS This Morning. What
hearings? This Morning obsessed on Cunanan Thursday morning. The show
hasn't mentioned fundraising or the hearings since July 9 -- that's
eleven fundraising free mornings.
The CBS Evening News led with
four stories on Cunanan (they aired a fifth later in the show), but
the hearings were the second topic of the show, just after the first
ad break. Bob Schieffer filed a report half on Barbour, half on the
Clinton fundraising memo, making CBS the only broadcast network
evening show to cite the memo about how Clinton personally placed
After summarizing the
Democratic theory of how Barbour used the NPF to funnel foreign money
into a U.S. campaign, Schieffer relayed that "the former
Republican Party Chairman said no way." After a soundbite from
Barbour Schieffer highlighted how Fred Thompson said the party should
have realized the loan would have raised questions.
Then Schieffer switched
topics: "The committee has turned up a White House memo that may
prove embarrassing to the President who's tried to distance himself
from all the fundraising controversy. As recently as five months ago
Mr. Clinton was saying he couldn't remember even calling anyone for
campaign donations, a practice he pictured as distasteful."
Following a clip from Clinton
at a March 7 press conference, CBS put on-screen the text of a memo as
Schieffer read it aloud:
"But in this 1996 memo
then White House aide Harold Ickes tells the President: 'Attached as
you requested are names and telephone numbers of 10 individuals...who
will respond favorably to a telephone call from you for
contributions.' Ickes goes on to say the list of donors 'was provided
pursuant to your request.'"
Schieffer ended his story by
saying that the White House maintains that "While he may have
made a fundraising call somewhere along the line he doesn't remember
4) The passing away Thursday
of former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan led to glowing
tributes Thursday night on all the networks championing him as an
advocate of "individual rights."
On ABC's World News Tonight
substitute anchor Rene Poussaint offered a one-minute review of his
career that was less balanced news story than a personal tribute. In
between clips from Brennan interviews, she gushed:
"He was one of the most
influential jurists in American history with a legacy of defending
"Brennan was a champion
of the rights of the poor and the disenfranchised, the mentally ill,
supported a woman's right to have an abortion. Brennan was major
factor in the court's upholding of busing and affirmative action to
achieve racial equality in the schools. Brennan was opposed to the
death penalty in all cases..."
No mention of how there were
some civil rights he curbed instead of expanded, such as property
rights and gun rights. And One word not uttered by Poussaint:
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